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Winning an award for my blog at the NFPW conference with Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas, President
The Independence Day holiday couldn’t have come at a better time! While lots of people are taking this time to travel, the break is just what I needed to recuperate from my recent trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
I’m just back from the National Federation of Press Women’s (NFPW) annual conference, an event I look forward to more than anything - maybe even more than Christmas. Getting together with these spirited, inspirational friends gives me just the juice I need to keep going. I’ve traveled all over the United States, from Pennsylvania to Alaska, with these intrepid adventurers and we’ve seen a thing or two.
To say I’ve made some friendships over the 12 conferences I’ve attended doesn’t come close to explaining the relationships I have with these people I only see in person once a year. The emotions run deep and feel like a family reunion. In a way, it is. My mother has been in this organization, attending conferences much longer than I have. One of my favorite things about these trips is the bonus of spending time with her.
The conferences themselves are always great, with amazing speakers and topics. We geek out about writing, media, storytelling, and the First Amendment. This year we voted to sign aresolution in support of the Fallen Journalists Memorial. I love that we always start our conference by reciting our Code of Ethics. Being in the room with people who are dedicated professionals, with a passion for excellence in communication is a powerful place to be.
I always learn a lot from the other people attending too. The credentials and accomplishments of our members blows my mind, especially when we give the Communicator of Achievementaward to a member who has “distinguished themselves within and beyond their profession.” Listening to what the nominees have accomplished always makes me feel like a slacker. These are strong, opinionated people, who have worked hard to give voice to things that need to be said, no matter how unpopular.
But the best part of all are the tours. The affiliate putting on the conference organizes tours of the area that people can come in early or stay after to see the local sights. Since our local members are well connected in their communities, we get to go places and see things we’d never have the chance to experience on our own. I’ll always remember our visit to the Hopi reservation in Arizona, our adventures following Route 66 in Illinois, and meeting Harper Lee and Truman Capotes’ childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. Never a dull moment; good friends are made over long bus rides.
I’ve been super excited about the pretour to New Orleans this year, looking forward to hanging out with friends on tours of the National WWII Museum and Mardi Gras World, hanging out in the French Quarter, and dinner at the historic Antoine’s Restaurant. Although it’s only one action-packed day, I love New Orleans and couldn’t pass up the chance to soak up the flavor of the Big Easy, especially since I’d be right in the neighborhood in Baton Rouge.
While travel is good for the soul, it sure can be tough on the nerves. Things go wrong. Hopefully nothing too big. To appease the travel gods, here are the things I try to remember when I travel:
It doesn’t help to get upset.
Rather than flying into Baton Rouge, I could fly into New Orleans and meet the tour there. Genius! I was able to book the flight through Chicago, but before I could even look for a hotel, that flight was canceled due to the weather in Houston. Arrrgggg! So close.
When I get my mind set on something, I am tenacious. I found a red-eye flight out on Wednesday, arriving in time to make at least part of the tour. This plan ended up working perfectly. I took a taxi from the airport to Mardi Gras World, put my luggage on the bus, and had a fantastic, very long day.
Take in the characters. One of my favorite things about New Orleans is all the colorful characters you’ll see there. Being odd seems to be revered and expected there. Since I was a child, I’ve always watched for and loved these people, who aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd in how they present themselves to the world. They feel magical, fascinating, and alive to me. I see the sparkle in their eyes and know they have great stories.
Perhaps my love of colorful characters is why I feel right at home at the NFPW. Our organization is chockful of eccentric, imaginative, bigger-than-life individuals with a strong spirit of adventure, fearlessness, and joy of living. They have fantastic stories!
Reach out for wisdom. I’ve found that most people are quite friendly, especially when you’re visiting their city. Usually, they’re happy to share information, inside tips, and local history. Asking around about fun places to go, the best restaurants to visit, and what the locals like to do is the best way to get a real feel for a city. I ask for tips in locally owned businesses and have been known to go into music and bookstores for more recommendations. The places I’ve found this way weren’t in any guidebooks.
The conference is another place I reach out for wisdom, not just in the sessions I attend and the speakers I hear. I think about what I want to learn more about and try to find the answers or connections I’m seeking. Sometimes just talking through ideas can be helpful.
Meet new people. While I’m at the conference, I make it my mission to welcome all the first-timers. It can be daunting to break into an organization with so many longtime friendships and history. I want them to feel welcome and helps me be less cliquish. I met several new friends that way this year that I’ll be staying in touch with.
Go local. I’ve never understood why people travel to other cities, just to eat at the same chain restaurants and shop at the same stores they can go anywhere. Of course, I try to spend my money, all the time, with locally owned businesses anywhere I am. It’s good for the community and is more interesting. I understand people like to know what to expect. There are so many ways to find out what to expect, that I’d rather gamble to get something amazing over the safe bet of the mediocre.
Savor the time we have with the ones we love. I’m so happy to have spent time my NFPW family and feel tired but refreshed. I got to spend five days with my mother, without the rest of the family, which is always a special treat.
Our time on Earth is so limited, and the time we have to spend with the ones we love is even more precious. Several times during the week, I took a break from everything to appreciate and concentrate on the feelings of being together, and to commit the emotions to memory and savor the moment. Recalling that feeling will keep me refreshed until our paths cross again.
Happy travels!
Headmistress Jill
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Nina Winter, owner of TISSU Sewing Studio and me, preparing for the Vibration Community Fashion Show and Fundraiser for Camp Destination Innovation
My favorite quote of all time is by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich from an obscure academic article she wrote in 1976: "Well behaved women seldom make history." I bet by now you've been able to tell I'm a bit of a rebel, so I'm sure you're not too surprised that this quote is meaningful to me. But, there's much more to it than that.
The biggest reason I love this quote is that it destroys the "good girl" myth. From the time we're children, we're taught that "good" girls are passive, submissive, and compliant. We learn that our most important role to play is a "people pleaser," and that if we're good enough, we'll be rewarded. Of course, this is absolute hogwash, especially from the people that we expect to love us unconditionally.
