Positively Midlife Podcast

From Tech to Tastes: A Journey of Culinary Activism with Laura Pauli - Ep. 69

September 27, 2023 Tish & Ellen Season 2 Episode 69
Positively Midlife Podcast
From Tech to Tastes: A Journey of Culinary Activism with Laura Pauli - Ep. 69
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Tune in this week as we delve into the captivating journey of Laura Pauli, a tech-marketer turned chef and accidental activist. Laura, the heart and soul behind Cucina Testerossa and the non profit Feed the World, shares her riveting life story, from her early days in technology marketing to her remarkable transformation to chef and sommlier. Hear her recount how her passion for food and humanitarian efforts led to her making a significant impact on the lives of many with World Central Kitchen, raising funds through GoFundMe to deliver hope in the form of donations, supplies and warmth to Ukrianians.

Laura's story serves as a beacon of resilience and determination as she dove deep into the world of humanitarian work that combined her love of food, service, and people. Her tenacity and will to make a difference, leveraged by her Silicon Valley leadership experience, led to her setting up Feed The World, providing a lifeline to the Ukrainian people through volunteerism.  She shares about  her initial ideas for her non profit  to help volunteers, citizens and soldiers with mental heath issues - and how her time in Ukraine helped her understand where she can really make a difference.

To round off the episode, we explore the positive ripple effect of Laura's work at midlife, and how it led her to become an accidental activist. From starting with a single email during the early days of the pandemic she turned her weekly online community events into a movement that provided relief and hope and she merged her two passions into one cause - Feed the World.  Laura's journey is a testament to the power of purpose and the change one individual can bring about. Don't miss out on this episode that is sure to inspire, motivate and move you.

Obsessions:
Tish: Kasa Smart Plugs - control yourelectronics and lights with Alexa! 
Ellen:Trust Your Crazy Ideas - 30 pop up cards with fun and inspirational ideas

Support the Positively Midlife podcast by being a Patreon sponsor! 

What we talk about in this episode:
Feed The World is a Paypal charity and the direct link to donate is here.
Pandemic of Love
World Central Kitchen
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Email: postivelymidlifepod@gmail.com

The  Positively Midlife Podcast is presented solely for general informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only. 

Support the show

Website: www.thepositivelymidlifepodcast.com
Email: postivelymidlifepod@gmail.com

Ellen:

Today we have a remarkable guest who has embraced my life by following her passions for food and humanitarian efforts. Laura Pauli is the founder of Cucina Testarosa, non profit Feed the World, and she is a collaborator with World Central Kitchen, and she joins us today to share her extraordinary journey that we use technology, cooking, health and humanitarian efforts.

Tish:

You know, ellen Laura's journey is just so inspirational and she has created a phenomenal community during COVID and now has turned her energy and drive towards humanitarian and mental health efforts. It is such an inspirational story that I am so happy that we are going to share it with our listeners today.

Ellen:

Well, me too, and I know we've talked a lot in the past about how purpose would a capital be for? Giving back is such a key part of midlife mental health right?

Tish:

You're right, ellen, and I think what is so unique about Laura's journey well is, you know, it just resonates. I know, with me, and I know it's going to resonate with our listeners as well.

Ellen:

You know, before we jump in and get to Laura's story, let's do my favorite part of our show of the set up our obsessions. What do you got for me today?

Tish:

Well, I have the Vaunt Smart Plug, and this is a plug that you put in the wall and when you put your different appliances into it you can do Bluetooth enabled. It's Wi-Fi, it's smart, you can get it from your cell phone. And I was inspired by this because my son is in an apartment and his first utility bill for this apartment is like five times what it was last year. So these are getting purchased for him so I can send him reminders Did you turn stuff off? I don't know what has happened over there, but I also like having plugs like this because you know, maybe you're all cozy in bed and the last thing you want to do is jump back out of bed to turn off the lights or something like that, so you can enable all this.

Ellen:

You can enable non-smart devices to kind of be smart from your phone through a mobile app. Exactly, wow, who wouldn't want that?

Tish:

And they're very affordable too. So it's very affordable option for what it does. But, ellen, what about you? I know you've got a good one for us this week.

Ellen:

I feel like this is a good one. I'm just showing Tish the little thing that says trust your crazy ideas, and it's a little box of cards that a friend gave me you can open. You cut them open and each day or whenever you're wanting a crazy idea, there's like a little saying inside and this one says step forward into growth or step back into safety.

Tish:

Ooh Ooh, that is inspirational.

Ellen:

First one from Meryl Streep what makes you different or weird, that's your strength. Whenever you want, like a little inspiration or that, you can kind of pull that this whole thing that crazy might just work. And these are good gifts, like you know, just to give somebody a little birthday whenever, and expensive and fun.

