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Turn to Jesus (Article)

A group of metro-Detroit women help other women appreciate what really matters

Choices Detroit
(From Left to Right) Ann-Marie Neme, Eileen Ambrose Tesch, Krisit Heft and Beverly Thewes

Detroit, Michigan -- When did the idea that “a woman can do whatever a man can do” become the idea that “women have to do everything men do”?

This was the question Ann-Marie Neme asked herself in the year 2003.

A tenured professor in materials science, she had just finished co-directing a symposium for dental professionals in Sweden.  In a field dominated by men, she was at the pinnacle of her career. 

But later that evening she found herself sitting in her hotel room feeling miserable and overwhelmed, with one idea in her head.  She wanted to go home to her family.

“I thought, ‘This is what I wanted?  This is what I thought would make me happy?’ I looked at my life, not only as a professional but as a wife and mother of four children, and asked ‘What am I doing here?” And she also realized something about herself on that trip.

“I had been raised all my life to be a man,” she said.  And now all she wanted to be was a woman, a mom and a wife.

Afterwards, she would go home to Clarkston, Michigan and tell her husband, James, who
Ann-Marie and James
Ann-Marie Neme and her husband James
had a successful dental practice, that she wanted a change.  Her husband was surprised and pleased.

“He had always wanted me to stay home, but never felt he could or should ask,” she said.

Ann-Marie began working only part time and eventually, she negotiated a family leave from her job, and would become a full-time stay-at-home mom.  She and her husband went on to have four more children, and Ann-Marie says she is now on a better road to peace and happiness.

Another Woman’s Story

Working mother and self-described “uber” volunteer Kristi Heft also found herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next.   Having worked several years in sales management, and then taking on several major volunteer initiatives after the birth of her daughter, she had never stopped to evaluate why she was working so hard and for what reason.

She had just finished attending spiritual exercises through the group Regnum Christi with her friend (guess who?) Ann-Marie Neme. She felt sure the “message” she heard during the retreat about what to do next was quite clear -- go home, have a cup of coffee, hang out with your family and friends, clean your kitchen, take a break from working on any projects and for once, relax.

“I was just burned out,” she said. “I knew I definitely needed a break to regenerate.”

But Ann-Marie heard a different message during that same retreat. She felt a strong calling to start an initiative to help women find peace, strength and balance, and not to feel so beleaguered.

“And she said God told her call me,” Kristi said with a sigh and then a laugh.

“I thought in my mind, ‘Ann-Marie must have got her wires crossed. It could not be me. It must be someone else.’  But now I see quite clearly it was supposed to be me.  God has a sense of humor.”

Ann-Marie and Kristi would soon join up with Beverly Thewes, a Regnum Christ member and the wife of the late Tom Thewes, one of the founders of Compuware Corporation, and Attorney Eileen Ambrose Tesch, another Regnum Christi member.  Both of these women felt a similar calling to do something to help other women find out what really matters.

“In our world today, women are overwhelmed and misdirected,” said Ann-Marie.  “They have been sold a bill of goods.  We wanted to help them find their own sense of well-being.” (*see definition below)

Beverly agrees.  “One of the problems that women have today and which is causing imbalance in their lives is that our culture is indoctrinating them in the idea that they have no value unless they think, act and are doing things that men do,” she said. “This is causing tremendous insecurity and confusion in women.”

Help from a Higher Power

The group conscientiously met for two years in the hopes of discerning the right path to take to launch this initiative.

In 2009, Beverly and Ann-Marie attended an international women’s conference at Regina Apostolorum in Rome.

“This really helped us get things started,” said Ann Marie.  “And we needed credentials to fight this culture war.”

Beverly brought forth the idea to pattern their activities after a group she learned about through her recently married daughter.   The girl’s mother-in-law, Brenda Tollet, had founded the organization Choices Atlanta.  Brenda would soon give the fledging Detroit group her encouragement and spiritual support.

