Karema McGhee, the founder of Luxinous has been a healer and alternative medicine practitioner for over two decades. She is currently in the process of relaunching her brand. The relaunch of her brand Luxinous is scheduled for June 1st. The entire relaunch process is in tune with her mission to change the way the world views smudge tools, healing arts and herbs.
Karema, Thank you so much for this Interview. Kindly tell us when and how did you associate yourself with smudging.
Thank you for having me. I’ve been a healer, alternative medicine practitioner for over 20 years. Some of my mentors, teachers, and friends have been some of the most sort after healers, herbalist, lightworkers, and freedom fighters I am proud to know. I found my way to smudging back in 2002, before becoming associated with the shrine of ptah in Brooklyn. New York.
Smudging has been traditionally practiced by some Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Tell us more about the current state of smudging.
I recall walking into the shrine and the priests were doing what we call the opening of the way. The smell was coming out of the shrine into the sidewalks of urban Brooklyn, I recall walking into the shrine impressed by the feeling of ritual. Mesmerized by the act of cleansing. I wanted to learn each chat, each movement, the dance, and most importantly the look of freedom and power as the sounds were leaving their bodies permeating the atmosphere. It was captivating. I was in. I was hooked. It was sage.
How is Luxinous impacting the lives of people who become a part of it?
My objective with Luxinous is to remove many of the stigmas, the dogma, the separatism and myths associated with the act of smudging.
To teach the facts that almost every indigenous people from every nation, from every religious association and denomination, has some form of smudging built into its ritual, religious, and cultural practices. Even those who are opposed to smudging because of religious reasons don’t realize that they already have a form of smudging built into their cultural fabric.
In order to live a fulfilled life, you need to set aside prejudices. How do smudging help in realizing our true potential?
The natives of the Americas are famous for white Sage & Sweetgrass, the native Peruvians for Palo Santo. I can go on and on.
The current state of saging, smudging, and the like is disheartening at times, as many want to own it, and not share it with the world. It’s as if we believe that if we shared our sacred arts with others, they will run off with it and we will never get the credit we deserved. We are afraid for our ritual to be common.
What is the your mission and how do you see Luxinous achieving that mission?
For me, my mission is to bring fair trade to the indigenous, to provide responsibly sourced healing tools to as many who want it. To bring unity, understanding, education and awareness, and to normalize ritual.
I believe that mother nature wants us to share with each other our regional wisdom. To heal one another. None of us own mother nature, but she gives of herself to us, for us, and as long as we approach the Goddess with an offering, with truth, respect, kindness, and fairness, we as a Human collective can further heal and began to see that we have more in common than we ever thought.
An Interview with Paulette Chaffee
Paulette Chaffee is a teacher, speech therapist, and attorney deeply involved in the Fullerton community. As an educator and member of various non-profit boards, her focus has always been on providing children with the highest quality education. Ms. Chaffee holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential, and is admitted to the California Bar.
Paulette, Thank you for talking with us. In what ways can a school support a student struggling with mental illness?
There are so many ways schools can support their students. On the ground level, educators should know the warning signs of mental health problems, and there should be a set chain of command of who to inform and what resources are available. In addition, teachers should promote healthy social and emotional development and recognize students who are at risk.
Schools need to create a positive and safe environment; this includes encouraging students to be active and help one another. Finally, there must be increased awareness and education on all levels. Developing and implementing school-based mental health programs is essential while also providing counseling. If a child needs additional assistance, parents should be informed that 504 plans and IEPs (individualized education programs) are available.
How has the spread of the recent Omicron COVID variant affected students, teachers, parents, and other staff?
For a brief time, students and teachers returned to in-person learning; however, the rise in cases due to Omicron has forced many school districts to consider returning to online learning. The schools that want to stay open have difficulty keeping sufficient staff. And although it may seem like online learning is a simple solution, it is more complicated than that. Parents have to make adjustments to their work schedules and childcare. There are concerns of more significant educational disparities when remote. On top of that, many students are falling behind academically, and there has been an increase in emotional and behavioral issues. Many students need the balance of education and extracurriculars like sports, which has become challenging to maintain.
