One thing that I have done in the past and still continue to do that makes me feel strong inside is creating and accomplishing goals. I think after several break ups and heart breaks, including losing my grandmother and aunt in the same year, I realized setting goals and working towards them has helped me feel stronger inside. To accomplish something after a tough time is like opening a new chapter in my life. I remember a time when I thought I was about to lose everything. I went into a deep depression for a month or so. One day, I woke up and started creating goals for myself. Within that year, I graduated college, built my career in the corporate industry and in the modeling industry. So now a days, when things don’t go according to plan in my life, I use my goals as a way out, a way to mend wounds and a way to feel more alive.

I think the message that I really want to bring to others is that, you just have to keep pushing yourself to become a greater you. It could be small goals like finally visiting that city you’ve always wanted to see or applying to the job you’ve always wanted. To just take that first step and know you’ve finally tried will always make you feel stronger than ever. It’s like you’ve faced your fears and jumped.



“What makes me feel strong are the twenty-four years that I have been in business – and it makes me feel strong that I’m a woman and I can do this type of work in a field that is  mostly dominated by men. I have sacrificed a lot of time and energy and a personal life for my business and having it work and seeing that I am finally being recognized in the industry on an international level and knowing that I can employ people and give them a livable wage – THAT makes me feel strong. I think all in all I worked really hard to get to a place where I’m very proud of what I do and and I enjoy what I do. It’s not really work, it’s more of a lifestyle and being in the studio and working and being creative and appreciated for it – it’s a wonderful life. Going to the job site yesterday when I saw the work we completed together on the project – after many months of working on it – I said to myself wow I did that – and that makes me feel strong.”

*Kathy is a master craftswoman, who is world renown for her skills in employing the scagliola technique, which is a technique of creating architectural elements that are indistinguishable from marble  – using industrial plasters and silk.”

you can can view her work at: http://scagliola.com/about-wells-vissar/



“I was actually just sitting down to watch a comedy one day to take my mind off of things that were stressing me out. I didn’t expect to gain much more than like a few laughs watching this movie – this one off experience. But I was actually really touched by a line in the movie and it reminded me of strength or opened my eyes to why it’s important to be strong. The movie was about a struggling artist and she was in theater and she was working with kids and she was talking to the kids about what they want to be known for. She asked these kids: “this is your one and only life, what do you want people to know about it?” This was really eye opening to me because I thought about all of these times when I struggle in situations with my family when I don’t want to talk to them and I don’t want to share any experiences about my life with them because I often don’t have much good to say about my life. It broke my heart to hear that sentence in that comedy because I thought about how much I had been avoiding that question and how weak I have been in that. I thought to myself that it is time to change something because I should feel empowered sharing what my life is about. Whether or not that brings me success or money or status – it is important that I should be excited to tell someone what my life is about. And deciding to change my life in order to have that conversation more openly made me feel stronger — even though it was framed around weakness.”



“The fuel for my strength in life thus far is my ambition. I have not had the easiest life but I have always had the ambition to have a good life. When I was an undergrad, I worked 3 jobs and played a sport while attending school full time because I was determined to “make it”. I needed to use my ambition to make it through moments of self-doubt and stress.  My ambition has been a reflection of seeing the strength of my mother. Her drive to succeed and to show me that I do not have to fit in anyone’s box for an ideal woman. When I approach new obstacles in my life I pull my ambition as a source of strength to overcome all things. I continuously use my mother’s example of ambition, courage, and strength as a motivation for how strong I can be. It’s in my blood. Being a woman with ambition is the strongest force I have ever experienced.”

Becky M.


