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Thursday, February 22, 2018
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The Rural We: Love Letter From A Reader

Rural Intelligence’s founding editors Marilyn Bethany and Dan Shaw conceived of a cultural and lifestyle magazine — an online publication — that would foster a sense of community across state and county lines. Their vision quickly came to fruition, but RI has done more than that: it has engendered a bonhomie among its readers who love it, as these unexpected and wonderful emails illustrate. They appeared in our inbox a few months ago from NW Connecticut resident Jennifer Barrows. We’ve never met (except in the online world of RI), but it sounds like we have…and that, to me, is what makes Rural Intelligence so magical. But, unfortunately, RI can’t publish on love alone. We need 1,500 readers to contribute or we will cease publishing at the end of March. Please click here to become a supporter now.
—Lisa Green, Editor

Dear Rural Intelligence:

I absolutely LOVE this publication and the region which it serves. This is the most amazingly beautiful area. I just received today’s online mag and I’ve already consumed it. Now off to find one of your recommended adventures.

Thank you.

Your friend,
Jennifer Barrows

We sent her note of thanks, and she responded:

I didn’t have enough room to express how much I love Rural Intelligence. It has truly made me come to LOVE living in this very special pocket of the world. We have taken many, many day trips to explore areas highlighted by RI, which otherwise would have eluded us. I will definitely let you know if I have any ideas for articles, thank you for that offer — though I suspect you will already have written about them!

One of our favorite places, about an hour from us, is The Southfield Store (a restaurant/coffee-/teahouse in Southfield, MA, just ten minutes north of Norfolk, CT) and its sister entity, The Old Inn on the Green, a cozy and romantic haven for anyone with a love of historic architecture and culinary perfection (New Marlborough, MA). I suspect you have already highlighted those sweet spots in RI. But on the off chance that you have not yet, they are awesome oases well worth exploring, particularly Oaxacan Night, Thursdays at The Southfield Store, May-Oct. The store serves dinner four nights a week, May-Oct, but is otherwise open 365 days a year, during daytime hours. Their chef is native Oaxacan and his Mexican fare on Thursday evenings is to DIE for. Candlelit dinner at the Old Inn is about the most romantic evening I can remember having in a long time. It’s like going back in time.

Thanks to your publication, we have many adventures in the works. We’re planning to hit the kitty cafe in Red Hook and a few of the great spots you mentioned in downtown Hillsdale — and about a hundred other events/parks/walks/art exhibits. I have to get a separate day planner just for our RI adventures. We’ve not yet been to Frederic Church’s estate, but as a huge fan of the Hudson River School, I’m drooling after reading about it on RI. And that photographer you featured who does the horses and other animals — seriously…I can’t keep up with all the gorgeous possibilities.

I could go on and on, but you have a life!

Best regards, and thanks again!

Jennifer Barrows

Rural Intelligence needs your help. Unlike other websites, we haven’t put up a paywall, but the expenses involved in publishing RI can’t be met by advertising alone. We are asking readers to step up to the plate so we can continue to cover the people, places and events that make our region so special. We need 1,500 readers to contribute or we will cease publishing at the end of March. Please click here to become a supporter now.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/20/18 at 09:53 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: George Camarda

Westchester County native George Camarda has been a script supervisor for the past 25 years on television shows including The West Wing, Law & Order and Boardwalk Empire, and for feature films including, most famously, Boys Don’t Cry. Camarda has received awards from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and has produced and directed short films and an off-off-Broadway play. He and his partner now divide their time between New York City, where Camarda works for the Motion Pictures Editors Guild, and Austerlitz, New York where he’s recently joined the board of Shakespeare & Company.

I’ve been working in the film business for so many years — I’ve been a script supervisor for 25 years and before that I was a location scout. I worked in California producing music videos when they first came out. When I look back at my career, I think “Wow, I worked on that show and that show.” I’ve mostly done television work, and some films, but feature films are a much more difficult thing. With TV shows, you might have 10 or 13 episodes and then they hit the dust.