We're told all kinds of things to beat down our initiative: "Don't draw attention to yourself." "Don't rock the boat." "Sit down and be quiet." "Get off your high horse." All the things we're told to "keep us in our place" and to punish us for being visible. It is considered out of line to speak up for ourselves, labeling these behaviors as being a "show-off," "nag," "hysterical," or worse.
It's no wonder that at some point in our lives, we make the decision that it isn't safe, or worthwhile, to speak our truth.
These messages come from everywhere! It may have happened from being scolded for speaking up when you were a kid. It could have been from a boss or coworker that didn't appreciate your ideas. This happens to all of us. Can you pinpoint what situations convinced you to stop taking the risk?
From the time I was a little girl, I've been accused of being sassy. Of course, that didn't stop me. Now that I'm an adult, I'm sassy and proud of it! After all, what is being sassy really? To me, it's about sharing an unpopular opinion, usually telling someone something they didn't want to hear. Which all circles back to breaking the "people pleaser" code.
These experiences created a belief that speaking up would create more pain. This belief caused us to withhold and question our voice from then on. It's not that the people in these situations did this to hurt anyone. Often, they simply passed on what they'd been taught. The cycle repeats itself, passing along how we're expected to act and which parts of ourselves to keep invisible. We withdraw.
Withdrawing is a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt. As long as we play by the rules, don't ask too many questions, bring up too many hypotheticals, or give too many opinions, we're safe. I see this every semester in the Entrepreneurship in the Arts class I teach at WSU. This belief makes it hard for most students to take risks to share what they're thinking. Especially when they see the class's response to the "over-sharers" (Insert eye roll here.) From a teaching standpoint, it's something to think about.
What we learn in our early lives becomes engrained into our attitude and belief pattern as we grow. Even when it no longer serves us, we've convinced ourselves that we need to protect ourselves, the same way as when we were children, and learn to be afraid to speak our voice, so we don't get hurt.
In trying not to be hurt, we end up hurting ourselves, by giving away our power and hiding our light.
What we all have to offer the world is so amazing, yet we doubt ourselves and let fear keep us from our purpose. I read an article several years ago about self-doubt and how selfish it is not to share our ideas. We think our opinions don't matter; our ideas stupid. We keep them to ourselves, rather than sharing them with others. Maybe it's not always the next great breakthrough, but our ideas can reach beyond us to inspire others in ways we don't even realize. But not if we keep it to ourselves.
Understanding how we learned to avoid speaking our voice, shines a light on where we are today. Looking at behaviors and attitudes that aren't serving us gives us the power to change them. Being reprimanded for acting "sassy" affected how I speak my voice. I had to redefine sassy into something positive – that I'm proud of today. From this knowledge, I've learned how to speak my voice in a positive way that helps me be heard, rather than coming off as salty.
I think this is one of the challenges with learning to speak our voice, because to many people, it means "telling it like it is" without considering the feelings of others and being hurtful or bullying. Most people don't want to live their lives communicating that way. They don't say anything because they don't know how to do this in a constructive way.
It takes practice.
Speaking our voice isn't something that comes naturally. Being a better communicator takes learning and practice. One of my favorite Finishing School classes is Tough Talks, where we talk about how to lose the fear of conflict to have productive confrontations, along with a template for planning the introduction to conversations that may be uncomfortable. It's fun to watch people gain more confidence in learning to speak their voice respectfully.
It's all about boundaries.
One of the most important things I try to teach at the Finishing School is the importance of boundaries. We have a hard time giving ourselves permission to have limitations for how we're treated. The "people pleaser" in us, doesn't want to disappoint others by saying "no" and there are people who know this and will take advantage of those good graces. Always being "nice" and accommodating, causes us to accept things that don't deserve our tolerance.
Take a risk.
Silence and powerlessness go hand in hand. Telling our stories is what makes us human and shows people the world through our eyes. When a person isn't affected by what's happening, it's human nature that they don't see or feel the impact until they're made aware. For change to happen, it takes people standing up and speaking the truths that no one wants to talk about - to shine a light on what has been tolerated in society, to convince others of what is intolerable in the light of day.
It is silence that has protected and emboldened predators, allowing many people to continue to be hurt over a long time. The history of silence is central to women's history, but we can't let oppression keep us quiet any longer.
Since words are often used to manipulate us, the more women show initiative to challenge oppression, the harsher the criticism will become. It's not surprising more laws are being passed to control women, and that the strong women who do speak up are getting condemned, harassed, and threatened. The Ulrich quote reminds me that making history is more important than "being good," how vitally important it is to speak our voices and be heard, and step into our power.
You are mighty,
Headmistress Jill
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Finishing School For Modern Women by Headmistress Jill - 1M ago
The perfect self-care for a stormy Saturday afternoon - taking a break from writing to meet friends for cocktails.
Just as I suspected. The post about having a crappy week was spot on, as many of you Modern Women have informed me.
I must admit, I had a bit of apprehension about sharing too much about myself with you all. Writing about my thoughts are very therapeutic to me, so sometimes it feels like this is as much for me as it is for you. I guess that’s not a bad thing. I didn’t doubt myself too long, because right away, I started getting emails, messages, and phone calls from people telling me how much what I wrote resonated with them and helped give clarity. A lot of people were in the same place as me.
Sometimes people get put into boxes. The people around think they only act one specific way, like being happy all the time. So, when the person has a bad day or doesn’t have a 100% positive attitude, it disrupts the worldview of the people who boxed them in. Recently I told a woman about “being in a dark place.” She told me she couldn’t imagine me ever shedding a tear. I assured her that although I can’t ugly cry for some reason, I certainly shed tears. Everyone does.
There’s a lot of suffering in the world. In a conversation recently, my mom said that she can’t imagine that anyone can make it well into adulthood without experiencing some kind of trauma. Yet, although we all have varying degrees of it in our lives, it’s one of those things we don’t talk about. And in talking about it, I don’t mean rehashing the past. I mean having conversations about how we can transcend it and keep moving forward. Our trauma doesn’t define us. It gives us new strengths and makes us who we are. We need to talk about this because no one can work through this on their own.