But the Detroit group wanted to take a different approach to the Atlanta women. “They are southern belles, and we are Detroiters,” Ann Marie
Choices Detroit Logo
Choices Detroit is born
said simply.

The women organized a planning meeting with the help of an outstanding project manager and facilitator, Laurie Horvath. “She was the perfect person for what the team needed,” said Kristi.  “Laurie is very good at asking the right questions, and steering a team closer to concrete actions that reflect their overall goals. That is her gift.”

Ann-Marie also felt strongly about formulating a mission statement that could be conveyed in a cogent but quick manner.

“You have to engage people quickly and explain compellingly in thirty seconds what you are as an organization and what you hope to do for women,” said Ann-Marie. “Of course, you don’t forget to hand them a business card while they are exiting the elevator!”

Lauren McDowell, who Ann-Marie and Kristi describe as a “gifted marketing specialist,” was also brought on board by the team.

“She told us in a nutshell, ‘You have to find friends for your initiative, and how and where are you going to find them?’” said Kristi.

She met with the group several times, and through her understanding of the power of social media, helped clarify for the team the need to start a website and blog.

Choices Detroit is Born

Choices Detroit was officially born as a non-profit organization in October 2011.  Their motto is simply “Choices Detroit: Women Discovering What Matters.”  To see the group’s mission statement, click here.

Since the group launched their website and blog in November they boast more than 5,000 visitors.

“We are currently on Facebook and LinkedIn, and will soon be on Twitter,” Kristi added.

“We like to say our organization offers a website and blog written by women for and about women,” said Kristi, who serves as editor for the Choices Detroit.

"During my career in sales, I never did any editing,” she said. “Yet I enjoy being editor immensely. I enjoy reading what each blogger writes about and the diversity of the topics and their opinions.  I also enjoy the interplay of ideas and communication between editor and writer - so far it has been an energizing learning experience."

 Like Choices Atlanta, Choice’s Detroit’s goal is to “positively redefine what womanhood and motherhood are for the culture and society, one person at a time,” using the wisdom
Neme Family
Ann-Marie is now on a better road to peace and happiness
of Blessed John Paul II, who coined the term the “feminine genius."   

“But we are not a religious organization,” said Ann-Marie. Though the group does not shy away from talking about God, their goal is “to focus more on natural law and examine topics that hopefully will help women make better choices for themselves and their families in the future.”

“It is easier to fight the fight now,” said Ann Marie. “We have 30 years of data refuting the premise of radical feminism in our culture.”

(Ann-Marie suggests reading the information from the following links: “The State of the American Woman: A new poll shows why they are more powerful, but less happy,” TIME Special Report October 26, 2009; and “The Unfinished Revolution,” Maria Shriver.  Ann Marie clarified that the computation of the statistics in the articles is relevant, but the conclusions drawn are “incorrect and do not provide women with proper knowledge for self discovery or balance.”)

Discovering What Matters

Choices Detroit believes that women have faced specific challenges over the past years affecting them markedly differently than men.  The group aims to help women make better decisions in their personal and professional lives by offering them the tools to do so.

Choices Detroit has a group of 10 women who write for the blog, deliberately chosen because of their varied backgrounds in profession, education and family life, including the original founders.  To read their bios, click here for the website and check the link “About us.” 

Blog topics include work and family and offer social and cultural resources available to help women actualize their goals, duties and well-being.

*Choices Detroit defines a woman’s “well being” as “social, intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional and occupational wellness.”  This wellness is an “active process of becoming aware of and seeking out educational resources that help define for women what really works and what doesn’t work in their lives.”

The blog invites comments from “all people of sound reason and goodwill who seek the truth.”

Choices Detroit also offers workshops to groups and organizations on topics related to work/family balance, health issues, importance of organization and presentation, improving parenting skills and resources available to women from a personal and professional aspect.  Go to their website to find out more.






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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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