My partner, David Murphy, is from Northampton, Mass., his sister lives in Pittsfield, and we have many friends who live in Dutchess County. We moved to Austerlitz about 6 or 7 years ago. My thing was “Where’s the culture and the restaurants and the people who you want to hang out with?” We’re on a dirt road that starts in New York and ends in Mass., so we have the Berkshires to the east and to the west we’ve got Hudson, so we’re well situated.

For three months I was on jury duty with one of the directors I worked with on “Law & Order” and he introduced me to Shakespeare & Company. I was super impressed with what a professional and established company it was. I went to Emerson College for theater, but I never really worked in the theater. I’ve been working in film for all these years, and it’s interesting to go back to my roots.

Growing up, summertime Shakespeare was always one of my favorite things to go to. So what speaks to me most about Shakespeare & Company is the campus and what that can become. Now they have two outdoor venues — one on their campus and one at the Mount. The way that Tina Packer and I related most when we first met was in talking about the potential for the facilities. The next step is establishing a more sustainable company and figuring out how to optimize what’s there. They have so many incredible programs, such as the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, that I think should be happening all over the country. 

Rural Intelligence needs your help. Unlike other websites, we haven’t put up a paywall, but the expenses involved in publishing RI can’t be met by advertising alone. We are asking readers to step up to the plate so we can continue to cover the people, places and events that make our region so special. We need 1,500 readers to contribute or we will cease publishing at the end of March. Please click here to become a supporter now.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/12/18 at 11:39 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Chris Silva

The executive director of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, New York, Chris Silva has been a theater founder, director, producer, manager and script developer. After college graduation, he founded the Eureka Theatre in a San Francisco commune. That theater went on to present the world premiere of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America.” A move to New York led to working as associate director at Joe Papp’s Public Theatre and to later taking over management of the Chelsea Theatre Center. The list of boldfaced names he’s worked with (and continues to meet in his present position) is long and impressive, and even though he’s rubbed elbows with some of the greatest performers of our time, he still delights in meeting them.

Photo by Jennifer May

I’m from the West Coast, Bay Area, and went to San Francisco State. Starting a theater in college was a great training ground for me. I learned every single aspect of putting on a show. In 1979 I joined my then-girlfriend who was touring with a big band, acting as the road manager, but it was an insane way of life. I left the tour to visit a friend in New York and realized the city was the place to be. I stayed in New York for 10 or 11 years. I founded a nonprofit arm of the Westside Arts Theatre called New Writers at the Westside and developed new works for scores of playwrights, including Arthur Miller, David Mamet and Wallace Shawn. It was a great time, and I was proud that I always made my living in the theater, even if it meant working two or three [theater] jobs at a time.

I met my wife, Casey Kurtti, in New York. She’s a writer, and one of her plays that I produced, “Three Ways Home” got purchased for the movies. In 1989, with the money from that sale we moved to Stone Ridge, New York; Casey had gone to SUNY New Paltz so she knew the area. I freelanced in the Hudson Valley, and also had some good adventures working in Cuba, Berlin and other places.

In 1994 I applied for the position of executive director at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston, New York, but ended up getting the same position at the Bardavon. Ironically, in 2006 we took over the management of UPAC, so I ended up with both jobs. We also manage and present the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and book for the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington. Last year we opened the Hutton Brickyards in Kingston, and recently finished a $20-million renovation of both the Bardavon and UPAC.

When it comes to booking, we look for any opportunity that comes along. Agents know us, so some things fall in our laps, and sometimes we pursue them. For instance, Bob Dylan’s agent contacted us about 10 years ago, mysteriously asking us if we had a certain time available for his client to rehearse. He wouldn’t reveal that it was Dylan, although he recited some lyrics that gave me a clue. Dylan came and rehearsed with his band, and they liked us, because we totally protected them. They came back a second time and did the same thing. I got to sit in the wings and listen to Dylan create new music. He and I had talks about urban development, a topic that interests both of us. I was thrilled. He came a third time, and it was like we’d never met. But we had gotten to know the tour manager and everybody in the band. So when I called them to see if they’d play the opening of the Hutton Brickyards, they agreed. We had two sold-out concerts.

