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Creating Our Future Together

July 1, 2015

Nearly fifty women from across the country attended the 2015 TTN Leadership Retreat in Santa Fe in early June.  These included members of the board of directors, existing chapter leaders, the founders of our current "chapters in formation" and a "national" member (who brought a unique and very welcome perspective to the conversation.)
The retreat was designed to continue the work that was started at the 2013 retreat in New York City.  The agenda was packed, and as it always happens, we all wish we had more time to listen, learn, contribute and get to know each other better.

We first gathered on Thursday evening with welcomes from me, Barbara Beizer, our Board President and Jutta von Gontard, Chapter Chair in Santa Fe, and an overview of the retreat by Marlene Gerber, Board Treasurer.  We were then immediately encouraged to "break the ice" by Board Members Dale Davis and Jean Palmer (not that we needed much help but it certainly kicked off the retreat with some laughs and the opportunity to make immediate connections!)

We stayed at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Conference Center, just outside the town of Santa Fe.  We took all of our meals together in the dining room and enjoyed amazing culinary delights that offered something for everyone.  We learned how to live like nuns in simple accomodations, even bussing own tables after each meal.  (See us lined up at the "bussing station")

Each morning we were treated to a calming meditation first led by Carol Oswald, Board Member and Chair of Central Ohio Chapter, and then by Dale Davis.  Afterwards, we immediately got to work.  JoAnne D'Aleo walked us through the accomplishments of 2014 and the work ahead, laying out the four areas of focus for the 2015-16 Strategic Plan.  I followed JoAnne with a presentation on The State of TTN which included information on two important FAQs:  What does National do, and why do they get all the money? 

A highlight of the retreat agenda was the presentations on unique initiatives developed
by individual chapters.  Mona Kreaden talked about TTN-Home, a program developed by the San Francisco-Bay Area Chapter to address the challenge of finding affordable housing in that very expensive market.  Amy Kotkin shared how the very active Diversity Committee in the Washington DC Chapter is helping members learn more about other cultures.  Victoria Weill-Hagai reminded us of the value of Caring Collaborative, a health support initiative that is an enormous added value to members in New York, Long Island and San Francisco-Bay Area.

Board Members Chrissa Merron and Jean Palmer took us through two workshops.  The first on team building, gave us some great ideas on how to help our steering committees be more effective as they work together to lead chapters.  The second workshop reminded us of some of the most important qualities of good leadership. 

One of the most popular sessions was the break out when chapters of similar size or age shared their successes and challenges, and brainstormed on new ideas to help them better serve their members.  Board Secretary Linda Paige Levine showed the groups how to focus these discussions in order to maximize their time together.

Board President Barbara Beizer, along with Jean Palmer, treated us to a short snapshot of the brand new TTN Signature Program Women in Transition Workshop.  They explained about the difference between change and transitions and guided us to a better understanding of where we each might be in our own transition.  This was an exciting opportunity for us all to experience the first program designed by TTN, specifically for women in transition.

Each day we ended the "work sessions" by mid-afternoon so we could experience Santa Fe.  We walked, shopped, visited museums and had dinner on Friday at various restaurants in town.  We also enjoyed the unique scenery of the high desert which was unusually lush because of all the rain earlier in the season.  

Our final banquet celebration was punctuated by celebratory toasts and a guest speaker.  Jackie M is the former Director of Education and Public Programs for the Georgia O'Keefe Museum, one of the highlights of any visit to Santa Fe.  Jackie talked about her work with children and shared some amazing anectodes about the infamous Ms. O'Keefe, a role model for any modern woman.  Jackie also inspired several after-hours conversations about the games we played as children.  Who knew that Chrissa Merron was a "double dutch" champion or that Linda Paige Levine and I would each claim to be the best "Jacks" player on the block!

There are many wonderful stories - Ellen Murphy and Rhoda Margolis running into seminarians in the shared ladies room; the newly installed Archbishop of Santa Fe - Archbishop John C. Wester - joining us for a few of our meals; and what became the most popular explanation (or excuse!) for anything and everything - It's the altitude!

There are so many people to thank for making this retreat so wonderful - the Planning Committee didn't miss any details which made all of the logistics run smoothly; our Santa Fe members rolled out the red carpet for us (it was awesome to have so many of you attending); the Board of Directors for their leadership in setting the course for the future of TTN. 

Most of all, we need to thank our chapter leaders who took the time, spent the money and brought their "A" game to the proceedings.  As I looked out at this group of amazing women on our last night together, I was inspired and can say without any hesitation, that the future of TTN is in excellent hands.