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Society tells us that we love our mothers. But what happens when that love isn’t there? Justine Cowan felt no love for her mother. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t feel that emotion. What Justine felt for her mother started out as fear. Over time the fear turned to anger and the anger turned to hatred. Hatred that held her back from learning a secret that her mother had tried to tell her. A secret that Justine’s mother had kept for decades. Justine was in her 50’s when her mother died. She had grown up knowing a couple of things about her mother: her mother was illegitimate, and she came from aristocracy. Throughout her life, there was never any discussion about family. Her mother’s death changed all that. The woman who was known as Eileen Thompson was in fact Dorothy Soames. For the first 12 years of her life, Dorothy had lived at the Foundling Hospital short for London’s Hospital for the Maintenance and Education of Exposed and Deserted Young Children. Established in the 18th century, its mission was to save “bastard” children from death or a life on the streets. In reality, they were treated to a life of physical and emotional abuse. Justine Cowan is the author of The Secret Life of Dorothy Soames – A True Story.
A Mother's Day Special with Kate Swenson, a very special mom. Kate dreamed of being a mother from a very young age. While other young girls dreamed of being a ballerina or president, being a mother was hers. And that dream came true 11 years ago with the birth of her son, Cooper. Kate and her husband now have two more sons and a daughter. Her dream though came with an unexpected path. At the age of three, Cooper was diagnosed with nonverbal autism. Kate is the creator of the blog and Facebook page Finding Cooper’s Voice and the author of the newly released Forever Boy: A Mother’s Memoir of Autism and Finding Joy. Yes, the word is JOY. Listen to a woman who exceeds our expectations of what motherhood is. Cooper now has a vocabulary of 20 words.
Dr. Klodas is a cardiologist who is looking to put herself out of business, as she would say. Why? Because, according to the CDC, 80% of all heart disease should not exist. It’s proved by people who live in what’s called ‘Blue Zones’ around the globe. They’re home to some of the oldest, healthiest, and happiest people. A large reason comes from how they manage what they eat. After years of treating her patients with statins, she noticed that the overarching cause of their heart issues were not because of a deficiency of the right drugs, but deficiency of eating the right foods. With tenacity and willpower in her blood, she decided to go out on her own and do something about it.
With her passion for helping entrepreneurs and small business owners for over 30 years, Liz Sara shines in her new position as President of the SCORE Foundation. SCORE is a national free network of mentors for entrepreneurs and small business owners. The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of SCORE. And Liz is the right person supporting its mission of mentoring and educating America’s small business owners. When Liza Sara was a guest last year, she was just appointed by the President as the Chairperson of the National Women's Business Council. The council is a non-partisan federal advisory committee that makes recommendations to Congress and The US SBA.
Mary Barneby finds herself among very notable women, Juliette, and Clara. The Girl Scouts and the American Red Cross share some history.  Both are over 100 years old, and both were started by women. Clara Barton was 60 when she founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Juliette Gordon Low was 52 when she founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America in 1912. And back then, that was considered quite old. Did I mention…Mary is the Regional CEO of the American Red Cross, a journey she started in the mist of the pandemic, September 2020. For eight years prior to joining the Red Cross, Mary had been CEO for the Girl Scouts of Connecticut. Our conversation covers so many areas  - from disasters to mental health and healing, to helping find those who are missing. During the pandemic, it helped many stay up-to-date in their career by volunteering in a variety of different areas.
Nearly four years ago, Eugenia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Eugenia made the choice to be positive. A choice few can make. Upon hearing the diagnosis, Eugenia returned home, stared at the wall, and started writing. The result, a book of poetry Like Falling Through a Cloud.  It follows her journey through her gradual cognitive impairment and memory loss.  Writing has helped Eugenia process the emotions that she has been dealing with since the beginning of her diagnosis.
Thinking, thinking, thinking…we can't stop thinking. When we talk about selfcare it usually contains words like diet and exercise. But what about our emotional care? Nancy Colier is an author, psychotherapist, and mindfulness teacher. Her books include Can't Stop Thinking and The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World. Her newest book, The Emotionally Exhausted Woman: Why You’re Feeling Depleted and How to get What You Need will be released this fall. Nancy has been featured on Good Morning America, The New York Times and countless other media. She is also a regular writer, blogger for Psychology Today and Huffington Post.
Ruta Sepetys hadn’t known the depths of 1989 Romania, the maniacal dynasty of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and the brave young Romanians who fought for their freedom. Being the daughter of a victim of communism, Ruta thought she knew about post-war communist systems and their history. On tour in Romania with her publisher promoting her first novel Between Shades of Gray Ruta had a rude awakening. Their translator was searching for listening devices.  She was checking the ashtray on the outside table they were sitting at in case the ‘blue-eyed boys’ were listening. That’s when Ruta learned about the more than 20 million Romanians who had suffered during Ceaușescu’s evil regime.
Women’s rights, we sometimes forget the long journey that it has taken to get here. What we are presently faced with is a chipping away of what we consider our fundamental rights. Why is this happening and what can we do? For some answers I turned to Lauren Leader. Lauren is passionate and obsessed with ensuring that women get the voice they deserve. Lauren is an activist, thought leader and co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit All In Together (AIT). AIT is one of the only national, nonpartisan organizations empowering and mobilizing women across the political spectrum to become advocates and leaders at work and in their communities.
