Alone In The Darkness

Captain Clevy Muchette Nelson-Royster - #justiceforclevyWritten by Chinue Clifford


If you are from a city, you are likely never to experience it – complete darkness on the night of a new moon. Light pollution from cars, street lights, houses prevent it. It wasn’t quite pitch black the night Clevy Nelson-Royster had to pass her night land navigation training, but alone, in a wilderness, she had to overcome the innate human fear of darkness. Night land navigation requires that a person be able to orient themselves using a map and compass to find grid coordinates.

Imagine being in the middle of the woods, alone, no GPS, no cell phone, no other people, no familiar landmarks, and the only light you can access is a low level red light for limited night vision.  And imagine being a woman and doing so!

There Clevy was, with just a small red light in the wilderness.

For Nelson-Royster, this training was part of the series and metrics used to determine her fate in the Army upon graduating. Clevy was able to navigate in the dark, including “hightailing” away from a pack of animals- to this day unknown exactly what kind- and pass her training.

Many women face this challenge as part of their Army training.  Her mother, and in fact all of her family in the Nelson and Royster clan, remain proud of her many achievements.


Black Women, Hair & the Military

Submitted by Chinue Clifford

Hair is often considered a woman’s crowning glory. Yet, for many Black women who serve their country, it is an impediment.

For Captain Clevy Nelson-Royster, like so many other Black women who serve, it could be challenging to find styles that were deemed appropriate by the army standards predating 2017. She would often wear her hair natural in corn rows while serving and training in the Army ROTC at Tuskegee University. Despite being an HBCU, she still dealt with challenges and even discrimination around hair, choosing a natural style.

Wearing it in its natural state, meaning it was free to be curly, coily and even kinky, is practical for many Black women while training. To chemically or artificially straighten one’s hair is not only damaging, but harder to maintain. Artificially straightened hair will often re-curl when wet- which includes getting wet by sweating.

Imagine being required to do vigorous physical training everyday while being able to wear your own hair in a style that endured the constant movement and sweat. Captain Nelson-Royster would wear her hair in protective styles such as twists and extensions to help protect it while adhering to dress code guidelines. Eventually, she would chemically straighten her hair as a way of ensuring her style met guidelines that then still excluded Black women from dreadlocks and other looks. This helped ensure that she could look “professional” as decided by Army standards.

Many Black women, and quite a few in Captain Clevy Nelson-Royster’s family, have, at one time or another, chemically altered their hair to adhere to standards that do not consider the natural hair of Black women to be professional. Finally, these standards are starting to change. In 2017, the Army changed some of it’s rules.

Just eight states in the US make discrimination against natural Black hair illegal, one of which is Connecticut, where Clevy was born. It is hoped that more states will follow.

Justice for Captain Clevy Nelson-Royster

Her family describes her as "a woman who exceeds" and asks for justice for Captain Clevy Nelson-Royster.  They consider the charges against her as false and want them dropped.





Capt. Clevy Muchette Nelson-Royster is an upstanding young woman and officer who entered the military following the footsteps of her great uncle, a Tuskegee Airman, and her grandfather who retired as a highly decorated Master Sergeant from the United States Air Force. It is with honor and passion that she serves in the United States Army. She is highly accomplished and dedicated to her military career and her education.

Most captains are assigned one unit for command; Captain Clevy Nelson-Royster was assigned 2 units for most of her command - one in Texas and one in New Mexico: Commander, Echo Company One, 10501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division and (temporary, but simultaneously) Rear D Commander for Grey Eagle.

She is enrolled in Master in Management and Leadership program at Webster University. Graduation date was to be December 2020.

She graduated from Tuskegee University Magna Cum Laude 2015 and earned two Bachelors Degrees during her four year tenure: Bachelor of Science Business Administration and Bachelor of Science Sales and Marketing.

She is considered upstanding and stellar.  There will be more stories to come about Captain Nelson-Royster as we plan to do a series on her.

The family seeks donations to help with her legal defense.  Donations can be made through cashapp to $justiceforclevy or via paypal to (her aunt is managing the funds).  You can learn more at or



Domestic Violence Help

What is the Relationship Spectrum?
Relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy to abusive with unhealthy falling somewhere in the middle. This Relationship Spectrum model illustrates where a relationship falls.

Setting Boundaries in a Relationship
Relationships are healthy when both partners communicate their boundaries clearly, and the other person respects them. Boundaries do not occur naturally; they must be established.

Resources for Victims & Survivors from The National Domestic Violence Hotline
Always be aware of online safety. Use a gender-neutral username on websites and do not share personal information.

State and Federal Domestic Violence Laws
Domestic violence victims are protected under state and federal laws. Learn about your rights and protections here.

Recovering from Rape and Sexual Trauma
Learn how to be kind to yourself to allow the space and time you need to heal.

How to Support a Friend or Loved One Who Has Been Sexually Abused
It can be extremely difficult to speak about sexual abuse, especially as it affects our own lives or the lives of those we care about. Learn how to best support victims and their recovery.

How Do I Find a Therapist Near Me?
If you want to seek professional help, use a local finder to locate someone nearby.

Ways in Which Abuse and Domestic Violence Changes You
"...although you will come out victorious, you will not come out the same. Abuse changes you."

Domestic Violence Support Group Finder
Connect with others who have experienced domestic violence or know someone who has.

Creating a Comforting Home Atmosphere for Survivors of Abuse: A How-To Guide
Learn how to create a space that facilitates healing for survivors of abuse.

Carol’s Work to Help Divorcees and Peaceful River Massage

It is always about the journey.  It is always about the challenges of the situations that we find ourselves in, the action we take while we’re in it and how we come through it.  Carol had a long journey back after her divorce.  After receiving help, she is now standing strong, confident, happy and helping others who need help feeling whole again as they go through their divorce experiences.  She has a degree in psychology which she hadn’t really used until this time.

Carol Loughran also owns a massage company, Peaceful River Massage.  It’s another way of helping people.

We hope you enjoy and get inspiration from her story.





You started a divorce support group.  Can you please tell us why you started the group, what kind of experience you had to help you start it?

When my ex-husband filed for divorce, I had a really difficult time dealing with it. I attended a divorce support group, but then heard about something called DivorceCare that was starting up at a church in Wethersfield. I went through that course 3 times and when I started doing better, I wanted to do something to help others cope with going through divorce, as well. So, two of us brought it up to our church, Trinity Covenant Church in Manchester, and they gave the okay for it to start there.


How would one know if getting involved in a divorce support group is something they should try?

Why not give it a shot? If someone feels like they need a little extra support from people who are going or who have gone through the same thing, a divorce support group (in this instance, DivorceCare) is a great way to do it. My friends and family were very supportive, but none of them had been through a divorce, so they couldn’t really understand everything I was dealing with.


Does a group setting work well for those with certain attributes, for instance, if someone is very introverted and perhaps quiet?