I met Janet Federico last year when she volunteered, out of the blue, to work the Finishing School booth with me at the Women’s Fair. Hanging out with her for a few hours, and getting to know her better, was one of the highlights of the fair for me. She’d just started up Thrive ICT and learning more about her mission to help survivors of trauma inspired me. That afternoon we started working on a class for the Finishing School but struggled a bit over what the class would be.
Attending and speaking at the 9 to Thrive conference earlier this year, set a fire under me. You may remember me writing about it. Janet and I met last week to flush out our new class – Picking up the Pieces: Transcending Trauma, scheduled for the first time on Tuesday, July 9. Although this is a bit of a tough topic, I couldn’t be more excited about this class. What I’ve learned from Janet on this topic is life changing in how to transcend, not live with it. The class is chock full of coping techniques to give the skills and awareness it takes to say “goodbye” to distress in a secure way. I hope you’ll join us. I promise it will be uplifting.
Thanks to our readers, I have more coping techniques for your toolbox. There were so many useful tips, and many people sent in big, juicy lists of ideas. I’m sharing a sample of them here. One of my favorite things about the Finishing School is the exchange of knowledge and ideas in our safe space, and how no one is as smart as everyone together. Wouldn’t be nice to have access to all the brilliance of our tribe beyond the classroom? (Could that be a hint of things to come?)
From Haley: During especially hard weeks, I ensure I carve out time to go visit our rescue donkey & horse. Hanging out with my equine pals have always been good for my anxiety, and even more so into adulthood.
From Heather: I like to go camping...or even a day at the lake with limited phone time. We use them for cameras but try to keep other apps to a minimum. Ride my bike, this one probably needs to go to the top of the list. It is easy, and I can do it with minimal fuss. Run errands by myself.
From Lezlee: I tend to nap a great deal when I’m sluggish and sitting on the swing outside watching the dogs run so carefree brings me back to me.
From Nancy:
Never underestimate the power of Let It Whip by The Daz Band. My go-to for unfunking my mood with funk. Also, I cannot ever NOT smile while jumping on the mini trampoline I got for free from my neighbor’s trash. AND apparently, it works miracles on your lymphatic system. Jumping WHILE LISTENING TO LET IT WHIP? Off the charts happiness.
From Amy: What keeps me going is the relationship I have with myself, my integrity, my ongoing development as a human, doing what’s right even when others are not, taking a stand for myself and others in the face of adversarial life situations. It’s the web of connection we all have with one another, making eye contact and communicating (without words) I am here, and I am with you.
From Amanda: Change my hair. You know that $**t has hit the fan if I have a crazy new ‘do. Not sure why but I take out major loss of control on my hair...I think it is because it is something I CAN CONTROL at that point in time, and anything radical can be fixed going forward as hair continues to grow. And hats are cute... It may also be my way of having an outward sign that elicits comments or conversations from others when I need community the most.
From Marilyn:
1) Do what you can and let God do the rest
2) Take care of your body and your health
3) Spend quality time with the people you love
From Lisa: The way I care for myself in times of stress is by taking my camera and going out to search for beauty. When I’m out in nature, I stop focusing on the daily struggles and instead use the camera as my eyes. Through the camera lens, I notice tiny, beautiful things that I otherwise would miss. It’s a reminder that I’m one small part of a much bigger and miraculous world. Perspective is everything.
From Jeanne: I try to allow myself to enjoy something without judging myself about it being too shallow, trivial, or a waste of time. I create something like cookies, a garment, or a pretty view. I try to balance accomplishing needed tasks with wanted ones and make a physical note of it so I can see it adding up and ‘counting.’ I remind myself that what I am able to do around here is valued and appreciated, even if not perfectly done. I repeat to myself that I am loved and valued for who I am, not just for what I can do and I keep saying it even if I can’t quite believe it myself in that moment.
From Christina: Get moving: No, not everyone can lace up a pair of tennis shoes and go running, but coupled with your “get outside” strategy, just taking a short walk clears my head and helps me sort the unimportant from the important. I do my best planning when I’m out on a run! Pay attention to the surrounding nature, too. Let the wind & sun hit you in the face. Stop & smell the roses. Or put on some good lively music & dance like no one’s watching.
From Jessie: And my final coping mechanism was bitching. I let all my friends in on the saga of a project and how difficult a task was or how difficult the people were or how difficult my life was and how I couldn't sleep at night. Yadda yadda. I say this one in the past tense, because I got so fed up with it I finally changed it out for silence. But boy, I was good at it for a while. SUCH a martyr. And every once in a while, it'll try to creep back in and that's when I stop talking. People think I'm a good listener but sometimes I'm just trying not to bitch about something.
My big take away is that we’re all struggling to do the best we can, despite what horribleness and tragedy life throws at us. Why not be as kind as possible to everyone around us? Remember – when in doubt, act with love. It will make you feel better too.
Modern Women are so smart!
Headmistress Jill
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One of my favorite parts of the Art & Book Fair are the art photographs by artists Linnebur & Miller. The theme was floral friends this year in recognition of the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the museum.
Raise your hand if you’ve had a crappy week. That’s what I thought.
I don’t know what’s in the air, but this past week seems to have been hard on lots of people. Me included. Maybe it's the full moon on Saturday night that's fueling this rough cycle, or perhaps it's the end of the school year and everything that entails that is stressing everyone out. Reading my friends’ Facebook posts, I wondered if the feed was being manipulated again to see how people would react to so much unpleasant news. Friends with loved ones moving on to become one with the universe, precious furry friends are going over the rainbow bridge and a gamut of other soul-crushing news. On Friday night when I read that Millie the Weather Dog, that’s been charming us on KWCH News for 12 years, had passed. I cried.
I know exactly what’s bummed me out this week. I’ve had a lot to process. Co-chairing the 60th Annual Friends of the Wichita Art Museum’s Art & Book Fair was much more stressful than I realized. I was already a bit frazzled taking care of all the last-minute details when the weekend of the big event hit. It was compounded by the dark cloud of horrific news of the wreck that put our beloved local musician Jenny Wood in ICU and took her mother and niece. Recently Jenny recorded some theme music for the Finishing School online classes and webinars that I haven’t even released until now.
This is the intro for online classes and webinars.
This is the outro for online classes and webinars.