Tish:

You know, what would be kind of fun is if you're getting together with some girlfriends at, like, a wine bar or something and you bring that box with you and each of you take one. I think that would be kind of cool, but I love stuff like that. It just makes you think in a different mindset. So I'm going to be picking those up.

Ellen:

Thank you, will, because you're very social and your friends love doing things like that. All right, we'll have links to both of those in the show notes. But, laura, welcome to the show.

Laura Pauli:

Thank you so much for having me. It's such an honor to be here. Yeah, Laura.

Tish:

Yeah, the Laura. I want to let our guests know Laura is coming to us today from Poland and we'll get to what brings her to Poland in a few minutes. But I've seen some of your social posts and it looks like you've got yourself another amazing view from where you're at.

Laura Pauli:

I do. That was one of the reasons I picked this apartment.

Tish:

You're all about the view, because you had an amazing view in San Francisco as well, right?

Laura Pauli:

I did, I did and I picked that apartment for the view too. I had an apartment of the Bay Bridge and watching the ships go by every day. And now I'm in this beautiful little town, a few miles from the Ukraine border, and I'm right in the center of town. And it's this beautiful old Eastern European town and I'm right in the center. I'm just right across the square. From City Hall I look right into the mayor's office. On Friday the Military Academy had their graduation, so I had a front row seat on that ceremony and I can hear kids playing and out on the grass and it's just this front row seat of life in this little tiny town and I just feel so lucky to be here.

Tish:

I love a very old world but, laura, I want to go back to the beginning because I want our listeners to really understand. You were working in technology marketing and you made this huge big leap into the culinary world. Your book, called Keyboard to Cutting Board, chronicles that journey from corporate world to the culinary career that you took on. Could you tell us about the pivotal moments that led you to make that life-changing transition?

Laura Pauli:

Sure, there were a few, and it certainly didn't happen overnight. So I don't recommend anybody just quixotically throwing away their career. But there's a few moments. I remember I was sitting in my cube. I had this corner cube that faced 101 and the Target parking lot, and I remember reading an article about this guy in Japan who had died in this cube and they found him a few weeks later. I just thought that could be me. Oh wow, they wouldn't find me for a few weeks and I just thought, you know, this was the early 2000s and it was the dot com. The dot com had just started to bust and people were getting laid off left and right and to the point where you could look out at 101 and actually see the traffic picking up, because before it would be bumper to bumper. And when you actually see traffic patterns changing and you're seeing people getting laid off left and right and I just thought there's got to be something more to life. And there was a few other things. A friend of mine she worked with people coming out of prison, helping them find jobs and find apartments and helping them assimilate back into we know it. And I remember I was with her one day and somebody asked her what she did for a living and she said I save lives. And I thought wow, I make websites. No one cares about what am I doing with my life? And those were probably two of the bigger things that got me thinking about what am I doing here?

Tish:

To me those things are kind of similar because you're rediscovering what your purpose is. She was helping convicts rediscover what their purpose is on the outside and you were sitting in a job that obviously wasn't emotionally fulfilling to you and it really kind of triggered. I need to find a purpose.

Laura Pauli:

Right, right, exactly.

Ellen:

And I had a big old disclosure. Laura and I worked together at one big tech company and it did feel pretty soulless after a while, After the glean and the glitter of the restaurants and the dry cleaning delivery and the big fancy gym came to a halt. It was kind of like, oh okay, Well the shine. I was no longer the new shiny toy for us, Definitely.

Laura Pauli:

Right, and you're working so hard and there's just that fear hanging over you of being let go every minute, and you're just working harder and harder and going nowhere. And I just thought there's got to be more to life than this.

Tish:

So correct me if I'm wrong you kind of had in the beginning this is right after you left and that corporate job. You kind of sold everything and moved to France, is that correct?

Laura Pauli:

So I had a few years before I. My goal was to have a cooking school in Tuscany. I had no desire to go to cooking school and no desire to be a chef in a restaurant. I had read under the Tuscan sun and I wanted to. That was my dream. I wanted to have a little cooking school in Tuscany. I wanted to grow basil. I wanted to sleep with gorgeous Italian men. I mean, I didn't have my goals were not locked.

Tish:

Sign me up. Sign me up.

