Strap on your seatbelts!
You're in for a real ride with today's guest, Erin Starks. Her bio alone will leave you shaking your head in wonder, so wait until you hear all that she shares with Jason and me!
As an educator, health advocate and mother of six children, Erin has spent more than a decade advocating for the rights of children and young adults with disabilities and their families. She has worked with fellow educators, families and students in underserved communities throughout Atlanta and South Los Angeles. Her work is anchored in the belief that all children deserve the right to access valuable resources that enhance their learning in inclusive, diverse learning communities. She's leveraged her experience as the mother of a sixteen year old daughter, Kamiyah, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism, to continue her advocacy work for special education students through elementary school and beyond.
In addition to her work in the classroom, Erin is the Founder and Director of OHMGirls Yoga, an inclusive yoga community devoted to helping teens cultivate resilience, through mindfulness, movement, and meaningful community. She’s also the Founder and Co-Owner of Miya Organics, a wellness company with a mission to develop products that have a positive environmental impact. In January 2020, Miya Organics will be launching a pilot program that provides work-based training to young adults with special needs who have a desire to learn the art of candle making and enhance their independent living skills, while creating products that add value to the lives of others.
When not in the classroom, Erin enjoys collaborating with her daughter Kamiya, Co-Owner of Miya Organics, dreaming up new product ideas, and spending time with her husband Cedric and their 6 kiddos.
Jason, Erin and I had a very lively and often moving conversation about Erin's amazing life -- from the moment she learned that her unborn daughter would likely have a fatal disability and was encouraged to have an abortion, to her life as a young mother, the divorce that so powerfully impacted her physically and emotionally, and then finding new love and raising six children even as she completed a Masters degree and founded companies that serve the disadvantaged.
Erin explained that her journey as an advocate began when she was nineteen years old and pregnant with her first child. When the doctors revealed that the unborn baby had a rare form of fatal dwarfism and recommended that Erin and her husband terminate the pregnancy, Erin remembers telling them, "Whatever is given to us, we will accept. Whatever we're given is a blessing, and we will take it." That unborn baby, Kamiyah, now sixteen years old, not only inspired much of Erin's life and work but is her enthusiastic partner in a growing business!
Erin and I talked about our divorces and how scary it was to "get back out there" as women but particularly as mothers and caregivers. That we have both found love, companionship and support for our unique lives is testament, perhaps, to the many blessings inherent in caregiving and in facing one's vulnerabilities. Erin is wildly inspirational herself but shared some words of one of her mentors, the author and speaker Brené Brown who wrote in her book Rising Strong:
“I'm slowly learning how to straddle the tension that comes with understanding that I am tough and tender, brave and afraid, strong and struggling -- all of these things, all of the time. I'm working on letting go of having to be one or the other and embracing the wholeness of wholeheartedness. The roles in my life -- partner, mother, teacher, researcher, leader, entrepreneur -- all require me to bring my whole self to the table. We can't be “all in” if only parts of us show up. If we're not living, loving, parenting, or leading with our whole integrated hearts, we're doing it halfheartedly.”
Honestly, the whole conversation was exhilarating -- even when we spoke of the dreaded "self-care." As Erin so bluntly put it, "You can't be 100% for other people, if you can't be 100% for yourself."
Where you can find Erin:
Purchase < $100:
A gymnastics mat for $30 on Amazon
Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Most Inspiring Person/Group: