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Kristen Ali Eglinton – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“I spend so much time pondering home.”

A gem of a quote from this week’s podcast guest, Kristen Ali Eglinton, PhD. You may not relate to what she said, but my blood has always pumped equal parts wanderlust and imagination, so I had one of those visceral reactions when I heard it. You know, the kind that lead to a slight weakening in the knees? As I look around my comfy little digs right now, all decorated to express who I yearn to be, I want nothing more than to ditch it all and do some global pondering myself.

Kristen is on the move so much that she can’t remember the last time she’s been in one place for more than a year. But her wandering isn’t aimless; her travels not without purpose.

Kristen is Co-founder and Executive Director of Footage Foundation, which launched in 2009. It’s an international non-profit that works to amplify the voices of underserved communities through storytelling. She and her fellow co-founders, four women colleagues (“beloveds” to Kristen), were all attending Cambridge University at the time of this brainchild’s arrival, and, as social scientists, they recognized the need to improve the lives of young people (particularly young women) through media arts and social science.

“We figured out from the beginning – what are the needs, what are the voices, what are the pieces? But then in getting this really gorgeous, rich data, we were also intervening. […] Suddenly, there were young people being heard and being of service, so all of these benefits were coming out of it.”

It is now an extremely dynamic non-profit that uses unique multi-media tools to amplify the voices of youth, which, in turn, inspires change. That change comes not just to the individual but to their communities, as well. And it’s literally global, not to mention incredibly inspiring.

“I see young women in countries around the world, feeling so deeply connected to others they’ve never met.”

Within Footage Foundation are a list of interventions, including Girl-Talk-Girl, which focuses on gender-based violence, and Her{Connect}Her, a program for refugee women and the forcibly displaced.

“Just because someone’s in a refugee camp, doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel good about themselves. It’s a matter of dignity.”

This is serious and impactful work that encompasses all levels of compassion, something our current social climate needs a hell of a lot more of.

“We talk a lot about compassion and connection in our work and narrative form, and I think sometimes people think these things are fluffy and they’re not. They change your brain; they change your life. They can change our global landscape.”

As you can well imagine, this is demanding work, but Kristen considers almost all of what she does to be a creative act, whether writing (she’s a textbook author among so many other things), the work that she does with Footage, or as a consultant working with other organizations. It comes, she says, from her personal development, curiosity, and the desire to know herself better.

“I had a colleague tell me once that sometimes we think of the programming as a trip down my pathology.”

Another damned fine quote! And did I mention her sense of humor? Only matched by her intellect and abundant curiosity.

I did ask if there had been a key interaction or person who inspired her belief that sharing stories is a basic human need, but she said that it’s just something she instinctively knew.

“My background is in art, so I’ve always been a maker and an expresser. I write daily, and I’m always creating stuff. I see these as forms of expression, storytelling through whatever medium. Maybe simply oral histories or recounting the past – how the past can shape us. These are tools of our identity, these are the mirrors that we hold up to see our strengths and, of course, to see those sticky areas, those things that are kind of holding us back, imprisoning us. That’s how I’ve always looked at stories and media arts and expressive arts.”

Empowerment. That’s what I’m seeing here. Young women having the freedom to express – the freedom to find their own inner strength – the power to bring it out in others. These are the voices that need to be heard. This is the change we’re in need of.

Kristen is changing our world through her work, and it’s work that she’s obviously very passionate about. In the spirit of sharing stories, I’ll be forever grateful that she came on this podcast and shared hers. She may ponder home, but it’s very clear to me where she lives: Anywhere and everywhere she can walk through the door carrying what’s needed most.

“I think that if you continue doing the authentic work and the kind of work that you’re meant to do, and you just keep your eyes ahead, and you work with compassion, it keeps going, doesn’t it? It keeps growing.”

If you haven’t listened to Kristen’s interview, you still can by clicking HERE.

Also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite shows live.

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Teru Clavel – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“How are your kids being educated, and who are their role models? This is stuff that should be discussed on a regular basis and dissected.”

When the opportunity arose in 2006 for Teru Clavel and her family to move to Hong Kong, they jumped at it. She had two small boys at the time and would deliver her daughter while there. Further opportunities then took them to Shanghai and Tokyo before their eventual return to New York in 2018.

Following each of their moves in Asia, Teru enrolled her children in local public schools. This led to many insights and the ability to objectively compare approaches.

Now, as a comparative education specialist, speaker, and author of the book World Class: One Mother’s Journey Halfway Around the Globe in Search of the Best Education for Her Children, she’s sharing her observations for the benefit of parents and educators.

Among the many differences we discussed, which also included government mandated textbooks and a more organized system, I was struck by the marked difference in use of technology.

“Japan and China use less […] than almost any other country or economy. That’s in the classroom; not outside the classroom. Here, a lot of schools try to have a one-on-one tech policy where every child from kindergarten has access to an iPad or Chrome Book. […] These very students, who have limited technology exposure in the classroom, actually become some of our world’s strongest mathematicians and scientists.”

I was genuinely surprised by this information, and the extent of my own stereotypes. She also corrected me on another: I assumed creativity to be something only we were encouraged to express.

