From Small Town To Big Influence: Jerrie Merritt’s Legacy of Giving Back

In this week’s episode in our Black Trailblazer’s series, Jen may have leveraged her connections, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she did. We’re excited to have a wonderful sit down with the amazing Jerrie Merritt (who just happens to be Jen’s boyfriend Tyler’s mother–and a Black trailblazer in every sense of the word). In addition to being Tyler’s mom, Jerrie’s currently the Senior VP of Community Development at the Bank of Nevada in Las Vegas. Her banking career spans 40 plus years, where her job now is discerning funding for community development projects in the city of Las Vegas (as she puts it; “I’m the only person at the bank who’s actually giving money away!”). She’s been the board president of the Rape Crisis Center, The Urban Financial Services Coalition, and the Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas. She even recently got to work with the NFL when the Super Bowl took place in Las Vegas to lead the dispersion of funds they made available to 14 worthy organizations, which she chose. In 2021, Jerrie received an actual Trailblazer Award, presented by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women from the Las Vegas Chapter. Jerrie takes us back to where it all began; in a tiny town called Eutaw, Alabama, where Jerrie didn’t see much modeled to her in the way of dreaming of who she could be, but through generosity of spirit and a willingness to take a chance, she started blazing her trail. It wasn’t without its challenges, coming up during a time where women–especially black women–were often shunned in business and leadership settings. Despite this, Jerrie paved a way, and in turn is paving a way for those coming up behind her. Her infectious courage, intertwined with a humility that hits you right in the feels—will incite a fire with all of us to leave our own indelible mark on this wild, beautiful world.

Dr. Rick Hanson on Confrontation as a Path to Well-Being

We’ve got another empowering episode in our Facing Your Fears series, and boy, do we have a fear that hits close to home for a lot of us – confronting those tough conversations we’d rather dance around than dive into. If the thought of confrontation has you squirming in your seat, you’re in good company. But what if we flipped the script and viewed these moments of truth-telling as acts of honor, steps towards healing and improvement?

Jen invites the insightful Dr. Rick Hanson, celebrated psychologist, acclaimed author, and speaker extraordinaire, to dissect our dread of difficult chats. Dr. Hanson is on a mission to transform confrontation into a finely honed skill that fosters lasting well-being and better relationships. His wisdom will not only challenge your perceptions but provide you with the practical tools to embrace these crucial conversations with confidence.

Don’t miss out on this transformative discussion that could redefine how you approach confrontation, making your connections healthier, and you, happier.

 

Ashton Applewhite Unravels Harmful Attitudes Toward Aging

As we continue our series on facing our fears, we introduce a fear that many of us may not talk about comfortably, but in reality, we are all facing; the fact that we are aging. In case this is something that moves you into a state of deep denial, or perhaps you are employing a world of efforts (including for profit products and practices) to stave off the inevitable progression, or even if you are just taking it all in stride, we all are subject to what the world at large has to say about it and—mostly–it’s not positive. A pervasive ageist attitude infiltrates the media we consume, our own friend groups, and even what we tell ourselves consciously and subconsciously about aging. We come by it naturally, though–with deeply ingrained stereotypes and discriminatory practices that extend everywhere from the workplace to the bedroom. Our guest this week shares how she went from being an apprehensive boomer to becoming a pro-aging radical as she dismantles myths and debunks the portrayal of older people as societal burdens; with years of research under her belt, she dreams of an aging-friendly world. Ashton Applewhite is the author of “This Chair Rocks–A Manifesto Against Ageism,” and she makes it her life’s work to expose ageist behavior, and educate us all as to how we can stop giving aging a bad rap. Jen and Ashton take an eye-opening look at ageism as a form of bias as unacceptable as any other, and give us actionable steps to ignite “age pride,” keeping in mind that aging is an integral part of our life journey, not a condition to be cured or concealed. If you’re fretfully staring down the next decade of life with fear and denial, consider the possibility that being stressed about aging actually can cause the very things we fear about aging. Ashton sums it up like this; “If you learn about aging, you will be less afraid. That knowledge and information is going to confer all kinds of protection about aging as well as you possibly can.”

