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Finding Fertile Ground Podcast
Season one

Finding Fertile Ground Podcast: Stories of Grit, Resilience, and Connection

11 Black

6 Asian

13 White

3 Latinx

24 Women

3 Nonbinary

6 Men

1 Jewish

1 Muslim

1    Sikh

1 Trans

2 In recovery

9 Immigrants

2 Outside the U.S.

6 Gay/Les.

1 Bisexual

Finding Fertile Ground Demographics.png

You can find the Finding Fertile Ground Podcast on all major Podcast channels.


1. Meet resilient refugee Olive Bukuru Kaburu, who fled Burundi with her family when she was just six months old. 


In the first episode of the Finding Fertile Ground Podcast, I interview Olive Bukuru Kabura, whose family fled from war-torn Burundi when Olive was just 6 months old. She grew up in a refugee camp in Tanzania until she was 10, when her family moved to Oregon. We talked about her experiences in Africa, assimilating to the United States, going back to Tanzania and Burundi a few years ago, Black Lives Matter and racism here, Black Panther, and the incredible resilience of immigrants. Read more about Olive.

2. Meet fierce fighter Skye Leybold, who is living with metastatic breast cancer and finding joy in simple things.

Skye Leybold thought she'd tackled cancer until it came back with a vengeance three and a half years later. Her medical team essentially gave up on her when she went into liver failure, but Skye and her husband were not willing to accept that. Fast-forward to a few years later, and she is surviving and thriving. Read more about Skye

3. Meet Dennett Edwards, who is paying it forward, driven by her passion to help people.

Dennett's parents divorced when she was young, and she didn't have access to a lot of resources. She ended up dropping out of high school, earning her GED by age 16, and then going on to earn nearly three master's degrees. When COVID-19 hit, she fired up her creativity and began a free online professional network: Corona Daze Professional Development. Read more about Dennett

4. Meet Dr. Daivati Bharadvaj, who overcame bullying in her teen years to reclaim her power and her Indian heritage.

Daivati’s parents left India and arrived in the United States with $24 and four-year-old Daivati. When she was a teenager, Daivati’s family moved to the Jersey Shore, in a much less diverse community. At the tender age of 13, Daivati experienced bullying, name calling, and a racist attack by a gang of boys. It made her question her value and beauty, and it also made her feel embarrassed of her family, brown skin, and Indian heritage. Somehow Daivati found the grit and strength to sign up for her school talent show and perform an Indian dance before the whole school. She reclaimed her Indian identity and became proud of her heritage. We spoke about racism and xenophobia, COVID-19 as a health care provider, her inspirational parents, and being pregnant during a pandemic. Read more about Daivati.

5. Meet Rabbi Debra Kolodny, a spiritual badass who has been fighting for all sorts of social justice causes since 1981.

As executive director of Portland United Against Hate, they've been on the streets for the Portland #BlackLivesMatter movement too. Born in New York, Rabbi Debra (D’vorah) Kolodny (they/them) is a veteran of social justice movements, bringing a spiritual perspective and an activist’s passion to racial and economic justice, women’s, environmental, peace, and LGBTQIA+ causes since 1981. We spoke about social justice, the current protests on the Portland streets, their calling to become a rabbi, how we can stamp out hate in public spaces, and what they find inspiring in their own life. Read more about Rabbi Debra

Three Men of Color, Redefining Fatherhood


6. Meet Ruben Garcia, a Mexican-American man who grew up working in a migrant labor camp and became the father he never had himself.

Ruben was born in Texas to a Mexican family with ten children, an abusive and alcoholic father, and an inattentive and dysfunctional mother. When he was nine, his family moved from New Mexico to a migrant labor camp in Oregon, where he had to work from sunup to sundown picking produce. We talked about racism and prejudice, how he used his own traumatic experiences to help other children affected by trauma, and how he overcame his shame and lack of family or societal support to build a positive life for himself and his own family. Read about Ruben here.  

7. Meet Charles Jackson II, a Black man from Florida who is a true leader and connector.


I met Charles on LinkedIn, when he asked if he could interview me about my article, "The Weapons of White Women's Tears." That was just the beginning of a whole series of conversations I've had about race and other vulnerable topics. I will always be grateful to Charles for inspiring me to launch my own podcast. Charles and I had a wonderful conversation about his life, racism and George Floyd, parenting, fathers and sons, leadership, basketball, reading and watching, and grit and resilience. Read about Charles here


8. Meet Ken Harge, a Black man from Connecticut who is here for something great.  

In my final "Three Men of Color, Reinventing Fatherhood" series, I interviewed Ken Harge, who says writing saved his life. Although his childhood lacked love and nurturing, he has transformed himself into becoming a highly creative, grounded, and self-aware person who believes his difficult childhood had a reason. Ken knows he is here for something great. He dropped some profound thoughts about #BlackLivesMatter and policing, men and self-esteem, writing, and other topics during our conversation. Read about Ken here.

