Fierce Conversations with Toby – Episode 12 – Cultivating a Support Network with Woman, Rise! Authors
Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we talk about the hard things. I’m Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we’re gonna be discussing the power of community. Today I have five guests. The six of us met when we were randomly assigned to an author pod, a space to encourage each other’s writing journeys, deciding to meet weekly. We’ve never stopped. It’s been two years now, and we’ve created a community that lifts each other up. Encourages and holds us accountable for our goals, but more importantly, we’ve become sisters. Hi everybody. I’m so happy to have you here. It’s so wonderful to see your beautiful faces. So, I like to ask all of my guests a question that gives us a peek into who you are. What’s your favorite color, and what does that say about you? So let’s start with Leslie.
Leslie Ahmadi: Okay. I think my favorite color, there are lots of colors I love and they all have different properties to them, but, I think purple is is the color that resonates with me. Um, to put it briefly, it’s the balance of. Of, um, Hey, Toby? Yeah, I’m sorry. Is this gonna be edited out?
Toby Dorr: No, but that’s okay. Go ahead, Leslie.
Leslie Ahmadi: It’s for me, it’s a mystery. It’s mystical, it’s magical, it’s majestic, and it has a few drops of melancholy in it.
Toby Dorr: Oh, I love that. You could write a poem about purple. I think that’s beautiful.
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, I think purple itself is poetry. There’s no language for it. It, itself is a language, and I do agree. I think it resonates.
Toby Dorr: Thank you, Leslie. Yeah. Lisa, how about you?
Lisa Plasse: My favorite color is pink. Pink. Actually, I’ve always loved pink. Any shade of it. Anything that I can get for accessories, I normally don’t wear pink, cuz I normally wear black for performances, but pink is like my color tone. Pink for accessories, pocketbooks, scarves and things like that because pink is actually considered one of those nostalgic colors and it reminds you of your childhood. So, for me, that’s what it is. It takes me back to my childhood and it’s more of a nostalgic type of thing for me. And my first phone when I was three years old was a pink princess telephone that my dad got me and put in my bedroom.
Toby Dorr: Oh, how fun. Yeah. Colors definitely go back to our childhoods, I think. Wendy, how about your favorite color?
Wendy Elle: My favorite color is all around me. It’s any shade of white. I used to get criticized a lot saying, you know, Hey, that’s not a color. But actually, when you look at whites closely in detail, you find every color in white. Um, every color on the spectrum is in the background in the shade of white. So I guess what it says about me is, I can’t make up my mind about anything, I enjoy having the full spectrum and not having to decide and white allows me to do that. It’s just so vast.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. So you can add any other color to it.
Wendy Elle: Yes, it’s limitless. So that’s interesting. Yeah. The color white has always been my go-to color.
Toby Dorr: Katherine, how about you?
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: Well, interesting enough, one of my favorite colors is purple, and one of my favorite colors is white. But I’ll touch mostly on the purple. I love purple because it’s the color that represents royalty. It also is a very vibrant and lively color. It pops. And it just, when I look at it, I, I just feel it’s like I feel light yet powerful. It’s kind of like one of those colors that give a balance of feelings.
Toby Dorr: Well, you definitely do have a powerful aura, so I can see that.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: But I like white because white is just, I love putting on white because when I do, I just feel light. I love the way it pops on my color.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. You do have a beautiful skin color,
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: And it’s just very light. I just, I just, you know, it’s just a nice light, uh, peaceful, yeah, peaceful, uh, with it all and, and a little sexy.
Leslie Ahmadi: Oh
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: I gotta have that little sexy in there too. And who knew white color could do that, right?
Toby Dorr: Yeah. Interesting. Did you know that Wendy, that white is sexy?
Wendy Elle: I feel so sexy right now.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: I’ve seen you in the white, Wendy, and I’m like, oh, wow. She looks light and sexy. Yeah.
Toby Dorr: There you go. Thank you. She’s like, yeah, whatever.
Toby Dorr: Marilyn, how about your favorite color?
Marilynn James, RN: I would say my favorite color is what I’m wearing. It’s blue cuz it’s calming. And being the nurse, I’ve had to do a lot of calming in my times. But my second is, is red because it really connects with my color and everything. When I wear red, people say, oh, you look really beautiful. So that’s my beautiful color. Blue is my calming color.
Toby Dorr: I see. Yeah. Interesting. Well, my favorite color, I actually have three. Orange and pink were my favorite colors when I was a girl. And then I decided I didn’t like pink because it was too girly and I didn’t wanna be limited by being girly. And then my sister reminded me about 15 years ago, “But Toby, you always loved pink”. And I said, “I did? Oh, I did! I think I love it again.” And so now pink has become my brand color because I think it’s such a powerful color and I love that it represents femininity because I so delighted that I’m a woman and don’t have to deal with all the junk men have to deal with, thank God. So I flipped back to pink, but in between purple became my favorite color. And so, I use those three colors a lot. And in a lot of the work I do, you’ll find pink and purple and orange everywhere because I think those colors are so vibrant and sassy and powerful and bold. But at the same time, you can get shades of ’em that are really soft and sweet, which generally I’m not usually, but I could be if I wanted.