The program we use is a great format for anyone. There is a video addressing a topic and then a discussion. It adds to the discussion if everyone is involved, but for those who don’t want to speak, there is no pressure. The only thing we try to stress is that everyone should be given a chance to speak – that no one takes over the discussion.


Group therapy or support is excellent for a number of situations.  What is the main difference between individual therapy or counseling and group support?

I went through both. Individual counseling helps you to deal with all the personal feelings and stages you go through. It helps to really be able to have one on one therapy because you can just talk about anything and everything on your mind. It’s all about you. Going through a divorce, it is nice to know that someone is willing to listen to you, besides your family and friends and the advice and support is personalized and geared toward you and what you need and what you can handle. My counselor often gives homework, which wouldn’t work for a group assignment.

Group support is wonderful to hear other people’s situations, to help you know you aren’t alone and that everything you are feeling is absolutely normal. Especially, if you are the only one who has been through the divorce process in your family or group of friends. They may hear you say the same thing over and over and get tired of hearing about it. In a group, you’ll hear things like “that’s exactly how I feel! How do you deal with….” Or “I couldn’t put that into words, but that’s what I’ve been going through.” People can contact each other outside of the group and get together or pray for one another.


Should a person do one or the other, or both? 

Everyone is different. I found both to be extremely helpful and got different things from each of them. I learned a lot about myself and how I deal with things and how I could do things differently in individual counseling that I wouldn’t have gotten in a group. But, to be able to bounce things off each other and encourage one another in a group and know that what you are feeling or thinking is absolutely normal and all part of the process was also a great thing to be a part of.


Children too are very affected by divorce. Are children invited to this group?

Children are not invited to this group. There is a group called DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) that works with the children going through their parent’s divorce, but unfortunately, it isn’t offered very many places.


Where is it recommended that children go to get support for their feelings during divorce?  

One of the classes in DivorceCare really encourages parents to be the main sounding board for listening to their kids and how they are feeling. But, for parents who may not be able to fully take that on, individual or family counseling is a good option.


It is considered a recovery from divorce from those hardest hit by the process, correct?

Anyone is more than welcome to attend. We’ve had people who have been divorced several years. In one of my groups, a woman’s boyfriend encouraged her to attend to make sure she’d dealt with anything that might be an issue or identify things that might need more attention. We’ve had people that didn’t want the divorce and people that initiated the divorce. Since this group is held by several churches in the area, we’ve even had one spouse at one group and the other at another. Generally, it is those who either had a spouse want the divorce or those who felt they had no other choice but to file.


About Carol’s Company – Peaceful River Massage

Peaceful River Massage – what a wonderful, inviting name.  How did it come to you?

I used to live on a street across from the Farmington River. It just seemed like it embodied what I wanted to convey.


A lot of folks are on the magical, reviving receiving end of a massage.  Is it physically very demanding on the body?

Massage can be demanding for the massage therapist. We are taught to use our bodies correctly to make it as little stress on us as possible, but it can definitely be a challenge sometimes. Many therapists end up hurting their thumbs or wrists; for some therapists it’s hard on the low back or feet to be standing in one place for a long period of time.


Why did you decide to get into the massage therapy field?

It sounds like a pat answer, but God told me to. I can be extremely dense and often times need to be hit in the head with a 2×4, so to speak, to hear and get the point. Before I started school, within a 2 week period, I had my mom who is a massage therapist tell me I should do it; a friend who is a physical therapist ask if I’d ever thought about it, and heard an advertisement on the radio for the school’s exploration weekend. (That was a weekend where people who thought they might be interested in becoming a massage therapist could get a taste of what school would be like and ask questions. Basically, a short trial to see if it was really something you wanted.) I thought, “Okay, God, I got the point!” and followed through with applying to school.


What does the work do for you personally?

Wow, what does it do for me personally…when I finish up and my client says that I have magic hands or that they feel better already or when doing chair massage and the person says they were going to work from home that day, until they saw I was coming in. How awesome is that?! For someone to look forward to seeing you, to help make someone’s day or week, to help them be in less pain. There are very few jobs I can think of that are that rewarding for both people. It makes me feel so good to know that I am helping people.


Are you interested in really developing and growing your company or staying small — and why?

I’m a sole proprietor and I like it that way. I can set my own hours and really get to know my clients. I’ve worked in spas before and that rush, rush, rush, one person after another, and people you’ll probably never see again isn’t what I prefer. I do need to grow and develop my business, but I think I’ll always prefer to work on my own and have a personal relationship with my clients.


Where do you see Peaceful River Massage in five years? 

I want to continue learning, growing, and developing as a massage therapist. I’d love to have a reliable set of regular clients. I prefer to do table massage, but my chair massage is picking up and I may find that that is more sustainable. I want to be helping as many people as possible while still maintaining a good balance in my life.


And finally, where are you going in life?  What do you have passion for?  Where is Carol next year and perhaps three years from now?

Wherever I end up and whatever I do, I want to be helping people in some way. I don’t know exactly how that will always be, but I want to have people say someday that I made a difference, that people were better off for having known me. I would like my massage business to increase and my schedule to have more regular, consistent clients. How that will look, I’m not sure. Maybe things will work out that I end up doing more chair massage than table massage. And I want to make things beautiful. I love to garden. I love that I can do something that will lift their spirits or make them smile when they pass by. I’ve had 3 years at my new house to work on my gardens and it’s getting there. And sometimes I get impatient, but I need to remember that it’s a process. Just like getting through divorce and trying to build a business and becoming a better me. I would like to have far more grace, forgiveness, and patience with myself going forward.




Tasheena Womack Striving for A “Brighter Within”


Did you have your own experiences with dating violence?

Yes, unfortunately at the age of 17 & 22 I experienced dating violence.



How did you come up with the concept for Brighter Within

I came up with the concept of Brighter Within in graduate school. I knew what I went through and after doing tons of research, turning in my thesis and consulting with other students. I knew there was a true need for the program in my community.



People begin or support organizations that they are passionate about.  Why are you passionate about the services that your organization provides?

I’m passionate about the services BW provides is due to the need in the community. I remember growing up and the same programs today being offered. I wish there was a program when I was growing up like BW. Due to the violence in my community, I could not take full advantage of some of the programs. I take boys and girls from five different towns/cities in a non-judgmental, non-bullying event and provide them with the tools they need to be successful in life.


Brighter Within supports both females and males.  Is your male participation where you would like it to be? 

Actually, our boys program has exceeded my expectations. The boys are really committed to the program and love coming.



Are the young people responsive to the techniques that they learn in workshops?  Can you give some success examples?

Almost a lot of the services we provide for our youth. Our main goal is to provide them with the tools they need to be successful in life. Our youth have been very responsive. For instance we had a youth who who’s friend showed signs of being aggressive in a relationship. His friend was very controlling and verbally abusive to his girlfriend. The friend was in college and the girl friend was still in high school. That day we went over teen dating violence and after our group. I was approached by the young man and I was able to arrange an intervention with the parents. Once the young man saw what path he was going down he changed his ways. I actually received a Thank You card from the girl friend and the family. They had no idea what was going on.