Laura Pauli:

Come on, I was 30. So you know, francis Mays, and and and Fabio, that's about where I was, and you know. And then the dot dot dot com bus took my Tuscan villa with it, and so I just started teaching cooking classes out of my little apartment in Burlingame and I put on the three tenors and we'd make pasta and pizza dough and have fun, and, and a few years later, the opportunity to go to cooking school came up, and I mean, that's a whole other podcast that involves involves copious amounts of wine. I ended up going to cooking school and, and, and so. So that's how that happened. But I did, I sold, but it was over, but it was also planned over a six month period. So, again, I didn't just throw, throw caution to the wind. I got accepted into cooking school, and then I had about six months to plan. So I did sell everything I owned, put a few things in storage my bed and a couple other things and I moved to New York to go to cooking school at the French Culinary Institute, and at that time I wanted to. My goals were to cook in New York at a big restaurant, become a big New York chef, and and at that time, though I was approaching 40. And I knew that there was no way a New York chef would hire me over a 21 year old guy. And I get it. It's a grueling, grueling, grueling job. It's hot, it's sweaty, you're lifting 50 pound bags of potatoes and flour and you're hauling huge pots of water and food up and down stairs. And and for me, with no experience really I mean I had a front of the house experience, but no back of the house kitchen experience there would be no reason for a chef to hire me over a young, younger person. So I thought, well, go to Europe for six months and cook and just bring, bring something unique to the table, if you will. And and I got to France, and I remember I got off the the train at Montparnasse and walked out and there was Paris in front of me and I just I had my Mary Tyler Moore moment. I'm dating us here, but I had my. You know, if I had a beret I would have thrown it up in the air and twirled around and I just thought, oh, I don't want to leave. And and I turned that into six years.

Ellen:

So you left Fabio behind for Fabio.

Laura Pauli:

I'm into Jean Claude Fabio de France.

Ellen:

Those years in France were really important to you. Maybe you can share a little bit more about that, sure.

Laura Pauli:

So when I, when I first got there, I'd had my plan was to be in France for six months and then go back to New York, and so I had three months of internships lined up and I figured I'll figure out the other three when I get there. So I I initially, when I landed I was had an internship at the Cannes Film Festival. So cooking in cooking at the at the festival, we were in a in a tent right on the beach, right in front of the main theater, and we in this tent was a cafe and there was an internet cafe before back when there were such things as internet cafes and there was also the press room. So all the American stars would come in through the kitchen, into the internet, into the press room. So we got to see everybody come in. So that was fun and we were there for a month. And then I went up to Brittany and I cooked on a lobster boat. I didn't think I was going to be cooking on a lobster boat. All I knew was that the chef had a, had a high end restaurant and when he picked me up at the train station he said we are going to go to the Batto.

Tish:

And I said what Batto?

Laura Pauli:

Oh, you're going to be cooking on the Batto and I thought, oh my God, I did not sign up to cook on a Batto and we pulled up to this lobster boat that he'd turn into a restaurant. And it actually turned out to be the best experience and I I couldn't gut a fish faster than anybody.

Tish:

But isn't that always the case? The things that we aren't expecting to be the best or not to be the best.

Laura Pauli:

Absolutely, absolutely it was, it was incredible. And then from there I went down to Paris and had an internship at the George Sank, which was incredible, and that was another one that that came out of the blue. And I was the chef at the Chateau where they filmed the DaVinci code and I got to be there on set when they were filming the movie, which was great. I got to hang out with Tom Hanks for a week. Yeah, it was amazing. I sat right behind the director when they were filming and it was. It was incredible to watch a blockbuster movie being made. I mean, that was just, I mean mind blowing to see what could do it.

Tish:

Amazing experiences and. I and I know you like a lot of other people, the pandemic changed everything right and you started to focus on, you know, being home, you know to kind of taking a different approach and you really started reaching out into the community and you started a weekly cooking and wellness Zoom program during the pandemic. So share with our listeners what they were and a little bit about what inspired you to do that. Again, you're just like trailblazing your experience into being something so much more every step of the way. But how did you make the best out of the pandemic?

Laura Pauli:

Thank you. I came back from France in 2010 and got back into tech and cooking, took a backseat and then, when the pandemic hit it really it was really just I sent down an email saying hey everybody, just here's the link jump on, jump on Zoom. Let's all just check in and make sure everyone's okay. And that was really how it started. I said grab a cocktail and show up on Friday and let's just all make sure we're all okay. And that's how it started. And what I found is usually the less I think about something and the less I try to plan it, the better, the better it turns out. And, and so I think we had I don't know, maybe 60 people show up and and we just went around the zoom and Everybody just checked in and said where they were from and what they were drinking and and how they were doing, and and really that's how it started. And and from there I just said okay, tomorrow we're going to be cooking this. If you can get a chicken, jump on and we'll make a chicken Right.