Toby Dorr: So, we created this author pod just totally by random two years ago now. Yes. It was two, it was in March we started, and it was just this experiment. And I know that all of us had different opinions of what this was gonna turn into. But talk a little bit about what you thought the, oh, we lost Wendy. Well, hopefully, she’ll come back. What do you think the author pod means to you, how it evolved, and how big of a part of your life it is? So, let’s start with Leslie again and tell us also what you’re working on. Because the author pod we started, cuz we were all working on writing a book of some kind.
Leslie Ahmadi: That’s true. We were called, well we were also called together because we, our genre that we were, all that we had in common was a memoir. Yes. And so, I think our objective, my understanding of the objective was to, talk through the things we discover and that we need support iin our writing journey. What I found out was that in learning those things, we also developed some very precious relationships with people with a widely different range of personalities that kind of fueled each other. We had this common goal to write something of our lives. I met five fascinating women, and just in our gathering together, I was inspired and I have been inspired. I love if I can just very briefly say what I have found special in each person. Is that okay, Toby, or, sure?
Toby Dorr: Yes. Go ahead.
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, I’ll start with Kathryn. I love your upbeat voice, I love how it’s both upbeat and very lyrical. When I read your stuff, there’s something very lyrical about it, and there’s this undergirding joy, even with the tough stuff that you have faced over the past two years.
Leslie Ahmadi: Wendy, you also have a very lyrical voice with a reflectiveness to it that I can really relate to. Lisa, I love how you’re very straightforward down to earth. You’ve got a practical voice that speaks directly to parenting issues in relatable ways, since that’s what you write about in your book, Marilyn, you speak with a straightforward voice out of the conviction of your faith in God. And it’s powerful. It’s a powerful voice. And Toby, I love your transparency, your energy, your boundless energy and your fearlessness in moving forward. You don’t waste time grieving the past. You just move forward and it radiates joy. Out of your love for God and love for people. All of those things, even though they don’t specifically speak to writing itself, show up in your voices.
Leslie Ahmadi: And I’ve come to love all of you, and I know that we have shown care for each other when we’ve come across impasses, stumbling blocks, discouragement, we have each other’s back. That’s what I’d like to say about what this pod means to me. It keeps us going. Writing is, can be a lonely road. But with us, with each other. And, this is my last comment. I’m sorry, I’m making up for the color.
Toby Dorr: Nope, that is fine to say whatever you want. I’m cool with that.
Leslie Ahmadi: Okay. I found that when we met weekly, I was often very driven just to talk about the writing and our writing goals. And I learned from my colleagues that it’s not just about the writing, but it’s about coming to know each other as people that allow us to be able to support each other and enjoy being together and keep going forward.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, definitely. I know Leslie, you’re the one who kind of keeps us on track. We’re off talking about, you know, what we had for Thanksgiving dinner. And Leslie will say, well, what about our writing goals for this week? You know, are we gonna talk about those? So, yeah, Leslie, you’ve kind of kept us on track every time about, you know, let’s talk about our writing, let’s talk about query letters, let’s talk about finding a publisher. How do we do all these things?
Toby Dorr: So I think that’s beautiful. Thank you. So, Lisa, tell us what this pod is. How you thought of it when we first started and then what it came to mean to you?
Lisa Plasse: Well, when we first got assigned to the group, I was in that writing mode cuz we had just come off that summit. So you’re on that high of learning everything that you need to learn and how to become a writer. So I said, oh, this will be a great way to have a support group. And when we first met, I, you know, it was just funny how it was an instant connection where I was really nervous when we first were gonna get together. I thought, what if I don’t like these women? What if this doesn’t fit right? But something just from the minute we started talking, I was like, I’ve never had this much of a natural flow of conversation. That it wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t like we were sitting there struggling to find words. We just naturally went into a groove and just started talking. Which is very rare. And so this group, while we started with the goal of, you know, supporting each other with our writing, I think it’s just become so much more. And we’ve become genuinely very good friends. And I’ve never had that, I don’t think in my life. Not since maybe when I was in school, like high school. Where you had your girlfriends. But even then, that’s nothing in comparison to what I think this is now. And just knowing that whatever we’re going through, we’re there for each other. And it’s this support and comfort that I know that I have you ladies in my corner.. And I can text you guys or call or whatever it is, whenever it is. And I know that one of you will always reach out. And I think that’s the nice thing is that we have each other and it’s not just the burden on one person. We collectively as a group are here to support each other.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. I agree. I do love that. And you know, we have truly created this connection, and we’ve been together for each other, through deaths, through family emergencies, through weddings, through personal crises. And I know I find a lot of strength, uh, from this group. And on days when I’m feeling really down, like I, you know, I just had a total knee replacement, and I got some bad news that they’d found a tumor in there. And the first thing I did was go and message every one of you guys because it’s like I must talk to somebody and, and my phone rang, you know, you guys were there to call me and tell me, you know, this is gonna be okay. And it is, by the way. So, I don’t even have a tumor now they’ve told me. I haven’t shared that with you guys yet. But my doctor called me Friday night at like seven o’clock and he said he’d been on the phone with the tumor specialist at the University of Virginia. And he’s sending the reports and the guy looked at him and said, this is not a large cell tumor. She doesn’t have a tumor. And it’s like, thank you, God. You know? So anyway, we’re past that. But you know, this group has been awesome for supporting each other. Wendy, how about you? What’s this pod meant to you and what did you think when you first came in?
