across the table
"So, we all die.
We just don’t talk about it. And by IT, I mean, what actually happens when someone dies. We’re all curious about it but we also know that we can’t say “I’m sorry your Grandma passed away. Who did you call when it happened? Did she go to the morgue? Did you write the obituary?“
"This was one of my favorite maternity sessions, simply because this Mama was so excited to capturing her pregnancy. Previous losses gave them gave them such gratitude for this growing baby in her belly and it showed in her eyes and in her smile."
"Creating sauce from fruit is so delicious and perfectly simple. It's the perfect way to welcome summer into our kitchens.
You can add it to ice cream, shortcake, pancakes, french toast, angel food cake, biscuits, oatmeal or just lick it directly off the spoon.
March 14, 2019
Across the Table is a feature on my website where I sit down with people who I’ve met that I want to share with you. Sometimes we’ll be hitting up our favorite local coffee shops and sometimes I’ll be meeting with people over Facetime. This is a feature I’ve wanted to do for years. I am so lucky to meet so many incredible people and I’ve always dreamed of a way to share them with you. These people, they’re not CEOs of giant cooperations and most haven’t raised millions of dollars for a non-profit organization. These people are people who took a leap, people who play different, yet, critical roles and people who help create a community that is just simply good. These are the “almost” everyday people who play a part of the fiber of life. Colorful. Bold. Unique.
This is my first edition of Across the Table. We met at Cafe Fresco, located on a quaint corner in downtown Crown Point.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the first time I’ve met her. I met Jennifer Helen Connelly back in 1994, we were 17 years old. Although she lived in Crown Point and I lived in Michigan City, we met in Terre Haute, Indiana, where we were staying for a Spanish honors course.
The second day of the course, Jennifer Helen approached me and asked if the people on my shirt were my family members.
“um, no. They’re the Violet Femmes.”
So, we laughed and we’ve been laughing about it ever since.
But not always laughing, as much as I wish that were the case. We’ve traveled through our hardships, our heartbreaks with the other person being on the other side WITH them, FOR them. But as I’m typing that, I’m thankful we weren’t always laughing. Through our grief, our families, our careers, our talks that lasted hours upon hours, the big love stuff, sometimes the uncomfortable stuff, it’s created a bond between us that I wish every person could experience.
Jennifer Helen (for the record, not everyone calls her Jennifer Helen. I call her Jennifer Helen because she calls me Beth Helen. We share middle names, both named after our maternal grandmothers. This name sharing is one of many things on our list that we have in common. It is nearly killing me not to share the entire list, or some of the list with you, but I’ll refrain. But if you want to hear it, text me. I’ll tell you all about it.)
But we’re both also left-handed. Okay. I’ll stop.
It was critical to me that Jennifer Helen be the first person I share with you. I’ll tell you this: after every meeting for coffee, every meal, every encounter, I have always left feeling inspired, sometimes exhausted, in the very best way. So, I’m hoping to give you even an ounce of that feeling.
We sat down and we chatted and I asked her a series of questions about her personal life and her career. Her career is something that should be shared with everyone because everyone could benefit from her services. So, as you read this, I hope you can envision yourself sitting across from her or chatting on the phone with you…because, guys, that’s the type of thing she does for a career.
Jennifer Helen started out in the corporate world, dedicated, driven and giving her all. Eventually, however, she hit burnout. She took matters into her own hands and created Triple W forum, she’s a life coach, a yoga instructor, a mom to 3, a certified Birkman method instructor, a speaker and lover of life. Each month, she hosts a video/phone conferencing event available by invitation only. (Signing up for her email newsletter, will get you that invitation.) This month, I’ll be the guest speaker, covering the topics of work/life integration, well-being and, my personal focus of authenticity in how we communicate with each other, online and through the way we live our lives. The date for that event is March 27th.
What triggered a life change in you?
My love for exploring the inward terrain and self awareness (that has led to big and small life changes) probably started back in my high school days (late 90s) which is synchronistic with the time when I first met you. I loved learning and exploring presence and mindfulness before I even knew the word “mindfulness.” I found a poem on the back of a worksheet in English class that spoke to my heart. I ended up memorizing it and have shared it with many audiences and people since then. The main point from the poem is to be in the moment and cherish life as it is, right now.
Now, this being in the moment stuff, I discovered takes practice. LOTS of practice. The best way I ultimately discovered how to practice this on a more regular and deeper basis has been through yoga and meditation. I ended up getting certified to teach yoga back in 2009 when I left my Chicago job to start my own company. I had no idea where it was going to take me as I had 3 young children at the time. AND, I knew I needed to keep exploring the gift of yoga. It helped me so much with my anxiety, insomnia, relationships, parenting, and served as a super cool pathway to my inward journey to peace and wholeness. I had gotten pretty burned out on striving and achieving.
When did you begin this journey and what year did you begin Triple W?
