Stand Tall In Your Story: Leslie Smith
Rebecca: Hello, this is Rebecca Fleetwood Hession, host of The Badass Women's Council podcast. And I'm super glad that you're here. We have a very, very, very special series, binge- worthy one might say, called Stand Tall In Your Story and these episodes come to you straight from an event that we held on March 8th of 2022, called Stand Tall In Your Story. It was held at the Vogue Theater in Broad Ripple, Indiana, and it features seven amazing women who have been through an experience that I host every year called Rise and Thrive, a seven month experience for these women to really discover themselves again so that they can stand tall in their story. And as they go through this seven month experience, there's a story that bubbles up in them, a very human story, that they know that they need to share because someone or many someones probably need to hear it. And so I'm excited to bring these stories to you. As I said, they're short and powerful and mighty and binge worthy. So let's get started, shall we? Next up is Leslie Smith and Leslie was awarded the opportunity to be in the Rise and Thrive experience from one of our sponsors, Gibson Insurance, who has been an absolute friend of the show in this experience, since the beginning, we thank them for their contribution. But I remember the day that I called Leslie and told her that she had been awarded this scholarship. And y'all you would've thought she won an Emmy or a Grammy or something, she was just oozing with excitement and gratitude. And what we came to find out through this experience is that's just who she is. She is empathic and full of grace and gratitude, and she became known for her contagious laugh. In fact, one of my favorite things that happened during the seven month experience is Christine said one day," I just love Leslie's laugh. Could you just record it for me and send it to me every single day so I can listen to it." And we probably should have done that. Maybe I'll go back and do that for Christine, because it's true, you can't hear her laugh without feeling the joy that it amounts. I cannot wait for you to hear Leslie's story. Here we go.
Leslie Smith: And publicly, thank you Gibson. I really, really appreciate you. I really did have a fairytale childhood. I grew up in the suburbs of each Midwestern state between Pennsylvania and Missouri and I would say my parents had pretty good jobs when I was growing up. I attended private school between preschool and kindergarten and earned mostly A's and B's. Check this out though, my parents would give me$ 1 for every A on my report card and being a little girl at that age, honey, I thought I was rich. I finally transitioned to public school after begging my parents to attend school with my cousins. Fast forward to college. I graduated with no student loans. Thank you, Harry and Debbie, those are my parents. No debt at all. I even studied abroad in London, England, and went on a mission trip to Africa. I had it made. About six months later, I met my husband on a blind date. Now that really is another story. Listen to him saying" Sure is." We had no chemistry at all. Absolutely none. But his mother and his aunt encouraged him to call me again. And he did and we've talked daily every day since. Now, as crazy as our story may be, we got married about a year and a half later and yeah, the rest is history. So, after we got married, we moved to Chicago. He's in the arts, he got a job on a stage play so off we went,. I worked at a temporary job for about six months and then I started my own insurance agency. Isn't that weird, my own insurance agency? With a well known insurance company. And then a few years later, we got pregnant with my baby girl, Ava, who is the love of our life. So after my maternity leave, I decided not to return to work because our income did not offset daycare expenses. I started working my side hustle full time, but that didn't produce full- time income. My husband Rawlin lost his job. He was fired for circumstances outside of his control. Our car was repossessed. Our home was foreclosed on. Our bank account was overdrawn. We went from being Chicago tourists to me bringing home food from work meetings just to feed our little family. I still remember calling my parents and my sister Lauren to ask them to wire me money just so I could put gas into my tank so I could get home from work. I became depressed, anxious, experienced numerous panic attacks, two where I was sent to the emergency room, once in an ambulance. It got so bad that both of our parents came up to Chicago to have an intervention with us so we could sort out our finances. And I am forever grateful for my auntie Barbara who opened up her home so we could have a place to stay so we could get back on our feet. Well, shortly thereafter, Ava, she came up to me and she was like," Mommy, I'm hungry. Can I have a sandwich?" And I was like," Okay, let's go in the kitchen." So we go in the kitchen, I look in the counter and there's hot dog buns and there's ketchup in the fridge, but nothing really of substance. No deli meat, no cheese, no peanut butter and she's allergic to that anyway, so I really didn't feel like I was doing anything right just to make her this ketchup sandwich. And I had no choice, but to make her this ketchup sandwich. I gave it to her and off she went, she went and watched her little show and I stayed in the kitchen and I balled. I sobbed. I was anxious. I was miserable. I couldn't even pay for the hot dog to go in the hot dog bun, which probably cost 99 cents at Aldi. And to my surprise, I hear these little feet on our old wooden floors and it's Ava so I wiped away my tears. I didn't want her to see her mommy cry. And she goes," Mommy, can I have another one of those sandwiches?" I was very confused." I couldn't give her what she needed," so I thought and she was just happy about something new that pleased her little taste buds. I was miserable and here she was happy about all that ketchup. It was a very difficult moment for me, but it became lighter because of the innocence