“The US has this misperception that it’s all rote learning and direct instruction and they don’t have any creativity, but it’s actually the complete opposite. When we think about budget shortfalls, what gets cut in the US? It’s typically the arts, and it’s a fundamental part of the curriculum in Japan.”

In hindsight, I remembered my interview with Betty Edwards, author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, where she expressed the exact same findings in Japanese culture.

Teru does make a point of adding that she doesn’t want people to get the wrong impression.

“The last thing I want is for anybody who reads the book to think that we’re behind or that these other countries have it better.”

Her recommendation?

“Talk about the value of an education. What does it mean? What are your goals? What are your expectations? How do you meet those expectation?”

And advice?

“What books have you read? What kind of books are they? How much time are you spending reading? And if your kids aren’t reading, are you reading? Are you showing them that reading is actually important?”

If you have children, or plan on having children, her book is a great place to start. But while you’re waiting for it to be delivered, listen to her full interview HERE.

Teru’s inspiring interview is also available on Apple Music, Google Music, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite shows are hosted.

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I Need Your Help!

Okay, so I’m shamelessly asking for your help. I recently competed in the virtual game show FunkQuest out of the UK, which you can watch HERE (short clip), but the only way I can win is to get the most votes!

Yes, that’s where you come in. All you have to do is watch the clip, and if you like me the best (how could you not), you just email “I vote for Leana” to Leana@funkythinkers.com And it has to be done by January 20th. It’s that easy!

Again, I know it’s shameless, but I really need my peeps to help me out.

Thank you in advance, and CHEERS to the amazing Jonathan Senior for making funky shows like this happen.

CHEERS!!

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Wendy Gilhula – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“Kindness isn’t relevant.”

Yes, these are words that Wendy Gilhula once heard from a potential publisher. As an educator, writer, she knew that statement to be false. Regardless, she became discouraged and stuck her manuscript in a drawer where it sat for several years.

When each spring rolled around, she’d clean out that drawer and toss the typed manuscript in the trash. It always managed to make it back out safely, however, avoiding the dreaded curb. And so the cycle would repeat.

Later, while tutoring a middle school student, the child asked, “What do you do all day when you’re not tutoring?” She laughed, but in her head she heard, I write books that kids will never read. It was at that point that she took her words out of the drawer and dusted them off for good. She’d had enough.

She now has three books, all of which speak to the fears and concerns of children. Her latest is a book on bullying called Pika Bunny says EEP!, and she understands the sad implications of its popularity. Bullying is a very real and scary phenomenon.

“I get some beautiful responses from teachers, saying, ‘Thank you for giving them a voice,’ and I get a lot of hugs from kids.”

Wendy has now read in three countries, Canada, US, and England, and she offers virtual readings, as well. They are live and interactive sessions for kids, and she’s racking up some serious Skype miles due to demand. You can contact her on her website if you’re an interested teacher or librarian.

I love Wendy’s genuine spirit and desire to support children in our challenging cultural climate. It was a joy to interview her, and it’s just as fun following her journey. And if I’ve learned one important thing from this outstanding woman, it’s to take those ideas out of the drawer and do something with them!

Thanks for the inspiration, Wendy!

You can listen to Wendy’s entire interview HERE. Also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever your favorite podcasts play.

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Hear a real Pika bunny say EEP!

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The Wise Jeweler

I had it all wrong. Completely backward.

For years, I’ve been using a river analogy, claiming that I’d once been passively floating in water that took me in the wrong direction. Not until I discovered the existence of ores did things start to change.

Today, while chatting with a local jeweler named Nazir, I discovered the error of my ways.

It’s not that the river was taking me in the wrong direction. It’s that my mindset was taking me in the wrong direction. I’d let other people’s well-intentioned suggestions for my life and career guide me with blind trust. When I discovered the ores, I started rowing in the direction I wanted to go, but it’s been a constant struggle to get on course.

What I heard today, following the statement, “Let me tell you my story,” was that the Universe has a plan for each of us, and we need to follow that plan with ease. No resistance. When we fight our gifts and talents, when we choose a profession that doesn’t speak to our souls, we live in a state of dis-ease. We live stressed.

He’d been there. He spoke from experience.

This jeweler, with the eyes of a sage and the soul of a mystic, spoke exactly what I needed to hear – and entirely without prompting. I hadn’t mentioned one thing about the internal struggles I’ve been dealing with, nor had I posed a single question. It was simply offered – as though on the very wind of which he spoke.

In the few hours since our interaction, I’ve been thinking. About ores, and water, and wind. About how my life became hectic and forced from the moment I picked up those damned ores, and how I’m tired of fighting the current. I know, intuitively (as most of us do), what I should be doing, and I haven’t trusted the truest form of guidance to get me there. That’s about to change.

What can I share of my own wisdom? When someone, unprompted, says, “Let me tell you my story,” listen. Live for these connections. Relish in their meaning and depth. Breathe deep and let the wind carry you to a place of great insight.

Nazir almost made me cry today, although I doubt he noticed, but only in the very best way. And, not surprisingly, I’ve been significantly calmer since.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll hear more wise words in my future. With the wind at my back, I’ll be paying closer attention and will continue to share. Chances are, I’m not the only one who needs to hear them.

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