The pain of burnout ended up revealing a courage within me to launch what has become my business for the last 10 years, Triple W Forum. I am so happy with how this seedling of a company has grown and developed over the past decade. Today, it is a diverse practice of approaches to help people uncover, restore, and enhance the innate strengths and talents that make them who they are so that they can live from a place of integration, wholeness and well-being.
I work with individuals and companies on personal and leadership development and relationship effectiveness through means of coaching, assessment work with The Birkman Method, and workshop facilitation. It brings me so much joy and gratitude to see this work in action.
I also pull all of these concepts together in an annual retreat format that was recently featured in the Leadership issue of Yoga Journal magazine. This Work Life Integration Retreat is each year in November, and it blends yoga, mindfulness, personal and leadership development, and Ayurvedic living to create a meaningful, magical immersive experience in the mountains of North Carolina.
In its early years, the work life integration retreat format has been for women. In 2019, I am excited to share that it is expanding to *all* women and men interested in learning and immersing themselves in these integrative teachings and experiences.
Each week, I teach yoga, Pilates, and meditation for people at all ages and stages of their lives… prenatal, kids, adults, seniors, and on therapeutic level for those with Parkinson’s Disease. I also go to people’s homes and provide private 1:1 sessions. I have definitely found my groove in teaching. I delight in the energy of the class and in helping others. And, I often say, The Yoga Room where I teach feels like a home away from home.
When I think about my company, I look at my hand and the number 5. Triple W Forum encompasses 5 areas: Birkman, Speaking, Coaching, Retreats, Mindfulness. I marvel at the fact that these 5 areas have been THE secret to my life unfolding in ever-increasingly healthy ways. I am kinder to myself. I am calmer and more joyful – even amidst chaos and struggle. I am more trusting of the wisdom that waits patiently for me to discover it. I am committed to continuing to learn and be a student of what I teach. And, I know that when I suffer or fall down, I have these 5 powerful resources to help me along the way. AND, I want to be of service to other men and women who’d like some part or all of what I offer.
Can you tell me about the moment when you decided to jump in and move forward with Triple W?
This comes in a few parts. Back in 1999, my sister Rachelle came up with a Wo-man’s Weekend “W2” and brought together friends from all over the US for a fun weekend in Atlanta. It was to be an annual tradition and then sadly, she got sick and ultimately passed away at the age of 33. In 2009, I was at dinner with *you* Beth Helen and was telling you about this idea I had to bring together people to talk through the challenges and opportunities with work life balance and sharing ideas on practices to live a more integrated, happy life. You said, “Why not just do it?!” And I said, “Yeah, why not?!” Later that week, I was in my office thinking about who to ask to attend and what I would call this thing. I thought of how I wish I could ask my sister Rachelle to attend. And, then I thought about her W2 weekend. I decided to call my new company, W3, as the next evolution of Rachelle’s original concept.
That’s how the name Triple W Forum was born. It originally stood for Working Women’s Workshop and has expanded over the years to involve consulting, coaching, leadership development, yoga, mindfulness and retreats for women and men. The Ws connect it to its early days; however, now it has evolved into a full practice supporting individuals and organizations.
One thing that is a mantra for Triple W Forum’s work (and my own personal daily practice) is to “unleash the innate strengths and gifts that make you who you are and be that person everyday.” All of my work ties back to this principle of helping people live and lead from strength along with equipping them with resources to support them through the stressors of daily life. Truly, my work is a passion of mine and it touches my heart and soul to be able to do this for a living.
Can you give us an explanation of what Triple W is and what it offers to people who attend?
The popular Work Life Integration Retreat is returning to the Art of Living Retreat Center for its fourth year: an opportunity to discover an immersive life-enhancing practice, structured around you. Blending the science of personal leadership development with well-being and stress relieving practices from ancient traditions, this long weekend is your next step towards embracing your role as a leader in your life. Sessions also include time to enjoy the Center’s offerings – hiking trails, pottery, spa treatments, or to simply unwind with a book whilst admiring the vastness of the mountain range – the choice is yours. Through practical workshops, 1:1 coaching sessions, lectures, journaling, yoga and mindfulness practices, you will discover:
As well as your Birkman Method packet, you will go home with the ability to approach each day from a place of strength and with a greater understanding of your unique leadership qualities.Open to working professionals at all ages and stages of their careers — from the early years in their professional role through to retirement. Registration details are here.
In just a few sentences, can you explain what coaching is?
For me, coaching – like yoga- provides an opportunity for personal transformation by seeing things with fresh perspective, removing blocks, creating new healthy patterns of thinking and being, working through a transition point in work or life, and generating results that align with what you most desire. I am also grateful for the many coaches that have supported me and continue to support me in my own personal transformation over the years.
People come to me for coaching for a variety of reasons. Here are a few examples from the viewpoint of “I am:” 1) I am getting ready for a promotion and want to step into my new role and support my team in a powerful way 2) I am in career transition and want to explore whether I want to stay in my current role or find something new 3) I am a business owner and have found repeating patterns that are preventing me from achieving the success I envision 4) I am experiencing burnout in my work and personal relationships due to the pace I am operating at 5) I am struggling with my life’s purpose and would like to do a better job of listening to my inner voice 6) I am experiencing a great deal of anxiety and stress due to the pressures I put on myself and would like to regain a sense of well-being
Do you have an ideal client?
My ideal client is someone who is curious and willing to play. By that I mean, someone who is hungry for learning and open to a conversation that may invite new ways of being for them that support them in healthier and more productive ways. I have worked with kids all the way up to people in their 70s and have discovered common ground and our shared human experience. This work lights my fire, and it delights me to see how the experience of coaching lights the fire in others.
What is your vision?
My vision is to embrace the flow and interconnectedness of life from the mindset of a kind, curious and loving student in order to be of service. I bring that vision to life in my relationships and in my work in supporting individuals, organizations, and communities.
If you could be coached by anyone, who would it be?
My daughter Fiona Rachelle. I have been fortunate to witness how she’s grown and how curious she is about human behavior. She has shared an interest in the Birkman Method, in the Enneagram, and in attending the retreats I host. She may pursue a career in the psychology field. If she ever explores coaching and asks me if I’d be her client, my answer is a resounding YES!
What is your dream day at work?
Oooooh! I love this question!
Stream of consciousness here… I wake up feeling refreshed and have coffee with my husband, Phil. I play a card game (Karma King) with my 3 kids before they go to school and we do lots of laughing. I walk my youngest son to school and we have great conversations about all kinds of things.
I come downstairs to my office with my bird, my cat and my dogs and we get settled in for the day. I do a meditation that gets me centered, grounded and focused. I smile as I look at my calendar and see that a day of my dreams is actually REAL! It starts off with back to back video coaching sessions with clients I have in DC and Tanzania.
Then I spend time preparing for full-day team development session that is scheduled for later in the week with one of my favorite corporate clients. I meet my husband for lunch and we discuss our cross-country road trip plans. I meet a local coaching client for a session over coffee and then head to the studio to teach a private yoga lesson to a couple that’s expecting their first child.
When I get back to my office, I see an email asking me to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming conference and they’d like to schedule a call to go over content ideas. I feel inspired and spend a few quiet moments writing my book, Stardust: The Journey Home. I sit back after I am done typing and feel a sense of ease in the pace the book is coming along. I get goosebumps and know that I am on the path. I video conference with Connor and share the news on how various projects and business goals are progressing. We give each other virtual high fives!
I decide to call it a day and head upstairs to play outside with my kids who’ve gotten home from school. It’s a mixture of volleyball and basketball with music and silliness. Phil gets home and we all play! Then we head in to make dinner together. It’s delicious. Afterward, we decide to go out and make a fire. Sitting under the stars we share some quiet, peaceful, snuggly moments together. After the evening routine, I cozy into my bed and feel the warmth of gratitude for having lived the day of my dreams and in trusting that the next day will unfold as it is intended. All is well.
What is your dream day at home?
Oooooh! This makes me happy!
I wake up feeling refreshed and excited for the day. I have coffee with my husband, Phil, for an hour or so. No rush. I light my favorite candles. We put the music on and start cleaning the house as a whole family. Everything looks inviting and in its place. We start preparing for the impromptu family/friends game night that we have offered to host. Everyone brings a dish and their favorite game to play. We randomly divide up into groups and spend an evening laughing, being silly, and having a ball! As a grand finale, we get everyone outside to play Kick the Can at the end. Everyone leaves feeling happy, energized and deeply connected. As I say goodnight to the kids, they share how they had the best day ever. As Phil and I snuggle up to fall asleep, we replay the highlights from the party and feel grateful for our amazing family and friends. Life is good.
Tell me two people who inspire you…one locally and one globally.
My Dad for his zest for life, his tenacity, his endless creativity and playful spirit.
Julio Olalla for his deep connection to the cosmos, for his ability to help people from all over the world, and for his compassion.
Living in Northwest Indiana…where are your favorite places to go? Restaurants, shops, etc.
Cafe Fresco for coffee and conversation (and of course to see the amazing owner, Breanne Zolfo)
Blue Pear for delightful gifts and treasures (for me or others) – Robert the owner, is a creative genius
The Yoga Room for yoga, meditation, workshops and amazing community – from Mike Zolfo, the owner, to the whole staff and community of students… it’s like home away from home
Asparagus for lunch or dinner… I could eat there weekly! It’s a favorite for date night too. 🙂
Giuseppe’s for their wood fired neopolitan pizza and rotini pasta dish… I got the nickname Big Mama from my family because I love their food so much, it reminds me of my home state, New Jersey, and the types of Italian restaurants we had there.
What do you know “for sure?”
That we are all connected. That we are all one. When I live from this place of deep knowing, I discover compassion and empathy and love for all beings.
And finally…what is your coffee drink of choice?
Vanilla Latte, with whipped cream.