Why do you personally think that dating violence is a reality?  How is society responsible for the actions of young people?

Unfortunately we hear too often about dating violence. From the news to the celebrities below:


Jovan Belcher victim: Kasandra Perkins

Ray Rice victim: Mrs. Rice

Chris Terry victim: Wife

Ray McDonald victim: Fiancé

Society is responsible when they see a need and does nothing resolve the problem.



What kinds of things need to happen or change in society to make a difference for young people today?

A lot of our youth follow everything that see, from in movies, videos, and in the music industry. Our youth need more people that would like to step up to the plate as role models.



How can young people learn to be different when they are bombarded with sex and violence through a variety of media?

A strong foundation at home will assist youth with the peer pressure today. Teaching our youth early to not be a follower, and to carry themselves as a positive role model as well, because our younger children are looking up to them.



How long has your Brighter Within been running?

Brighter Within was founded in 2012. However, the concept was created in 2010.



How many young people has the organization been able to help?

Brighter Within has been able to assist over 200 people with our various services.


Why kinds of things do you need to, first, keep the organization running and second, to be able to grow to accommodate more young people?

Without funding, the support from our community, and a larger space it’s would be impossible to keep BW growing and running smoothly to accommodate the need in the community.



Where do the adult volunteers come from and how do they find out about you?

Most of our volunteers find us through social media and word of mouth. Our volunteers are mostly in college and/or recently graduated.



Tell us about the Women’s Circle.  How did that get started, who is invited and what is the goal?

The Women’s Circle started as a club for Women entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. This group was started as a support system for female entrepreneurs. One of the biggest reasons businesses fail during the first five years of starting is due to the lack of support and education. The goal of the services is to be a support system for women who are entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools they need to keep their business open.


What plans or aspirations do you have for the future for Brighter Within?

The possibilities of BW are endless. I would love to have our programs/services fully funded and free to youth in NY/CT and MA.


For more information or to find ways that you can help, please contact:

Tasheena N. Womack
Chief Executive Director
Brighter Within, Inc.

Phone: (860)580-9511



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Coleen M. le Pere – Helping You to Say Goodbye to Your Deceased Loved One

It’s not a subject a lot of us like to talk about – but death comes to all of us.  It is one of the few things in life that is guaranteed.  Some of us plan for it, some of us don’t.  The wise among us plan. 

Coleen M. le Pere is  an professional After Life Service Coordinator.  Yes, she’s the person that you would work with to create a memorable memorial service for your departed loved one.  She is self-employed and has been doing this work for decades.  It is an interesting profession that takes a certain amount of strength and resilience to do. She shares her experience with us on Women Move the Soul.


“The After Service Coordinator (ASC) LLC, is a recognized, full service repast design, planning, and management company. Since inception, we have been customer-focused; with a direct, honest approach to customer service. We, at ASC will coordinate and implement the complete repast while you prepare to say good-bye to your loved one.”


Do you work for a specific funeral home or are you the liaison between the family and the home?

The After Service Coordinator (ASC) does not work with any one funeral home.  Normally, we receive referrals from private parties, word of mouth ,various assisted living residence, hospices, ministries, social clubs and funeral homes throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.


Walk us through what you would do for someone. What do you make happen? 

Once a referral is made to The After Service Coordinator (ASC), one of our trained specialists will meet the bereaving family (person) to ascertain the needs of the family. During this sad time, quite often members of the family are distraught and in need of guidance.  We walk the family or appointed person through the step by step process, while being sensitive to their needs and budgetary concerns. ASC offers a variety of affordable packages: some include day of services, travel arrangements for out of town and in town loved ones, personal shoppers, barbers, cosmologists, caterers, etc. We pride ourselves in being a “one stop coordinator.”  We operate very similar to a Bridal Consultant.

ASC has been fortunate; to partner with a diverse group of women owned businesses to be able to meet ALL of our clients needs.  Women owned businesses that maintain high levels of customer service, integrity and tenacity.  Just last week we partnered with another woman owned business; who assists in the burial choices of the deceased.


How do people come to contact you for your services?  How are you found?  Is it word of mouth, do you advertise or do funeral homes recommend you?

As stated above, our contacts come from the north, south, east and west, word of mouth marketing referrals etc.  Recently the trend has been by attorneys’ of estates (wills), pre-arrangements.   My first contact with a living person to do repast arrangements, seemed to be a bit morbid, however, this person knew exactly what he wanted and did not want to happen at his repast.  His wishes were to have “a ball”, one in which folks dressed to the nines and danced the night away.  The After Service Coordinator (ASC), made it happen.  His repast, seemed as though he was there saying well done, in between “the soul train line” and doing” the swim.”


How did you get started with providing these kinds of services?

The After Service Coordinator (ASC) was birthed by myself.  Believe me this birth had a long gestation period.  I have coordinated many events from baby showers, golf tournaments to weddings and of course repast.  My earliest recall of a  major event was at the  age of 10. I had coordinated a surprise anniversary party for my parents.  Fast forward, in helping family and loved ones with repasts, I noticed there always seemed to be loads of confusions, misdirections, and additional pain pertaining to repast.  I always stepped in and volunteered my services to help things run smoothly.  From beginning to end I was there until the last pot was washed and dried.  I enjoy this type of service. I had continued volunteering my expertise for nearly 10 years while working as a non-certified Spanish teacher in the pubic school system(s).  Around the 10 year mark , I noticed that I had less and less hours of teaching each year until one year I was “bumped” because I was non-certified.  I laugh now because I believe that God has a way of having you walk into your “calling” when you’re doing your best to avoid the call. Instead of becoming angry with my situation, (last son in graduate school at New England Conservatory and a pre-teen daughter to feed) I prayed and ASC is the results.



A lot of people are afraid of death and all the connotations that go along with it.  How come you’re not?

I believe that death has a comma, and not a period.  We are only passing though this earth with a body made from dirt.  Earth was not created to be our final destination.


How do you deal with providing this kind of service to people who are very emotional and distraught?  Is it easy for you?

Providing services to people who might be  very emotional and or distraught can be a challenge.  I find that I coleen1have this great peace about myself, and the ability to show compassion and empathy.  One must expect the unexpected when dealing with emotionally drained overwhelmed individuals.  “Folks will grieve the way they see fit”’ as my Auntie Mae would say.  Other words there is neither right nor wrong way for people to grieve, they all grieve in accordance to their needs.  I recall early in my business, I had a second cousin of a deceased woman enter into a sterile kitchen and verbally aggressively abuse me, going up the front of me and down my back.   I was “prayed up” and I know the God that I serve.  I was able to hear her pain and give her words of comfort and walk her back to the reception hall to join her other family members.  This job is not for the emotionally weak. I select my employees carefully and prayerfully.  I present all types of scenarios to my employees, as well as training to be empathetic.  During one of the repasts I recall with a smile on my face as I share this – a 88 year old “mother of the church had pasted.  My head server came to me with tears behind his eyes stating “the deceased friends are upset because we don’t have any coffee.”  They made known that the deceased loved coffee and that “she would be mad and raise from the dead if we did not serve coffee.”  I apologized to these wonderful women who were between 75 and 90 sent the server for decafe coffee and all were happy.