Four Badass Black Women


9. Meet Badass Lotus Flower Libra Forde, executive, activist, speaker, former pro basketball player, and single mom. 

Libra grew up in Harlem as an only child, but now she loves rural living with her three superpower daughters. She's the chief operations officer at Self-Enhancement, Inc. and the chair of the North Clackamas School District. Libra and I spoke about her work and family, leaving her heart in Hawaii, the death of racism, basketball, and losing her voice and finding it again. Read about my discussion with Libra here.

10. Meet Jewels Pedersen, a Badass Black queer writer/performer and mom of three daughters.


Until she reached the age of 30, Jewels always felt something was a little off with her life. Finally, a friend said to her, "You know, you're gay!" She asked her mom to watch her daughters so she could travel from Georgia to Portland to figure out her life and sexuality. Jewels is my second Badass Black Woman in my four-episode series. In addition to her life, love, and career, we talked about Little House on the Prairie, The Color Purple, anti-racism book groups, living as a Black queer woman in Vancouver, and sundown towns. Read about Jewels here.

11. Meet Jackie-Capers Brown, a leadership coach who has risen up from unimaginable griefs and challenges.

I met Jackie in June when she interviewed me for her “Level Up Your Life” podcast. (Her interview of me will air on Friday, September 4.) When she asked me about my theme song, I answered without pausing, “Rise Up” by Andra Day. Jackie excitedly told me it was her theme song too.If anyone has risen up “in spite of the ache” to “move mountains,” it’s Jackie Capers-Brown. Learning of Jackie’s incredible story of grit and resilience and discussing this song with her planted the seed in me to start the Finding Fertile Ground podcast. Read about Jackie here.

12. Meet Raina Casey, death doula and survivor.

Raina has an extensive grit story, but we were barely able to scratch the surface because I wanted to learn about her experience as a death doula. Raina shares an amusing story of how she first got interested in death and dying, along with why she's passionate about her work and her son (who is on the autism spectrum), and how cannabis can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Read about Raina here.

13. Meet Sankar Raman, collector of immigrant stories.

Sankar immigrated to the U.S. from India to attend graduate school. After a successful career in high tech, he founded and leads The Immigrant Story, a nonprofit organization that fosters empathy and builds a more inclusive community by sharing immigrant stories. We had a lively conversation about India, xenophobia, food, photography, and storytelling. Read more about Sankar here.

14. Meet Marie Cecile Anderson and Katy Frame, Reformed Whores and feminist musical comics.

If Dolly Parton & Flight of the Conchords got drunk and had a baby, you'd get the hilariously irreverent NYC-based musical comedy duo Reformed Whores! When they're not sharing their "magnificently bawdy celebration of female sexuality” (Broadway Baby) and empowering women, normalizing the female experience, and busting a few guts, they are cohosting the Difficult Women podcast. The podcast is a fantastic combination of current affairs, feminism, social justice, and funny, irreverent conversation—plus a lovely blend of women’s friendship. Read more about Katy and Marie here. You won't want to miss this one, but it does contain adult content.

15. Meet Farheen Raza, unapologetic modern Muslim woman.

Farheen Raza is host of Authentic & Unfiltered with Farheen. She survived COVID-19 this past spring, although it took three testing attempts (the final, correct one administered by her physician husband) to get the diagnosis. We talked about her bout with COVID, what it's like to be Muslim in America after 9/11, the movie "Cuties," and parenting three boys. Read more about Farheen here.

16. Listen to my own grit and resilience story.

Born with a cleft lip and palate and a club foot, I have continued to face obstacles and embrace challenges in my life. I've had multiple surgeries, endured adolescent bullying and trauma, had a grand adventure by going off to live in Japan and meeting the love of my life there, and traveled through Asia sometimes solo. Then I had my first child born at just 24 weeks and survived a 117-day NICU stay and faced four miscarriages before going on to have two more kids. In 2012 I had a rare growth in my ear called a cholesteatoma and had to have four more surgeries. And then I had my job eliminated two years in a row...which made me realize I was done working in toxic environments and it was time to follow my own dreams! Read more about my story here.

