A Chat with Ann Ruethling, Founder of Chinaberry, Inc.

Janet: Who was your greatest inspiration when you were growing up?

Ann: St. Francis of Assisi. I loved his connection with animals, as well as his courage to follow his inner guidance, no matter how it turned his life upside down. The day on a camping trip when a sparrow landed on my hand as I ate granola was a high spot in my life. Corny, I know, but it was my own "St. Francis moment!"

Janet: What is your personal favorite children's book?

Ann: The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. It never ceases to amaze me how there's something new to notice almost every time I look at this book. It's wordless, too, so I don't feel constrained by someone else's text. Since there's definitely a quirky quality to the book, using my own words allows me to put an appropriate spin on the story. I always "read" it with a sense of fun and excitement and let's-see-what-happens-next spirit, instead of in an ominous way. Every child who's experienced it in this manner is enthralled.

Janet: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Ann: Another St. Francis. No, seriously....a nurse. But then I volunteered as a candy-striper in a hospital and realized I didn't have the mettle to be a nurse.

Janet: What is your favorite quote?

Ann: "The point is not to do remarkable things, but to do ordinary things with the conviction of their immense importance." - Teilhard de Chardin

Janet: Tell me about a hidden talent of yours that few know about:

Ann: OK, I've been sitting here for 15 minutes trying to think of a hidden talent. It's embarrassing to admit that I don't think I have one. The ultimate question is: do I really not have a hidden talent, or is nothing about me hidden?! Now I'm perplexed!

Janet: What is your favorite city and why?

Ann: I'm not really a city person. If I could snap my fingers and be somewhere, it wouldn't be a city; it would be a more country setting. I've had favorite cities in my life, but they -- and I -- have changed over the years. My favorite city would be a combination of: Boulder, CO (because of its natural beauty, but before it became so sprawling), Minneapolis (I know it's a stereotype, but at least it's a good one: because its people strike me as so authentic), San Francisco (because it's so beautiful), Amsterdam (because IT'S so beautiful) and Rome (because of its antiquities).

Janet: What is your wish for the world ?

Oh my! I'll bet you thought you were going to get basic one-word answers out of me, didn't you?! Well, I have a lot to say on this subject, but perhaps the best way to say it is what follows.

I believe that busy interstate highways are a microcosm of the world. A huge percentage of people drive over the speed limit; an incredible number -- and growing every day! -- of people are talking on cell phones; when you're not driving fast enough for the person behind you, that person often dangerously tailgates you until you move over; when traffic is bumper-to-bumper, you can easily feel trapped or, worse yet, experience road rage.

My wish for the world? That we slow down. That we quit trying to do too many things at one time and that we do one thing well while we're doing it. That we become less self-centered and demanding, taking responsibility and being more accountable for our actions. That we adopt healthier priorities, that we learn how to deal with stress in saner ways, that we be kinder to one another.

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