Paving New Roads

Paving New Roads

What? …in Mansfield!?

Just this time last year, I found myself asking this exact question. I was searching for my first “big kid job” and never would have thought I would find myself working and living in Mansfield, Ohio. Being a native Clevelander, I’ve witnessed first-hand the trials and tribulations of the Northeastern area. However, the City of Cleveland has miraculously found a way to pull itself up by the bootstraps and make changes for the better. All of the passion, hard work, determination, and faith of local leaders, as well as that of area residents, have invested into the revitalization of the 216 have turned CLE into one of America’s hottest cities. I see many of the same characteristics and patterns happening here in Mansfield/Richland County and sincerely believe that this piece of North Central Ohio is a true gem. It also has the potential to gain national recognition… for all the right reasons.

Change can be difficult

To reinvent one’s self is a tremendous struggle. Think about all the times you’ve tried to drastically change your diet, your exercise routine, etc. From a health behavior and psychological perspective, humans are very good at setting goals but have difficulty achieving them. While we may experience small successes, these are usually short-run bursts that sputter out before real change happens. Long-term, sustained change is tremendously difficult to attain, however, this well-researched area of human behavior has identified eight primary reasons why we cannot grasp and hold on to our goals:
  1. We are motivated by negative emotions.
  2. We get trapped by thinking/believing fallacies.
  3. We try to “eat the entire elephant” at one time.
  4. We neglect the tools/resources available to us.
  5. We try to change too much.
  6. We underestimate the process of change.
  7. We forget that failure is usually a given.
  8. We don’t make a commitment to change.

We can all achieve change

The key to success is making the new behaviors rewarding. Two approaches to this strategy are increasing reward with personal sources of value (i.e., linking the new behavior with core values and beliefs that are central to an individual’s identity) and increasing reward with social value (i.e., leveraging social norms and interpersonal relationships to increase the importance of the goal). Both of these methods have an advantage over tangible forms of value, such as money, because they can be far more enduring and universal. Money has the ability to run out and does not have the same meaning for all people, but we all have a set of core values and care deeply about our social ties. These characteristics are what make the City of Mansfield/Richland County community so special, unique, and meaningful.

Vision, leadership and commitment

The residents of this community are incredibly generous and have a grand sense of pride for the area that they live in. I constantly hear the locals expressing to me that they think the City of Mansfield/Richland County is a great place to live, yet, there is always a “but…” that follows. The theme of the “but…” seems to be that the area is a great place to be, BUT we’re at the precipice of being excellent, we’re just not “there yet.” The “want” and the “drive” to see the Renaissance of the community is there, however, we need to do more as a cohesive collaborative effort to make this dream come to fruition. This is going to take vision, leadership, and commitment from all sectors of the local community. And although these positive changes will take an incredible amount of time and effort, there’s no better time than the present to get involved in the regeneration of our community.

The Road Ahead

During the 12-months I’ve lived and worked here in Mansfield/Richland County, I’ve had the pleasure to observe and be a part of our area’s transformation. I am incredibly impressed with the activities, resources, programs, and local organizations/businesses this area has to offer. There is never a day or a night of the week where I can’t find anything to do in the City of Mansfield/Richland County. Yet, there is still work to do to ensure the continued success of our community. Paving these new roads is simultaneously exciting and exhausting labor. However, keep in mind that change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end. If the City of Cleveland can go from “The Mistake on the Lake” to “Believeland,” I have no doubt in my mind that the City of Mansfield can change its perception as “Danger City” to “Dreamfield” in the not too distant future.
Honoring your story

Honoring your story

Growing up, I was very sheltered. At eighteen, I decided that my life was to include going to college then graduate school, have a career, a husband, a house, and kids. I found myself feeling fairly prepared for my upcoming life that included being a United States Senator by the time I was 35. From there, I assumed that everything else would just fall into place. That was going to be my story.

But it didn’t happen that way. Not at all.

I was told I could achieve anything I set my mind to. However, I faced a very different reality. I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say that the plot took unexpected twists and turns, and at the age of twenty-seven, I was facing a divorce with no back-up plan. To make matters worse, my grandmother passed away, leaving me without her wisdom and support during the time I needed her most. I felt ill-equipped for the task at hand.

I began to honor their story.

At that point, I viewed my story as a series of terrible events that were happening to me. I felt helpless, lost, and unstable. As I looked in the faces of my three sons and daughter who were 4, 5, 6 and 7 years old, I fully understood the gravity of every decision that I would make for years to come. If I couldn’t fix my own story, what about theirs?