Working at recovering from trauma can leave me feeling a bit raw and exposed sometimes. Unknowingly people tripped those triggers by telling me how disappointed they were that this is the last year for the Art & Book Fair, some even angry they were at having their 60-year tradition stripped from them. There are a lot of emotions like guilt, sadness, shame, and mourning loss this brings up in me. At first, I couldn’t admit to myself that those were the emotions I was feeling. I started to get caught up in a downward spiraling depression. Thankfully and with help, I was able to recognize what was going on right away. Now I’m taking a deep dive into working through my feelings and what I can learn from them, rather than sinking into a long, dark depression.
At a very well-timed prescheduled appointment to my therapist this week, she gave me incredible insights. She asked me what I was doing to cope with the stress in my life. I gave a few answers on how well I’d done honoring the limitations of hurty joints, by listening and taking care of my body over the long days on my feet at the Art & Book Fair. That wasn't what she was looking for. In our conversation, I realized that I had utterly abandon my go-to coping skills. She told me, “That’s how you know it is trauma you’re dealing with, rather than stress.” BOOM! Mind blown.
Sometimes to get to the goal line of a big project, we make ourselves rush from one task to another to hit the deadline, while ignoring everything else that comes up along the way. If we think about any of it too much or peek at the audacity of what we’re trying to pull off, it becomes completely overwhelming and stupefying. My dear friend, who has the enormous job of pulling off all the marketing for the biggest public events in Wichita in a one-woman department, calls this, “Carry water. Chop wood.” We keep moving, no matter what the personal costs – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Another woman I love and respect for the selfless work she does in the community spent the week grounded in bed after pushing her body near the breaking point.
While the work we’re doing is important, we have to ask ourselves, is it truly worth the sacrifice? Especially since no good deed goes unpunished. That really is the big uncomfortable question. On the other hand, sometimes the next big question has to be, “If I don’t make this happen who will?” For change to happen, it takes a fearless visionary to help channel the energy of other people who want to accomplish the same goals. It’s not an easy job, and not everyone can do it. But when you do have that capability, is it really your responsibility to stick your neck out? Because you can do it, having refined the skills and reputation to lead, should you do it? In some ways, I do think it is our responsibility because I have always believed we're each here, on this planet, to make it a better place to live for everyone. Not just ourselves. I’m trying to find a reasonable balance to this, and if you figure it out first, please clue me in.
So, I decided I need a list of my coping skills so I can revisit them when I'm feeling at the end of my rope. I’m sharing them with you now, but really want to hear what you do too. Send me an or comment on this post and tell me what helps you keep going when you feel you can’t go on and I’ll share them in an upcoming post. To make it more interesting, I’ll give you an incentive. I’ll pick some answers to reward with class passes, so help a sister out and tell me what you do. Here’s mine:
Take some time for yourself. I ended up playing hookey on Monday, giving myself permission to take the day off and spend time at home with the poodle. I spent most of the day being depressed and taking naps but taking one day off for a mental health pity party and rest is perfectly reasonable.
Get outside. Jack and I went to the dog park. It was a beautiful day for it. Getting outside and feeling the sun on my skin felt good. I’d forgotten how stress relieving it is to be at the park, laughing at the crazy dog antics and letting everything else go. Jack has no apprehension about being at the park since his attack, so I’m okay with it too.
Get some sleep. By Tuesday night, I figured out that I needed more sleep and went to bed early. I guess I should have known it since I wanted to throw a tantrum like a petulant toddler. I felt a world better on Wednesday.
Use your tools. I always forget about, or maybe just don’t take time for, tools that I know help me – like aromatherapy. I worked with Aveda for eight years and became a certified Aromaologist, which combines aromatherapy with wellness practices. Coupling the aromas of essential oils with activities like breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation takes these practices to the next level. It also conditions the brain overtime to get back into a relaxed state just by smelling that same aroma again, thanks to how our brain processes memory.Practice saying no. Now that I’ve passed the gavel from my two-year position as Chair of the Friends of WAM and the fair that I’ve co-chaired for four years is done, it would be easy to start looking around right away for something new. Instead, I’ve decided to take a bit of time for myself. I need to spend my focus and brainpower on getting online classes to the point I feel I can really start promoting them before taking on anything new.
Make a plan. Every time I start to feel like the world is crashing in, it’s usually because I don’t have a plan. It takes a minute to regroup after wrapping up a big project, and there needs to be a mourning period to debrief after the end of something big. This is the perfect time to ask yourself questions like, “Is being an overachiever a way to avoid having to work on what I don’t want to, but need to do?” I’m going to set some new boundaries in my plan too, so at the end of the day, I have something left for me.
While this week started out crappy, it’s ended on a high note. We're making significant progress on the Know Your Worth conference, scheduled for September 27th. We’ll be making an announcement soon, and I am super excited to share who the keynote speaker will be as soon as all the details are confirmed.
Enjoy your life!
Headmistress Jill
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I had a great time speaking for the Wichita chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) on Friday about the branding if the Finishing School and how to cut through the marketing noise.
So much going on! If I hear someone say "There's nothing to do in Wichita," my head may explode! There's so much to do I can barely keep up. I'm getting ready to go to SALSA fundraiser for the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC) tonight, and want to take a minute to give you a quick update!
Mark your calendar!
May 11 & 12 - 60th Annual Friends of the Wichita Art Museum Art & Book Fair at the Wichita Art Museum l free and open to the public
While I did pass the gavel in March from my two-year reign as Chair of the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, I still have one more big task ahead next weekend as co-chair of the Art & Book Fair. You'll want to come to this one because it will also be the final year of this long time Mother's Day tradition. (Read more about it here and here.)
And we're going out with a bang! We have more artists than ever this year from all over the U.S., a HUGE gently used book sale with stupid low prices, fantastic entertainment, food trucks and more! My favorite thing at the event is the art photography booth by artists Linnebur & Miller. They transform you into a work of art into fabulous set, with props and costumes and photograph it for you to keep.
Of course, there's also the special Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit up right now that you can see for an additional cost. If you haven't had a chance to see it, you should. It's not only her artwork that's on display. Combined with her clothing and other belongings the exhibit takes a deeper dive into the life of a woman artist.
