Forward to Better – Part 1


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Our podcast today was recorded in front of a live audience on August 24, 2021, at Bonner Park Bandshell in Missoula, MT. 7 storytellers shared their true personal story on the theme “Forward to Better”. Today we hear from 5 of those storytellers.

Our first story comes to us from Sasha Vermel.

When Sasha Vermel tells her husband that she isn’t ready to settle down and wants to travel, he takes her up on it and they learn how difficult being gluten intolerant can be while traveling in China.

Sasha calls her story “Pieces of Home in Far Off Lands”.

📸 Neubauer Media

Sasha Vermel passionately believes that we all have a basic need to hear and tell stories. By day, she is a real estate agent with a sewing and design habit. Born and raised in Missoula, MT she earned a BFA from U of M. In her former life she worked in theater costume shops across the West and frequently performed on stage at Bona Fide and Bawdy Storytelling events in San Francisco. Learn more about Sasha at her website

Our next story comes to us from Sara Close.

Sara Close is feeling hopeless. She picks up the phone and the woman on the other end saves her life and reminds her of the magic in life.

Sensitive listeners, please be aware that Sara’s story mentions suicidal thoughts.

Remember, You are not alone. Reach out. | Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255 | | “text MT” to 741-741

Sara calls her story “A Lesson in Magic”

📸 Neubauer Media

Sara Close is a strategist and convener of good ideas and good people. Director by day, a yoga teacher by night, but a mom all the time, she’s happiest on the water, on trails, or on the trampoline… but definitely not on snow and is still trying to figure out how to do winter in Montana right.

In our next story, Lauren Gonzalez navigates the complex feelings a new mother has when she brings a daughter into the world when hoping for a son. She calls her story “No Girls Allowed”.

Lauren Gonzalez is a Southern-born thirty-something who writes/edits, climbs, (pretends to learn the) drums, sings, homeschools, and mothers two plucky kids (alongside her partner of 10 years) in beautiful Missoula.

Our next storyteller, Paul Mwingwa, is a refugee from Congo by way of Rwanda. Paul earns that riding the bus is very different across cultures. He uses this knowledge to help other refugees as they navigate learning the bus system in Missoula, MT. We call Paul’s story “Riding the Bus”.

📸 Neubauer Media

Paul Mwingwa is the Refugee Congress Delegate for Montana. He is a resettled refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came to the U.S. in November 2018. Mwingwa is studying Computer Network Design, Configuration and Administration Modules at Missoula College. Today, he works as a Swahili language instructor and private contractor at the Lifelong Learning Center and a food service worker at Providence St. Patrick Hospital. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and walking along the river.

Jen Certa originally shared this story in 2020 during one of the Tell Us Something live-streamed events. It is such an important story that we thought she deserved a live in-person audience to hear it. Jen agreed.

Jen Certa’s journey to fix a botched tattoo helps her answer Mary Oliver’s question about how to love this world.

Sensitive listeners be aware that Jen’s story mentions sexual assault.

Jen calls her story “How to Love This World”.

📸 Neubauer Media

Jen Certa is originally from New York, but accidentally began a love affair with Montana in 2009 and is grateful to have called Missoula home since. Jen works as a mental health therapist at an elementary school, where she spends her days debating the finer points of making fart noises with your slime and playing “the floor is lava.” When not at work, Jen can most often be found hiking with her dogs and running late for something.

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