Getting wild: REI's "Outessa" offers a new way for women to reconnect.

Getting wild: REI's "Outessa" offers a new way for women to reconnect.

As life gets busier, we often forget about the outdoors beyond a quick walk around the park at lunchtime on a good day. We find ourselves craving a bit of nature, or space to think on a mountaintop, or feel ourselves getting comfortable with the same old routines.

But something more than the schedule grind stops us. 

There's the anticipated discomfort of sleeping on the ground instead of the Sleep Number, the dollars spent on gear that may spend the rest its days in your basement after the expedition, and the thought of trekking "out there" alone.

Adventure brand REI has a solution - a 3 day, women-only retreat where food, drink, activities, gear and 3 types of accommodation are included in breathtaking locations - all with hundreds of other women wanting to reconnect with something bigger than their weekly routine.

Two Passionados (who are also coworkers at the University of Minnesota Foundation Investment Advisors) - Charlotte Schu and Dawn Peterson - visited the Kirkwood location (as "Fancy Campers" - i.e. glampers) - they shared their experiences with us. 

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Speak the truth: how speech pathologist Anna Lakin turned her love of acting into a second career.

Minneapolis-based actor Anna Lakin is also a speech pathologist. Or maybe it's the other way around....

She's passionate about both professions, and while she studied acting in her early 20s has reconnected with it more than 15 years later. We were intrigued by two seemingly different careers - how she chose them and how she manages to build both while also raising a family. 

Why did you originally choose speech therapy?

I fell into being a speech language pathologist, but now I realize it is very like acting, so maybe that's why.  With both, you have to be a good listener and observer in order to be effective.  When I'm acting, or when I'm working with a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders), for example, I have to listen and notice in the moment and let go of my agenda.  With both, I need to be very prepared - lines/lesson plan, evidence based practice/character development etc. - but if I can't be spontaneous when I'm in the thick of it, I'm not going to be very effective in either case.  

Lilly from Girl Shorts, photo Scott Pakudaitis

Lilly from Girl Shorts, photo Scott Pakudaitis

What is it about acting that you love? 

I am fascinated by the human experience, as I believe many people are.  Acting is how I entertain my fascination, how I feel connected to history, to humanity.  I guess that's a fancy way of saying I love pretending to be other people.  I also just love being in a theater or on a set, being a small but necessary part of something bigger. 

The more I focus on what I can control, the more the things I can’t control seem to fall into place.
The Comedy of Errors, photo Tanya Villano Photgraphy

The Comedy of Errors, photo Tanya Villano Photgraphy

What are you sacrificing in order to build a second career in acting?

I have to prioritize for sure.  Theater especially is a huge time commitment which is why I started exploring options for on-camera work after I had a child.  It was a great choice for me because I get a lot of satisfaction from acting in that medium, more than I thought I would, and it takes up less time.

What is the most fulfilling part of acting, and does it help other aspects of your life?

It's difficult to pinpoint a certain aspect because all the pieces are so woven together, but the character development discoveries that happen during the process - those "A-ha!" moments - they feel good.  As for acting helping other aspects of my life, it's actually more the other way around.  My experiences in life help my acting.  

SCript meetings with the cast of the non-producers. Photo: Kevin Bowen

SCript meetings with the cast of the non-producers. Photo: Kevin Bowen

What has the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far as you’ve been growing your acting experience? 

I'm constantly learning (and relearning!) lessons.  The biggest is that I have to focus on the things in the business that I can control and let go of the things I can't.  There's so much in theater and film that an actor has no control over.  I've realized I have to do things every day that I can control and move me forward.  I read plays, I audition a lot (and have slowly learned to make the conscious decision to make it fun), I participate in a scene work class every week ( which is a must for me to keep sharp, I look for my own work and don't just rely on an agency.  The more I focus on what I can control, the more the things I can't control seem to fall into place.

What advice would you give to other women who want to do more of something they love?

You’re far more likely to continue with what you love, if you realize you are already doing it.

