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Written by:  Tammy Holoman
Date: September 1, 2011

It's hard to believe a confident and successful motivational speaker like Kelly Swanson thought for years she would never have a story to tell — at least not one other people would find interesting.

Although she has always been a writer at heart, Swanson started working as a receptionist for the family business after graduating from Appalachian State University and getting married. She wondered where life might take her next when she enrolled in a creative writing class. Her fellow students, many of whom were also teachers, enjoyed her stories and the way she presented them. They soon asked her to entertain their students.

"I quickly realized that children weren't my audience," says the High Point resident. "While the kids appreciated my humor, it was really hitting home with the adults."

After her son, Will, was born six years ago, Swanson took a leap of faith. She left her day job to broaden her audience and spread her message — accented by a hefty dose of down-home humor — to businesses, churches and other organizations. Since then, she has delivered her inspirational one-woman show titled "Don't Make Me Pull This Car Over: a Hilarious and Inspiring Journey Through Motherhood" to thousands of people across the country. Her book, Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale? is filled with humorous observations about how life doesn't always turn out the way we expect.

Swanson will speak at Carolina Parent's Women@Work Breakfast in Durham Sept. 29. Each of her shows is unique, but attendees can expect to laugh a lot, cry a little and come away uplifted by Swanson's fresh perspective on love, humor and family.

Although 43-year-old Swanson had always written witty stories about Southern life and the people she's encountered, she confesses that she used to consider her own life mundane. Early in her career, a friend suggested she examine what life had taught her to develop her own story.

"The only story I had was that I was the kid that the others threw things at

on the bus," she says. "I was the one that they picked on, the one who was always different. That's where my tagline of 'Stand Up and Stick Out' came from. Life is not about blending in and looking like everybody else. As moms, we try to keep up with everybody and think, 'Here's what that ideal mom should look like,' and we don't match up. You have to stop trying to keep up, throw away the list of expectations you've put on yourself that didn't matter to you to begin with, and be who you remain to be."

Swanson knows the challenges parents face and the sacrifices they make to balance work and family. She and her husband, Bill, travel together to her speaking engagements while home-schooling their son.

"You can't have it all and do it all. That's part of the reason so many women are burned out today," Swanson says. "They have an unrealistic vision, and something has to give. For me, my housework is what gives. My yard doesn't get mowed as much as it should. You have to follow your list of priorities and do what really matters."

She cautions busy parents about overextending themselves.

"You must learn to say 'no,' and without giving a reason. Look at the time, money and energy you're spending related to what's really important to you," she says. "If it's not on your list, don't worry about it."

When she's feeling overwhelmed, Swanson finds solace in family time, watching silly sitcoms, reading funny books and laughing with friends. "Me time" should be a priority, she says. "Everybody deserves to have time to do whatever it is that fills them back up. And 'me time' is not in the carpool line — that doesn't count."

Swanson says sharing her stories is a gratifying dream come true.

"I want people to take a look at themselves and like who they see in the mirror. I don't want to just make them think something, I want to make them feel something," she says.

Swanson guarantees that event attendees will see "the real Kelly" when she speaks. Although she's confident on stage, she shares the same insecurities as others. She's not afraid to tell you she's a size 14 on a good day.

"OK, maybe I'm a 16, but I'm a 14 if I get to pull my stomach down over my pants," she says, chuckling. "I also draw on my eyebrows. If I'm sleepy, I have to be careful, because I'll draw them on crooked. One time I drew one up so much higher than the other that I walked around all day looking suspicious."  n

Tammy Holoman is a freelance writer based in Winstom-Salem.



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