I couldn't be more excited about this fashion show of designs sewn by local creators to celebrate diversity, creativity, and beauty in all shapes, colors, and sizes. I hope you'll join us!
I've been busy working on Finishing School classes you should get in your calendar too!
July 13 - Conversations of Color - a candid discussion on race relations with an inclusive panel of women. I'm excited to work with Black Women Empowered to bring the discussion I participated in earlier this year to the Finishing School.
July 21 - Getting my Affairs in Order - we're doing this class one more time with attorney Trip Shawver to help you get your will and other paperwork ducks in a row.
July 28 - Ready for my Closeup - this new class is all about how look fabulous in photos! We'll cover how to pose, what to wear, makeup tips, and much more so you can be happy with your pics without resorting to photo editing.
September 27 - Know Your Worth women's leadership conference. The theme is Born to Inspire. More on that soon!
October 12 - Everyday Intuition - my sister, Jennifer, is coming back so we can do this much requested class again! I'm so excited. We explore what our intuitive gifts are and how to use them to navigate a more meaningful life in this class.
There's more - but that's enough for now!
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Sometimes the gifts of collaboration are tangible, like this sweet birthday gift from TISSU
Sewing Studio owner Nina Winter. Love all the uses for the chopsticks she included. (For food, sewing, a bookmark, a weapon!)
When I started planning the Finishing School for Modern Women I knew I was going to need help to achieve my mission of helping women gain the skills they need to claim their power and live happier, more successful lives. From the beginning, I knew collaboration with people who had expertise in areas I didn’t, would give our students more power through the knowledge that came from the community and shared experiences. Besides, it’s hard to come up with all the ideas on my own, and I wouldn’t want to even if I could.
Collaboration inspires me. When things click with a creative partner, energy builds, and everything flows smoothly with brilliant ideas coming from seemingly nowhere. It’s exciting to see where the class ends up, often in a completely different direction than what I had first envisioned. I love it when the conversation gives me goosebumps, which has long been one of my body’s ways to let me know when an idea is fantastic.
Collaboration helps me broaden my worldview. By genuinely listening to other’s ideas and points of view, it has helped me gain more empathy and understanding. Since I’ve chosen not to be a parent, I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of what it must feel like to raise children. Collaborating with Dr. Natalie Grant on the Parenting in the 21st Century class helped me understand the reality of “mommy guilt.” She also taught me about the strengths-based perspective of parenting, which nurtures natural strengths instead of thinking we must be good at everything. That lesson has helped me personally and professionally, long outliving the collaborative experience.
Collaboration is challenging. Being good at this skill demands excellence in communication, relationship-building, and other unglamorous management techniques. It takes leaving your ego at the door, realizing that your ideas aren’t the only good ones and that listening and learning from each other to make the outcome stronger is the sole object of the game. Taking in other’s points of view doesn’t make your ideas weaker or make you less in any way. Building ideas together makes everyone stronger. It also takes a great deal of respect, in others and their opinions, but also for yourself and the expertise and strengths you bring to the relationship.
Of course, not all collaborations work out well. It’s hard. Over the past 4 and a half years, most of my experiences have been good, but there have also been some real doozies. Not everyone is good at collaboration, and sometimes partnerships just don’t click. It doesn’t mean anyone was “bad” or did anything “wrong,” it just means we weren’t a good fit. From these painful experiences, I’ve learned how important it is to be adaptive to differences in personalities and how to foster better cooperative relationships.
Pick your partners wisely.
Before even getting started in any partnership it’s important to get to know each other first. It’s so much easier to work with people you like and respect on projects, it’s worth taking some time to build a relationship before even deciding to work together. It’s important to know if your philosophies are in alignment and if you can agree on the outcome and priorities of the project before you commit to working together.
For me, I have to know our hearts are in the same place. In my partners, I look for unheard voices and unsung heroes to work with and support that are humbly doing their thing to strengthen our community. The ones that give credit where credit is due, recognizing the people that helped get them there, and being more concerned about how to make the world a better place than how much it will benefit them personally.
Define the relationship.
Before getting started, take some time to talk about the relationship. Reach an agreement on how you’ll work together, how you’ll communicate and share files, what your goals are, and who will be in charge of what. It’s also a good idea to set and communicate some boundaries around what you can and can’t be flexible about. These could be about how much time to spend on the project, how long the project will last, or what you are and aren’t willing to do. Don’t just talk about it either. Put it in writing, so everyone knows what is expected, to help avoid a lot of heartaches later. The effort is worth every minute.
Communication is key.
So many of the problems people have with each other could be solved through better communications, especially when we outlined how the relationship will work in advance. Still, feelings can get unintentionally hurt, people don’t always stay in their lane, and sometimes life changes happen. Just talk about it!
It’s always important to remember that because we learned most of our coping skills when we were children, so we’re all still children in our heads. Shaming and being critical of others – and ourselves – is not constructive.
Be accountable.
Always be sure to do what you say you’re going to do. There’s nothing worse than breaking that. Sure, it happens to everyone that we get overcommitted and some plates crash to the floor, but if it happens too often, that’s the reputation you get. Keep communication open. If you’re not going to make a deadline, let the group know in advance. Send up a flair – ask for help — there’s nothing wrong with that.
Be aware of what could go sideways.
Teaching at Wichita State University and being involved in volunteer organizations has taught me a lot about how group projects get sabotaged, usually by people with the best intentions. Some people will pick up the slack for everyone else, maybe because they think they’re the only ones that can do things right, so they take on too many tasks. Sometimes they end up resenting having to do everything or being unable to complete everything they’ve agreed to do. Happy that someone has agreed to do too much, other people contribute little more than advice or criticism, constructive or not, avoiding being committed to the project they took on but thinking they are. Then there are ones that aren’t happy with the direction the project is taking, and perhaps never could be, so they either check out entirely or stick around to shoot everything down. Does this ring any bells? It does for me! It doesn’t have to work this way.
When collaboration does work well, it is a gift.
