|(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.
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
had a successful dental practice, that she wanted a change. Her husband was surprised and pleased.
|Ann-Marie Neme and her husband James|
“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
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
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 is born|
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
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!”
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?’”
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.
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
of Blessed John Paul II, who coined the term the
|Ann-Marie is now on a better road to peace and happiness|
“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
(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
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.
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.”
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 http://www.choicesdetroit.com/ to find out more.