Wendy Elle: Right now it means everything to me. I love you guys. It’s getting together. Last year at the Airbnb was like a complete highlight of my year. So Wonderful.
Toby Dorr: Yes, mine too.
Wendy Elle: We felt as we actually met in person was just like, um, just so lovely. And I didn’t expect it when the group first started, I have to be truthful and vulnerable. I usually am in this group. I didn’t hold out a whole lot of hope. I just, I joined and I was like, nah, this is, you know, whatever. And for some reason, I continued to go every week and when Wednesdays come up, I was like, oh, am I gonna go? Am I not gonna go? Oh yeah, I’ll go. And then after the hour or whatever that we chatted was over, I was just like, oh my goodness, I’m so thankful I went to that. And I really feel like collectively we bring together, kind of piggybacking off of what Lisa said, we bring together so much strength. And that is in completely different areas. Like in, you know, the administration of Lisa, the energy of Toby, the sweet soft-landing spot that Leslie is, Katherine, you just, you know, vibrantly somehow, you know, bring humor and wisdom. And then Marilyn, I have fallen in love with your Instagram. “It’s prayer time”. Your voice, the foundation of your faith that it offers is just like, I don’t know I can’t imagine us now not being together. So yeah, it’s become, and when I write a chapter and send it to you guys and I’m shaking and think I’m horrible, I can’t do this, you know, what am I doing? Who, what do I think I’m doing? Trying to write a book, get responses from you guys and positive reinforcement, and ideas for change. My weakness in sequencing. You guys help me out. And I’m just like, every time I get a response, I wanna write a whole paragraph, an email just filled with, thank you. So, literally, yeah.
Toby Dorr: That’s beautiful. Yeah. Everything. That’s beautiful. Kathryn, your turn.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: I feel like this has just been so divine in terms of the setup of our group. Um, you know, and thanks to Alexis or whoever put us together and God, right? Yeah. Because this has been so special in terms of, you know, it’s like one thing you think you’re getting put into a group with people who will maybe hold each other accountable and support us through the process. But, as you know, it’s been said, it turns into so much more. And what I really appreciate is that in other groups and stuff that I may have been in, it may have started and then at some point it just kind of dwindles off, you know? People get busy, something happens, da da, da, and it just, and so I really appreciate the commitment of everyone to want to keep this going. But of course, we wanna keep it going because it’s become so much more in terms of being personal. And being vulnerable and really having a safe space to just be. And that could be with laughter or with crying or, you know, or sharing the most vulnerable and sometimes perhaps shocking components of our lives. And so that’s, that’s really special. And it’s special that we were able to do this in what I consider a short amount of time. Because sometimes, you know, with humans and with women in particular, it takes a while to get to the point where we’ve gotten and to be where we are in terms of, to just be with each other. And to have that, it’s like having a balance of accountability yet grace. And it’s just a nice balance to top that off with friendship and sisterhood.
Toby Dorr: You know, I think that’s beautiful. I really think the fact that all of us were working on memoirs because we were working on memoirs, that’s all about the most personal intimate part of ourselves. So, I think that helped us make that connection quicker because as we shared what we were writing and working on, it was truly our most inner feelings and thoughts, and I think that helped bring us together much quicker. Definitely. Yeah. So, Marilyn, what do you think about our pod here?
Marilynn James, RN: I think it’s been wonderful. I just have to say that I really wanna ducktail off of what Kathryn just said, that we had kind of grace and we had the vulnerability and then we’ve had a camaraderie. I have two sisters, so, I think when we were early on, Wendy was talking about vulnerability. I have never, in all the conversations I’ve had with people all over the world, had one that was that in up on any subject, much less vulnerability, but it certainly has been something that’s been walking with me on my shoulder and my mind in terms of why aren’t people more vulnerable and they probably don’t have space. Lisa has just really encouraged me because she’s been that busy business owner and a lot of people that I’ve known haven’t done work and family. They’ve done family and that’s fine, but Lisa was kind of affirming for me going, it can be done and it can be done with a smile and there’s racism. What I really love about Leslie is both of us speak Spanish, so that’s been a connectivity point. I’ve never had anyone who was African-American who also spoke Spanish. I’ve been kind of an outlier for over 40 years and that. So just having her be that reflection has been really cool. But I like Kathryn cuz she loves to travel like we do. So I was like, just go Kathryn and Kathryn will give us either some food tips or some travel tips. She’s gone go girl. Right? Yeah. And Toby, you just are, effervescent I think is probably the word. I was thinking about calling you the Blossom, the Bloom. I’m not sure what we call you. Gimme a B for Toby. But I really appreciate it because for me, even at this point in time, I’m pretty outgoing in that kind of thing. But I think having people who you could deal with, and we also were kind of merging and meshing during the pandemic. So for me, it was like, okay, you can’t go see some other friends because things are shut down, but you’re not shut down on Zoom. So I really appreciated that. And then Wendy had added that whole Canadian flare in terms of, think of it like this. So we had other perspectives that we wouldn’t have had. And then getting to meet everybody last fall, I was like, that was really cool, but what’s even cooler? My husband said, well you all getting together in October or anything like this year, he said, are you guys planning that? So it’s good for him to think, ’cause he said, oh, this is really good for you to do that. So I think that it’s become kind of familial for our families too. You know, husbands and children are involved saying, oh, you’re doing something different. So it’s been a really cool difference-maker for me.
