1. Meet Tiffaney Florentine

    Tiffaney has always had a passion for health and fitness. She has helped others focus on health and fitness during her time in the military, as a management consultant and now as an entrepreneur relentlessly focused on transforming lives via health and fitness. Two years ago she learned about the power of community, which compelled her to launch Trodo. Trodo is Greek for vulnerability. Trodo is all about having the courage to be vulnerable and creating experiences for others to put themselves out there. 

    Tiffaney drives rapid and sustainable change in people’s lives by building and strengthening communities dedicated to fitness. She consults schools (Trodo Youth), consults with CrossFit affiliates (Trodo Consulting and Trodo Box League) and consults with companies (Trodo Workplace). 


    What do you know for sure? Starting Trodo was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I’m incredibly fortunate and grateful for the opportunity to wake up every morning and positively impact the lives of others through health and fitness. 

    Every life experience that I’ve had has helped me develop the mission and vision of Trodo. From my days spent working on a factory floor, to my year caring for my ailing father, to my time in the Air Force, to my life as a consultant, and even my time as an American Gladiator contender; every single life experience happened for a reason. These experiences have shaped my views on the importance of living a healthy life and the power of surrounding myself with positive, loving and caring people. All of these experiences and powerful interactions have inspired me to chase what’s most meaningful in life —- helping others.  

    With the love and support of my partner, family and friends, I was able to launch Trodo. Now, I focus on creating experiences for individuals to be vulnerable, to push themselves outside of their comfort zones to get better, both physically and emotionally.

    I am sure I am living my dream. Through Trodo, we are poised to impact many more lives through the power of community. 

    What inspires you? People with the passion to be better and the courage to be vulnerable inspire me. 

    It’s incredibly moving to see someone walk into a fitness community (CrossFit gym) for the first time, or to see a traditionally ‘not athletic’ student actively engage in fitness programming in front of his/her peers for the first time. 

    Their vulnerability and desire to be better motivates me. Every time I see it in action, I just want to high five and hug people that show up for the first time. I want to jump up and down and congratulate them for climbing the biggest mountain imaginable…by just walking in the door and saying, “here I am. I am vulnerable. I am ready to ‘be better.” Let’s be honest, most of the time I do jump up and down and hug them. 

    Every one of these individuals becomes an athlete. These athletes inspire me. 

    A little known fact about yourself? I have two little known facts. One is a fun fact, and the other not so fun.

    Fun: I had the opportunity to compete on American Gladiators as a contender and finished in second place. I was fortunate to be selected out of 14,000 applicants around the United States. I took a leave of absence from the stressful management consulting world to spend six weeks in an arena competing against enormous Gladiators, and spent time with 39 fascinating, incredibly fit contenders with amazing stories. It was a once in a lifetime experience. 

    After episodes aired on NBC, others began viewing me as having an expertise in health and fitness and sought me out to share personal goals and achievements and to seek motivation and help along their journey. This was eye opening. I could inspire, motivate and educate others to live better lives through health and wellness! Wow, I found my calling! 

    I realized I had a unique ability to influence and empower others to live healthier, fitter lives. I realized I could enable personal transformations that could last a lifetime, and would positively impact all areas of their lives; health, family, career, etc.  Right then and there, I committed to building a future that would allow me to impact as many people as possible. 

    My less fun fact:  I live, healthily, with a debilitating disease. When I served in the military overseas, I began experiencing severe pains in my abdomen. After several rounds of poking, prodding and testing, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I was ultimately medically discharged from the military because of it and it limited my life for a number of years. While most people with UC live on painkillers for the rest of their lives, I have been lucky enough to manage this disease through a healthy lifestyle and diet. I workout regularly, manage my stress levels, and avoid gluten to live a high quality life despite this chronic condition. I consider this a victory. I did not let this disease dictate my life direction. I found a way to manage and control what’s controllable. I had a choice, and I chose to deal with it and turn this experience into an opportunity to educate myself, live an even healthier lifestyle and forge ahead in the direction to inspire and educate others to live a healthier life. 

    What do you geek out about? Progress. I’m obsessed with progress. It does not matter where you start, it just matters that you’re forging ahead to be better. Passion and grit are the underlying factors that drive continuous progress in life. I commend anyone that has the courage to set a goal and relentlessly pursue it. Making a choice to hurdle an obstacle takes courage. Progress gives us a pep in our step, a confidence boost. This boost influences attitude and personal drive and it’s contagious. 

    Create a contagious environment. Progress in something that matters to you. You’ll be better and others around you will be better, because you’re bound to inspire someone. 

    Favorite word? Vulnerability. Being vulnerable is scary, and sometimes viewed as being weak. It’s not weak. It’s everything. You will not grow unless you step into a place of vulnerability first. No one ever accomplished anything in life without stepping outside of his or her personal comfort zone. 