The pandemic has shown us how quickly we can be in the middle of a crisis. What should schools do to prepare for crises that may arise in the future?
The first thing should be to create a crisis response team that responds to major events. This team should create a crisis response plan that outlines who is in the response team and their responsibilities. In addition, it should include protocols on what to do for unique situations and natural disasters. The last part of this plan should consist of how to communicate with outside sources; this includes media, parents, and the community. There should be plans and processes on every level, including school, district, and regional.
How can transparency be created when discussing education budgets with the public?
Implementing a SBB (student-based budgeting) funding system is the first step. It goes by many different names, but this type of funding system is one where the dollars are based on student needs. This type of budgeting relies on three pillars: equity, transparency, and flexibility. To create transparency, it’s crucial that the public has access to the budget and reports and that there are standards in place to maintain the integrity of these documents. In addition, allowing the community to participate in the process creates trust and inclusiveness. When the general public feels like they know what is happening, it can generate quality and accountability in school budgeting.
How can the community get involved in budget decision-making, and how can school districts make this accessible?
Develop a process that allows everyone to be heard before making a major decision. Having open forums for the public to attend to ask questions and voice concerns can be one way of doing this. Also, make an online survey available to give feedback and quick input for the people who cannot participate in a forum. Make sure when developing the budget and other accompanying documents and reports they are “public friendly” and easy to understand. School staff must be prioritized in budget discussions and district communications as many students and parents will likely get their information from staff.
There are a variety of hardships and disparities a student can face. What can schools do to ensure there are resources and support systems for these students to improve equity and inclusion? Should there be resources for parents as well?
There are endless things a school can do to improve equity and inclusion. Start with increasing staff training and reviewing the hiring process to allow equity and inclusion to start at the top with a more diverse staff. In addition, changing procedures is essential, such as eliminating 0s for late work or removing more challenging prerequisites for AP and Honors. More often than not, these procedures adversely impact and create barriers for disadvantaged students to succeed.
On that same note, reviewing the curriculum and making sure it is accessible is critical. Speaking with the students can help schools identify what they need and gaps. This also means identifying and providing systematic help to those falling behind to prevent grade repetition.
Finally, parents and families should be resources because students’ education doesn’t stop when they leave school. Therefore, there needs to be a strong link between home and school, and support should be provided to families who need additional assistance. Also, family engagement should be encouraged and provide ways to close the gap for parents struggling to help their children at home.
Is it essential to provide implicit bias training to teachers and administrators? Could you expand on that?
Yes, but it can’t simply be one session. A school needs to have an overarching plan, and implicit bias training should be integrated. It should review policies, practices, and structures and work to make them as unbiased as possible. There should be reasonable and attainable goals set to address needs and problems and active changes made to reach them. One of the most important things to note in the training is that discussions about bias are difficult for everyone. Provide the tools on how to handle these conversations and manage emotions. This plan also needs to have specified training for teachers, guidance counselors, security, etc.
What are the biggest accessibility challenges you see schools facing, i.e., transportation, access to the internet and technology, etc.?
Concerning transportation, this is where I see some of the most significant challenges. It becomes a complex regulatory landscape for drivers to function between federal and state laws. Funding has been relatively stagnant, which creates various issues. One is environmental harm and safety due to not updating buses and outdated technology. Also, so many more school choices and students not going to their zone schools have created the need for a new bus system. However, lack of funding slows this necessity down. With COVID, there are additional safety, staffing, and funding issues to consider.
Regarding the internet and technology, budget limitations lead to outdated network infrastructures and unreliable or outdated software and devices. As a result, there is a resistance to this change by teachers and typically a lack of training. In addition, there usually needs to be an updated curriculum that integrates these technologies.
Students with disabilities struggle with unique accessibility issues. Physical inaccessibility in schools can make it difficult for students to get around. It isn’t uncommon for there to be a lack of individualization and specialists. Unfortunately, disabilities come with stereotypes and biases from students and staff. Typically, a student must request accommodations, which can be slow, including the dispute process.