Toby Dorr: I love that. And you know, I kind of lived an isolated life in my past and I didn’t have any girlfriends. And I don’t know why. I mean, I do know why, but I’m not gonna say. But I was just isolated and I didn’t have girlfriends. And it gets harder and harder to make friends the older you get. And when our pod started, you know, I thought, oh, this is gonna slow me down. I’m trying to get this book done and I’ve gotta stop and talk about it, it’s gonna slow me down. And what it did is speed me up and enrich what I was writing about because I got so much more contribution to the things that I was writing. And I can remember, you know, I’d get off of a pod call and I’d go in the room and I’d say to my husband, I have girlfriends, I have girlfriends. And it just was like, so heart filling, that I have girlfriends now and you know, deep friendships and I’ve craved that my whole life. And wow, I’ve found it in this group and I think it is just beautiful. I love it. So I’d like each one of you to tell us about a crossroads in your life that pushed you in a different direction.
Toby Dorr: And let’s start with Wendy this time, just in case she gets disconnected with her power outage. I wanna be sure we have hers in here.
Wendy Elle: Uh, crossroads? Pick an era. Yeah. Pick a year, pick an age. I guess the most significant thing is the death of my son. In an airplane crash when he was five years old. And my three daughters and I, when we’re sitting around, the island cooking or whatever, we have quite an active kitchen. We openly talk about that and a crossroads which has fingers that have gone in every single direction and affected our lives, even though it’s, we’re almost 20 years past the accident. It’s a crossroads that has long-reaching fingers and so I think that is the most significant one. But there are many more. And that’s why I keep on writing because when I look at all the crossroads and the fact that I’m still standing on my two feet with, uh, definitely the foundation of faith, strength, coming from the joy that I have in my faith. So I think that’s the most significant, but there are close runners-up.
Toby Dorr: I love that because, you know, I lost a daughter as a baby. And the way we handled it is we never talked about her, and that was so unhealthy. And I love how you celebrate your son’s life every day. You know, you’re, he’s always there. He’s always a part of it, and you’re not afraid to talk about him. And I love that, and I’ve learned so much from you about that. Thank you. So Kathryn, what crossroads in your life sent you in a different direction?
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: I think the most significant crossroad that I can think of is, is, and I think we talked about this, Toby when we did the podcast, was really, my decision to go to Howard University. I’m representing Howard today. Yes. I was admitted to, or I got my acceptance, you know, this was snail mail days, back in the day. And I got my letter at the last hour. I thought I was going someplace else, and I got it at the last hour and I made the decision. Instead of going this way go to Howard. And I mean, making that decision, of course, has affected every single aspect of my life. It has directed me in, in so many different ways. And it was the place where I really, birthed into who I became as a young woman from Brooklyn, New York, who was thrown into this diverse and melting pot of African Americans from all walks of life and, and professors and everything. And so, and really, as I said, it just branched me out into meeting different people. It branched me out into my career. I would imagine without going that way, that I wouldn’t be sitting here with you all today.
Toby Dorr: I do think that was a powerful direction. And you’re still involved in Howard University alumni events too, which I think is great. You were part of the marching band. And I just love watching all your videos of going to the games and hanging out with the band members. I think that’s just beautiful.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: Yeah. It’s, it’s a special place and it’s been good to me.
Toby Dorr: Yes, yes. And I’ve come to love Howard University through you. I didn’t even know it existed till I met you. And, now I’m always, you know, every time I see something about Howard University, it’s like, oh, oh, I have to tell Kathryn. So I think that’s pretty cool. Marilyn, how about your crossroads?
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: Wait for a sidebar, because we can’t not say that. Leslie’s parents, correct? Yeah. Oh, yes. They are from Howard.
Toby Dorr: Yes, that’s right. Yes, as well. So, excellent. Yes. I’m glad you threw that in. That was nice. So Marilyn, what was your crossroads?
Marilynn James, RN: Well I’m gonna be at the college level with Kathryn and my crossroads was I was going to absolutely teach Spanish. Everybody who knew me from high school knew I was gonna teach Spanish. Probably haven’t even noticed that I like talking,
Leslie Ahmadi: right?