It’s exciting meet with great artists. Eddie Izzard was so funny backstage I didn’t want him to go on stage. David Sedaris cannot not be funny. Itzhak Perlman is a punmeister. When the artists are wonderful, it’s a wonderful situation for everyone working backstage.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/06/18 at 11:03 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Lara Tupper

Lara Tupper is another of our region’s multi-talented individuals who is successfully living her passions. For Tupper, it is a twin love of singing and writing, both of which she does professionally. Last week, Tupper released her first full-length CD, “This Dance,” a mix of her favorite jazz and pop tunes. She’s also the author of “A Thousand and One Nights,” an autobiographical novel about entertainers on a cruise ship and abroad. She taught creative writing at Rutgers University and now presents writing workshops and retreats in our area. She performs frequently in the region, and will be at The Gateways Inn in Lenox, Mass. on Feb. 17.

This CD has been a long time coming. It represents a variety of music that I’m interested in. It’s half jazz, half pop, a tribute to some of my favorite songs and artists. The musicians on the CD are my husband (singer/songwriter) Bobby Sweet, and pianists Rob Kelly and Ben Kohn, with backing vocals from the BeeLine Ramblers. We recorded it in Bobby’s home studio, Sweet Home, over the course of a few months. The album is available on iTunes and CD Baby — and I’ve got hard copies for those who still have a CD player!

I grew up in Boothbay, Maine, and after college performed a lot on cruise ships and overseas in hotels. I decided that lifestyle was not for me, and ended up in New York City. I went back to school and got an MFA in creative writing, and started teaching at Rutgers, which I did for nine years. I realized, though, that I missed music, and singing, and nature. A friend brought me to Kriplau, and I felt so refreshed and rejuvenated there. I realized I’d been too far away from the natural world, and that I wasn’t serving my passions.

I ended up quitting the teaching job and moved to the Berkshires full time in 2010. I was a volunteer at Kripalu for a year. I lived there and took in all the yoga and kale I possibly could. That’s when I gave myself permission to get back to singing and my own writing.

Now I’m leading writing programs at Kripalu. I just finished co-leading a four-day seminar, Setting Intentions through Journaling and Creative Expression. I love teaching there. Guests are so open and willing to express themselves. I’m also hard at work on a new book, a memoir about leaving New York City for the Berkshires, and have written a historical novel about Paul Gauguin told from his wife’s point of view.

I feel lucky that I can explore my different passions here. I’m teaching an Arts Night Out at IS183 on Feb. 9., where we’ll be creating short and sweet valentines using six words. I’ll also be doing a five-week course on drafting the short story in March.

I met Bobby at Kriplau. For a while I was booking the music there, and kept booking him. We got married in September in Washington, Mass., where we live. There was torrential rain that day, but it was a lovely celebration, with lots of music and laughter under the tent, surrounded by woods and nature. I feel very much at home.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/28/18 at 05:14 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: John Carroll Lynch

Actor John Carroll Lynch, or as you may better know him, Norm Gunderson from the movie “Fargo,” Drew’s brother Steve on “The Drew Carey Show,” and Twisty the Clown on “American Horror Story: Freak Show” and “American Horror Story: Cult,” lives part-time near Millerton, New York. On Sunday, Jan. 28 and Monday, Jan. 29, The Moviehouse will screen Lynch’s directorial debut, last year’s critically acclaimed film “Lucky”. He’ll appear in person at Sunday’s screening to discuss the film.

My wife and I are in LA most of the time, but she is also an actress and was working in New York all the time. So we rented a house near Millerton and fell in love with the area. We decided to move there permanently four years ago. We go back and forth to the city and other places for work.

Lucky is really about a way of looking at life inside mortality, which we all face and share. He’s a man who has outlived everyone he knows, and is at the frontier of human mortality. He’s 90 years old; most people never get there. He’s on the edge of that question, and realizes he might not have all the time in the world. How do you deal with that in a way that makes sense? The movie is told with a lot of humor and heart, and I’ll be talking about that with the audience. It happened to be the last major role that Harry Dean Stanton ever played, and with him being a major legend, it was fitting for to him to have a major sendoff. He never saw the final product.