Art and problem solving, I can’t imagine what one has to do with the other. I never thought that looking at art could help solve a problem. That is, until I had a conversation with Amy Herman, a recovering attorney, author, and art historian, amongst other things. Remember when ‘Where’s Waldo’ was a thing? Or looking for where caricaturist Al Hirschfield hid the name of his daughter, Nina in his drawings?  We were looking to solve a problem in a way. Maybe we were waging a bet to see who could find Waldo and Nina. There were times when I knew I couldn’t find either. But what if we took a step back and instead of knowing what we were looking for, we needed to find figure out what we didn’t see?
Today we're celebrating International Women's Day, March 8, 2022. With a number of themes running through today, I thought I would pick a few and spotlight some of the extraordinary women I have had the privilege to have on this podcast. A clip of conversation is included.
Ahri Golden asked me how I came upon her and why I wanted to have a conversation with her. My answer was simple…I had read one of her posts about motherhood and being a woman. Then I learned about her, and Birth and Born and Delve and Shades of Gray and Stillpoint and I listened to the beautiful melody and words of Smitten. Lean into change, lean into life – it’s a powerful act. Realizing we’re not alone. Interweaving of conversation leads to a conversation that is so needed. And there’s not one right way.
‘Misinformation goes viral much quicker than the good old-fashioned truth.’ The first thing that jumped out at me as needing clarification had to do with birth control. It was the weirdest thing that was going viral – the idea that melatonin (quote-unquote) ‘cancels out your birth control.’ And so, Dr. Jennifer Lincoln went viral – viral with facts. Jennifer is a board-certified OB GYN who uses social media to educate and bust myths. She’s the sex education educator who should be in every school. No shame, no judgment, Dr. Lincoln demystifies sex ed and breaks down stigmas. Her passion is helping girls, women and those assigned female at birth to understand their bodies and feel empowered to advocate for themselves.
Mia Dillon made her Broadway debut in Hugh Leonard’s Da in 1978 and never looked back. Her work has included Once Upon a Catholic, Crimes of the Heart (Tony Award nomination), Agnes of God, The Corn is Green and Our Town. There are of course her screen and television credits throughout her career. I had the pleasure of an interesting and fun conversation with Broadway actress Mia Dillon. What drew me to her? The story of a 10-year-old with a flute, a passion, positive attitude, and drive. Put that all together, add some realism and you have a Tony nominated Broadway actress. Oh, and did I mention, she is also a licensed acupuncturist with a Masters in Oriental Medicine. As Mia says...Life doesn't end at 40. Sometimes it's just getting started.'
Peter H. Reynolds is my guest on this week’s episode of ‘Sylvia & Me.’ That’s right, a MAN! You see, Peter is a New York Times bestselling children’s book author and illustrator. I received an advance copy of his latest picture book ‘Our Table’. Within five minutes of reading it, I realized that this book needs to be read to children because the adult reading it needs to learn what it offers. And then I went back and read Peter’s other books, including his award winning ‘The Dot’.
What I’ve Learned

What I’ve Learned


This week I’m Sylvia and I’m ‘Me’. Two years ago I spoke to an extraordinary woman. Since then, I’ve spoken to over 100 women. 100 ordinary women doing extraordinary things. I didn’t set out with a specific goal in mind. But it turned out that as smart as I may have thought I am, I learned something new and different from each of these women.
Women entrepreneurs and business owners, and the pandemic. For insight, we turned to an expert in the field, Elizabeth (Liz) Sara. Liz currently serves as the Chairperson of the National Women’s Business Council, having been nominated for the position by President Trump in 2018. The Council is a non-partisan federal advisory committee serving as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the President, the U.S. Congress and to the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration on issues of importance to women business owners and entrepreneurs.
Today's guest is Jennifer Jelliff-Russell. Jennifer calls herself a military brat and spouse. An advocate for female veterans, Jennifer’s mission in life is helping them re-enter the workforce and civilian life. She realized this after working at Fort Campbell’s Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program (TAP). And Jennifer didn’t stop there. She also took a position as an Employment Coach at Wounded Warrior Project. There she had the opportunity to work with both veterans and their caregivers.
Working moms have been hit hard during the pandemic and the resulting financial crisis. Some of the hardest hit have been moms of color.  Chandra Sanders, a single mom of three lost her job during the pandemic. Turning to 'The Mom Project' as a resource to help her, she found more than just a job. 'The Mom Project’s' mission is to connect moms with world-class companies. And so as they say... ‘timing is everything’ and for Chandra the timing was perfect. 'The Mom Project' was hiring, Chandra applied and was hired. The result – Chandra is Director of their new program 'Rise'. Her goal is to provide economic opportunities to 10,000 women in the next three years. They just started and already have over 500 moms who have benefited from the program. Chandra Sanders’ mission is to get moms back into the workforce. She’s committed to helping moms and specifically, women of color access to economic opportunities and influence. Flexibility, adapting skills to fit a need and training…all the tools that are needed for moms, Rise offers.
Dr. Alisa Stephens-Shields is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a mom of an infant and a 5-year-old. The field of science has always been a struggle for female scientists to break into. On top f that, add being a mom to the mix and that struggle becomes a whole lot more challenging. A female scientist, mom and a woman of color and you’re looking at a very rocky path. And that was before the pandemic.  Alisa’s job is demanding. It is technical and detail oriented. It involves long uninterrupted hours of thought. How was she able to do her job and take care of her family during this unprecedented pandemic?
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