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About Your Mother
About Your Mother is a monthly podcast hosted by writer Jennifer Griffith. Each podcast features a conversation with a dynamic guest exploring the influence their mothers had on the trajectory of their life.
May 7, 2021
011 Changing Lives With Empathy | Peter Mutabazi
In this episode of About Your Mother, you will meet Peter Mutabazi - a remarkable human being who survived a traumatic childhood, only to use that experience to transform lives. He ran away from an abusive father at the age of ten and was homeless on the streets for four years until a stranger asked him his name. That gesture changed his life forever. However, that isn't Peter's story. His story is so much more than that. He has used his experience to lift the lives of those who need our help most. It started with global relief efforts, and now he has been a foster dad to sixteen kids. His mission is to make sure every child is known. Prepare to be in awe of Peter Mutabazi: his courage, empathy, and will to change the lives of the four hundred thousand foster children in our system. Joining me during this episode is my partner in Adoption/Foster Stories, Jeff Forney. If you want to learn more about Jeff's story and work, please listen to episode 010. A Mother's Love When asked about his mother, Peter has nothing but love and appreciation for how she cared for her children despite their situation. Raised in a culture where women are viewed as second-class citizens, Peter lived with an abusive father. Despite this, it did not stop his mother from raising her children with kindness and love. Her lesson that the impossible is possible was taught to him by his mother. "She said, 'Look, wrong people and bad behaviors will always come, but you have a right, and you have an opportunity to not always to act the same way.' That gave me empathy for that, that yes, I don't like my dad in some way. That somehow gave me the opportunity to no-repeat who my dad was or to think that was okay." – Peter Mutabazi Peter's mother has given him the best values and principles in life on how to have empathy. Running Away From Home At the age of four, Peter began to realize that not only were they poor, but his father was also an abusive man. So for him, hope wasn't there in any shape or form, and his mother was the small ray of sunshine in his life. Yet, at the age of ten, he could not take it anymore, so he ran away from home. To survive, he became a street kid. For Peter, it was better to be miserable in the streets than be abused by the one person who was supposed to be his protector. So for four years, he lived as a street kid. During those four years, no one had asked him who he was or what his name is. Yet a stranger stopped one day and asked him, "Hey, what's your name?" Over time, he had grown close to this visitor, who eventually offered him a chance to go to school. "He saw the potential in me. He didn't see the dirty thief boy, but a little boy that had an opportunity to be someone, and he said, 'I will offer that. I will be there for him.' For the first time, someone saw me as a human being. The message changed my life. So I went to school – not because I wanted to be somebody, but for the very first time, I had was seen as a human being. Another person has seen me as someone who had potential." – Peter Mutabazi Being a Father to Others Dads have the right to be vulnerable, a right to be tender...I have learned to be all, just like moms, when they need that. - Peter MutabaziClick To Tweet When this kind stranger took Peter in, he made sure Peter knew he was valuable. By using words of affirmation, Peter felt he mattered and belonged. However, there was one word that stuck to Peter - that he was a gift. A gift to his family and a gift to everyone. Given a chance to give back to others, he decided to be a foster dad himself when he grew up. "The reason why I became a foster dad was he had done so much for me. He has allowed me to have a family, go to school, and then travel over the world. So when I came to United States. I really wanted to give back. They say, 'To whom much is given, much is required.' I had been given so much that I wanted to give back as well.