The word “repast’ means meal or southern U.S. states it refers to a meal after a funeral. What does this word mean in your business and how did the terminology come about?

The word “repast” to me means; going over- celebrating-remembering and living.


What is the most difficult aspect of providing these kinds of services for people?

One of the difficulties that I encounter is when family members aren’t on one accord.  I mean really, at odds with each other and unable to make good decisions together.  This is where I or my trained specialist will gently guide them to work as a unit and or appoint one person who will be in charge of all proceedings.  The second difficulty is that I am “the first and original” after service specialist in  business realm.  As a small business of 10, I have found that the larger establishments have no qualm of using my intellectual property.  The main thread that I see when this happens are with funeral homes. The funeral home tries to duplicate my services but they really are in this business for “self”.  ASC customer service approach is truly uniquely different.  ASC forms collaborations with various businesses and non-profit agencies.  The collaborations include working with different “job readiness” programs to hire “unemployable persons”.   By hiring persons with either no work history and or blemishes on their resume, I allow these persons to use my business as a step to launch into the workforce, while maintaining support of their “readiness programs”.


What is the most rewarding part of your business for you?coleen2

I actually have two rewarding aspects of my business.  The first is having a grieving loved one who was walking as if in a zombie like state come to me in the middle of the repast and wrapping their arms around me sobbing on my shoulder saying thank you.   When this has occurred I know that I have done my job. I have helped at least one person get back to living.  The second rewarding aspect of my business is seeing the elation of a person who has paid her debt to society and unable to obtain gainful employment in 10 years receive  her first pay check with tears of accomplishment.


Where is ASC in ten years?

In ten years, I see ASC, having several offices nationwide.  I wasn’t given this gift and business not to use it to its fullest.  I am hopeful that I will be able to continue forming collaborations and expanding.


Coleen Le Pere can be reached via email at

Janele Mckay – Looking to Do Something Meaningful

Janele Mckay posted a request for school supply donations on LinkedIn.  When we saw that, we knew we had to reach out to this woman, who like so many others in this world, is trying to make a difference by helping others.  Many of us would like to do charitable things, but don’t move beyond the thought or the idea. However, we are willing to donate and share if asked.  It takes a special kind of person who wants to dedicate the time in their life to help others, especially children.  We wanted to talk to Janele so we could learn a little more about her and what she wants to do.



You went from political work to teachingjanele-mckay.  What inspired the change?

The political work was an internship and a very amazing and insightful experience that I had the opportunity of doing while completing my A.S. in Human Services. I’m very interested in doing work in which I can make a difference. After obtaining  my A.S. I struggled with finding positions in my field. So I went on to obtain a B.S. in Healthcare Administration and found my self in the same position. I currently work part time as a substitute teacher until I find more stable work and/or graduate with my M.S. At this point I wouldn’t mind being a college professor but would really prefer to do something more meaningful. Something that wound bring about recognizable change.


You are reaching out to people asking for school supplies for children.  What prompted this?

A family member of mine is an advocate for gun violence and invited me to join her cause. I helped to chaperone the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance Teen Summit and now I’m helping her and another friend with the back 2 school function. We hope to have our own non profit in the near future. In the mean time I’m looking forward to dedicating my time to more functions similar to the two mentioned and find my footing so that I can fulfill my need to help others in need and do something inspiring.


How is the back 2 school supplies collection going and what items are needed most?

I personally haven’t revived much response. However, my partners have received a surprising amount of donations including clothing.

I would say backpacks and three ring binders are needed most. These items are a little more pricey. We tend to receive many items for grade school but could use some middle school items as well. However, all donations are accepted and appreciated.


What school district are you working with?

I usually work with the Terryville and Plymouth school districts as a substitute teacher through Kelly’s Educational Services.


What age groups?
I have worked with all age groups.


What are some of the more specific needs of these children beyond the need of school supplies?

They need attention! They are bored! They need a place to go. A place where they can be themselves. A place where people will listen and take interest in their ideas vs. shoving the need to go to school down their throat. Education is extremely important but its nothing if one doesn’t have a sense of being and confidence.




What else are you trying to do for these children?

My long term plan is to open a recreation center with an Arts and History focus/theme in mind. In the near future I hope to organize a successful Christmas toy drive.


What other avenues are you seeking for school supply donations?

This was an idea that started small and became bigger than expected. I just jumped on board and continuously offer my assistance as needed.


Do you have an organization or do you plan to start one?
I definitely plan to start one. I have big dreams but I’m hearing I need to start small.  So I’m currently helping when, wherever, and however I can. In doing so I hope to be able to immediately give back to the community and connect with individuals that may help me support future projects.


Are you working with other people?

Yes. My cousin September Chatfield, and those in which she has connected with throughout her advocacy.


Have you reached out for corporate sponsorships or donations?

No. We are looking forward to starting a Hartford chapter with the Newtown Action Alliance group. However, I would like more information on how I can reach out to sponsors who would fund a recreational center. Our kids need an inspiring place to go. One in which they can both learn and fulfill their dreams.


What kind of help do you need?

We could use some guidance so that we can continue to work efficiently and effectively.  We could also use some direction on how to obtain funding for larger projects. I’m currently writing our business plan and would love if someone could proof it and provide some expert opinions.


If people want to send donations or to help in other ways, how do they reach you?

My email address is  From there, we can share phone numbers.  I would love to speak to anyone who is interested in helping or donating.


What are your own personal goals for your future?

I’d like to run a non profit organization that help children change the way they think. One that would appeal more to their dreams while helping them understand the importance of education. Most of all give them a place they not only enjoy going but one they will truly grow from. I also hope to start a group for battered women. The group will not only give them a peace of mind, but will provide them with the skills and resources they need to truly be free and live a normal life. Again I’m looking to do something that is meaningful. Something that will change lives.

What inspires your desire to set up a group for battered women?

My inspiration for a battered woman group comes from personal experience. Much of the assistance available is not advertised. You really have to do your research and dig for it. This can be hard for individuals who are suffering from domestic violence. They need guidance support and direction. Many have asked how do I do it. My response is just that I do what has to be done. My children in all honesty have been my true motivation.