Ellen:

I went to a number of these and I have to say that People at that point it was so many with them and people were very scared and isolated. It was so fun Laura's, laura's and right and even the cooking. I actually did a number of cooking classes with you and learned so much during the pandemic, so I think it was fabulous. But I also remember when you started adding other people to the events and they just grew and grew.

Laura Pauli:

Yeah, it was really organic. And again, I think, like you know, if I get out of the way and just let things happen. So I wanted to help my colleagues during this time I was fortunately employed in the beginning anyways and so I wanted to help my colleagues in the food and wine world and in the arts and so I just started bringing them on and so it quickly morphed. So on Friday nights I was doing cocktails and anybody in the arts world, and, and I had my, my friend who was a fitness expert at this place called Rancho La Puerta, where I used to teach cooking. There I had my friend, manuel, who was fitness expert. I called him up that first week and I said look, we're going to be stuck inside for a long time. I said just come on for five minutes on Friday evenings and make it fun and funny, but kind of serious. And he's like the six, six gorgeous gay Puerto Rican who is hilarious. And I said show us how to do, you know, workouts with using wine bottles as barbells and how to use that bottle of tangerine in the back of our car that we're hiding as a kettle bell, and just make it funny and fun. And so he came on, and then I would do cocktails on Friday nights, and so I found local distillers and we would make a cocktail with a local spirit, and so I was trying to promote their alcohol. And then anybody who was a singer, musician, so they could try and sell their music, and then any sort of anybody that was working with first responders or nonprofit to promote them. And then Saturdays it was a full menu with a winery, so I was trying to promote wineries. And then, same thing, having an artist. We had people from San Francisco Opera and Broadway in New York Beach Blanket Babylon. I can't, I'm blanking. Where else? Local farmers, fishermen, anybody that.

Ellen:

Yeah, I just have to interject, for still I learned on your cooking classes during the pandemic. You're going to laugh, laura is. I learned how to make chicken stock and veggie stock and the veggie stock was like just take everything that's going bad in your refrigerator and throw it in a pot with water. It was just those. That skill has taken me so far post pandemic, but you really taught really amazing recipes that were easy for us non chef folks. And you know, I just see that community has been so important to you throughout your career, throughout your life building and maintaining it. And I think another passion you took on and I believe this was during the pale into the pandemic was you started volunteering with World Central Kitchen here in the US during our fire season, if I could put it that way, here in California. Can you share a little bit with our about what World Central Kitchen is and what that experience was like for you?

Laura Pauli:

Yeah, absolutely so. That was actually in 2020, so the beginning of the pandemic, relatively speaking. So World Central Kitchen is an organization had quartered in DC and it was started by Jose Andreas about about 13 years ago, really, in Haiti and Puerto Rico with those, the earthquake, and and then the Well, what's the word you're going to have to edit this out the not tornado hurricane, hurricane, thank you in Puerto Rico, and and he just he got down there and he just started cooking. And that's the beautiful thing about World Central Kitchen is that they just show up and they just start cooking for people. Now, that's the one thing people need is a roof over their heads and they need food, and World Central Kitchen takes care of the food and they're usually the first boots on the ground. They're not a government organization, so there's no red tape. They don't have to go ask for permission. They just show up and they start cooking. And and so in 2020, with the lightning fires that hit Napa and then Santa Cruz, they I started volunteering, I was, I was laid off or liberated this friend say in August of 2020 and and that day I just went up and it was the first day they were up there in Bakaville cooking for the Napa Valley Lightning fires, and so I just started cooking with them there and then went down to Santa Cruz and then a few weeks later, the glass fires hit that that took out St Melana. Those devastating fires and so many really close friends lost everything there. And and that one really hit home because I went to see my friend at at the hotel where they had been evacuated and and I saw some of our little, our little meals there and, of course, I just burst into tears. But they just feed people and they they don't stop at anything to get food to people. They just go up and they start cooking and they and they figure out how how to do it and how to get food to people. They'll rent helicopters, they'll, they'll do whatever it takes. I took a training course from them in 20 January of 2022 and they were telling us how, when they went into Indonesia a few years ago, they had to the roads been washed out and they had to get food to people and they found a former army guy who happened to have a C3 airplane and and they filled it up with something like 10 tons of rice and flew it in and and got got the food to people, and and the chef, and the chef who taught us, he, he went and there was, there was a bunch of army guys there, us Army guys there, who'd help them, and and he said you know what, what can we make for you guys? And they said, you know, we would love a cheeseburger. They ran out across and found, you know, they found beef. They went to a farmer and and and bought some meat right from the farmer and ground it up and went to a local baker and had some buns made and somehow they found some American cheese and made burgers for these cheeseburgers, for these guys. And he said they, they, they took the cheeseburgers to them. He said, he said, you know, we took these burgers. And he said the big military guys, and he said, when they, they, they sat, they sat down and they open the burgers. And he said they started crying and they were just so grateful to have a cheeseburger. And and and you know, after, and then, the one of the things you realize when you're cooking with World Central Kitchen you realize that you know, a sandwich is not a sandwich and a bowl of chili is not a bowl of chili, it's, it's. It's. It's a bowl of hope and it's, it's a bowl of love and you're telling somebody that somebody out there cares about them and yeah, and, and that you know it might be okay and that they'll get through it.