An Interview with Nicky Moffat, previously the highest ranked woman in The British Army
In this exclusive interview with Nicky Moffat, via The Female Motivational Speakers Agency, discover the secrets to strong leadership and high-performance teamwork. Nicky was the highest-ranking woman in the British army until 2012, when she pursued her passion for workplace performance and became one of the UK’s foremost corporate consultants.
Nicky’s knowledge and extensive experience of leadership, teamwork and inclusion is proven in this insightful interview, where she reflects on the biggest life lesson she learned in the military. Do not miss this exclusive Q&A with Nicky Moffat, a pioneer of corporate excellence.
What is the most important quality of a leader?
“One of the important qualities in a leader is emotional intelligence, the ability to recognise that people process things in different ways and therefore, find ways to bring those people on board. There’s always going to be some people that have the same thinking and motivations that I might have as a leader, but just because the others don’t it doesn’t mean they’re not great employees!
“It just means that I’ve got to find another way to reach them, to give them time to process the change and then to encourage them to come on board with the journey. And of course, sometimes people who take longer to process change are busy reflecting and thinking about change in a way that might be different to me. They can come up with points, ideas, things that can actually make change go better because they have a different perspective.
“When we talk about diversity, it’s not just about Black, White, gay, straight, male, female and so on. It’s about people who lead differently, react differently or think differently.”
During periods of stress, how do you find the motivation to persevere?
“I think one of the things that brings on stress is a loss of control.
“What happens to me – and maybe this is one of the reasons why a career in the army was perfect for me – when I’m under stress, the adrenaline kicks in in a positive way. So I want to engage with it, whatever that thing is that’s stressing me, I want to make a plan. I try to be logical and to think through how to turn a bad situation, into a better situation.
“What I’m effectively doing is I’m trying to gain some semblance of control. And in terms of ownership, I’m trying to own the solution to the problem that I’m experiencing. But I thrive on responsibility, I think I do my best work when I’m under pressure and some element of stress. Sometimes I’ll inspire that by working late to a deadline rather than perhaps starting things earlier!
“And again, it’s important to know yourself, because if by doing that I’m stressing somebody else who process things differently, then I need to be aware of that. That’s a key part of emotional intelligence.”
What advice can you give businesses on how to build high performing teams?
“Building a high performing team starts with the leader. I often refer to something called Mission Command, it’s from the Prussian Chief of Staff many, many years ago.
“I can simplify it into three key areas: firstly, it’s about clarity of direction. A leader must have a clear vision and give direction on what needs to be done by the organisation. People must properly understand what’s being asked of them and why.
“Secondly, you need to have an environment of mutual trust, where I trust my teams to go and deliver what I’ve set out. They also must trust that they can come to me if there’s, for example, a lack of clarity or insufficient resource.
“And the third thing is true and full empowerment. So, building a high performing team, if I use Mission Command, is about clarity of direction in an environment and culture of mutual trust, where people are genuinely empowered.
“The other thing about a high performing team is that diversity within the team can add real value. I don’t just mean diversity as in Black, White, gay, straight, male, female. I mean diversity of experience, perspective, insight, culture and capability.”
The military appears incredibly masculine, did you feel a pressure to fit in and conform to that environment?
“Back in 1985, it was very much a case of wanting to fit in, wanting to prove yourself. You wanted to prove your credibility. You don’t want to let your colleagues down.
“But I certainly found having done that and then having established myself and grown in confidence and knowledge and credibility and so on, I was able to be more myself. I mean, what the military does in training is it sort of breaks you down – and I don’t mean that in a really negative way, it breaks you down so you can contribute as part of an effective team.
“Once you’ve done that and you’ve proved yourself, then the military encourages people to bring their personalities to the fore.”
What was the biggest life lesson you learnt in the military?
“I think in terms of life lessons, again, this was something that came to me over time, and I actually think it’s about self-care. What military people tend to be, not just because it’s ingrained in us and in our training, is very mission focussed mission, hugely focussed on developing our teams and the individuals within it. So we expend a huge amount of our energy on other people.
“And I think it took me some time to realise later on in my career, when I was a Colonel, that I was pushing myself too hard. I remember a particular job when I was working in the Ministry of Defence, I was really focussed on helping to create ministerial endorsed and funded policies that would support our troops on operations.
