Sunday, May 4, 2014

Very Smart Gals Salon

Really now, how often do you hear someone say, “Do you think my car will be secure in valet parking? I have 150 pairs of men’s underwear in my back seat.”

But then this is just the type of thing I expect when I bring together extraordinary women, which I did last Wednesday night in the Secret Bar of the W Hotel in downtown Austin. Attending were  Linda Ball, Judith Knotts and Melissa D’Antoni (pictured l-r).

Linda Ball - where do I possibly start to efficaciously portray just how dynamic and thought-provoking this Very Smart Gal is? Perhaps you recognize Linda’s name, which is typically attached to her husband Forest Preece and to a plethora of Austin non-profits, as they are highly recognized community supporters. Although Linda downplayed her very early involvement in the computer industry, this mathematician, Dallas native and long-time Austin resident, was probably an anomaly in the at-the-time male dominated industry. Linda is a dedicated music and film buff, a downtown walker, and a savant it seems on just about any topic that comes up. My question to her about her trips to New York I’d seen mentioned on Facebook brought out Linda’s stories about her two-year odyssey of reading the once-censored Ulysses by James Joyce, and her annual trek to Bloomsday, a commemoration and celebration of the life of the Irish writer at the Ulysses Pub in NYC. Linda spoke with unmasked adoration of famous author Colum McCann’s (Let The Great World Spin, etc.) warm hosting of the event and what a thrill it was for her to meet and exchange with him.  I could spend a couple of pages talking about what a Very Smart Gal Linda is, but you get the gist.

Dr. Judith Knotts, asker of said underwear question, and an unflagging supporter of the homeless, is the only person I know who trolls the alleys of Austin checking on her friends, giving them the basic stuff we the fortunate take for granted, like underwear. Judy is the Interim Head of School at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy and former Head of School at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School. She earned her doctorate in Educational Administration at Virginia Tech, and has studied at the University of Oxford.  Judy has also served as a National Advisory Board Member for Harvard University’s Principals’ Center, co-authored the book, Growing Wisdom, Growing Wonder, and exquisitely pens a religious column called In Your Words for the Austin American-Statesman. Commendably, in spite of my religious fence riding, she likes me! What a gift it is to be a friend of this Very Smart Gal.

Melissa D’Antoni is a mystic, artist, visionary and life muse who, upon our first encounter, seemed to see my soul. She owns Fire Tree Studio, a registered methodology she describes as: …a guided path of awakening where individuals seeking self-empowerment can heighten their creativity, discover their full self-expression and celebrate their potential and prosperity — with passion and practicality. Melissa has one of the most interesting bios I’ve read, but a couple of things jumped out at me. She has a BA in English Literature and minor in Studio Art from Tulane University, and she left a successful career in internet and technology marketing based in San Francisco, canceled her wedding, and moved to Austin with the promise to never compromise herself and her truth again.
Melissa explained that her studio is located on the 85-year-old Commodore Perry Estate, which led to an intriguing discussion about the history of that home. You really must visit Melissa at her studio (pictured) to appreciate this Very Smart and unique Gal. 

Why I don’t host a couple of Very Smart Gals Salons a week is a bit of a mystery to me. I guess my reclusive tendencies trump the staggering gratification I always receive from being within the aura of the amazing women who populate our planet. But, spurred on by the residue of evenings like this, I’ll keep trying to overcome my psychosis. Thank you Very Smart Gals Melissa, Judy and Linda. 

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