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Everchanging Woman, LLC (ECW) is dedicated to empowering women in various stages of life through sharing experiences, best practices and advice captured in research, dialogue and documentation.
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Current Research
Everchanging Woman recently conducted a survey for women who are in, or who have been in, a blended family marriage. ECW would like to thank all the women who participated in the expansive and detailed survey (or let's be real…it was long!) Your information was very helpful.

Two lovely ladies were selected in a participation raffle. Congrats to Cristina L. for winning a $100.00 Visa card and to Jessica H. for winning a beauty package from ezrioni.com.

Please stay tuned for the results and stories from the research about mothers and stepmothers in blended families. We will publicize the release of the information.

One of the best ways for women to be inspired is for them to learn about the inspirational stories of other women. With this in mind, ECW will highlight a couple of women in each e-newsletter. This inaugural edition will showcase two working mothers, both with three children each, but very different life journeys thus far.

This month's Women of Change Spotlight features DeShong Perry Smitherman and Erika Caldwell-Meeks.
DeShong's Feature
DeShong proclaims herself to be a statistical fluke. Having her first child at the age of 16, the odds of her becoming an award winner journalist were not in her favor. However, that is exactly what this television newscast producer of over 10 years is. She began her career as a researcher for "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and then continued to climb up the journalism ladder. Currently, she produces a newscast at WTHR (NBC-Indianapolis) and has earned two Emmy awards, an Edward R. Murrow Regional award, and a National Association of Black Journalists "Salute to Excellence" award - for the work she has accomplished as a professional journalist. DeShong also at a Phoenix College and she has given media consulting presentations to various organizations. DeShong holds a bachelors' degree in Journalism from Roosevelt University, and a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois (Champaign/Urbana). She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

After 15 years of being a single parent, DeShong met Keith Smitherman and they married and became a blended family in 2007. They now have two additional children, Asha (2) and Nolan (6 months). DeShong's first child, Codi, is now 20.

In addition to being a mother and having a full time job, DeShong, also is co-executive director of the non profit A Girls Gift, Inc. The organization provides a series of seminars for Girls in 5th through 8th grades. The participants also take part in a week long Girl's Gift Entrepreneurial Institute and Business Plan competition in June. The program culminates with an awards ceremony which honors their talents, achievements, newfound goals, and completion of the program. In 2010, she and her co-executive director, Ericka Gibson, were recognized by Ebony Magazine. She also volunteers her time as the President of the Indianapolis Association of Black Journalists.

If all of that isn't enough, while pregnant with her third child, DeShong maintained a blog, Secondhand Pretty Preggie, in which she provided advice on discount shopping for pregnant women and allowed the public to partake in her pregnancy journey. So how did she manage to become a statistical fluke and how does she manage her busy life now?

What were the factors that helped you become a success despite having a child in high school at the age of 16?
When I found out I was pregnant – just a couple months after my 16th birthday, I knew I was about to break my parents heart. I was supposed to be a role model for my younger siblings, but here I was knocked up by a guy who'd eventually be locked up! I knew that my parents would be disappointed, and that it was quite possible that they'd kick my butt, so I decided not to tell them. That's right! By wearing long, bulky t-shirts and standing a certain way, I figured out how to mask my bulging belly. I continued to run track, play basketball and do back handsprings as a cheerleader!

Because I knew I would be up the creek, I started turning around my grades. I went from being a c student to making As and Bs. My parents thought that my turn around had to do with some kind of epiphany about getting my life together before applying to college. The truth was that I was getting my stuff together to lessen the disappointment and possible beat down!

my cover was busted wide open when I came second to dead last in a 100 yard dash race I was supposed to win. My mother finally noticed how I had hobbled down the lane, running like something was between my legs. That's when she asked me if I was pregnant. It felt so good to tell the truth. I was six months pregnant and 16 and a half!

So, the added responsibility of bearing a child is what propelled me to get my act together and get serious about my life. I'm proud to say I have never gone back to strictly C work and a life of mediocrity. My drive for excellence started the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child.