17. Meet Miguel Ochoa Castellanos and April Brenden-Locke, whose lives were both changed through education in Chiapas.

It's always so much fun to interview people I have known for years and discover new things about them. April has such a fascinating story about visiting Hogar Infantil when she was 15 and leaving her heart there...and refinding it again there in her 40s. And Miguel is a wonder, having been raised by a single mom who took him to Hogar as a nine-year-old, and turning his life into a great success. They both credit Hogar as changing their lives in big ways. Read more here.

18. Meet Dr. Kris Gowen, who grieved her best friend's death by singing karaoke on a road trip through every U.S. state.

Kris is not only on the U.S. national karaoke team, but she is also a sex educator. We talked about friendship, grief, and sex! Kris is cofounder of Beyond the Talk, the sex ed you wish you had. Read more here.

19. Meet Stephanie Coren, who epitomizes what I had in mind when I created my podcast. She has survived more abuse, trauma, and health issues than anyone should endure.


...starting with alcoholism-fueled physical violence from her parents and sexual abuse in her Catholic preschool at age four. When she came out as a lesbian in college, her parents kicked her out. She consoled herself with drugs and alcohol before therapy, hospitalization, and recovery saved her life the first time. Read more here. Read more here.

20. Meet Katrina Nilsson-Gorman, who found healing in the forest after experiencing multiple traumas.

While traveling solo in Asia, Katrina was raped in India. When she returned to the U.S., she experienced several other traumatic incidents while still in her 20s. She finally found healing in the forest and now helps others become restored by connecting to the land as a certified nature and forest therapy guide, soulful mentor, and intuitive healer. Read more about Katrina here

21. Meet Annette Stixrud, who has spent her life serving and advocating for those without a voice.

Annette spent much of her life working overseas as an educator and public health nurse. Wherever she is, she is helping others make a better life for themselves...even now during Corona. I enjoyed hearing her stories about becoming an independent woman, facing down "the man" over and over again, traveling and living in many countries, and meeting Mother Teresa. Read more about Annette here

22. Meet Ash Prasad, inclusion and anti-racist advocate and author of How to Write Inclusively.

Ash and I talked about how to create more equitable and welcoming workspaces, in addition to how to create inclusive shows and's not just about having an inclusive cast! We also talked about how history can be erased, especially for Black and brown people. Read more about Ash here.

23. Meet Joy Fowler, who I met over 20 years ago after we both gave birth to boys born at 24 weeks and volunteered together.


After her son Amir passed away in 2012, Joy and her husband Allen founded a foundation for special needs children in his honor, A MIRacle Foundation, Inc. She is also diversity and inclusion program manager at the Port of Portland. Read about Joy here.

24. Meet Jasnam Daya Singh, Brazilian immigrant, Sikh, and concert and jazz pianist and brilliant composer.

Jasnam shares his immigrant story, why he chose to become a Sikh, what he'd like people to know about Sikhs, and what he's learned since moving to the U.S. Read about Jasnam here.

25. Meet Mx. Harris Eddie Hill, LBGTQIA+ advocate and educator, my first British and trans, nonbinary guest. 

As host of the Transection Podcast, Harris is dedicated to making every story as familiar to us as our own. They are an incredible resource for learning how to support transgender and nonbinary loved ones. Read about Harris here.

26. Meet Lauren DeVera, positive psychology practitioner, yoga + mindfulness teacher, movement artist, host of the Thrive and Thread podcast, and life coach.

Growing up as the daughter of Filipino immigrants, Lauren always felt like "the other" as a child. She's used that feeling to fuel her passion for creating spaces where people can dance, meditate, and feel a strong sense of belonging. Read about Lauren here.

27. Meet Madison Ways, a high school junior whose dad died three years ago. Sadly, Madison did not get very much support from her friends.

She's been trying to rebuild her life, getting involved in social justice issues and going viral on TikTok. She also came out as a lesbian. Meet Madison here.

28. Meet Court Wakefield, who found themselves in a quandary in their moment of crisis, not finding a space on a form that fits their nonbinary gender.

Host of the For Folx Sake: Cultivating Inclusive Communities podcast, Court survived growing up queer in the Bible belt. After meeting and marrying their wife Hollis, they underwent three rounds of IVF and a high-risk pregnancy followed by 97 days in the NICU with their daughter. Meet Court here.

