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Podcast Ep. 19: Thriving in the Face of Childhood Cancer with Audra & Justin at The Family Thrive

Special Episode!

We love bringing on amazing experts each week who teach us about family thriving through the lens of their expertise. But this week, the experts are us! Audra and Justin talked about childhood cancer awareness month, their own journey toward thriving in the face of childhood cancer, how thriving for them meant creating MaxLove Project and now The Family Thrive, and what we have in store over the next few months in The Family Thrive.

In this episode, they also keep it super real. Audra shares how hard things have been this year with our big MaxLove Project Farm to Fork fundraiser and how sometimes even super meaningful work can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Justin shares his uncertainties and insecurities around starting a new company and leaving academia as well. But they also tap into and share the core vision that inspires them both to get up everyday and join forces with an amazing team of experts to help all families thrive against the odds.

Listen here

About Audra and Justin

Audra DiPadova Wilford and Justin Wilford are parents to Max and Maesie and the co-founders of MaxLove Project and The Family Thrive. After going to culinary school, Audra earned her BA in Political Science and her Master’s in Philosophy and Education. She is also a Functional Medicine health coach. Justin earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's Director of Content for The Family Thrive, which leads him to working with dozens of experts to bring the best science and wisdom on family thriving to parents everywhere.

Audra and Justin devote their time to both of their organizations in hopes of helping every family truly thrive.

Show notes

  • 04:54 - MaxLove Project teamed up with Dr. Ruth McCarty (who you may remember from Ep. 5!) to create the Ohana Project. It focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • 07:45 - Every year, MaxLove Project throws an amazing Farm to Fork Dinner for its Fork Childhood Cancer fundraising campaign.
  • 13:52 - MaxLove Connect is an app specifically built to support the MaxLove Project community. Feel free to join if you want to learn more!
  • 35:30 - Mark Hyman is an American physician, as well as the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center. He was a columnist for The Huffington Post, a regular on the Katie Couric show, and is a best-selling author.
  • 55:13 - Yasmine Cheyenne is a self-healing expert, an advocate for mental wellness, and the host of The Sugar Jar Podcast.
  • 55:22 - Brene Brown's "clear is kind" adage is definitely worth a read (it'll only take four minutes!)

Justin: Hey, friend, this podcast is brought to you by The Family Thrive, an expert-led, science-backed online community for busy parents looking to thrive. Join us at TheFamilyThrive.com.

Audra: I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes, I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I've built over time. That's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: All right, welcome to a special edition of The Family Thrive podcast. It's only Audra and I today. We are the special guests. We wanted to record a podcast just for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But we have a lot of other stuff to discuss as well. So we're going to just jump right into it. Audra.

Audra: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a special time for us. I remember our very first Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was right after that. We were aware of that. We produced messaging around and all that was after Max was diagnosed. And it was under a month after he was diagnosed. And I realized, oh, wow, this is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. And it's clear that there isn't enough awareness. And in my mind, once people become aware, they are more empowered to take action and do something about it.

So we started at this 10 years ago and have been working on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month every year. And it is really important. Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States. It's a really, really big deal. And we're underfunding childhood cancer research from the federal government. Less than four percent of our cancer research funding goes to over 100 forms of childhood cancer. And prostate cancer alone, not known as a particularly lethal disease. In fact, for men, very often, it's better not to treat it at all. Right. Gets eight percent. So twice as much for one disease that isn't that lethal.

And that just didn't feel, doesn't sit right with me and many, many others. Right. And so a lot of private foundations step up, usually families in grief and bereavement, families try to make a different step up to fill the gaps in in research. And it's a tremendous struggle, an uphill battle, because, as you know, with research, it's really never enough. That there are so many questions to be answered. There's so much that we don't know about these diseases, that it's quite a challenge. And one thing is clear is that we really believe and I know many researchers believe that if we unlock the keys to childhood cancers, we will learn more about adult cancers, because childhood cancers are not caused by lifestyle factors.

Justin: Well, for me, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is not just about research, but it's also about programs like our nonprofit MaxLove Project do for cancer survivorship, also quality of life through treatment. We all know that going through cancer treatment is extremely taxing. It's really difficult. And so there are things that we can do; nutrition and sleep and stress management and exercise that really improve quality of life through cancer treatment. And these are the things that MaxLove Project focuses on.

But then after the treatment is done, you know, today, 85% of kids who are diagnosed with cancer will go on to survive after five years. But then what they face after those five years or after treatment, rather, is a lifetime of dealing with increased risks for all sorts of chronic disease and reduced quality of life. And so the things we do with MaxLove Project focusing on health behaviors, focusing on quality of life resources, this is a major part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for me.

Audra: Yeah, I know it's powerful. And I know that you've done, actually, significant research in the area of childhood cancer survivorship yourself. You became a researcher with your…

Justin: I went back to school.

Audra: Went back to school. You became an official researcher with Children's Hospital of Orange County. You produced the Ohana study to find a way, you know, different ways to mitigate these risks to what we would say, change the odds. We have been saying for years, the statistics are not destiny. And what does that mean to you?

Justin: Well, statistics can be depressing. So when we look at the statistically…

Audra: Especially the childhood cancer statistics, you know, one in five kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive. Three to five kids suffer life-threatening late effects of treatment. I mean, it's devastating all around. And even in the survivorship stats we're talking about, within the first five years, there are kids face secondary illness. And in cancers after that five years in the mortality rate is even higher. So it's yeah, stats are pretty grim. There are some child cancers, too, that have no, no treatment strategies that really work that we haven't made much headway on.

There's some that are completely, totally still terminal upon diagnosis, like DIPG, a very rare, although it doesn't feel rare to me with all of the families I know form of pediatric brain cancer, it feels like the rates are increasing, which I did see data recently from cancer.gov that somehow the cancer rates are increasing.

Justin: So, yeah, the statistics are not destiny. Other statistics, like 95% of childhood cancer survivors will be dealing with the chronic health condition by age 45. So these statistics can be depressing, but we are working to ensure that they are not destiny. And there are things we can do to reduce risks and increase quality of life for those kids who do make it out of treatment. So this treatment…

Audra: And, in treatment and beyond. We were told to focus on Max's quality of life, like day three. And we took that. We took that as marching orders. In that we found quantity. But we also built a community of minded parents, of other parents who felt the same way. Like, what about quality of life today? What about quality of life now? And we, if we start focusing on quality of life in treatment and in the treatment process, I really believe that it pays off long term. And it becomes, you know, an approach that any family has a cancer diagnosis and a childhood cancer diagnosis benefits from the entire family, benefits from the focus on quality of life in treatment and beyond.

Justin: Yes. So this podcast episode is not just about childhood cancer. We just wanted to start there, recognizing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. If you feel called MaxLove Project, this episode will air right after our Farm to Fork dinner. But for all of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are running a Fork Childhood Cancer campaign.

Audra: forkchildhoodcancer.org. You can join the campaign. So I'm going to, Justin's trying to keep us on track. I am going to challenge that. I really do think that this podcast is about us just getting real and being together and being real in what we're working on today, what we're going through, what we're facing, you know, on the other side of everything that folks see that we put out in the world.

And so we do have our Farm to Fork dinner coming up September 25 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. It is our seventh annual event. It's an incredible event. You can see more about it at MLPFarmDinner.org. But it's been quite a struggle. I  just have to share. Like we could not have the event last year because of Covid. And so we came up with the fork childhood cancer campaign, which was incredibly successful. And the energy around it was beautiful. And I think, you know, I really felt like people were gathering in unity, even in the midst of Covid, to make a difference for families facing childhood cancer and related life-threatening illnesses and…

Justin: Gathering virtually in their homes.

Audra: Fundraiser.

Justin: Together online.

Audra: Having their own dinners like we were, you know, online together for our event and all of that. And it was really beautiful. So we continued that campaign this year as well. And that it'll be what we do every September for childhood cancer is what we will do every September, brings together so much of our program and messaging and focus on our mission. Part of which is culinary medicine. We're learning how to use real whole foods therapeutically in the home, because it's one of the few things we're in power to do in this process. Right. It's one of the one of the major things we're in power to do. In any case, it has, I'm just going to keep it super real. It has been so much more challenging this year with Covid. And I thought it was going to be better.

I'm like really trying hard to keep, oh, just like bring really good energy and be in the space that I want to be in, like around this time of year. It's a space of change. It's a space of making a difference, a space of bringing resources and support to the to our community, addressing needs. And I really thought things were going to be better. And what I've experienced is so much more focus on people's self-interest and politics and things like that, that it is like pushed our cause under the water a little bit.

It's been feeling like it's so hard to surface it and bring it back up because people are, you know, mostly concerned about, you know, what kind of political views they want to share on social media about, you know, vaccinations and what they perceived to be mandates and, you know, things like that. And it's been really, really difficult for me. So my work right now is not only producing this incredible event where we're welcoming well over 400 people to a working farm for an incredible dinner and celebration of our impact and commitment to continuing to make a difference for the next year and beyond. That's a huge enough thing in and of itself, but working to bring the, just powerful, beautiful, healing connected energy to this has been harder this year because it feels like pushing water up a mountain and I am feeling the need for others to step up and to be a part of it and to say, let's do better. Let's get it together and let's do better for our kids and families. Like, let's look at the bigger picture and get over the current myopia so we can create a hopeful future for our families and our kids. Like that's what I want to see. How does that land for you Justin?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I hear the emotion and keeping it real. And what is coming up for me is that this podcast is going to air after Farm to Fork. So we hopefully will have new listeners who went to Farm to Fork and who are listening to this and who get to hear the burden, the emotional weight that you're carrying moving up to this event. But it's going to be amazing. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be inspiring. And so we're going to have people listening to this afterwards and saying, all right, I got to hear like the real deal. You know, this is what goes into it. It's not, you know, and it was amazing.

Audra: Yeah. Yes, it's very hard work. And part of it is because of the investment that we all have in it, that our hearts are so deeply invested. We are so incredibly inspired by the children and families we serve. And to me, like they're, I mean, they're everything. So it's a very, very big deal. But I do want to thank everybody who is supporting MaxLove Project, who's supporting our events and programming and our fundraisers and fought childhood cancer, everyone who's bringing their best to make a difference. It really does make a difference.

We have cutting-edge culinary medicine for pediatrics. Like no one else is doing what we're doing in that space. We have incredible collaborators contributing. We have a really innovative app that we're growing that has, I don't know, boundless resources in it. There's so many things to discover when it comes to lifestyle, medicine, health and wellness, guided health and wellness through the childhood cancer journey. And I'm really hoping that more childhood cancer families who are interested in that kind of guided health and wellness platform, who want to focus on quality of life and treatment and beyond. Join us in MaxLove Connect. It is a really beautiful space to be together. And it's off of social media, which is something that I'm finding the need to do more and more of. You know, it's safe.

Justin: A decade ago, Audra and I received news no parent ever expects to hear, your four year old son has brain cancer in that hospital room in Orange County, California. We had our fair share of tears and despair, but we also vowed that we would use this to help our family thrive no matter what. A decade later, after starting a nonprofit that has served thousands of childhood cancer families, we're on a mission to bring all of the amazing researchers, doctors, therapists and other experts we've worked with to all families everywhere.

That's why we created The Family Thrive, an online platform and community of top health and wellness experts and parents like us who are looking to thrive against the odds, just fresh, daily expert articles and topics that matter to parents like us, like how to cook a superfood meal in under 20 minutes, or the latest sleep science that can boost our kids mental health or simple things we can do to thrive as parents. We have top credentialed experts breaking it all down to bite-sized chunks of actionable wisdom. You know, when they say it takes a village to raise a family. This is our village and it's filled with quick bite expert wellness information, conversations that are designed specifically for busy parents. And when you're ready to dive deeper, we also have group based workshops written and led by PhD researchers, psychologists, clinical dietitians. This village is all on your phone, at your fingertips whenever you need it. Join for free today at thefamilythrive.com.

Justin: What does this all have to do with The Family Thrive?

Audra: MaxLove Project is the reason why The Family Thrive exists.

Justin: MaxLove Project is the seed. It's the garden out of which The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yup, so MaxLove Project is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. So 10 years of making a difference. When we first started out in the space, we were like no one else was looking, looking at this. Talk about quality of life, health and wellness in the childhood cancer journey was kind of crazy. And so we were, I feel like, have been pioneers in the space and pioneers and doing it in a way that is alongside standard of care, doing it with our medical teams, doing it with care that we're receiving in the hospital where we were not trying to create kind of new, you know, totally new treatment paradigm. We're not in the alternative medicine space. We're really in the complementary and integrative medicine, integrative health space. And we have been growing just tremendously year after year, doing this work. And every single year, it seems we'd have somebody asking us, where is this for typical families? We all need this. So the health risks that childhood cancer families face, to some degree, all families face. You share about that, Justin. What are some of the research that has informed our view of why the MaxLove approach actually applies to all families?

Justin: Everybody knows obesity and diabetes have increased. Autoimmune disorders have skyrocketed. Mental health challenges are much more prevalent for young children and teenagers. Parents are under more stress than ever today. So we have all of these stats in The Family Thrive, and we're going to be talking a lot more about them. But one thing that is coming up for me around the how MaxLove Project eventually birthed The Family Thrive is that, you know, in the hospital room when Max was first diagnosed and he was coming out of a really intense surgery and he was intubated for a couple of days, and Audra and I were just in shock and taking turns, sobbing.

And then eventually we both caught our breath and we looked at each other and we're like, we're going to do this. And there's different ways that I can remember that. It was, you know, we're going to get, we're like, we're going to fight. We're going to do whatever we can. But at the core of this was we're going to be better parents. Like we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that we're doing that, that we're feeding him the right foods, that we’re getting him at the right amount of sleep at the right time.

Audra: Yeah, it was like a realization that we were getting by with what we were doing. We were overwhelmed, working full time, both of us. Commuting huge, hugely long distances in traffic, you know, to make ends meet. Daycare, like all of the things that any overwhelmed family is dealing with. And you're getting by that time. I remember being so tired. I remember being so out of shape, just so deeply exhausted and feeling like we're just trying to get by. And I think at that moment, we said, you know what? No, no, no. This is a priority. We're going to get ahead. We're going to move beyond the getting by mindset like it is time to step up as parents.

Justin: Yeah. Like, what can we do? So the surgeons do what they do. The radiation oncologist does what he or she does. So we take him home and we have to feed him. We have to put him to bed. We organize his day like what should we be doing to give him the best chance? And as soon as we started to just look into that a little bit, we're like, oh, you know, this includes us. This includes our daughter as well. It's a whole family looking to thrive. And that was what led us into developing, MaxLove Project. And then now, in my mind, it is a natural evolution to The Family Thrive.

Audra: The Family Thrive is an expansion of it, you know. I remember like I don't know. I mean, it was about five years ago, halfway through this, we're like, let's write a book. And in the book, we can have all these strategies and it'll be called The Family Thrive. And then we wanted to do the cookbooks and then Covid hit. And it became really, really clear, like we are going to focus on super creative, innovative sustainability for a nonprofit organization. And I would like to have another conversation one day on the podcast about why our nonprofit model is not sustainable. And for anyone who has a small grassroots nonprofit, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Justin: Yes. Conversation for another day.

Audra: Heard another like an amazing farm in Alabama Farm Collective that referred this is the nonprofit industrial complex. I'm totally down for this conversation, and we needed to disrupt it in the way that we could disrupt that and provide for MaxLove Project in perpetuity, in a sustainable manner, to be able to like make the commitment to be around forever, not dependent on corporations and, you know, folks interests, you know, year to year, but should be really much more sustainable. And then scalable is to create a revenue model. And how could we create a revenue model? What about taking the MaxLove Project way? Are our platform, our health and wellness, our mission, our goal, out to the entire world. Out to all parents. Like it's loud and clear.

What we do benefits everybody. And the more that I talk to doctors and like pediatricians, I would hear, oh, my gosh, I need this just for our typical like for my typical families, because I have 10 minutes with them in 15 minutes with them. I don't have time to go through all of this stuff. I don't have time to address how their burnout is informing their child's mental health and how that's turning into like difficult habits and then poor health. Like it's just sort of like a cascade of overwhelm and challenges. And if I could have this resource for all of my families, it's like I don't know. It's like having a health coach for them. And that is exactly where we're headed with The Family Thrive is like we want to be your family's health coach, health and wellness coach. We got you. Where we're at right now is we're in the midst of seed funding and we're fundraising.

Justin: Well, let's, I just real briefly, I just want to give people the context. So this would be coming out at the end of September. We launched The Family Thrive, like we opened it up to the world in July. And so we, before that,

Audra: We open up the app in July.

Justin: Yeah, we open up the app in July.

Audra: And launched our new full website. Yes.

Justin: Yes. And have we had a little small beta test with friends and family in June? But, yeah, we've been really doing this since July, but we have learned so much in these past few months. So we thought or at least my assumption was that the health coaching part of The Family Thrive was way off in the future, that we were going to start with all this wonderful content, and we have it fresh every single week from experts. It's amazing. I'm really proud of it because I'm the director of content. But one thing that we've learned from members in the app is that we have so much content that it’s actually a little overwhelming or maybe even a lot overwhelming. And so…

Audra: Maybe a little intimidating. You know, it's hard. It could be hard to connect with to some degree. You know, you see so much stuff coming out. You know, it's like, how is this relevant to me? And it is our goal to minimize the stress of looking for good information. It is our goal to make it easier. It is, you know, our goal to make like really, really great evidence base, you know, expert-backed health and wellness information for families like super easy to access. So how do we facilitate better access to that? And for us, it's having a little bit more of a guided, supported approach to that. Which you're right. We had it in our plan. So whenever, if anybody likes business podcasts or read business books, you'll hear like, you know, the plan is not how things are going to work. And that is exactly right.

Justin: Well. Mike Tyson said it best. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Audra: So we had a plan to incorporate health coaching into The Family Thrive around year three when we thought we could really build a robust program. And I am a certified health coach, actually, through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This is how I learned about health coaching.

And my beautiful friend Shelby, who was a lead teacher in that program for a while, now works for another mental health app company, has teamed up with us to work on our health coaching component. And what it is, is it's going to be so deeply infused in the structure of the app and in the way you interact that it's our goal that you kind of feel coached as you're and supported as you’re in the app. Some of that will be through one on one support, chat, support questionnaires, all sorts of different things that, challenges. Some of it one day will be if you want even more will have, you know, a subscription for that. But to start, it's still the app is free to everyone. And this coaching component is going to be free and accessible and available to everybody.

Justin: If you want to be part of the pilot in our coaching program in the app, you can chat with us any time. Yeah. So. Just get into the app, the app is free, and then you can search for Audra and Justin or Audra separately or Justin separately, you just send us a chat and we will hook you up. We're going to be collecting a small group to start going through this coaching model. And I'm super excited about it, because not only do we have so much just daily fresh content on nutrition and stress and relationships and sleep and all the aspects of life that or all the aspects of health behaviors that can really improve quality of life, boost our vitality, our…

Audra: Connectedness, joy…

Justin: Connectedness. Yes. All the all...

Audra: And life span. I mean, we're talking about a long game here, too.

Justin: And we have witnessed this firsthand over the last 10 years as we've worked with therapists and doctors and dietitians and coaches. And so we have learned all of this stuff and we are applying it all the time and then forgetting some of it and then reapplying it. And so we know the power of this firsthand. And so we're really excited for this next phase. But right now, we have just a lot of amazing content coming out every week.

Audra: Something that you just said reminded me of like the forgetting and coming back to it, talking to a friend recently, it was like, you know, my family's not thriving a lot of the time like we are sometimes. We're not a lot of the time. So it kind of feels kind of weird to be working with The Family Thrive. Like I just don't feel that we're thriving a lot of the time. And I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much for sharing that with me, because that is, I think, the way it is for all of us. Like, I think thriving is not a destination. It's not something that you've achieved. It's a practice. It is a journey, but it's not an end point. You know what I mean? Like it doesn't you don't get and go like, oh, great, I'm thriving.

Justin: Finally. And now I can take a break. Yeah. Yeah.

Audra: Now life is good. It is a hard journey. It's an arduous journey. And part of it and the reason why we oscillate, we all oscillate between, you know, maybe moments and periods feeling like thriving in certain areas and then not as much in others, and then feeling really great and then feeling like we went forgot something and, you know, kind of fell behind a little bit or whatever it might be is because it's not a linear path, because there are so many different elements and aspects to it, because we're a whole family unit.

Justin: Yes. It's not a linear path, but I do believe it's more like an upward spiral. Yeah. So…

Audra: Yeah. I'm on the mountain. Can I just share, though? It is kind of an endless mountain. You have to be in it for the journey, because each step in the climb…

Justin: And love the journey.

Audra: … feels great because each step in the climb is like a win. I mean, this is the life we have to live. This is time now. Why not make equality? Why not make it the very best it can be in that moment? So it's not about arriving at thriving. You know, it is about climbing that continuous mountain. And what makes the mountain higher? There's something that makes a mountain a lot higher than unfortunately it has to be.

Justin: What is that?

Audra: Modern life.

Justin: Well, right.

Audra: I mean, it's so when you take a mountain and then you put like all of these things on top of it that present like even greater obstacles. Right. And that's going to be everything from their food we have easy access to to, you know, poverty and inequity. And like, you know, like some of the underbelly of capitalism. We have environmental toxins and challenges. We have stresses that we've never dealt with before.

Justin: Ok, so that's all a downer.

Audra: But it's what these are the odds that are stacked against us. It's not your fault if you're not thriving. Yeah. You're facing some huge odds. Let's get real.

Justin: It’s not your fault. We are all in this same boat together.

Audra: We're all climbing the same mountain together. We're all you're sitting, you know, like not climbing the mountain, but.

Justin: Well, right. So that's the alternative is avoidance, ignoring, and resisting. And so it's not as if there's like a third option of like, oh, I get just this perfect bliss. And it's like, no, you are either going to choose to climb that mountain or you're going to avoid it and ignore it and you're just going to stay at the bottom. Those are the choices. Now, what we want to do, and I believe what we are in the process of doing with The Family Thrive, is we're making that journey easier.

Audra: We're walking with you, you know what I mean? And got a donkey with a little pack over the back and some water…

Justin: We’re making the journey more efficient. So I feel like, you know, if you're a parent saying, ok, yeah, I do want to feed my family better or I know that, you know, we can have more vitality, energy, connection or whatever. Good luck sifting the Internet through all of the misinformation, all of the false ... , all of the nonsense. So, I mean, what we've done with The Family Thrive is we've collected real credentialed experts, doctors, dietitians, licensed therapists, clinical psychologists, researchers, people who have the training, who understand what science is, who understand what evidence based health practices are.

Audra: In addition to that, though, they're not just like the run of the mill ones that like write for WebMD. Right. I have to say, there's a little key there. Yes. To all of what you just said and all of the evidence-based credential and all that. But these are people who also see the picture that we're talking about. They see the odds that are stacked against us. They see that there are things that we can do to mitigate these risks, or they see that we can change the odds through lifestyle. They're not people who just think that, you know, it has to be a drug prescription or a pharmacological answer or whatever it is. These are people who see that what we eat matters, how we move, how we, you know, process our emotions, all of that. So to me, that's that integrative wellness part of it, it's not just like run of the mill stuff from a, you know, regular health website.