Don't think of it as following a path to get to what you love.  Think, "I'm doing what I love", and then the goal setting comes naturally  Don't think, "I want to be a writer", think "I'm a writer, so I write, and I want to be published."  You're far more likely to continue with what you love if you realize you are already doing it.  I was always an actor, even jumping on my parents' bed when I was three pretending to be a ballerina to a pretend audience.  I just wasn't an accomplished actor.  Then my dad took me to a play and I thought, "I'm an actor and I want to be in a play on a stage with a real audience." - and so on. My goals change over time but I don't lose sight of who I am or what I do.

Right image credit: Rachel Andersen Media Makeup Artistry

Anna already has her next two roles booked - are Glinda and Aunt Em in The Wizard of Oz at Lakeshore Players opening September 14, and Jackie in Dot at Park Square Theater opening December 8. 

You can connect with Anna here or follow her on Instagram here

From projects to plants - how Clare Gardner Nieto created a new path that healed more than her career.

From projects to plants - how Clare Gardner Nieto created a new path that healed more than her career.

A year ago, Clare was one of those project managers that you'd consider your "right hand". She had the budgets, timelines, schedules, technicalities, clients, teams all under control. She was there before and after you. She was keeping everything together. 

Everything that is, apart from herself. 

Wracked with daily physical pain and a mounting realization that her unhappiness with her career was affecting not only her health but those she loved, Clare quit her job - her career - in December 2016 to practice herbalism. In a matter of months, she's gone from managing multi-million dollar technical projects with global clients, to 1:1 herbalism consultations and an expansive knowledge of "tinctures". And, she's happier than she's ever been. 

What does it take to take such a leap? And is it worth leaving the "big job" behind?

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How Claudia Phillips cheated death - twice - then refocused her life on building a business by healing others.

How Claudia Phillips cheated death - twice - then refocused her life on building a business by healing others.

Sometimes, we have a nagging feeling that we can do more, change direction, have a bigger impact, create a different life. But often, life gets in the way and we don’t get the time to change.

But other times, life slams into us and forces us to wake up.

Claudia Phillips was involved in an horrific accident that made her re-evaluate everything. Having survived two near-death experiences in a matter of weeks, and during months of recovery, she decided to refocus her life.

We met Claudia at Martha Stewart's American Made event in October 2016. We were inspired by her story of positivity, resilience and drive. Here it is. 

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Have baby, will travel: how one former advertising exec is inspiring families to travel the world.

Have baby, will travel: how one former advertising exec is inspiring families to travel the world.

The reality of leaving behind a career in the search for greater fulfillment often isn't rosy. 

We're told that life can be more precious when it's uncertain. Yet, we often feel that taking one straight path is the only way to go. It can take courage and a willingness to try, and try again, to move yourself in the right direction.

Susannah Cery knows the story. After working in advertising in London, she and her husband moved to jobs in Mumbai, India. When she became pregnant the couple decided to return to the UK and base themselves in Wales, close to family.

After realizing that they'd have a challenge building the careers they wanted in Wales, they were faced with a choice; return to London or search for jobs back in Asia. Susannah and her husband chose Asia, so with a baby in tow and a laptop to apply for jobs on the way, they set off on a backpacking adventure in South Asia in the hope of finding work. 

While they backpacked, Susannah started a blog as she learned about traveling with a small child. Families emailed her with travel questions though the blog, and she realized how little information exists about this topic, as well as how meaningful her help was to her readers.

After working for two years in Kuala Lumpur, they returned, once again, to England. As she considered picking up her job search again, Susannah realized that she no longer loved advertising and that the demanding hours were making it impossible to balance her family life. Another decision beckoned. 

So, Susannah drew on what she knew best and started an online community - "Our Tribe Travels" - for families who love independent travel. It's gone from zero to over a thousand members - and national press coverage - in a matter of months.

Susannah talked to us about her journey...



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How India is Leaning In: Rashmeet Kaur's view on the future for Indian women.

How India is Leaning In: Rashmeet Kaur's view on the future for Indian women.

