Goodbye for now Lean In Together MSP

Feminism awakens

I remember being a senior in high school at Saint Paul Central High School and getting elected president of the student council. Right away, I realized that women’s rights were different than men’s rights. I noticed that adults in the school treated the female officers different than the male officers. It was as if the boys had more inherent leadership/”in charge” rights than the girls. That was the dawning of my feminist awareness.

My passion for equal rights continued all through college as I took on leadership roles and marched for peace in Central America. One of the best women’s rights marches I ever did was in 1988 on the Santa Cruz campus of the University of California. It was a Take Back The Night March and many of the women, me included, took off our shirts and bras as we marched.

Right around that time I took a self defense class, and I realized that my male friends didn’t live with the same kind of constant fear for their safety that my women friends and me lived with. This disparity stuck with me and informed how I approached teaching, coaching, building the business I ran and how I was an education leader. I wove working for equal rights into all I did. 

Make new friends

Lean In Together MSP gathering!

In January 2015, I set a New Year’s Resolution to make more friends in Saint Paul – Minneapolis, since I’d been back in Minnesota a few years and I hadn’t made very many friends. I knew I needed to branch out and make more of an effort.

One of my first actions was to look for events on Eventbrite. Delightfully, I found a gathering happening just four blocks from where I lived. It was a Lean In Together MSP Quarterly Leaders Gathering. It was happening at Linda Brandt’s house. It was a gathering of about 15 women all in Linda’s living room and we talked about feminism and belonging and connecting. I knew immediately that I had found a group that made sense for me to join.

Small circle

Right away I started a Small Circle that met every month at my house. I invited seven of my friends to join and we met for about a year. We explored all kinds of topics like how we set work goals, how we kept boundaries at work and how we stayed motivated to prioritize self-care. I also joined the Conference Work Group which launched the Website and Social Media Work Group, which I ended up leading for four years.

The Conference was a huge success! We had more than 100 people attend and both Nancy Lyons and Duchess Harris keynoted. Another big success was the launching of my LinkedIn coaching services, which grew out of the positive reception of the LinkedIn workshop that Kelly and I created and presented.

Linda Brandt, Leader Extraordinaire!

Linda and Mari at the Women’s March

Along the way I got to know Linda Brandt. I got to experience her incredible clear vision, her passion for feminism, her passion for inclusion, equity, good health, movement, play, her generosity and her sharp wit and her willingness to have thoughtful conversations about topics that many don’t want to discuss. Linda has become one of my dearest friends and deepest inspirations.

Linda invited me to be her Lean In Together MSP co-leader, giving me plenty of time to say yes or say no. I like to say yes to things that make sense, so I said yes. And I jumped in with both feet. Together we navigated a strategic planning process, we launched a WordPress website, we started a leaders meeting that met every month for two hours and best of all we launched the Authenticity Consulting Peer Coaching Circle small group process to help members set goals and actualize them.

Linda and Mari with Authenticity Consulting founders Teri and Carter McNamara

We also navigated some crushing challenges. I’m intentionally leaving out discussing any details of what we navigated, and in the end, it made me remember that the people who are committed to open, honest, face-to-face conversations when the going gets tough are the ones that I want in my life. Luckily, Linda is one of those people who sticks with what she is committed to. I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to work so closely with Linda through my 5 year involvement with Lean In.

I did make many incredible friends!

Meeting Sheryl Sandberg

Mari and Sheryl in June 2017

One big highlight was sitting on a couch at MPR for 30 minutes next to Sheryl Sandberg before she took the stage to talk about her second book Option B. Sheryl is amazing. And all of us who have gotten involved with Lean In are fortunate to have such a dedicated, visionary leader listening and guiding us.

I decided last summer that I was ready to take a big next triathlon step and sign up for an Olympic distance triathlon that will happen in July 2020. I knew from having trained for and completed a Half Ironman that training for the Olympic distance triathlon would take a lot of time and focus.

I examined my life. Having type 1 diabetes while being an endurance athlete is in itself a full time job. And between my work at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and my work as a LinkedIn coach and my work at Great River School, I have an actual full time job. Plus my heart is 100% committed to organizing Personal Ink Tattoo Day Minneapolis-Saint Paul every October.

Time to say goodbye

Something had to adjust. I realized that I needed to let go of my involvement in Lean In Together MSP. Five years was the perfect amount of time. Granted, women still don’t have full equality or equity with men, but tremendous progress has been made. Since I gave Linda four months notice of my resignation, it gave her time to find people to replace what I had done. She found Peggy Foster to help her co-lead the whole Lean In Together MSP! And Peggy has a perfect background to lead the Peer Coaching Circle facilitator training with Linda.

I am assured that my departure leaves Lean In Together MSP in a strong position to adjust and carry on in its mission. That allows my heart to rest and let go.

With so much gratitude for all I learned by my involvement with the Lean In Together MSP community,


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4 thoughts on “Goodbye for now Lean In Together MSP”

  1. Glad I got to know you through this format! Good luck with the Tri. Maybe see you at the YWCA tri this fall?

    • Hi Judy!!
      I will indeed by doing the Minneapolis YWCA women’s triathlon on August 9th, 2020! I’m already signed up!! Will you be doing it too!!!

    • Great to hear from you Andreas!!!
      I’m VERY excited about the International triathlon I will do this coming July!!!

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