Justin: And I think another thing that sets us apart is that because we are evidence based, we are not going to sell like this is the one trick that's going to solve all of your problems.

Audra: There's not one trick. I'm so sorry, but there's not one thing.

Justin: So that's why, first off, we have Thrive pillars. We have four thrive pillars. It's Nourish, Flourish, Embody, and Connect. Nourish for nutrition, flourish for mental and emotional health practices, embody for physical practices that don't generally include nutrition and then connect about relationships. And all of these have been shown to powerfully affect our health and happiness and wellness. Each one is kind of like a grain of sand that you're just putting on the weight to increase the likelihood that you're going to thrive, that you're going to have a connected, loving, vital, you know, family. And so it can be something as small as let's see, I think the week that this podcast comes out, I'm going to be working on an article with an expert on getting sunlight into your eyes in the morning.

So it's just simply like 15 to 20 minutes. Get outside, get some sun. And so this is a small thing that will not end in and of itself, change everything. But when you add this little thing in with some nutrition stuff, with some meditation and breathing and some relationship skills, and now you are starting to really roll.

Audra: Can I add to that?

Justin: That's what the family thrive is.

Audra: Yeah. And let me add to that, because what you're going, what you're talking about in that article was a great example, because since doing that, I no longer buy Sunglasses. I'm going to tell you, we're not telling you to buy something. That's an answer. We're telling you to not buy something and it will be better for you. Right. So get the sun in your eyes like these are things that you can just do without spending any money.

Justin: Yes. And that's a big thing for The Family Thrive as well. Yes, we know I've worked on several articles on some really cool, high protein, low carb products that are out there that we use, and they are more expensive. So there are a few things like, hey, you know, this is going to cost more, but for the most part, like 95 percent of the things that we look at will cost you no money.

Audra: And there are some things that we recommend that could cost a little bit more. And that is something that you will see throughout the health and wellness space in general. But as Mark Hyman said recently, “It's about time we start looking at food as health care.” Right. You are going to have the opportunity to mitigate the risks and the long, long term expenses in your health care by making some of these swaps now. And we're totally all about being in it to help make it more affordable. We don't need a designer lifestyle to do this.

What's really incredible about it, it's all like really low hanging fruit that once you get into this, you see, oh, by prioritizing pretty simple things, I can make a huge difference in my life. And that's something that we found in the MaxLove Project journey as well. I think it's really exciting. I'm super excited to be getting this out to more and more people in the world. And I want to talk about some of the behind the scenes things that people don't see. Like people don't know, for example, that I mean, we are on a shoestring budget making this business happen. Like talk about the business side of things. They don't know. Like I feel like I have a karmic something. I don't know what it's called that I need to resolve and learn around fundraising. There's something in money that I have been called to deal with in this life, from, so signing up to do MaxLove Project.

When I started MaxLove Project, I got a credit card, Legal Zoom, started building that nonprofit with garage sales and selling like artists would donate cool things, cool jewelry. We put up a website, started selling things to basically make money to send out care packages with cloud B, twilight turtles to kids across the country and around the world. And I got into it to make a difference, to connect with families, to help families get through, walk up this mountain, you know, to be with families walking up the mountain. And then I started to see in order to get more and more families up the mountain. And in order to help with the passage, in order to do all the things that we need to really make a difference on this passage, I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money. And it is not what I signed up for. Or what I thought I signed up for.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: I thought I signed up to make a difference. But then that you're in the space and you realize in order to make a difference, I need to raise money. And it is my least favorite thing that one of the biggest challenges I've had to learn to embrace and so coming into The Family Thrive, ok, we're building our revenue stream someday for MaxLove. We're building this business. It's going to be a social enterprise. This is so exciting. We're going to make money so that we can give it. And then what do I end up needing to do? Fundraising. Again. I still have to fundraise. It's a different kind of fundraising. It's not charitable fundraising. It is investment fundraising. But it's still a world that I mean, I've learned about things that I never thought I would ever learn about. I've learned about cap tables and convertible notes and all kinds of things.

So The Family Thrive is a public benefit corporation. And I have walked through the process with some really incredible people, our legal team at Cooley LLP, to create this entity. We would like to become a B Corp one day. So we are on the path of doing that. And to become a big B Corp means that we're really intentional around our processes and our sourcing and how we support our employees and the kind of company we are in, the kind of companies we work with. And that's really, really exciting to me, because we want to be a company that is completely infused with integrity from corner to corner. You know, we want to do this right. And we're in the process of seed funding. And so the goal is to complete our seed round and then move into by the spring, by the time we hit a subscriber number and a revenue number, that we can go out for institutional funding and work with venture capitalists. Really start to realize the dream of The Family Thrive.

So what we have today is a minimum viable product. It is our start. It is sweat equity. It is love. It is intention. It's like all of this just the power of ushering this, of supporting this work to come into the world, to, you know, to benefit families and to benefit communities. And it's really amazing, because we've done this in under a year with very, very little resources, total shoestring, because we have a fantastic team, an army of like mostly volunteers and some contractors at this point who've totally just committed to getting this off the ground. They said this is important work. We're going to do this. And the one thing that I know through all the uncertainties, I've had to walk myself out of habits around fear of scarcity.

You know, I've done a lot of work in that area, so we do not go down those rabbit holes. And I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes. I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I built over time, that's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Hearing that, I am reflecting on the fact that I don't know anything about money because I have spent my entire adult life in academia. And so it's yeah, this has been a huge education for me as well. Money is a huge trigger for me. But as the director of content, like I am in charge of the podcast, I'm in charge of all the content, the workshops and all this. So I really try to just put my head down and do the work. And that's what I've learned as an academic. You know, I have two PhDs. I've done two dissertations, and I've learned that for me, I can just put my head down and just work.

Audra: Yes. That's a good segue into another thing that I thought would be kind of cool to reveal if this type of podcast could be about revealing that behind the scenes or revealing the kind of like the back end of these projects, revealing what's really going on with us is, we work together.

Justin: We’re married.

Audra: Live together. We've been together for 20 years plus. We've been married for almost 20 years, and we've been together for a number of more years than that. So we've been together for half of our lives. Yeah, we have our beautiful children together and Zeus, of course. And we work together not only on MaxLove Project, but on The Family Thrive on a daily basis. And so I bet you there's some curiosity around that from people like, how does that go? Like, how does that work? And there are probably other people who are in the same situation or other people who would never want to be in this situation, who might be into some like insight. How do we make this work? And is it all flowers?

Justin: I would direct listeners to two episodes that we've done, one with Ryel Kestano and then the other with Alexandra Tataryn. And I had to do a lot of what, I recognize now that I put up a lot of roadblocks in the past in our relationship that I just through my own hang ups, that I didn't have a lot of the communication and relationship skills, that were going to eventually help us do what we're doing right now. And so starting to do this work. It was really, the impetus was MaxLove Project.

So I was working on programs for MaxLove Project, and stress management was one of the things that I was working on for childhood cancer families. And so I was starting to get trained and take these courses and learn more about the stress management world. And then I came across emotional processing. And so I went through a course in that and then did some one-on-one therapy and training in that, and then eventually found authentic relating and then did training and coaching in that. And so from my perspective…

Audra: And then you found internal family systems therapy.

Justin: And so from my perspective, it was me learning about myself and then learning some really important communication skills, the amazing thing about communication skills is that they are free. Like once you know them, then they are free to use. And I think they've been some of the most transformational things that I've incorporated into my own life.

Audra: It's the combination of the communication skills with the emotional processing, because if you have the emotional processing but no communication skills and kind of like it stops there. And then if you have the communication skills, but you're not doing any emotional processing, then it's not really helpful either. Right. Like it's got to be both of them. So do you mind sharing about what happened the other day?

Justin: Which episode? Yeah. Which episodes? Yeah. Point out one of my many failings and then how I recovered.

Audra: So when I gave you the heads up, we're having a meeting about creating a new pitch deck because we're going into a new phase of seed, with seed funding groups and we need to redo our pitch deck. And so I called to give you a heads up that what the meeting was about and what I received was what?

Justin: Yeah. What did you receive?

Audra: What I heard.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: On the other side of the phone was, like kind of flipped out, you know, sort of don't have time, don't duh duh duh du, you know…

Justin: This is not on my schedule. This is not on my to-do list.

Audra: I have a huge to-do list. I have. I have. I have. I have.

Justin: So, yeah, I experienced a…

Audra: What was that like for you? Yeah.

Justin: So I experienced a heightened emotional response to this that I felt... Yeah. If I was to really I didn't do a ton of emotional processing at the time, but I did enough to know afterwards that I did have an intense emotional reaction and that I needed to at least relax a little bit around this emotional reaction and then see in this more relaxed state, how do I want to communicate and how do I want to show up for not just The Family Thrive as a whole, but for my partner.

And so I was able to relax and not doing a ton of emotional processing, which, if you don't know, that would be to get really clear and emotionally granular around what I was feeling, which is probably a sense of inadequacy, of not being able to do all the things that, I have so much to do. And so feeling maybe a little inadequate, maybe feeling helpless that, you know, like I'm not fully in control because I've got this huge list. And now this other thing is just piling on. It feels kind of like a tornado or an avalanche. So I was able to at least get to a point where I relaxed around it. And I knew in that more relaxed day after I took a breath and just calmed down a bit that I knew that I wanted to show up for The Family Thrive, but also for my partner, and that if I didn't show up, that it would just be more on her plate. And I know that she has a ton to do. So I was able to respond later and say that I'm ready for the meeting. I'm ready to take this on.

Audra: And you said I'm sorry. Yeah, that I had…

Justin: Oh, I think I said that I had a tantrum. Because I had been talking with other parents about toddler tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I was like, you know what? There's an internal toddler that was just feeling just really pissed off and out of control yelling, this is not what I want.

Audra: And how often do we as adults have tantrums? Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really great way to put it. It’s not just a thing that kids do like.

Justin: Yeah, we just hold it in a little bit better.

Audra: Big feeling sometimes, I mean, you know.

Justin: We don't bang our head on the floor like our daughter did when she was a year and a half old. But the way that we do this. So from my perspective, I think we work together really, really well. Like I love working with you and I like…

Audra: We do. And I want to share that working well doesn't mean not having things come out, you know, like when that came up. So there's, in this particular instance. First of all, I called you to tell you, you said it was a counter invite had already been sent and all that, but I called you to tell you about it because I knew you'd need time to prepare.

Justin: Well, I ignored the invite because I was like, this cannot possibly be for me because she knows I have way too much on my plate and this could not possibly be for me.

Audra: So the interesting part is like when this goes down, sometimes these sort of things go down and I'll be like, oh, God, he's the worst employee. He would never do this to just like a random, like a random boss.

Justin: Yeah. What happens when you need to do a quarterly review for your husband, yeah.

Audra: You know, so there is definitely more freedom in the relationship for both of us to be very open and honest about how we're feeling. And very often in a work setting, you wouldn't just have a tantrum or just say, no, I want to. No, I don't think I should have to do that. You know, and so we are able to be very open. But I mean, I do think that those communication skills are everything, because we do have frustrating times, but we work through them and we grow through them. One thing that I think is frustrating for both of us is like I will have a vision for the next thing.

And I was like, for me, it's like going from A to like H. It's easy, you know, there's nothing in between. Like it's like there might be a little bit of things you have to do, but like don't you see, don't you see where we're headed? And you hear it, you'll be like, I'm mapping mentally mapping the process from A to B, B to C, you know, C to D, you know, you're going like this. I can see every little thing in the steps. Like and like, why can't you just see what's out at H? No. You know, like we're just doing it. We're going to do it. It's like it's the thing, you know. And so there can be that rub, where I'm frustrating, you know, I think because I jump in to vision and then I get frustrated with you and you can't jump into vision with me. But we've learned over time that I wait about a week and you're usually going to be like in it, if it's good.

Justin: Because I've then, I've seen all the dots and all of that. You have the vision and then I start to fill in.

Audra: So I think we're less frustrated with each other learning over time. We did the Enneagram process together. Have we talked about that on this? I don't think we've talked about that.

Justin: No, that’s in the future.

Audra: We had a great time doing the Enneagram and learning and like the particular one that we did was the Enneagram Institute. My top three, because they did it more like strings finders, where they give you the list of all of them and where you land. They have a cluster. That's the top three. That is your bottom three. And when you see that, you're like, oh, I totally understand. And what it gave us was a language to use around where we're having challenge.

Like it gave us a way of understanding, like where the rub is. And that is really important. So it's not that it's easy to work together. It takes work to work together, but it's fruitful and productive. And we work really well together, we are very complementary. And I think just sharing that like it isn't cruising, you know what I mean? It's not like the easiest thing in the world, but that's in many ways what makes it good, because that's how you produce real change and results is by maybe not just agreeing all the time, like if we were the same kind of people and it was really easy...

Justin: There would be, well there would be I think, there would be big gaps in what we're doing. I do feel like The Family Thrive as it stands today is a really amazing resource. And I feel like we are, to use another sports metaphor, we're punching way above our weight, like we're producing stuff that I think is amazing. I think the podcast is fantastic. I think the app is great. I think the content is great. Of course, I am in charge of a lot of that stuff, but I feel like we would have many more gaps than what we have today.

And when I think about the future of The Family Thrive and all the cool things that we have on tap, that we are planning, it's because we do have very different strengths and that we can really work off of each other. And we, yeah, I think we work really, really well together, considering we're very, very different.

Audra: What advice would you give to anyone else who has to work with, has to, gets to.

Justin: Oh, man, this...

Audra: I'm hearing you, not “has to”, “gets to” work with our family and loved ones, partners.

Justin: Okay. For me, there are a couple of keys and but it really boils down to honesty plus connection. And so this is what I learned through my authentic relating training. And that has been my touchstone is that if I can be honest and authentic and really just reveal what are my desires here, what are my expectations, what are my assumptions, what are my stories, if I can be honest and then the key is, also remain in connection or commit to connection. Even if I don't feel like I'm in connection, that I'm committed to it, that I'm saying like I am committed to being connected to you and I'm committed to growing this relationship. Meeting you where you're at.

So it's for me, it's these two two things of it's honesty and it's connection, authenticity, connection. And if I can hold these two together and really commit to them both, then I know that we are going to come out in a higher place. We're going to come out in a stronger place.

Audra: I agree with you. And to highlight that, I was like, I'm on my phone actually right now because I was looking at a post by Yasmin Cheyenne and I really loved about boundaries, and I think it comes down to along in complementing what you're saying. It comes down to boundaries. It comes down to Brene Brown's clear is kind.

Justin: Clear is kind.

Audra: And that’s communication and honesty.

Justin: That’s the honesty part.

Audra: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the boundaries are important. I think I.

Justin: Ok, I'm sorry. So I the boundary thing, I feel a little off balance hearing the boundary thing. So. So why?

Audra: Why do you feel that way?

Justin: Oh, because for me, when I hear boundaries, I'm hearing other people who I am not fully committed to. And so I am putting up a boundary like, no, we're not going to go there because I am not committed to like spending my life with you and you being my life partner. So I don't feel like I don't….

Audra: Yeah, I don't I think we do have boundaries. I think we have boundaries to say when we want to be in the space of work and when we don't, when we want to, how we want to talk about things, we want to approach things like it's not a boundary again. So I'm not protecting myself from you. It's the space of like clarity where there are times when for you, you know, you have to draw a line somewhere for in being clear about that to say, this is how I want to proceed with this. You know, this is how I want to interact around this. This is how I want to be in a space like this, you know…

Justin: I totally get that. And that's an absolutely beautiful and perfect way to articulate boundaries. And for some reason, I just don't think about our relationship as having boundaries, although we have really clear communication and we are very clear and authentic and honest with each other about like, no, I need this right now and this is my thing or whatever the case is. So we do have boundaries. I just don't use that word in my mind because I don't know, maybe I have just some like romantic idea that like boundaries nice for other people, not for me and my partner. But no, but I think you're absolutely right.

Audra: Buy for others who are working with their family members and loved ones, like, I think being able to be, you know, open, honest, clear, like we're saying about how we're feeling, you know, even like sitting down, even if it's been 20 years that you've been working together and there's just still some really difficult things that are dragging you down or if it's new. Being able to get together and say, “hey, can we communicate around some really to communicate around some, just some ground rules with how we approach this?” Like I want our relationship to be, you know, number one. And in work, sometimes things can get difficult and blurry. And if we come to some clarity, I think a part of the challenge is then when we think things should just work out or if it's right, it just works, or if it's good, it just happens the right way or whatever. And that's never the case, really. There always is a need for clear, honest communication.

I mean, it's something that we work with our kids on too. And Maesie, at the age that she's a great girl. It's challenging, right? Like that's kind of like an age when you can really benefit from developing some of these communication skills and being able to clarify and develop boundaries. It's only going to benefit her. I have some challenges with boundaries, as my friend Jenny has been helping me understand, being a people pleaser, helper, peacemaker, you know, kind of kind of type of person. I think that my childhood I think I was a placater potentially for folks around me and things like that.

So I think boundaries have been I've been learning in all facets of my life how to become much more clear and much more focused on that communication and much more focus on honoring like myself and in the boundaries that I need. So I think that's definitely helped us. And I hope I'd love to maybe talk more about it on a on another episode, because I think that's something that Jenny and I have been talking a lot about, is how to like be a boss or a supervisor or someone in charge of other people or someone in charge of a business or so in in, you know, somebody who has to take ultimate responsibility. Right. As a people pleaser. It's a journey.

Justin: So we are definitely going to have that as its own podcast. There's a lot there. What I do want, because we are coming up against the hour, we want to keep this at an hour. I do want to plug a big thing that's happening in October for The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yes, please.

Justin: We are launching a parent/teen communication workshop with eight different experts, therapists, psychologists, researchers. It's amazing, relationship coaches, the communication skills that I've referenced or that we've referenced and the relationship skills are all going to be in this workshop, but it's going to be directly targeted at the parent/teen relationship. This is going to be a game-changing workshop for any parent who takes it. If you don't have teens yet. But, you know, the teenage years are coming. Please hop into this workshop, if you have teenagers now, please. This is going to change your relationship. And even if you have maybe a young adult, you have a teenager who has now moved out, but they are still young adults. There's a lot of applicable stuff there.

Audra: Grandkids.

Justin: Yeah. So please visit The Family Thrive. You will have the website. You'll be able to sign up for it probably by the time this podcast comes out. And then we're going to start it on October 17th. But you can sign up for it before then. All the proceeds from this workshop will go to MaxLove Project. So this is going to support an amazing cause. It's going to be a game-changing workshop. So please sign up. We're going to be talking a lot more about it in the app, so you'll get more information there. One other thing, our next workshop after the parent/teen communication workshop is going to be in November and it's going to be all about relationships and partnerships like we just talked about. But it's just going to be a one-week workshop. So it's going to be really intense. We're working with, again, some amazing…

Audra: Not really intense like work, like intense…

Justin: Intense, like you're going to get a lot…

Audra: A lot in a small period of time. Right. Right.

Justin: So stay tuned.

Audra: No we’re not gonna be putting you into an in-person bootcamp or anything.

Justin: All right. I think that's it.

Audra: So how can people support us if they're interested in growing with us, growing The Family Thrive movement with us? They want to be a part of this as we climb this mountain. How can they support us?

Justin: So the biggest thing I mean, like if you just want to go straight to it, you're like, hey, just let me into the app. You can go to app.familythrive.com, and you can get straight into the app. But if you want to learn more about us, then you can go to thefamilythrive.com, which is the website, and you're going to get all sorts of good stuff there. Please subscribe to the podcast. Tell a friend. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Audra: And if you're in the app already, please become an ambassador. You have your own unique link that you can use to send all of your friends and family. And we have some cool prizes, too, for people who successfully invite others in.

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for listening, we’ll see you next time.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Podcast Ep. 19: Thriving in the Face of Childhood Cancer with Audra & Justin at The Family Thrive

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Podcast Ep. 19: Thriving in the Face of Childhood Cancer with Audra & Justin at The Family Thrive

Welcome to a special edition of The Family Thrive podcast. Today, Audra and Justin record a podcast just for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But they discuss a lot of other stuff as well!

Join The Family Thrive community and download the mobile app, all for free!

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Key takeaways

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2

3

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Ingredients

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Ingredient Replacement

View replacement list (PDF)

Reading time:

90 minutes

Special Episode!

We love bringing on amazing experts each week who teach us about family thriving through the lens of their expertise. But this week, the experts are us! Audra and Justin talked about childhood cancer awareness month, their own journey toward thriving in the face of childhood cancer, how thriving for them meant creating MaxLove Project and now The Family Thrive, and what we have in store over the next few months in The Family Thrive.

In this episode, they also keep it super real. Audra shares how hard things have been this year with our big MaxLove Project Farm to Fork fundraiser and how sometimes even super meaningful work can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Justin shares his uncertainties and insecurities around starting a new company and leaving academia as well. But they also tap into and share the core vision that inspires them both to get up everyday and join forces with an amazing team of experts to help all families thrive against the odds.

Listen here

About Audra and Justin

Audra DiPadova Wilford and Justin Wilford are parents to Max and Maesie and the co-founders of MaxLove Project and The Family Thrive. After going to culinary school, Audra earned her BA in Political Science and her Master’s in Philosophy and Education. She is also a Functional Medicine health coach. Justin earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's Director of Content for The Family Thrive, which leads him to working with dozens of experts to bring the best science and wisdom on family thriving to parents everywhere.

Audra and Justin devote their time to both of their organizations in hopes of helping every family truly thrive.

Show notes

  • 04:54 - MaxLove Project teamed up with Dr. Ruth McCarty (who you may remember from Ep. 5!) to create the Ohana Project. It focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • 07:45 - Every year, MaxLove Project throws an amazing Farm to Fork Dinner for its Fork Childhood Cancer fundraising campaign.
  • 13:52 - MaxLove Connect is an app specifically built to support the MaxLove Project community. Feel free to join if you want to learn more!
  • 35:30 - Mark Hyman is an American physician, as well as the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center. He was a columnist for The Huffington Post, a regular on the Katie Couric show, and is a best-selling author.
  • 55:13 - Yasmine Cheyenne is a self-healing expert, an advocate for mental wellness, and the host of The Sugar Jar Podcast.
  • 55:22 - Brene Brown's "clear is kind" adage is definitely worth a read (it'll only take four minutes!)

Special Episode!

We love bringing on amazing experts each week who teach us about family thriving through the lens of their expertise. But this week, the experts are us! Audra and Justin talked about childhood cancer awareness month, their own journey toward thriving in the face of childhood cancer, how thriving for them meant creating MaxLove Project and now The Family Thrive, and what we have in store over the next few months in The Family Thrive.

In this episode, they also keep it super real. Audra shares how hard things have been this year with our big MaxLove Project Farm to Fork fundraiser and how sometimes even super meaningful work can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Justin shares his uncertainties and insecurities around starting a new company and leaving academia as well. But they also tap into and share the core vision that inspires them both to get up everyday and join forces with an amazing team of experts to help all families thrive against the odds.