Marilynn James, RN: We all knew I was gonna teach Spanish. However, I went to get some college prep testing. And when I did, guess what? It showed that I had more propensity to be a nurse than to be a Spanish teacher. Could you imagine?
Marilynn James, RN: That was disheartening for me. I cried, came home, and cried for three days and I was like, the gentleman who administered the test said, well ma’am, I’m not giving you results. This is how you test it. And I was like, well, Lord, I did ask you to direct my life, but I wasn’t thinking you were gonna direct it away from teaching Spanish. How could that be? But it’d be, I have now the power to look back. It was really probably the best thing because I did go and take nursing and I was able to then do a double major and include Spanish. At that moment, everyone was saying, well, hey, you’re African American. African American people don’t need to speak Spanish. You know, just do English and be and go that way. And what was funny was as I learned Spanish, I got assigned a lot of patients who were Spanish. I was able to be an advocate for a lot of people who spoke Spanish. And what’s happened recently, the last say, a month and a half, two months, one of our friends down in the Dominican Republic has been having a lot of health challenges. She’s a young lady, like 38 to 40 years old. However, she didn’t understand some different things. And I’m looking now going, Hey, I started speaking Spanish from a college, high school, and college level. And whoever thought that the blend of Spanish and nursing would make a difference in so many people’s lives that I could be an advocate for. So, I taught Spanish for about three years at the church school. So just amazing how you can blend your life. And it was the end of my life, I thought, in my teens, but it’s been a real enhancement to life.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful and, of course there’s a huge need for Spanish-speaking nurses. I mean, that’s so obvious.I think that’s a good fit.
Marilynn James, RN: But I think back when I started nursing school, that wasn’t obvious. That wasn’t the case. It’s definitely more of an issue now. I think so. I think that’s actually decades in there and then now they can see it.
Toby Dorr: I like that. So Lisa, how about your crossroads?
Lisa Plasse: Probably for me it’s when I decided that I had to have music in my life I was a little girl and it was in the summertime and I had made a play date with a girlfriend of mine. We were gonna meet at the playground and when I got there I heard this music coming from inside the building, had no idea what it was. Cuz you know, I didn’t know that they did things like this. I figured in the summertime, schools closed, nothing happens. Do you know? But I hear this music and I still can picture it because it’s like I was walking into the building, you know, slowly, almost like a murder mystery cuz like you’re walking in wondering what is this? Like, what, you know, what are all these things? So I’m like, tiptoeing down the hallway because I really didn’t know what was happening. And I’m like, peeking in the doors, trying to see, you know, what everything is. And then finally I’m realizing, oh, this is like a summer camp. And then I’m like, wait, why aren’t I part of this? Because, you know, this is something that I just loved. And it was just that immediately, that I knew I had to figure all this out. And I found the person in charge, got the information, went home to my parents, and, uh, luckily they were, they saw the excitement that I had. And, then my father bought me the flute and you know, I never thought he would do that. Never, I mean. In a million years, to me it seemed, it was like, I don’t know, $225, you might as well said a million dollars to me. Cuz that’s what it felt like. And I never thought that he would say, oh yeah, we’re gonna buy it for you. And that was, that changed everything because that’s, it just was putting the pieces together in the puzzle of my life where I always thought with music from the time I could start humming and singing, cuz my mom even said that, she’s like, from the time you were a little baby, you were always humming and singing and you know, you’d listen to something on the radio and sing it back and she’s like, we always knew you always sang, you never stopped, you know? And I like acting out, singing with a hairbrush, you know, jumping on top of a piece of furniture. Like it was the stage, you know?
Toby Dorr: You told me once that your dad bought you that flute and you played it every day. And I asked you how long it took before you could play something and you told me I couldn’t make a sound come out of it for six months. But you never quit. You were so-called to that music that you didn’t give up.
Lisa Plasse: Never, and the funny thing is, the band director, I kept saying, apologizing to him. I said, I’m not, I don’t know why you’re not making me do something else. He said it will come. He’s like, you’re meant to play this. He’s like, I’ve never seen anybody put this much effort into something and not have anything happen. And you keep coming back. So he was like, I think you’re meant to play this. So yeah, the fact that I had the band director not give up on me. And, I think that was also a life lesson for me early on to learn that I can teach anybody anything. And I can help anybody with anything because he didn’t give up on me. And look what happened to me. So it was like an early life lesson that I learned to never give up and never let other people say, oh, I can’t do it. Yeah, you can. Mm-hmm. You can do anything you put your mind to.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. And now you make your living with your flute, don’t you?
Lisa Plasse: Yes, I do. Yeah. I’m happy to say that I am a professional musician.
Toby Dorr: Yes. And Lisa has a whole accolade behind her of accomplishments in the music field. But the one I most wanna talk about is Lisa wrote the theme song for my podcast, and I just love it. And she also plays the flute in it, so it’s just beautiful. So when you listen to my podcast, you can picture Lisa playing that flute.