    When was the last time you accomplished something you were proud of? You were scared at first, right? You were hesitant to completely dive in, right? Ask yourself what would have happened if things didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to. I’m certain that if you were open-minded and chose to learn from the experience, you grew from it. You are better because of it. 

    Courage is admirable. Courage is what makes our lives vibrant and meaningful, and it drives us to be vulnerable. Be courageous. Be vulnerable. If your eyes and your heart are open, you can only learn and grow in the process. 

    Want more? Check out Trodo, connect on Facebook and Twitter

    (and because I just HAD to find some video of her time on American Gladiator, I thought I would share! Sorry not sorry Tiffaney.) Min. 6:28

    Photo Credit: Jamie Davis at Greenhouse Loft Photo

  2. Meet Rebecca Loebe

    Rebecca quit her job as a recording engineer over 5 years ago to pursue music full time. Since then she’s released three acclaimed Americana albums, won several songwriting contests including Kerrville’s New Folk Award and represented the singer/songwriter community on the first season of NBC’s “The Voice.” This spring she is releasing a live album with Goose Creek Records and performing concerts and workshops in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan. She’s a great driver, an enthusiastic gardener and she wants to be your friend.


    What do you know for sure? Working many customer service jobs has taught me one thing for sure: in every interaction we have with every person we encounter we can improve or damage the quality of their day with about 15 seconds worth of effort. It takes as much time to smile and say one considerate thing to someone as it does to do nothing, and in return for that small expenditure of energy comes the potential of providing someone comfort and a sense of community when they may need it. In a world where 50% of the population lives on less than $1 a day, I think we owe it to each other to help in any way we can, and this is the very least we can do. Be kind, every time.

    What inspires you? I am inspired by artists who let their guard down and show their vulnerable, true selves without — or maybe in spite of — fear that some will find what they have to offer unappealing.

    What do you suck at? I am not good at cutting ties. I collect people as I go, and when it’s time to terminate a relationship (personal or professional) it’s really, really hard for me.

    Have you ever stolen anything? Not since I got busted at Kroger attempting to steal eyeliner when I was 13. I wanted to put it on a boy I had a crush on (we had just had a lengthy conversation about guy liner and he said he would try it…soooo….) Anyhow, the whole experience was humiliating, especially since I *knew* I was definitely in the wrong, and I’ve never stolen anything since (and as an adult I took a lot of business to that Kroger when I was working as a backstage runner at a venue spending thousands of dollars on dressing room food…so I figure I worked off some of the bad karma). 

    What is your favorite quote? I once got a horoscope that said “Radiating your highest integrity is the truest form of self promotion.” I frequently find myself trying to balance art and commerce in my daily life, and this has become my mantra.

    Want more? If you live in Chicagoland you can SEE HER LIVE on May 10th at SPACE in Evanston. Buy your ticket now right here for a mere $15 (plus you will get to hang with a whole bunch of SBW’s because you know we will be there supporting!) 

    Check out her website + watch her new video http://rebeccaloebe.com/ Follow her on Facebook + Tweet with her @RebeccaLoebe 

  3. Meet Candice C. Cusic

    Candice started taking photographs at age six and has been a camera geek ever since.

    After working as a photojournalist for 15 years, including 11 years at the Chicago Tribune where she was on the team that won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, Candice started her wedding and family photojournalism business, and has continued to teach Photojournalism at Northwestern University, where she has taught for the past 10 years.

    Her business isn’t focused on posed images of her clients smiling for the camera.  She blends, documents, and captures moments that are most important to her clients on their special day, or their every day!


    What is your first (or best) memory? I remember the day I learned how to read!  After finally figuring it out, I ran into my parents’ bedroom and read aloud to them, and I’ve been a bookworm for most of my life.

    What makes you laugh? Absolutely everything.  Laughter is so cleansing, so addictive, and something that should be a daily occurrence in life.  My laugh is identical to my sister’s… loud!  You don’t want to sit next to either of us in a funny movie if you don’t care for laughter!

    What do you hate? The word “Hate!”  I’ve never been fond of it. 

    What do you suck at? Math!  Truly, I embraced art, music and language at a young age and stuck with it.  Math was a casualty!

    What inspires you? Life!  Vintage architecture, sunlight, the colors of our Chicago skyline, seeing people I love accomplish their dreams, a fantastic vegetarian soup, and bear hugs.  Life inspires me!

     Want more? See her amazing work at www.CusicPhoto.com and www.CusicPhotoBlog.com and follow her on twitter @CusicPhoto

  4. Meet Jessica Disu aka FM Supreme

    Born and raised in Chicago, Jessica Disu, also known as FM Supreme, uses language as a tool for positive change. She’s a three-time international performing poet, artist, activist and educator who describes herself as a “humanitarian rap artist.” As a two-time champion of Louder Than A Bomb, the Chicago youth poetry slam festival, Disu has served as coach and youth leader in that slam and others. Her commitment to mentoring youth extends across the globe. Recently, she toured Southeast Asia in Bangkok, Thailand and Myanmar (Burma) with The Peace Exchange: Chicago-Asia 2013-a community-based, educationally focused and young adult-led effort to understand violence and foster peace in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods;  chicagoyouthpeace.org. FM Supreme is releasing her music project, Beautiful Grind III: The Transformation in June 2014.