I’ve been filming in New York, but I spent the last three years working in Canada, Atlanta and LA, so it’s nice to be near home. I’m starting to write a movie now that I’ll direct.

The Moviehouse is my hometown movie theater, so it’s really nice to be able to share my first feature with the audience I spend the most time with. It’s nice to support places like the Moviehouse’s existence. The movie I made, and the ones I want to make, aren’t going to have nearly as much opportunity to be seen by audiences if not for them.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 01/22/18 at 10:48 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Marlow Shami

Photographer, artist and writer Marlow Shami, who lives in Goshen, Conn., conducts Nature as Healer workshops and talks. She specializes in the healing connection between humans and the natural world. Earlier in her career, she was the first female videographer at Channel 3, Hartford’s CBS affiliate, where she and Gayle King were nominated for a New England Emmy for a series they created together. She also co-produced an award-winning (and the first) documentary on battered women. Shami later began focusing on inner health and after studying yoga at an ashram, went back to school to get a master’s degree in ecopsychology. She will be leading a Mindful Eating Meditation and Nature Ramble at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield on Feb. 10.

I’ve been presenting nature and healing workshops for about 20 years. This upcoming presentation will focus on mindful eating, because that seems to be on the mind of lots of folks this time of year. It’s a great way to think about our eating habits and integrate meditation and nature, and what better place to do it than the White Memorial Conservation Center?

All of the presentations I give, no matter what kind, mix meditation along with experiential activities in nature. I’ve found that mindful stress reduction, ecopsychology and the science of energy medicine form the foundation of all of my workshops. I structure these talks to help people pull off the layers we acquire that sort of numb us to our life, the environment and our own inner wisdom. We are such a head-dominant culture. The brain is a blessing and a curse when it comes to memory. I like to say that we are a part of nature, not apart from nature. We can tap into its restorative power, but it is a challenge to do it intentionally.

Guided meditation helps to quiet the mind. What I ask people to do is go outside and follow their positive attraction. That might be a pool of light, a stream, a tree — anything in nature — and ask the entity for counseling on some issue in their lives. Then notice what comes up. Often it’s a metaphor that comes to us. There is such power in connecting with nature. But unless we’re really present, we miss so many opportunities to follow our path.

My original degree was a BFA from the University of Hartford, with a focus on video and photography. I’m now fusing those skills along with my ecopsychology and meditative background into art. I have two bodies of work: the Restoration series and Visual Memoir series. When I’m out in nature I take photos and during the cold months I work on them digitally, which is in itself a meditative process.

My partner and I live in a log cabin with a wraparound porch, on five acres of land. When we were looking for a home, we wanted something that gave us the feeling we’re on vacation, and that’s what we have. I can just walk down my driveway and hike right from here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/15/18 at 03:46 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Oskar Hallig

Oskar Hallig [left] and his husband, Michael Zippel [right], are the creative team behind Only In My Dreams Events. Hallig, a Mount Washington, Mass. native met the German Zippel while working in Berlin and the two moved to the Berkshires in 2001 to run The Hilltop House Bed & Breakfast. In 2013, after more than a decade at Iredale Mineral Cosmetics, Hallig thought it was time to revisit his teenage dream of running his own event company. Only In My Dreams specializes in non-profit fundraising events, and throws the annual gay pride dance party and cabaret held each June at The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. On Friday, Jan. 19, OIMD will bring the region something new and fabulous: The “Miss Nogood” Drag Pageant at The Barn at the Egremont Village Inn.

Recently I was looking through old papers, and back when I was in high school I’d started writing up plans for a business called Only In Your Dreams. I thought that name was a little too sassy, so I changed it to Only In My Dreams. I’ve always been an entertainer, and was always on non-profit boards and planning galas; that was my comfort zone. I grew up in a family in the television world — my dad was a TV producer — and I spent a lot of time at Tanglewood as a kid.

