interview by Kimberly Davis Guerra
photos by Jenna Duncan Photography
HFM had the honor to sit down with a powerhouse in the Houston business community, Myra Johnson. Myra is the Director of Business Development at Ephesus Investments, LLC, a community relations firm. For the past 10 years, she has led the business development, marketing, sales, community relations, branding, and PR efforts of various companies and non-profits, receiving local and national recognition for successful business and philanthropic initiatives. As if that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she is also the proud mom to a beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, and a precocious toddler, Isaac, who will be celebrating his second birthday very soon.
On a gorgeous fall morning, HFM sat down with Myra to find out how she balances keeping her cool, running her empire, and raising her amazing kiddos.
A FEW PARENTING HACKS I’D LIKE TO SHARE:
Juice up your coffee!
It’s hard for me to find time to get my nutrients in, so I add turmeric powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg to my coffee. At other times I’ll add wheatgrass powder, chia seeds, carrot juice, and a vanilla protein shake instead of creamer. It sounds gross, but the right blend is kind of yummy, saves time, and makes sure your body gets what it needs first thing in the morning!
Healing Ointments are Amazing!
Aquaphor Healing Ointment and Boudreaux’s Butt Paste are divine. They are absolute life savers and are seriously powerful agents to prevent and treat diaper rash.
Invest in a good chest rub
Maty’s All Natural Baby Chest Rub with Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Chamomile is remarkably effective in calming baby Isaac down. It smells amazing and is petroleum- and menthol-free.
Have you heard of the 4 FingerTip Temple Method?
A friend’s grandmother recently taught it to me, and it works! If your little one is having a hard time relaxing or getting to sleep, place four fingertips vertically on the center of your kiddo’s forehead and stroke down the tip of the nose and back up to the center of the forehead to the hair line. Then change directions, and place your fingertips vertically and brush from the center of the forehead all the way to the side of the face in front of the ear. Repeat these motions with a “shoo” sound. This soothing tactic really helps place your child at ease and also works well with a custom “night-night” song or the tried and true lullaby. (If you have long fingernails, this method may not be for you!)
Teething survival tip!
If teething is getting the best of your mini-me, try frozen peas or Pedialyte pops! These are a godsend in my household!
Myra, thank you for letting us have a glimpse into your world. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
I am a small-town girl that loves hot yoga, salsa dancing, and dessert. My grandfather pastored a church in the hills of Kentucky for 40 years. It was postcard perfect – white, with a tall steeple and a red door, surrounded by white picket fences that contained beautiful horses. We were all inspired by his leadership, and so we have lots of missionaries and speakers and educators in the family. We were taught to believe that there is no such thing as a stranger, to always go above and beyond, and to try to add value to others’ lives. These foundational principles have served me well in business.
You went to school at the University of Kentucky (go Wildcats!). What brought you to Houston?
Cell phones! After graduation I accepted a leadership role with T-Mobile, which taught me a ton about sales, marketing, business operations, and HR. I was recruited by the Houston team, which was a top 10 market for the company. Did not know a soul when I moved here, and now cannot imagine living anywhere else.
What do you love most about raising a family here?
On any given day, we are gifted with infinite opportunities to learn about the world. We could meet a German, El Salvadorian, someone from Ukraine, Budapest, or Italy. My experience growing up in Kentucky was quite the opposite. Houston provides access to people, food, art, music, and theater from around the globe. It’s remarkable to see how, due to this exposure, Gabby and Isaac have an innate comfort with, excitement, and appreciation for variety in all of its forms. An added plus is the high probability of being able to wear flip-flops on Christmas Day. I remember enduring ice storms growing up that cut off my entire town’s electricity, forcing us to huddle and hide from the zombies that might come eat us!
There is quite a big age gap between your two children, how has your parenting style changed over the years?