    What inspires you? I am inspired by circumstance and life experience. I have learned that the purpose of life is to discover your Truth(s), breathe and live. Whatever that means to you. Living to me means never giving up even when you don’t see or feel the light at the end of the tunnel. I am very inspired and encouraged by the brilliance and intelligence of children and young people. The hopes and imaginations of youth that I have encountered across the world in North America, Europe and Southeast Asia has significantly impacted my life. I love young people, and I know that one of my callings, is youth servant leadership. I feel very blessed to have a genuine connection with young people. I understand their perspective as I am not far removed from the up and coming generation, as a 25 year old, Nigerian American woman born on the West Side of Chicago. I am inspired by great Hip Hop music, R&B, Jazz, Gospel, Alternative Rock, Soul music, Motown, and Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” «««my favorite song of 2013.

    What makes you laugh? I laugh at things that should not be funny. Like turning in my paper a week late, even though I worked hard on it and maybe deserve an A or B but will get a C because it is a week late. I laugh at my obstacles that I have had in the past and how after learning lessons learned, the obstacles which seemed life or death, was more or less just minuscule challenges to prepare me for my next level. I laugh at television shows that are intended to be reality t.v shows but the ones that are clearly scripted and or made with an agenda. I laugh a lot, like in my song with Prince Talent, ” No Turning Back,” ‘anything is possible, I get over my obstacles and laugh, and laugh/no turning back aye!’

    Where is your favorite place to travel to? My favorite place to travel to is Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I love The Red Light District. I played many shows there with my comrade and sister in the struggle, Deja K. Taylor. This was in 2009 for The Beautiful Grind Movement European Tour. It was amazing, the cultural freedoms of expression was eye opening to say the least. We stayed near Oosterpark and felt very welcomed by our Dutch friends. On that tour, we traveled through Rotterdam, Belgium, and France before making it to Brixton, England to perform at a private birthday party. Deja and I both were 20 years old then. It’s five years later and I am starting to feel a bit old..er;)

    What do you suck at? I suck at being a good auntie sometimes. I want to be more around and involved in the lives of my nephews. I love them as if they are my sons…I don’t have kids yet but one day maybe in the distance future. I also suck at keeping enthusiasm for things, work or projects that I don’t fully believe in.

    Who helped you get here? Jesus helped me get here. My mom and dad who are the reasons why I am who I am and am on earth helped me get here. My brothers and sisters and extended relatives helped me get here and never judged me or laughed at me for my mistakes. The community helped me get here and is also the reason why I have been so blessed, empowered, encouraged and determined to make a difference. After School Matters Words 37 Program, Kuumba Lynx, Youth Struggling for Survival, Louder Than A Bomb, Chicago Academy for the Arts High School (CAA), Young Chicago Authors, Trinity United Church of Christ, Holy Family Ministries and Open Society Foundation’s Campaign for Black Male Achievement has helped me vibrantly stand strong. Last but not least, my mentors and mentees helped me get here and arrive at this present moment.

    Want more? Read, listen, download, buy at www.fmsupreme.com
    Connect with her on twitter: @FMSupreme

  5. Meet Molly Cantrell-Kraig

    Molly is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole.


    What do you suck at? Logistics. I rely heavily on my bean count-y friends who realize and understand the implementation component of my “castles in the air” propensity. It is they who help me to implement effectively. Without their strategic and implacable prodding, I wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

    Favorite word? Reciprocity. I love the actual sound it makes as it rolls off the tongue, but I also love the thought behind it. We are dynamic creatures, designed to work best in tandem or within synchronous orbits. When we find someone who complements us, we’re unstoppable.

    Who helped get you here? The list of those people would be immense. Truly. There are literally hundreds of people who interacted with my journey and who have helped me to refine and define my passion, purpose and the manifestation of what’s currently visible in my life. To name a few: the women of Ms. Tech; Liz Strauss (and by extension, the community of SOBCon); Melissa Pierce in particular helped me to directly get to Chicago; my three daughters (who I identified during a conference as my first ‘stakeholders’).

    What don’t people know about you? I’m actually very aloof and intensely private.

    What do you think about when you are alone? Honestly? That the world IS a stage and that we are merely players. Sometimes, I think that this whole production is a collective character study, writ large and that we are each here to learn from (and love) each other. Then, when I get too serious for my own good, I binge watch something on Netflix and have a glass of wine.

    Want more? Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive) or like them on facebook.