Please reach out to Ms. Mckay if you would like to donate items for children or if you are interested in helping her develop the non-profit organization to help children and/or battered women!  You can also visit her website at


Bonding With Technology



By T. M. Todorovich



A couple weeks ago, my four kids downloaded the Kim Kardashian game to their cell phones, logged in through game center, and made friends with one another. Listening to them speak of their photo shoots, the mean girl, clothing, and time limits was frustrating. I couldn’t get a word in and they certainly weren’t paying attention to a word I said. I have to admit I felt rather deflated and in the way. Instead of yelling, something I really wanted to do, I walked away and read a Jodi Picoult book. Okay, that part was a perk, but still – I wanted to spend time with my kids instead of them being absorbed into yet another game.


I must admit, although reluctantly, I play a game on my cell as well. I’m totally addicted to Farmville 2: Country Escapes. I take mini breaks to see what I can sell, what is ready to pick and plant, and what my animals are doing. Because of that, I would be hypocritical if I yelled at them for a silly game. As long as they were completing their chores, I let it go.


On top of the Kim Kardashian game, my kids spend a lot of time on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. My oldest daughter will at any given moment blurt out, “Ohmygod!” or my second child, Eric, will start ranting about something. My third child tends to suddenly become stricken by the giggles. I ask what’s wrong, or what’s funny, or what happened, and they say, “It’s on Tumblr!” My eyes roll in the back of my head until they hurt, my heart stops a minute, and I think, “My kids need a life and need to talk to one another instead of always being on their phone.


Last night, however, I realized something I had not previously seen. It is, afterall, difficult to see clearly through rolling eyes. Instead of being in their own little cyber world, my kids were all talking – and to one another! It was like a Christmas miracle in July.

Eric and Jessica spend hours discussing their next modeling job, who they are dating, and share one another’s joy when the other becomes an “A-lister” (I am not even sure what that means, but they get really excited about it). Even my fourteen year old son has joined the Kim Kardashian band wagon and is getting involved in the conversations. And on any other subject, he has nothing, and I mean nothing, in common with my other three!


I began watching closer and see my girls showing one another something on Tumblr. Or I listen as Eric tells me the latest news, or gossip, on Twitter. There are many times my kids and I talk to each other through tweets and Facebook comments. We sit around the living room discussing or laughing at something on Tumblr. When an important social issue is brought forth on social media, we read each other the status, tweet, or comment, and then we spend an hour discussing our own views, beliefs, and ideas.


I’ve learned very recently – this morning actually- that sometimes technology, games, memes, and tweets, aren’t always a bad thing. For my family, they open up dialog, provide a common interest, and create a unique interaction between my kids. For that reason, and that reason only, I love the Kim Kardashian game and am thankful it was created. Bonding is a wonderful thing, even if it is accomplished by a cell phone game.


Click here for a link to the publications written by Tina Toler Keel.

A Smart Woman Saves Money


A smart woman saves money, no matter what bills are due.  We find ways to save money, no matter how small the amount is.  We use coupons, we barter, we hit tag sales, shop at consignment stores and we even find free stuff that others  want to give away.   We collect cans and turn them in for nickels.  We need to take those pennies that we generate and save and actually save them.  Put that money aside and have the determination that it stays there “until hell freezes over.”  Let those funds accumulate and they will grow.



If budgeting is the problem, then is a place you can visit to learn how to create a budget.  Once you do that, then the goal is to stick to it.

List all of your expenses, then divide them by 12.  This is your monthly budget.  Write down your income and subtract what comes in from what goes out, then you know exactly what you are dealing with.  Makes sure that one of your line items is SAVINGS!



If credit debt is excessive, then cut up all of your credit cards – maybe keep just one.  Then make a plan to pay them all down starting with the smallest balance first.  Once that card is paid off, close the account and apply the extra funds to the next credit card.  Do this until all of your debt is paid off.



Most of the utility companies allow their customers to get on a budget plan where they will charge a fixed amount every month based on your usage.  This will protect you from heating and cooling bills that can fluctuate widely during hot summer and cold winter months.



If you have car insurance, choose a higher deductible.  This lowers the amount that you pay instantly.  Ask your insurance carrier about any other discounts that you may qualify for.



Set up meal plans for the week, then create your grocery list from that plan.  Do you really need those cookies and sugary cereals for the kids?  Steel cut oats are very healthy for the body and helps to avoid all the artificial colorings and flavorings in processed food.  So, give extra thought to what you are buying, serving and eating.  Create a healthy meal plan, generate your shopping list, go into the store with your plan and stick with it.  You would be surprised at how much you will save by not throwing random items that appeal to you in your carriage.

Use coupons!  Coupons really do work and help you save money.

If grocery shopping with your young children is an issue because they want everything, then involve them in your research where you learn about the food that your family is eating.  Help them to find healthier choices!  This could be a really fun project!

Grow your own food.  It is amazing that several decades ago this is how people fed themselves.  Now, we don’t give it a second thought.  We’re all conditioned to buy what has been mass-manufactured and put on grocery shelves for us to buy and feed to our families.  You and your children will be delighted by watching and caring for your growing vegetables.  And they will be more receptive to healthier eating practices!

Finally, when it comes to grocery shopping, never shop while you are hungry.  Because then you walk around eating with your eyes and buying extra stuff.  Create your list and stick to it.


Stay out of the mall.  Stay out of stores.  If you need to purchase something that is an actual need – buy that one or those two things and get out of the store.  Stick with your mission.



Save money, even if it’s a penny, a dime, a nickel.  Collect it in a can or a jar.  When you have several dollars, deposit them into the FREE savings account that you will set up.  Make sure the bank you are using will not charge a fee.  Pick a day of the week when you go and deposit all of your change into the bank.  If your children are working with you, they’ll be happy to pitch in!  It can be a family project.

If there is an end game, or a reward for you or the family after you’ve saved a certain amount, imagine how great everyone is going feel after they’ve reached that goal.  But remember the goal is to have money saved.  If you are saving toward something, make sure you set a minimum amount that you need to keep in the bank.  For instance, if the family wants to buy – let’s say a small row boat and the cost of that is $300, you must have a goal of saving $100 first.  Once that $100 is there, then start saving toward the purchase of the boat.   Once you have the boat, then up the ante a little and say that the savings goal is $500, for instance and keep it going.

A smart woman saves money.  We are creative and find ways to make this happen.  Once you develop the habit of saving, it will help you to create a solid foundation for future financial success.



Do You Wear Killer Heels?

heelsAre you the woman who struts around in high heels? Feeling cute? Feeling sexy? You are paying a price for those high heels.

Your killer heels are killing much more than you think. Statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear.

Your feet begin to hurt after a few hours, but your body is being impacted beyond sore feet. Normally, your feet act like spring-loaded, weight-distributing shock absorbers, cushioning your skeleton from crazy amounts of pounding. Jam them into high heels and you’ve shifted most of your weight onto the balls of your feet and your delicate toe bones. Additionally, cramming your toes into a narrow toe box can cause nerve damage and bunions.