Listen here

About Audra and Justin

Audra DiPadova Wilford and Justin Wilford are parents to Max and Maesie and the co-founders of MaxLove Project and The Family Thrive. After going to culinary school, Audra earned her BA in Political Science and her Master’s in Philosophy and Education. She is also a Functional Medicine health coach. Justin earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's Director of Content for The Family Thrive, which leads him to working with dozens of experts to bring the best science and wisdom on family thriving to parents everywhere.

Audra and Justin devote their time to both of their organizations in hopes of helping every family truly thrive.

Show notes

  • 04:54 - MaxLove Project teamed up with Dr. Ruth McCarty (who you may remember from Ep. 5!) to create the Ohana Project. It focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • 07:45 - Every year, MaxLove Project throws an amazing Farm to Fork Dinner for its Fork Childhood Cancer fundraising campaign.
  • 13:52 - MaxLove Connect is an app specifically built to support the MaxLove Project community. Feel free to join if you want to learn more!
  • 35:30 - Mark Hyman is an American physician, as well as the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center. He was a columnist for The Huffington Post, a regular on the Katie Couric show, and is a best-selling author.
  • 55:13 - Yasmine Cheyenne is a self-healing expert, an advocate for mental wellness, and the host of The Sugar Jar Podcast.
  • 55:22 - Brene Brown's "clear is kind" adage is definitely worth a read (it'll only take four minutes!)

Special Episode!

We love bringing on amazing experts each week who teach us about family thriving through the lens of their expertise. But this week, the experts are us! Audra and Justin talked about childhood cancer awareness month, their own journey toward thriving in the face of childhood cancer, how thriving for them meant creating MaxLove Project and now The Family Thrive, and what we have in store over the next few months in The Family Thrive.

In this episode, they also keep it super real. Audra shares how hard things have been this year with our big MaxLove Project Farm to Fork fundraiser and how sometimes even super meaningful work can feel exhausting and overwhelming. Justin shares his uncertainties and insecurities around starting a new company and leaving academia as well. But they also tap into and share the core vision that inspires them both to get up everyday and join forces with an amazing team of experts to help all families thrive against the odds.

Listen here

About Audra and Justin

Audra DiPadova Wilford and Justin Wilford are parents to Max and Maesie and the co-founders of MaxLove Project and The Family Thrive. After going to culinary school, Audra earned her BA in Political Science and her Master’s in Philosophy and Education. She is also a Functional Medicine health coach. Justin earned a PhD from UCLA in geography (2010) and a PhD from UC Irvine in public health (2018). He's Director of Content for The Family Thrive, which leads him to working with dozens of experts to bring the best science and wisdom on family thriving to parents everywhere.

Audra and Justin devote their time to both of their organizations in hopes of helping every family truly thrive.

Show notes

  • 04:54 - MaxLove Project teamed up with Dr. Ruth McCarty (who you may remember from Ep. 5!) to create the Ohana Project. It focuses on treating families affected by childhood cancer as a unit.
  • 07:45 - Every year, MaxLove Project throws an amazing Farm to Fork Dinner for its Fork Childhood Cancer fundraising campaign.
  • 13:52 - MaxLove Connect is an app specifically built to support the MaxLove Project community. Feel free to join if you want to learn more!
  • 35:30 - Mark Hyman is an American physician, as well as the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center. He was a columnist for The Huffington Post, a regular on the Katie Couric show, and is a best-selling author.
  • 55:13 - Yasmine Cheyenne is a self-healing expert, an advocate for mental wellness, and the host of The Sugar Jar Podcast.
  • 55:22 - Brene Brown's "clear is kind" adage is definitely worth a read (it'll only take four minutes!)

Enjoying this? Subscribe to The Family Thrive for more healthy recipes, video classes, and more.

Justin: Hey, friend, this podcast is brought to you by The Family Thrive, an expert-led, science-backed online community for busy parents looking to thrive. Join us at TheFamilyThrive.com.

Audra: I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes, I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I've built over time. That's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: All right, welcome to a special edition of The Family Thrive podcast. It's only Audra and I today. We are the special guests. We wanted to record a podcast just for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But we have a lot of other stuff to discuss as well. So we're going to just jump right into it. Audra.

Audra: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a special time for us. I remember our very first Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was right after that. We were aware of that. We produced messaging around and all that was after Max was diagnosed. And it was under a month after he was diagnosed. And I realized, oh, wow, this is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. And it's clear that there isn't enough awareness. And in my mind, once people become aware, they are more empowered to take action and do something about it.

So we started at this 10 years ago and have been working on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month every year. And it is really important. Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States. It's a really, really big deal. And we're underfunding childhood cancer research from the federal government. Less than four percent of our cancer research funding goes to over 100 forms of childhood cancer. And prostate cancer alone, not known as a particularly lethal disease. In fact, for men, very often, it's better not to treat it at all. Right. Gets eight percent. So twice as much for one disease that isn't that lethal.

And that just didn't feel, doesn't sit right with me and many, many others. Right. And so a lot of private foundations step up, usually families in grief and bereavement, families try to make a different step up to fill the gaps in in research. And it's a tremendous struggle, an uphill battle, because, as you know, with research, it's really never enough. That there are so many questions to be answered. There's so much that we don't know about these diseases, that it's quite a challenge. And one thing is clear is that we really believe and I know many researchers believe that if we unlock the keys to childhood cancers, we will learn more about adult cancers, because childhood cancers are not caused by lifestyle factors.

Justin: Well, for me, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is not just about research, but it's also about programs like our nonprofit MaxLove Project do for cancer survivorship, also quality of life through treatment. We all know that going through cancer treatment is extremely taxing. It's really difficult. And so there are things that we can do; nutrition and sleep and stress management and exercise that really improve quality of life through cancer treatment. And these are the things that MaxLove Project focuses on.

But then after the treatment is done, you know, today, 85% of kids who are diagnosed with cancer will go on to survive after five years. But then what they face after those five years or after treatment, rather, is a lifetime of dealing with increased risks for all sorts of chronic disease and reduced quality of life. And so the things we do with MaxLove Project focusing on health behaviors, focusing on quality of life resources, this is a major part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for me.

Audra: Yeah, I know it's powerful. And I know that you've done, actually, significant research in the area of childhood cancer survivorship yourself. You became a researcher with your…

Justin: I went back to school.

Audra: Went back to school. You became an official researcher with Children's Hospital of Orange County. You produced the Ohana study to find a way, you know, different ways to mitigate these risks to what we would say, change the odds. We have been saying for years, the statistics are not destiny. And what does that mean to you?

Justin: Well, statistics can be depressing. So when we look at the statistically…

Audra: Especially the childhood cancer statistics, you know, one in five kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive. Three to five kids suffer life-threatening late effects of treatment. I mean, it's devastating all around. And even in the survivorship stats we're talking about, within the first five years, there are kids face secondary illness. And in cancers after that five years in the mortality rate is even higher. So it's yeah, stats are pretty grim. There are some child cancers, too, that have no, no treatment strategies that really work that we haven't made much headway on.

There's some that are completely, totally still terminal upon diagnosis, like DIPG, a very rare, although it doesn't feel rare to me with all of the families I know form of pediatric brain cancer, it feels like the rates are increasing, which I did see data recently from cancer.gov that somehow the cancer rates are increasing.

Justin: So, yeah, the statistics are not destiny. Other statistics, like 95% of childhood cancer survivors will be dealing with the chronic health condition by age 45. So these statistics can be depressing, but we are working to ensure that they are not destiny. And there are things we can do to reduce risks and increase quality of life for those kids who do make it out of treatment. So this treatment…

Audra: And, in treatment and beyond. We were told to focus on Max's quality of life, like day three. And we took that. We took that as marching orders. In that we found quantity. But we also built a community of minded parents, of other parents who felt the same way. Like, what about quality of life today? What about quality of life now? And we, if we start focusing on quality of life in treatment and in the treatment process, I really believe that it pays off long term. And it becomes, you know, an approach that any family has a cancer diagnosis and a childhood cancer diagnosis benefits from the entire family, benefits from the focus on quality of life in treatment and beyond.

Justin: Yes. So this podcast episode is not just about childhood cancer. We just wanted to start there, recognizing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. If you feel called MaxLove Project, this episode will air right after our Farm to Fork dinner. But for all of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are running a Fork Childhood Cancer campaign.

Audra: forkchildhoodcancer.org. You can join the campaign. So I'm going to, Justin's trying to keep us on track. I am going to challenge that. I really do think that this podcast is about us just getting real and being together and being real in what we're working on today, what we're going through, what we're facing, you know, on the other side of everything that folks see that we put out in the world.

And so we do have our Farm to Fork dinner coming up September 25 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. It is our seventh annual event. It's an incredible event. You can see more about it at MLPFarmDinner.org. But it's been quite a struggle. I  just have to share. Like we could not have the event last year because of Covid. And so we came up with the fork childhood cancer campaign, which was incredibly successful. And the energy around it was beautiful. And I think, you know, I really felt like people were gathering in unity, even in the midst of Covid, to make a difference for families facing childhood cancer and related life-threatening illnesses and…

Justin: Gathering virtually in their homes.

Audra: Fundraiser.

Justin: Together online.

Audra: Having their own dinners like we were, you know, online together for our event and all of that. And it was really beautiful. So we continued that campaign this year as well. And that it'll be what we do every September for childhood cancer is what we will do every September, brings together so much of our program and messaging and focus on our mission. Part of which is culinary medicine. We're learning how to use real whole foods therapeutically in the home, because it's one of the few things we're in power to do in this process. Right. It's one of the one of the major things we're in power to do. In any case, it has, I'm just going to keep it super real. It has been so much more challenging this year with Covid. And I thought it was going to be better.

I'm like really trying hard to keep, oh, just like bring really good energy and be in the space that I want to be in, like around this time of year. It's a space of change. It's a space of making a difference, a space of bringing resources and support to the to our community, addressing needs. And I really thought things were going to be better. And what I've experienced is so much more focus on people's self-interest and politics and things like that, that it is like pushed our cause under the water a little bit.

It's been feeling like it's so hard to surface it and bring it back up because people are, you know, mostly concerned about, you know, what kind of political views they want to share on social media about, you know, vaccinations and what they perceived to be mandates and, you know, things like that. And it's been really, really difficult for me. So my work right now is not only producing this incredible event where we're welcoming well over 400 people to a working farm for an incredible dinner and celebration of our impact and commitment to continuing to make a difference for the next year and beyond. That's a huge enough thing in and of itself, but working to bring the, just powerful, beautiful, healing connected energy to this has been harder this year because it feels like pushing water up a mountain and I am feeling the need for others to step up and to be a part of it and to say, let's do better. Let's get it together and let's do better for our kids and families. Like, let's look at the bigger picture and get over the current myopia so we can create a hopeful future for our families and our kids. Like that's what I want to see. How does that land for you Justin?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I hear the emotion and keeping it real. And what is coming up for me is that this podcast is going to air after Farm to Fork. So we hopefully will have new listeners who went to Farm to Fork and who are listening to this and who get to hear the burden, the emotional weight that you're carrying moving up to this event. But it's going to be amazing. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be inspiring. And so we're going to have people listening to this afterwards and saying, all right, I got to hear like the real deal. You know, this is what goes into it. It's not, you know, and it was amazing.

Audra: Yeah. Yes, it's very hard work. And part of it is because of the investment that we all have in it, that our hearts are so deeply invested. We are so incredibly inspired by the children and families we serve. And to me, like they're, I mean, they're everything. So it's a very, very big deal. But I do want to thank everybody who is supporting MaxLove Project, who's supporting our events and programming and our fundraisers and fought childhood cancer, everyone who's bringing their best to make a difference. It really does make a difference.

We have cutting-edge culinary medicine for pediatrics. Like no one else is doing what we're doing in that space. We have incredible collaborators contributing. We have a really innovative app that we're growing that has, I don't know, boundless resources in it. There's so many things to discover when it comes to lifestyle, medicine, health and wellness, guided health and wellness through the childhood cancer journey. And I'm really hoping that more childhood cancer families who are interested in that kind of guided health and wellness platform, who want to focus on quality of life and treatment and beyond. Join us in MaxLove Connect. It is a really beautiful space to be together. And it's off of social media, which is something that I'm finding the need to do more and more of. You know, it's safe.

Justin: A decade ago, Audra and I received news no parent ever expects to hear, your four year old son has brain cancer in that hospital room in Orange County, California. We had our fair share of tears and despair, but we also vowed that we would use this to help our family thrive no matter what. A decade later, after starting a nonprofit that has served thousands of childhood cancer families, we're on a mission to bring all of the amazing researchers, doctors, therapists and other experts we've worked with to all families everywhere.

That's why we created The Family Thrive, an online platform and community of top health and wellness experts and parents like us who are looking to thrive against the odds, just fresh, daily expert articles and topics that matter to parents like us, like how to cook a superfood meal in under 20 minutes, or the latest sleep science that can boost our kids mental health or simple things we can do to thrive as parents. We have top credentialed experts breaking it all down to bite-sized chunks of actionable wisdom. You know, when they say it takes a village to raise a family. This is our village and it's filled with quick bite expert wellness information, conversations that are designed specifically for busy parents. And when you're ready to dive deeper, we also have group based workshops written and led by PhD researchers, psychologists, clinical dietitians. This village is all on your phone, at your fingertips whenever you need it. Join for free today at thefamilythrive.com.

Justin: What does this all have to do with The Family Thrive?

Audra: MaxLove Project is the reason why The Family Thrive exists.

Justin: MaxLove Project is the seed. It's the garden out of which The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yup, so MaxLove Project is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. So 10 years of making a difference. When we first started out in the space, we were like no one else was looking, looking at this. Talk about quality of life, health and wellness in the childhood cancer journey was kind of crazy. And so we were, I feel like, have been pioneers in the space and pioneers and doing it in a way that is alongside standard of care, doing it with our medical teams, doing it with care that we're receiving in the hospital where we were not trying to create kind of new, you know, totally new treatment paradigm. We're not in the alternative medicine space. We're really in the complementary and integrative medicine, integrative health space. And we have been growing just tremendously year after year, doing this work. And every single year, it seems we'd have somebody asking us, where is this for typical families? We all need this. So the health risks that childhood cancer families face, to some degree, all families face. You share about that, Justin. What are some of the research that has informed our view of why the MaxLove approach actually applies to all families?

Justin: Everybody knows obesity and diabetes have increased. Autoimmune disorders have skyrocketed. Mental health challenges are much more prevalent for young children and teenagers. Parents are under more stress than ever today. So we have all of these stats in The Family Thrive, and we're going to be talking a lot more about them. But one thing that is coming up for me around the how MaxLove Project eventually birthed The Family Thrive is that, you know, in the hospital room when Max was first diagnosed and he was coming out of a really intense surgery and he was intubated for a couple of days, and Audra and I were just in shock and taking turns, sobbing.

And then eventually we both caught our breath and we looked at each other and we're like, we're going to do this. And there's different ways that I can remember that. It was, you know, we're going to get, we're like, we're going to fight. We're going to do whatever we can. But at the core of this was we're going to be better parents. Like we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that we're doing that, that we're feeding him the right foods, that we’re getting him at the right amount of sleep at the right time.

Audra: Yeah, it was like a realization that we were getting by with what we were doing. We were overwhelmed, working full time, both of us. Commuting huge, hugely long distances in traffic, you know, to make ends meet. Daycare, like all of the things that any overwhelmed family is dealing with. And you're getting by that time. I remember being so tired. I remember being so out of shape, just so deeply exhausted and feeling like we're just trying to get by. And I think at that moment, we said, you know what? No, no, no. This is a priority. We're going to get ahead. We're going to move beyond the getting by mindset like it is time to step up as parents.

Justin: Yeah. Like, what can we do? So the surgeons do what they do. The radiation oncologist does what he or she does. So we take him home and we have to feed him. We have to put him to bed. We organize his day like what should we be doing to give him the best chance? And as soon as we started to just look into that a little bit, we're like, oh, you know, this includes us. This includes our daughter as well. It's a whole family looking to thrive. And that was what led us into developing, MaxLove Project. And then now, in my mind, it is a natural evolution to The Family Thrive.

Audra: The Family Thrive is an expansion of it, you know. I remember like I don't know. I mean, it was about five years ago, halfway through this, we're like, let's write a book. And in the book, we can have all these strategies and it'll be called The Family Thrive. And then we wanted to do the cookbooks and then Covid hit. And it became really, really clear, like we are going to focus on super creative, innovative sustainability for a nonprofit organization. And I would like to have another conversation one day on the podcast about why our nonprofit model is not sustainable. And for anyone who has a small grassroots nonprofit, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Justin: Yes. Conversation for another day.

Audra: Heard another like an amazing farm in Alabama Farm Collective that referred this is the nonprofit industrial complex. I'm totally down for this conversation, and we needed to disrupt it in the way that we could disrupt that and provide for MaxLove Project in perpetuity, in a sustainable manner, to be able to like make the commitment to be around forever, not dependent on corporations and, you know, folks interests, you know, year to year, but should be really much more sustainable. And then scalable is to create a revenue model. And how could we create a revenue model? What about taking the MaxLove Project way? Are our platform, our health and wellness, our mission, our goal, out to the entire world. Out to all parents. Like it's loud and clear.

What we do benefits everybody. And the more that I talk to doctors and like pediatricians, I would hear, oh, my gosh, I need this just for our typical like for my typical families, because I have 10 minutes with them in 15 minutes with them. I don't have time to go through all of this stuff. I don't have time to address how their burnout is informing their child's mental health and how that's turning into like difficult habits and then poor health. Like it's just sort of like a cascade of overwhelm and challenges. And if I could have this resource for all of my families, it's like I don't know. It's like having a health coach for them. And that is exactly where we're headed with The Family Thrive is like we want to be your family's health coach, health and wellness coach. We got you. Where we're at right now is we're in the midst of seed funding and we're fundraising.

Justin: Well, let's, I just real briefly, I just want to give people the context. So this would be coming out at the end of September. We launched The Family Thrive, like we opened it up to the world in July. And so we, before that,

Audra: We open up the app in July.

Justin: Yeah, we open up the app in July.

Audra: And launched our new full website. Yes.

Justin: Yes. And have we had a little small beta test with friends and family in June? But, yeah, we've been really doing this since July, but we have learned so much in these past few months. So we thought or at least my assumption was that the health coaching part of The Family Thrive was way off in the future, that we were going to start with all this wonderful content, and we have it fresh every single week from experts. It's amazing. I'm really proud of it because I'm the director of content. But one thing that we've learned from members in the app is that we have so much content that it’s actually a little overwhelming or maybe even a lot overwhelming. And so…

Audra: Maybe a little intimidating. You know, it's hard. It could be hard to connect with to some degree. You know, you see so much stuff coming out. You know, it's like, how is this relevant to me? And it is our goal to minimize the stress of looking for good information. It is our goal to make it easier. It is, you know, our goal to make like really, really great evidence base, you know, expert-backed health and wellness information for families like super easy to access. So how do we facilitate better access to that? And for us, it's having a little bit more of a guided, supported approach to that. Which you're right. We had it in our plan. So whenever, if anybody likes business podcasts or read business books, you'll hear like, you know, the plan is not how things are going to work. And that is exactly right.

Justin: Well. Mike Tyson said it best. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Audra: So we had a plan to incorporate health coaching into The Family Thrive around year three when we thought we could really build a robust program. And I am a certified health coach, actually, through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This is how I learned about health coaching.

And my beautiful friend Shelby, who was a lead teacher in that program for a while, now works for another mental health app company, has teamed up with us to work on our health coaching component. And what it is, is it's going to be so deeply infused in the structure of the app and in the way you interact that it's our goal that you kind of feel coached as you're and supported as you’re in the app. Some of that will be through one on one support, chat, support questionnaires, all sorts of different things that, challenges. Some of it one day will be if you want even more will have, you know, a subscription for that. But to start, it's still the app is free to everyone. And this coaching component is going to be free and accessible and available to everybody.

Justin: If you want to be part of the pilot in our coaching program in the app, you can chat with us any time. Yeah. So. Just get into the app, the app is free, and then you can search for Audra and Justin or Audra separately or Justin separately, you just send us a chat and we will hook you up. We're going to be collecting a small group to start going through this coaching model. And I'm super excited about it, because not only do we have so much just daily fresh content on nutrition and stress and relationships and sleep and all the aspects of life that or all the aspects of health behaviors that can really improve quality of life, boost our vitality, our…

Audra: Connectedness, joy…

Justin: Connectedness. Yes. All the all...

Audra: And life span. I mean, we're talking about a long game here, too.

Justin: And we have witnessed this firsthand over the last 10 years as we've worked with therapists and doctors and dietitians and coaches. And so we have learned all of this stuff and we are applying it all the time and then forgetting some of it and then reapplying it. And so we know the power of this firsthand. And so we're really excited for this next phase. But right now, we have just a lot of amazing content coming out every week.

Audra: Something that you just said reminded me of like the forgetting and coming back to it, talking to a friend recently, it was like, you know, my family's not thriving a lot of the time like we are sometimes. We're not a lot of the time. So it kind of feels kind of weird to be working with The Family Thrive. Like I just don't feel that we're thriving a lot of the time. And I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much for sharing that with me, because that is, I think, the way it is for all of us. Like, I think thriving is not a destination. It's not something that you've achieved. It's a practice. It is a journey, but it's not an end point. You know what I mean? Like it doesn't you don't get and go like, oh, great, I'm thriving.

Justin: Finally. And now I can take a break. Yeah. Yeah.

Audra: Now life is good. It is a hard journey. It's an arduous journey. And part of it and the reason why we oscillate, we all oscillate between, you know, maybe moments and periods feeling like thriving in certain areas and then not as much in others, and then feeling really great and then feeling like we went forgot something and, you know, kind of fell behind a little bit or whatever it might be is because it's not a linear path, because there are so many different elements and aspects to it, because we're a whole family unit.

Justin: Yes. It's not a linear path, but I do believe it's more like an upward spiral. Yeah. So…

Audra: Yeah. I'm on the mountain. Can I just share, though? It is kind of an endless mountain. You have to be in it for the journey, because each step in the climb…

Justin: And love the journey.

Audra: … feels great because each step in the climb is like a win. I mean, this is the life we have to live. This is time now. Why not make equality? Why not make it the very best it can be in that moment? So it's not about arriving at thriving. You know, it is about climbing that continuous mountain. And what makes the mountain higher? There's something that makes a mountain a lot higher than unfortunately it has to be.

Justin: What is that?

Audra: Modern life.

Justin: Well, right.

Audra: I mean, it's so when you take a mountain and then you put like all of these things on top of it that present like even greater obstacles. Right. And that's going to be everything from their food we have easy access to to, you know, poverty and inequity. And like, you know, like some of the underbelly of capitalism. We have environmental toxins and challenges. We have stresses that we've never dealt with before.

Justin: Ok, so that's all a downer.

Audra: But it's what these are the odds that are stacked against us. It's not your fault if you're not thriving. Yeah. You're facing some huge odds. Let's get real.

Justin: It’s not your fault. We are all in this same boat together.

Audra: We're all climbing the same mountain together. We're all you're sitting, you know, like not climbing the mountain, but.