Almost swallowed up whole by what I was missing, I decided to focus on what I had and a new story line immediately started to emerge. I could hear my mother’s voice, “Deanna, this too shall pass.” My father’s reminders came to mind: “Don’t reach a destination only to realized that you’ve missed the journey.” My grandmother’s voice resonated from inside of me, “Don’t wait for anyone to do it for you, fulfill yourself.” My grandfather, until his death in 2010 on Christmas Day, was always my champion and stayed close enough to remind me constantly that I was the latest in a long line of very strong women. “You come from some tough women, you can handle anything, Gal, it’s all inside.”

I was the main character in my own story.

I realized then, that I was never an insignificant character just existing among 7 billion others. This set of circumstances was all mine. No one had ever, or would ever experience this story again. So, I stepped into my role as the powerful main character, and changed every chapter from then on.

I began to make things happen. I embraced my role and responsibility as mother and making certain that my own children knew their own gifts and talents were tools to navigate through life’s uncertain challenges. We spent time daily, naming their gifts and uncovering my missteps so they wouldn’t repeat them. With intention, I taught them that they were main characters in their own stories. Now at 23, 24, 25 and 27 years old, they’ve all made it safely to adulthood, no worse for the wear.

I never became a Senator, but I did serve in public office. At the age of thirty, I served on City Council on a local level, even with four children in tow. I’ve had a very fulfilling career that has afforded the privilege of supporting many other women in similar situations. My career has been a more significant part of my story than I ever would have imagined. If given the chance, I wouldn’t re-write a single line.

By observing my own life from some distance, I am better positioned to receive the lessons for me in every single experience in the course of a day. I embrace my complimentary roles as both the main character, and the author of my own story.   I honor it by consciously using and sharing the lessons I’ve learned and the words of wisdom I’ve collected along my journey. I realize that with each day, and with each better decision I make, I am writing a new, and even better chapter.


New Year, New Perspective

New Year, New Perspective

“I want to be a secretary like my mom.” As a child, that was my response every time someone had asked what I wanted my future career to be. Like many children, I aspired for my life to reflect those around me… after all, that was what I knew.

Whether I lacked creativity, bravery or just knowledge, I never imagined a career outside of the walls I had grown up with.

Even in high school, after a tragedy struck my family, I was surrounded by local advocates and I still had imagined myself growing up to be just like them.

Fast forward to today

Mom Betsy (L) and Dad Jim (R) with Traci Willis

I graduated from The University of Findlay in April of 2016. While enrolled I quickly changed my major to social work, I aligned myself with a diverse community of students and I learned to question the status quo.

At 21, Steve Jobs started Apple. What was once entirely Microsoft-driven was being questioned and replaced with newer, personalized machines. Jobs had realized that he was equally as smart as those before him and, over the span of about 40 years, he had led Apple to becoming 2016’s third-ranked Fortune 500 company.

A wise, innovative man once said,

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is…

Your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That is a very limited life.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you.

But you can change it.

You can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

—Steve Jobs

My Intention: ACTION!

My adventure began simply with a phone call to State Representative Mark Romanchuk and an invitation to get coffee. While there, I told him that I could see potential for our city and I wanted to get further involved. He provided me with a list of about 20 local advocates and I began making phone calls that week.

By about my third phone call, I had already received a guided tour of downtown Mansfield (Jenni Paramore), an invitation to Mind Body Align Coffee Talks (Donna Payne), and a possible opportunity with Downtown Mansfield Inc. (Jamie Thompson).

My Intention: show up and lead

Since then, I led the movement to create an event in the Brickyard for International Overdose Awareness Day. I began participating in a variety of meetings and networking opportunities, and I accepted an AmeriCorps position serving with Downtown Mansfield Inc.

In addition, I was offered the opportunity to serve as a chair member of the Richland Young Professionals and was invited to participate on the board of the Starfish Project of Richland County.

Similar to when I was a child, I had taken everything I experienced as truth. A few years ago, I had never questioned a career outside of what I believed, as a woman, my life could be.

And last year, I began to question why Mansfield was never a consideration for where I could live after college. I had always been instructed to leave Mansfield and, unfortunately, the majority of my high school friends have moved or are intending to move away. But, since I have done the opposite, I am often confronted with the question:

Why are you still here?

So here is my answer: I am in Mansfield again because up until now, I knew nothing positive of my hometown.

I had once believed that Mansfield was a black hole and, once I settled, I could never leave. I had the perspective that I could never amount to anything here and I would have to move away to find opportunities or a successful career.

However, the sole reason I believed that is because I had grown up with it. I had heard someone say each of the statements above and, unfortunately, I took that to be true.

Mansfield is “The Field” of opportunity!

Until about seven months ago, when out of pure curiosity, I made a phone call and scheduled a coffee date. Since then, what I’ve realized is that Mansfield is great. It is full of opportunities, it is full of hard workers, and it is a community that, I believe, I could not find elsewhere. After three phone calls, I would have never been offered a personally guided tour of the city, nor would I have found the opportunities that Mind Body Align offers. And most importantly, I would not have had the opportunity to participate, hands-on, in the revitalization effort of my hometown.

While transitioning to where I am now, I kept saying that, eventually, if I remained active in the community, I would become a part of the circle of advocates. However, what I’ve learned, is that it isn’t a circle, or a clique or even a neighborhood. Rather, there is a community within Mansfield determined to maximize the city to its ultimate potential and they are always looking for more supporters to challenge, with them, the status quo.

Similar to the article posted two weeks ago by Jodie Perry, President of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce and Guest Columnist for the News Journal. Jodie expressed that her hometown of Rochester, NY, experienced a similar period of struggle. However, with time and a change of perspective, they have revitalized. When she confronted her hometown for advice to help Mansfield, they responded with a “simple, yet groundbreaking response – they worked together, stopped accepting the status quo and took a few risks”.

A beginners mind

Great things are possible and, with a beginner’s mind, there are many solutions. Please don’t encourage the youth to leave our city, rather offer to take them on a tour.

Show them the history and the resiliency of those who reside here, as well as the determination of those who are investing and looking to recreate.

Talk about the opportunities that Mansfield has, the cheap living options and the convenient location between Cleveland and Columbus. And lastly, show them a community that has been hiding in plain sight for years.

As a New Year’s resolution, find someone who has been entrenched in the negativity of Mansfield and, please, invite them to participate in something meaningful. Prove to them that, despite negative reputation, Mansfield is somewhere worth considering.

I am here because I believe in our city’s potential, why are you?

I am Human

I am Human

I happen to be a female. I had a 50% chance of being born that way and the majority of the time that’s my only thought about the fact that I am a female.  That might sound odd, but I was raised by parents who told me I could do anything that I decided to do, and the fact that I am a female never entered into the conversation.  Using my talents and doing good were the ideas we focused on.  So, it stands to reason that I spend little time factoring my gender into any equation.  There is nothing to prove because I am a woman.  I am a human.

The assertive womanreally?

The circumstances that have allowed me to NOT consider my gender are significant though. Born to my parents, in this country and in the time I live, I have been blessed with great, and good fortune.  I’ve been afforded opportunities by women who HAD to take their gender into consideration every day to get through their daily lives; women who fought for every single right I enjoy today that I don’t even think about in passinguntil I’m asked to reflect on being a woman in a man’s world.

I’m standing on their shoulders for sure.  However, there is certainly more work to do, as somehow, by virtue of biology, a woman’s work contribution is valued less than a man’s. The glass ceiling exists! An assertive woman is called a (not nice name), but a man is considered powerful for the same trait… and there are more. Every single one of these things drives me crazy! I hear my mother say, “Leave a situation better than what you found it.” So, the work continues.

A world view of women

Globally, we know that women suffer mightily at the hands of men.  The stories we hear are shocking, sickening and saddening.  What can we possibly do to change the circumstances for those half a world away?

I believe we can be role models and citizens of the world. We must continue to pursue our equal rights and gender equality here in our home town, our lives, and our world.  I believe that we each have a sphere of influence and that we must use it for good. It doesn’t matter the size of the sphere, it matters what we do with it.

Perhaps, although maybe not in our lifetime, the efforts we put forth today will allow many to stand on our shoulders for many tomorrows.  One day, we may all be just humans in a human world.

Embracing Change

Embracing Change

I have always wanted to be a doctor. Looking back, I realize what an incredible blessing it was to know I would be a doctor. It set a vision in my mind that had no other alternative! I would be a doctor. Now I realize that having that vision so young created a mindset that would allow me to focus and get it done.

Fast forward a few years.

Life finds ways of repeating patterns. What fascinates me on this life journey is how we can learn and grow if we allow ourselves to do so! Over the past 5 years, I found my medical practice in a place that wasn’t conducive to the quality of patient care I expected from myself. The “business” of medicine was changing so much that although I was adapting— the path was not sustainable.

Reimbursements are not made for spending time with patients; focusing on prevention and nutrition; optimizing care and not just sustaining health. I needed to change if I wanted my practice to change.

I made a decision and set a date.

Without knowing all the details, I moved forward with closing my traditional, successful practice of 12 years. The details came together with a lot of due diligence and expectation. I opened my new practice in downtown Mansfield as a completely new business. The joy and fulfillment I get from being able to practice medicine with a true patient focus is such a reward for the pains of the journey. One thing I have found personally and in the lives of patients… making a decision is freedom and indecision can be torture.

Being grateful for the process of change is key.

There will be great moments and very low moments. Learn to be grateful for those moments as part of the process and knowing that it is allowing personal growth. I believe that we live in a place that allows us to grow as much as we push ourselves to grow. If we stay open to what can happen in our life, we are much more likely to see opportunities present that allow us to get it done! When you are grateful for every step of the journey, it allows you to believe that there is so much more coming your way to be grateful for.