This June will be our third year hosting the big dance party/cabaret at the Colonial for gay pride month, and we always have a big drag component to it. To lead up to that, and to celebrate local queen Nancy Nogood’s dragiversary, we’re throwing the “Miss Nogood” Drag Pageant. Nancy and another local drag queen, Boxxa Vine, are hosting. Whomever wins will be entered into the “Miss Colonial” pageant at this year’s cabaret party on June 9.

The judges include Broadway star Alison Fraser, actor and comedian Shawn Hollenbach and Heather A. Thomson from The Real Housewives of New York City, as well as renowned New York City drag queens Gilda Wabbit and Gina Tonic. I reached out to some people I know to come in as judges, and Nancy found the participants. This is much more of a real show featuring drag queens, than it is just a night out at a bar with drag performers there in the background. The Barn is such an intimate space, and we’ve worked hard with them to bring you a truly fabulous evening.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 01/09/18 at 12:04 PM • Permalink

The Rural We: Val Shaff

Germantown, New York resident Val Shaff calls herself the “quintessential valley girl” — the Hudson Valley, that is. She grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson and went to Bard College before moving to New York City to start her career. Shaff specializes in photographing animals, capturing the “soul to soul” contact with every species from mouse to lion. She’s produced four books with humorist Roy Blount, Jr. (another RI-region resident), and has photographed animals for advertising accounts, fine art exhibitions and private commissions. Her compelling photographs are available at Hammertown stores as well as Canyon Ranch and online at her website. For Shaff, it’s all about connection with the animals. “Interspecies love is divine,” she says.

After college, I did whatever I could to make a living for quite a few years. I worked in the nightclub world, where I learned about shooting interiors, portraits and band pictures, and I did some projects in Italy. I fell into shooting children’s fashion, which gave me the income to buy my first house, in Greene County (New York). There I lived down the street from a classic, old-timey dairy farm. I started spending time photographing the animals, shooting with my Hasselblad and making large-format photos. I had so much fun doing it and got so into the zone, completely engrossed in watching the interaction of the animals. I started investigating other barns, too. At the time I was riding horses in the Rhinebeck area, and riders there wanted me to photograph their dogs. The dog portraits snowballed.

My collaboration with Roy Blount, Jr. happened because a literary agent had seen my portraits at the former Café Pongo in Tivoli. She wanted to publish them but needed the right writer to pair me with, and that was Roy. We did four books together, which Amazon picked as readers’ choice their first year in business. From that came a lot of work in advertising, celebrity work, book covers, even some photojournalism. I feel very blessed to have had a career in so many different worlds.

For me one thing has often lead to another. Jivamukti , the yoga school that I’d long been associated with asked me to photograph a celebrity cast of devoted animal lovers. I photographed Sting and Russell Simmons,  Mike Dee, Donna Karan and others all with the same sweet chihuahua available for adoption. It’s such a pleasure to meet all kinds of fascinating people in a moment of authenticity driven by our mutual love of the subjects at hand.

What I share with my patrons and my subjects is an appreciative moment of species-to-species, open-hearted recognition. I believe that my work in its intimacy and monumentalization of all creatures brings warmth and some recollection of the normalcy of living with animals.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/30/17 at 11:14 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Tambra Dillon

On New Year’s Day, Tambra Dillon takes the helm as Hudson Hall’s new executive director, having served as co-director for the past four years. Replacing the retiring Gary Schiro, who’s been leading the historic opera house’s revitalization for more than 20 years, is no small feat — but neither is shepherding the Hall’s major renovation project and reopening the fully restored performance hall, as she did earlier this year, with Schiro and their small, passionate staff.

Dillon has a long track record with esteemed nonprofit arts organizations. She worked at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Harvey Lichtenstein and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and was the executive director of the Bard Fisher Center. She says through her career she’s been focused on the idea that the arts can transform communities.

I had started volunteering for Gary when I was finishing my work with the dance company and he asked me to come on to work with him about four years ago. Since then it’s been just one amazing whirlwind. It’s been incredible.