Lisa Plasse: I’m so glad you like it, Toby.
Toby Dorr: Oh, I love it. Love it, love it. So thank you.
Lisa Plasse: It was my pleasure.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. I love it. So, Leslie, what about your crossroads?
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, back in the day when my hair was black and long, and I was a young woman, a young black woman who embraced my Christian faith. That was really important to me. I had this idea of who I wanted to marry. I wanted to marry from the time I was a, you know, came out of the womb. And I thought I had in my mind this ideal of a black Christian man who I would spend the rest of my life with. I also, as a little girl had lots of dreams and interest in, seeing the world. I loved hearing other languages. I loved learning about other people’s cultures. I used to pretend I could dance a flamenco dance. I learned Spanish, and that connection with Marilynn, I had too. Anyway, when I went to Ohio State, 30, almost 40 years ago as a graduate student, I met a man from a different culture, country, language, and faith, and I fell in love with him very soon. The crossroads was, what was I going to do about that? Was I, was I going to marry him? Was I going to go in another direction and follow another path? What did God want? I didn’t know. And so, the crossroads was when I made the decision to marry a gentleman from Iran who had been raised in a Muslim family. And ended up not only marrying him but living in Iran for four years and having two children, young children to raise there. So that’s what I talk about in my memoir, the journey that has taken me on.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. And how having two different cultures and two different religions and two different languages really just enriched everything that you’re about and didn’t throw up any blockades at all. I think that’s beautiful. Uh, probably I’ve had so many crossroads in my life, so many, but the one I wanted to share is, you know, I was always willing to tell my story to anyone who asked anyone who was around me that wanted to listen. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that a woman in New York named Joyce Mitchell helped two inmates escape from a prison in New York. And all of a sudden, the media started coming and calling and knocking on my door, you know, wanting to interview me because our stories had similarities. And, I sat down with my husband and I said I have a big decision to make and I feel like it’s gonna change my life in an extreme way. I can either just continue with our quiet little safe life here and not return those calls. Or I can decide to speak up and tell my story and hope that I can reach out to other people like Joyce Mitchell and maybe change their trajectory before they do something that is difficult to overcome. And my husband said, well, of course, you have to speak up Toby because that’s who you are. And so, I made that decision that I was gonna answer those calls and I was gonna do those interviews and I was on Anderson Cooper and Brooke Baldwin and, 2020 and Inside Edition and all over the news. And, that definitely changed my life. It definitely set me on the path that I’m on now, and it would’ve been so easy. I mean, it would’ve been much easier to just not answer those calls, but I knew that I had to answer them and move forward. So that’s what I chose to do. So of course, you guys all know that story, but and you know, in writing my book, I can’t tell you, uh, you finish your book and you feel like it’s ready to publish, and then there’s all these rewrites and edits and rewrites and edits, and you guys lived with me through all of that. And, you held me up and cheered me on, and pushed me through, and I’m not sure I could have come out on the other side as well as I did without all of your guys’ support. So now this whole group has meant so much to me.
And you also, Toby, you’ve also inspired us all. We’re grateful for that. No, thank you.
Toby Dorr: Kathryn and I have been really lucky because we live, you know, less than an hour’s drive from each other. So, we’ve been able to get together a little bit more than we have with the rest of you guys. And I just treasure that. But I can’t wait for our trip next October. I don’t know where we’re going yet, but I’m ready.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: A friend asked me yesterday, she said, so you haven’t gotten together with Toby lately? What’s, what’s going on? And I said, well, well, she had knee surgery.
Toby Dorr: So generally we get together on the first Thursday of the month, which would be tomorrow, but we’re not getting together tomorrow. But we’ll be back on schedule in May. So, that’ll be excellent. So what has, what’s one question you wish I’d asked you and how would you have answered it? And then also let us know the title of the book you’re working on now. So let’s start with Leslie.
Leslie Ahmadi: I’m gonna have the pass on the question, I deliberated over it. I reflected on it. I don’t have a question. Ok, cool. I can’t fake it. But the name of my book is Road Between Two Hearts: A Black American Bride Discovers Iran, and that’s a working title. The book has not found the publisher yet, but that’s the current name right now.
Toby Dorr: And you’re in the process. Your book is finished, but you’re in the process of sending out query letters right now and looking for a publisher. So if anyone’s listening that’s in that field, I can let you know how to contact Leslie. So, Lisa, You’re working on two different books right now, which is exciting.
Lisa Plasse: Yes, I have my parenting memoir, which is called Words of Wisdom from the Everyday Mom. And that’s been a project that I have to say really came together through the pod because talking to you guys, getting input, getting feedback, it went through various revisions. And now I’m pretty proud of what the final product is. So now I have to just go ahead and do the final editing and get that ready to publish. And I’m doing self-publishing. And the second is actually a children’s book based basically loosely on me and my exposure to music and what it did for me through my childhood going through into college. And it’s called Marisela Discovers Music. And Toby, you’re actually helping me with the cover and formatting.