While I’ve had some challenging, learning experiences, I’ve had even more magical, life-changing experiences. I’ve forged many life-long friendships with women I’ve collaborated with in projects big and small. It’s become my favorite way to get to know people better, and community work has become a big part of how I socialize. I get to see how people act under pressure, live up to their commitments, how they give and take in relationships, and what kind of person they are.
I’m collaborating on a project right now that I’m very excited about. Nina Winter of TISSU Sewing Studio reached out to me earlier this year to work with her on a fashion show of designs sewn by any local creators that want to enter to celebrate diversity, creativity, and beauty in all shapes, colors, and sizes. This Vibration Fashion Show happens on Saturday, June 8 from 1 until 3 PM at TISSU Sewing Studio, 2326 E. Douglas and is a fundraiser for Camp Destination Innovation.
This collaboration has been magical. Working with Nina and getting to know her better has been a joy. She’s so easy to work with and talk to. I must admit I’ll be a bit disappointed when we don’t have an excuse to meet. I stopped by to touch base yesterday, and when I left, she surprised me with a birthday gift that delighted and moved me. Even when our project is done, I know I have gained a life-long friend from this experience.
The gifts of collaboration are plentiful, when we approach it this way, coming together to create something bigger than we could ever do on our own. Rather than looking at group projects as something to be dreaded, we can see it as a way to build relationships to strengthen the community. That is the best gift of collaboration.
What will you do to be a better collaborator?
Headmistress Jill
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On the panel for International Women's Day race relations mental impact discussion, pictured here with Rosaline Onijala and Taunya Rutenback.
“If your brain was a stove, what would be on your front burner?” While this is probably the worst pick-up line I’ve ever heard, it was the woman’s answer that really floored me. She thought over the question for what seemed like an eternity, as I held my breath to hear her answer. When this young, conventional blonde beauty finally came up with a reply it was, “I don’t know…shopping?”
It’s not that I never have “shopping” on my brain, but I wouldn’t necessarily give it “front burner” status. Well, maybe occasionally. I’m not being judgy about anyone’s priorities, I was just astounded at how long it took her to come up with that answer. I’ll give her that the question was weirdly worded, and we were in a bar, so it did probably take a minute to translate it into, “What’s topmost on your mind?” Perhaps she had her own reasons for choosing to answer the question that way, that has nothing to do with was really on her mind, like signaling that her love language is gifting. That's what I'm choosing to believe.
Although this question seemed ridiculous to me at the time, it’s interesting how often it still comes to mind. What indeed is on the front burner of my brain? I met recently with a brilliant woman who specializes in social media marketing. During the appointment, she mentioned that to stay up with this everchanging technology she’s constantly reading articles and thinking about social media. It made me think about what I’m spending my brain power on.
So, I did a little audit and started paying attention to what I’m paying attention to. It was enlightening. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed about what's going on the world, I've spent too much time reading the news. I've decided this isn’t good for me because this nearly insatiable curiosity loop is feeding into the anxiety by feeding it anxiety. Just the thought of that makes my head hurt. Figuring that out has helped me decide which issues are most important to me, and to limit the precious time I give it.
I’ve always loved the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” It reminds me to be mindful about what I’m thinking. What I’m listening to. What I’m reading. Just like we are what we eat, we are also what we think. Here’s what I’m going to spend more time thinking about:
I’m setting boundaries around what I’m mentally feeding myself.
The Finishing School has helped me realize that setting boundaries for myself is just as important as the boundaries I set for others. Rather than think of these boundaries as “rules,” which doesn’t get along well with my rebellious side, I'm thinking of them as self-care. I’m going to take care to protect myself as much as I do everyone else I love. That Mother Bear that lives inside me, that’s a fierce protector of others, needs to take a turn to come to my self-defense.
For example, I’m limiting the amount of time I have to read news articles to 10 minutes at a time, rather than going from story to story for unlimited amounts of time. I’m also limiting the kind of information I’m paying attention to. I won’t watch programs or read books that are overwhelmingly, senselessly violent or cruel. I already know that behavior is out there without putting those images in my brain.
I want to spend more time understanding other’s realities.
We all live in a bubble of our own reality and see others through that lens. That’s just how our brains work. If we let ourselves get too caught up in thinking that everyone’s experiences and lives should live up to our own, it makes it hard to see anyone else’s reality. Reading books like “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker and “The Good Earth,” by Pearl Buck has helped me see life through other perspectives. Even better than reading is taking the risk to talk to actual people, engaging in uncensored discussions, just like the panel discussion I was part of last Saturday.
The International Women’s Day/Race Relations event, sponsored byBlack Women Empowered, was an amazing experience and I’m honored to have been a part of such an open, honest, and respectful discussion. There were about 50 engaged women and one man in the room, talking about the racial divides between us and how we can come together to make all our lives better. There are so many misunderstandings, myths, and lies we’ve all been told, and we must listen to each other to move past this. We all left the event hungry for more dialogue.
I want to be more intentional about where I put my focus.
When I was a kid, my cousin’s and I would decide what to do when they came over by making a list of the activities we wanted to play with. We’d cut the paper into strips and put them in the dryer and turn it on to mix up the options. Someone would randomly draw a strip out of the dryer and we’d spend the next hour on that activity, drawing a new idea when the time was up. It was a goofy, gameshow way to take turns, and it worked.
I'm going to try something similar for where I want to put my focus. When an idea occurs to me about what I want to study, I'm writing the ideas on slips of paper and putting them in a jar. When I'm looking for something to do, I’ll pull one of the ideas and go to work. Just like having food ready to go when I’m hungry, rather than pulling into a fast food drive-through. I’ll have ideas ready to go instead of mindlessly binging on actions that don’t take me closer to my goals.
I’m going to ask myself more questions.
I'm going to get more curious about the things I don't understand, and that makes me feel uncomfortable. Rather than setting these things aside, I can take some time to think about what's going on and what it means to me. Writing these questions down in a notebook, and bullet-pointing answers are one of the best ways for me to think things through and I always feel better when I have a plan.
I think it's interesting that people get smack for "daydreaming.” People think that unless we’re constantly in motion, working on something, that we’re wasting time. But when we’re in motion all the time, it’s too easy to ignore the important stuff. Sometimes I feel guilty when I feel like I’m doing “nothing,” but then I remind myself that I am doing something. I’m thinking.