Tish:

So so, laura, for our listeners who aren't, you know, familiar, world Central Kitchen provides meals and disaster stricken areas. So how do you think your culinary skills and your passion for food kind of came together with your community drive, you know, in this need to bring comfort and hope to people in need? You know, talk about how that happened for you.

Laura Pauli:

I had always wanted to volunteer with World Central Kitchen. I just could never make it work with my jobs and you know I couldn't take a week off and or I couldn't get to wherever the disaster was. And I think it was. I think the liberation or layoff was divinely inspired, because I had time and I could just go.

Tish:

And so it was perfect timing, and I think a lot of people would have just kind of wallowed in what was happening, but you just jumped into this as an opportunity, like a door open for you. You know they always say that one door closes, another door opens and I think you know it's a great opportunity and I think you know it's such a brave thing to jump through that door.

Laura Pauli:

Oh, thank you, I had I just you know. I thought, oh, I looked up at the heavens and said thank you, I'm going and I went and I just showed up.

Ellen:

No, I remember, Laura, you spent day after day too. I mean, it's grueling work and these fires lasted a long time, and so you know, I think your first time out you may have done like eight or 10 days in a row. It was like just an amazing I'm a feat to me to just go right up there and do that. I know that more recently, your work with World Central Kitchen led you over to Poland and Ukraine, and I just think this is so remarkable. Can you share with us a little bit about how that happened and how that influenced you? Sure?

Laura Pauli:

So I took a course with World Central Kitchen, as I mentioned, in January of 2022, so almost two years ago and it was a chef's relief training course and one of our colleagues who was in the class we knew that World Central Kitchen would be here in Poland when Russia invaded and he tried to reach people and couldn't get ahold of anybody. So this guy got on a plane, flew into Warsaw, rented a car and followed World Central Kitchen on social media until he found them at the border and helped them open the, set up the kitchen, and so I know it was amazing. We were all in awe of him and we're cheering him on on Facebook, and so I stayed in touch with him and he connected me onto the WhatsApp volunteer group and so as soon as I could get over here, I did, and right then, right as Russia was invading, I was interviewing for a job, so, and I hadn't worked since I'd been laid off that August before, so I didn't have a luxury of taking off at the end of February of last year, so otherwise I would have been over here then, but I came over here as soon as I could, and I can't tell you why. It was just one of those things where I had to be here when I, when he put me on that volunteer chat group, there was a woman on the chat on that group who she was from DC and she worked works in the NGO world and she had posted that she was helping Ukrainian refugees relocate and did anybody wanna go in on it with her to pay for some of these expenses? And so I jumped on and said sure, and I, and I did. I helped her with relocate a family I think it was like a family of seven that needed to get to Edinburgh and and it was such a ridiculously small amount of money, I thought, you know, oh my gosh, such a small amount helped so many people. I've got to do more. And that's when I thought I'll put up a GoFundMe and I almost didn't. I almost didn't do it because I thought, oh, no one's gonna donate, I'm gonna get $50. It's gonna be embarrassing. And I thought, just do it, laura. And so I did and I was like like within a week I had $10,000. And it was the most amazing thing. I mean I'm still in awe over it.

Ellen:

Your community answered. Your community that you built up from your life, your lifetime. They answered and I know it grew and grew to be even bigger. But it seemed to me like this really hit you on a deep, almost like cellular level, laura what was happening in Ukraine, and just you know I don't wanna use the word accidental activism, but it was like something that came at you and again, like Tish said earlier, you walked through that door, you grabbed it, you made it happen.

Tish:

You know we talk about it a lot, alan, about finding your purpose right. We talk about a lot of different stories with a lot of different women and, laura, your story is just so inspiring in this way. You know, I know there's a lot of women who are contemplating like making major life changes and something just holds them back right From going out of the traditional. So what would be some advice you would give somebody that was considering taking a leap into a new career or a new passion at midlife? Just do it. Throw passion to the wind.

Laura Pauli:

I mean, just you know, just try it, just do it. I mean I would keep the day job and start doing it on the side and see if it resonates, and if it does, then go for it. And just you know, keep doing it.