    Gorgeous Photo By: greenhouseloftphoto.com

  6. Meet M. Shelly Conner

    M. Shelly recently completed a Ph.D in English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a writer and African American Literature and Gender and Women’s Studies scholar. She is the founder and executive director of the newly formed Quare Square Collective, Inc., a non-profit organization for queer artists of color in the Midwest. Shelly is currently exploring publishing options for her debut novel everyman.


    What inspires you? I try to find inspiration in EVERYTHING. It creates instant purpose in even the most mundane events. I’m most inspired by the success of others, especially those in academia and/or the arts, like myself. It motivates me. I make models of their actions and perseverance, especially when it comes to my second source of inspiration: failure. I am inspired and motivated by every rejection letter that I have ever received, knowing that they create opportunities for new (and improved) attempts that I would have never reached.

    Whose undies would you run up a flagpole? Angela “What’s Love Got To Do With It/ Marie Laveau” Bassett. I would challenge her hubby Courtney B. Vance to a duel and then punk out and sacrifice myself like John Malkovich in Dangerous Liasons…or I would be their polyamorous third and play second baseman (not even sure if that analogy applies)…or
    I’ll publish my book and become uber famous, write an amazing queer script and cast her…or I guess just stalk her, steal a pair and um…run them up a flagpole.
    And if not her, then Sanaa Lathan.

    NOTE: Later M Shelly sent me this (how can you not adore this woman?!) “So there I was, lying in bed (I promise this is not going to get dirty), thinking about the running someone’s underwear up the flagpole as an insult. Is it telling that my first instinct was to write about it as braggadocio?”

    What expression or saying do you love? Everyone who knows me knows that my favorite expression/joke of all time is: That’s what she said. It will never grow old, but when I do and subsequently expire…I want it engraved on the commemorative stone that will be displayed in front of the tree that grows from my planted ashes.

    If we came over for dinner, what would you prepare for us? Tacos. Anyone who has ever attended one of my taco fiestas knows that the one word is enough.

    What do you geek out about? Cosmology and quantum physics. Nearly every night I drift off to Stephen Hawkings and Benedict Cumberbatch (as the voice of Stephen Hawkings) exploring the wonders of the universe and the impossible realities of the subatomic realm, where particles can be in two places at one time. I, too, yearn for a Theory of Everything.
    Oh, and food. I’m an amateur foodie with texture issues.
    And bourbon. Good bourbon.

    Want more? Visit her website, follow her on facebook, tweet with her and learn all about how you can support Quare Square Collective!

  7. Meet Tobie Loomis

    Tobie is a writer/director/producer and supports social justice initiatives. From 2004 to 2014 she co-chaired the Emmy Award winning Women in Film (WIF) PSA Production Program and the WIF International Committee.

    In 2012, Tobie joined GlobalGirl Media (GGM) Los Angeles as mentor/executive producer for GGM’s award winning webisode series, Como Amar, How to Love, featured on PBS World

    Since 2012, she has been working as GGM’s Director of New Programs, developing and running their Chicago program.


    What do you know for sure? The only thing I know for sure is that peace and justice can only be realized through the daily practice of sharing love.

    What inspires you? Nature, acts of kindness, and children…especially my 6 year old niece Maria, who is full of joy and wonderment.

    What scares you? Apathy and Indifference

    What is your first (or best) memory? My first memory is as a young girl being outside laying on the grass and staring up at the clouds and thinking anything is possible. My best memory has to be giving birth to my daughter Cebe and and my son Apollo

    Favorite quote? "There’s no emotion more revolutionary than empathy." - Gloria Steinem

    Want more? Check out her website, learn about Globalgirl Media, Follow her on Facebook, Follow GGM on Facebook and Tweet with Tobie and GGM.

  8. Meet Candace Thomas

    Candace is a stay at home mom to her two little boys, Bennett and Graham, and the founder/editor-in-chief for the website Luxe…With Kids, proving that life can be luxurious *and* kid friendly. Originally from Chicago, Candace’s family has recently (and happily) landed in Houston where she is currently Director of Marketing for Houston Children Give Back, a not-for-profit organization she co-founded with a team of like-minded mom friends who want to teach their children the value of philanthropy from a young age. A huge believer in practicing gratitude, Candace loves going on adventures big and small with her family, listening to music, exercising, and all things pop culture.


    What is your first (or best) memory? I have memories of being a young child at my great-grandmothers house. If I close my eyes I can remember exactly how it felt being surrounded by my huge Italian-American family. The memory is a blur of the sound of adults talking, kids laughing and shrieking, and dishes clanging combined with the smell of homemade tomato sauce cooking. There was a lot of love jammed into a small house.

    What inspires you? Looking at the world through my children’s eyes. It’s so interesting to take away all of my own associations and just see the world fresh again. Their world view is so innocent and joyful. There’s so much potential – nothing is set in stone and there’s no parameters or limitations on their little minds.