29. Meet Carol Gavhane, who experienced heart-breaking secondary infertility and pregnancy loss, in addition to losing her sister.

Carol took that grief and grit and turned it into a resilient story. After seven pregnancies and two children as a result, she and her husband founded Asha Blooms, a purposeful jewelry-making company with handcrafted jewelry that contain loving messages. More about Carol here.

30. Meet AmiCietta Clarke, Esq., who escaped from the Liberian Civil War as a child and overcame a debilitating autoimmune disease.

AmiCietta is a motivational speaker, writer, certified holistic health and empowerment coach, wellness educator, and attorney…plus mom to three-year-old twin girls! AmiCietta founded Clean Body Living, a holistic health coaching practice. More about AmiCietta (and Liberia) here

Finding Fertile Ground Podcast Writers on Resilience: Cathy Marie Buchanan, Sujata Massey, Julie Lythcott-Haims, and Marianne Monson

Writers on Resilience


31. Cathy Marie Buchanan, a tenacious writer who creates colorful historical novels about resilient women

As the first in my series of Writers on Resilience, Cathy Marie Buchanan has written three award-winning historical fiction books featuring gritty, resilient women characters in different historical periods and places: The Day the Falls Stood Still in 2009, The Painted Girls in 2012, and Daughter of Black Lake, in October 2020. Read more about Cathy here.

32. Meet Sujata Massey, who writes delectable feminist mystery and historical fiction set in Japan and India

I first fell in love with Sujata Massey's Rei Shimura detective series, about a Japanese-American English teacher/antiques dealer and amateur sleuth. Now she writes historical fiction set in India, including mysteries based on a real-life character, India’s first woman lawyer. Read more about Sujata here.

33. Meet Julie Lythcott-Haims, who chronicled her journey from self-loathing to love as a Black American in Real American: A Memoir

Launching on the first day of Black History Month 2021, this great conversation with writer, educator, TEDx speaker, and former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean Julie Lythcott Haims covers her growing up in mostly white spaces, how to raise young adults without helicoptering, and her thoughts on race in America today. Find out more about Julie here.  

34. Meet Marianne Monson, who writes diverse historical stories of gritty, resilient women

I first discovered Oregon writer Marianne Monson through her book Frontier Grit, which contained stories of diverse women on the American Frontier. I also read her book Women of the Blue and Grey: Civil War Mothers, Medic Soldiers and Spies. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation about badasses in history! Read more about Marianne here.

Back to Grit and resilience...

34. Meet Cindy Van Arnam, who moved beyond cocaine addiction and self-destruction toward self-mastery.


After Cindy's dad died when she was only 16, she continued to put mountain after mountain in front of herself. After years of drug abuse, abusive relationships, and a series of dead-end jobs, Cindy finally took control of her own life...and she's never been happier. Read about Cindy here.

Healing Herself

35. Meet Elena Joy Thurston, Mormon mom of four who came out as a lesbian and underwent conversion therapy to "fix" herself.


Attracted to the Latter Day Saints as a 16-year-old seeking stability, Elena was married by 20 and had four children by 33. Then she realized something wasn't right. She fell in love with a woman and felt great shame until she healed herself. Read about Elena here.

36. Meet Madeleine Black, British gang rape survivor and author, TEDx speaker, and podcaster.


Gang raped at age 13, Madeleine did not let the trauma defeat her. She tells her story wherever she can to destigmatize sexual assault and make sure others know the only people who can be blamed for rape are the rapists themselves. Read about Madeleine here.

37. Meet Leah Carey, a "good girl" who now enjoys and talks about sex.

Leah tried to be a “good girl” for decades before waking up sexually in her early 40s. Now she is a sex coach and educator, in addition to host of the “Good Girls Talk About Sex” podcast. More about Leah here.

38. Meet Stefanie Bonastia, who struggled with eating disorders for decades. 

After decades of therapy, she created her own formula for healing and made a full recovery while raising three kids and working full time. She started her own business to help others do the same. Now she feels more "awake" in her 40s than ever before. More about Stefanie here.

39. Meet Brigitte Ayoub, who grew up Palestinian-American, survived loss, and is thriving.

Brigitte is a daughter of Palestinian immigrants. She grew up experiencing the challenges of finding her place as an American with Arab roots. After leaving her corporate job to start her own business, her dad died…and then her mom was diagnosed with leukemia the following year. Meet Brigitte here.