Apr 30, 2021
010 Adoption Encapsulates Everything That Is Life | Jeff Forney
In today's episode of About Your Mother, we have a poignant discussion on the meaning of the word Mother. Joining us is Jeff Forney, a photographer, visual story sharer, and a dear friend. Prepare to be inspired by a touching dialogue on the meaning of the word mother, the journey to finding his birth mother, and the impact this experience had on him. The Meaning of Mom When asked about his definition of the word "Mom," Jeff shares that the word means nurturing, supportive, and loving. As an adoptee, Jeff has various meanings of the word. For him, his mother is his spiritual support and guide. "I remember probably about four or five years old asking, 'what does it mean to be adopted?' And my parents explained it to me well and said, 'We chose you to be in our life.' So I did feel special. My sister also was adopted, and we felt very much like a family unit. It was a very loving, wonderful childhood. I have a lot of great memories. I'm so grateful for the parents that I was given in this world." – Jeff Forney The Search As Jeff matured in college, he started entertaining the idea of looking for his birth mother. He wanted to know out of curiosity. If nothing else, he wanted to know where he came from; yet there was a feeling of dread if his parents found out he was searching at all. As he describes it, it was almost like he was cheating on them. "It is a little daunting telling your parents that you want to look. I was a little nervous about it because you feel like you're cheating on your parents. You feel like, 'Wow, I've had these wonderful humans that have done the best they can and they did a great job. How dare you look for your biological beginnings. You have a wonderful home.' This is a story that adoptees tell themselves that we need to rid ourselves of." – Jeff Forney Though he did end up telling them about it, rather than the reaction he dreaded, his mom only voiced concern that it might not be an easy task. Nevertheless, they gave him the support he needed. Jeff Forney and His Passion Project Finding your birth parent is like climbing to Basecamp on Everest. - Jeff ForneyClick To Tweet As someone who has undergone the journey of meeting their birth parent, he knew that some people struggle with what to do next. It's not like everything clicks into place once you meet them for the first time. At times, it can even leave either side feeling vulnerable. This inspired Jeff to launch the Innocent People Project. He used photography as his medium at first, which turned into a passion for creating a media narrative on adoption and healing for those involved. "Adoption exists out of necessity. If there were no need for adoption, that'd be fantastic. But it exists because there is a necessity so that it won't go away. Though if we can improve it and make it so that it's more open, and there's more of a dialogue about it, we can hopefully limit the number of adoptions so that it's only in those dire cases." – Jeff Forney To learn more about Jeff Forney and the meaning of the word "mom," download and listen to this episode. Bio: Jeff was adopted at birth. Raised in the Bay Area by two wonderfully loving parents, Jeff still felt a pull to know and uncover the mystery of his origin. Jeff eventually found his biological roots and has been in reunion with his birthmother for almost 30 years. Now, a photographer living in Los Angeles, a chance photoshoot with Ray Liota and discovering he, too, is adopted, a project was 'birthed' to photograph and interview adoptees in reunion with their biological parents. The project has been a transformative process, but Jeff now finds himself hosting adoptee meetings at his home twice a month. Through Jeff's involvement with the adoption community and just so happening to be a close friend of Jennifer Griffith and her husband Mark, Jeff has lent his 'adoption constellation membership' to Jennifer when her p...
Mar 23, 2021
009 The Lessons Were In How She Lived | Sarai Obermeyer & Amy Kelly
In honor of International Women's Month, today's episode of About Your Mother brings you a story highlighting the strength and power of maternal lineage. In this dual interview, we celebrate the life of Vera Obermeyer, who recently passed away due to COVID. Our guests are here to talk about her long and colorful life full of purpose. The conversation is with Vera's daughter and granddaughter, Sarai Obermeyer and Amy Kelly. Listen as Sarai and Amy share stories of Vera and her strong, maternal influence on them. They also share some of the family's traumatic past and how it inspired them to lend their voice to those who need it the most. Breaking the Mold Sarai remembers her mother's advocacy of women's rights when there was hardly any. Vera broke the mold of her time being a mother, career woman, and a strong voice of equality. Yet, she did not aim to bring anyone down but lift everyone to equal status. "There was an understanding that women should have the right and access to fulfill their potential. But that did not mean that when I didn't mind the rights of men, you would want men and boys also to fulfill their potential." - Sarai Obermeyer Vera's views and the virtues she had instilled in them have also led them to a life of helping others and fighting for the marginalized and oppressed. Relationships Over Everything Sarai takes us through her memories with her mother and how she raised her children and nurtured a career. While it was a big undertaking, Sarai understood that for Vera, having a job was an essential thing in her life. She also reveals that her mother valued relationships over anything. She formed powerful bonds with every person that she held dear, as Sarai found out when she talked to one of her friends: "When I was speaking to her after my mother passed away, she was just tearful. It was so sad. You can just feel the beautiful friendship they had and she then lost by my mother passing away. When you think about it: from 10 to 91... an 81-year-old friendship. How many people have an 81-year-old friendship? Not many." - Sarai Obermeyer Follow Your Instincts I think being critical, following your own instincts, and making your own choices is really important. - Amy KellyClick To Tweet Amy shares her grandmother's experiences when raising her children in the 1950s. Women were expected to follow a particular way of life, but Vera didn't go with the flow. She relied on her instincts and what she thought was right. Naturally, people who expect others to conform did not like that. "People thought she was crazy. They really thought she was just beating to her own drum. Yet she just knew the whole time, she just followed her own instincts and made her own decisions with what she felt was right versus what society tells you is right." - Amy Kelly Despite being a woman with strong opinions, Vera never forcefully imposed her own views on her children. She let them choose their own course in life and supported them wholeheartedly. Yet, she was always there to ask the right questions and help them consider their options and think critically at all times. To learn more about Sarai Obermeyer & Amy Kelly and how one woman inspired them to be better, download and listen to this episode. Bio: About Amy Kelly Amy Kelly is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in Child, Adolescent, and Reunification therapy. She graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Psychology, SF State with an MFT in Clinical Psychology and completed CE with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Amy is a member of CAMFT and is featured on Psychology Today Profile and GoodTherapy.org. She has been published on TherapyToday writing on Social Media use and Reunification therapy. About Sarai Obermeyer Sarai Obermeyer was a Deputy District Attorney at Solano County District Attorney's Office. Sarai focused on preventing violence and stopping discrimination in order to better humani...