When you wear high heels – shoes with a heel two inches or higher – your foot slides forward in your shoe, forcing the toes into the unnatural shape of the shoe and redistributing your weight incorrectly. The increased weight on your toes causes your body to tilt forward, and to compensate, you lean backwards and overarch your back, creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips, and lower back. The change to the position of your spine puts pressure on nerves in the back and can cause sciatica, a condition where nerves become trapped, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet.

The higher the heel, the bigger the impact. Four-inch stilettos can increase the amount of pressure on the front of the foot by 30 percent or more.

Normally we walk heel-to-toe. But in high heels you are forced to walk staccato. Over time this can cause in bone and nerve damage and blisters and ingrown toenails.

Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, a movement that could restrict circulation in your lower limbs.

Walking in heels stiffens your Achilles tendons, which anchor your calf muscles to your heels, causing your calves to bunch up.

Over time, high heel wearers can develop chronically taut (and shortened) ankle and calf tendons, making walking—even in flats—painful.

The knee is a shock absorber and is the largest joint in your body. Frequent high-heel use puts extra stress on the inner sides of the knees, expediting wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis.

When you walk in high heels, you thrust your hips forward, arch your back, and push out your chest. That familiar sexy stance works the outer hip muscles and tendons hard but not in a good way. Your spine needs to sway unnaturally, a process that stresses your lumbar erector spinae muscle which causes a sore lower back.


You don’t have to give up your heels (but if you were smart you would). But to avoid problems that develop over time, doctors recommend:

Choose sensible heels. Select shoes with low heels – an inch and a half or less – and a wide heel base; a slightly thicker heel will spread the load more evenly. Narrow, stiletto-type heels provide little support and three inch or higher heels may shorten the Achilles tendon.

Wear soft insoles to reduce the impact on your knees.

Make sure your shoes are the right size so the foot doesn’t slide forward, putting even more pressure on the toes. Pick a shoe with a wide enough toe box to allow you to wiggle your toes.

Wear heels on days that require limited walking or standing.

Alternate your shoe choice throughout the day or from one day to the next. Don’t wear your high heels all day; and wear more comfortable shoes, such as athletic or walking shoes for commuting to and from work. Wearing shoes that allow your body to move naturally during walking will allow your feet, legs, hips and back to stretch.heels3

Stretch. Take time every day to stretch your calf muscles and feet. Stand on the edge of a step with your shoes off. With your weight on the balls of your feet and your heels extending off the edge, drop your heels down to stretch. You can also put a pencil on the floor and try to pick it up with your toes.

Don’t let your sense of style cripple your ability to stand or step pain-free. “Your feet are, quite literally, your base of support. If your feet aren’t happy, nothing above them will be. Take a closer look at your shoe selection and steps now to prevent big foot problems later.



Finding Ways To Create Additional Revenue

In these tight financial times, women are being creative and finding additional ways to make money to help support themselves and their families.

Crafts for sale.  People make everything from from bags to jewelry – to pottery to paintings.  There are craft fairs galore during the beautiful summer months.  Perhaps you can tap into some of your unused talents and create something to sell.  Most craft fairs charge a fee for space.  Make sure that the pricing of your items balances out the fee.


Tag Sale.  Do you have things that you no longer need?  Tag sales are everywhere every weekend.  You could organize your own.  Just remember to check and see if your town requires a permit.  Choose the day, advertise on craigs list and other neighborhood newspapers.  Usually these ads are free or if there is a fee, it’s nominal.  Make sure you have enough tables to display your items.  You can even invite a few friends over to sell their wares and make it a very fun day.


Can you braid hair?  Braiding hair does not have any state licensing requirements.  If you are really good at braiding and want to spend a few hours in front of the tv braiding other women’s hair – go for it!


Computer Repair.  Do you have a knack for fixing computers?  If you do and are very confident about it, you can start off by helping your friends first and then branch out to help others.


Explain Cell Phone Gadgets.  It seems that the young instinctively have an understanding of how cell phone gadgets work. Perhaps you can offer to help people learn how to use their cell phones.


Buy and Sell Antiques.  Do you have knowledge of antiques and know what something is worth?  Be the early bird at tag sales and buy those kinds of items and resell them on ebay and auction houses, etc.


Make and Sell Beats.  This is very popular with young people.  If you can create beats on your keyboard or with your music software, there is a market for these products.



Based on your idea and what you want to do, maybe you need to invest in things like tubing cutters or craft supplies, maybe even a sewing machine.


Teach music, teach dance, teach art — English, Spanish, Arabic!  We all have gifts and talents.  Not everyone uses what they have.  Search yourself and find your hidden, untapped potential and bring it to the fore.


What other ideas can you think of?  Please share them with us here at!

Not Too Soon to Worry About Tax Time!

Even though we are in the middle of summer, we still need to keep on track with our upcoming tax filing in the spring.


If you are self-employed and own your own business, you already have tax accountants like a working with you to keep you on track.  Depending on whether or not your business is registered as an LLC, sole proprietorship, or other corporation, you need to stay on track of income and expenses which will determine your tax liability.  And, if you are smart, you are working with someone who helps you do to just that.taxes2

People who work for other people, also need to do a mid-season check to see where they stand as far as their tax obligations go.  You don’t want to end up at the end of the fiscal year with not having had enough money taken out for taxes.  No one wants to do their tax forms or have them prepared and be told that they owe money to the government.  So, it’s a good idea to do a check yourself or have your accountant check out where you stand at this present time.  Maybe you need to make an adjustments in your allowances and have more money taken out so you can break even with the government or get a refund.

Getting a refund however, is like giving the government an interest free loan.  A lot of people have the tendency to use this a way to get extra money after they file their taxes, but in reality, it is your money that you let the government borrow for free.  If getting this extra money in the spring is what you’re after, it’s better to put the extra money that’s currently going to the government in the bank every payday.  At least this way it can generate some interest for you – no matter how small.  Something is better than nothing!  Get out of the mindset that you want to give the government an interest free loan so you can get your own money back after they’ve borrowed it.  Learn how to save instead.

Suppose you are not having enough taken out of every paycheck?  You don’t want to find this out at the end of the tax year.  Get with your accountant to get an idea of where you stand now to avoid future shock.

Perhaps you are going to break even.  Wouldn’t you rather know where you stand now rather than wait until later when it’s too late to correct anything?



Air Conditioning Pros and Cons

“Baby it’s hot outside…” as the song says.  What should you do?  A/C is certainly a benefit and adds to your comfort level, but it’s expensive to run.  Let’s examine some pros and cons:



Most air conditioners reduce the humidity level, which makes your environment more comfortable and reduces mold growth.
Extreme heat has a clear negative impact on the intellect and on physical activity.
It can result in increased physical and intellectual activity.
A lower temperature reduces the presence of insects and parasites.
Lower temperatures mean less sweating, reducing the risk of dehydration.
A clean air conditioning system helps exclude external allergens such as pollens.
If the air conditioning installation is good, and if it is well maintained, it renews and improves air quality.
Air-conditioning can be a life saver, especially for the elderly and the very young who can be physically affected by extreme heat.