It was time to talk about completing the vision for the building. Gary had secured two large grants that were going to expire so the question became: do we phase the project over time or do we just push really hard to raise the remainder to get to open? We decided to push. I wrote the ESD grant that got $1.3 million and we found out about the USDA financing. It was a fairly risky proposition. We were managing the risk but we were incurring a lot of debt over the long haul. But we knew it was a risk worth taking. Thankfully it ended up turning out really wonderfully.

Since reopening we’ve just been going from one thing to another. The building got bigger, the programming got bigger, but the staff hasn’t gotten any bigger. It’s a small enough staff that everyone does everything. It’s been a labor of love on everybody’s part to be able to accomplish so much.

This has always been the city’s town hall and we are interested to see what it means to continue to be the town hall. We are doing local community workshops and working with local artists to create things like “The Mother of Us All.” It’s about the people and the artists living in the community and responding to what’s happening in the region. This whole idea of local food, local art, local people, everything combines together to create a sense of place.

When I started working here I was really blown away by the community. Hudson is its own universe. It’s the most engaged community I’ve ever been in. People are vocal and have personalities. What’s great about Hudson is there’s room to be yourself and be a personality and be a little quirky. It’s like a family and I think the arts are a great equalizer when it comes to bringing people together.

As for what’s next, we are announcing the inaugural Hudson Jazz Festival. It’s a three-day festival in February that we intentionally scheduled over the Presidents’ Day weekend to try and address the off-season market. Armen Donelian is curating. We are really excited to share this with everyone. It’s going to be great.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 12/12/17 at 07:41 AM • Permalink

The Rural We: Jeni Wrightson

Jeni Wrightson is the new owner of Nourish Juice Bar in Red Hook, New York (formerly Get Juiced). Through her practice, Glorious Morning Wellness, she’s also a certified holistic health coach, specializing in confidence and self-love, which she says has a lot to do with food. But Wrightson is making more than organic cold-pressed juice — there are grain bowls, unique toast dishes and healthy lunch specials, all made with ingredients sourced from local farms including Gatherwild, where she lives with her fiancé Everett Kramer, a farmer. With her coaching and now her storefront, Wrightson is trying to empower women through healthy eating and positive self image. Her own positivity is infectious.

I was born in Niverville in Columbia County, one of five children. My family owned a health food store in Kinderhook, so the idea of food being medicine was always a part of my life. But in my teens and 20s, I struggled with disordered eating and had a really negative relationship with my body and the way I took care of myself. So food was totally the enemy for a really long time. Then I met my fiancé and he was the first person I really shared my struggles with. I realized I wanted to be truly healthy, so I changed my relationship to food. Once I did that, I knew I wanted to do that for others.

So the way I coach is really helping women reclaim their lives. And the first way you do that is by being the healthiest version of yourself you can be. You can eat all the kale in the world but if you’re in a career you hate or an abusive relationship no amount of kale is going to help you. You have to realize that you’re a whole person and there are all these different facets of life that aid your well being.

When I was studying at the Institute for Integrated Nutrition in 2014, we studied over 100 different dietary theories. They encourage you to try new things and one of them was juice. I ended up loving it and I juiced every single day, and if I didn’t juice I became really lethargic. I felt on top of the world when I was drinking juice consistently.

One of my personal mottos is that “self-love is a rebellious act.” There is so much in this world trying to get us to dislike ourselves so we can buy a product to feel good enough. I knew I wanted my business to be a place where women could come in and say, “I feel safe. I am myself. No one is pushing anything on me. No one is going to tell me I’m not good enough.”

As soon as I bought this place I knew that, as much as I love when men come in and drink juice and eat quinoa bowls, the truth is this is really for women. I’m doing this to say, this is a sisterhood. Whether I know you or not, if you come in here you are safe and this is about you making a rebellious act to love yourself, treat yourself and give yourself something that is really good for you. If you want to go out and eat a cheeseburger later, no judgment, I love cheeseburgers. Come in here, sit, meet other women. I want you to nourish your whole self and feel community, support and understanding — just show up as you.”

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 12/04/17 at 08:49 AM • Permalink