I’m going to pay more attention.
I'm going to ask others more questions too. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but other people do. Who can help me better understand the questions I have? Who has expertise in what I want to learn? I’ve found that there’s no faster way to get information than just talking to someone. These conversations often give me clarity or take an idea in a direction that I would have never thought of.
A big part of paying more attention is actively listening - to answers and opportunities. Really listening to people shows them respect, making them more willing to disclose more. It also slows down the conversation to give time to make important connections, and fully take in what the person said – not just what we want them to say.
Twenty percent of the energy we have available to use every day, is taken up by the brain just to keep things running. As we learn new ways to think, the brain has to “work” to form new connections, using more precious energy. This is why learning can be exhausting. It’s also why our brains try to “protect” us from change by ignoring what we don’t want to hear and looking for information that reinforces the viewpoint we hold. By asking myself the question that seemed ludicrous when I heard it as a pickup line, I make the decision of what to put there, and how to spend my brain power.
What’s on your front burner?
Headmistress Jill
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Finishing School For Modern Women by Headmistress Jill - 4M ago
Talking about turning ideas into action at the EmpowerHer Conference
I spent International Women’s Day, surrounded by mainly women at a cloud-nine level inspiring conference. About 100 of us gathered at the Wichita Public Library on Friday around what might be thought of as an uncomfortable topic – survivorship after trauma. The conference, “9 to Thrive,” was the brainchild of Finishing School member Janet Federico, founder of thriveICT, a nonprofit that helps people with services and resources to transcend the aftermath of trauma. (Here’s their Facebook.)
Janet asked me to speak at the conference about Imposter Syndrome last summer, and of course I told her yes, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. Rather than an emotional bummer of a day, it turned out to be beautiful, healing conversations that weren’t too touchy-feely because they were also truthful, candid, and vulnerable. Just the kind of conversations we need to have.
Janet Federico, founder of thriveICT
The day might have been even more impactful because I was still basking in the afterglow of the conference I went to earlier in the week. The 2nd Annual EmpowerHer woman’s entrepreneurship conference, organized by powerhouse Marquetta Atkins and WEKAN (Women Entrepreneurs of Kansas), brought women together to geek out on business on Wednesday.
I was on a panel with other women business owners to talk about how to turn ideas into action. I was sad I couldn’t stay for the whole day, but I did get to see one of my favorite local speakers, Christina Long, who always inspires me. I also got to reconnect with Helen Galloway, the owner of the First Place and founder of Women in Wichita, who was the recipient of the 2019 Empowered Woman award for her work in supporting and giving a hand up to women entrepreneurs.
Christina Long, one of my favorite speakers
Both of these experiences gave me insights and epiphanies personally. Here’s a little of what I learned:
The importance of inclusion
The most powerful part of these events for me were seeing women of all ages, shapes and colors coming together to support each other. By being intentionally inclusive in the speakers these conferences invited to come to the table, it showed people signing up that there would be women who looked like them at the event. I don’t always realize how important this is. I learned a long time ago that people want to do business with people who are like them, which includes all the aspects of how we self-identify. Listening to women of varying backgrounds helps me understand that our life experiences are as diverse as our skin tones and ages, and how we must intentionally assimilate as women to make the world a better place for all of us.
The power of connecting I talk a lot about how much stronger we are when we come together, and the conferences I went to this week were powerful demonstrations of this. There was a lot of talk, in and out of the conference sessions, about how we can help each other. New connections were formed, which could lead to bigger things. The feeling in the air at both events was contagious, with all of us vibrating at a higher frequency, creating an atmosphere of love, kindness and compassion and feeling that the sky is the limit when it comes to what we can achieve together. I believe that the more we can connect, the more we can achieve, without leaving anyone behind.
The value of investing in yourself
It wasn’t easy taking 30 percent of the work week off to attend these two conferences, not to mention the time it took to prepare for the sessions I was part of. And it was worth every minute. The things I learned, the new friends I made, the feeling of being part of something bigger wouldn’t have happened if I’d have just stayed at work in my office. Attending conferences gives me the inspiration I need to keep going and the information to know how to get where I want to go. There is no substitute for this kind of experience and taking time out of our lives to learn, grow and connect is vital to success. The investment is worth it.
The belief to achieve
One way to build confidence is by seeing what others have done and realizing that taking the risk is worth it. The inspiration that comes from attending rallies, classes and conferences is powerful. I love hearing success stories from Finishing School students about how classes have given them just the push they needed to make their dreams come true. Lacey Cruise, who was just elected to the Sedgwick County Commission, credits the speakers she heard at the Women’s March as the inspiration it took for her to run for office. When we invest in ourselves, taking time and paying the money to go to these events, we find role models, mentors, alliances, and the confidence to make things happen.
The strength of community
There are powerful things happening with women in Wichita. It may seem like there’s a sudden surge of women-centered organizations. It’s really been on a slow boil. There have been organizations working to bring women in Wichita together since the Hypatia Club started in 1890. Businesses that unite women are ongoing too. Visionary Elizabeth Hotaling has helped lead the way with the Adventurous Babes Society, a fun membership-based organization, gathers women to go on adventures and make friends. Badass Cindy Coughenour, founder of Fearless and Female, energetically teaches women how to protect themselves, while instilling the confidence to kick ass. Kara Yuza with Jazzercise builds an encouraging community, helping women invest in their health.
There are more and more organizations popping up to bring women together, like the Hive, a co working and community space to empower women; Wise Women, a wellness-based organization that creates community to promote healthy lifestyles and mindfulness; and Resister ICT, that highlights female unity and empowerment in Wichita.
It seems to me, that once the momentum gets going, and there are more fun things to attend, the audiences for all of it grows. This is what has happened in the arts community in Wichita, and it’s growing into its own power, bringing creatives of all genres together to make Wichita a better place to live. The same thing is happening with women’s organizations. We all have our special niches in what we’re doing, that attracts slightly different audiences, just like the galleries on Final Friday.
It’s exciting to see our community growing stronger from a grass-roots level, and women working together to support each other to thrive. It is an honor to part of this evolution.