It increases your utility costs.  Let’s face it, it’s expensive.
Sitting around in air conditioned spaces can discourage outdoor activity and thus will lessen contact with nature.
It also lessons your interactions with your neighbors because peairconditioningople are reluctant to go outside.
Sudden changes in temperature and humidity affect the respiratory system in extreme cases.
It has a drying effect on skin and mucous membranes.
It adds to ambient noise, contributing to noise pollution.
The air circulation can transmit infectious respiratory diseases.
Airborne dust and fungi can cause allergic reactions.
Air conditioning is associated with chronic rhinitis and pharyngitis, throat irritation and hoarseness.
Air conditioning can exacerbate eye conditions such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis, as well as causing problems for contact lens wearers.
Eeffects the environment by releasing the CFC’s


Keep in mind that …

Air conditioned spaces should be regularly ventilated.
Professional installation and maintenance is essential for both centralized systems hvac in durham nc at comfort services 1.
Keep room temperature between 21º and 25º C.
Try to maintain an average humidity of between 60% and 70%.


You may want to keep a light sweater or jacket in the office for those days when the air conditioning is set too high for your comfort level.

Deborah Cantor – Motorcycle Mechanic

Who says a woman can’t fix cars n stuff?  Ha!

Deborah Cantor has been a motorcycle mechanic for seven years now.  She says her father taught her from the time she could sit on the bike and ride with him.


“He was always outside tinkering with his bike.  He had an old Harley.”

She said that she wandered outside one day and started watching.  Then she braced herself to start handing him the tools he needed.  She quickly learned the difference between all of the different tools and their names.  She said it was like when you’re at the dentist or with a doctor in surgery and they’re asking for various tools and the assistant passes them on.  From there she learned about tweaking different parts, tightening this, loosening that.  Then there’s the tell all of everything and that’s the sound of the engine.   Is it running too hard, too high, too low, too rough?  It’s like the heartbeat of the motorcycle and you can learn how to diagnose or at least know what parts to take a look at by the sound of the engine.


She has her own bike and has since she was 17.  Whenever her bike needs to be fixed, she’s excited that she is the one that can fix it.  There are a ton of  discount motorcycle parts that are easily found, she says.

She’s every bit of daddy’s little girl.    When asked how Mom felt about what she did, she says her mom was glad that dad got a bit of the son he always wanted!

Venture to do whatever moves your soul ladies!



My Business Trip to Chicago



I recently took a trip to great old Chicago.  Among all the blah, blah, blah during the meetings all I could think about was getting a deep tissue massage which was going to be my reward after the very last meeting of the day.  Other people wanted to connect further and go get a drink and food, but that was furthest thing on my mind. I needed to spend some time with myself in a relaxing environment and so I did.

It’s been a long run for me.  Though most of my work is play, lately there’s been just too much work added into the play.  But, that’s a mindset and one that I don’t have to confront as much as I used to, but from time to time, I deal with it and have to correct myself.  I love what I do.  I love the way that I spend my time, I just wish I had more time!

This trip to Chicago was important and many things were resolved and put into place.  However, the most important thing that was resolved for me was some much needed relaxation.

So remember, ladies, take some time out for you.  YOU TIME!  It’s go time for you time anytime you feel you need it.  If you can’t get away here are a few ideas that cost next to nothing except a bit of your precious time:


tomaca-relaxtake a walk

sit outside in the beautiful sun at lunch time

go for a drive along a nice, scenic route

lock yourself in the bathroom and take a long, hot bath

nature rejuvenates – take a walk in the park or in the woods (just be safe – don’t go into isolated areas!)

sit around and watch the geese

is there a horse farm around?  – go and hang out for a while

volunteer to help out at an animal shelter – (they usually don’t like one-time deals, but ask anyway)

go visit a farm

go pick vegetables or fruit at your local farm when the season hits

go indoor wall climbing

hook up with some other ladies or the girls in the neighborhood and jump rope!!

look in the mirror, hug yourself and tell you that you love you!  (this should actually be done daily)

I like to occasionally take myself to lunch – go to a nice restaurant late and just hang out with myself writing notes and getting this organized.

go out dancing with your girlfriends – or better yet – invite them over and blast the music!

do a drop-in on a dance class and express yourself

just get loose and get funky

play dress up and get yourself all dolled up and take your picture

pretend you are being interviewed and sit and answer questions that you ask of yourself (might be some revealing things that come out about you!)



If you have your own favorite things to do, please share!


BBQ Season – Steak Marinade

We’re well into the summer barbeque season.   Here’s a great recipe for a steak marinade.



Steak Marinade


1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon natural mesquite flavor liquid smoke
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Honey, to coat
2 rib eye steaks
Sea salt and pepper


Whisk together ketchup, pineapple juice, cider vinegar, liquid smoke, onion powder, cumin crushed red pepper, oregano and garlic in a shallow baking dish. Put a layer of honey on both sides of the steaks and place the steaks in the marinade, tossing to cover both sides. Let sit for 3 hours.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill!


Do You Dress Up Your Man?

We’d like to take a poll.  How many women out there dress their men?


Women are the shoppers in the household, generally speaking.  How many of you buy your husband’s clothes?mandressing

Do you go with him to the store and pick out suits for him to try on or does he do it himself?

Who picks out the ties?

Who matches the shirts with the ties?

Does he buy his own jeans?

Usually men buy their own shoes – or so we believe.  Are we wrong?

Does he actually go shopping for himself, or it is all you lady?mandressing2

If he comes home with the wrong stuff, do you send him back to the store by himself or do you go with him or do you leave him be?

How do you like to see him dressed?  Do you like the tuxedo vest and tie look? Or are you a “I like a man in tight jeans lady?



Let us know your thoughts!

Ways to Save On Your Auto Insurance

If you are driving a vehicle on the road, you must have car insurance.  Insurance protects you financially if you have an accident.  They will cover any liability you may have if you cause an accident.  And depending on your policy, they may also provide medical coverages.  There are a few ways to save on auto insurance:


Telematics: There are a growing number of insurance firms that are offering a “telematics” or “black box” insurance policy. This requires the driver to have a GPS device installed in the car to track how the vehicle is being driven. In exchange for you using this device, the insurance company will offer you a slightly lower rate.  The important thing to remember is that you or whomever is driving the vehicle has to drive well and safely.

Packages:   Many insurers offer package discounts if you carry multiple policies with them such as automobile, homeowners or apartment, boat, RV, etc.

Discounts: There are periodical, seasonal or holidays discounts. Most insurers offer a wide variety of discounts.  If you are a member of AAA, AARP or other organizations, inquire as to whether or not your insurance company offers a discount for the group that you are a member of.  Ask if they have a safe driver discount also if you have an excellent driving record.

