Grandma Mamiko was busy preparing a cup of cinnamon tea for herself and granddaughter, Rachel, on a recent Saturday afternoon, when a beautiful, bright sun was s-l-o-w-l-y f-a-l-l-i-n-g into its night time nest amidst a forest of bright orange and yellow leaves blanketing our country kitchen with autumnal splendor and warmth. Rachel, who we affectionately refer to as our “TEF sister,” was smiling ear to ear at us on a tiny little Apple 6 phone screen, thanks to that Face Time thing that every human being on the planet seems to use except this old school, rotary dial phone groupie who still remembers gushing over the premiere of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and her first white princess push button phone of her very own. Rachel was so excited to finally connect with her “sister from another mother,” Amanda, after our recent move to Ludlow, VT, and the two chatted nonstop as if a three month separation never existed. We were excited to get the ball rolling and let Rachel share why she loves TEF so much, and what this non-profit has done for her---and her loving, devoted, and TEF supporter extraordinaire, grandmama Mamiko.
Hilary: So Miss Rachel, share with us why The Extended Family has been so important in your life.
Rachel: Well, I get to do things I really like. Like putting labels on bags of jelly beans, and then selling the jelly beans. People love the jelly beans. They are really, really good.
Hilary: What do you think you like the best? Labeling or selling?
Rachel: Ummm, I think I like doing both. They are both fun. I have gotten really good at putting on the labels. I’m very careful when I do it so the labels are straight and in the right spot.
Hilary: So when you’re at The Freight House with all of your buddies, what “job” do you enjoy the most?
Rachel: I like weighing the jelly beans, and I like putting them in the bags. And I get to do this with Luke, Erica, Joey, and Laurie, and lots of people who make it more fun.
Hilary: Do you agree Mamiko, that all of this is a lot more fun having a great group of interns who Rachel can do this micro-business with?
Mamiko: For sure. It’s a very celebratory atmosphere when we go there. Everyone is very conscientious and very focused on doing their job. Everyone helps each other. It’s such a special and meaningful time for everyone.
Hilary: Did Rachel do other things before joining The Extended Family?
Mamiko: Yes, she has volunteered at the library for a long time, which she loves. Everyone has always been so nice to her there, and it’s something Rachel loves to do. There are very good people there who are very kind.
Hilary: So when you reconnected with Laurie, and discovered TEF and their efforts to create meaningful engagement for all of the Rachel’s, Luke’s, Sean’s, Amanda’s and Erica’s out there, what was your first reaction?
Mamiko: I was all in. I was over the moon when Laurie told me about this. I have known Laurie for a long time. Luke and Rachel went to school together. Laurie and I always wanted to work together. Once Laurie told me about this, I wanted to do as much as I could to help Laurie and Susan make this happen.
Hilary: So Rachel, do you want to do more things that are fun with The Extended Family?
Rachel: Yes. I am happy having a job to do because it makes me feel good. I love to work. And I’m a really hard worker.
Hilary: TEF is so lucky to have you Rachel!! Say hi to the gang!
Rachel: I will! Bye!!!!!
It wasn’t too long ago when intrepid intern and Extended Family member, Amanda Wolfson, was feeling enormous anxiety joining her TEF sisters and brothers at The Freight House to engage in their “sweetest beans ever” jelly bean micro-business. That day interns were weighing and packing these organic lemon, grapefruit, orange, cherry and grape bites into miniature containers of art, donned with colorful labels and lacy, lovely ribbons, placing each meticulously packaged “bag of yummy” into cardboard boxes for our sales team to sell at area stores and shopping centers. As usual, Founding Mom Laurie texted and chatted with Amanda days before, reassuring this tentative team member that ALL Amanda needed to do was “show up.” That’s it.
If she decided to come and just chill on the cozy corner couch--than that’s exactly what she would do. If she wanted to help her co-workers weigh some beans---awesome. If she wanted to sit at the table and tie a few ribbons or label a few bags--beautiful. At no time did Amanda ever feel that there were expectations or rules. All Amanda had to do was just “show up.” That’s it. And that’s exactly what she did.
And after showing up, she inched over to her buddy Rachel, donning gloves, and going “all in” with the weighing and bagging, giggling until both girls decided to seal the deal with a warm, “doesn’t get much better than this” hug. As staff and family members circled this triumphant team with shout out’s and “whoo hoo’s,” this Extended Family mom realized why this moment in time mattered so much to me---and most of all, to my daughter.
This non-profit was created to empower individuals and families “to manifest, maintain and be in full command of their environment” at all times, where self-expression and individual desires were more than just part of their mission statement. Individual desires and empowerment are the engine that has driven this non-profit, celebrating the collaborative and inspired creativity and “freedom to just be” mantra that has helped every member of this heart-centered tribe feel safe, supported, and smiling.
Smiles matter a lot here. This family wants their interns to garner pride, a sense of accomplishment, and invaluable life skills. But at the end of the day, what is MOST important is that each and every member of this family ALWAYS feels that “they are in control.” They get to decide what feels right, what doesn’t feel right, and feel empowered to make choices that feel right for them.
That’s it. Which brings us back to Amanda. After discovering the promise that was made to her in a series of texts and phone chats was true, and that just showing up was “good enough,” this former titan of tentativeness slowly but surely discovered that there really is a place where just being who you are is good enough. And for this mom, nothing could be sweeter.
Meet our new Social Media Manager, Hilary Schwartz Wolfson:
Writing Life. Happy Life. I am now the official Social Media Manager for The Extended Family (along with being on the Advisory Board) and am discovering that my talents, going all the way back to my days as a freelancer for The NY Times 15 plus years ago, are surprisingly (and happily) being appreciated by folks today. I cannot deny that I am at my happiest when I am writing, particularly about issues that are important to me, so stay tuned Extended Family supporters for some lively interviews from our participants and intermittent Q & A's about our tribe and the three women (Laurie, Susan & Lisa) who made this all a reality!!
When Hilary isn’t blogging and acting as social media advisor for TEF you can find her playing with Frankie and Johnny, her two favorite goat buddies.🐐🐐