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10 Birmingham-Area Women Share The Best Advice They’ve Received

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Compiled by Nicole S. Daniel
Photographs by Desiree Greenwood
The Birmingham Times

As we come to the end of Women’s History Month, the Birmingham Times spent the past two months photographing and interviewing a number of women in the metro area on a variety of topics that ranged from their passions to families to the best advice they’ve received. Here are some of their responses.

ANGELA BAUMANN, BIRMINGHAM, AL career in Public Health:

What or who inspires you? “I would say my [three] daughters inspire me the most. They challenge me to be better every day to even challenge notions about parenting, or things that I got from my own parents. I also feel like this younger generation is very vocal, and they don’t mind speaking out when stuff isn’t right. So they challenged me to cut through the BS and to look at the issue and just to strive to be a good person. I also have and one son. My passion is my family; my youngest has a disability [Down syndrome]. The new passion that’s awakened in me is figuring out how I can use my skills to advocate for persons with disabilities and helping other parents who have children with disabilities who may not know how to connect with resources that they need.”

Best advice you’ve received? “That you can have everything, but you can’t have it all at one time. I think too many women strive to have it all. I’ve come to realize it more as I’ve gotten older.”

What’s one of your favorite quotes: “Do the best you can until you know better then when you know better, do better” by Maya Angelou.

RENEE BROWN, FULTONDALE, AL Truist Bank:

How do manage time with your job, husband and two children active in sports? “My husband and our schedules are flexible, where we can adjust sometimes there’s time issues BUT IT all works out, we just we get our schedules together and try to balance it out. We’re a team and we make it happen. Our two sons are unique because they’re mixture of both of us [her and her husband]. I enjoy being able to just to do more out in the community and be able to shop and enjoy the entertainment. I’m most proud of just being able to do what I’m doing now. I’m most proud of my husband and my two kids. I’m also thankful for having God in our lives. That’s the main thing too because we ensure that in our children.”

Best advice you’ve received? “From my mother: ‘Strive to do your best, no matter what you’re doing, as an individual, and always help others.’”

ANDREA BRYANT, HOOVER, AL, retired from Bellsouth Communications:

What is something you learned before retiring: “I finally learned how to listen to people to find out to include them in the processes and get their buy in. And that way, I was able … to get the job done by getting and enlisting the help of the people.”

Best advice you’ve received? “I had a coworker that told me once, ‘don’t ever love anybody more than you love yourself.’ And of course, that that was contrary to what I was raised hearing. But I’ve learned the negative impacts of loving others more.”

What quote inspires you? “If people tell you who they are, believe them, and my mother told me, ‘Work hard. Go after and get what you want and need because nobody’s gonna give you anything.’ And ‘I don’t have anything to give you’ and by that she meant like money.”

JEAN CASTILLE, HOOVER, AL, associate pastor:

What are you passionate about? What I’m doing in my ministry. Young couples, family, love, marriage and the word of God are the things I’m most passionate about. Seeing young families come together and succeed and seeing people being what God created them to be. Being in ministry with my husband (Jeremiah) . . . I choose to be a person that listens more than I talk, we go around and do marriage conferences and he does motivational speaking, therefore when I need to be vocal I can be, but I choose to listen more. I am proud of the fact that me and my husband have been able to accomplish ministry wise. I grew up in the projects Phoenix City, AL and I come from a broken home. What I’ve been able to see God do in my life . . . Being strong believers, I’m most proud of the way the Lord has allowed Jeremiah and I to build a strong marriage and a strong family (six children and ten grandchildren).”

What would surprise some about your family?  “I would have to say my son Caleb, 31, my youngest son because he is an actor. None of us saw that coming. All three of my sons played football, but during Caleb’s senior year he decided he wanted to become an actor. He’s out in Los Angeles California now. He’s on NCIS LA the number one series on CBS.

Best advice you’ve received? “Get saved and let Jesus show His plan He had for my life. That came from my husband.”

JUNATHA GURLEY, CENTER POINT, AL, medical laboratory technician:

Away from work do you have a hobby? “I like to decorate rooms for weddings or any kind of celebration. I’ve been doing it ever since I was little. When I was little and I used to do playhouse I liked to decorate. I never went to school for decorating, it was just a talent. I like flowers. Every time I had apartments or homes I decorated. I put stuff together. It’s natural for me. Nobody told me what to do. I remember when my son was 7 years old, 40 years ago, I went into [a wholesale furniture store and I was 19] and the man told me I had ‘champagne’ tastes … I went straight for the antiques, and I still have that furniture now. I like stuff that is real beautiful and elegant.”