Higher deductibles:  Opt for the highest deductible possible. A deductible is the amount that you pay whenever there is an accident or other insurance-covered situation.  Try to make sure you have the money saved and on hand in case you ever do need to apply it to a situation.

Shop around.  There are companies like don allred insurance that you can contact to get the best rate for you.



Do you need to have the latest vehicle with all of the newest features and technology or can you get away with just basic transportation?   One of the best ways to save on insurance is to drive an older vehicle.  The newer the vehicle and the more coverage you need, the higher the insurance cost is going to be.  With older vehicles, depending on the cost, you may or may not need collision coverage.  Collision pays for physical damage to your car.  That’s a big savings right there.  If you get a basic car for a few thousand dollars, then all you need to get is liability coverage.  Keep in mind, however, that is something happens to that car, you will have to get your own replacement vehicle.

But with an older car, you pay much less for insurance and for property taxes.  So, if this is something that you think can work for you, look into it.


Join the Motorcycle Riding Adventure



When you ride down the road on a motorcycle, life takes on new meaning.  Everything around you is tangible and you are a part of it.  Unlike driving in a vehicle with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning on, you get a sense that you and the wind are one; you and the road are one.  And, thus you are.

There’s a new found feeling of freedom as the wind dances past your body.  There is no separation between you and the open road air and everything that is a part of it.

A never adventure awaits you on a motorcycle if you choose to be  for bikes. Check with your local DMV to find out what their requirements are for you to register.


Meanwhile for those women out there riding motorcycles, we’d love to speak to you.  Please contact us here are WMTS.


[contact-form to=’’ subject=’I%26#039;m A Rider’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Yes – I ride!’ type=’checkbox’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]


Dancer Mary Bates – I Want to Keep Living That Dream


Imagine that you are a bundle of dancing talent and your entry into what is considered a professional platform is barred by the way you look?   The lack of entry has absolutely nothing to do with your talent, but with the way you look.  This is what happened to Mary Bates and she did not let those false opinions stop her from dancing.  She dances and teaches others helping them to develop their own passion for dance.  Mary is now with Big Ballet and showing the world her talent, creativity, spirit and determination to do what she is – a professional Dancer!  



Mary, you are the founder of EXP Dance. First question, what does EXP stand for?

EXP Dance stands for Expressive Dance.mary-exp


You’ve been dancing, teaching and performing all of your life and you’ve done work for some fairly prestigious clients. What was it about Big Ballet that you felt suited you?


Dancing has always been a part of my life ever since I was 5, however after many unsuccessful auditions because of the way I looked I turned to teaching. When approached by Rare Day/ Big Ballet they thought that my story suited their casting requirements. Ballet was the first style of dance I studied and I now teach in the same room where I first learnt to Plié. I was told at the age of 11 in a Royal Ballet School audition that I wasn’t right for Ballet and I knew it was down to my physique, so Big Ballet was perfect for me. Ballet is so graceful and feminine and when I perform I feel alive and swept up in a magical story.
Why were you not “allowed” to be part of a professional — actually I don’t want to say “professional” because you ARE a professional – let’s say part of a performing dance company? What was the excuse or the reason that you were given by those kinds of companies?


I was never ever successful in auditions, I was either two short, wrong hair colour, too big – wrong build, I knew that deep down I’d be able to cope with the choreography, I just was never ever lucky enough to be given that opportunity…until Big Ballet! Now I want to continue performing, the spark is there, it never went.


Did you have any doubts that you would pass the audition process?

I initially thought what on earth am I doing back in an audition, I had given this up 6 years ago but then thought no why should I give up that dream I once had of becoming a dancer.



Big Ballet invited people who were not necessary professionals in dance. They were looking for women and men who had skill but were also of a certain size. What did you think about the skill level of the other performers in the program?


On the day it felt like there were hundreds of us there, from all different backgrounds, sizes and ages. AJ (Prince) I knew already as I used to teach him before he went to university, so it felt better knowing someone there, another student who I currently taught was also there which made the process a little more daunting but my mum was there, which made it a lot better…she has always supported me through everything.



And, what did you think about your skill level?

I knew that I could dance and I knew that I could pick up choreography however I hadn’t studied ballet since university so I was nervous as didn’t know what to expect. Then to find out it was was Swan Lake, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass by.


With all of your experience, were there things that you had to work on to be able to participate in the show?

I knew that my technique in ballet had to improve and I needed to become more graceful. When I dance and teach, I focus heavily on Urban and Jazz styles so for me Ballet was like a whole knew discipline again.


Dancing in shows is all about being a team. Were there times that the team aspect or philosophy suffered? Or did everyone really bond and help everyone else?


We all had one thing in common and that was our love for dance. Yes when strangers meet and are put in a situation working closely with one another tensions and cracks appear but we worked together as a company to pull through. There was never anything major that happened throughout filming just the odd bit of banter and disagreement.

I guess we’re asking about egos in the program. Everyone was cool – no issues?

I think that overall it was cool, as mentioned above we worked through our disagreements.


Why did you start a dance school? What was in it for you?

I wanted to open EXP Dance to offer the community of Roundhay, North Leeds a chance to learn Urban and contemporary dance styles. The area is heavily populated by dance schools that offer the traditional Tap, Modern and Ballet and I wanted to do something different. Since opening in 2007/8 I have worked hard to continue developing EXP Dance classes and always try to provide versatility, confidence and growth.


Describe what dance means to you.

Dance is a part of me, it’s what I know, it’s what I love. It allows you transport yourself into another world, one with no worries, arguments or stresses.


marybates-signObviously not everyone is going to feel that. How do you, as a teacher try to instill that into your students?

I try to pass on my knowledge and passion of dance to all my students. Allowing them to make mistakes so that they can learn from them. It’s important that your students take note, apply, correct, learn and try again. To learn from not only me but from their peers too. To make them appreciate all forms of dance and not just those they are comfortable with. To respect others and develop confidence whilst in the dance space.


If you were not a dancer, what would you be? Would anything come close?

I have never been a professional dancer, this was a lifelong ambition of mine but sometimes they don’t always work out, that’s why I chose teaching. I still have that opportunity to perform but it’s in a classroom/education setting rather than on stage. I like to pass on my knowledge and love of dance to my students in the hope that one day they will do the same. I will always have something to do with dance or theatre, it’s what I know!


You will continue to be a part of Big Ballet. Tell us what it does for you in your life – inside you.

When you spend all day teaching it’s nice to do something for yourself, to escape and set yourself targets and boundaries. I always like a challenge and for me Dance will always be part of my life. Big Ballet has taught me to go for things you believe in, to not give up, to follow your dreams. I want to keep living that dream.


BB-LogoWhat’s next?

Eleven dancers from the original production are currently working on a new venture with Daniel Jones, ex principal/solo dancer from the English National Ballet. Together we rehearse and train twice a week and are working together on a production of The Nutcracker Story which we are about to perform in London, so watch the space as we are not going anywhere just yet, we are only just beginning.