and wonder of our baby girl, Ava. And yes, we experienced a lot of lows. We were very creative with our dating, making wonderful experiences for our new little family, but we had to depend on other people who loved us so we could provide for our baby girl, Ava, and even just for ourselves. We depended on them to buy us onesies, food. I remember one of my coworkers bought me a pair of shoes, actually two pair of shoes from Target because she saw that my flats that I was wearing to work were falling apart. I was broken. However, God was like," Leslie, I need you to learn how to depend on me. I thought I would have that fairytale white picket fence. There you go, get it right. White picket fence fairytale my entire life. But no, God was like," I need you to depend on me for your life to be whole." Much like Ava depended on me to feed her that day. Thank you Ava for teaching me and your daddy to depend on Jesus. Well guess what? Our ketchup sandwich journey hasn't ended yet. I shared this story with my Rise and Thrive sisters just a few short months ago. They felt my misery, my anxiety, my stress, my hurt because of my perception of the situation. And then Danika, who you met at the very beginning, the one that her flesh was showing. Yeah, her. But she looks at us with this crazy," What are y'all crazy?" expression on her face and says, I love ketchup sandwiches. I just had one last night. And I was like," Say what now?" She was like," Yeah, I love ketchup sandwiches." Turns out ketchup sandwiches aren't just for broke folk and little kids. We did exactly what y'all did. We cracked up, the emotional tension broke, my tears dried up and I could literally feel God's unconditional love and peace come over me. It was truly a high moment for me because I realized that perception is what makes our stories so beautiful. Now my son, RJ, who's seven, he loves ketchup. He does. My seven year old boy, he loves ketchup. So I think what I'm going to do is go home and make him a ketchup sandwich. He actually may enjoy it and maybe you will too. Hold up. Oh yeah, one more thing. Rebecca.
Rebecca: Yes, ma'am.
Leslie Smith: Let me tell you what the moral of the story is.
Leslie Smith: I was broken. Broken at that moment in the kitchen, but I learned that I am not my circumstances. I'm not. I learned through time and life that our stories make us stronger and life is truly all about perspective. Life is all about perspective. I had to go through failure to feast. There is healing in transparency and I needed a test to have a testimony. What is your test? What is your story? What is it that you can share with someone else to bring healing to yourself and to someone else and all those around you? So like Danika did for me, I encourage you and you and all of you to go through that transformative healing process of sharing your story. Thank you.
Rebecca: Hold on, girl. Hold on. So Leslie is Director of Alumni Services with DePauw University and one of the things I want to point out is the people that are watching from our virtual experience had the opportunity to watch a short video clip from Dr. White. Could you just share a little bit about... Dr. White is the first female president. Tell us a little bit about that part of the story.
Leslie Smith: So Dr. White was actually appointed... What is this? This is 2022. 2 years ago, it'll be two years, July one, she is the first, not only the first woman, but she is the first person of color, Black woman, to preside over DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. And we are... She honestly really wanted to be here this evening, but you know she's a president of a university and her schedule is a little busy, but we are elated to have her. She is... I can't really describe how grateful I am to work under such a prestigious leader. She is world renowned. Honestly, people love her and she has a great vision for DePauw University. We're currently working on our strategic plan, which I think she talked about in the video, but she's very adamant about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. She wants all of our students, our faculty and our staff to feel like they have a place at DePauw University. So we are beyond grateful to have her as the... That's a DePauw alum in the house saying that they are grateful.
Leslie Smith: But yes, we're grateful to have her.
Rebecca: And we're grateful for you. Thank you so much. Thank you girl. Thanks for being here for our binge worthy series Stand Tall In Your Story. I have a super duper fun thing starting this summer. This could be the best summer of your life. In fact, that's just what I'm calling it as the tagline. So, starting on June 21st, which is the first day of summer, I'm launching a four month Your Summer Story series, The Best Summer of Your Life. And it is a combination of reflection and connection, which you know, that's what we're about around here. So it's all virtual. It's a series of journal prompts and information that comes from my book Write Your Own Story. You can participate from anywhere in the world. We will give you each week workbooks and reflection questions that you work through the summer and also each week I'll pop in with a live teaching you on the little concept or a little conversation that we'll have and then each month we'll gather together as a group and you can share how it's going and learn a little bit from each other. I'll give you all the details in a document. So go to wethrive. live, look for The Best Summer of Your Life information and we'd love to have you join us. We start June 21st.
The Rise & Thrive experience has been transformational for our leading ladies and their businesses. The 7-month-long experience leads to the Stand Tall In Your Story series, where the women of Rise & Thrive share their stories on stage, bringing everyone together to connect and celebrate.
This episode is the sixth story of Rebecca's Stand Tall In Your Story series, featuring Leslie Smith, who tells her story of healing through transparency—going through failures and how those don't define you but make you stronger.