 

Two Friends Compare Notes On Therapy: Jen and Kelly

We’re bringing a close to our series on therapy, and we couldn’t be happier to have Kelly Corrigan with us to have a candid conversation with Jen around their thoughts on therapy, including when it first entered their awareness, and now, in a more enlightened age, how the next generation has more access to therapeutic help. Even as recently as 20-30 years ago, therapy was not talked about a lot in public. For Jen and Kelly, they didn’t see it modeled from their parents, it wasn’t mentioned in their church circles, and only earth shattering situations seemed to require it. But as they look back, they realized there were people in their lives who were likely touched by a host of mental health issues–like panic attacks, depression, anxiety–and they usually suffered in silence while others wondered why they were so “moody” or “different.” Now that therapy is enjoying its day in the zeitgeist, we can all benefit from the openness around mental health that is evolving daily. Kelly’s a dear friend of Jen’s and has been on our show numerous times–winning the coveted title of most appearances on our pod! Besides offering wonderful conversation and amazing insight here, Kelly is the host of her own podcast, Kelly Corrigan Wonders, and is the author of several amazing books including Tell Me More, Glitter and Glue, and The Middle Place. She also hosts a show called “Tell Me More” for NPR, and she and Jen discuss the value of the statement “tell me more” when relating to others about our deepest thoughts and feelings.

 

Freedom From Codependency with Melody Beattie

We’re back with some more therapeutic goodness as we approach the tail end of our therapy series with another fire episode! Awareness around mental health, trauma, dysfunctional family systems and more has been coming into the national awareness on a bigger level over the last 10 years. But back in 1986, the concept of codependency was really new. And unless you were deep into studying sociology or psychology or seeing a therapist yourself back then (also something that wasn’t as widely accepted), Melody Beattie’s book, Codependent No More, gave words to the masses who never had a way to describe these types of relationships in their lives. Codependency can worm its way into our lives—the definition being; those imbalanced relationships in our lives where one person enables another person’s self-destructive behavior (like addiction, immaturity, or even irresponsibility). It’s a bit insidious for those who don’t know what it looks like, and for so many, Melody’s book was a resource to help free themselves from something they may not have even recognized in their own lives. 35 years later, it’s still shining a light on those situations. Melody comes in with a scalpel to cut away to this very precise way of behaving and relating to another that is cloaked in good intentions and self-righteousness but is actually ruining our relationships. And fun fact, we were the very first podcast Melody has ever been on! Last year, she celebrated a new edition of her book honoring 35 years of its impact. Melody and Jen walk through how to recognize what codependency is and how it might be a part of your life and your relationships—which are the first important steps toward making an enormous change for the better. 

Are You Happy? Dr. Sara Kuburic Wants Us To Stop Lying To Ourselves and Take Ownership of Our Choices

It’s time for this week’s podcast therapy session and we’ve got another great therapist in our “office” as part of our For the Love of Therapy series. Dr. Sara Kuburic is an existential psychotherapist, author and the force behind The @Millennial.Therapist account on Instagram. Dr. Kuburic believes that each of us is a free and responsible agent who determines our own development through acts of our will. Though this isn’t always a popular view to take, as we often look to outside forces to blame for our unhappiness, Dr. Kuburic wants us to understand that we have this amazing opportunity to engage in life and we can take ownership and responsibility over our choices. In that vein, she asks a very important question: how much of what we deal with in life happens to us, and how much of it did we inflict on ourselves? (that’s a fun thing to spend a few hours pondering). But as a therapist, she helps people find tools to address whatever stage of life they’re–maybe it is a bad situation and you just can’t change it–but as she likes to ask: “what can you change or how can you change your attitude so the situation is less painful for you?” In addition to thinking about our lives existentially, Jen and Dr. Kuburic also discuss the concept of self-loss and how we can deceive ourselves into thinking we’re living the life we want, when our bodies are telling us otherwise by devolving into depression, anxiety and panic. 

Jen and Dr. Kuburic get honest about: 

  • What it’s like when you love the “idea” of who you are more than who you actually are–and how to stop lying to yourself
  • What happens when not making a change in your life actually becomes more painful than changing
  • Realizing that our bodies do have limits–no matter how strong you think you are or how strong you’ve been—your body is sending up red flags with feelings of anxiousness, fear or panic for seemingly no reason
  • How sometimes our dedication to make something work can be so all consuming–even if that thing isn’t the right thing for our lives and hat commitment, which is normally a good quality, can lead us to our weakest moments if we don’t face up to the truth

Jada Pinkett-Smith on Trauma, Grief, and the Power of Embracing Your Journey

We’re in the thick of our “For the Love of Therapy” series, and this week we’re getting a full helping of candor and insight from the multifaceted actress and author, Jada Pinkett Smith. Jada candidly reveals another side to her journey that many might not know from her highly public persona, a story where she takes charge of her narrative in the face of what people have decided for themselves who they think she is. Jada recounts the formative and often traumatic events of her past, and talks in stark terms about her present day pain points. Without sparing the hard parts, Jada leans into what it’s like for her, as it is for so many of us to be a woman today, what it’s like to reckon with our trauma, and marriage is really like behind the curtain, in hopes that what she’s learned will resonate with other women, no matter what their story is. 