Justin: Well, right. So that's the alternative is avoidance, ignoring, and resisting. And so it's not as if there's like a third option of like, oh, I get just this perfect bliss. And it's like, no, you are either going to choose to climb that mountain or you're going to avoid it and ignore it and you're just going to stay at the bottom. Those are the choices. Now, what we want to do, and I believe what we are in the process of doing with The Family Thrive, is we're making that journey easier.

Audra: We're walking with you, you know what I mean? And got a donkey with a little pack over the back and some water…

Justin: We’re making the journey more efficient. So I feel like, you know, if you're a parent saying, ok, yeah, I do want to feed my family better or I know that, you know, we can have more vitality, energy, connection or whatever. Good luck sifting the Internet through all of the misinformation, all of the false ... , all of the nonsense. So, I mean, what we've done with The Family Thrive is we've collected real credentialed experts, doctors, dietitians, licensed therapists, clinical psychologists, researchers, people who have the training, who understand what science is, who understand what evidence based health practices are.

Audra: In addition to that, though, they're not just like the run of the mill ones that like write for WebMD. Right. I have to say, there's a little key there. Yes. To all of what you just said and all of the evidence-based credential and all that. But these are people who also see the picture that we're talking about. They see the odds that are stacked against us. They see that there are things that we can do to mitigate these risks, or they see that we can change the odds through lifestyle. They're not people who just think that, you know, it has to be a drug prescription or a pharmacological answer or whatever it is. These are people who see that what we eat matters, how we move, how we, you know, process our emotions, all of that. So to me, that's that integrative wellness part of it, it's not just like run of the mill stuff from a, you know, regular health website.

Justin: And I think another thing that sets us apart is that because we are evidence based, we are not going to sell like this is the one trick that's going to solve all of your problems.

Audra: There's not one trick. I'm so sorry, but there's not one thing.

Justin: So that's why, first off, we have Thrive pillars. We have four thrive pillars. It's Nourish, Flourish, Embody, and Connect. Nourish for nutrition, flourish for mental and emotional health practices, embody for physical practices that don't generally include nutrition and then connect about relationships. And all of these have been shown to powerfully affect our health and happiness and wellness. Each one is kind of like a grain of sand that you're just putting on the weight to increase the likelihood that you're going to thrive, that you're going to have a connected, loving, vital, you know, family. And so it can be something as small as let's see, I think the week that this podcast comes out, I'm going to be working on an article with an expert on getting sunlight into your eyes in the morning.

So it's just simply like 15 to 20 minutes. Get outside, get some sun. And so this is a small thing that will not end in and of itself, change everything. But when you add this little thing in with some nutrition stuff, with some meditation and breathing and some relationship skills, and now you are starting to really roll.

Audra: Can I add to that?

Justin: That's what the family thrive is.

Audra: Yeah. And let me add to that, because what you're going, what you're talking about in that article was a great example, because since doing that, I no longer buy Sunglasses. I'm going to tell you, we're not telling you to buy something. That's an answer. We're telling you to not buy something and it will be better for you. Right. So get the sun in your eyes like these are things that you can just do without spending any money.

Justin: Yes. And that's a big thing for The Family Thrive as well. Yes, we know I've worked on several articles on some really cool, high protein, low carb products that are out there that we use, and they are more expensive. So there are a few things like, hey, you know, this is going to cost more, but for the most part, like 95 percent of the things that we look at will cost you no money.

Audra: And there are some things that we recommend that could cost a little bit more. And that is something that you will see throughout the health and wellness space in general. But as Mark Hyman said recently, “It's about time we start looking at food as health care.” Right. You are going to have the opportunity to mitigate the risks and the long, long term expenses in your health care by making some of these swaps now. And we're totally all about being in it to help make it more affordable. We don't need a designer lifestyle to do this.

What's really incredible about it, it's all like really low hanging fruit that once you get into this, you see, oh, by prioritizing pretty simple things, I can make a huge difference in my life. And that's something that we found in the MaxLove Project journey as well. I think it's really exciting. I'm super excited to be getting this out to more and more people in the world. And I want to talk about some of the behind the scenes things that people don't see. Like people don't know, for example, that I mean, we are on a shoestring budget making this business happen. Like talk about the business side of things. They don't know. Like I feel like I have a karmic something. I don't know what it's called that I need to resolve and learn around fundraising. There's something in money that I have been called to deal with in this life, from, so signing up to do MaxLove Project.

When I started MaxLove Project, I got a credit card, Legal Zoom, started building that nonprofit with garage sales and selling like artists would donate cool things, cool jewelry. We put up a website, started selling things to basically make money to send out care packages with cloud B, twilight turtles to kids across the country and around the world. And I got into it to make a difference, to connect with families, to help families get through, walk up this mountain, you know, to be with families walking up the mountain. And then I started to see in order to get more and more families up the mountain. And in order to help with the passage, in order to do all the things that we need to really make a difference on this passage, I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money. And it is not what I signed up for. Or what I thought I signed up for.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: I thought I signed up to make a difference. But then that you're in the space and you realize in order to make a difference, I need to raise money. And it is my least favorite thing that one of the biggest challenges I've had to learn to embrace and so coming into The Family Thrive, ok, we're building our revenue stream someday for MaxLove. We're building this business. It's going to be a social enterprise. This is so exciting. We're going to make money so that we can give it. And then what do I end up needing to do? Fundraising. Again. I still have to fundraise. It's a different kind of fundraising. It's not charitable fundraising. It is investment fundraising. But it's still a world that I mean, I've learned about things that I never thought I would ever learn about. I've learned about cap tables and convertible notes and all kinds of things.

So The Family Thrive is a public benefit corporation. And I have walked through the process with some really incredible people, our legal team at Cooley LLP, to create this entity. We would like to become a B Corp one day. So we are on the path of doing that. And to become a big B Corp means that we're really intentional around our processes and our sourcing and how we support our employees and the kind of company we are in, the kind of companies we work with. And that's really, really exciting to me, because we want to be a company that is completely infused with integrity from corner to corner. You know, we want to do this right. And we're in the process of seed funding. And so the goal is to complete our seed round and then move into by the spring, by the time we hit a subscriber number and a revenue number, that we can go out for institutional funding and work with venture capitalists. Really start to realize the dream of The Family Thrive.

So what we have today is a minimum viable product. It is our start. It is sweat equity. It is love. It is intention. It's like all of this just the power of ushering this, of supporting this work to come into the world, to, you know, to benefit families and to benefit communities. And it's really amazing, because we've done this in under a year with very, very little resources, total shoestring, because we have a fantastic team, an army of like mostly volunteers and some contractors at this point who've totally just committed to getting this off the ground. They said this is important work. We're going to do this. And the one thing that I know through all the uncertainties, I've had to walk myself out of habits around fear of scarcity.

You know, I've done a lot of work in that area, so we do not go down those rabbit holes. And I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes. I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I built over time, that's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Hearing that, I am reflecting on the fact that I don't know anything about money because I have spent my entire adult life in academia. And so it's yeah, this has been a huge education for me as well. Money is a huge trigger for me. But as the director of content, like I am in charge of the podcast, I'm in charge of all the content, the workshops and all this. So I really try to just put my head down and do the work. And that's what I've learned as an academic. You know, I have two PhDs. I've done two dissertations, and I've learned that for me, I can just put my head down and just work.

Audra: Yes. That's a good segue into another thing that I thought would be kind of cool to reveal if this type of podcast could be about revealing that behind the scenes or revealing the kind of like the back end of these projects, revealing what's really going on with us is, we work together.

Justin: We’re married.

Audra: Live together. We've been together for 20 years plus. We've been married for almost 20 years, and we've been together for a number of more years than that. So we've been together for half of our lives. Yeah, we have our beautiful children together and Zeus, of course. And we work together not only on MaxLove Project, but on The Family Thrive on a daily basis. And so I bet you there's some curiosity around that from people like, how does that go? Like, how does that work? And there are probably other people who are in the same situation or other people who would never want to be in this situation, who might be into some like insight. How do we make this work? And is it all flowers?

Justin: I would direct listeners to two episodes that we've done, one with Ryel Kestano and then the other with Alexandra Tataryn. And I had to do a lot of what, I recognize now that I put up a lot of roadblocks in the past in our relationship that I just through my own hang ups, that I didn't have a lot of the communication and relationship skills, that were going to eventually help us do what we're doing right now. And so starting to do this work. It was really, the impetus was MaxLove Project.

So I was working on programs for MaxLove Project, and stress management was one of the things that I was working on for childhood cancer families. And so I was starting to get trained and take these courses and learn more about the stress management world. And then I came across emotional processing. And so I went through a course in that and then did some one-on-one therapy and training in that, and then eventually found authentic relating and then did training and coaching in that. And so from my perspective…

Audra: And then you found internal family systems therapy.

Justin: And so from my perspective, it was me learning about myself and then learning some really important communication skills, the amazing thing about communication skills is that they are free. Like once you know them, then they are free to use. And I think they've been some of the most transformational things that I've incorporated into my own life.

Audra: It's the combination of the communication skills with the emotional processing, because if you have the emotional processing but no communication skills and kind of like it stops there. And then if you have the communication skills, but you're not doing any emotional processing, then it's not really helpful either. Right. Like it's got to be both of them. So do you mind sharing about what happened the other day?

Justin: Which episode? Yeah. Which episodes? Yeah. Point out one of my many failings and then how I recovered.

Audra: So when I gave you the heads up, we're having a meeting about creating a new pitch deck because we're going into a new phase of seed, with seed funding groups and we need to redo our pitch deck. And so I called to give you a heads up that what the meeting was about and what I received was what?

Justin: Yeah. What did you receive?

Audra: What I heard.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: On the other side of the phone was, like kind of flipped out, you know, sort of don't have time, don't duh duh duh du, you know…

Justin: This is not on my schedule. This is not on my to-do list.

Audra: I have a huge to-do list. I have. I have. I have. I have.

Justin: So, yeah, I experienced a…

Audra: What was that like for you? Yeah.

Justin: So I experienced a heightened emotional response to this that I felt... Yeah. If I was to really I didn't do a ton of emotional processing at the time, but I did enough to know afterwards that I did have an intense emotional reaction and that I needed to at least relax a little bit around this emotional reaction and then see in this more relaxed state, how do I want to communicate and how do I want to show up for not just The Family Thrive as a whole, but for my partner.

And so I was able to relax and not doing a ton of emotional processing, which, if you don't know, that would be to get really clear and emotionally granular around what I was feeling, which is probably a sense of inadequacy, of not being able to do all the things that, I have so much to do. And so feeling maybe a little inadequate, maybe feeling helpless that, you know, like I'm not fully in control because I've got this huge list. And now this other thing is just piling on. It feels kind of like a tornado or an avalanche. So I was able to at least get to a point where I relaxed around it. And I knew in that more relaxed day after I took a breath and just calmed down a bit that I knew that I wanted to show up for The Family Thrive, but also for my partner, and that if I didn't show up, that it would just be more on her plate. And I know that she has a ton to do. So I was able to respond later and say that I'm ready for the meeting. I'm ready to take this on.

Audra: And you said I'm sorry. Yeah, that I had…

Justin: Oh, I think I said that I had a tantrum. Because I had been talking with other parents about toddler tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I was like, you know what? There's an internal toddler that was just feeling just really pissed off and out of control yelling, this is not what I want.

Audra: And how often do we as adults have tantrums? Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really great way to put it. It’s not just a thing that kids do like.

Justin: Yeah, we just hold it in a little bit better.

Audra: Big feeling sometimes, I mean, you know.

Justin: We don't bang our head on the floor like our daughter did when she was a year and a half old. But the way that we do this. So from my perspective, I think we work together really, really well. Like I love working with you and I like…

Audra: We do. And I want to share that working well doesn't mean not having things come out, you know, like when that came up. So there's, in this particular instance. First of all, I called you to tell you, you said it was a counter invite had already been sent and all that, but I called you to tell you about it because I knew you'd need time to prepare.

Justin: Well, I ignored the invite because I was like, this cannot possibly be for me because she knows I have way too much on my plate and this could not possibly be for me.

Audra: So the interesting part is like when this goes down, sometimes these sort of things go down and I'll be like, oh, God, he's the worst employee. He would never do this to just like a random, like a random boss.

Justin: Yeah. What happens when you need to do a quarterly review for your husband, yeah.

Audra: You know, so there is definitely more freedom in the relationship for both of us to be very open and honest about how we're feeling. And very often in a work setting, you wouldn't just have a tantrum or just say, no, I want to. No, I don't think I should have to do that. You know, and so we are able to be very open. But I mean, I do think that those communication skills are everything, because we do have frustrating times, but we work through them and we grow through them. One thing that I think is frustrating for both of us is like I will have a vision for the next thing.

And I was like, for me, it's like going from A to like H. It's easy, you know, there's nothing in between. Like it's like there might be a little bit of things you have to do, but like don't you see, don't you see where we're headed? And you hear it, you'll be like, I'm mapping mentally mapping the process from A to B, B to C, you know, C to D, you know, you're going like this. I can see every little thing in the steps. Like and like, why can't you just see what's out at H? No. You know, like we're just doing it. We're going to do it. It's like it's the thing, you know. And so there can be that rub, where I'm frustrating, you know, I think because I jump in to vision and then I get frustrated with you and you can't jump into vision with me. But we've learned over time that I wait about a week and you're usually going to be like in it, if it's good.

Justin: Because I've then, I've seen all the dots and all of that. You have the vision and then I start to fill in.

Audra: So I think we're less frustrated with each other learning over time. We did the Enneagram process together. Have we talked about that on this? I don't think we've talked about that.

Justin: No, that’s in the future.

Audra: We had a great time doing the Enneagram and learning and like the particular one that we did was the Enneagram Institute. My top three, because they did it more like strings finders, where they give you the list of all of them and where you land. They have a cluster. That's the top three. That is your bottom three. And when you see that, you're like, oh, I totally understand. And what it gave us was a language to use around where we're having challenge.

Like it gave us a way of understanding, like where the rub is. And that is really important. So it's not that it's easy to work together. It takes work to work together, but it's fruitful and productive. And we work really well together, we are very complementary. And I think just sharing that like it isn't cruising, you know what I mean? It's not like the easiest thing in the world, but that's in many ways what makes it good, because that's how you produce real change and results is by maybe not just agreeing all the time, like if we were the same kind of people and it was really easy...

Justin: There would be, well there would be I think, there would be big gaps in what we're doing. I do feel like The Family Thrive as it stands today is a really amazing resource. And I feel like we are, to use another sports metaphor, we're punching way above our weight, like we're producing stuff that I think is amazing. I think the podcast is fantastic. I think the app is great. I think the content is great. Of course, I am in charge of a lot of that stuff, but I feel like we would have many more gaps than what we have today.

And when I think about the future of The Family Thrive and all the cool things that we have on tap, that we are planning, it's because we do have very different strengths and that we can really work off of each other. And we, yeah, I think we work really, really well together, considering we're very, very different.

Audra: What advice would you give to anyone else who has to work with, has to, gets to.

Justin: Oh, man, this...

Audra: I'm hearing you, not “has to”, “gets to” work with our family and loved ones, partners.

Justin: Okay. For me, there are a couple of keys and but it really boils down to honesty plus connection. And so this is what I learned through my authentic relating training. And that has been my touchstone is that if I can be honest and authentic and really just reveal what are my desires here, what are my expectations, what are my assumptions, what are my stories, if I can be honest and then the key is, also remain in connection or commit to connection. Even if I don't feel like I'm in connection, that I'm committed to it, that I'm saying like I am committed to being connected to you and I'm committed to growing this relationship. Meeting you where you're at.

So it's for me, it's these two two things of it's honesty and it's connection, authenticity, connection. And if I can hold these two together and really commit to them both, then I know that we are going to come out in a higher place. We're going to come out in a stronger place.

Audra: I agree with you. And to highlight that, I was like, I'm on my phone actually right now because I was looking at a post by Yasmin Cheyenne and I really loved about boundaries, and I think it comes down to along in complementing what you're saying. It comes down to boundaries. It comes down to Brene Brown's clear is kind.

Justin: Clear is kind.

Audra: And that’s communication and honesty.

Justin: That’s the honesty part.

Audra: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the boundaries are important. I think I.

Justin: Ok, I'm sorry. So I the boundary thing, I feel a little off balance hearing the boundary thing. So. So why?

Audra: Why do you feel that way?

Justin: Oh, because for me, when I hear boundaries, I'm hearing other people who I am not fully committed to. And so I am putting up a boundary like, no, we're not going to go there because I am not committed to like spending my life with you and you being my life partner. So I don't feel like I don't….

Audra: Yeah, I don't I think we do have boundaries. I think we have boundaries to say when we want to be in the space of work and when we don't, when we want to, how we want to talk about things, we want to approach things like it's not a boundary again. So I'm not protecting myself from you. It's the space of like clarity where there are times when for you, you know, you have to draw a line somewhere for in being clear about that to say, this is how I want to proceed with this. You know, this is how I want to interact around this. This is how I want to be in a space like this, you know…

Justin: I totally get that. And that's an absolutely beautiful and perfect way to articulate boundaries. And for some reason, I just don't think about our relationship as having boundaries, although we have really clear communication and we are very clear and authentic and honest with each other about like, no, I need this right now and this is my thing or whatever the case is. So we do have boundaries. I just don't use that word in my mind because I don't know, maybe I have just some like romantic idea that like boundaries nice for other people, not for me and my partner. But no, but I think you're absolutely right.

Audra: Buy for others who are working with their family members and loved ones, like, I think being able to be, you know, open, honest, clear, like we're saying about how we're feeling, you know, even like sitting down, even if it's been 20 years that you've been working together and there's just still some really difficult things that are dragging you down or if it's new. Being able to get together and say, “hey, can we communicate around some really to communicate around some, just some ground rules with how we approach this?” Like I want our relationship to be, you know, number one. And in work, sometimes things can get difficult and blurry. And if we come to some clarity, I think a part of the challenge is then when we think things should just work out or if it's right, it just works, or if it's good, it just happens the right way or whatever. And that's never the case, really. There always is a need for clear, honest communication.

I mean, it's something that we work with our kids on too. And Maesie, at the age that she's a great girl. It's challenging, right? Like that's kind of like an age when you can really benefit from developing some of these communication skills and being able to clarify and develop boundaries. It's only going to benefit her. I have some challenges with boundaries, as my friend Jenny has been helping me understand, being a people pleaser, helper, peacemaker, you know, kind of kind of type of person. I think that my childhood I think I was a placater potentially for folks around me and things like that.

So I think boundaries have been I've been learning in all facets of my life how to become much more clear and much more focused on that communication and much more focus on honoring like myself and in the boundaries that I need. So I think that's definitely helped us. And I hope I'd love to maybe talk more about it on a on another episode, because I think that's something that Jenny and I have been talking a lot about, is how to like be a boss or a supervisor or someone in charge of other people or someone in charge of a business or so in in, you know, somebody who has to take ultimate responsibility. Right. As a people pleaser. It's a journey.

Justin: So we are definitely going to have that as its own podcast. There's a lot there. What I do want, because we are coming up against the hour, we want to keep this at an hour. I do want to plug a big thing that's happening in October for The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yes, please.

Justin: We are launching a parent/teen communication workshop with eight different experts, therapists, psychologists, researchers. It's amazing, relationship coaches, the communication skills that I've referenced or that we've referenced and the relationship skills are all going to be in this workshop, but it's going to be directly targeted at the parent/teen relationship. This is going to be a game-changing workshop for any parent who takes it. If you don't have teens yet. But, you know, the teenage years are coming. Please hop into this workshop, if you have teenagers now, please. This is going to change your relationship. And even if you have maybe a young adult, you have a teenager who has now moved out, but they are still young adults. There's a lot of applicable stuff there.

Audra: Grandkids.

Justin: Yeah. So please visit The Family Thrive. You will have the website. You'll be able to sign up for it probably by the time this podcast comes out. And then we're going to start it on October 17th. But you can sign up for it before then. All the proceeds from this workshop will go to MaxLove Project. So this is going to support an amazing cause. It's going to be a game-changing workshop. So please sign up. We're going to be talking a lot more about it in the app, so you'll get more information there. One other thing, our next workshop after the parent/teen communication workshop is going to be in November and it's going to be all about relationships and partnerships like we just talked about. But it's just going to be a one-week workshop. So it's going to be really intense. We're working with, again, some amazing…

Audra: Not really intense like work, like intense…

Justin: Intense, like you're going to get a lot…

Audra: A lot in a small period of time. Right. Right.

Justin: So stay tuned.

Audra: No we’re not gonna be putting you into an in-person bootcamp or anything.

Justin: All right. I think that's it.

Audra: So how can people support us if they're interested in growing with us, growing The Family Thrive movement with us? They want to be a part of this as we climb this mountain. How can they support us?

Justin: So the biggest thing I mean, like if you just want to go straight to it, you're like, hey, just let me into the app. You can go to app.familythrive.com, and you can get straight into the app. But if you want to learn more about us, then you can go to thefamilythrive.com, which is the website, and you're going to get all sorts of good stuff there. Please subscribe to the podcast. Tell a friend. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Audra: And if you're in the app already, please become an ambassador. You have your own unique link that you can use to send all of your friends and family. And we have some cool prizes, too, for people who successfully invite others in.

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for listening, we’ll see you next time.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Justin: Hey, friend, this podcast is brought to you by The Family Thrive, an expert-led, science-backed online community for busy parents looking to thrive. Join us at TheFamilyThrive.com.

Audra: I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes, I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I've built over time. That's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: All right, welcome to a special edition of The Family Thrive podcast. It's only Audra and I today. We are the special guests. We wanted to record a podcast just for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But we have a lot of other stuff to discuss as well. So we're going to just jump right into it. Audra.

Audra: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a special time for us. I remember our very first Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was right after that. We were aware of that. We produced messaging around and all that was after Max was diagnosed. And it was under a month after he was diagnosed. And I realized, oh, wow, this is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. And it's clear that there isn't enough awareness. And in my mind, once people become aware, they are more empowered to take action and do something about it.

So we started at this 10 years ago and have been working on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month every year. And it is really important. Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States. It's a really, really big deal. And we're underfunding childhood cancer research from the federal government. Less than four percent of our cancer research funding goes to over 100 forms of childhood cancer. And prostate cancer alone, not known as a particularly lethal disease. In fact, for men, very often, it's better not to treat it at all. Right. Gets eight percent. So twice as much for one disease that isn't that lethal.

And that just didn't feel, doesn't sit right with me and many, many others. Right. And so a lot of private foundations step up, usually families in grief and bereavement, families try to make a different step up to fill the gaps in in research. And it's a tremendous struggle, an uphill battle, because, as you know, with research, it's really never enough. That there are so many questions to be answered. There's so much that we don't know about these diseases, that it's quite a challenge. And one thing is clear is that we really believe and I know many researchers believe that if we unlock the keys to childhood cancers, we will learn more about adult cancers, because childhood cancers are not caused by lifestyle factors.

Justin: Well, for me, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is not just about research, but it's also about programs like our nonprofit MaxLove Project do for cancer survivorship, also quality of life through treatment. We all know that going through cancer treatment is extremely taxing. It's really difficult. And so there are things that we can do; nutrition and sleep and stress management and exercise that really improve quality of life through cancer treatment. And these are the things that MaxLove Project focuses on.

