When it comes to Dads, I’m doubly blessed. I am very close with my father, despite not having grown up with him, and gained a pretty unique step-dad when I was ten. The two are a study in contrast – and yet together they had a tremendous influence on the “what” and the “how” of the great big dream that is freedible.
Without a doubt, the "what" behind freedible, my determination to build not just a business but a social movement, comes from my (biological) Dad. As a child, I remember watching my father’s freely-flowing tears as he listened to stories of people suffering on the news, or his leadership as one of the only professors to help man the student-built shanty town that successfully pressured Dartmouth College to divest from apartheid South Africa. As an adult, I watched him retire from a cyber crime think tank to dedicate his time to public service, running for the Vermont House of Representatives and leading a non-profit bringing broadband access to rural Vermonters. Watching him has instilled in me the life view that personal gifts are opportunities to help others, and a genuine enthusiasm for creating real social change. That combination is a driving force behind freedible.
My step-father, meanwhile, played a big part in shaping the “how” of freedible. A man known to me since I was 10 simply as “Ken,” he taught me a lot about how you go after the things that are important to you, by modeling the satisfaction that can come through working hard to tackle hard problems – always with a quick wit and a wry sense of humor.
While I was growing up, Ken intentionally stayed clear of my professional decision-making -- yet with a few well-placed comments scattered across the years he had a tremendous impact on it. I well recall the night in high school when I finally pressed him on his seeming lack of enthusiasm for my long-held dream of becoming a professional flutist. Was it because he didn’t think I was good enough? “No – I just think you should be the conductor.” He seemed to see the entrepreneur in me from a young age.
Ken was also my first instructor not in how you cook but in how you construct a recipe. Both my mom and my step-dad had to travel a lot in our early years as a family; they worked at the same company and I would literally trade off from one to the other in Baltimore’s BWI airport.
Dinners with Mom were tried-and-true family recipes -- meals that checked all the boxes on the FDA’s infamous food pyramid. Dinners with Ken were an adventure in pillaging those leftovers with a mischievous smile to create his famous - and consciously irreverent - “Ken’s Goullash” (an always unexpected combination of whatever happened to be in the fridge + a bag of frozen Chinese vegetables) or “Ken’s Famous Omelet” (the same, but with eggs in place of the veges). Ken taught me to trust my instincts, and that my instincts were good.
Of course, these lessons swirl together and build on a foundation of the lessons from my two mothers, like learning that a woman can do anything she puts her mind to by watching my mom start and run a successful environmental consulting business just next door to her kitchen. Or the constant reminders from my step-mom, a child psychologist, to look for opportunities to solve problems for all
kids – especially ones living in poverty – if I’m working to solve them for my own.
As I sit at my desk, all four of my parents and the lessons they’ve taught me weave in and out of my daily efforts to build freedible. Each has its own color and texture and each helps to guide my course through a different aspect of the challenges and opportunities before me. With all that richness, you could say that the little home office we’ve converted into freedible headquarters is a bit crowded.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.This post was first published on the Living Freedibly blog for Father's Day, 2013.