40. Meet Shannon Whaley, who had a childhood full of abuse and trauma, but is now a wild woman rising.

Shannon overcame sexual abuse and assault, a toxic childhood, and drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013 she sold everything and moved to the Cayman Islands and then to Italy in 2017. As a business and visibility coach, she teaches people how to turn their stories into sales. Meet Shannon here

41. Meet Dr. Chuck Bergman and his wife Susan Mann, who went on a quest to see all 18 penguin species in the wild.

Chuck Bergman is my former English professor, who I credit for changing the trajectory of my life. It was a delight to speak with him and Susan about penguins, resilience, adventure, and storytelling. Meet Chuck and Susan here and view Chuck's amazing photography as well.

42. Meet Murielle Fellous, a single mom doing it all.

Murielle Fellous bounced back after a depression and anxiety while raising three teenagers as a single mom and living with Hepatitis B. Originally born and raised in France, she founded the "Single Moms Doing It All" coaching practice and podcast. Meet Murielle.

43. Meet Nono Osuji, broke, gifted, and black, powering through lupus and racism.

Nono Osuji is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Nigeria. Nono is a writer, producer, and actor. She is living with lupus, which is hard enough. She’s also living with being “Broke, Gifted, and Black,” the title of her podcast. We had a gritty, deep-down conversation about race in this country. Meet Nono

44. Meet Christine Cariño, a queer nonbinary immigrant from the Philippines.


Christine's grit and resilience story as a lesbian who had conversion therapy and immigrated to the U.S. with little money to her name led to her life’s work with underrepresented groups and communities as a transformation coach and consultant. Meet Christine.

45. Meet Dr. Ruth L. Schwarz, a Jewish lesbian, teacher, and poet who has endured love and loss.

Ruth has gone through challenges in her relationships, and her dad recently died on the streets after being addicted to heroin. She teaches women loving women how to love more consciously and fully. Meet Ruth.

46. Meet Melissa Pierce, who was suddenly widowed in her 40s and became a single mom in the same moment.

Melissa and I sing together in Rock Voices, which has a theme of "healing through music." She is healing herself from her grief through self-care, music, and supporting other widows. Meet Melissa.

47. Meet Lisa Schroeder, award-winning executive chef of one of Portland's best restaurants, Mother's, who tragically lost her own daughter five years ago.

Lisa is Portland's Jewish Mother, and she's created an entire brand around being a mother. During the pandemic she homeschooled two of her grandchildren, and she mourns her beloved daughter Stephanie. Now she's reopened her restaurant, feeding and caring for her adopted city. Meet Lisa. (This episode is cross-posted on my other podcast, Companies That Care.)


48. Meet Amira Stanley, a mindset & intention coach and end-of-life doula, who has found her voice as an anti-racism educator and community activist

Amira grew up Black and gay in mostly small cities or towns, has lived with pain from hip dysplasia and lost a huge amount of weight so she could have hip replacement, and has supported her beloved husband through his transition. Meet Amira.

49. Meet Dr. Leslie Batchelder, whose childhood abuse made her into the fierce, resilient woman she is today

Leslie was born into a family of chaos, filled with drug and alcohol addictions, mental illness, and abuse. She has faced down sexual assault and harassment, mental illness, being a preemie mom, and three bouts with cancer like a warrior. Meet Leslie.

50. Meet Lisa Marie Simmons, a resplendent and creative musician, writer, and poet who survived trauma and abuse

Lisa was adopted not once but twice, and in both of her adoptive homes she was abused. But instead of letting it destroy her life, she uses it to power her beautiful art. She is pure magic! Read more about Lisa.

51. How my podcast guests are like octopus

I recently watched the Netflix documentary "The Octopus Teacher," and was reflecting on how my amazing podcast guests are like octopus, resilient and regenerative...and why I like to interview Black women especially. A mini-episode! Read more here.

52. Meet Terri Kozlowski, who went from childhood sexual assault and abandonment to transcend her fears

A Native American woman from the Athabascan, Tlinget Tribe and Raven Clan, Terri experienced a traumatic incident at age 11. She has found strength in her Native American roots and has published a book about transcending her fears. Read more here.

53. Meet Daniel Sartin, who survived abandonment, racism, trauma, and abuse but still remains optimistic, sober, and hopeful for the future

A Black queer man in Portland, Daniel shares how he grew up feeling ashamed about his sexuality as a Jehovah's Witness. He also recently survived a toxic, narcissistic, and abusive relationship in which his boyfriend called him the n-word. Read more here.

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