But then after the treatment is done, you know, today, 85% of kids who are diagnosed with cancer will go on to survive after five years. But then what they face after those five years or after treatment, rather, is a lifetime of dealing with increased risks for all sorts of chronic disease and reduced quality of life. And so the things we do with MaxLove Project focusing on health behaviors, focusing on quality of life resources, this is a major part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for me.

Audra: Yeah, I know it's powerful. And I know that you've done, actually, significant research in the area of childhood cancer survivorship yourself. You became a researcher with your…

Justin: I went back to school.

Audra: Went back to school. You became an official researcher with Children's Hospital of Orange County. You produced the Ohana study to find a way, you know, different ways to mitigate these risks to what we would say, change the odds. We have been saying for years, the statistics are not destiny. And what does that mean to you?

Justin: Well, statistics can be depressing. So when we look at the statistically…

Audra: Especially the childhood cancer statistics, you know, one in five kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive. Three to five kids suffer life-threatening late effects of treatment. I mean, it's devastating all around. And even in the survivorship stats we're talking about, within the first five years, there are kids face secondary illness. And in cancers after that five years in the mortality rate is even higher. So it's yeah, stats are pretty grim. There are some child cancers, too, that have no, no treatment strategies that really work that we haven't made much headway on.

There's some that are completely, totally still terminal upon diagnosis, like DIPG, a very rare, although it doesn't feel rare to me with all of the families I know form of pediatric brain cancer, it feels like the rates are increasing, which I did see data recently from cancer.gov that somehow the cancer rates are increasing.

Justin: So, yeah, the statistics are not destiny. Other statistics, like 95% of childhood cancer survivors will be dealing with the chronic health condition by age 45. So these statistics can be depressing, but we are working to ensure that they are not destiny. And there are things we can do to reduce risks and increase quality of life for those kids who do make it out of treatment. So this treatment…

Audra: And, in treatment and beyond. We were told to focus on Max's quality of life, like day three. And we took that. We took that as marching orders. In that we found quantity. But we also built a community of minded parents, of other parents who felt the same way. Like, what about quality of life today? What about quality of life now? And we, if we start focusing on quality of life in treatment and in the treatment process, I really believe that it pays off long term. And it becomes, you know, an approach that any family has a cancer diagnosis and a childhood cancer diagnosis benefits from the entire family, benefits from the focus on quality of life in treatment and beyond.

Justin: Yes. So this podcast episode is not just about childhood cancer. We just wanted to start there, recognizing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. If you feel called MaxLove Project, this episode will air right after our Farm to Fork dinner. But for all of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are running a Fork Childhood Cancer campaign.

Audra: forkchildhoodcancer.org. You can join the campaign. So I'm going to, Justin's trying to keep us on track. I am going to challenge that. I really do think that this podcast is about us just getting real and being together and being real in what we're working on today, what we're going through, what we're facing, you know, on the other side of everything that folks see that we put out in the world.

And so we do have our Farm to Fork dinner coming up September 25 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. It is our seventh annual event. It's an incredible event. You can see more about it at MLPFarmDinner.org. But it's been quite a struggle. I  just have to share. Like we could not have the event last year because of Covid. And so we came up with the fork childhood cancer campaign, which was incredibly successful. And the energy around it was beautiful. And I think, you know, I really felt like people were gathering in unity, even in the midst of Covid, to make a difference for families facing childhood cancer and related life-threatening illnesses and…

Justin: Gathering virtually in their homes.

Audra: Fundraiser.

Justin: Together online.

Audra: Having their own dinners like we were, you know, online together for our event and all of that. And it was really beautiful. So we continued that campaign this year as well. And that it'll be what we do every September for childhood cancer is what we will do every September, brings together so much of our program and messaging and focus on our mission. Part of which is culinary medicine. We're learning how to use real whole foods therapeutically in the home, because it's one of the few things we're in power to do in this process. Right. It's one of the one of the major things we're in power to do. In any case, it has, I'm just going to keep it super real. It has been so much more challenging this year with Covid. And I thought it was going to be better.

I'm like really trying hard to keep, oh, just like bring really good energy and be in the space that I want to be in, like around this time of year. It's a space of change. It's a space of making a difference, a space of bringing resources and support to the to our community, addressing needs. And I really thought things were going to be better. And what I've experienced is so much more focus on people's self-interest and politics and things like that, that it is like pushed our cause under the water a little bit.

It's been feeling like it's so hard to surface it and bring it back up because people are, you know, mostly concerned about, you know, what kind of political views they want to share on social media about, you know, vaccinations and what they perceived to be mandates and, you know, things like that. And it's been really, really difficult for me. So my work right now is not only producing this incredible event where we're welcoming well over 400 people to a working farm for an incredible dinner and celebration of our impact and commitment to continuing to make a difference for the next year and beyond. That's a huge enough thing in and of itself, but working to bring the, just powerful, beautiful, healing connected energy to this has been harder this year because it feels like pushing water up a mountain and I am feeling the need for others to step up and to be a part of it and to say, let's do better. Let's get it together and let's do better for our kids and families. Like, let's look at the bigger picture and get over the current myopia so we can create a hopeful future for our families and our kids. Like that's what I want to see. How does that land for you Justin?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I hear the emotion and keeping it real. And what is coming up for me is that this podcast is going to air after Farm to Fork. So we hopefully will have new listeners who went to Farm to Fork and who are listening to this and who get to hear the burden, the emotional weight that you're carrying moving up to this event. But it's going to be amazing. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be inspiring. And so we're going to have people listening to this afterwards and saying, all right, I got to hear like the real deal. You know, this is what goes into it. It's not, you know, and it was amazing.

Audra: Yeah. Yes, it's very hard work. And part of it is because of the investment that we all have in it, that our hearts are so deeply invested. We are so incredibly inspired by the children and families we serve. And to me, like they're, I mean, they're everything. So it's a very, very big deal. But I do want to thank everybody who is supporting MaxLove Project, who's supporting our events and programming and our fundraisers and fought childhood cancer, everyone who's bringing their best to make a difference. It really does make a difference.

We have cutting-edge culinary medicine for pediatrics. Like no one else is doing what we're doing in that space. We have incredible collaborators contributing. We have a really innovative app that we're growing that has, I don't know, boundless resources in it. There's so many things to discover when it comes to lifestyle, medicine, health and wellness, guided health and wellness through the childhood cancer journey. And I'm really hoping that more childhood cancer families who are interested in that kind of guided health and wellness platform, who want to focus on quality of life and treatment and beyond. Join us in MaxLove Connect. It is a really beautiful space to be together. And it's off of social media, which is something that I'm finding the need to do more and more of. You know, it's safe.

Justin: A decade ago, Audra and I received news no parent ever expects to hear, your four year old son has brain cancer in that hospital room in Orange County, California. We had our fair share of tears and despair, but we also vowed that we would use this to help our family thrive no matter what. A decade later, after starting a nonprofit that has served thousands of childhood cancer families, we're on a mission to bring all of the amazing researchers, doctors, therapists and other experts we've worked with to all families everywhere.

That's why we created The Family Thrive, an online platform and community of top health and wellness experts and parents like us who are looking to thrive against the odds, just fresh, daily expert articles and topics that matter to parents like us, like how to cook a superfood meal in under 20 minutes, or the latest sleep science that can boost our kids mental health or simple things we can do to thrive as parents. We have top credentialed experts breaking it all down to bite-sized chunks of actionable wisdom. You know, when they say it takes a village to raise a family. This is our village and it's filled with quick bite expert wellness information, conversations that are designed specifically for busy parents. And when you're ready to dive deeper, we also have group based workshops written and led by PhD researchers, psychologists, clinical dietitians. This village is all on your phone, at your fingertips whenever you need it. Join for free today at thefamilythrive.com.

Justin: What does this all have to do with The Family Thrive?

Audra: MaxLove Project is the reason why The Family Thrive exists.

Justin: MaxLove Project is the seed. It's the garden out of which The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yup, so MaxLove Project is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. So 10 years of making a difference. When we first started out in the space, we were like no one else was looking, looking at this. Talk about quality of life, health and wellness in the childhood cancer journey was kind of crazy. And so we were, I feel like, have been pioneers in the space and pioneers and doing it in a way that is alongside standard of care, doing it with our medical teams, doing it with care that we're receiving in the hospital where we were not trying to create kind of new, you know, totally new treatment paradigm. We're not in the alternative medicine space. We're really in the complementary and integrative medicine, integrative health space. And we have been growing just tremendously year after year, doing this work. And every single year, it seems we'd have somebody asking us, where is this for typical families? We all need this. So the health risks that childhood cancer families face, to some degree, all families face. You share about that, Justin. What are some of the research that has informed our view of why the MaxLove approach actually applies to all families?

Justin: Everybody knows obesity and diabetes have increased. Autoimmune disorders have skyrocketed. Mental health challenges are much more prevalent for young children and teenagers. Parents are under more stress than ever today. So we have all of these stats in The Family Thrive, and we're going to be talking a lot more about them. But one thing that is coming up for me around the how MaxLove Project eventually birthed The Family Thrive is that, you know, in the hospital room when Max was first diagnosed and he was coming out of a really intense surgery and he was intubated for a couple of days, and Audra and I were just in shock and taking turns, sobbing.

And then eventually we both caught our breath and we looked at each other and we're like, we're going to do this. And there's different ways that I can remember that. It was, you know, we're going to get, we're like, we're going to fight. We're going to do whatever we can. But at the core of this was we're going to be better parents. Like we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that we're doing that, that we're feeding him the right foods, that we’re getting him at the right amount of sleep at the right time.

Audra: Yeah, it was like a realization that we were getting by with what we were doing. We were overwhelmed, working full time, both of us. Commuting huge, hugely long distances in traffic, you know, to make ends meet. Daycare, like all of the things that any overwhelmed family is dealing with. And you're getting by that time. I remember being so tired. I remember being so out of shape, just so deeply exhausted and feeling like we're just trying to get by. And I think at that moment, we said, you know what? No, no, no. This is a priority. We're going to get ahead. We're going to move beyond the getting by mindset like it is time to step up as parents.

Justin: Yeah. Like, what can we do? So the surgeons do what they do. The radiation oncologist does what he or she does. So we take him home and we have to feed him. We have to put him to bed. We organize his day like what should we be doing to give him the best chance? And as soon as we started to just look into that a little bit, we're like, oh, you know, this includes us. This includes our daughter as well. It's a whole family looking to thrive. And that was what led us into developing, MaxLove Project. And then now, in my mind, it is a natural evolution to The Family Thrive.

Audra: The Family Thrive is an expansion of it, you know. I remember like I don't know. I mean, it was about five years ago, halfway through this, we're like, let's write a book. And in the book, we can have all these strategies and it'll be called The Family Thrive. And then we wanted to do the cookbooks and then Covid hit. And it became really, really clear, like we are going to focus on super creative, innovative sustainability for a nonprofit organization. And I would like to have another conversation one day on the podcast about why our nonprofit model is not sustainable. And for anyone who has a small grassroots nonprofit, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Justin: Yes. Conversation for another day.

Audra: Heard another like an amazing farm in Alabama Farm Collective that referred this is the nonprofit industrial complex. I'm totally down for this conversation, and we needed to disrupt it in the way that we could disrupt that and provide for MaxLove Project in perpetuity, in a sustainable manner, to be able to like make the commitment to be around forever, not dependent on corporations and, you know, folks interests, you know, year to year, but should be really much more sustainable. And then scalable is to create a revenue model. And how could we create a revenue model? What about taking the MaxLove Project way? Are our platform, our health and wellness, our mission, our goal, out to the entire world. Out to all parents. Like it's loud and clear.

What we do benefits everybody. And the more that I talk to doctors and like pediatricians, I would hear, oh, my gosh, I need this just for our typical like for my typical families, because I have 10 minutes with them in 15 minutes with them. I don't have time to go through all of this stuff. I don't have time to address how their burnout is informing their child's mental health and how that's turning into like difficult habits and then poor health. Like it's just sort of like a cascade of overwhelm and challenges. And if I could have this resource for all of my families, it's like I don't know. It's like having a health coach for them. And that is exactly where we're headed with The Family Thrive is like we want to be your family's health coach, health and wellness coach. We got you. Where we're at right now is we're in the midst of seed funding and we're fundraising.

Justin: Well, let's, I just real briefly, I just want to give people the context. So this would be coming out at the end of September. We launched The Family Thrive, like we opened it up to the world in July. And so we, before that,

Audra: We open up the app in July.

Justin: Yeah, we open up the app in July.

Audra: And launched our new full website. Yes.

Justin: Yes. And have we had a little small beta test with friends and family in June? But, yeah, we've been really doing this since July, but we have learned so much in these past few months. So we thought or at least my assumption was that the health coaching part of The Family Thrive was way off in the future, that we were going to start with all this wonderful content, and we have it fresh every single week from experts. It's amazing. I'm really proud of it because I'm the director of content. But one thing that we've learned from members in the app is that we have so much content that it’s actually a little overwhelming or maybe even a lot overwhelming. And so…

Audra: Maybe a little intimidating. You know, it's hard. It could be hard to connect with to some degree. You know, you see so much stuff coming out. You know, it's like, how is this relevant to me? And it is our goal to minimize the stress of looking for good information. It is our goal to make it easier. It is, you know, our goal to make like really, really great evidence base, you know, expert-backed health and wellness information for families like super easy to access. So how do we facilitate better access to that? And for us, it's having a little bit more of a guided, supported approach to that. Which you're right. We had it in our plan. So whenever, if anybody likes business podcasts or read business books, you'll hear like, you know, the plan is not how things are going to work. And that is exactly right.

Justin: Well. Mike Tyson said it best. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Audra: So we had a plan to incorporate health coaching into The Family Thrive around year three when we thought we could really build a robust program. And I am a certified health coach, actually, through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This is how I learned about health coaching.

And my beautiful friend Shelby, who was a lead teacher in that program for a while, now works for another mental health app company, has teamed up with us to work on our health coaching component. And what it is, is it's going to be so deeply infused in the structure of the app and in the way you interact that it's our goal that you kind of feel coached as you're and supported as you’re in the app. Some of that will be through one on one support, chat, support questionnaires, all sorts of different things that, challenges. Some of it one day will be if you want even more will have, you know, a subscription for that. But to start, it's still the app is free to everyone. And this coaching component is going to be free and accessible and available to everybody.

Justin: If you want to be part of the pilot in our coaching program in the app, you can chat with us any time. Yeah. So. Just get into the app, the app is free, and then you can search for Audra and Justin or Audra separately or Justin separately, you just send us a chat and we will hook you up. We're going to be collecting a small group to start going through this coaching model. And I'm super excited about it, because not only do we have so much just daily fresh content on nutrition and stress and relationships and sleep and all the aspects of life that or all the aspects of health behaviors that can really improve quality of life, boost our vitality, our…

Audra: Connectedness, joy…

Justin: Connectedness. Yes. All the all...

Audra: And life span. I mean, we're talking about a long game here, too.

Justin: And we have witnessed this firsthand over the last 10 years as we've worked with therapists and doctors and dietitians and coaches. And so we have learned all of this stuff and we are applying it all the time and then forgetting some of it and then reapplying it. And so we know the power of this firsthand. And so we're really excited for this next phase. But right now, we have just a lot of amazing content coming out every week.

Audra: Something that you just said reminded me of like the forgetting and coming back to it, talking to a friend recently, it was like, you know, my family's not thriving a lot of the time like we are sometimes. We're not a lot of the time. So it kind of feels kind of weird to be working with The Family Thrive. Like I just don't feel that we're thriving a lot of the time. And I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much for sharing that with me, because that is, I think, the way it is for all of us. Like, I think thriving is not a destination. It's not something that you've achieved. It's a practice. It is a journey, but it's not an end point. You know what I mean? Like it doesn't you don't get and go like, oh, great, I'm thriving.

Justin: Finally. And now I can take a break. Yeah. Yeah.

Audra: Now life is good. It is a hard journey. It's an arduous journey. And part of it and the reason why we oscillate, we all oscillate between, you know, maybe moments and periods feeling like thriving in certain areas and then not as much in others, and then feeling really great and then feeling like we went forgot something and, you know, kind of fell behind a little bit or whatever it might be is because it's not a linear path, because there are so many different elements and aspects to it, because we're a whole family unit.

Justin: Yes. It's not a linear path, but I do believe it's more like an upward spiral. Yeah. So…

Audra: Yeah. I'm on the mountain. Can I just share, though? It is kind of an endless mountain. You have to be in it for the journey, because each step in the climb…

Justin: And love the journey.

Audra: … feels great because each step in the climb is like a win. I mean, this is the life we have to live. This is time now. Why not make equality? Why not make it the very best it can be in that moment? So it's not about arriving at thriving. You know, it is about climbing that continuous mountain. And what makes the mountain higher? There's something that makes a mountain a lot higher than unfortunately it has to be.

Justin: What is that?

Audra: Modern life.

Justin: Well, right.

Audra: I mean, it's so when you take a mountain and then you put like all of these things on top of it that present like even greater obstacles. Right. And that's going to be everything from their food we have easy access to to, you know, poverty and inequity. And like, you know, like some of the underbelly of capitalism. We have environmental toxins and challenges. We have stresses that we've never dealt with before.

Justin: Ok, so that's all a downer.

Audra: But it's what these are the odds that are stacked against us. It's not your fault if you're not thriving. Yeah. You're facing some huge odds. Let's get real.

Justin: It’s not your fault. We are all in this same boat together.

Audra: We're all climbing the same mountain together. We're all you're sitting, you know, like not climbing the mountain, but.

Justin: Well, right. So that's the alternative is avoidance, ignoring, and resisting. And so it's not as if there's like a third option of like, oh, I get just this perfect bliss. And it's like, no, you are either going to choose to climb that mountain or you're going to avoid it and ignore it and you're just going to stay at the bottom. Those are the choices. Now, what we want to do, and I believe what we are in the process of doing with The Family Thrive, is we're making that journey easier.

Audra: We're walking with you, you know what I mean? And got a donkey with a little pack over the back and some water…

Justin: We’re making the journey more efficient. So I feel like, you know, if you're a parent saying, ok, yeah, I do want to feed my family better or I know that, you know, we can have more vitality, energy, connection or whatever. Good luck sifting the Internet through all of the misinformation, all of the false ... , all of the nonsense. So, I mean, what we've done with The Family Thrive is we've collected real credentialed experts, doctors, dietitians, licensed therapists, clinical psychologists, researchers, people who have the training, who understand what science is, who understand what evidence based health practices are.

Audra: In addition to that, though, they're not just like the run of the mill ones that like write for WebMD. Right. I have to say, there's a little key there. Yes. To all of what you just said and all of the evidence-based credential and all that. But these are people who also see the picture that we're talking about. They see the odds that are stacked against us. They see that there are things that we can do to mitigate these risks, or they see that we can change the odds through lifestyle. They're not people who just think that, you know, it has to be a drug prescription or a pharmacological answer or whatever it is. These are people who see that what we eat matters, how we move, how we, you know, process our emotions, all of that. So to me, that's that integrative wellness part of it, it's not just like run of the mill stuff from a, you know, regular health website.

Justin: And I think another thing that sets us apart is that because we are evidence based, we are not going to sell like this is the one trick that's going to solve all of your problems.

Audra: There's not one trick. I'm so sorry, but there's not one thing.

Justin: So that's why, first off, we have Thrive pillars. We have four thrive pillars. It's Nourish, Flourish, Embody, and Connect. Nourish for nutrition, flourish for mental and emotional health practices, embody for physical practices that don't generally include nutrition and then connect about relationships. And all of these have been shown to powerfully affect our health and happiness and wellness. Each one is kind of like a grain of sand that you're just putting on the weight to increase the likelihood that you're going to thrive, that you're going to have a connected, loving, vital, you know, family. And so it can be something as small as let's see, I think the week that this podcast comes out, I'm going to be working on an article with an expert on getting sunlight into your eyes in the morning.

So it's just simply like 15 to 20 minutes. Get outside, get some sun. And so this is a small thing that will not end in and of itself, change everything. But when you add this little thing in with some nutrition stuff, with some meditation and breathing and some relationship skills, and now you are starting to really roll.

Audra: Can I add to that?

Justin: That's what the family thrive is.

Audra: Yeah. And let me add to that, because what you're going, what you're talking about in that article was a great example, because since doing that, I no longer buy Sunglasses. I'm going to tell you, we're not telling you to buy something. That's an answer. We're telling you to not buy something and it will be better for you. Right. So get the sun in your eyes like these are things that you can just do without spending any money.

Justin: Yes. And that's a big thing for The Family Thrive as well. Yes, we know I've worked on several articles on some really cool, high protein, low carb products that are out there that we use, and they are more expensive. So there are a few things like, hey, you know, this is going to cost more, but for the most part, like 95 percent of the things that we look at will cost you no money.

Audra: And there are some things that we recommend that could cost a little bit more. And that is something that you will see throughout the health and wellness space in general. But as Mark Hyman said recently, “It's about time we start looking at food as health care.” Right. You are going to have the opportunity to mitigate the risks and the long, long term expenses in your health care by making some of these swaps now. And we're totally all about being in it to help make it more affordable. We don't need a designer lifestyle to do this.

What's really incredible about it, it's all like really low hanging fruit that once you get into this, you see, oh, by prioritizing pretty simple things, I can make a huge difference in my life. And that's something that we found in the MaxLove Project journey as well. I think it's really exciting. I'm super excited to be getting this out to more and more people in the world. And I want to talk about some of the behind the scenes things that people don't see. Like people don't know, for example, that I mean, we are on a shoestring budget making this business happen. Like talk about the business side of things. They don't know. Like I feel like I have a karmic something. I don't know what it's called that I need to resolve and learn around fundraising. There's something in money that I have been called to deal with in this life, from, so signing up to do MaxLove Project.

When I started MaxLove Project, I got a credit card, Legal Zoom, started building that nonprofit with garage sales and selling like artists would donate cool things, cool jewelry. We put up a website, started selling things to basically make money to send out care packages with cloud B, twilight turtles to kids across the country and around the world. And I got into it to make a difference, to connect with families, to help families get through, walk up this mountain, you know, to be with families walking up the mountain. And then I started to see in order to get more and more families up the mountain. And in order to help with the passage, in order to do all the things that we need to really make a difference on this passage, I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money. And it is not what I signed up for. Or what I thought I signed up for.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: I thought I signed up to make a difference. But then that you're in the space and you realize in order to make a difference, I need to raise money. And it is my least favorite thing that one of the biggest challenges I've had to learn to embrace and so coming into The Family Thrive, ok, we're building our revenue stream someday for MaxLove. We're building this business. It's going to be a social enterprise. This is so exciting. We're going to make money so that we can give it. And then what do I end up needing to do? Fundraising. Again. I still have to fundraise. It's a different kind of fundraising. It's not charitable fundraising. It is investment fundraising. But it's still a world that I mean, I've learned about things that I never thought I would ever learn about. I've learned about cap tables and convertible notes and all kinds of things.