Toby Dorr: Yes. So, you can get it printed. Yes.
Lisa Plasse: Yeah, so we’re working on that, so I’m hoping to get that out soon. For me with the questions. I really love the questions that you asked us today in terms of our color and the crossroads. I guess maybe if anybody wanted to find out a little bit more about us is finding out something about what were the hardest decisions that we ever had to make, which is sometimes different than a crossroad because, you know, crossroads, you’re making choices as to what path to take, but what were some of the harder decisions that may have come into some of those sacrifices in dealing with that? Something like that. Maybe that is another way to get somebody to dig a little deeper into the questions that you’re asking.
Toby Dorr: I like that. I’ve added that to my list. Oh, great. That’s excellent. I bet. Thanks, Lisa. You welcome. So Wendy we were talking about what you’re working on now, ah, and if there’s something you wish I had asked that I didn’t ask, what would that be?
Wendy Elle: I’m working on keeping the power on. Yes, there are actually trees falling down. I can hear them crashing because we’re surrounded by trees.
Toby Dorr: Wendy lives up in Northern Canada, out in the Boonies. Boonie, Boonie like she’s gotta drive a hundred million miles just to get water.
Wendy Elle: Well, that would be called, an author exaggeration.
Toby Dorr: Yes, I think so.
Wendy Elle: I’m working on a memoir that is, was that the question? Sorry. Yes, yes. I’m working on a memoir that starts out as a child in a Mennonite community and, being, having a father that was excommunicated we stayed in the community and then the journey through life as he came back to get us when I was six. And then the journey of life for the next 10 years with a pretty, I guess, unstable human being. And, then just growing up really quickly after a few significant events, the death of my sister, (my dad) went on to be married four times, came back to my mom between each time and then and really kind of missing a childhood and being thankful for the zero to six years of my life and the foundation that it did give me. Marriage and family, the death of my son, now an empty nester, and navigating through all of that with memories and really paying attention to, I don’t really like to call it trauma, but the events of life that we need to survive. And I guess my memoir is about how to survive those things well. And really find yourself in the purpose of God when horrible things happen year after year after year. And instead of blaming God more, seeking God, because he’s always there, he’s always near. And that is really what I wanna write about is just you can survive anything and you actually can do it. Well, I’m not talking monetary or materialistic, I’m talking about soul. To be able to say it is well with my soul.
Toby Dorr: And it is a pretty powerful story and we are blessed right now to be in the middle of reading Wendy’s chapters and giving her suggestions. I thought I knew Wendy so well but I have learned things in this writing that I never knew and it just amazes me the breadth of life that she’s lived. So this is gonna be an outstanding book when she gets it done.
Marilynn James, RN: And I just wanna highlight right there too, Wendy, that I think you’re talking about people being emotionally well, cuz being able to carry forward from a nursing perspective, people have a lot of things hit them and they kind of just get stuck. And you telling us how you don’t have to be stuck if you’re dealing with a lot of things. I appreciate that. Admire that about you.
Toby Dorr: That is a powerful message. So Marilyn, why don’t you tell us what you were working on?
Marilynn James, RN: Well, you and Lisa helped me a couple of weeks ago with, I wanna write my second book, The Talk. With all of the things that we’ve had in the news with George Floyd over the last couple, of three years. I, as an African American mom, have shared with you guys how I started preparing my son when he was about five years old. We lived in a different community – about how he might be approached by police, and how he should handle that. And likewise, I included my daughter, but my son had so many episodes when he moved to our newer community that I was glad. I thought five was too early, but based on us moving here when he was nine. Yeah, exactly the right time. So my goal is to help parents at least have that talk. I know some African American parents say they don’t need to have it, but I think they are putting their children in harm’s way with not so, and then also giving kind of insight, in terms of what Kathryn had said about your children. Here’s something you might need to know if you’re in middle school or high school. So, just noodling that together before I put, haven’t put pen to paper just yet.
Toby Dorr: And your first book is already published and it’s available on Amazon. And what was the name of it?
Marilynn James, RN: The name of it is Fully Persuaded Faith.
Marilynn James, RN: I’m gonna put it right here.
Toby Dorr: I can see it. Okay. Yeah. Excellent. Fully Persuaded Faith and it’s on Amazon.
Marilynn James, RN: Correct. So, what I wish you at asked me, you had mentioned, how to stay calm if somebody were to note that you were the charge nurse and you were African American and they didn’t wanna have service. Well, one of my mottos in the scriptures is Proverbs 15, and one a soft answer that calming point, a soft answer or turn away wrath. So when people are thinking that they’re going to have a different ethnicity serve them I’ve just tried to tell them, Hey, I’m the only registered nurse on duty today. I’m gonna be helping you with your meds and your IVs and this is what you have. And if they really couldn’t accept it, then I would call the house supervision. And sometimes they couldn’t change the ethnicity based on who was actually scheduled. So just helping people stay calm through something that might have been a little discomforting for them.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, I think that’s a beautiful thing about you, Marilyn, is, you know, Unfortunately, there are biases out there and they shouldn’t be, and they’re wrong, and you could get angry about them, but you don’t. You are gentle and loving and you make every, you calm the whole situation down. And I think that’s definitely something that sets you apart. So I love that about you. Okay. Kathryn, you’re working on a couple of things, aren’t you?