“And, of course, that’s a really important task. But I put so much energy and effort into that, that I would go home at the weekend exhausted and tired.
“So the biggest life lesson is that if you’re going to be a good leader or deliver your best in any role, then you’ve got to be match fit. And I was most match fit when I made sure I got the balance right between the energy and effort that I was expending on my work and [making time for] rest, recuperation, decompression and some time out.”
Bryn Carden, Founder of Styles for Smiles and BF Hats Thinks Business and Philanthropy can go Hand in Hand
Bryn Carden is a versatile young entrepreneur with a deep sense of compassion and the desire to help make the world a better place. In 2017, she founded Styles for Smiles – a company selling bracelets to support the Smile Train Organization. The proceeds from selling Bryn’s designs have already helped fund cleft palate repairs for 16 children in developing countries.
BF Hats, another design brand Bryn is engaged in, donates a portion from every purchase to Ronald McDonald House of Dallas – combining Bryn’s passion for style and philanthropy.
Bryn is a Neeley School of Business student at Texas Christian University and an active member of the Delta Gamma sorority – an organization empowering women to stand up to their full potential. Ms. Carden values mentorship and donates her free time to make an impact in other people’s lives as a participant of the Neeley Mentorship Program and Riff Ram Reading Program.
Ms. Carden leads other women by example with a kind, compassionate and authentic approach, promoting health and wellness, strong ambition, and generosity. She is a proud Miss Kemah Teen USA, inspiring others with her beauty, positive attitude, and love for people.
When she has free time, Bryn can be found modeling, traveling, skiing, paddle boarding, exercising, and spending time with her friends and family.
Bryn, Thanks for talking with us. You are a college student and an entrepreneur. How do you find the time for all your projects? What’s your secret?
If you love what you do, any project- work or not- is never a job. With each entrepreneurial activity I take under my belt, I make sure that it is backed with passion. Further, any business backed by passion is already on track for something amazing at the core of its being! Prioritization is important, and what I’ve found to work best for me is prioritizing things by DAY. Some days I spend focusing on studying, schoolwork, etc. whereas some days I spend more focus and energy on self-care, marketing, and growing my businesses and personal brand.
I’ve also found time management to not always be about the daily increase, but about decreasing what is unneeded in the day. Hack away at the unessential, and stay far away from procrastination. I place emphasis on tasks in order of priority. The app Trello is something I cannot live without. Being a list maker, this app/website allows me to create lists of what I need to do, order the tasks in the level of importance, and archive them when completed. For example, one of my lists on Trello is “Free Time to do” – complete with “create a new vision board, organize the pantry, go through clothes and donate car wash…”. This allows me to always have something to do, and never sit there with empty time.
Why did you decide to pursue your college major?
I love math and numbers because it is a problem with a definite answer. I declared a Business Finance major to mix real-world problem solving with my passion for people and growing my own brand. I love and adore the field of business for what it is. I find joy and curiosity in knowing that you can take your own ideas and from nothing, grow a vast brand, company, and new adventure, shaping it into the mold you desire! There is a competitive edge to the world of business that I also find fascinating.
What are the projects that you most enjoy working on, and why?
One of my favorite projects has been finding recipes deemed to be unhealthy, and reworking them through healthy alternatives. Some of my favorite swaps consist of regular rice to Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower, flour to almond flour, and noodles to zucchini noodles. Here are two of my favorite recipes I created through trial and error!
I’ve also started to recently take clothes that sit in the back of my closet and find new ways to rework them. I’ll take Pinterest and magazine inspiration, and work pieces into something of a modern-day trend. It also sounds funny, but one of my recent projects has been helping style, my friends, as they come to me with an event where they need a dress or outfit, head to toe. Styling and taking what I love about my friends, and formulating fun fashion finds for them is another great adventure.
I also LOVE organization and after getting inspiration from watching the Home Edit on Netflix, I’ve found new ways to organize my closet, desk, and fridge/pantry.
What has been the most important part of your college journey?