So The Family Thrive is a public benefit corporation. And I have walked through the process with some really incredible people, our legal team at Cooley LLP, to create this entity. We would like to become a B Corp one day. So we are on the path of doing that. And to become a big B Corp means that we're really intentional around our processes and our sourcing and how we support our employees and the kind of company we are in, the kind of companies we work with. And that's really, really exciting to me, because we want to be a company that is completely infused with integrity from corner to corner. You know, we want to do this right. And we're in the process of seed funding. And so the goal is to complete our seed round and then move into by the spring, by the time we hit a subscriber number and a revenue number, that we can go out for institutional funding and work with venture capitalists. Really start to realize the dream of The Family Thrive.

So what we have today is a minimum viable product. It is our start. It is sweat equity. It is love. It is intention. It's like all of this just the power of ushering this, of supporting this work to come into the world, to, you know, to benefit families and to benefit communities. And it's really amazing, because we've done this in under a year with very, very little resources, total shoestring, because we have a fantastic team, an army of like mostly volunteers and some contractors at this point who've totally just committed to getting this off the ground. They said this is important work. We're going to do this. And the one thing that I know through all the uncertainties, I've had to walk myself out of habits around fear of scarcity.

You know, I've done a lot of work in that area, so we do not go down those rabbit holes. And I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes. I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I built over time, that's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Hearing that, I am reflecting on the fact that I don't know anything about money because I have spent my entire adult life in academia. And so it's yeah, this has been a huge education for me as well. Money is a huge trigger for me. But as the director of content, like I am in charge of the podcast, I'm in charge of all the content, the workshops and all this. So I really try to just put my head down and do the work. And that's what I've learned as an academic. You know, I have two PhDs. I've done two dissertations, and I've learned that for me, I can just put my head down and just work.

Audra: Yes. That's a good segue into another thing that I thought would be kind of cool to reveal if this type of podcast could be about revealing that behind the scenes or revealing the kind of like the back end of these projects, revealing what's really going on with us is, we work together.

Justin: We’re married.

Audra: Live together. We've been together for 20 years plus. We've been married for almost 20 years, and we've been together for a number of more years than that. So we've been together for half of our lives. Yeah, we have our beautiful children together and Zeus, of course. And we work together not only on MaxLove Project, but on The Family Thrive on a daily basis. And so I bet you there's some curiosity around that from people like, how does that go? Like, how does that work? And there are probably other people who are in the same situation or other people who would never want to be in this situation, who might be into some like insight. How do we make this work? And is it all flowers?

Justin: I would direct listeners to two episodes that we've done, one with Ryel Kestano and then the other with Alexandra Tataryn. And I had to do a lot of what, I recognize now that I put up a lot of roadblocks in the past in our relationship that I just through my own hang ups, that I didn't have a lot of the communication and relationship skills, that were going to eventually help us do what we're doing right now. And so starting to do this work. It was really, the impetus was MaxLove Project.

So I was working on programs for MaxLove Project, and stress management was one of the things that I was working on for childhood cancer families. And so I was starting to get trained and take these courses and learn more about the stress management world. And then I came across emotional processing. And so I went through a course in that and then did some one-on-one therapy and training in that, and then eventually found authentic relating and then did training and coaching in that. And so from my perspective…

Audra: And then you found internal family systems therapy.

Justin: And so from my perspective, it was me learning about myself and then learning some really important communication skills, the amazing thing about communication skills is that they are free. Like once you know them, then they are free to use. And I think they've been some of the most transformational things that I've incorporated into my own life.

Audra: It's the combination of the communication skills with the emotional processing, because if you have the emotional processing but no communication skills and kind of like it stops there. And then if you have the communication skills, but you're not doing any emotional processing, then it's not really helpful either. Right. Like it's got to be both of them. So do you mind sharing about what happened the other day?

Justin: Which episode? Yeah. Which episodes? Yeah. Point out one of my many failings and then how I recovered.

Audra: So when I gave you the heads up, we're having a meeting about creating a new pitch deck because we're going into a new phase of seed, with seed funding groups and we need to redo our pitch deck. And so I called to give you a heads up that what the meeting was about and what I received was what?

Justin: Yeah. What did you receive?

Audra: What I heard.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: On the other side of the phone was, like kind of flipped out, you know, sort of don't have time, don't duh duh duh du, you know…

Justin: This is not on my schedule. This is not on my to-do list.

Audra: I have a huge to-do list. I have. I have. I have. I have.

Justin: So, yeah, I experienced a…

Audra: What was that like for you? Yeah.

Justin: So I experienced a heightened emotional response to this that I felt... Yeah. If I was to really I didn't do a ton of emotional processing at the time, but I did enough to know afterwards that I did have an intense emotional reaction and that I needed to at least relax a little bit around this emotional reaction and then see in this more relaxed state, how do I want to communicate and how do I want to show up for not just The Family Thrive as a whole, but for my partner.

And so I was able to relax and not doing a ton of emotional processing, which, if you don't know, that would be to get really clear and emotionally granular around what I was feeling, which is probably a sense of inadequacy, of not being able to do all the things that, I have so much to do. And so feeling maybe a little inadequate, maybe feeling helpless that, you know, like I'm not fully in control because I've got this huge list. And now this other thing is just piling on. It feels kind of like a tornado or an avalanche. So I was able to at least get to a point where I relaxed around it. And I knew in that more relaxed day after I took a breath and just calmed down a bit that I knew that I wanted to show up for The Family Thrive, but also for my partner, and that if I didn't show up, that it would just be more on her plate. And I know that she has a ton to do. So I was able to respond later and say that I'm ready for the meeting. I'm ready to take this on.

Audra: And you said I'm sorry. Yeah, that I had…

Justin: Oh, I think I said that I had a tantrum. Because I had been talking with other parents about toddler tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I was like, you know what? There's an internal toddler that was just feeling just really pissed off and out of control yelling, this is not what I want.

Audra: And how often do we as adults have tantrums? Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really great way to put it. It’s not just a thing that kids do like.

Justin: Yeah, we just hold it in a little bit better.

Audra: Big feeling sometimes, I mean, you know.

Justin: We don't bang our head on the floor like our daughter did when she was a year and a half old. But the way that we do this. So from my perspective, I think we work together really, really well. Like I love working with you and I like…

Audra: We do. And I want to share that working well doesn't mean not having things come out, you know, like when that came up. So there's, in this particular instance. First of all, I called you to tell you, you said it was a counter invite had already been sent and all that, but I called you to tell you about it because I knew you'd need time to prepare.

Justin: Well, I ignored the invite because I was like, this cannot possibly be for me because she knows I have way too much on my plate and this could not possibly be for me.

Audra: So the interesting part is like when this goes down, sometimes these sort of things go down and I'll be like, oh, God, he's the worst employee. He would never do this to just like a random, like a random boss.

Justin: Yeah. What happens when you need to do a quarterly review for your husband, yeah.

Audra: You know, so there is definitely more freedom in the relationship for both of us to be very open and honest about how we're feeling. And very often in a work setting, you wouldn't just have a tantrum or just say, no, I want to. No, I don't think I should have to do that. You know, and so we are able to be very open. But I mean, I do think that those communication skills are everything, because we do have frustrating times, but we work through them and we grow through them. One thing that I think is frustrating for both of us is like I will have a vision for the next thing.

And I was like, for me, it's like going from A to like H. It's easy, you know, there's nothing in between. Like it's like there might be a little bit of things you have to do, but like don't you see, don't you see where we're headed? And you hear it, you'll be like, I'm mapping mentally mapping the process from A to B, B to C, you know, C to D, you know, you're going like this. I can see every little thing in the steps. Like and like, why can't you just see what's out at H? No. You know, like we're just doing it. We're going to do it. It's like it's the thing, you know. And so there can be that rub, where I'm frustrating, you know, I think because I jump in to vision and then I get frustrated with you and you can't jump into vision with me. But we've learned over time that I wait about a week and you're usually going to be like in it, if it's good.

Justin: Because I've then, I've seen all the dots and all of that. You have the vision and then I start to fill in.

Audra: So I think we're less frustrated with each other learning over time. We did the Enneagram process together. Have we talked about that on this? I don't think we've talked about that.

Justin: No, that’s in the future.

Audra: We had a great time doing the Enneagram and learning and like the particular one that we did was the Enneagram Institute. My top three, because they did it more like strings finders, where they give you the list of all of them and where you land. They have a cluster. That's the top three. That is your bottom three. And when you see that, you're like, oh, I totally understand. And what it gave us was a language to use around where we're having challenge.

Like it gave us a way of understanding, like where the rub is. And that is really important. So it's not that it's easy to work together. It takes work to work together, but it's fruitful and productive. And we work really well together, we are very complementary. And I think just sharing that like it isn't cruising, you know what I mean? It's not like the easiest thing in the world, but that's in many ways what makes it good, because that's how you produce real change and results is by maybe not just agreeing all the time, like if we were the same kind of people and it was really easy...

Justin: There would be, well there would be I think, there would be big gaps in what we're doing. I do feel like The Family Thrive as it stands today is a really amazing resource. And I feel like we are, to use another sports metaphor, we're punching way above our weight, like we're producing stuff that I think is amazing. I think the podcast is fantastic. I think the app is great. I think the content is great. Of course, I am in charge of a lot of that stuff, but I feel like we would have many more gaps than what we have today.

And when I think about the future of The Family Thrive and all the cool things that we have on tap, that we are planning, it's because we do have very different strengths and that we can really work off of each other. And we, yeah, I think we work really, really well together, considering we're very, very different.

Audra: What advice would you give to anyone else who has to work with, has to, gets to.

Justin: Oh, man, this...

Audra: I'm hearing you, not “has to”, “gets to” work with our family and loved ones, partners.

Justin: Okay. For me, there are a couple of keys and but it really boils down to honesty plus connection. And so this is what I learned through my authentic relating training. And that has been my touchstone is that if I can be honest and authentic and really just reveal what are my desires here, what are my expectations, what are my assumptions, what are my stories, if I can be honest and then the key is, also remain in connection or commit to connection. Even if I don't feel like I'm in connection, that I'm committed to it, that I'm saying like I am committed to being connected to you and I'm committed to growing this relationship. Meeting you where you're at.

So it's for me, it's these two two things of it's honesty and it's connection, authenticity, connection. And if I can hold these two together and really commit to them both, then I know that we are going to come out in a higher place. We're going to come out in a stronger place.

Audra: I agree with you. And to highlight that, I was like, I'm on my phone actually right now because I was looking at a post by Yasmin Cheyenne and I really loved about boundaries, and I think it comes down to along in complementing what you're saying. It comes down to boundaries. It comes down to Brene Brown's clear is kind.

Justin: Clear is kind.

Audra: And that’s communication and honesty.

Justin: That’s the honesty part.

Audra: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the boundaries are important. I think I.

Justin: Ok, I'm sorry. So I the boundary thing, I feel a little off balance hearing the boundary thing. So. So why?

Audra: Why do you feel that way?

Justin: Oh, because for me, when I hear boundaries, I'm hearing other people who I am not fully committed to. And so I am putting up a boundary like, no, we're not going to go there because I am not committed to like spending my life with you and you being my life partner. So I don't feel like I don't….

Audra: Yeah, I don't I think we do have boundaries. I think we have boundaries to say when we want to be in the space of work and when we don't, when we want to, how we want to talk about things, we want to approach things like it's not a boundary again. So I'm not protecting myself from you. It's the space of like clarity where there are times when for you, you know, you have to draw a line somewhere for in being clear about that to say, this is how I want to proceed with this. You know, this is how I want to interact around this. This is how I want to be in a space like this, you know…

Justin: I totally get that. And that's an absolutely beautiful and perfect way to articulate boundaries. And for some reason, I just don't think about our relationship as having boundaries, although we have really clear communication and we are very clear and authentic and honest with each other about like, no, I need this right now and this is my thing or whatever the case is. So we do have boundaries. I just don't use that word in my mind because I don't know, maybe I have just some like romantic idea that like boundaries nice for other people, not for me and my partner. But no, but I think you're absolutely right.

Audra: Buy for others who are working with their family members and loved ones, like, I think being able to be, you know, open, honest, clear, like we're saying about how we're feeling, you know, even like sitting down, even if it's been 20 years that you've been working together and there's just still some really difficult things that are dragging you down or if it's new. Being able to get together and say, “hey, can we communicate around some really to communicate around some, just some ground rules with how we approach this?” Like I want our relationship to be, you know, number one. And in work, sometimes things can get difficult and blurry. And if we come to some clarity, I think a part of the challenge is then when we think things should just work out or if it's right, it just works, or if it's good, it just happens the right way or whatever. And that's never the case, really. There always is a need for clear, honest communication.

I mean, it's something that we work with our kids on too. And Maesie, at the age that she's a great girl. It's challenging, right? Like that's kind of like an age when you can really benefit from developing some of these communication skills and being able to clarify and develop boundaries. It's only going to benefit her. I have some challenges with boundaries, as my friend Jenny has been helping me understand, being a people pleaser, helper, peacemaker, you know, kind of kind of type of person. I think that my childhood I think I was a placater potentially for folks around me and things like that.

So I think boundaries have been I've been learning in all facets of my life how to become much more clear and much more focused on that communication and much more focus on honoring like myself and in the boundaries that I need. So I think that's definitely helped us. And I hope I'd love to maybe talk more about it on a on another episode, because I think that's something that Jenny and I have been talking a lot about, is how to like be a boss or a supervisor or someone in charge of other people or someone in charge of a business or so in in, you know, somebody who has to take ultimate responsibility. Right. As a people pleaser. It's a journey.

Justin: So we are definitely going to have that as its own podcast. There's a lot there. What I do want, because we are coming up against the hour, we want to keep this at an hour. I do want to plug a big thing that's happening in October for The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yes, please.

Justin: We are launching a parent/teen communication workshop with eight different experts, therapists, psychologists, researchers. It's amazing, relationship coaches, the communication skills that I've referenced or that we've referenced and the relationship skills are all going to be in this workshop, but it's going to be directly targeted at the parent/teen relationship. This is going to be a game-changing workshop for any parent who takes it. If you don't have teens yet. But, you know, the teenage years are coming. Please hop into this workshop, if you have teenagers now, please. This is going to change your relationship. And even if you have maybe a young adult, you have a teenager who has now moved out, but they are still young adults. There's a lot of applicable stuff there.

Audra: Grandkids.

Justin: Yeah. So please visit The Family Thrive. You will have the website. You'll be able to sign up for it probably by the time this podcast comes out. And then we're going to start it on October 17th. But you can sign up for it before then. All the proceeds from this workshop will go to MaxLove Project. So this is going to support an amazing cause. It's going to be a game-changing workshop. So please sign up. We're going to be talking a lot more about it in the app, so you'll get more information there. One other thing, our next workshop after the parent/teen communication workshop is going to be in November and it's going to be all about relationships and partnerships like we just talked about. But it's just going to be a one-week workshop. So it's going to be really intense. We're working with, again, some amazing…

Audra: Not really intense like work, like intense…

Justin: Intense, like you're going to get a lot…

Audra: A lot in a small period of time. Right. Right.

Justin: So stay tuned.

Audra: No we’re not gonna be putting you into an in-person bootcamp or anything.

Justin: All right. I think that's it.

Audra: So how can people support us if they're interested in growing with us, growing The Family Thrive movement with us? They want to be a part of this as we climb this mountain. How can they support us?

Justin: So the biggest thing I mean, like if you just want to go straight to it, you're like, hey, just let me into the app. You can go to app.familythrive.com, and you can get straight into the app. But if you want to learn more about us, then you can go to thefamilythrive.com, which is the website, and you're going to get all sorts of good stuff there. Please subscribe to the podcast. Tell a friend. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Audra: And if you're in the app already, please become an ambassador. You have your own unique link that you can use to send all of your friends and family. And we have some cool prizes, too, for people who successfully invite others in.

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for listening, we’ll see you next time.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Justin: Hey, friend, this podcast is brought to you by The Family Thrive, an expert-led, science-backed online community for busy parents looking to thrive. Join us at TheFamilyThrive.com.

Audra: I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes, I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I've built over time. That's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: All right, welcome to a special edition of The Family Thrive podcast. It's only Audra and I today. We are the special guests. We wanted to record a podcast just for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But we have a lot of other stuff to discuss as well. So we're going to just jump right into it. Audra.

Audra: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a special time for us. I remember our very first Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was right after that. We were aware of that. We produced messaging around and all that was after Max was diagnosed. And it was under a month after he was diagnosed. And I realized, oh, wow, this is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. And it's clear that there isn't enough awareness. And in my mind, once people become aware, they are more empowered to take action and do something about it.

So we started at this 10 years ago and have been working on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month every year. And it is really important. Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States. It's a really, really big deal. And we're underfunding childhood cancer research from the federal government. Less than four percent of our cancer research funding goes to over 100 forms of childhood cancer. And prostate cancer alone, not known as a particularly lethal disease. In fact, for men, very often, it's better not to treat it at all. Right. Gets eight percent. So twice as much for one disease that isn't that lethal.

And that just didn't feel, doesn't sit right with me and many, many others. Right. And so a lot of private foundations step up, usually families in grief and bereavement, families try to make a different step up to fill the gaps in in research. And it's a tremendous struggle, an uphill battle, because, as you know, with research, it's really never enough. That there are so many questions to be answered. There's so much that we don't know about these diseases, that it's quite a challenge. And one thing is clear is that we really believe and I know many researchers believe that if we unlock the keys to childhood cancers, we will learn more about adult cancers, because childhood cancers are not caused by lifestyle factors.

Justin: Well, for me, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is not just about research, but it's also about programs like our nonprofit MaxLove Project do for cancer survivorship, also quality of life through treatment. We all know that going through cancer treatment is extremely taxing. It's really difficult. And so there are things that we can do; nutrition and sleep and stress management and exercise that really improve quality of life through cancer treatment. And these are the things that MaxLove Project focuses on.

But then after the treatment is done, you know, today, 85% of kids who are diagnosed with cancer will go on to survive after five years. But then what they face after those five years or after treatment, rather, is a lifetime of dealing with increased risks for all sorts of chronic disease and reduced quality of life. And so the things we do with MaxLove Project focusing on health behaviors, focusing on quality of life resources, this is a major part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for me.

Audra: Yeah, I know it's powerful. And I know that you've done, actually, significant research in the area of childhood cancer survivorship yourself. You became a researcher with your…

Justin: I went back to school.

Audra: Went back to school. You became an official researcher with Children's Hospital of Orange County. You produced the Ohana study to find a way, you know, different ways to mitigate these risks to what we would say, change the odds. We have been saying for years, the statistics are not destiny. And what does that mean to you?

Justin: Well, statistics can be depressing. So when we look at the statistically…

Audra: Especially the childhood cancer statistics, you know, one in five kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive. Three to five kids suffer life-threatening late effects of treatment. I mean, it's devastating all around. And even in the survivorship stats we're talking about, within the first five years, there are kids face secondary illness. And in cancers after that five years in the mortality rate is even higher. So it's yeah, stats are pretty grim. There are some child cancers, too, that have no, no treatment strategies that really work that we haven't made much headway on.

There's some that are completely, totally still terminal upon diagnosis, like DIPG, a very rare, although it doesn't feel rare to me with all of the families I know form of pediatric brain cancer, it feels like the rates are increasing, which I did see data recently from cancer.gov that somehow the cancer rates are increasing.

Justin: So, yeah, the statistics are not destiny. Other statistics, like 95% of childhood cancer survivors will be dealing with the chronic health condition by age 45. So these statistics can be depressing, but we are working to ensure that they are not destiny. And there are things we can do to reduce risks and increase quality of life for those kids who do make it out of treatment. So this treatment…

Audra: And, in treatment and beyond. We were told to focus on Max's quality of life, like day three. And we took that. We took that as marching orders. In that we found quantity. But we also built a community of minded parents, of other parents who felt the same way. Like, what about quality of life today? What about quality of life now? And we, if we start focusing on quality of life in treatment and in the treatment process, I really believe that it pays off long term. And it becomes, you know, an approach that any family has a cancer diagnosis and a childhood cancer diagnosis benefits from the entire family, benefits from the focus on quality of life in treatment and beyond.

Justin: Yes. So this podcast episode is not just about childhood cancer. We just wanted to start there, recognizing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. If you feel called MaxLove Project, this episode will air right after our Farm to Fork dinner. But for all of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are running a Fork Childhood Cancer campaign.

Audra: forkchildhoodcancer.org. You can join the campaign. So I'm going to, Justin's trying to keep us on track. I am going to challenge that. I really do think that this podcast is about us just getting real and being together and being real in what we're working on today, what we're going through, what we're facing, you know, on the other side of everything that folks see that we put out in the world.

And so we do have our Farm to Fork dinner coming up September 25 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. It is our seventh annual event. It's an incredible event. You can see more about it at MLPFarmDinner.org. But it's been quite a struggle. I  just have to share. Like we could not have the event last year because of Covid. And so we came up with the fork childhood cancer campaign, which was incredibly successful. And the energy around it was beautiful. And I think, you know, I really felt like people were gathering in unity, even in the midst of Covid, to make a difference for families facing childhood cancer and related life-threatening illnesses and…

Justin: Gathering virtually in their homes.

Audra: Fundraiser.

Justin: Together online.

Audra: Having their own dinners like we were, you know, online together for our event and all of that. And it was really beautiful. So we continued that campaign this year as well. And that it'll be what we do every September for childhood cancer is what we will do every September, brings together so much of our program and messaging and focus on our mission. Part of which is culinary medicine. We're learning how to use real whole foods therapeutically in the home, because it's one of the few things we're in power to do in this process. Right. It's one of the one of the major things we're in power to do. In any case, it has, I'm just going to keep it super real. It has been so much more challenging this year with Covid. And I thought it was going to be better.

I'm like really trying hard to keep, oh, just like bring really good energy and be in the space that I want to be in, like around this time of year. It's a space of change. It's a space of making a difference, a space of bringing resources and support to the to our community, addressing needs. And I really thought things were going to be better. And what I've experienced is so much more focus on people's self-interest and politics and things like that, that it is like pushed our cause under the water a little bit.

It's been feeling like it's so hard to surface it and bring it back up because people are, you know, mostly concerned about, you know, what kind of political views they want to share on social media about, you know, vaccinations and what they perceived to be mandates and, you know, things like that. And it's been really, really difficult for me. So my work right now is not only producing this incredible event where we're welcoming well over 400 people to a working farm for an incredible dinner and celebration of our impact and commitment to continuing to make a difference for the next year and beyond. That's a huge enough thing in and of itself, but working to bring the, just powerful, beautiful, healing connected energy to this has been harder this year because it feels like pushing water up a mountain and I am feeling the need for others to step up and to be a part of it and to say, let's do better. Let's get it together and let's do better for our kids and families. Like, let's look at the bigger picture and get over the current myopia so we can create a hopeful future for our families and our kids. Like that's what I want to see. How does that land for you Justin?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I hear the emotion and keeping it real. And what is coming up for me is that this podcast is going to air after Farm to Fork. So we hopefully will have new listeners who went to Farm to Fork and who are listening to this and who get to hear the burden, the emotional weight that you're carrying moving up to this event. But it's going to be amazing. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be inspiring. And so we're going to have people listening to this afterwards and saying, all right, I got to hear like the real deal. You know, this is what goes into it. It's not, you know, and it was amazing.

Audra: Yeah. Yes, it's very hard work. And part of it is because of the investment that we all have in it, that our hearts are so deeply invested. We are so incredibly inspired by the children and families we serve. And to me, like they're, I mean, they're everything. So it's a very, very big deal. But I do want to thank everybody who is supporting MaxLove Project, who's supporting our events and programming and our fundraisers and fought childhood cancer, everyone who's bringing their best to make a difference. It really does make a difference.

We have cutting-edge culinary medicine for pediatrics. Like no one else is doing what we're doing in that space. We have incredible collaborators contributing. We have a really innovative app that we're growing that has, I don't know, boundless resources in it. There's so many things to discover when it comes to lifestyle, medicine, health and wellness, guided health and wellness through the childhood cancer journey. And I'm really hoping that more childhood cancer families who are interested in that kind of guided health and wellness platform, who want to focus on quality of life and treatment and beyond. Join us in MaxLove Connect. It is a really beautiful space to be together. And it's off of social media, which is something that I'm finding the need to do more and more of. You know, it's safe.

Justin: A decade ago, Audra and I received news no parent ever expects to hear, your four year old son has brain cancer in that hospital room in Orange County, California. We had our fair share of tears and despair, but we also vowed that we would use this to help our family thrive no matter what. A decade later, after starting a nonprofit that has served thousands of childhood cancer families, we're on a mission to bring all of the amazing researchers, doctors, therapists and other experts we've worked with to all families everywhere.

That's why we created The Family Thrive, an online platform and community of top health and wellness experts and parents like us who are looking to thrive against the odds, just fresh, daily expert articles and topics that matter to parents like us, like how to cook a superfood meal in under 20 minutes, or the latest sleep science that can boost our kids mental health or simple things we can do to thrive as parents. We have top credentialed experts breaking it all down to bite-sized chunks of actionable wisdom. You know, when they say it takes a village to raise a family. This is our village and it's filled with quick bite expert wellness information, conversations that are designed specifically for busy parents. And when you're ready to dive deeper, we also have group based workshops written and led by PhD researchers, psychologists, clinical dietitians. This village is all on your phone, at your fingertips whenever you need it. Join for free today at thefamilythrive.com.

Justin: What does this all have to do with The Family Thrive?

Audra: MaxLove Project is the reason why The Family Thrive exists.

Justin: MaxLove Project is the seed. It's the garden out of which The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yup, so MaxLove Project is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. So 10 years of making a difference. When we first started out in the space, we were like no one else was looking, looking at this. Talk about quality of life, health and wellness in the childhood cancer journey was kind of crazy. And so we were, I feel like, have been pioneers in the space and pioneers and doing it in a way that is alongside standard of care, doing it with our medical teams, doing it with care that we're receiving in the hospital where we were not trying to create kind of new, you know, totally new treatment paradigm. We're not in the alternative medicine space. We're really in the complementary and integrative medicine, integrative health space. And we have been growing just tremendously year after year, doing this work. And every single year, it seems we'd have somebody asking us, where is this for typical families? We all need this. So the health risks that childhood cancer families face, to some degree, all families face. You share about that, Justin. What are some of the research that has informed our view of why the MaxLove approach actually applies to all families?

Justin: Everybody knows obesity and diabetes have increased. Autoimmune disorders have skyrocketed. Mental health challenges are much more prevalent for young children and teenagers. Parents are under more stress than ever today. So we have all of these stats in The Family Thrive, and we're going to be talking a lot more about them. But one thing that is coming up for me around the how MaxLove Project eventually birthed The Family Thrive is that, you know, in the hospital room when Max was first diagnosed and he was coming out of a really intense surgery and he was intubated for a couple of days, and Audra and I were just in shock and taking turns, sobbing.

And then eventually we both caught our breath and we looked at each other and we're like, we're going to do this. And there's different ways that I can remember that. It was, you know, we're going to get, we're like, we're going to fight. We're going to do whatever we can. But at the core of this was we're going to be better parents. Like we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that we're doing that, that we're feeding him the right foods, that we’re getting him at the right amount of sleep at the right time.

Audra: Yeah, it was like a realization that we were getting by with what we were doing. We were overwhelmed, working full time, both of us. Commuting huge, hugely long distances in traffic, you know, to make ends meet. Daycare, like all of the things that any overwhelmed family is dealing with. And you're getting by that time. I remember being so tired. I remember being so out of shape, just so deeply exhausted and feeling like we're just trying to get by. And I think at that moment, we said, you know what? No, no, no. This is a priority. We're going to get ahead. We're going to move beyond the getting by mindset like it is time to step up as parents.

Justin: Yeah. Like, what can we do? So the surgeons do what they do. The radiation oncologist does what he or she does. So we take him home and we have to feed him. We have to put him to bed. We organize his day like what should we be doing to give him the best chance? And as soon as we started to just look into that a little bit, we're like, oh, you know, this includes us. This includes our daughter as well. It's a whole family looking to thrive. And that was what led us into developing, MaxLove Project. And then now, in my mind, it is a natural evolution to The Family Thrive.

Audra: The Family Thrive is an expansion of it, you know. I remember like I don't know. I mean, it was about five years ago, halfway through this, we're like, let's write a book. And in the book, we can have all these strategies and it'll be called The Family Thrive. And then we wanted to do the cookbooks and then Covid hit. And it became really, really clear, like we are going to focus on super creative, innovative sustainability for a nonprofit organization. And I would like to have another conversation one day on the podcast about why our nonprofit model is not sustainable. And for anyone who has a small grassroots nonprofit, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Justin: Yes. Conversation for another day.

Audra: Heard another like an amazing farm in Alabama Farm Collective that referred this is the nonprofit industrial complex. I'm totally down for this conversation, and we needed to disrupt it in the way that we could disrupt that and provide for MaxLove Project in perpetuity, in a sustainable manner, to be able to like make the commitment to be around forever, not dependent on corporations and, you know, folks interests, you know, year to year, but should be really much more sustainable. And then scalable is to create a revenue model. And how could we create a revenue model? What about taking the MaxLove Project way? Are our platform, our health and wellness, our mission, our goal, out to the entire world. Out to all parents. Like it's loud and clear.

What we do benefits everybody. And the more that I talk to doctors and like pediatricians, I would hear, oh, my gosh, I need this just for our typical like for my typical families, because I have 10 minutes with them in 15 minutes with them. I don't have time to go through all of this stuff. I don't have time to address how their burnout is informing their child's mental health and how that's turning into like difficult habits and then poor health. Like it's just sort of like a cascade of overwhelm and challenges. And if I could have this resource for all of my families, it's like I don't know. It's like having a health coach for them. And that is exactly where we're headed with The Family Thrive is like we want to be your family's health coach, health and wellness coach. We got you. Where we're at right now is we're in the midst of seed funding and we're fundraising.

Justin: Well, let's, I just real briefly, I just want to give people the context. So this would be coming out at the end of September. We launched The Family Thrive, like we opened it up to the world in July. And so we, before that,

Audra: We open up the app in July.

Justin: Yeah, we open up the app in July.

Audra: And launched our new full website. Yes.

Justin: Yes. And have we had a little small beta test with friends and family in June? But, yeah, we've been really doing this since July, but we have learned so much in these past few months. So we thought or at least my assumption was that the health coaching part of The Family Thrive was way off in the future, that we were going to start with all this wonderful content, and we have it fresh every single week from experts. It's amazing. I'm really proud of it because I'm the director of content. But one thing that we've learned from members in the app is that we have so much content that it’s actually a little overwhelming or maybe even a lot overwhelming. And so…

Audra: Maybe a little intimidating. You know, it's hard. It could be hard to connect with to some degree. You know, you see so much stuff coming out. You know, it's like, how is this relevant to me? And it is our goal to minimize the stress of looking for good information. It is our goal to make it easier. It is, you know, our goal to make like really, really great evidence base, you know, expert-backed health and wellness information for families like super easy to access. So how do we facilitate better access to that? And for us, it's having a little bit more of a guided, supported approach to that. Which you're right. We had it in our plan. So whenever, if anybody likes business podcasts or read business books, you'll hear like, you know, the plan is not how things are going to work. And that is exactly right.

Justin: Well. Mike Tyson said it best. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Audra: So we had a plan to incorporate health coaching into The Family Thrive around year three when we thought we could really build a robust program. And I am a certified health coach, actually, through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This is how I learned about health coaching.

And my beautiful friend Shelby, who was a lead teacher in that program for a while, now works for another mental health app company, has teamed up with us to work on our health coaching component. And what it is, is it's going to be so deeply infused in the structure of the app and in the way you interact that it's our goal that you kind of feel coached as you're and supported as you’re in the app. Some of that will be through one on one support, chat, support questionnaires, all sorts of different things that, challenges. Some of it one day will be if you want even more will have, you know, a subscription for that. But to start, it's still the app is free to everyone. And this coaching component is going to be free and accessible and available to everybody.

Justin: If you want to be part of the pilot in our coaching program in the app, you can chat with us any time. Yeah. So. Just get into the app, the app is free, and then you can search for Audra and Justin or Audra separately or Justin separately, you just send us a chat and we will hook you up. We're going to be collecting a small group to start going through this coaching model. And I'm super excited about it, because not only do we have so much just daily fresh content on nutrition and stress and relationships and sleep and all the aspects of life that or all the aspects of health behaviors that can really improve quality of life, boost our vitality, our…

Audra: Connectedness, joy…

Justin: Connectedness. Yes. All the all...

Audra: And life span. I mean, we're talking about a long game here, too.

Justin: And we have witnessed this firsthand over the last 10 years as we've worked with therapists and doctors and dietitians and coaches. And so we have learned all of this stuff and we are applying it all the time and then forgetting some of it and then reapplying it. And so we know the power of this firsthand. And so we're really excited for this next phase. But right now, we have just a lot of amazing content coming out every week.

Audra: Something that you just said reminded me of like the forgetting and coming back to it, talking to a friend recently, it was like, you know, my family's not thriving a lot of the time like we are sometimes. We're not a lot of the time. So it kind of feels kind of weird to be working with The Family Thrive. Like I just don't feel that we're thriving a lot of the time. And I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much for sharing that with me, because that is, I think, the way it is for all of us. Like, I think thriving is not a destination. It's not something that you've achieved. It's a practice. It is a journey, but it's not an end point. You know what I mean? Like it doesn't you don't get and go like, oh, great, I'm thriving.

Justin: Finally. And now I can take a break. Yeah. Yeah.

Audra: Now life is good. It is a hard journey. It's an arduous journey. And part of it and the reason why we oscillate, we all oscillate between, you know, maybe moments and periods feeling like thriving in certain areas and then not as much in others, and then feeling really great and then feeling like we went forgot something and, you know, kind of fell behind a little bit or whatever it might be is because it's not a linear path, because there are so many different elements and aspects to it, because we're a whole family unit.

Justin: Yes. It's not a linear path, but I do believe it's more like an upward spiral. Yeah. So…

Audra: Yeah. I'm on the mountain. Can I just share, though? It is kind of an endless mountain. You have to be in it for the journey, because each step in the climb…

Justin: And love the journey.

Audra: … feels great because each step in the climb is like a win. I mean, this is the life we have to live. This is time now. Why not make equality? Why not make it the very best it can be in that moment? So it's not about arriving at thriving. You know, it is about climbing that continuous mountain. And what makes the mountain higher? There's something that makes a mountain a lot higher than unfortunately it has to be.

Justin: What is that?

Audra: Modern life.

Justin: Well, right.

Audra: I mean, it's so when you take a mountain and then you put like all of these things on top of it that present like even greater obstacles. Right. And that's going to be everything from their food we have easy access to to, you know, poverty and inequity. And like, you know, like some of the underbelly of capitalism. We have environmental toxins and challenges. We have stresses that we've never dealt with before.

Justin: Ok, so that's all a downer.

Audra: But it's what these are the odds that are stacked against us. It's not your fault if you're not thriving. Yeah. You're facing some huge odds. Let's get real.

Justin: It’s not your fault. We are all in this same boat together.

Audra: We're all climbing the same mountain together. We're all you're sitting, you know, like not climbing the mountain, but.

Justin: Well, right. So that's the alternative is avoidance, ignoring, and resisting. And so it's not as if there's like a third option of like, oh, I get just this perfect bliss. And it's like, no, you are either going to choose to climb that mountain or you're going to avoid it and ignore it and you're just going to stay at the bottom. Those are the choices. Now, what we want to do, and I believe what we are in the process of doing with The Family Thrive, is we're making that journey easier.

Audra: We're walking with you, you know what I mean? And got a donkey with a little pack over the back and some water…

Justin: We’re making the journey more efficient. So I feel like, you know, if you're a parent saying, ok, yeah, I do want to feed my family better or I know that, you know, we can have more vitality, energy, connection or whatever. Good luck sifting the Internet through all of the misinformation, all of the false ... , all of the nonsense. So, I mean, what we've done with The Family Thrive is we've collected real credentialed experts, doctors, dietitians, licensed therapists, clinical psychologists, researchers, people who have the training, who understand what science is, who understand what evidence based health practices are.

Audra: In addition to that, though, they're not just like the run of the mill ones that like write for WebMD. Right. I have to say, there's a little key there. Yes. To all of what you just said and all of the evidence-based credential and all that. But these are people who also see the picture that we're talking about. They see the odds that are stacked against us. They see that there are things that we can do to mitigate these risks, or they see that we can change the odds through lifestyle. They're not people who just think that, you know, it has to be a drug prescription or a pharmacological answer or whatever it is. These are people who see that what we eat matters, how we move, how we, you know, process our emotions, all of that. So to me, that's that integrative wellness part of it, it's not just like run of the mill stuff from a, you know, regular health website.

Justin: And I think another thing that sets us apart is that because we are evidence based, we are not going to sell like this is the one trick that's going to solve all of your problems.

Audra: There's not one trick. I'm so sorry, but there's not one thing.

Justin: So that's why, first off, we have Thrive pillars. We have four thrive pillars. It's Nourish, Flourish, Embody, and Connect. Nourish for nutrition, flourish for mental and emotional health practices, embody for physical practices that don't generally include nutrition and then connect about relationships. And all of these have been shown to powerfully affect our health and happiness and wellness. Each one is kind of like a grain of sand that you're just putting on the weight to increase the likelihood that you're going to thrive, that you're going to have a connected, loving, vital, you know, family. And so it can be something as small as let's see, I think the week that this podcast comes out, I'm going to be working on an article with an expert on getting sunlight into your eyes in the morning.

So it's just simply like 15 to 20 minutes. Get outside, get some sun. And so this is a small thing that will not end in and of itself, change everything. But when you add this little thing in with some nutrition stuff, with some meditation and breathing and some relationship skills, and now you are starting to really roll.

Audra: Can I add to that?

Justin: That's what the family thrive is.

Audra: Yeah. And let me add to that, because what you're going, what you're talking about in that article was a great example, because since doing that, I no longer buy Sunglasses. I'm going to tell you, we're not telling you to buy something. That's an answer. We're telling you to not buy something and it will be better for you. Right. So get the sun in your eyes like these are things that you can just do without spending any money.

Justin: Yes. And that's a big thing for The Family Thrive as well. Yes, we know I've worked on several articles on some really cool, high protein, low carb products that are out there that we use, and they are more expensive. So there are a few things like, hey, you know, this is going to cost more, but for the most part, like 95 percent of the things that we look at will cost you no money.

Audra: And there are some things that we recommend that could cost a little bit more. And that is something that you will see throughout the health and wellness space in general. But as Mark Hyman said recently, “It's about time we start looking at food as health care.” Right. You are going to have the opportunity to mitigate the risks and the long, long term expenses in your health care by making some of these swaps now. And we're totally all about being in it to help make it more affordable. We don't need a designer lifestyle to do this.

What's really incredible about it, it's all like really low hanging fruit that once you get into this, you see, oh, by prioritizing pretty simple things, I can make a huge difference in my life. And that's something that we found in the MaxLove Project journey as well. I think it's really exciting. I'm super excited to be getting this out to more and more people in the world. And I want to talk about some of the behind the scenes things that people don't see. Like people don't know, for example, that I mean, we are on a shoestring budget making this business happen. Like talk about the business side of things. They don't know. Like I feel like I have a karmic something. I don't know what it's called that I need to resolve and learn around fundraising. There's something in money that I have been called to deal with in this life, from, so signing up to do MaxLove Project.

When I started MaxLove Project, I got a credit card, Legal Zoom, started building that nonprofit with garage sales and selling like artists would donate cool things, cool jewelry. We put up a website, started selling things to basically make money to send out care packages with cloud B, twilight turtles to kids across the country and around the world. And I got into it to make a difference, to connect with families, to help families get through, walk up this mountain, you know, to be with families walking up the mountain. And then I started to see in order to get more and more families up the mountain. And in order to help with the passage, in order to do all the things that we need to really make a difference on this passage, I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money. And it is not what I signed up for. Or what I thought I signed up for.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: I thought I signed up to make a difference. But then that you're in the space and you realize in order to make a difference, I need to raise money. And it is my least favorite thing that one of the biggest challenges I've had to learn to embrace and so coming into The Family Thrive, ok, we're building our revenue stream someday for MaxLove. We're building this business. It's going to be a social enterprise. This is so exciting. We're going to make money so that we can give it. And then what do I end up needing to do? Fundraising. Again. I still have to fundraise. It's a different kind of fundraising. It's not charitable fundraising. It is investment fundraising. But it's still a world that I mean, I've learned about things that I never thought I would ever learn about. I've learned about cap tables and convertible notes and all kinds of things.

So The Family Thrive is a public benefit corporation. And I have walked through the process with some really incredible people, our legal team at Cooley LLP, to create this entity. We would like to become a B Corp one day. So we are on the path of doing that. And to become a big B Corp means that we're really intentional around our processes and our sourcing and how we support our employees and the kind of company we are in, the kind of companies we work with. And that's really, really exciting to me, because we want to be a company that is completely infused with integrity from corner to corner. You know, we want to do this right. And we're in the process of seed funding. And so the goal is to complete our seed round and then move into by the spring, by the time we hit a subscriber number and a revenue number, that we can go out for institutional funding and work with venture capitalists. Really start to realize the dream of The Family Thrive.

So what we have today is a minimum viable product. It is our start. It is sweat equity. It is love. It is intention. It's like all of this just the power of ushering this, of supporting this work to come into the world, to, you know, to benefit families and to benefit communities. And it's really amazing, because we've done this in under a year with very, very little resources, total shoestring, because we have a fantastic team, an army of like mostly volunteers and some contractors at this point who've totally just committed to getting this off the ground. They said this is important work. We're going to do this. And the one thing that I know through all the uncertainties, I've had to walk myself out of habits around fear of scarcity.

You know, I've done a lot of work in that area, so we do not go down those rabbit holes. And I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes. I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I built over time, that's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Hearing that, I am reflecting on the fact that I don't know anything about money because I have spent my entire adult life in academia. And so it's yeah, this has been a huge education for me as well. Money is a huge trigger for me. But as the director of content, like I am in charge of the podcast, I'm in charge of all the content, the workshops and all this. So I really try to just put my head down and do the work. And that's what I've learned as an academic. You know, I have two PhDs. I've done two dissertations, and I've learned that for me, I can just put my head down and just work.

Audra: Yes. That's a good segue into another thing that I thought would be kind of cool to reveal if this type of podcast could be about revealing that behind the scenes or revealing the kind of like the back end of these projects, revealing what's really going on with us is, we work together.

Justin: We’re married.

Audra: Live together. We've been together for 20 years plus. We've been married for almost 20 years, and we've been together for a number of more years than that. So we've been together for half of our lives. Yeah, we have our beautiful children together and Zeus, of course. And we work together not only on MaxLove Project, but on The Family Thrive on a daily basis. And so I bet you there's some curiosity around that from people like, how does that go? Like, how does that work? And there are probably other people who are in the same situation or other people who would never want to be in this situation, who might be into some like insight. How do we make this work? And is it all flowers?

Justin: I would direct listeners to two episodes that we've done, one with Ryel Kestano and then the other with Alexandra Tataryn. And I had to do a lot of what, I recognize now that I put up a lot of roadblocks in the past in our relationship that I just through my own hang ups, that I didn't have a lot of the communication and relationship skills, that were going to eventually help us do what we're doing right now. And so starting to do this work. It was really, the impetus was MaxLove Project.

So I was working on programs for MaxLove Project, and stress management was one of the things that I was working on for childhood cancer families. And so I was starting to get trained and take these courses and learn more about the stress management world. And then I came across emotional processing. And so I went through a course in that and then did some one-on-one therapy and training in that, and then eventually found authentic relating and then did training and coaching in that. And so from my perspective…

Audra: And then you found internal family systems therapy.

Justin: And so from my perspective, it was me learning about myself and then learning some really important communication skills, the amazing thing about communication skills is that they are free. Like once you know them, then they are free to use. And I think they've been some of the most transformational things that I've incorporated into my own life.

Audra: It's the combination of the communication skills with the emotional processing, because if you have the emotional processing but no communication skills and kind of like it stops there. And then if you have the communication skills, but you're not doing any emotional processing, then it's not really helpful either. Right. Like it's got to be both of them. So do you mind sharing about what happened the other day?

Justin: Which episode? Yeah. Which episodes? Yeah. Point out one of my many failings and then how I recovered.

Audra: So when I gave you the heads up, we're having a meeting about creating a new pitch deck because we're going into a new phase of seed, with seed funding groups and we need to redo our pitch deck. And so I called to give you a heads up that what the meeting was about and what I received was what?

Justin: Yeah. What did you receive?

Audra: What I heard.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: On the other side of the phone was, like kind of flipped out, you know, sort of don't have time, don't duh duh duh du, you know…

Justin: This is not on my schedule. This is not on my to-do list.

Audra: I have a huge to-do list. I have. I have. I have. I have.

Justin: So, yeah, I experienced a…

Audra: What was that like for you? Yeah.

Justin: So I experienced a heightened emotional response to this that I felt... Yeah. If I was to really I didn't do a ton of emotional processing at the time, but I did enough to know afterwards that I did have an intense emotional reaction and that I needed to at least relax a little bit around this emotional reaction and then see in this more relaxed state, how do I want to communicate and how do I want to show up for not just The Family Thrive as a whole, but for my partner.

And so I was able to relax and not doing a ton of emotional processing, which, if you don't know, that would be to get really clear and emotionally granular around what I was feeling, which is probably a sense of inadequacy, of not being able to do all the things that, I have so much to do. And so feeling maybe a little inadequate, maybe feeling helpless that, you know, like I'm not fully in control because I've got this huge list. And now this other thing is just piling on. It feels kind of like a tornado or an avalanche. So I was able to at least get to a point where I relaxed around it. And I knew in that more relaxed day after I took a breath and just calmed down a bit that I knew that I wanted to show up for The Family Thrive, but also for my partner, and that if I didn't show up, that it would just be more on her plate. And I know that she has a ton to do. So I was able to respond later and say that I'm ready for the meeting. I'm ready to take this on.

Audra: And you said I'm sorry. Yeah, that I had…

Justin: Oh, I think I said that I had a tantrum. Because I had been talking with other parents about toddler tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I was like, you know what? There's an internal toddler that was just feeling just really pissed off and out of control yelling, this is not what I want.