    What is your favorite place to travel to? Hawaii. There is something so magical in the air on Hawaii. We love all of the islands, but Kauai is our all time favorite.

    Favorite quote? "It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would do it". Oh yes, I’m quoting A League of Their Own. This quote is just what I need to hear when I’m starting to struggle or doubt myself. I don’t ever want to take short cuts - I want to push myself to grow, and this quote is just enough tough love to keep me motivated.

    Favorite song. Possibly the hardest question OF.ALL.TIME. because my life has an ever-changing soundtrack in my head, but I have to go with Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles. It was the song I walked down the aisle to at my wedding and just holds such a special place in my heart.

    Want more? Connect with Candace and Luxe with Kids on Twitter and Pinterest and Facebook

  9. Meet Crystal Hodges and Linsey Burritt aka The Indo Projects

    INDO is a Chicago-based design and fabrications firm specializing in site-specific installations created with materials diverted from waste and recycling streams. Co-creators Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover blend sustainable practice, innovative design and thoughtful collaboration to produce interiors, window displays, art installations, objects and environments for a diverse range of clients, designers and venues.


    Crystal -

    What is your favorite song?   'You Can't Always Get What You Want' by the Rolling Stones. I used to listen to this song every morning.  It motivated me to keep chugging along with INDO while we were super small and growing. It made me appreciate all the lovely elements of my life like friends, fresh air, dinner on the table and really reminded me that I get to do something I love,  for a living. We needed to just keep going because we had everything we needed to create something awesome at our finger tips.

    If you had to change careers what would you want to do? I would want to open a bulk food store and sell beautiful jars to put things in. It would have a little window where I would sell soups like butter bean and home made ramen. Soup is love.  There would be a garden area to grow flowers and vegetables and I would sell my own home made cleaners (my favorite is made from citrus peels) and teach people how to make their own.  Now I’m smiling.

    Who is your favorite character? (tv, literary, whatever) Rocky. He’s tough, he works hard and he appreciates his wife.

    Linsey -

    What is your first (or best) memory? In 2001, I went on a rugged 6 day (48 mile) backpacking trip through the Rockies  — I was 17. It was one of most challenging things I’ve ever done. Because we were hiking through a national park we couldn’t leave anything behind, not even food waste. We couldn’t even use deodorant or soap. Our water came from streams we passed that we treated with iodine and we carried all of our food on our backs. We slept to the sounds of coyotes yelping and had to hide behind bushes until a giant moose passed. It was magical.

    What is your hidden talent? I can do the worm.

    What inspires you? Experiencing something for the first time. Right now I’m taking a sewing class at Lill Street Art Center. When you make things for a living inheriting a new way to make things can be inspiring!

    Want more? Check out their amazing work.   Tweet with them.  Watch this great video

    Photo Credit: tru-studio.com

  10. Meet Lyndon Valicenti

    Lyndon Valicenti is an environmental consultant who has dedicated her career to designing and implementing innovative programs and policies that promote sustainable urban and ecological systems. In the past, Lyndon has conducted scientific research on vulnerable ecosystems in the Arctic and Antarctic and discovered her passion for public service while working at the Chicago Department of Environment. She has most recently served as program consultant to the MacArthur Foundation and environmental strategist for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s City Design Studio. She is currently adjunct faculty of Sustainability Leadership and Change Management at the University of Chicago’s Graham School. She has lived in Logan Square for 6 years and loves being at the intersection of Chicago’s historic and beautiful boulevards!

    (Picture: Lyndon and her good friend, Mr. Prince, in the Cedar Tree Community Garden, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.)


    What don’t people know about you? I have an adventurer’s heart. There is nothing that makes me feel more alive than being on the top of an unnamed ridgeline looking out across snowcapped mountains. I have trekked through Patagonia, the Himalayas, the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, and Mt. Kilimanjaro. It has been a few years since I have planned a big trip and the itch is growing.

    What’s the most outrageous thing you have ever done (that you can share)? I spent a few weeks one very cold winter in Montana volunteering with some brave and noble environmentalists at the Buffalo Field Campaign. Our responsibility, as volunteers, was to head out each day on cross-country skis and “sit” with the wild bison that have migrated out of the protection of Yellowstone National Park’s boundaries. Unfortunately, when the bison move out of the Park’s protection they are subject to life-threatening treatment, as they are seen as pests and potential carriers of a disease that affects valuable cattle. To learn more about the mistreatment of wild bison, check out the important work of the Buffalo Field Campaign.

    If you had to change careers what would you want to do? Ah, this daydream is well-developed… I would be living on a sheep farm in a vast hilly landscape (Wisconsin, Virginia, France, no matter), growing fields of native flowers and black walnut trees for dyeing, and spinning beautiful, functional wool to survive. In lieu of this reality, I have a small spinning wheel in my living room and put it use every now and again while listening to the sweet mountain sounds of the great Seegers and honest Bonnie “Prince” Billy.