“This past spring I got a phone call at work and found out that my husband had been in a motorcycle accident and he was on the way to the hospital. I was terrified and met him at Hahnemann and luckily he was conscious and the trauma in relation to the accident was that he had a broken spine, a shattered pelvis, and a lacerated spleen. It was scary but we were pretty lucky, and I stayed the night with him in the hospital. All the results came back that he did not need surgery, but three days later into his hospital stay we were informed that he had a 9 by 6 by 6 tumor on his kidney. I remember when they relayed that piece of information that I saw the ceiling for a second and I almost passed out. They removed his kidney that Friday and we learned that Bob did have stage two aggressive renal cancer. We were extremely lucky that he did get into the accident because it saved his life. Throughout all of this, I have to say I still have no idea how I took care of my husband, took care of my house, and took care of our four animals while all this was happening.

I had a lot of support from my family in the hospital but when he came home it was the two of us and I do have a flexible job and I was able to take off of work, but it was a really vulnerable situation for the two of us. I became the caretaker and I really just felt kind of isolated and alone and terrified because my husband was in a back brace for a long time and when it came down to it I was the one taking care of him and if something happened I was the one who had to protect us. Somebody tried to break into our house right after my husband came home from the hospital and I had to take care of that — someone was trying to crawl through a window. This whole experience just got me thinking about how I have so much support but there are people out there who have kids who are put into these situations and have it so much worse than we did. Their spouse could pass away, they could lose their house and things like that. I have had a lot of experience with resilience throughout my life but I feel like I came out the other side of that even more resilient. Once you see what’s on the other side of fear everything else in life seems like it’s not that big of a deal. After this experience, I thought about all of the women who – with or without a spouse – raise a family, pay their bills, and get any kind of an education they can – and you know those women really are our role models and heroes. The women who get through setbacks in life and those hurdles in life as an everyday person – those are the women we should really look to. And you know and I’m not so much talking about myself, I had a lot of support and just kind of did what I had to do, but that definitely made me feel stronger and made me smarter and made me look at the world differently after that and it just opened up my eyes so much as to how much people can go through and how much women can go through as the center of the household, holding everything together.”



“Something that I’ve done in the past that made me feel strong was deciding to become a runner. I decided to do this even though I had previously believed that I couldn’t physically do this — that I would always be the person who wouldn’t be physically able to run. So I started really slowly, getting up early in the morning when I felt like there would not be a lot of people out to see me, and putting a hat on and putting sunglasses on, which felt kind of like I could be a little bit in disguise. I put on really loud music so that I couldn’t hear myself breathing really heavily and I just started to go for really slow short runs but I did it just about every day. After about two years I was starting to have some pain in my leg and in my back and I thought to myself huh alright, but I signed up for this half marathon anyway along with my friends. My friends are athletic and runners and I never really thought I’d be able to participate in activities like that with them. I started training for the marathon. My leg and back hurt a little bit but I kind of made peace with myself – I understood that I wouldn’t win. I went to the DC women’s marathon and I ran the first eight miles at a low slow pace and then things started to really hurt and so I started walking and I walked the rest of the way. I finished an hour after my friends. But that kind of decision to become a runner and to successfully do that and be somebody who started to really enjoy getting up in the morning and running and then deciding that it was okay to not win – it was ok to just finish – was important. Finishing felt like success and made me feel really strong. That is the same kind of attitude that I think I use now working out – that attitude says I’m not going to be as thin as some of these other ladies and I’m not going to be as fast and I may not be as strong and I may not be able to do that pull up on my own just yet but I’m not going to stop. I am going to finish – and that can feel like winning.”



“I was raised by an emotionally and physically abusive father and a mother who did nothing to stop him. Although I tried to keep my father in my life through adulthood — he also had Asperger’s Syndrome, and it seemed clearer the older he got, that his elder care was going to be challenging and I felt he would need my help — it became impossible to manage or tolerate his behavior. When my husband and I adopted our first child, we decided that my father would no longer be a part of our, or our children’s, lives.