Everything was so new and scary with my first. I had pregnancy and delivery complications and experienced a lot of stress, fear, and worry. That, along with comparison and the desire to receive approval from others, drove my parenting style to be a bit strict and overprotective. Also, I wasted money on expensive baby things that at the end of the day didn’t really matter. Looking back, I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself and my first that may have caused me to miss out on enjoying more of “the moment.” Well, that and sleep deprivation!
Now that I know what to expect and what to watch out for, with baby Isaac, I am a little more patient. I listen and observe more. I encourage adventure and exploration. In addition, over the years, I have gained a better sense of who I am and the type of life I want to live, so I confidently stand by my parenting decisions and am aware that they need to be driven by my values, character, and long term goals.
There is a large generational divide between Gabby and Isaac. I am learning how important it is to tailor my approach to each child, learn and grow with the times, and adapt to remain relevant in order to create an environment that will result in my message being received. I constantly have to do this to stay connected to Gabby and Isaac. Two completely different parenting styles are required.
Finally, the age gap is a parenting moment in and of itself. Gabrielle sees the daily sacrifice required to raise her brother. This has been an eye opener for her. She witnessed the impact having a child has on a body and one’s personal and professional life. This has lent itself to many heart to heart mommy-daughter talks where I get to share lessons I have learned about life and love.
Do you find it is completely different raising a girl from a boy?
You hear this all the time, and I would agree. Even at a young age with Gabby, I was focused on building her self-confidence and self-worth. My goal has always been to help her to recognize her unique beauty and skill set, identify what career she might want to pursue, and surround her with positive people. She was quite responsive to this style and had a curiosity for these topics.
Isaac is just active and wants to knock everything over! I kind of want to keep him on one of those baby leashes around the house, but even that would be impossible. He is super strong-willed in comparison to Gabby, and he knows how to pull my heart strings. After he breaks a house rule, he will tilt his head to the side, bat his eyelashes, caress my face, and say, “It’s okay – I’m so sorry, Mommy – okay.” Okay with a period behind it, not a question mark. Then he hugs me. With boys, the charm starts early! Your heart just melts into a puddle, and you are so tempted to offer a hall pass. I now understand why some (not all) good-looking men grow up lacking empathy for the impact of their decisions, or are self-centered or attention-hungry. No family member or friend intends to nurture these traits, but it is so easy to accidentally do so out of pure love and infatuation. No matter what, I try to remind myself quite frequently that I am raising adults – not children. So I think about what kind of man and woman I am grooming them to become through my feedback, what I expose them to, the boundaries I set, and the example of my life.
What is your favorite thing about raising a teenager? What is your biggest concern?
Seeing her leave the house wearing my clothes, shoes, and jewelry (without my permission, I might add). She keeps me current on fashion trends, music, sayings, and apps. More importantly, I really enjoy watching the evolution of her personality and her fight for autonomy, identity, and direction. It reminds me that this battle isn’t a single match, it is more of a lifelong journey. My biggest concern is that I do not know what the world will be like when she is an adult, so I wonder if I am adequately preparing her. We all need to be pushed and challenged to achieve, but with teenagers, you always wonder how involved you should be. Some things they need to learn on their own. For me, I want to teach her how to swim with the sharks, know when to get out of the water, and how to fish!
What is your favorite thing about raising a toddler? What is your biggest concern?
Cuddles and cuteness! Toddlers overall are just adorable – their little faces and little clothes! They take risks and are so open to learning. They will do whatever it takes just to see what happens. I have so many epiphanies by watching him make discoveries, and as he does, I see that he trusts me with his entire world. He comes to me to celebrate, to make something better or make something go away. It is a big order to fill, but the closeness and connection you develop with your toddler is surreal.
As a business owner, you also have quite a lot on your plate. What do you find to be the biggest challenges in raising a family and running a business?
Being the engine that makes everything run. As a mother, so many people and so many things depend on you. Your “things to do” list often leaves you feeling overwhelmed and sometimes downright sorry for yourself because it just never ends…it grows. So you have to pace yourself, pick your battles, be flexible with your time (especially with a little one), and remember that for you, at this point and time in life, it is not a sprint, it is a marathon.