Mar 2, 2021
008 Your Story Isn’t About You | Melanie Spring
What does it mean to own and share our own stories? Why would other people want to hear our stories? In today’s episode of About your Mother, we answer those questions with our special guest, Melanie Spring. Melanie is a vibrant speaker, an approachable bad-ass woman, and the facilitator of both personal and brand stories. Today, she shares her struggles and triumphs that made her who she is now. Melanie also discusses what it’s like to own our stories and how everyone should walk into a room and think ‘you’re welcome’. Break The Barriers Melanie takes us through her favorite memory with her mother and how she managed to break down barriers and reunite with her after being estranged. It wasn’t easy for both of them, but through a letter on Mother’s Day, they were able to reconcile and leave the past behind and move towards a better relationship. She encourages everyone to own their story by taking that one step into sharing one’s authentic self. “It took a big shift for the two of us together to reunite. We had to accept each other as who we are. We can talk about the hard things and it's not going to ruin our relationship forever. We can sit and cry about it and talk through it and take a minute with it and come back to it. We won’t let it just get swept under the rug again. ” - Melanie Spring Life is About Integration People often say that life is all about balance when on the contrary, it’s always off-balanced. Melanie discusses how life is about integration and figuring out how things can be more aligned, in sync, and woven together in a way that allows everyone to find peace. Especially during the pandemic, everyone’s lives have changed drastically and it has to be about integration and finding out how to make it all work together. “It's not about working all the time and then finding time to do some yoga and then some writing. It's about sitting down with my husband for lunch for 30 minutes, those kinds of things. It's the integration of all of them. It's us choosing how we want our lives to be integrated. It's us choosing what things we want to say is work versus life. Do I really want to put a clear line on that and do I have to?” - Melanie Spring Own Your Presence Confidence comes when one chooses to be confident. - Melanie SpringClick To Tweet Melanie shares the connection between owning our stories and being confident. It may take a long time to believe, but being able to own one’s confidence and allow oneself to share and own their stories is an incredible journey. Melanie reminds us that not everyone is for everyone, and unapologetically owning your presence is about allowing yourself to exist and become more confident in the space you’re in. “The constant reminder to not apologize unless you're actually sorry for something. If you did something terrible, please say you're sorry. Otherwise, don't apologize.Click To Tweet "Every time you walk into a room or get don't get back to me within five minutes to do something. Don't apologize and rather say ‘hey, I forgot about that’, ‘here's the thing’, ‘thanks so much for understanding’. There's a big difference in a shift and apology versus you're welcome when it comes to owning your presence.” - Melanie Spring To learn more about Melanie Spring and how you can own your presence and your story, download and listen to this episode. Bio: INTERNATIONAL KEYNOTE SPEAKER & BRAND STORYTELLER, MELANIE SPRING When we share our stories, we connect with each other at a deeper level. When we make friends with our fear, we can step into who we're meant to be. Working as a brand strategist with businesses of all sizes - from big brands like Five Guys to brand new entrepreneurs - for the past two decades, Melanie once drove 7,000 miles in 3 weeks on the Live Your Brand Tour to find out why great brands work. The HUMANS were at the center of everything. Along the way, she noticed that every human had a personal story to s...