Because I had always counted strongly on people who were not my blood relations — and because the people who were my blood relations had failed me — I spent a lot of time thinking about what families were, and where the boundaries for families began and ended. After adopting our second child, I understood that our family was “complete”, but I also started to question this idea of “completion”: why was this the goal? Why was everyone in a rush to get there? Was I ever going to love anyone new again, now that I had these babies? Why were households set up like bunkers, where two adults — and the children that they had, in the majority of cases, created with their own bodies — considered “family units”? 

Shortly after turning 40, I began to envision myself — not intentionally, but just out of the blue — as being at the very beginning of coming into my full strength as a human. I had no idea what it was that I thought I was going to do, and had no big plan, but just had a picture of myself in my head, and knew, that when I hit the height of my powers, I would have mostly grey hair. I just felt this sense of acceleration. 

Not a single thing that I have accomplished since 2011 and take pride in is anything that, if you had told me about it in 2008, would have been something I was prepared to do. I co-founded and developed a yearly festival and parade in Philadelphia (originally called Krampuslauf Philadelphia, now Parade of Spirits, Liberty Lands) that is now in its seventh yearly run. I was asked to speak at Oxford University about it last year. In 2013, we invited a fifth person to join our family and household. He is now 24, is studying neuroscience at Drexel’s medical school and will be an honoree of Drexel’s “40 Under 40” award this year. He, like my father, has Asperger’s Syndrome. My father died of dementia in 2016. I began homeschooling my children six weeks later. Earlier this year, with some of the money from my father’s estate, I created a scholarship fund for School of Rock Philadelphia, where my son and daughter are students. 

I have begun to redefine community and family in my own life, but I doubt I’m anywhere close to stopping. And my grey is coming in so much slower than I would have expected by 48! Working without a plan — giving what I have to give, freely, keeping myself open to saying YES, and embracing a love of folklore and nighttime parades that I didn’t know I ever had, have changed the last seven years of my life dramatically. I’m going to continue to trust whatever has brought me this far to continue to cut away the dead weight in my life and allow me to continue helping to create paths for others.”


julia Vu

“Each of the three generations before me lived with war directly in their country. I have tremendous gratitude for their fight to bring us here. When stories are retold; however, they are not always sad, but instead are stories of survival and triumph. I find strength in my family history of people who never settled and continually adapted for more, people who balanced family with their pursuit of new interests and careers. I find that I inherently have this characteristic, and am pleasantly surprised when connecting with elders on shared values of what they call the ‘modern woman,’ and shocked when I encounter less evolutionary ideas in the news or in conversation today.

In addition to the incredible naval and military feats, there are also magical and heartwarming stories of a grandfather becoming a dentist, after studying textbooks that were left behind at his post office. There are stories of an uncle singing with visiting musicians, my dad with the only record player and Beatles record in town, and my mom learning guitar after getting annoyed with his John Cusack routine. Interacting with other medics during the war and other musicians after the war is why many of my family members are fluent in 2-3 different languages. My current work is a similar intersection of medication, technology, and language. I find strength in carrying the family tradition and globally connecting with folks in eight different countries on a daily basis.”


“What makes me feel the most empowered and most strong is absolutely 100% dancing and spinning fire. It is something I’ve been doing for a seven and a half years. As somebody who’s more of an introvert the idea that I’m regularly getting on stage and performing in front of people, especially doing something as dangerous and exciting as spinning fire, is not something I ever thought I would do. It’s something that makes me feel impressed with myself for doing – as far as life achievements. Fifteen years ago if a time traveler had come back from the future to the past to say that I would be doing this I would not have believed that person at all and I would have told them that they were crazy.”



“My new career path and work are all about strength and hope.  I left a twenty year career in an industry that aside from a limited number of friendships left me utterly depleted.  I had always heard of people who would do some job they were passionate about for free if they had to. And 18 months after leaving my old career I am wildly grateful to actually be one of those people.  I draw what feels like boundless strength from learning something new every day, discovering and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships and building hope for kids from all walks of life.  I left the professional beauty industry and discovered my calling as a public school community partnership coordinator and advocate.”