Finding my forever people… the girls that have laughed, cried and shared irreplaceable memories with me. Coming into college, I made an effort to become friends with everyone I met. You are never “too cool, too popular, or too busy”, to smile, chat with, or be kind to someone. Everyone is in the same boat when coming into college… We all are from different areas of the country, with different and similar stories that have shaped us into the individuals we are today, all starting with a new blank slate. These girls have taught me the power of true, genuine, love for others- SO incredibly important.
What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?
During my freshman year of high school, it all came together. In high school, many teens “find themselves”, and craft the person that they want to be. Society has depicted what we girls should look like, talk like, and act like. It was then that I realized the most valuable version of myself is the unapologetic version. As Miss Kemah Teen USA, I placed an emphasis on expanding my platform of helping girls feel confident and comfortable in their own skin-one of the most important aspects of a young girl’s life. Before high school, I struggled with self-confidence and was a victim of insecurities. After my ‘a-ha’ moment of simply being true to ME, I then realized the importance of not seeking outside validation. When ignoring others’ opinions of me and instead surrounding myself with people who accept all of what you are, life becomes more joyous! Through TCU, I read and simply chat with the little children at a local, economically disadvantaged elementary school. One of the little girls asked me, “How are you so happy all the time?”…. The answer was simple. I pour my energy into positive affirmations, self-love, and spreading love to others. Anything that drains my energy and holds me down, such as insecurities, is immediately replaced with positive thoughts.
Do you have a role model or an entrepreneur you admire? Why?
Without a doubt, my role models are my parents. I can still remember clear as day, looking forward to our evening walks when growing up. What made these evenings so special was my parents smiling and laughing as I tiptoed in my beloved long, yellow, never washed Princess Belle gown. In the eyes of my seven-year-old self, the world was innocent and I was lucky enough to be the center of their world. My parents have also always been unapologetically themselves. My father’s jokes, the mind of an encyclopedia, and knowledge of every Rolling Stones album release date fascinate me. But ask him for the Netflix password… and forget it. My mom never fails to be a shoulder to lean on, something I plan to mirror as a mother one day. Society pressures today’s youth to conform to what is considered “cool”, but my parents always remind me to stay authentic.
When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?
Hiking with my family in Sedona, Arizona, my mind became completely revolved around the scenery, as I took everything in. I was in awe and simply felt as if I was in another world! The beautiful view made the miles on miles of hiking way easier.
How do you recharge your batteries after a long day?
One thing I have struggled to master is letting myself fully rest! I love to be on the go, and my mom always jokes with me that I only rest when I am simply EXHAUSTED! However, after a long day, I crave my nightly routine which calms my mind and prepares me to wind down. I engage in nighttime yoga that benefits the brain, body, and all-around soul. As I wind down at night I spend 5-10 minutes stretching out and detoxifying the tenseness of my body from the long day on the computer, working out, and everything in between. Further, a good face mask and lather of skincare (Drunk Elephant Night serum, bio-oil, Malin + Goetiz eye cream, and more all listed in Vitamin B), do wonders to the skin. I keep a few of these in the fridge overnight, the most calming addition to the eyes at bedtime. I LOVE a good sauna session, and when I have access to one (the TCU recreation center makes it convenient), it would be my ideal wind down!
What would you do with unlimited resources?
If my resources were unlimited, I’d start by sharing my resources, getting everyone involved in this share. Each person has some sort of passion that they would be able to spread their own greatness like wildfire if able… If unlimited money was on the table, I’d mirror companies that have made it big such as Google, or Ikea, who take their funds and spend a large portion not only expanding their businesses but giving back. These companies would be a great reference to the power of contributing to charity to a great extent… While doing so, I would travel. Italy, Spain, Thailand… While doing so, I’d certainly place an emphasis on expanding educational availability worldwide when traveling. I’d contribute to schools in developing countries by donating supplies, teachers/role models, food, etc. Where schools are not available, I’d bring in the resources to build from the start.
How do you feel you make a difference in the world?
Simply by showing kindness and compassion to everyone I meet. You never know the exact measure of how great you will impact someone by just a smile, but kindness is a domino effect.
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