You know those days at work when it feels you're going all Paula Abdul (two steps.....) It can be a lonely feeling and we sometimes think it's "just us". It's not. Women around the world are working together to support each other in creating success. It's just sometimes hard to feel that. 

So - we decided to help. Lean In India's Rashmeet Kaur reached out to Passion Collective recently to propose a partnership to help share ideas about how to positively impact women's opportunities. We jumped at the chance to create a global connection to women who are striving for many of the same things as us, every day, yet often, under more trying circumstances. 

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From Doctorate to Design Duchess: how a love of design gave Jessica Jones her real home.

From Doctorate to Design Duchess: how a love of design gave Jessica Jones her real home.

Our "should" thoughts often point us to expected paths, which can be appealing in a volatile world. And "expected" doesn't mean easy. We study, we work, we climb the ladder. We gather accomplishments and realize the hopes of those who raised and taught us. We know we are privileged and are proud of what we've achieved.

Yet, while on that path we feel that we're being followed by a whisper, telling us to pay attention to something we love. We dabble, play around with it, but then return to our expected lives, because that is what we know, and that is what we need to do at that time. And slowly, the opportunity to act on the passion fades away.  

It's hard to change - we have to shed expectations and recognize that our previous accomplishments don't need to define us, despite our efforts in gaining them. 

Oregon native, Jessica Jones spent 11 years in academia, striving towards a PhD in the History of Medicine (17th century French surgical medicine at that!). Yet, her love of design followed her and eventually, she acted on her instincts. Jessica went back to school to study fashion and realized that the world of design was her natural home. 

Known as the "Duchess of Whittier" (after her adopted Minneapolis neighborhood), her custom work is known for tailored, accessible sophistication and she's fast becoming one of the Cities' most sought after designers. 

We were intrigued by Jessica's story - often we hear stories of fast change, of "f&* it" moments - but this one was years in the making. 

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Buy the damn cheese!

Buy the damn cheese!

Recently, I started a full-time role after several years of consulting. An exciting opportunity, lovely boss, great company, huge potential — all that. Oh, and I had to go back to working FULL TIME. I suppose that’s the thing about the full time thing.

Being a strategy type, I knew I needed a plan to manage this time. Easy — I held a “family meeting” to explain that bin-emptyin’, meal cookin’ and floor tidyin’ was no longer going to magically happen, so please DIY (lots of head nodding ensued).

I rehired the cleaner. Reorganized my closet in “work” and “casual” sections (lasted one day.) Skimmed “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and promptly rolled up all of my knickers (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know.) I bought new bed linens (gonna need more sleep). Cut the hair into a shorter bob.

But the one thing I kept on doing was the bloody grocery shopping.....

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How art journaling can help you find yourself again.

How art journaling can help you find yourself again.

When we're ploughing through the week, knocking down action items and juggling schedules, all while trying to retain some semblance of a social life, creativity can be the last thing on our minds.

We can get to a point where we sometimes feel "empty", that we're pouring ourselves out into the world, but not replacing it with anything meaningful. 

So, our minds turn to "being more creative". Yes! That's it, you tell yourself, I need to be more creative! Then, our minds start whirling about what that means, we start and stop, or we don't start at all. We research, we write, or draw, then block ourselves with thoughts about what people will think of what we're creating. So we stop. And the cycle begins again. 

Artist DeAnne Olguin Williamson knows this, so she started "art journaling" workshops to help women kickstart a more personal - and realistic - type of creativity. 

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Deeds and words: how “Suffragette” inspires us to keep at it.

Deeds and words: how “Suffragette” inspires us to keep at it.

First, it’s the small details that creep up on you when watching “Suffragette”. You realize that you hardly ever see 1900s working class women with their wet, un-styled hair down in films (we’re so used to the trussed up women of Downton Abbey.) That a mother played the same games with her child as you do with yours today. That cups of tea were lined up for Suffragette meetings, fine bone china and all.

And then the gut-puncher realizations start. 