Tish:

I like that. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing like you're saying. Like start dabbling it, start getting involved, you know, even if it's on the side, yeah, just do it, but let something inspire you Right, start doing it on the weekends, start doing it.

Laura Pauli:

I mean, I still have my day job and when I was over here in Poland last year, I was still working full time and I'd go in the kitchen in the mornings and I'd cook until about one o'clock and then I'd come back to the apartment and do my day job until 10 at night. I didn't do it very well and my boss was incredibly patient, but you know you do what you have to do. So just, you know, keep doing it on the side until you can do it full time. A friend of mine, shelly Tegelski, started the pandemic of love, which is now global. She won the. She was a CNN hero, but she started. At the beginning of the pandemic she lived in South Florida and she saw her community hurting and she put up on her Instagram two forms, said give help, get help. And said if you need help, sign up. If you can give help, sign up. And it was just one person sitting at her kitchen table. And now it's global. It's I don't know what, I don't know how many $80 million have been exchanged directly between people. So you know, one person can give rent. And don't ever think you can't. I mean my friend Holly. You know one person it was Holly who put up a note saying anybody wanna jump in and help me help refugees get to where they need to go. And you know I put up a GoFundMe and now I think it's over $40,000 that we've directly helped Ukrainians and it's you know we funded wood-burning stoves. We've sent clothes and food and water and hygiene to people and to shelters and to orphanages. And I mean we've directly helped people. And you know I've spent 30 years of my life campaigning and phone banking and marching, and all that work doesn't even come close to what the last year has felt like, because I know I've directly impacted lives and I've directly helped people and I'm still in touch with some of those people that I've relocated and that we've helped. And to directly help a life. You know, even if it's just one person that you help, you've helped save a life. You know there's that Buddhist saying tend to the area of the garden that you can reach. And if you can reach one little corner, reach that one little corner. If you can reach a huge garden, then reach that huge garden.

Ellen:

Yeah, it reminds me, laura, of the Japanese proverb fall down seven times, get up eight. Right, you just keep going and I have to say I really liked what you were doing because you shared how you helped people real people and everyone who knew you and became part of the community could see that. But let's just we helped.

Laura Pauli:

Well, we helped. I mean it wasn't me, it was we. You know it was. It was over almost 300 people who donated and you know we helped. I mean it wasn't I was the conduit. You know it was 300 people who helped send all these families to their new homes, whether it was permanent or temporary. It was these three of the people who clothe these people. I mean my, you know my soldier in Ukraine, dave, would call me and say, laura, a hundred people just showed up at this one shelter that we supply and they've been in a bunker for four months and their clothes are falling apart. Can you send X amount so we can buy them new clothes? And we did, laura, I've got five soldiers that need to go back to the front lines and they've got no body armor. You know we need to. You know, okay, here, you know, so these don't get killed. You know we need water to go to this. You know these people don't have water. You know, if, laura, it's below freezing, can we send wood burning stoves to the shelter. You know we're literally saving lives so people don't freeze to death. I mean it's directly impacting and saving lives and that that to me means so much. So you know, I you know $150 bought a wood burning stove. That saved a life and that, to me, is so impactful and I just think, if you can save, what more is there? What more is there?

Ellen:

What more is there? Let me just ask you this you know, when women, I think, especially make big changes in our lives, we often face a lot of resistance from people and those are well-meaning people that are like don't go to Poland, stay here right, or whatever it is they they, there's a resistance going off of that predictable path. Did you deal with any of that from from your community?

Laura Pauli:

I did. I did, of course, I did A lot of it. And now, on this trip too, people, you know, I'm going back into Ukraine on Saturday and you know, aren't you scared, isn't it? It's not safe. What are you thinking? You know I could. I could get killed in San Francisco just as easily as I could get killed in Ukraine, and actually, as far as I'm concerned, ukraine is safer than San Francisco. So, you know, you just have to say thank you for your feedback, thank you for your concern, and do what you want to do. And, you know, follow your heart and you know what's right for you. And you know one thing I learned I started, I started meditating and getting into mindfulness about three and a half years ago, and one thing that I learned and it's so true is to and when somebody first said that to me, I just rolled my eyes, like I'm surprised my eyes didn't fall out. I rolled them so hard, but it was, you know, like the worst. Roll them worse than the worst teenager, but it was. You know go to your body. And what does your body tell you? Because your body will never lie to you. Your head will lie to you. Your head will tell you anything you want to hear, it will. Your head will justify and you know 10 ways till Tuesday. But if you get really quiet and close your eyes and listen to your body and ask your body, you know should I do this? And where do you feel it Like you can right and you're good, and you can feel when something's right and you can feel when something's wrong. And you know we just don't give ourselves. We me never gave myself the opportunity to get quiet and listen. I was always like in a panic and and I never allowed myself to get quiet and listen. And when I do and when I just say is this right or is this wrong? Am I should I do this or shouldn't I do this and get quiet? And where do I feel it? And if I'm not feeling I know it's right and if I'm feeling that not, then I've got to look at that not and what's that not telling me? And so you know, trust yourself and ask yourself and feel your body. Like what is your body telling you? Because it will not lie to you. So you know, don't listen to everybody else. They're, they're telling you through their filter. They don't know what you know. They don't. Don't listen to everybody. Tell them the story.