Jen and Jada compare notes from their own lives about:

  • Jada’s encounters with complex trauma, PTSD, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation
  • How mental health issues can visit anyone at any time, regardless of privilege or upbringing
  • The slow acceptance to admitting they’ve faced trauma, thinking “others have had it worse” – and the continued work toward reckoning with that truth
  • The reality that all of us, especially those in the public sector, will be judged by others, and a new understanding that judgment is most often about people’s own pain and how they’ve been hurt by others’ judgment, rather than it is about the person being judged

Through sharing her life journey, which she covers in much greater detail in her newly released book “Worthy,” it’s Jada’s hope to encourage others navigating similar struggles towards wellness and understanding.

 

Sheltered Kids Who Grew Up To Be Funny: Trey + Katie Kennedy and Jake Triplett

We’re back with more funny, and this week doesn’t disappoint. For those of you who grew up in the Bible Belt and maybe went to a conservative church (or even if you didn’t), perhaps you were a bit sheltered like our guests this week. Before racking up over 12 million combined followers on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and elsewhere, and hosting the hit podcast Correct Opinions, comedian Trey Kennedy came to fame on the short-form videosharing app Vine. His hilarious and pointed videos ranged from imitating a church youth pastor who is cornily trying to be cool and up on pop culture, to an overly sunny Dad who tries to drag his teenage son out of bed to go to church. Now, Trey has teamed up with his friend Jake Triplett, who he met at a Christian camp, and the two co host the podcast, along with Trey’s wife Katie (who keeps the pair on track and from going down too many rabbit holes). In this episode, the trio and Jen share the commonalities of their Baptist church upbringings, their naivete about dating customs (hearing Jake’s assessment of what he thought french kissing was will make you howl), and how Trey’s Bible wielding grandmother had a serious talk with him about rumors of him being gay (He’s not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that). They’ve managed to turn being ‘sheltered’ into comedy gold, and they’ve been taking their brand of comedy all around the country with their recent “Grow Up” tour and their clean comedy is resonating everywhere. Their funny spin on their past doesn’t just give us a good laugh; it also makes anyone who had a similar childhood feel like part of a big, quirky family.

 

Redefining Community & Friendships When Faced With The Unexpected ft. Emma Nadler

As we close in on the end of our Community and Friendships series, we’re reflecting on the great conversations we’ve had toward building relationships in our lives. And this week’s convo puts the cherry on top as we discuss our friends as “chosen family” and the shape that our friendship and communities take when we are in a place where we need extra support. Our guest this week, Emma Nadler, is a therapist, author and speaker who is doing valuable work in helping people build deeper relationships. Emma knows firsthand what it means to rely on her circle in ways she never thought she would, when her daughter was diagnosed with a DNA disorder, shifting the life she knew, and navigating the special care, multiple hospital stays, and more than full-time parenting her daughter needs. By leaning on her community and being brave enough to ask for help (when sometimes the tendency is to act like we’ve got it all under control). Emma’s goal is to show us how we can look beyond preconceived notions about what it means to be valued and to belong, and leads us toward building a world where thriving in community is possible for every single person. 

Emma and Jen touch on: 

  • What it looks like when our “family” looks different than expected in the context of friendships and our communities
  • How to understand and learn to tolerate our emotions when it comes to interacting with friends and community and how to find meaning in everything—good and bad
  • Practical steps on fostering really authentic connections, asking for help, and creating inclusive spaces
  • The power of being direct when reaching out to connect with new people, or friends you’ve drifted from, to foster a deeper relationship 

There’s so much value in learning how to meaningfully connect with others and create communities and friendships that celebrate our joyful times and anchor us at difficult times.

 

The Hardest Part of Friendship; When It’s Time To Say Goodbye ft. Erin Falconer

We’re back with our “For the Love of Community and Friendship Series, and this week, we delve into an area of friendship that all of us may face, but inevitably dread. It’s that moment when you know a friendship has run its course, or perhaps has become toxic, or you’ve just drifted apart–and you don’t know how to go forward. When life changes, when we change, and a friendship no longer serves us, how do we gracefully (and honestly) communicate about it? Our guest this week, who is here to walk us through this touchy topic, is writer, former standup comedian and political consultant Erin Falconer. Erin’s written a book called How to Break Up With Your Friends: Finding Meaning, Connection and Boundaries in Modern Friendships. Lest you think this is just a conversation on how to wipe your friend slate clean, stick around–you’ll hear Jen and Erin talk about how to create and maintain the healthiest friendships through all the seasons of our lives in order to avoid the painful friend breakup. 

They also discuss:

  • Erin’s “Six Pillars of Friendship” that help us take stock of who is in our life and how we’re serving each other
  • What to do when we see a friendship has run its course or needs to shift or change in some way
  • How to keep the source of joy going in our adult friendships, and minimize the pain

It’s tough to grapple with the complexities of friendship breakups, but it all starts with building healthy relationships from the start.