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: Well, no, I mean, I’m working on one thing,
Toby Dorr: But you got a couple of other things in mind,
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: I mean, of course. When we first formed a group and when I first went to the women’s conference, you know, my sights were set on writing a book about my dad and the experience of caregiving for him and having that book be also a way to support other caregivers. And then I found through our time together and meeting, I found that I just wasn’t ready to go there yet with that. But in the midst of that, just kind of randomly, I gifted someone that was going to Howard with some things I wish I’d known when I went to Howard. And so that then morphed into me thinking, oh, I could write, do this as a guide, you know? For anyone. And so that’s what I have been in the process of working on.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. And I just love it. It’s got such beautiful titles and it really is a spiritual, and emotional guide to letting yourself fully enjoy and embrace the college experience. So, I think that’s gonna have a lot of value for everyone.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: I love that. You know what, and what I appreciate with you all is being able to, what we’ve been doing, what Toby did, what Wendy’s doing now is, you know, release our chapters out into the group and everyone provides their praise or their feedback, and that is very helpful, for me in this writing process to know, okay, I write a particular way, but there’s other ways that I could say things or things that I can eliminate. Or even just knowing, what my strength is, you know, my strength is not grammar. You know, that’s not so that to, to be able to have others who are, that’s their strong point, you know, that it’s been it’s so hopeful and it’s so refreshing to have.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s just beautiful. And now for my projects: I’ve got my memoir published and I published a poetry book, and I have a series of three workbooks that I wrote for women. And I’ve got two or three other book projects I’m working on. I have a child children’s book I’d like to publish, and, working on a couple of other things. But really the newest project for me is this podcast and I’m having so much fun with it. And I thank you all so much for being on my podcast today.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: You didn’t get to ask me my question I would’ve wanted you to ask.
Toby Dorr: Well, you didn’t tell me. I asked you, but you didn’t tell me yet. So what is it, Kathryn?
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: My question would be, and this is what I think about nowadays in terms of my situation and other people’s situations and what people are going through with the pandemic and losing family members and stuff is asking people, how are you, how are you doing?
Leslie Ahmadi: Oh, I love that. I love that.
Kathryn C. Boxill of BeDoLove, LLC: And not just asking it just because that’s just a normal question that you ask. But when you’re asking it for the other person the other end feels that you really want to know, how they’re doing. And have more conversation as opposed to, you know, I’m fine, you know, I’m good or whatever. Yes, yes. But creating a space really for people to be able to share. Because, you know, folks are going through so much.
Toby Dorr: They really are. It’s really been a tough time. My husband and I were talking just the other day and I said, I would hate to have been a high school student or a middle school student during the time when the schools were shut down. Because so much of that period in our life is about social development. And you just didn’t have that. And we’re gonna see, I think, you know, 30 or 40 years from now, the effects of that. I’m sure it’s bigger than we ever thought it could be. People think, oh, we made it through the pandemic. We’re all okay. But, but we’re not, I don’t think we’ve made it through. So Interesting. I love those questions. I wrote down Lisa’s questions and Kathryn’s questions both, and I’m gonna add ’em to my podcast list. So, thank you guys. And hold on just a minute. I’ll be right back with you, Toby. Oh yes. Leslie, what did you have to say?
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, I just wanted to add that, now I have a question that I’d like to share. I remembered that you had asked us to be prepared to talk about what we’re working on now. And for me, yes, of course, I’m working on the memoir, but I’m also thankful to you for this opportunity to be on a podcast. I am a hundred percent introvert and a hundred percent reflective. So, when a question gets given to me, it’s sometimes challenging to speak at the moment, but just by virtue of this opportunity, it’s opening the door and making me desire to have more opportunities to do this.
Toby Dorr: Good, good. Excellent. I love that.
Leslie Ahmadi: And what better group to start out with than this?
Toby Dorr: That’s right. That’s what we’re all about. Thank you too. Encouraging each other to grow. Thank you, Leslie.
Toby Dorr: Remember, none of us is our worst mistake. We all have so much more to offer the world, and those so-called mistakes are blessed opportunities to learn and grow. Next week, we’ll continue to bring you inspiring stories by people who’ve identified a need for change and are working to make a difference in the world.
Subscribe to our Patreon channel Fierce Conversations. For Special Access and behind-the-scenes info, go to patreon.com/fierce conversations, or click on the link in the show notes. 10% of the Patreon proceeds are used to provide workbooks to PRI Women in prison. The show notes also provide a link to purchase my book, Living with Conviction and links to all of our guests websites.
In my memoir, Living With Conviction, I recount the conversation I had in prison where my friend Lisa told me. In here we can talk about all the hard things. In fact, I think we must. And so we shall. Until next time. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby.