Ileana Ramirez:Mother of Three, MBA, Military Wife, Professional Singer, Amateur World Traveler

Our next interviewee was nominated by the lovely Lex Weinstein, whom we interviewed a few weeks back.  Ileana is Lex’s sister and judging by their genes, inspiration runs through their families.  They are leading very different but equally inspiring lives.  It is amazing to read Ileana’s picture of her family, I just returned from a very non-glamorous weekend in New York City where I spent time with my dear family. Sitting at the gate, feeling drained after seeing my 93 year old abuelita living with Alzheimer’s in a hilarious and beautifully tragic way.  Hilarious because the way in which her illness is manifesting these days is by her singing non-stop (yes, even in her sleep sometimes!), which can be quite funny.  Her humming is soothing and often times she sang songs that are quite popular and I just couldn’t help myself to join her secretly, although an hour into the same song I admit I wanted to run out of the house and just scream off the top of my lungs, which I tried doing but the -3• weather stop me cold!  That was the funny party.  The tragic aspect of it was seeing my favorite person in the world living in a 93 year old body, dependent, like a child, skinnier and without her admirable grace moving through life.  Her pride, her strong temper and love, her beauty and perfectly styled hair, all of that is mostly gone but it was undoubtedly passed on to me.  There is so much of her in me that sometimes I feel as if I’m not only living my own life, but continuing this amazing story without really knowing the beginning or without even knowing WHO started writing it.  I feel as if my life is not only a life in which I should “accomplish certain things”, become a professional, have my home, family, and all of those things that us humans do, but I feel as if I’m the writer and main character of this story that began with the women before me and will continue with those coming after me.  This is a great responsibility, it is a beautiful responsibility that I decide to embrace with the purpose of making my part of the story a pretty amazing one, one which a niece or granddaughter will look at one day and say “my great-great grandmother was fucking awesome!”.  Even though I was helping my grandmother walk up and down stairs, she made sure she left a great story for me to follow, she left me wondering what can I do to make this even better?  What life can I live to honor this woman and all these badass women that came before me?

My grandmother made being a mother, being a wife and being a proud Tupperware saleswoman a very, very glamorous life.  I remember her meetings with 30+ other beautifully dressed homemakers, they had tea, coffee, pastries and discussed the latest lids on these seemingly almighty containers in my grandmother’s living room, under the light of a beautiful chandelier that made it all feel as in a 1920’s ballroom.  She a power to make her middle-class life seem so glamorous, so blessed, so fabulous… She was a stay at home mom, but her ability to be the best at that not only had me wanting to be like her when I grew up, but once I did get older, inspired me to write one of my papers for Michael Taussig’s class at Columbia University on her life.  It still has me wanting to travel in minu zero degree weather to join her in humming songs.  Ileana’s interview came in at a perfect time for me as I reflect on life, it is a beautiful celebration of family, love and a major purpose.

Name: Ileana Ramirez

Profession or Passion: Mother of Three, MBA, Military Wife, Professional Singer, Amateur World Traveler

Where are you from? Virginia Beach, VA, USA

What or who inspired you to do what you do?

As a child I was inspired by the women in my family.  We had this large Cuban family with lots of cousins and a lot of complicated love and a history of hardship and tragedy.  My grandmother, my mother, and her four sisters were at the helm of everything.  My father was the mouthpiece of my family, but as I grew up I understood that my mother was the real foundation, the silent strength behind everything.

We were taught how to dress, walk, and carry ourselves with confidence and class.  We dressed up to travel, like they used to in the fifties and sixties.  My mother had this classic idea about education: you play an instrument, speak foreign languages, study art and poetry, and read a lot.  My father believed in public education, but my mother would still get the reading lists from the fancy private schools and track down all those books from the library. I read Tolkien, the Bronte sisters, Shakespeare, Dickens, Thoreau, Hemingway, tons and tons, all before finishing high school.

I met my husband in college and knew almost immediately that he was the love of my life.  I remember thinking, “I’m eighteen and I just met the man I’m going to marry. I’m totally screwed.”  I had been thinking of joining the Peace Corps when I graduated, but there I was, this independent feminist in love with this guy with this incredibly demanding career.  Women talk about husbands and families as these burdensome anchors that hold them back, but that was never the case for me.  My husband always said he’d quit any time I wanted something else.  He has said yes to every project, job, or baby I’ve ever wanted, and we’ve traveled around a lot to satisfy my desire to see the world.  The year after my first child was born I worked for a nonprofit and got my MBA.  The year after my second child was born, we moved to Japan and traveled through six countries in the Pacific to meet my husband on various port calls.  Most of the time, I was traveling alone in foreign countries with two small children.  My third child is two months old, and we are moving to Italy in a week.  Together, we are getting to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

As a major goal, what would you like the impact of your work to be?

Right now, my primary job is to nurture children who can grow up to be beautiful, ethical adults with the creativity, intelligence, work ethic, and gumption to solve some of the serious problems our society faces.  I believe that is the moral imperative of raising children.  But being pregnant and giving birth in the United States has also inspired me to advocate for women’s health.  The medicalization of birth in the U.S. has largely been a failure, with some of the worst outcomes for mothers and babies in the industrialized world.  We spend more money per capita than any other country, and yet our mother and infant mortality rates are frighteningly high, and our methods of reporting maternal mortality are insufficient.  I want to devote the next stage of my life to fixing these problems.

If you could publish an autobiography, how would you title it?

“A white line, painted on the sand and on the ocean, from me to you.”

It’s a quote from Everything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is funny because that book’s title is taken from a quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  Foer talks a lot about “the ghosts, the spaces amid love,” and I can really identify with that. I mean, sheesh, I’m a military wife, so I know all about distance.  But we all operate under the illusion that we are separate, that injuring another living creature doesn’t injure us as well.  I was always the translator in my family, trying to close the distance between people, and maybe that’s why I love languages and cultures and travel so much.  Empathy and experience are the antidote to loneliness.

What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

This moment doesn’t define you as a person.  You’re going to have moments where you are brilliant and engaged and proud of your work.  You’re also going to have moments where you are in mourning or exhausted or just uninspired.  This moment isn’t everything; it’s just a moment.  In a few years when you are doing nothing but nursing a newborn for three months straight, don’t count the seconds ticking by. You’re not always saving the world; sometimes you’re just living, and that’s beautiful and important too.

In just one sentence, describe your “dream life”? 

I travel constantly, speak half a dozen languages, defend marginalized people, read voraciously, go on adventures with my children, fight for justice, wear fabulous clothing, run, practice yoga, paint, sing, learn something new every day, and pursue interior decorating as a hobby.

What is your choice of each of the following:

  • A song

“My Father’s Gun” by Elton John.  It’s such a strange song; an 1865 Confederate soldier’s story written by a Brit a hundred years later.  In general, I love the epic storytelling power of rock ballads, but this song’s also about how we inherit a legacy of loves, losses, failures, and history and how that stuff makes up the lens through which we tell our own stories.

  • A place

Engakuji Temple, Kamakura, Japan.  I had just moved to Japan and was anxious to see some of the beautiful spiritual history there.  Kamakura is full of Shinto and Buddhist temples, but we’d heard especially good things about Engakuji, so we walked several miles, pushing strollers of course, up this hill on this busy roadside, until we practically collapsed into this beautiful Zen temple with groves of bamboo and hiking trails and a stillness that only exists in places where monks are the custodians.  I nursed my three-month-old and saw, in the reflection of his eyes looking up at me, the sun shining through the bamboo leaves, and felt the infinite bliss brush past me for a moment.

  • An inspiring woman in history

Alice Paul was an American suffragette in the early 20th century who was imprisoned and tortured by her own government for advocating for women’s voting rights.  She led masses of women in hunger strikes from prison, and when they couldn’t get her to voluntarily eat, her captors force-fed her using brutal methods.  She shined a light on her government’s hypocrisy, and fought against her own marginalization.

 

Taline Gabrielian, Mother, Food Entrepeneur & Founder of Hippie Lane

It’s very exciting to see what’s going on with food these days, just by taking a quick look at Instagram, our mouths are watering at scrumptious foods that are handcrafted to perfection using only the freshest, healthiest and ethically sourced options available, often times taking previously non-traditional, but very trendy routes such as gluten-free and vegan ingredients.  Taline Gabrielian not only masters to create beautiful and exquisite sweet treats, but she throws in her love for fashion and style into the mixture.  The result: Treats with Edge, as her website Hippie Lane perfectly describes them.  With a solid figure of 260K Instargam followers, her work and presence in any healthy eats-related hashtag and conversation is influential, to say the least.

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After being diagnosed with food intolerances, Taline Gabrielian turn that little challenge into a major life-changing career.  Her sweet tooth and cravings for healthy treats lead her to play around, making dairy, eggs, sugar and nuts-free recipes.  Each of her Instagram posts with appetizing pictures of her treats was followed by countless questions, positive feedback and a demand for more, which gave her the confidence to develop the Hippie Lane app, reaching record-breaking sales in no time.

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Interestingly, Taline’s academic background is in counseling and she holds a master’s in teaching.  She also worked as a waitress, in retail, at an office and even as a barista. Sooooo relatable! How many of us haven’t worked at least one of these jobs (if not all!) to get by.  In another interview, Taline explains “my followers led the way, and I just followed suit“, which only confirms my theory that if we embrace life challenges -such as a food intolerance diagnosis-

if we just let go, life takes us to wonderful places.

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She has graciously created a healthy, active, successful and very photogenic life for us to admire and get some inspiration to do our own thing,  do more of what makes us happy. Taline gave us 5 minutes of her time to answer a few questions:

One of your favorite HippieLane moments:

Landing the raw wagon wheel recipe that I was working so hard to master.

If you could teach your children one MOTTO to live by, what would it be?

Whatever you do, do it with passion

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How would you title your autobiography?

Pay Attention.

What is one thing you can’t go to sleep without doing?

Planning the next day

A dish you enjoy making

My breakfast bowls

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A place where you feel happy

In nature

A woman who inspires you

Christine Centenera, Vogue Magazine

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Thank you, Taline <3

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Melissa – Food & Travel Blogger @girleatworld

Name: Melissa

Profession or Passion:  By day an IT solutions consultant, by night @girleatworld

What or who inspired you to do what you do?
A lot of instagrammers who started from the bottom, especially those who only use simple cameras to shoot their pictures. It reminds me that most of us actually have the means to do something great too!

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What hobbies do you enjoy?
Food, Travel and Photography – I think it’s easy to see how @girleatworld came about from there 🙂

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If you publish a book, how would you title it?
Bacon – why it is so good

What piece of advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
Worry less, travel more

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Briefly describe your dream life and how you plan to achieve it?
One day, I won’t be desk bound for my job and be a digital nomad. I have a few things I need to take care of first before I can do that so for the time being, I am trying to learn as much as I can from my corporate job before I can go on my own.

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Besides your hobbies, do you have any routines, rituals or practices that help you keep focused and motivated (meditation, spiritual practice, affirmations, etc.)?
I try to run every other day for at least twenty minutes

Your choice of
A song – Let it be by John Lennon
A place – Shimokitazawa in Tokyo
Any inspiring woman – Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads

Lex Weinstein: Creative Director, Wave Dancer, Blogger. U.S.A. & Australia.

 

What or who inspired you to do what you do? Probably a combination of my Grandmother and my sister, with no disrespect to my Mother who is one of my greatest inspirations. But my Grandma Ruth worshipped her Grandchildren and showered us with love in a way that only a grandmother can.

She made us believe that life was ours for the taking and that we were perfect, infallible gifts from God who could do anything, make anything, be anything.

Alongside my brilliant sister who has lived her entire life not giving a second thought to anyone else’s judgements of her, shining in the face of adversity and manifesting a life and a family that most people would never imagine possible for themselves, I’d say I had some pretty great role models writing their own “create your dream life” manifesto which inspired me to do the same.

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Do you have any routines, rituals or practices that help you keep focused and motivated — Every morning I wake up with my partner around 6am and we do our “5 steps for happiness” before getting out of bed:

1. Express gratitude

2. Forgive ourselves for something from yesterday

3. Set an intention for today

4. Take three deep breaths

5. Smile for no reason!

Then we go to the beach for either a surf or a run/workout/yoga practice + meditation. I try to meditate for 10-20 minutes every morning or before I go to bed 4-5 days a week. I honestly believe that just a few minutes of silence and gratitude each day can change your entire outlook on life.

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What would be the title to a book about your life?

The first thing that popped into my mind — “Chasing Stardust” haha! It may sound like a cliche hippy title but it actually has a lot of meaning for me. My whole life I’ve been so driven, but not in the same sense as my fellow, career driven American peers, fighting to be the best or the smartest or make the most money out of college. I’m not driven to achieve, I’m driven to be inspired; to be blown away, to see new things and take chances, to have my intuition challenged and my values tested, to dance in the moonlight, skinny dip in foreign seas, have my heart broken only to fall in love in the most unexpected sense and mend it again…anything that makes me feel alive, as though I am immersed in the magic of the universe, dancing amongst the total unpredictability of life — THAT is what I crave. And I just really love David Bowie 🙂

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What advice would you give to your 20 year old self? GO FOR IT! Don’t be scared, don’t hide behind the falsities of “security”, learn to know yourself by thriving in the land of the unknown.

Are you living your dream life? Absoutely

A song you love – Well since I already mentioned my Bowie obsession, I’ll go with “Space Oddity,” a song about venturing into the unknown for fear of the complacent alternative.

 

Vicki Archer: Writer

 

Name & Place of Origin

Vicki Archer, Australia

Life accomplishments 
I like to think of myself as a work in progress but to date my greatest accomplishments are those of wife, mother and friend.
I have been involved in the fashion business, published a couple of books and I write a lifestyle blog dedicated to all things French. Into the mix add a life long passion for building and renovation. Continue Reading…

Miya Ando-Artist

For self-inspiration, your choice of…

A place – Any place that combines forest and ocean, my favorites are Big Sur, Miyajima, Kauai & Bali – of course my hometowns, Santa Cruz and Okayama
A song –Tears from the Compound Eye by Boards of Canada.
A dish – grilled shishito pepers
An inspiring woman – I feel really blessed to have so many amazing women around me, but I think mostly my big sister, Aviva Stanoff, she is an incredibly strong, creative, beautiful and kind soul. Continue Reading…

Jessica Barensfeld

Name & Place of Origin
Jessica Barensfeld. I go by Jessie.
Cincinnati, OH (birth-12) NYC (12-now)

Life accomplishments {or goals if still in the making }
Creating a happy life (waking up and truly being happy with my life). Realizing I’ll never get away from myself and in turn accepting me and going with it (I’d say in honesty I’m 80% there). Surrounding myself with beautiful friends who inspire me and enrich my life like a garden. Starting a business when I could barely pay rent amidst a recession (still struggling but every month seems a touch better – we’ll see). Pushing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable – are risky but feel right. Continue Reading…

Natasha Sagardia-Bodyboarding World Champion

 

Name & Place of Origin
Born in Argentina, in a city called Rio Cuarto. My home is Puerto Rico, but I feel I belong to the world.

Accomplishments

Stay at Puerto Rico by myself at 16 years old with the dream of becoming Bodyboarding world champion, which I achieve in 2008.  My biggest accomplishment wasn’t the result, it was the way I walked to achieve the dream.  I feel so strong and powerful after all the process I went through. I never gave up school, I graduated from college with honors, I traveled the world competing and was married and divorced thought that time. I worked as a clown, landscaping and as a bartender before 16 and after all that adventure I maintained my essence. Continue Reading…