You are a big advocate of philanthropy and collaboration. What is the passion behind your projects?
Blame it on my upbringing, but I believe we all have something to give – whether it’s wisdom, advice, talent, time, money, or sometimes just the courtesy of opening a door or smiling. Everything you do has a ripple effect. So when you enhance the lives of those around you, you are improving the area in which you live, and more importantly, impacting generations to come. If we could only remove labels and pre-determined judgments and give each person and each situation a pure chance, we could accomplish so much more together. And this is also true in business. When organizations from different industries collaborate and work alongside each other for a common goal, cross-pollination happens, networks expand, ideas bloom, and revenue potential grows. So many organizations want more money or more exposure, but they also want to stay in their comfort zone and do things the way they always have. Progress just doesn’t work like that. So I gain great joy in trailblazing new connections, campaigns, and revenue streams for my clients. It is definitely not easy work, but the transformations are incredible to see.
I find it takes a village to raise a family, especially in today’s fast-paced world. Do you agree? Who is in your village?
For a long time, I tried to do everything on my own. And while this may be a reality for all of us during specific times of life, perhaps due to the circumstances we were born into, a failed relationship, relocation, or death of a loved one – connection and communication leads to balance and a well-rounded life. So, if you don’t automatically inherit a village, I encourage you to open up, reach out, and build it, keeping one thing in mind: whether comprised of relatives or friends, the composition and contribution of your village fluctuates – it changes based on your values, goals, and personal and professional growth.
My precious “GGP” (aka my great-grandpa) is certainly the chief of my village. He, along with my stepdad, came into my life only seven years ago, and they are a reliable, consistent source of wisdom and strength – I can’t imagine life without them. My mom is a strong woman who has dedicated her life to serving the community – and that is an inspiration. My mentor Gordon Quan has taught me more than I could ever imagine, and there are two or three other friends near and dear to my heart that allow me to vent, cry, celebrate. They accept me exactly as I am.
You mentioned that we all have a story. We all have faced obstacles and overcome them while on our journeys. What advice would you give to those moms out there trying to do their best?
For me, going from one child to two after so many years of quiet, routine, and a bit of freedom demanded major adjustments to my mindset and schedule. Tripping over toys, hearing the screeching sound of a temper tantrum, enduring my teenager’s mood swings while I act as her personal Uber driver due to her schedule being almost as hectic as mine, paired with client expectations and my own to stay in shape, have a clean kitchen, achieve more professionally, and oh, wait – have a personal life? – is enough to make me lose it on a weekly basis.
I quickly learned earlier this year that I just cannot run properly unless I invest time each day to “fill up” and get emotionally and mentally grounded. So I would suggest identifying what you need to do for yourself in order to remain full, strong, and positive.
Through trial and error, I realized that I am far more focused, productive, and resilient when my day begins with coffee, songs of gratitude, silent reflection, prayer, and affirmations. So who has time for this, right? I don’t always wake up before the kids do because I am actually really tired. So oftentimes, I have to get breakfast going, line up some educational videos for Isaac (thank goodness for Little Baby Bum), and then grab my coffee and step away for a moment. I listen to an Australian band called Hillsong. Their music has completely transformed my life. A lyric from one of their hit songs, “Seasons,” is my saving grace on most days: “Oh how nature acquaints us with the nature of patience…” I remind myself that no matter what is going on, good or bad, happy or sad, healthy or sick – this is a season. So I must do what is necessary to carry on.
A few poster-size sticky notes are on the wall I see when I first wake up, so I can set my focus before I interact with the world. Before I go to bed, I see them again. So if negative thoughts, worry, fear, doubt, or distractions arise, I read those messages out loud and set my intention again before I catch some zzz’s.
And above all else: each day, I work to acknowledge my worth. On most days as a mom, no one gives you a gold star – although you deserve one. I remind myself that my contributions, my effort, and my work, while not complete, have resulted in progress, and that is worth celebrating.