Tish:

So, laura, laura, you're not just a culinary enthusiast, right. You are also really an activist, and I think you are. You can really show how one person can make such an impact. So I'd like for you to share more about your nonprofit, feed the World, and how you merged your two passions into that one amazing cause.

Laura Pauli:

Thank you, yeah, I think I'm definitely an accidental activist.

Tish:

It wasn't.

Laura Pauli:

It wasn't a career path or anything intentional. I created it because I had a lot of people say I can't donate to you because my, my trust can only give to a 501c3. And I also wanted to start going after bigger, bigger money. You can a lot. A little goes a really long way in Ukraine and you know, the more you have, the more you can do. So that's really why I created the 501c3 so that I could go after a lot more money, so we could help a lot more people, and that's why I set it up. So that's that's the reason, and also to make it much more legitimate and legal and and and work with foundations and work with companies and attract the bigger funds Right.

Ellen:

It's really a maturing of your business here into Feed the World. Can you share with us a little bit too, about some of the mental health work you're going to be doing in Ukraine?

Laura Pauli:

Sure. So I saw firsthand, really, how the volunteers were were burning out. You know, the fascinating, horrifying and fascinating thing about this war is, you know, russia is a machine, it's a war machine, whereas Ukraine is is a crowdsourced war. It's they. It's operating so much on volunteerism, on donations. I don't think anybody can grasp the level of volunteerism that's keeping this Ukrainian army afloat. The thousands and thousands of volunteers that are here on on the ground keeping Ukrainians alive and fed and and keeping the soldiers alive and fed and supplied with clothes, with body armor, with medicine. The guys I know they're running things to the front lines every day Uniforms, body armor, tourniquets. I mean it's crazy.

Ellen:

Volunteers have really seen the war. I mean experienced it firsthand and I think you shared. There's a lot of burnout and a huge emotional impact when people go back home or back in with the volunteer population, right.

Laura Pauli:

There is, I mean there's there's massive depression, burnout, suicide. You know, you read about it a lot with the soldiers. You don't hear about it with the volunteers, and I see it because I know, I know some of them and, and so that really became a concern of mine and I put up a website with some meditations on it that they could do that would help, and, and so that was really a focus of mine and and I wanted to come in and open a mental health clinic in Ukraine, and so that was my focus coming in. I had that was the original plan and I had some people I was working with to do that, and that that fell through a bit, and so this trip that I'm on now is really turned into more of a reconnaissance. So I'm meeting with people that I know. I've met with a couple of people in in the government, which was incredibly exciting and enlightening. I visited two of their top mental and physical rehabilitation centers and it was quite humbling to think that I could come in and open a mental health clinic. I just laughed at myself. I thought, oh, the audacity of the American coming in thinking they could open a mental health clinic.

Tish:

The others, but I think you show the power of that one, the power of a single person to move mountains when they, when they have that focus. Thank you.

Laura Pauli:

But it's also quite ridiculous, after I saw what I saw, to think that I could do that. But I did find out where I could help and that's really through my all my many years of blood, sweat and tears in Silicon Valley. I think that I can help in that way and help getting them equipment, and they also don't have a VA we have. We have the world's best veterans support, and so I think I can help with that. So that's what I'm focused on. And also we still need to help our volunteers here in Ukraine. So those are ways that that I think I can help here. So I think that'll that's what I'll be focused on. I only have two more weeks here. I can't believe it.

Tish:

It's, it's well. Well, I want to know what is next for Laura Pauley. Where do you see yourself going in the next year, the next five years? I mean what? What do you see in your near future?

