Month: October 2014

Mali Phonpadith

Mali Phonpadith

Mali Phonpadith is an author, speaker, CEO/Founder of the SOAR Community Network and the Executive Producer of Tea with Mali TV. She consults with entrepreneurs and visionaries to help them S.O.A.R. (See, Own, Articulate, Release) with their unique message and mission by implementing emotional marketing and social media strategies.

Mali has over 17 years of marketing, sales, and business development experience. She also ran a financial services practice with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network for seven years where she created and implemented risk management strategies for hundreds of clients.

Mali is a well-known community champion and fundraiser for local non-profits. She is the co-founder of the Young Professional Leadership Group and the host of two podcasts, SOAR and Creative Entrepreneur Buzz.  She is a published poet and author. A Million Fireflies is Mali’s memoir about her voyage from war-torn Laos to America and she is also coauthor of Seen and Sustained: Best Practices in Communication that Increase the Visibility of Small and Diverse Businesses, a professional workbook written with Akia Garnett, Jane Lovas, and Tamecia Bradshaw.

Mali has traveled across the United States, speaking at The Library of Congress, Smithsonian, The Lao American Writer’s Summit, University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, Lao American Advancement Organization, International Rotary Clubs, SWAMFest, and many more. Advisor Today Magazine, Asian Fortune Newspaper, News Channel 8/WJLA DC, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, Intentful Magazine and numerous blog talk radio programs have featured her inspiring journey.

Q: You’ve been identified by someone as being incredible.  What do people see in you that is incredible?

MP: Many close family members, friends and colleagues have told me that my gift in seeing beneath the surface and going straight to the core of people’s hearts and minds is what impresses them most. The ability to place little judgment on others and choosing to interact with compassion, even before knowing anything about another human being, are some of the attributes that I have been praised for. I have experienced multiple tragedies, healed through the grief of losing loved ones unexpectedly, and through these challenging times, I became more aware and awake to the power of my time here on Earth. My losses taught me to love Life.

I have an innate desire to learn what lights people up, what makes them feel connected to others, to life and to the Universe. I want to support them in valuing their time here on Earth too and helping them see, own, articulate, and release their unique gifts, talents and experiences to help them create a profound legacy. By supporting others to live their highest calling, however they define their purpose in life, I also get to create my legacy one person at a time.

Q: How does writing poetry change the way you think?

MP: Poetry is a natural gift that came with me. I say this because I never learned how to write poetry but it was the natural way in which I expressed my emotions as a young girl. Poetry has always been my refuge, a natural channel for me to release my feelings, both good and not so great. It allows me to pause, take deep breaths or release my sorrows. When I write poetry, I find clarity toward understanding what I am feeling and this opens up more avenues for better decision-making, helping me choose actions that move me forward more gracefully.

Q: What are some lessons from Laos that you have carried with you through your life?

MP: My parents had to escape with us from Laos. They got in a boat and rowed across the Mekong River, seeking safety for their children. They did not know if they were going to make it to the shores of Thailand, let alone find our way to a refugee camp. Somehow they knew to take that leap of Faith. That was the defining moment in my life. I was only four years old but their decision to leave danger behind, crossing the river to the great unknown, was the most important lesson in my life. I have learned to trust and believe that when our lives are filled with challenges, there is always a better place on the other side. I always move toward optimism and hope using the only tools I have inside of me, my intuition and faith that “all things are as they should be or they would be something else”. This mantra helps me move forward during the toughest times of my life.

Q: What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself?

MP: “Honor your unique gifts, talents and experiences. Believe in yourself and trust your instincts to lead you on the right paths in life. First, learn to tap into your instincts and hear that inner voice. Once you have practiced doing this for yourself, you will be better equipped to honor others’ gifts, believe in their brilliance and trust their instincts to lead them on their own paths in life.”

Q: Life is beauty and pain.  Tell me about pain in your life.

MP: I have had many painful moments in life. All of them have led me here to a place where I truly honor my life. As a child, I grew up in the United States basically in poverty. I felt like an outcast living in a neighborhood where no one, besides my own family, acknowledged me because there we very few Asians who lived in our neighborhood. I was ridiculed and bullied for most of my childhood.

