Last year, my middle child had to attend a different elementary school because there wasn't enough space in her grade level at my eldest's school. I was bummed but knew that it would only be for one year and it was TK. She wouldn't really create any lasting bonds and I would go out of my way not to get close with anyone or volunteer my time there. It sounds selfish, but I didn't want to get attached. I would drop her off, say goodbye and shuffle out. I'd pick her up and try to stand alone, but then other moms started talking to me. In addition to that, my friendly child was making friends of her own. Well, damn. It seemed like I wasn't going to get out scot-free as planned.
Over the next few months, I noticed there was one particular mom who seemed to know everyone and everyone seemed to know her, but it wasn't in the obnoxious sense. She was genuine and had a cool air about herself. We introduced ourselves, but from there on out she referred to me as she did the rest of her people- "Friend". "Hey, Friend," she would say when I tried to casually sneak up so nobody would see me. It was too late. I made a friend who shared in my sarcasm and passion for Beyonce. Our daughters were close in age and our husbands both had a huge passion for the Lakers. Collectively, we all loved food adventures. Most importantly though, we all believe in raising strong ladies with level heads. Ari is an amazing mom and human who keeps it real when she feels like sh*t. She is honest about her trials as a parent and shares it with full transparency through her blog and on social media. I consider myself so blessed to be her friend and even though Mia was only at the other school for that one year, I'm pretty sure I now know why she was meant to go there.
What is your name and how do we know each other?
“Well, my name is Ari Rodriguez and we know each other because our littles went to Kindergarten together...and then you abandoned us.” (There's that transparency I was telling you all about :)
How old are you?
What are you currently doing with yourself?
(Almost spits out coffee). “What am I doing with my life besides failing? I am parenting, substitute teaching, a daisy troop leader and leader of an outreach program called Anchored. It serves women in the sex industry. I am an advisor at CSULB for the Delta Gamma chapter and a wife.”
Are you where you hoped you would be? If not/ Why? If so-what do you love about it and could you see yourself doing anything else?
“Oh my gosh. Yes and no. No, because I hoped to have finished my first book by now that I had the idea for roughly 10 years ago. I dreamed of working in advertising and being a big advertising exec but, and a HUGE but, yes. Because while I'm not using my passion to be creative in advertising, I have found other outlets to use it. Yes, because I am mom to two pretty awesome girls whom I love passionately and find joy in being connected to...and yes because I have a full life I feel grateful to own.”
Women are becoming a resilient sound that cannot be silenced. What are you doing to contribute that sound?
“Encouraging young women to find their voice and use it and not be afraid of it. I want to do this starting with my six and nine-year-old, to the young women I encounter in classrooms every day, to the college women I advise, to the women that I serve in my outreach program.”
What is something you learned from a younger age that has stuck with you?
“To talk about people in their absence the same way you would to their face.”
Who is an individual who made a profound impact on you and why?
“I called her my mom. She was like my second mom. Tammy Kronz. I met her when I was in high school at church. She kind of adopted me. She loved me passionately and I loved her fiercely. What I admired about her was that she loved people very hard. She had a way of making people feel welcomed in her presence. I loved and admired how she would just love effortlessly.”
What is a weakness or something that exposes your vulnerability and what do you do to combat/embrace it in order to grow?
“A weakness I have is coming up with a great idea or what I feel like are “God Ideas” and being pumped about them...but then due to fear of failure or doing well, I won’t do it at all. Recently, I have tried, ‘doing it afraid,’ taking baby steps. For example, I made an outline for my book. I’ve written out what each chapter is going to be called and I’ve written three pages.”
What is something that you want to accomplish and what are you doing to get to that place, if anything?
“Well, I’d like to accomplish writing a book. Currently, I’m doing nothing. But that is a conviction I have and I know that this isn’t something that I can just snap my finger and get it done. I need to make time for it, to get it done. I also want to accomplish that If I were to die today, I would want people to say that they felt loved. That I made them feel loved.”
And now...a few questions to lighten the mood...
Dogs or Cats?
“Oh dogs. Cats are of the devil.”
Cheeseburgers or Salad?
“I don’t like cheese...so it would have to be salad. If it were a hamburger, that would be different.”
Beach or Mountains?
“Beach. I would live there if I could.”
Sweet or Salty?
“That’s a hard one. Can I put them together?”
Lose all of your old memories or never make new ones?
“I’m pretty content...never make new ones.”
Disney..or is there any alternative?
“Am I picking another network? I’m so confused.” (Clearly, not a Disney person lol.)
What is a fun fact that someone may not know about you?
“When I eat fruits and vegetables, I fart A LOT.”
And the final two important questions...
What is a common misconception about you that people make based on your appearance? What is your truth and how do you personify strength?
“A misconception about me is that I am outgoing and have it all together. I try to not laugh when I am told that. The reality is that I am REALLY shy. I was cripplingly shy as a child. As an adult, I forced myself out of that. #Doitafraid. I do it in practice. I talk to others. It’s weird, I want people to feel welcomed but I am also really afraid to be outspoken. I think I see the reflection of what I am internally feeling and I don’t want that for others.”
You have inspired me. What about yourself do you hope to put out in order to inspire other young people?
“I want to write a book about my childhood, not that I had an exciting childhood. I want to help women realize their true value and worth. I realize most things that I do come from that drive. In 8th grade, I was going to commit suicide. I've been in a place where I felt like I was worth nothing but eventually found the path finding that value. I want to help impart that on others. I am passionate about them finding that early on.”