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Between two worlds

The whole other side of me
that could’ve been. The other life
I would’ve lived.

The lanes, the friendly villages, the yellow brick walls
soft to touch
hugging my arms around the land, the sticky scratchy earth
cloud busting
across the sky, the spires scatter the view, peeking out and up
churches live like neighbours, the trees familiar shadows
marsh wound wort, scented like bubblegum
pubs: bow your head as you enter, their stories sunk into their wood.

I chose a bigger world
of dreaming, zooming, shining, constant sound, always changing
yet I miss this life, quieter, smaller, kinder, the one that stays the same.

Maybe I am right where I should be?
Between two worlds. Always two halves.

Marsh Wound Wort

Marsh Wound Wort

Linda Brandt on Leaning In

Linda Brandt on Leaning In

When Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" was published in 2013, it divided opinion. The lovers rejoiced in the message that women deserved to be at the metaphorical and physical career table. Those less enamored saw it as an elitist view that expected women to shoulder an even greater workload without "the how".

The book was just the beginning. Since publication, Lean In has grown into a global, practical movement working to empower women with tools, information and a network of support. 

We caught up with Minnesotan Linda Brandt - well known for her leadership of one of the nation's most successful Lean In Circles. We talked about success, the changing idea of feminism and tangible ways women can support each other. Onward.....

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With these shoulders...

With these shoulders...

At 8 years old, I received my ballet report:

“Laura needs to relax her shoulders”.

How? I thought. They’re just ….there. They're as relaxed as they can be!

My shoulders were my shoulders. Where the ballet teacher thought I was hunching or lifting them to my ears, they were just strong shoulders.

Even though I passed my class, I remember the feeling of discouragement. How can I change something I cannot change? And why does this mean I can’t be a princess in the show?!

Fast forward 30-something years. I have rediscovered my love of tennis. Two hours a week, I’m pounding forehands, backhands, volleys, overheads over a net and BUZZING from the power my body has. If you love tennis, there is no feeling quite like hitting a ball, hard and true.

Guess what I need to hit a cross-court forehand? Strong shoulders.

It got me thinking….

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When hugs mean business - how Mary MacCarthy is building a new future with a fresh purpose.

When hugs mean business - how Mary MacCarthy is building a new future with a fresh purpose.

Being "old" + lonely is not something many of us spend time thinking about. What with our busy days and trying to "live in the moment", the long term future often isn't on our radar. 

Social entrepreneur Mary MacCarthy saw things differently. She watched her 90 year old grandmothers' loneliness and began to realize her purpose of making it easier for us to care for each other.

In thinking about how to "solve loneliness", Mary realized that art could help connect people to each other, so she created "Glorious Hugs".  Named for her Grandmother Gloria, Glorious Hugs curates care packages of art, cookies, scented oils, jewelry and other gifts, all wrapped up with a handwritten note and a huge helping of love. 

Mary has clearly tapped into an unmet need for people to connect and care for each other in a simple, creative way - Glorious Hugs has just celebrated its first anniversary and orders are flooding in from people wanting to make small gestures count. 

We were curious about Mary's journey: she's a mom with a successful healthcare marketing career behind her - what got her to this point and why did she choose this direction?

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When life gives you lemons, get a sidekick! How Molly Keeler is building "happy", one person at a time.

When life gives you lemons, get a sidekick! How Molly Keeler is building "happy", one person at a time.

When fitness trainer Molly Keeler watched her beloved mother pass away, she realized that she didn't have to stand by. She could help others by being a "sidekick" to conquering fear, trying new experiences or creating friendships. Enter "Happy Trail".

Sounds a little twee? Well, not Molly, who brings her own style of no-BS, full-on support to those who want to try something new.

Tell us about Happy Trail - what is it and what are you hoping to accomplish?

Happy Trail is a movement towards connectedness, happiness, and compassion. Of people being there for each other through the joyful and sorrowful, the exciting and the scary. I hope to inspire people to live the life they desire, instead of letting fear dictate their choices or dreaming "what could be". 