In gratitude,
Headmistress Jill
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I need a bunch of strong guys to carry me around like this!
This week has been tough. Not because anything “bad” happened, but because this week I’ve had to learn how to accept my limitations. And let me tell you, that does not come easy for me. I’d like to think I’m invincible and unstoppable, and that through my sheer will and determination I can power through anything.
Sure, I’ve had evidence this isn’t true in the past. Like the time I came home from an Aveda sales conference, exhausted and scrambling to make up the lost time that happens after being out of town. During those years, in the pre-cell-phone era, I spent a lot of time pulled up to parking lot payphones. In a stressed-out stupor, I pulled up too close and at a weird angle to the phone-on-a-pole, and when I went to drive away, I ended up wrapping my car around it instead. I still chuckle and roll my eyes, remembering getting out of the car, convinced I could push my nearly two-ton car sideways, away from the pole. I tried really hard to do it too, until my muscles burned. Thankfully a nice man watched me trying, and instead of laughing at me, he offered to help me navigate the car around the pole without doing too much more damage. I drove away red-faced, thinking, “Who do I think I am? Wonder Woman?”
A lifetime of this kind of attitude has helped me achieve a lot, and be unafraid to take risks. In my consulting practice, this attitude has also helped a lot of other people power through adversity and self-doubt to make their dreams a reality. However, this attitude has also cost me a lot - physically, which I’m just starting to understand. Years of being a tough girl, shaking off injuries and walking off severe ankle sprains, has cost me a lot of cartilage as it turns out. I’ve been rough with my body, ignoring pain and gritting my teeth to keep moving forward. And now, the day of reckoning has arrived, and my body is saying, “¡No mas!”
To be fair to myself, I haven’t totally ignored the pain. I’ve tried lots of things to help me limp through. I’ve been to an orthopedist and got anti-inflammatory medications, and a Chinese medicine doctor for acupuncture and herbs. I’ve worn ugly orthopedic shoes and have had custom orthotics made to help position my foot to take advantage of the little cartilage remaining. I’ve iced it, worn an ankle brace, carry Biofreeze in my purse, and everything else I can do to keep walking. But I’ve noticed lately, especially in this cold weather, that what I’ve been doing isn’t working as well lately. Something has changed.
So, I bucked up and went to my doctor last week to talk about what else we can do. We decided the next course of action is to see a podiatrist who specializes in ankles. I helped Dr. Thomas Truong write a business plan and set up his practice, the Kansas Foot Center, many years ago and was quite impressed with him, so we set up an appointment to see him this week.
What Dr. Truong had to tell me was not good news. My ankle is “toast.” He did an excellent job talking to me about what my options are and are not. I’m not a candidate for stem cell injections that rebuild cartilage because I don’t even have enough to build on anymore. The hard truth is that bone is rubbing against bone every time my ankle moves, causing a lot of inflammation and pain. Of course, losing weight could help, and there are cold laser therapy treatments to help reduce the inflammation that I may try first. There are ankle replacement surgeries, but they don’t always help and wear out too fast. The only long-term solution is holding the bone is place, either with a rigid brace or surgery. In other words, fusing the bone together so my ankle won’t move, making it hard to walk without looking like a pirate with a peg leg, which does not make me happy.
I’m not telling you this story to get sympathy or to join my pity party. I’m writing this because I am really struggling with honoring my limitations and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. Now that I’m taking more of a head-on approach and talking to people about it, I’m processing what that means. Here’s what I’m working on.
Swallowing my pride.
When I went to Chicago for Christmas, I knew that walking around O’Hare was going to hurt. Bad. When I flew home, my smart mother insisted I get assistance, which meant being pushed in a wheelchair to my gate. I was mortified, but I know better than to ignore my mother and it just hurt too bad to argue. Talking to a friend when I got home, she told me she is the “Diva of the Airport” and is happily enthusiastic about being wheeled around, helping me realize it may not be too bad. I’ve got to say, getting through security was so much easier, and by the time I got to my gate, I wasn’t completely exhausted. Still when I got to Wichita, I ignored the person with the wheelchair waiting for me, too embarrassed that someone I knew might see me, and could barely walk when I finally made it to baggage claim.
Swallowing my pride to admit that I can’t do everything is super hard for me. My parents tell me that when I was a toddler and they asked if I needed help with something I’d say, “No. I do it!” Obviously that stubbornness hasn’t eased, but I’ve got to find a way to it. Knowing how much it will hurt to do things and hard it will be to have a positive attitude once I get there, is keeping me away from events I would have energetically attended in the past. This does not work with my social butterfly personality and leaves me feeling a bit more isolated than I’d like.
Asking for and accepting help.
Not being completely self-dependent is also super hard for me. What has made it even harder to ask for help, are the times people haven’t lived up to what they tell me they’ll do. It disappoints me and affects the way I feel about that person, especially if I’ve always come through for them. So, if I’m really not afraid to take risks, isn’t asking for help just another way of taking a risk?
Accepting help isn’t just about getting help from people. It’s also about using tools that can help me be in less pain. For example, after an especially painful week, I’ve been using a cane to help me get around. I’m getting a handicap placard for my car so where I have to park doesn’t stop me from going where I want to go. Doing all this makes me feel especially vulnerable, and old, but the alternative stinks.
Take better care of myself.
Like most women, I’ve put other people before myself way too often. In a weird way, ignoring my injuries had a lot to do with not inconveniencing someone else. I’d like to think I’m getting better at learning to put myself first, but as I’m writing this, I realize that I still have so much to work on about saying “no.” This time of year is always tough for me, like it is so many other people I know – feeling overwhelmed and just raw. Since I’ve written about this before, I’m going back to some of my past blogs to remind myself of what to do, especially this one.
Accept it.
I’ve often said that I think it takes more strength to be “weak,” than it does to be “strong,” honoring our vulnerabilities. Because, no matter how much I ignore, or try to fight my limitations, the reality remains the same. My ankle is toast. Since I can’t turn back time, I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other as long as I can, with all the help I can get, and love myself for persevering.
Thanks for your support,
Jill
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I'm doing a double-header on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, speaking at these two conferences. Each conference is only $50 to attend. Join me!

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