    If you could fire anyone in the world, who would you fire? Easy…John Boehner, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Favorite quote? My brand new favorite comes from Matthew Hoffman, a good friend, amazing artist, and creator of the You Are Beautiful project: “Do and create things that leave nothing the same.” 

    Favorite word? Breathe.

    Want more? Lyndon’s new blog explores the beauty of Chicago’s wilderness, check it at hortoinurbs.tumblr.com. Tweet with Lyndon @Lvalicenti


  11. Meet Thelma Uranga

    Thelma Uranga is a self-proclaimed Juana of all trades. She is the co-founder of El Stitch y Bitch—a community of crafters (knit, crochet & craft in all forms) that meet regularly in the Pilsen, Bridgeport and Little Village neighborhoods of Chicago to build community through the tradition of craft. Thelma is currently on admin staff and is a teaching artist at ElevArte Community Studio. When she’s not busy knitting or teaching she likes to dabble in feel-good dance music such as house and disco with Los Sunny Daze, an all-vinyl DJ collective. Thelma also serves on the Crossroads Fund Upstart Board. Other blissful obsessions include baking pies, craft beer and her puppy Tula.


    What is your favorite place to travel to? Locally I love to travel to Milwaukee, WI. It’s a city with a small town feel and the perfect weekend getaway. Visits always include good art, vintage shopping and delicious beer.

    Outside of the US, I have only traveled to Mexico and only want to explore it more. I have visited Mexico City, Taxco, Guadalajara, Reynosa (my mom’s hometown) and Punta Perula (an amazing small-town beach) and there is still so much more to see. The people, the vibrant colors, food and culture are the most refreshing breath of life. I especially love visiting each city’s tianguis (open air markets) where one can find tons of knick-knacks, handmade crafts, antiques and records. Another perk is that you can always land in a big city and take a bus to a nearby city for super cheap.

    What do you think about when you are alone? When I do have some quiet time I daydream quite a bit, so I think about all the great finds that await at my favorite secret thrift stores. You can’t send me anywhere without mapping out all the thrift stores within a 25-mile radius. I wear your grandma’s clothes.

    Who do you admire? My mom. In my eyes she is the original Seriously Badass Woman. She and my dad immigrated to the US when my oldest sister was only 40 days old. She has always made the most of the opportunities given to her and is a chingona (badass) in the kitchen. She has always supported my craziest ideas and outfits.

    If we came over for dinner what would you prepare for us? I love hosting dinner parties, Sunday brunch, or impromptu potlucks. When you come over I’m going to make a spicy guisado de puerco en salsa verde (pork stewed in green salsa) with Mexican rice and black beans. My fiancé taught me how to make this dish and it is my ultimate comfort food all-year-round. I would also make a chocoflan. I recently learned how to make this dessert, which is part chocolate cake and part flan, doused in caramel. Nuff said.

    If you had to change careers what would you want to do? First, I love that for someone who majored in photography I was able to find a community of artists in Pilsen and an organization like Elevarte Community Studio where I can flourish as an artist. That in itself is a privilege I don’t take for granted, because I know it’s tough out there for artists. That being said my dream is to open an adorable vintage/papel picado/bake shop in Pilsen; all my favorite things under one roof. I mean who doesn’t want a slice of pie and a cup of coffee while they dig for vintage goodies? So far I have one backer—my mom.

    Want more? Connect with Thelma on twitter @Telmusia and oooh and ahhh over her adorable pooch (wearing a custom knit sweater of course).

  12. Meet Kim Knoll

    Kim Knoll is the Co-Founder of Knoed Creative, Founder of RFRM Jewelry and Host of CreativeMornings Chicago. She participates as a panel judge and speaks on the topic of design, and her work has graced the pages of design books, annuals and magazines. She has a healthy obsession with soup, DIY projects and craft beer.


    What is your favorite place to travel to? There’s a lodge above a supper club in Wautoma, WI that my family has been going to at the same time, every year since 1984. The place hasn’t changed much since then either! With all of my relatives, there are about 30-40 people who go and we rent out the entire lodge, basically turning it into a dorm. It’s something I look forward to every year and where some of my best memories are.

    What makes you laugh?  When people actually say the things that most people think, but don’t say.

    What don’t people know about you? I was on The Bozo Show.

    If you had to change careers what would you want to do? Hands down, I’d open a little cafe in Lincoln Square where all I’d sell is homemade soup. I’d make 5 different kinds of fresh soup daily, served with corn-studded buttermilk biscuits.

    What do you suck at? I suck at lots of things! Team sports, gardening, snapping, crosswords, bookkeeping… ok, I’ll stop there.

    Want more? Chat with Kim via Twitter @Kim_Knoll

    Learn about her vintage jewelry line + process

    RFRM Jewelry // Brand Storytelling from TRU STUDIO on Vimeo.