Navigating transitions in life goes exactly the direction that you set in motion. It doesn’t mean it is easy or without challenges. It takes commitment and optimism. Not just, “let me give this a try” but “I’m getting this done.” Taking the excuses off the table. Not allowing nay sayers to affect you. Taking missteps as learning experiences. Being grateful for the process. In so many places in life, I have seen that the only failure is in quitting. Everything else is just a chance to get better!


My story of being an innovator and entrepreneur

My story of being an innovator and entrepreneur

HospitalBedWhen asked to write a blog on Innovation/Innovator, my first thought was how does Webster’s define it?

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noun | in·no·va·tion | ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən:

A new method, idea, product, etc.

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A person who introduces new methods, ideas, products, etc. or makes changes in anything already established.

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After thinking about this I would like to share a little bit of my story of being an innovator and an entrepreneur. All companies start from either a great idea or a necessity.

Innovator and entrepreneur–Global Medical Foam, Inc. is a bit of both.

My terminally ill husband had a rare form of terminal thyroid cancer that metastasized to his spinal cord with 13 tumors that were very painful for him. Using the skills I had acquired in nursing school, I was determined to not let him develop a pressure ulcer (bed sore). I developed a product to help with off-loading (keeping body weight off) the tumors  and the doctors and nurses loved it. Fortunately, I had a great idea, but now the challenge was in figuring out what to do with it!

I had managed to wrap up the intellectual property I generated while developing the product and I had identified sources for all my materials. However, I didn’t have a clue as to how to start a company, make and handle inventory, market the product, and meet payroll. In a nutshell I stepped off the deep end and formed Global Medical Foam, Inc.

Without any formal training in product development, I researched cushioning materials, identified a grade of polyurethane foam suitable for the project, and experimented with ways of making it even softer by creating “fingers” in the foam with deep peaks and valleys to aid in proper positioning. I was able to produce several of the devices that were used on my husband as well as some other patients in similar circumstances.  Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to also patent the design features of my device.

One of the assets that I brought into my own company was passion and a voracious appetite for information. I was growing organically, totally on my own.

The banks didn’t want to give me a business loan.

What did I know about business?

I needed to mortgage the house, which is what I did because I believed in what I was doing, and I had a passion to help people. I asked lots of questions of lots of people in the medical field and other business owners:

  • How to handle patent attorneys
  • How to manage cash flow
  • How to build inventory and manage it
  • Who to target for sales of my product
  • Methods of distribution
  • Pricing

These are just a few of the categories that I was able to wrap my arms around and begin to grow. I found myself filling the role of CEO, COO, CFO and everything else down to the housekeeping. Yet, I was able to expand my product line to an excess of over fifty different sku’s. I also did all the marketing and found success in Ohio nursing homes, long term care facilities and rehabilitation centers. We now sell to the Cleveland Clinic, and was asked if we could ship our products to the Cleveland Clinic in Dubai!

Recognized for innovation.

The Cleveland Clinic Wound Care Team submitted Global Medical Foam, Inc for the NAWBO Innovative Visionary Award in 2014.

You know you are a successful innovator/entrepreneur when you present your thoughts or ideas to someone and they say “Why didn’t I think of that?” you then know you are a innovator. The meaning of Innovation to me is exactly what Webster’s describes it as, but in addition; I believe innovation is in the everyday life things. We are innovators every day.

All the things mentioned previously are about innovation, however, after being widowed for 20 years I found a soul mate, Larry my fiancé, my love. I never believed I could love so deeply.

Heartbreak and innovation.

Then, Feb. 2, 2015 just over a year ago Larry had a massive heart attack at the end of our driveway and passed away.

I was devastated. I checked out for 3 months, unable to go to work, to be innovative, or face the world again.

What I learned through all of this was that I had built a business that had sustained itself without me being there for 3 months and I had been blessed with a wonderful staff who loved me and loved what they were doing.  THEY kept the business running that I had built.

When I think and feel the words—innovation, innovative, innovator—I think of how I had to be all those things within myself to bring myself back around to the innovation that developed Global Medial Foam, Inc. It has been a journey of a lifetime. We have been featured in:

  • Columbus Dispatch
  • Columbus CEO Magazine
  • Ostomy Wound Management
  • Innovation Visionary Award News Letter
  • Mansfield News Journal
  • Richland Area Chamber of Commerce Newsletter
  • Small Business of the Year Award Entrepreneurial Category

We are all innovative/innovators, we just need to sit back and analyze that word within ourselves. The reality of life is that you deal with your circumstances as they come to you.

“Man/Woman’s mind stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes

There are many ways to measure success but in the final analysis of life, it’s how you measure it for yourself that truly counts.

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