Laura Pauli:

Oh, I would love to see these, these projects through. So if I can help create a VA for Ukraine, that would just be. That would be incredible, because I think that's really. I mean, I think the, the long-term effects of this war people can't even begin to imagine. We see, you know, one of the huge things that's happening are these soldiers all have concussions and we we're just seeing it now with our, our NFL, our football players. You know, we're seeing it 20 years later with I think it's called CET yeah, Correct, correct, wrong. You know. So that's what's going to happen here in Ukraine in 20 years. So you know they need to prepare for that. So the long-term effects of this war not to mention, I mean, the, just the civilians and the, the effects of living through daily shelling, just the mental trauma of that, the long-term effects, or the mental health is just the need for that is massive. So if I can help in some way and get this project up and going over the next five years, that would be amazing. After that, I don't know.

Ellen:

That's. It's truly inspiring, I have to say, what you just shared and, you know, as we wrap up, I know you offered a little advice earlier, but for our listeners, many who are looking here at Midlife to Channel, you know, some energy and some time into some new passions or other endeavors, any advice for them on how to make a positive impact in the world.

Laura Pauli:

Sure, you know. You said earlier, you know midlife and giving back, I think, especially for moms. You know you've spent your whole life giving to other people your kids, your family. You know all you. I'm going to start crying. All you've done is give to other people and maybe give to yourselves for a little bit and then and then think about who you can give to Think about. You know, check in with your heart and find out what resonates with you, where. What's calling your heart? You know, is it, is it working with children or is it working with older people? You know what, what lights, what lights you up. But check in, take care of you for a little bit. You know, because you've been so outwardly focused for so long, I mean I see it with with my friends. You know I haven't had that, but but I've seen it with all my friends, with kids and it's all. It's all flowing out. And maybe take some time for you before you start giving again, we talk a lot about self care as well.

Tish:

But, but I think that's an important component, but we all know that when we give, we get more back. You know what I mean. It's definitely has amazing rebound effect, but we're.

Ellen:

We're one of our favorite.

Tish:

Yeah, One of our favorite questions that we like to ask our guests is what is your superpower?

Laura Pauli:

Um, besides making a killer roast chicken, besides the chicken, yes, um, uh. It was always hard for me. I'll you know better than I do.

Ellen:

Um you make the best Dan Borson roast chicken I've ever had. No, I mean, I'm just gonna say you're a super connector. You are in contact with people from every stage of your life, from grammar school, high school on, through every company you've ever worked for and everyone you've touched here. You're that super connector and I think your what you've just told us is you're just willing to put yourself out there and try and do. You don't sit around talking about things, you actually make things happen. Those are huge superpowers, thank you.

Laura Pauli:

Thank you.

Ellen:

Well, not to grab what your super power is, we're going to sell you what your super power is and you're on your own, you know. Thanks so much for being here today and sharing your passion and really your journey to your accidental activism, which I don't think was quite as accidental as as it seems, but for dedication to making the world a better place is amazing. I'm so proud to call you a friend and it's been so great to have you on the show Um and for our listeners to hear your story. I'm sure they're all going to be inspired.

Laura Pauli:

Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Tish:

And Laura, one of my favorite things I think that I've learned really most about you today was your ability to edify and promote others. You know, you, you've put so many people out there. You were promoting people during the pandemic, when people were struggling. Um, that's amazing and stuff. But I want to now kind of promote what you're doing and let our listeners know that they can donate to Laura's nonprofit, and we're going to have all those links and stuff in our show notes. But, um, how, what is the easiest way for them to donate to your cause right now?

Laura Pauli:

Thank you so much. Um, I have a link, I'm a, I'm a um PayPal charity, and so I will give you that link and, um, that's the best way to do it. So, thank you so much.

Tish:

And I and I love how you were saying that you know as little as you know $150, how life changing that is to somebody. So it's not just about massive donations, it's just if people can do a little bit. If everyone's doing a little bit, it adds up to a lot. So if anybody can please do.

Laura Pauli:

I had a woman call, write us and say um they, we replaced some windows and windows or I think 10 or $15 each and wood burning stove, and she said we no longer have mushrooms growing on our wall, thanks to you.

Tish:

You know, it's the ripple.

Ellen:

It's the ripple effect, truly the ripple, I mean. Just it just keeps going and going and going. Well, if you enjoyed today's episode of the positively midlife podcast, please subscribe and give us a review wherever you get your podcast, and remember to Shania talk about this all the time. It's never too late, following your passion to make a positive impact in midlife or to get a unique take, a unique opportunity and just act on it, as Laura has really shared with us today.

Tish:

So until next time, midlifers, we want you to reach out and share this podcast with three women who already inspire you, so you can inspire them back.

Ellen:

All right till next week, midlifers.

Laura Pauley's Journey
Cooking in Times of Crisis
Finding Purpose and Making a Difference
Saving Lives and Overcoming Resistance
Trusting Your Body and Making Impact
The Ripple Effect in Midlife Impact