Best advice you’ve received: “My grandmother told me, ‘If you can’t do anything right, don’t do it at all.’

WENDY GARRETT, McCALLA, AL, full-time student studying psychology:

What are your passions? Several things. One area that I feel like I really would like to use (my psychology degree) is helping out with the kids ministry at our church [Garywood Church located in Hueytown]. We do have children and foster parents that come to church every Sunday and Wednesday. I see the need for churches to have children’s ministers or youth ministers be trained in the Bible because it’s a church, but also in the area of psychology, because of the world we live in. I feel like if you’re trained in that area, then you’re better equipped to help [children].

How do you manage your time with a husband and six children? “Managing my time isn’t the easiest but I think the biggest thing that helps me is just taking it a day at a time. Taking a few minutes each morning to sit and look at the schedule and say, ‘okay, this is what’s on the docket for today.’ I can’t think about yesterday, I can’t think about tomorrow, I just got to think about what I got today and somehow that makes it seem a little bit less overwhelming.”

LENIKA JOHNSON, CALERA, AL, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, owner of Gurlie Kitchen:

How do you juggle a fulltime job and your own business? “Most of my catering and personal chef jobs are on the weekends therefore I isolate that time just for that. My weekends are dedicated to that and that’s something I’m passionate about. All things food. I’m passionate about what I do not just as a business owner but in every aspect of life. If there’s something I put my mind to I’m extremely motivated. I have a lot of drive. Growing up in New Orleans, my favorite part the city is the culture. The music, the food is unmatched. I haven’t been anywhere that’s like New Orleans. I didn’t know that until I actually left. It was the norm for me.”

Who inspires you most? “My mother because she has never given up on anything no matter what life circumstances have been thrown at her. She exudes confidence, personality; she’s just overall the most influential person I know. She is my role model.”

LINDSEY RYALS, BIRMINGHAM, AL, Impact Family Counseling, intake coordinator:

What are you most passionate about? “Substance abuse recovery. I fully believe that once someone get sober and live a life in recovery, that they should work in recovery because they’re able to be so effective with people who are new to sobriety.”

Who inspires you most? “Lisa Guss. I work with her (at Impact Family Counseling but she’s also a mentor of mine. She’s a very strong Christian, she’s anointed, and she has a great sense of integrity. She’s strong in who she is and what she believes in. And so that’s why I appreciate her being my mentor, because she taught me how to better live life on life’s terms.”

One quote inspires you: “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Best advice you’ve received: “Practice self-care and take care of myself first, in order to show healthy love and affection for those that I care most about, that I have to do it for myself first.”

MILDRED WATSON, ADAMSVILLE, AL, relationship therapist/clinical sexologist:

What’s one of your greatest achievements? “With several grandchildren and running successful businesses learning to set boundaries around business and my personal life, helps me gain a health balance. I have one daughter, three sons and 15 grandchildren and one great grandson and two great granddaughters and they are unique because they are all special to me. I’ve tried to instill in them to be who they are and not replicas of someone else. My businesses include Alabama Love Doctor where I am a relationship therapist and dating coach and Nanna’s Gourmet where I make a specialty homemade desserts and trucks, pork skins in a variety of flavors.  I’m also most proud of the fact that I’m a country girl who came from a broken home. That didn’t stop me from going to school, getting my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a PhD.

What are you most passionate about? “As a relationship therapist, helping couples build healthy relationships because I know that it what will help build a healthy family. My two youngest sons have amazing marriages from everything that I can tell and that’s admirable for me to see in an era where so many young folk are not wanting to get married or not getting married and I see young couples who are making it work.”

SANATORIA WOODS, IRONDALE, AL, realtor/ salon owner:

 As an entrepreneur and real estate agent how do you manage your time? “By planning my week on Sundays. I literally block about two hours on Sunday and I plan out my entire week, every hour, basically every meeting, because I feel like if I don’t, then I find myself just kind of all over the place.”

How do you spend your free time? “Networking with a group of ladies who are entrepreneurs, who are all role models especially Desiree Greenwood [a friend, entrepreneur, and freelance photographer]. Even though I’m older than her . . . I really look up to her. She and I have about three other women that I’ve met that we just pour into each other.”

Best advice you’ve received? “From my grandmother, who is no longer here, but she would always tell me ‘To breathe and let it go because it’s always tomorrow.’ I just live by that motto because you can worry and stress over something that you may or may not have any control over. But essentially, it is something that you have no control over, you have to learn to just breathe and let things go.”

Talk about your family. “I’m married with three children, the most unique is the baby boy because he’s only nine years old with a huge heart and he’s very deep thinker. He asked very deep questions that make me and my husband really think before we answer.”