What advice would you give to young single mothers?
First of all… apply for child support! You may think you don't need the financial support of your child's father, but believe me, you will! If you don't want to use it for yourself, be smart, and sock it away for your child's college education.

Secondly, look for friends who know your struggle! When I was a single mom, some of my best girlfriends were those who had been or were in the same predicament. We'd pool our resources together for things like babysitting, learning about the best shopping deals, and we were always encouraging each other to reach higher, and attain high-level degrees and jobs…and not to put up with drama and bull from men and other life hurdles!

Finally, don't be the cow that gives your "man" the milk for free! Don't live with a guy who is not interested in and has no plans to marry you. The example you set for your son or daughter my haunt you in the future. You want your son or daughter to see you in a positive light as much as possible. The world is a mean and ugly place at times, you want home to feel like home and be a place of pleasant memories and infinite possibilities.

What do you love most about your career?
The opportunities it has afforded me to do the things I wished for as a child: Winning Emmy awards, going to Africa to produce stories, inspiring others with my words, and highlighting people's amazing stories, businesses, causes and events! I like to be one of the links to other people's successes and being a producer gives me that avenue.

What inspired you to lead a non profit?
Identifying a need. It was quite simple. After raising a girl – and being one too – I realized that girls needed mentors. I realized that girls needed to see strong, smart, bold and independent women. I realized that the only way to make mentoring a reality in my life was to build an organization from the ground up that not only established a mentorship piece, but also exposed girls to the heroines in our community, and taught them the steps to entrepreneurship through writing a business plan.

How do you balance being a mother, wife and a career woman?
I don't. I think I'm a good (not great) mother, an okay wife and a moderately excellent career woman. I seriously have to figure out a way to achieve balance. I want to be a great mom and wife, but I constantly have so many things pulling at me. Besides working and mothering and wifing, I also run two non profits – The Indianapolis Association of Black Journalists and A Girl's Gift Inc. I feel the work is too important to let go of, but I don't want my family to suffer. Balance is one of the things my life lacks. I am constantly working to find it.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is a mother/wife/career woman?
1. Work out 3-4 times a week to keep your sanity.
2. Girrrrrrrrl, get a crock pot! It makes meal time so much easier.
3. Don't be super mom! Hire a trusted sitter even on your days off. You must have your "Me" time.

Since you brought a child into your marriage, what has been the hardest part of becoming a blended family?
Differences in discipline. My husband didn't have kids before he inherited a step daughter. He thought my way of disciplining her were too lax and noncommittal. I actually believe he's right. But it's hard to introduce a whole new way of discipline into my life when I feel like, at 37, I'm an old dog – especially since I've been a mom since the age of 16. However, I believe we need to parent our kids as a team, and we are working very hard with each incident to come to a consensus. It will never be perfect, but I'm glad my man wants to be a dad, wants to love, wants to discipline, wants to support. These were all the things that were missing from my first child's life, and I know the absence of a dad created some issues for her even to this day.

What is your next major goal?
Write a book called "Statistical Fluke: The Misadventures of a Teenage Mom"

What do you do for fun or relief?
Loads and loads of SEX! Sike. There's no time! Actually, the only things I get to do for fun/relief are hit the gym and occasionally attend fabulous house parties and charity dinners with my friends. Unfortunately, my hubby never gets to go. Hey, somebody has to be home with the kids! And yes, we do have a little sex every once in awhile.
Erika's Feature
Erika Caldwell-Meeks is a wife, mother of three children all 5 and under, and a business owner. Erika finished her Master of Finance degree course work from the University of Arizona at the age of 22, and headed back to her home city of Phoenix to begin her career as a market analyst in commercial banking for JPMorgan Chase. She married her college sweetheart, Sheldon, and they quickly began to expand their family. After the birth of her second child, Erika decided to leave Corporate America, and stay home with her growing family. "It became challenging for me and my husband to plan the birth of our children around both of our busy seasons." In 2009, Erika created Teal Bird Concepts, a graphic and event design business dedicated to turning wonderful ideas into concepts that are brought life in a big way.