In my mid 20’s I lost my fiancé and nephew to a drowning accident and two years later, I lost my godfather and my own father, both to cancer. Two years thereafter, I lost my best friend to suicide, then an uncle to lung cancer and in 2013, my beloved grandmother passed away. I have felt hopeless and reached the bottom of despair yet somehow crawled out of the depths of sadness. I did this by simply feeling every ounce of the pain and “walking through”. I trusted that at some point, I would arrive at a lighter place and somehow, I always did. I was forced to exercise my heart muscles, my physical stamina and my emotional bandwidth. I have been tested, I have been challenged and I have prevailed with an even greater thirst for living in each moment. All of these experiences have elevated my desire to live a profound and meaningful life while I am alive and on this earthly plane. My empathy bucket has stretched deep and wide so I am much more capable of supporting others who are moving out of pain and choosing to walk toward peace.

Q: What question did I miss?  What else should I know about you?

MP: My life’s work gets played out every day through my business. I get to help every person sent to me see, own, articulate and release their unique gifts, talents and messages into the world. I help others set themselves free of barriers, grief, and doubts through my SOAR retreats, mapping process, podcasts, publications and cable television show, Tea with Mali. I feel fortunate for all the elements came together to create my existence. Life has happened to me so I am making it a point make it count, appreciate my time here and live out my purpose!






Vicki Fox

Vicki FoxVicki Fox is a catalyst and conduit for holistic growth. She loves to connect people and inspire them, and this drive led her to create Women of Intention, Ordinary Women Making An Extraordinary Difference in 2006. I met Vicki at one of the Women of Intention meetings where I was impressed by the heart-felt gathering of super cool ladies. I’ve made some lifelong friends from these meetings. Besides being a consummate connector, Vicki is a freelance court reporter who types a stunning 260 words per minute.

Q:  What led you to create Women of Intention?

VF: In 2005, I had moved to York to start a new life and get remarried. That December, I ended the engagement and moved back to Harrisburg. Many women had been excited and encouraged at my finding love in my early 50’s.   Returning to the area, I felt a bit of shame and some embarrassment as if I had let these women down. I knew I needed to let them all know my story and I also knew that it would be an opportunity to reinvent myself. My solution was to hold a 55th birthday party for myself, invite them all, tell my story and celebrate my new beginning. I asked them to come and celebrate with me, explaining that their presence was my present.

A love of mine is creating a safe space and building community. With that in mind, I posed two questions to the women knowing it would bring us together as a group and connect our hearts. I requested they come prepared to share an intention for their own self-care and an intention for the care of the planet.

Thirty-four women showed up! It was a Two Tissue Event! When women stood up and shared their intentions, it was incredibly moving. The next morning when I awakened, it was as if I was in a conversation with someone, and I found myself saying out loud, “Yes, you are right. Unless I hold monthly gatherings, all their intentions will die. Women of Intention: Ordinary Women Making an Extraordinary Difference.” I believe that experience was divine intervention.

Ordinary women making an extraordinary difference.

It has been eight years. I’ve watched the original women grow and change. Women of Intention attracts an eclectic group of women. The beauty is that most of these women would never meet because of their life’s path. Yet when we convene and share deep conversation, there is a sense of camaraderie. We realize while externally we may seem different, we are all the same — desiring a safe world where we can all make a difference and prosper.

I have often described Women of Intention as not another networking group, but rather a group where we connect our souls. That being said, I encourage the women to support each other in our work in the world.

Q: Women of Intention has been flourishing for years. What are some of the things that surprise you?

I’m surprised that Women of Intention keeps on going. There are times that I want to give up. It’s a lonely process. When one sends out three or four newsletters to the over 600 women on my list and there is no requested feedback, I sometimes start to wonder Is anyone out there? Then as we get closer to an event date, women start enrolling, and I get renewed excitement.

The evening of an event always reminds me why I spend so many hours planning and executing the program. It is because magic happens when you gather women! There have been many synchronicities, friendships and collaborations borne at Women of Intention. To keep things fresh, groups need to evolve. As the women have changed and grown, the programs have reflected that. I am looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

I have watched my growth over these past eight years. In some ways, I’m a maverick, but in other ways, I’m terrified, both of failure and success. Trust is a big issue for me and I know I am not alone. I’m like “every woman” and I feel like I am a good barometer in deciding what topics to present.

Q: What advice would you give to an earlier version of yourself?

VF: When I look back on my life and see things that were a “mistake”, where life could have gone a different way and didn’t, I see at that time I had an inner knowing that the path I was choosing, mostly because of fear, was not the one for my highest good.

My advice would be: Be quiet and still, listen to that inner voice that is telling you not to do something, or the excited, passionate voice that is telling you it is time to stretch and be a “yes”. Trust all the answers are inside. Remember if you make a decision that does not feel right down the road, there is always a course correction to get you back on track.

Q: How has the path your life has taken surprised you?

VF: It’s interesting because at this part of my life I want to be in the front of the room, but for thirty-nine years I’ve been the silent person in the courtroom as a court reporter.

Court reporting has been a good profession. I’m certified at 260 words per minute. From recording hundreds of trials and deposition, I know a little bit about everything, yet not much about any one particular area. Every case is something interesting – from Three Mile Island to the Rite Aid trial – but it’s like you’re a fly on the wall and not a participant.

To develop the other side of my brain, I’m certified in reflexology and as a yoga teacher. No one in the courtroom has ever said, “Thank you, Vicki, I feel so much better.” It is nice to hear that after working on a client’s face and feet or instructing a yoga class.

It has surprised me that I am not in the front of the room more. In high school, I was very active in student government and I enjoyed making a difference. I have been a Toastmaster for five years, and I am honing my skills so that in my Third Act, I will not be silent any longer.

Q: Life is beauty and pain. Tell me about pain in your life.

VF: Currently, the pain is that my daughter lives in Chicago and my son, his wife, and my two-year-old grandson live in Minneapolis. I miss them terribly. The beauty is I am happy that they have fabulous lives and are amazing human beings, but I am saddened that our in-person contact is so restricted because of the geographic distance. God bless Skype!

Q:  What question did I miss?  What else should I know about you?

VF: I am a wonderful doer, and I am trying to carve out some time to be. To listen to my soul’s calling to see what is next for me. In April, I connected with some wonderful people out in California. I was invited to a meeting with fifty attendees, twenty-seven women and twenty-three men.  We are embarking on a movement in its early stages called The Conscious Elder Network. Our intention is to be a catalyst to transform our culture to respect the wisdom of the elders and to use that wisdom to support the dreams and visions of the younger people in our culture to create a kinder, more gentle and self-sustaining world.  I am not sure what my place will be there. I am trusting that will become more apparent as we move forward.

There has been much back and forth since this initial website and it will be growing organically.  One thing that is not visible there at the moment is the importance of intergenerational collaboration.

One new friend from The Conscious Elder Network said his definition of a conscious elder is to be comfortable with uncertainty and embrace the mysteries of life.  That is certainly a growing edge for me, and I am enjoying my new involvement with these wonderful people, many of whom appear to truly know how to live in the present and trust all is well.

So stay tuned. We hope The Conscious Elders Network will begin a movement where elders will help the youth achieve their dreams, and we, as elders, will return to our rightful place where our wisdom is respected.

Some other unknown facts about me are that I love to sing (my fantasy is to sing vampy, jazzy songs in a cocktail lounge!) and I take private ballroom dancing lessons and have participated in annual shows where my instructor has me doing lifts. Also, what everyone says about being a grandparent is true. I recommend it to everyone. Pure joy!


Liz Laribee

Liz Laribee

Liz Laribee is the Director of the MakeSpace, a collaborative arts organization she spearheaded the founding of in 2012. Through that position, she has helped mobilize a series of creative projects in the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  She is a freelance artist, specializing in reuse and alternative materials in the creation process. Liz has exhibited her work in Harrisburg, in national and international print media, and at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art. For the past six years, she has taught reuse methods of art-making in classrooms at the University level, in public and private schools, and in after-school programs. Some of her current collaborations include Sprocket Mural Works, a citywide initiative to generate and document public art, a children’s book series with poet July Westhale, and DCBA Lawyers for the Arts, a program to enable lawyers to assist fledgling artists with stabilizing their projects.

Born in Kansas, Liz’s father was an Episcopal priest and interim pastor at churches who were struggling. Because of his work, she moved 17 times before attending Messiah College in Harrisburg. Though she had been accepted into Savannah College of Art and Design, she focused instead of creative writing and graduated from Messiah College with an English degree.

Q: You are involved in some creative, community-oriented projects like MakeSpace and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral.  What is your vision and how has that evolved?

LL: My avenue into Harrisburg was an intentional community called The Sycamore House. I helped start that when I was a Junior in college through The Episcopal Cathedral. The model back then was that people would live in community together, with a commitment to the surrounding city. Your rent and utilities were paid for in exchange for community service and teaching the youth group. I moved into the community and stayed for 2 years. It was impactful and informative. I entered the city with eyes open and the intention to learn about the City and to impact it positively.

Experiments around the idea of community and grassroots efforts to make things happen was really hammered into my head in college and so, when I moved into Harrisburg, it continued that way. In 2012, five years after graduation, it was a strange time in Harrisburg history—there was Occupy Harrisburg, David Unkovic had been appointed as the receiver and had a really quick turn around and then resigned. When that happened it was sort of like Batman quit.

My temperament is that when I get discouraged, I redirect my energy into making something. I was invited around that time to a community meeting at the Pancake Mansion and I met this vibrant community of people who were trying to establish the “next thing” in Harrisburg and trying to pool our diverse resources and talents to create something more constructive in Harrisburg.

Around the same time I was often coming to Little Amps, sketching a business plan for an arts collective. My art was selling better and I needed an established workspace, but I was really broke. I knew that to move forward, I needed to share space and share resources with other people. The people and process I encountered in those meetings really helped percolate the plan I was forming with a few others, and that boomeranged us into honing our vision statement

We became aware of the property that MakeSpace is now in when I called my landlord who had the property. The philosophy was to use what we had available to us, which was very little money, but a lot of resourcefulness and a lack of inhibition. It lends itself to the whole thing being an evolving art project.

As far as a larger vision that I have…this is a strange time of life to be talking about my vision! I feel like this is the year that I’m slowing down, in a good way, a purposeful, mindful way, but my vision is just trying to love where I live. Trying to figure out a way to make that possible for myself and the others around me.

Q: Can you explore that a little more. Do you love where you live? What are a few of the things you need to be happy?

LL: I DO love where I live. What I mean by trying to love where I live means trying to piece together the elements that go into a life that I can thrive with. I need friends, coffee, a means to make and sell what I love to make and sell, and I need to be in community with the people around me. If those elements are in place then that, to me, will equal a happy life.

I think my language has gotten more personal the longer I’ve done this. At the very beginning, it was about “saving Harrisburg”, but over time it has become a little less…arrogant. It’s more about living a mindful life and liking who I am and those around me.

Q: Has that always been possible for you? To lead a mindful life? How has that idea changed over your life?

LL: I think one of the biggest changes I’ve see in myself is trying to learn how to hone in on the most practical and most joyful way to lead a mindful life. You start off really unfocused and think you can do anything, like we all write that in each other’s yearbooks, but over time, that becomes less interesting. You become less interested in trying to be absurdly prolific—you start to focus on quality and quantifiable, measurable results.

Q: I cannot wait to check out MakeSpace (and to bring my tinker boyfriend over).  Tell me some of the stories from MakeSpace.

LL: There have been so many stories. I had met this guy once, maybe 15 years ago, and because of Facebook, he messaged me and said that “I met this Klezmer band while I was in Europe and they’re in the states and they want to play at MakeSpace.” It was one of the most incredible live performances I’ve ever seen and it was so emotional for me that it was happening in the MakeSpace. They performed and their stomping nearly brought the floor down. The next day I had to sweep a bunch of euros off the floor. They left euros in their wake!

We renovated the space with our own sweat equity and elbow grease. There was a room off the kitchen that was totally not insulated—you could almost see through the walls, so we left it vacant as a meanwhile space until a neighborhood artist named Stephen Michael Haas asked to experiment with an installation in that room. He spent three days with primer and India ink and turned it into this incredible piece of installation art. He did a mural on every bit of space. It’s this imitate autobiographical statement of his life and it’s become one of the staples of the experience at MakeSpace. It was an incredible way to redeem the space with nothing but a person’s resources, spirit, and time.

Q: How do you make time for yourself?  What gives you balance?

LL: What I love to do to get time away is to go away. I travel a lot—I take two big trips each year. It’s necessary for me; I have wanderlust. I like reminding myself of a larger world and contexts that are totally separate from my daily to-do list.. I don’t owe anyone in the Turkish airport any emails.

I also really love going to the River and sitting on the steps and not bringing my cell phone with me. And m y new house has a balcony off of my bedroom, so I spend a lot of time there.

Q: What is something that the world should know?  Maybe the best piece of advice that you ever received or the message you have for others.

LL: Be excellent to each other. I think that’s my best advice—it’s dependent on no resources other than yourself.

Q: What do you think is the capacity of someone’s internal resources?

LL: People are limited by expenditures of their own time and energy and the disadvantages that come from larger systems, but how you treat people is your choice.

Q: How has the way you treat people changed based on your experience?

LL: Well, I’m more interested in listening than speaking these days. Some arrogance is wearing off. I’m trying to be more cautious about what it is that I put into the world and how that happens.

Q: What question did I miss?

LL: It’s probably what is your name an anagram for! And the answer is LIBERALIZE.