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On Choosing Life

Driving down a “Wacky Races” Dallas highway after days of meetings with Big New Global Client, cars streaming around me, late for my plane, desperately missing my 3 year old, I was DONE.

Tears streaming down my face, I realized — this is it. I had been waiting for a wall, and I’d hit it.

Was I just tired? Feeling taken for granted? Embroiled in a dysfunctional work situation? Well yes, sure. Ask any consultant/road warrior and the story will be very similar.

But this was different. I was completely empty. How had I got here?

In 1985, my Grandma gave me a book called “How to be Successful”. I vividly remember the white manual with its tips for young adults on navigating life. I can’t remember what it told me, but I do remember feeling a sudden, fleeting burden. Then I went back to my Wham listening, Judy Blume reading, mix-tape-making days.

Little did I know that was the moment that I self-inflicted my pressure.

Fast forward — degree from Top 5 University, job at national PR firm, move to USA, more jobs at top firms, marriage to a wonderful man, birth of a precious daughter. Check>> I was successful. I had made it. I had “it all”. But this wasn’t it. Why didn’t it like it was mine? What was wrong with me?

What was wrong with me was that I wasn’t listening to myself.

How ironic for someone who had spent her career listening to her clients. I was ignoring my heart, my head. I was running, running, barely stopping to register if this was what I wanted. I was missing my life.

Then, in May 2015 I had a delightful pulmonary embolism. Cue Blood Doctor: “You’re lucky. The clot started in your leg, travelled through your heart, made it through your brain and lodged itself in your right lung. If it had stopped anywhere along the way, you wouldn’t be here talking to me.”


Now, this PE wasn’t caused by stress. (It was caused by my birth control — Google “Merck blood clot class action” for a bit of fun reading.)

As I gazed out of my hospital window at the lilacs I’d spent all winter waiting for, I realized something. I had to give myself THE BEST POSSIBLE CHANCE IN LIFE.

For an overachieving Type A, that doesn’t sound enough, does it? Best chance…?

What I mean is that shit is going to happen. We’re going to get sick. Life is going to get hard. We need to be as strong as we can be to fight. To make it count.

This strength wasn’t just about my ability to do a Doug Melroe step class. This was about having the courage to listen to myself and create a new path that I really wanted.

So, 30 years after Grandma Marian gave me my book, I am changing.

I am focusing on creating more time, more true friends, more generosity, more calm, more “being me”, more client smiles, more feeling that I have done the right thing, more gratitude, more strength both in my body and my mind.

You forget, after you’ve had a career for a while, that you can choose.

You can choose life.


This post originally appeared on Medium. Follow Laura here. 

How a "Half Iron" made Jodi Gruhn feel whole again.

How a "Half Iron" made Jodi Gruhn feel whole again.

Jodi had made a big decision to be at home full time with her kids. At first, it felt right. But she began to realize she had forgotten to consider one essential factor - herself.  

We caught up with Jodi to talk about what it took to get "herself" back. 

Staying at home full-time with the kids was a major decision for a woman with a successful career. When did you realize you needed something more?

One year prior, I decided to step away from work to raise my 2 sons (ages 3 and 5). During that year, playgrounds, pools and libraries replaced skyscrapers, Starbucks and paychecks. Kids replaced adults. Parenting and playing replaced work and happy hours. Slowly, the joy and confidence in my decision to step away from work started melting away and it was taking its toll on me.

Caregivers experience a blessing that I found a curse. Small slivers of time occur when your children are satiated and entertained, offering moments for reflection. A narration began to play in my head during these moments and self-depreciation, disappointment and lack of accomplishment became unrelenting themes. Negativity crept in.

What I failed to realize about staying at home with my children, was that not only would I have a lot of time with them, but I would also have a lot of time with myself. And WITH yourself is very different than FOR yourself. In my case, this wasn’t good. As the pace slowed, I found myself alone with a laundry list of potential self-improvement projects, but without time to execute on anything of meaning. I had become highly aspirational, but felt tethered by my life.

I needed something for me and for me alone.

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