Erika is also a founding member of The Just Be Project, which is a network of women using their creative efforts (photography, graphic design, song writing, baking, styling, knitting, etc.) to help fill the needs of the women they run across in their everyday life to bring them value, hope, and joy.

More about this supermom in her own words:

What do you like best about owning your own business and working from home?
I enjoy the flexibility that owning my business and working from home provides. One of the things that I missed in Corporate America was the time that I spent away from my family without actually working (getting ready, packing bags for daycare, the commute back and forth, the breaks, the lunches, out of town travel, etc.). Working from home allows me to cut this time out and spend that time with my family.

Do you miss anything from the banking industry?
Yes. I love analytics and commercial real estate. I still try to stay on top of the industry because it's a skill set that I value and may need in my future endeavors.

What factors led you to leave your banking/finance career?
The path that I desired to go down left very little room for the things that were more important in my life. It was becoming very easy to get "sucked in" by the promotions and climbing the ladder and more difficult to walk away from after experiencing a growing level of success. I simply wanted to put more focus on my growing family and challenge myself to create a work environment that met this criteria as well.

How do you balance being a mother, wife, and a business owner?
Wake up early, go to bed late! That's a tough one, especially when everyone expects you to be all things. One of the things I had to learn is that success as a mom, wife, and business owner is about being well rounded. My 140% effort in one area, and 30% in another, is still failing in one area. While, 90% sweat equity in one area and 80% in another is better for me at the end of the day, I have to be proud of the overall effort and find efficient ways to improve.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is a mother/wife/career woman?
Don't be so hard on yourself. Whatever your unique path is, own it and take pride in the hard work that you do for your family.

What advice do you have for stay at home mothers who want to have their own business or supplemental income?
Do what you are good at, do what you love, and don't give up. That way your passion, consistency, and level of expertise will be evident selling points to your clients.

What is your next major goal?
I would like to open a Teal Bird Center for Arts, encouraging youth (who may not have exposure to arts, music, production, graphic design, dance, etc.) to embrace their creativity, and merge this with the concept of small business ownership through education and mentorship. Participants would be able to sharpen their skillset, receive education on how to market and sell their products (under mentorship), and use the funds to pay for further education.

What do you do for fun or relief?
I love to spend quality time with my little ones and my hubby. Our favorite thing to do is just laugh.
may2012 fashion
DEFEAT THE CROW'S FEET
by Terry Scott of ezrioni.com

You know those nasty lines you get over time around your eyes? Yes, crows' feet. To avoid developing them, spread a very small amount of vaseline along your temple where wrinkles can develop. You only need to do this at night about three times per week. Remember, do not get it in your eyes! The heavy moisturizer will lend elasticity to the skin and help prevent wrinkles.

may2012 fashion
SPRING INTO COLOR
by Monique Bickham of evolve4style.com

Spring is all about rebirth and being lively.  Your wardrobe should reflect this as well.  This season's fashion trends are bright colors, bold prints, and texture!  That is why it is a must to incorporate a pair of Bright Pants/Jeans into your wardrobe.  Choose a style that creates balance between your top and bottom proportions and fits properly throughout the butt, thighs, and hip area (even if you have to get them altered).  A wide leg trouser jean or pant works well for all body shapes especially for the full figured or "extreme" hour glass shape, the bootleg looks great on long legs with subtle curves, and a straight or skinny leg compliments a tall or petite woman with or without "subtle" curves.  You also may want to try a graphic Printed Dress, just make sure the print matches your stature and plays up your assets while downplaying your flaws.  Last but not least, try a Maxi Skirt they are great for all ages and body types, keep the length to the floor if you are petite, where as tall women can afford to show a little ankle without interrupting the leg line.

A full proof way to mix bright colors, bold prints, and different textures, is to use the same color palette when choosing pieces to wear!
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