  13. Meet Jenille Ramos

    Jenille Ramos is a Life Strategist | Personal Development Coach. Upon living out her other passions as a Musician and Interior Designer, she realized her real talent lies in listening, strategizing and empathizing. In 2012 she launched her coaching business, www.jenilleramos.com, in which her ability of seeing the big picture combined with practical methods is what she feels grants immediate results with her clients. She couldn’t think of a better way to invest her time than in assisting people in realigning their lives and re-discovering their purpose, a career that she embraces as her calling.


    What inspires you? The idea that all things are possible, if that statement is true then there is always an opportunity to do, change, grow, give, become, motivate or obtain.

    What is your first (or best) memory?  My best memory is one morning when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  My father came into my room on that day and told me to get dressed because we were going skiing. Being from the inner city, that sentence alone was just weird. I was a bit confused but he said we were going, so that was that and I got dressed. We got in the car and ended up at our local thrift store, now I’m completely confused! We go in and about 20 minutes later we have all our skiing gear. We pile back into the car and I’m wondering what’s next? We end in a quick drive back to our house, park the car, get our gear and cross the street to what is known as Humboldt Park. I looked at my father and I remember thinking what is wrong with this guy, this is Humboldt Park not a skiing lodge! We walk up the tallest hill called Bunker Hill, get all our gear on and off we go. Two Puerto Ricans skiing in Humboldt Park, how fitting. It was the most ridiculous idea but I had the best time that day! It was thrilling not just for the aspect of doing something different but because of how it all happened. I learned what it meant to think out of the box that day and that experiences happen instantly. I still laugh and smile when I remember that day.

    What do you think about when you are alone? Everything! Probably no different from what other people think about. What needs to get done, what needs to be paid, where would I like to go, how can I improve myself or my business, what were they thinking wearing that outfit, what am I going to cook for dinner, things I’ve forgotten, home improvement ideas, did I drink enough water today?

    What is your favorite song? Golden by Jill Scott

    The lyrics of that song start my day off just right. I don’t listen to it every day but it is the first song on my love playlist. The song starts out with the first verse saying, I’m taking my freedom,
    Pulling it off the shelf, Putting it on my chain, Wear it around my neck, I’m taking my freedom,
    Putting it in my car, Wherever I choose to go, It will take me far.
      Then the chorus hits, living my life like its golden, living my life like its golden, etc.

    It‘s the song that plays as my background music as I strut through life. It has an awesome groove and a powerful message. It reminds me that we all have to decide who we want to show up as.

    What do you geek out about? Puzzles, inventions the brain and how it works, also anything having to do with quantum physics.  That kind of stuff blows my “mind”.

    Want more? Check her out at www.jenilleramos.com and follow her on Twitter @jenilleramos.com



  14. Meet Jill Carey and Annie Warshaw

    Jill and Annie are the co-founders of Smarty Pants Yoga, an after-school program that empowers elementary-age girls to become smart, strong, kind leaders. The company is the brainchild of CEO Annie Warshaw, an award-winning teacher and women’s rights advocate. Co-founder Jill Carey comes from a media/journalism background, which she puts to use for the Smarty Pants Yoga blog


    What don’t people know about you?

    Annie: In third grade I started a club called Sunny Springs for which I deemed myself president. It was a social club with social justice initiatives. We made Hanukkah decorations, organized a recycling campaign, and played hopscotch. I used Sunny Springs as a platform to explore leadership. This eventually led me to write letters to Bill Clinton regarding my dissatisfaction with the number of women in leadership positions, more specifically the role of president.

    Jill: As a kid, I wanted to be an artist. I took private art lessons and learned various mediums—pencil, charcoal, oil pastel, watercolor—but I loved ink and gouache most of all. As I aged, more and more adults discouraged me from following this path. They all sang the same song: you won’t make any money; your odds of success are slim; you can always do art as a hobby. As kids are prone to do, I listened. I abandoned the art dream. Thankfully, through Smarty Pants Yoga, I finally found my way back to this path. I’m illustrating children’s books and working with ink again! Because of my experience, I actively play cheerleader for budding artists.

    What expression or saying do you love? (or which one do you hate?)

    Annie: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

    Lorde’s quote really resonates with me because I think people often view yoga as a self-indulgent act, however I view yoga as a means of social change. If everyone was able to connect with their vulnerabilities and emotions, we would have a much more loving, caring, and intentional society. Smarty Pants Yoga aims to take this quote and put it into action. We use yoga as a means of liberation; we empower girls to tap into their minds and bodies so that they can be the best version of themselves and a role model for other girls!