Dec 9, 2020
007 My Eponymous Fashion Line As A Love Letter to My Mother | Olivia Joffrey
In the latest episode of About Your Mother, we have a conversation with Olivia Joffrey. Olivia owns an eponymous fashion line that serves as a love letter to her mother, Anne-Marie. Through osmosis, Olivia absorbed the colorful and artistic life that her mother has led — a life filled with sensory details, records, books, sand, and the ocean breeze. Imagine putting on a dress and transporting yourself to a different time and place- this is what Olivia's fashion line can do. The inspiration comes from her mother and her once vibrant life in Spain. In conversation, we discuss how her mother influenced her work, helped her find her passion, and we talk about the power of transcendent storytelling through various channels. My Mother, My Muse Olivia lets us in on her memories with her mother. She shares how, before being diagnosed with Alzhiemers, her mother had led colorful and free-spirited adventures. This served as an inspiration for Olivia to create a fashion line in her mother’s honor. Olivia discusses how, despite being creative and artistic, her journey has been intentionally experimental to pursue something she has never done before. She continues to say she dedicates this line to her mother's grace and the expat life she has led while living in Spain. “The fashion line is really about grace and the kind of expat life my mom was leading in Spain in that time. Where you can throw on your dress, go out and carpe diem, and go to the market. Even go to the beach in the middle of the day and have your bathing suit on underneath. Really not become a studied fashion person. I like living and feeling good about myself. That's how these women that I observed growing up were. Not just my mom, but these other women who were just intrinsically stylish without trying.” - Olivia Joffrey My Mother’s Style: A Warm Hug Olivia opens up on her childhood, her mother's style and spirit, and how her mother raised her on a secretary's salary. She shares how her mother still managed to live her life to the fullest despite their finances. This was a life - full of sensory and beauty - that echoed throughout their home and paved the memories for her childhood. She continues to talk about her mother and how she has shaped the conviction of what she now loves, believes, and her life perspective. “Her style to me, it was really warm. It wasn't rigid. It was like a hug. When people came to our house for dinner, everything was fully on display. The way she cooked and welcomed people in. There was always really good homemade food and lots of wine and music on the record player. It was very atmospheric, despite her kind of salary. She raised me on like a secretary salary, basically. ” - Olivia Joffrey My Mother’s Bookshelf In this regard, Olivia discusses her process of storytelling and the times wherein her creative juices are the most prolific. She continues to talk fondly of her mother's memories and how the things she learned from her mother's bookshelf were vast. She talks about how the commerce side was not captivating to her but rather the making sense of a woman's life as a reader. “We loved each other a lot. The beautiful thing about that is that never dies. It can live in the clothes, it can live in these other things that carry her spirit...Click To Tweet To know more about Olivia’s story and how she shares her mother’s story through her fashion line, download and listen to this episode. Bio: Olivia Joffrey tells a story through dresses. Our collection of refined leisurewear for women finds inspiration in mid-century Spain via California, and the imprint on both of these places on Olivia's adventurous mother. Our mission is to create elegant, seasonless clothes that delight the senses and simplify the art of dressing. We speak to a woman who values a polished look, but wants it with ease; she is a woman devoted to a life well-lived in her choice of leisure pursuits from surfing to reading to entertaining.
Dec 3, 2020
006 Pursuit of Truth With A Capital T | Julie Barton Part 2
We are in the second part of our series with the wonderful Julie Barton. In our previous episode, we talked about Julie's childhood memories and her path to becoming a New York Times bestselling author with her book, Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me from Myself. Today, we explore what it feels like to achieve publication success, the reality of making it as a writer, and how to follow your passions. Getting to What's True Julie shares her feelings on the publication success of her book. Although she appreciates the fame that comes with it all, the satisfaction she felt stemmed from uncovering what was true for her and writing it in a way that people could understand her experience. Click To Tweet Realizing Everyone's Story is Important Julie gives her advice to people who want to write freely. She discusses how everyone's story is interesting. She encourages people to ignore the little voice in your head telling you that it's not good enough. The value is when you let go and let what's there rise to the top. She says that readers want to know what's real. They relate to a story when they see themselves in the writing. "The gold is just letting go enough to let what's really there rise to the top. So often ego just wants to edit and make it the way that we think it's supposed to be. When in fact, that's actually totally boring to a reader. What they really want is the juice. They want the real stuff. The stuff where they're like 'Oh my gosh, that's me but I've never been able to put it in words' or 'I've never been able to say it that way'. They relate to that feeling that's so interesting. You can't get there if you're constantly editing yourself." - Julie Barton Reconnecting with Nature Julie gives an overview of her upcoming memoir and the connection she has felt with the natural world. She shares a brief background on her journey to finding a spiritual awareness of nature and the environment. She wants to honor the healing connection she had with nature when she was little before the world told her it was unacceptable. She then goes to share her advice to aspiring writers. "If you feel that drive to write this evening, no matter what it is, do it little by little. It will start to come together. One of the most beautiful things in my writing practice has been the pursuit of truth with a capital T. This meant finding what was really true for me, what my experience was, and trying to crystallize that is a fascinating process." - Julie Barton To listen more to Julie's story and her pursuit of the truth, download and listen to this episode. Bio: Julie Barton is the New York Times bestselling author of DOG MEDICINE, HOW MY DOG SAVED ME FROM MYSELF (Penguin, 2016). She has a B.A. from Kenyon College, an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and an M.A. in Women's Studies from Southern Connecticut State University. Julie has been published in Brain Child Magazine, The South Carolina Review, Louisiana Literature, Two Hawks Quarterly, Westview, The Huffington Post, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband Greg, two children, and small menagerie of pets. Connect with Julie! Web: ByJulieBarton Facebook: fb/JulieBarton Twitter: @juliebarton1111 Instagram: @juliehillbarton