    Jill: My first year of classroom teaching, I did what all first-year teachers do; I spent too much money on classroom supplies, I made too many lesson plans that already exist somewhere on the internet, and I spent too many nights updating bulletin boards long after the last janitor punched out. On the eve of winter break that year, a parent stopped in the classroom and asked for a moment alone. I invited her into the classroom with an uneasy feeling—the one you get when your loved one says “we need to talk.” To my surprise, she handed me a small frame inscribed with this prayer: God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. I live by these words. When I teach Smarty Pants yoga, I always try to emphasize that courage and discernment are sister qualities. Courage without discernment creates dissonance; discernment without courage leads to inaction. Taken together, discernment and courage help you see when the moment’s right, and capitalize on it right then and there.

    Who do you admire?

    : Gloria Steinem! At the ripe ol’ age of 79 Gloria is still changing the world through her humility, kindness, and activism. I recently had the pleasure of spending a day with her and she was all I could have ever hoped for and more. She recognizes the power of the individual and values every unique voice. When someone asked her, “Who do you think you will pass your torch to?” Gloria responded, “First, who said I want to pass my torch? Second, I dont want one person to have it, I want to use my torch to light so many other torches.”

    Jill: I admire Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President. She has advocated for progressive reforms since her childhood, tackling issues such as living wages and affordable housing. One interesting fact about President Preckwinkle is that she didn’t get elected for an office until the age of 44. Before that, she lost two aldermanic elections and spent nearly a decade off and on the campaign trail. She reminds me that there’s really no rush to accomplish your dreams—the idea of a “closing window” is a false notion. It’s possible to be an empowered change-maker your entire life, regardless of your season, station, or sex. President Preckwinkle recently pointed out, “We raise our boys differently. They are encouraged to be risk-takers. We need to teach girls to be assertive, to be risk takers.”

    Who is your favorite character?

    Annie: I love Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. It is SO incredibly refreshing to watch a female protagonist on TV who is intelligent, funny, witty and a role model for all women. I love that Amy Poehler is not afraid to be a feminist on a public platform. I imagine a world in which girls can have access to characters like Leslie Knopp in their stories! We are trying to build a comedic duo (think Fey and Poehler) with our characters Dottie and Gertie.

    Jill: My favorite literary character is The Little Prince (aka Le Petit Prince). Although the book is ostensibly for children, it’s a profound critique of adult ways. I love how the Little Prince approaches confusing things with a spirit of wonder and questioning. He actually he reminds me a bit of Dottie—the main character in the Smarty Pants Yoga literature. Dottie is curious, smart, and bold. She’s always marveling at the world around her and seeking to understand. She resonates with the girls we teach because she’s a real girl, not a caricature of a girl. 

    What is your hidden talent?

    Annie: In middle school and high school I was in band and actually was pretty good (best in the county, ooh lala). At the time I was super embarrassed but I have reconciled this and have worked to empower girls with my story through the eyes of our character Dottie. Dottie plays trombone and she rocks! 

    Jill: My hidden talent is listening. This is truly a hidden talent, because nobody’s ever like, “Look at that young woman! The one right there! She is doing some impressive listening!” But in all seriousness, I’m good at giving my full attention to people and really soaking up their words and body language. This also makes me strangely intuitive; I have a strong track record of knowing people’s needs and meeting them before they even surface.

    Want more? Read more about them here. Check them out on facebook and twitter!

  15. Meet Willa Taylor

    Willa has done a little of everything –tracking aircraft for the Navy, rebuilding houses in New Orleans, running her own restaurant.  But she has found her true calling as Director of Education and Community Engagement at Goodman Theatre. It combines a love of theatre and her passion for social justice with the opportunity to teach.  Her mother was right after all.


    What do you know for sure? I know lots …that the sun comes up in the east; that pork is tasty tasty murder; that optimism springs eternal in Cubs fans; and that I still don’t understand what twerking is …but that’s probably not what you meant. In all seriousness, there are six things I know for sure (besides the aforementioned): I know that I have been incredibly blessed and that because I have been given so much, much is required of me.  I know that my life got infinitely better when I met Mary. I know that sitting in meetings talking about changing the world will never change the world. I know that public education is under attack from “education reformers” who have a vested stake in maintaining the status quo for people who are black, brown and poor.  I know that the arts are transformational and that there is nothing better than making meaning with people I admire.  And I know that until this country comes to grips with the legacy of imperialism and racism, we will never heal societal ills.  Oh….and I know that whoever is the costumer for Scandal is a genius!

    What scares you? Driving on bridges. Actually, the prospect of being driven off bridges would be more accurate. 

    If we came over for dinner what would you prepare us? Well, I hope you are meat eaters because I would prepare a cassoulet and pair it with a great Malbec and a warm, crispy baguette.  It’s a French peasant bean casserole that takes about a day to prepare as white beans are slow-cooked and flavored by sausage, duck confit and lamb.  It is one of the most yummy things on the planet and my go-to dish when I want to impress guests.

    What is a little known fact about you? I earned six medals from my time in the Navy.

    Who is your favorite character? Pam Poovie from Archer.

    Want more? Follow Willa on Twitter @ LitLife and follow her blog