Audra: And how often do we as adults have tantrums? Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really great way to put it. It’s not just a thing that kids do like.

Justin: Yeah, we just hold it in a little bit better.

Audra: Big feeling sometimes, I mean, you know.

Justin: We don't bang our head on the floor like our daughter did when she was a year and a half old. But the way that we do this. So from my perspective, I think we work together really, really well. Like I love working with you and I like…

Audra: We do. And I want to share that working well doesn't mean not having things come out, you know, like when that came up. So there's, in this particular instance. First of all, I called you to tell you, you said it was a counter invite had already been sent and all that, but I called you to tell you about it because I knew you'd need time to prepare.

Justin: Well, I ignored the invite because I was like, this cannot possibly be for me because she knows I have way too much on my plate and this could not possibly be for me.

Audra: So the interesting part is like when this goes down, sometimes these sort of things go down and I'll be like, oh, God, he's the worst employee. He would never do this to just like a random, like a random boss.

Justin: Yeah. What happens when you need to do a quarterly review for your husband, yeah.

Audra: You know, so there is definitely more freedom in the relationship for both of us to be very open and honest about how we're feeling. And very often in a work setting, you wouldn't just have a tantrum or just say, no, I want to. No, I don't think I should have to do that. You know, and so we are able to be very open. But I mean, I do think that those communication skills are everything, because we do have frustrating times, but we work through them and we grow through them. One thing that I think is frustrating for both of us is like I will have a vision for the next thing.

And I was like, for me, it's like going from A to like H. It's easy, you know, there's nothing in between. Like it's like there might be a little bit of things you have to do, but like don't you see, don't you see where we're headed? And you hear it, you'll be like, I'm mapping mentally mapping the process from A to B, B to C, you know, C to D, you know, you're going like this. I can see every little thing in the steps. Like and like, why can't you just see what's out at H? No. You know, like we're just doing it. We're going to do it. It's like it's the thing, you know. And so there can be that rub, where I'm frustrating, you know, I think because I jump in to vision and then I get frustrated with you and you can't jump into vision with me. But we've learned over time that I wait about a week and you're usually going to be like in it, if it's good.

Justin: Because I've then, I've seen all the dots and all of that. You have the vision and then I start to fill in.

Audra: So I think we're less frustrated with each other learning over time. We did the Enneagram process together. Have we talked about that on this? I don't think we've talked about that.

Justin: No, that’s in the future.

Audra: We had a great time doing the Enneagram and learning and like the particular one that we did was the Enneagram Institute. My top three, because they did it more like strings finders, where they give you the list of all of them and where you land. They have a cluster. That's the top three. That is your bottom three. And when you see that, you're like, oh, I totally understand. And what it gave us was a language to use around where we're having challenge.

Like it gave us a way of understanding, like where the rub is. And that is really important. So it's not that it's easy to work together. It takes work to work together, but it's fruitful and productive. And we work really well together, we are very complementary. And I think just sharing that like it isn't cruising, you know what I mean? It's not like the easiest thing in the world, but that's in many ways what makes it good, because that's how you produce real change and results is by maybe not just agreeing all the time, like if we were the same kind of people and it was really easy...

Justin: There would be, well there would be I think, there would be big gaps in what we're doing. I do feel like The Family Thrive as it stands today is a really amazing resource. And I feel like we are, to use another sports metaphor, we're punching way above our weight, like we're producing stuff that I think is amazing. I think the podcast is fantastic. I think the app is great. I think the content is great. Of course, I am in charge of a lot of that stuff, but I feel like we would have many more gaps than what we have today.

And when I think about the future of The Family Thrive and all the cool things that we have on tap, that we are planning, it's because we do have very different strengths and that we can really work off of each other. And we, yeah, I think we work really, really well together, considering we're very, very different.

Audra: What advice would you give to anyone else who has to work with, has to, gets to.

Justin: Oh, man, this...

Audra: I'm hearing you, not “has to”, “gets to” work with our family and loved ones, partners.

Justin: Okay. For me, there are a couple of keys and but it really boils down to honesty plus connection. And so this is what I learned through my authentic relating training. And that has been my touchstone is that if I can be honest and authentic and really just reveal what are my desires here, what are my expectations, what are my assumptions, what are my stories, if I can be honest and then the key is, also remain in connection or commit to connection. Even if I don't feel like I'm in connection, that I'm committed to it, that I'm saying like I am committed to being connected to you and I'm committed to growing this relationship. Meeting you where you're at.

So it's for me, it's these two two things of it's honesty and it's connection, authenticity, connection. And if I can hold these two together and really commit to them both, then I know that we are going to come out in a higher place. We're going to come out in a stronger place.

Audra: I agree with you. And to highlight that, I was like, I'm on my phone actually right now because I was looking at a post by Yasmin Cheyenne and I really loved about boundaries, and I think it comes down to along in complementing what you're saying. It comes down to boundaries. It comes down to Brene Brown's clear is kind.

Justin: Clear is kind.

Audra: And that’s communication and honesty.

Justin: That’s the honesty part.

Audra: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the boundaries are important. I think I.

Justin: Ok, I'm sorry. So I the boundary thing, I feel a little off balance hearing the boundary thing. So. So why?

Audra: Why do you feel that way?

Justin: Oh, because for me, when I hear boundaries, I'm hearing other people who I am not fully committed to. And so I am putting up a boundary like, no, we're not going to go there because I am not committed to like spending my life with you and you being my life partner. So I don't feel like I don't….

Audra: Yeah, I don't I think we do have boundaries. I think we have boundaries to say when we want to be in the space of work and when we don't, when we want to, how we want to talk about things, we want to approach things like it's not a boundary again. So I'm not protecting myself from you. It's the space of like clarity where there are times when for you, you know, you have to draw a line somewhere for in being clear about that to say, this is how I want to proceed with this. You know, this is how I want to interact around this. This is how I want to be in a space like this, you know…

Justin: I totally get that. And that's an absolutely beautiful and perfect way to articulate boundaries. And for some reason, I just don't think about our relationship as having boundaries, although we have really clear communication and we are very clear and authentic and honest with each other about like, no, I need this right now and this is my thing or whatever the case is. So we do have boundaries. I just don't use that word in my mind because I don't know, maybe I have just some like romantic idea that like boundaries nice for other people, not for me and my partner. But no, but I think you're absolutely right.

Audra: Buy for others who are working with their family members and loved ones, like, I think being able to be, you know, open, honest, clear, like we're saying about how we're feeling, you know, even like sitting down, even if it's been 20 years that you've been working together and there's just still some really difficult things that are dragging you down or if it's new. Being able to get together and say, “hey, can we communicate around some really to communicate around some, just some ground rules with how we approach this?” Like I want our relationship to be, you know, number one. And in work, sometimes things can get difficult and blurry. And if we come to some clarity, I think a part of the challenge is then when we think things should just work out or if it's right, it just works, or if it's good, it just happens the right way or whatever. And that's never the case, really. There always is a need for clear, honest communication.

I mean, it's something that we work with our kids on too. And Maesie, at the age that she's a great girl. It's challenging, right? Like that's kind of like an age when you can really benefit from developing some of these communication skills and being able to clarify and develop boundaries. It's only going to benefit her. I have some challenges with boundaries, as my friend Jenny has been helping me understand, being a people pleaser, helper, peacemaker, you know, kind of kind of type of person. I think that my childhood I think I was a placater potentially for folks around me and things like that.

So I think boundaries have been I've been learning in all facets of my life how to become much more clear and much more focused on that communication and much more focus on honoring like myself and in the boundaries that I need. So I think that's definitely helped us. And I hope I'd love to maybe talk more about it on a on another episode, because I think that's something that Jenny and I have been talking a lot about, is how to like be a boss or a supervisor or someone in charge of other people or someone in charge of a business or so in in, you know, somebody who has to take ultimate responsibility. Right. As a people pleaser. It's a journey.

Justin: So we are definitely going to have that as its own podcast. There's a lot there. What I do want, because we are coming up against the hour, we want to keep this at an hour. I do want to plug a big thing that's happening in October for The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yes, please.

Justin: We are launching a parent/teen communication workshop with eight different experts, therapists, psychologists, researchers. It's amazing, relationship coaches, the communication skills that I've referenced or that we've referenced and the relationship skills are all going to be in this workshop, but it's going to be directly targeted at the parent/teen relationship. This is going to be a game-changing workshop for any parent who takes it. If you don't have teens yet. But, you know, the teenage years are coming. Please hop into this workshop, if you have teenagers now, please. This is going to change your relationship. And even if you have maybe a young adult, you have a teenager who has now moved out, but they are still young adults. There's a lot of applicable stuff there.

Audra: Grandkids.

Justin: Yeah. So please visit The Family Thrive. You will have the website. You'll be able to sign up for it probably by the time this podcast comes out. And then we're going to start it on October 17th. But you can sign up for it before then. All the proceeds from this workshop will go to MaxLove Project. So this is going to support an amazing cause. It's going to be a game-changing workshop. So please sign up. We're going to be talking a lot more about it in the app, so you'll get more information there. One other thing, our next workshop after the parent/teen communication workshop is going to be in November and it's going to be all about relationships and partnerships like we just talked about. But it's just going to be a one-week workshop. So it's going to be really intense. We're working with, again, some amazing…

Audra: Not really intense like work, like intense…

Justin: Intense, like you're going to get a lot…

Audra: A lot in a small period of time. Right. Right.

Justin: So stay tuned.

Audra: No we’re not gonna be putting you into an in-person bootcamp or anything.

Justin: All right. I think that's it.

Audra: So how can people support us if they're interested in growing with us, growing The Family Thrive movement with us? They want to be a part of this as we climb this mountain. How can they support us?

Justin: So the biggest thing I mean, like if you just want to go straight to it, you're like, hey, just let me into the app. You can go to app.familythrive.com, and you can get straight into the app. But if you want to learn more about us, then you can go to thefamilythrive.com, which is the website, and you're going to get all sorts of good stuff there. Please subscribe to the podcast. Tell a friend. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Audra: And if you're in the app already, please become an ambassador. You have your own unique link that you can use to send all of your friends and family. And we have some cool prizes, too, for people who successfully invite others in.

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for listening, we’ll see you next time.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


Justin: Hey, friend, this podcast is brought to you by The Family Thrive, an expert-led, science-backed online community for busy parents looking to thrive. Join us at TheFamilyThrive.com.

Audra: I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes, I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I've built over time. That's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: All right, welcome to a special edition of The Family Thrive podcast. It's only Audra and I today. We are the special guests. We wanted to record a podcast just for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But we have a lot of other stuff to discuss as well. So we're going to just jump right into it. Audra.

Audra: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it's a special time for us. I remember our very first Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was right after that. We were aware of that. We produced messaging around and all that was after Max was diagnosed. And it was under a month after he was diagnosed. And I realized, oh, wow, this is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. And it's clear that there isn't enough awareness. And in my mind, once people become aware, they are more empowered to take action and do something about it.

So we started at this 10 years ago and have been working on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month every year. And it is really important. Cancer is the number one disease killer of children in the United States. It's a really, really big deal. And we're underfunding childhood cancer research from the federal government. Less than four percent of our cancer research funding goes to over 100 forms of childhood cancer. And prostate cancer alone, not known as a particularly lethal disease. In fact, for men, very often, it's better not to treat it at all. Right. Gets eight percent. So twice as much for one disease that isn't that lethal.

And that just didn't feel, doesn't sit right with me and many, many others. Right. And so a lot of private foundations step up, usually families in grief and bereavement, families try to make a different step up to fill the gaps in in research. And it's a tremendous struggle, an uphill battle, because, as you know, with research, it's really never enough. That there are so many questions to be answered. There's so much that we don't know about these diseases, that it's quite a challenge. And one thing is clear is that we really believe and I know many researchers believe that if we unlock the keys to childhood cancers, we will learn more about adult cancers, because childhood cancers are not caused by lifestyle factors.

Justin: Well, for me, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is not just about research, but it's also about programs like our nonprofit MaxLove Project do for cancer survivorship, also quality of life through treatment. We all know that going through cancer treatment is extremely taxing. It's really difficult. And so there are things that we can do; nutrition and sleep and stress management and exercise that really improve quality of life through cancer treatment. And these are the things that MaxLove Project focuses on.

But then after the treatment is done, you know, today, 85% of kids who are diagnosed with cancer will go on to survive after five years. But then what they face after those five years or after treatment, rather, is a lifetime of dealing with increased risks for all sorts of chronic disease and reduced quality of life. And so the things we do with MaxLove Project focusing on health behaviors, focusing on quality of life resources, this is a major part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for me.

Audra: Yeah, I know it's powerful. And I know that you've done, actually, significant research in the area of childhood cancer survivorship yourself. You became a researcher with your…

Justin: I went back to school.

Audra: Went back to school. You became an official researcher with Children's Hospital of Orange County. You produced the Ohana study to find a way, you know, different ways to mitigate these risks to what we would say, change the odds. We have been saying for years, the statistics are not destiny. And what does that mean to you?

Justin: Well, statistics can be depressing. So when we look at the statistically…

Audra: Especially the childhood cancer statistics, you know, one in five kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive. Three to five kids suffer life-threatening late effects of treatment. I mean, it's devastating all around. And even in the survivorship stats we're talking about, within the first five years, there are kids face secondary illness. And in cancers after that five years in the mortality rate is even higher. So it's yeah, stats are pretty grim. There are some child cancers, too, that have no, no treatment strategies that really work that we haven't made much headway on.

There's some that are completely, totally still terminal upon diagnosis, like DIPG, a very rare, although it doesn't feel rare to me with all of the families I know form of pediatric brain cancer, it feels like the rates are increasing, which I did see data recently from cancer.gov that somehow the cancer rates are increasing.

Justin: So, yeah, the statistics are not destiny. Other statistics, like 95% of childhood cancer survivors will be dealing with the chronic health condition by age 45. So these statistics can be depressing, but we are working to ensure that they are not destiny. And there are things we can do to reduce risks and increase quality of life for those kids who do make it out of treatment. So this treatment…

Audra: And, in treatment and beyond. We were told to focus on Max's quality of life, like day three. And we took that. We took that as marching orders. In that we found quantity. But we also built a community of minded parents, of other parents who felt the same way. Like, what about quality of life today? What about quality of life now? And we, if we start focusing on quality of life in treatment and in the treatment process, I really believe that it pays off long term. And it becomes, you know, an approach that any family has a cancer diagnosis and a childhood cancer diagnosis benefits from the entire family, benefits from the focus on quality of life in treatment and beyond.

Justin: Yes. So this podcast episode is not just about childhood cancer. We just wanted to start there, recognizing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. If you feel called MaxLove Project, this episode will air right after our Farm to Fork dinner. But for all of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are running a Fork Childhood Cancer campaign.

Audra: forkchildhoodcancer.org. You can join the campaign. So I'm going to, Justin's trying to keep us on track. I am going to challenge that. I really do think that this podcast is about us just getting real and being together and being real in what we're working on today, what we're going through, what we're facing, you know, on the other side of everything that folks see that we put out in the world.

And so we do have our Farm to Fork dinner coming up September 25 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. It is our seventh annual event. It's an incredible event. You can see more about it at MLPFarmDinner.org. But it's been quite a struggle. I  just have to share. Like we could not have the event last year because of Covid. And so we came up with the fork childhood cancer campaign, which was incredibly successful. And the energy around it was beautiful. And I think, you know, I really felt like people were gathering in unity, even in the midst of Covid, to make a difference for families facing childhood cancer and related life-threatening illnesses and…

Justin: Gathering virtually in their homes.

Audra: Fundraiser.

Justin: Together online.

Audra: Having their own dinners like we were, you know, online together for our event and all of that. And it was really beautiful. So we continued that campaign this year as well. And that it'll be what we do every September for childhood cancer is what we will do every September, brings together so much of our program and messaging and focus on our mission. Part of which is culinary medicine. We're learning how to use real whole foods therapeutically in the home, because it's one of the few things we're in power to do in this process. Right. It's one of the one of the major things we're in power to do. In any case, it has, I'm just going to keep it super real. It has been so much more challenging this year with Covid. And I thought it was going to be better.

I'm like really trying hard to keep, oh, just like bring really good energy and be in the space that I want to be in, like around this time of year. It's a space of change. It's a space of making a difference, a space of bringing resources and support to the to our community, addressing needs. And I really thought things were going to be better. And what I've experienced is so much more focus on people's self-interest and politics and things like that, that it is like pushed our cause under the water a little bit.

It's been feeling like it's so hard to surface it and bring it back up because people are, you know, mostly concerned about, you know, what kind of political views they want to share on social media about, you know, vaccinations and what they perceived to be mandates and, you know, things like that. And it's been really, really difficult for me. So my work right now is not only producing this incredible event where we're welcoming well over 400 people to a working farm for an incredible dinner and celebration of our impact and commitment to continuing to make a difference for the next year and beyond. That's a huge enough thing in and of itself, but working to bring the, just powerful, beautiful, healing connected energy to this has been harder this year because it feels like pushing water up a mountain and I am feeling the need for others to step up and to be a part of it and to say, let's do better. Let's get it together and let's do better for our kids and families. Like, let's look at the bigger picture and get over the current myopia so we can create a hopeful future for our families and our kids. Like that's what I want to see. How does that land for you Justin?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I hear the emotion and keeping it real. And what is coming up for me is that this podcast is going to air after Farm to Fork. So we hopefully will have new listeners who went to Farm to Fork and who are listening to this and who get to hear the burden, the emotional weight that you're carrying moving up to this event. But it's going to be amazing. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be inspiring. And so we're going to have people listening to this afterwards and saying, all right, I got to hear like the real deal. You know, this is what goes into it. It's not, you know, and it was amazing.

Audra: Yeah. Yes, it's very hard work. And part of it is because of the investment that we all have in it, that our hearts are so deeply invested. We are so incredibly inspired by the children and families we serve. And to me, like they're, I mean, they're everything. So it's a very, very big deal. But I do want to thank everybody who is supporting MaxLove Project, who's supporting our events and programming and our fundraisers and fought childhood cancer, everyone who's bringing their best to make a difference. It really does make a difference.

We have cutting-edge culinary medicine for pediatrics. Like no one else is doing what we're doing in that space. We have incredible collaborators contributing. We have a really innovative app that we're growing that has, I don't know, boundless resources in it. There's so many things to discover when it comes to lifestyle, medicine, health and wellness, guided health and wellness through the childhood cancer journey. And I'm really hoping that more childhood cancer families who are interested in that kind of guided health and wellness platform, who want to focus on quality of life and treatment and beyond. Join us in MaxLove Connect. It is a really beautiful space to be together. And it's off of social media, which is something that I'm finding the need to do more and more of. You know, it's safe.

Justin: A decade ago, Audra and I received news no parent ever expects to hear, your four year old son has brain cancer in that hospital room in Orange County, California. We had our fair share of tears and despair, but we also vowed that we would use this to help our family thrive no matter what. A decade later, after starting a nonprofit that has served thousands of childhood cancer families, we're on a mission to bring all of the amazing researchers, doctors, therapists and other experts we've worked with to all families everywhere.

That's why we created The Family Thrive, an online platform and community of top health and wellness experts and parents like us who are looking to thrive against the odds, just fresh, daily expert articles and topics that matter to parents like us, like how to cook a superfood meal in under 20 minutes, or the latest sleep science that can boost our kids mental health or simple things we can do to thrive as parents. We have top credentialed experts breaking it all down to bite-sized chunks of actionable wisdom. You know, when they say it takes a village to raise a family. This is our village and it's filled with quick bite expert wellness information, conversations that are designed specifically for busy parents. And when you're ready to dive deeper, we also have group based workshops written and led by PhD researchers, psychologists, clinical dietitians. This village is all on your phone, at your fingertips whenever you need it. Join for free today at thefamilythrive.com.

Justin: What does this all have to do with The Family Thrive?

Audra: MaxLove Project is the reason why The Family Thrive exists.

Justin: MaxLove Project is the seed. It's the garden out of which The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yup, so MaxLove Project is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year. So 10 years of making a difference. When we first started out in the space, we were like no one else was looking, looking at this. Talk about quality of life, health and wellness in the childhood cancer journey was kind of crazy. And so we were, I feel like, have been pioneers in the space and pioneers and doing it in a way that is alongside standard of care, doing it with our medical teams, doing it with care that we're receiving in the hospital where we were not trying to create kind of new, you know, totally new treatment paradigm. We're not in the alternative medicine space. We're really in the complementary and integrative medicine, integrative health space. And we have been growing just tremendously year after year, doing this work. And every single year, it seems we'd have somebody asking us, where is this for typical families? We all need this. So the health risks that childhood cancer families face, to some degree, all families face. You share about that, Justin. What are some of the research that has informed our view of why the MaxLove approach actually applies to all families?

Justin: Everybody knows obesity and diabetes have increased. Autoimmune disorders have skyrocketed. Mental health challenges are much more prevalent for young children and teenagers. Parents are under more stress than ever today. So we have all of these stats in The Family Thrive, and we're going to be talking a lot more about them. But one thing that is coming up for me around the how MaxLove Project eventually birthed The Family Thrive is that, you know, in the hospital room when Max was first diagnosed and he was coming out of a really intense surgery and he was intubated for a couple of days, and Audra and I were just in shock and taking turns, sobbing.

And then eventually we both caught our breath and we looked at each other and we're like, we're going to do this. And there's different ways that I can remember that. It was, you know, we're going to get, we're like, we're going to fight. We're going to do whatever we can. But at the core of this was we're going to be better parents. Like we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that we're doing that, that we're feeding him the right foods, that we’re getting him at the right amount of sleep at the right time.

Audra: Yeah, it was like a realization that we were getting by with what we were doing. We were overwhelmed, working full time, both of us. Commuting huge, hugely long distances in traffic, you know, to make ends meet. Daycare, like all of the things that any overwhelmed family is dealing with. And you're getting by that time. I remember being so tired. I remember being so out of shape, just so deeply exhausted and feeling like we're just trying to get by. And I think at that moment, we said, you know what? No, no, no. This is a priority. We're going to get ahead. We're going to move beyond the getting by mindset like it is time to step up as parents.

Justin: Yeah. Like, what can we do? So the surgeons do what they do. The radiation oncologist does what he or she does. So we take him home and we have to feed him. We have to put him to bed. We organize his day like what should we be doing to give him the best chance? And as soon as we started to just look into that a little bit, we're like, oh, you know, this includes us. This includes our daughter as well. It's a whole family looking to thrive. And that was what led us into developing, MaxLove Project. And then now, in my mind, it is a natural evolution to The Family Thrive.

Audra: The Family Thrive is an expansion of it, you know. I remember like I don't know. I mean, it was about five years ago, halfway through this, we're like, let's write a book. And in the book, we can have all these strategies and it'll be called The Family Thrive. And then we wanted to do the cookbooks and then Covid hit. And it became really, really clear, like we are going to focus on super creative, innovative sustainability for a nonprofit organization. And I would like to have another conversation one day on the podcast about why our nonprofit model is not sustainable. And for anyone who has a small grassroots nonprofit, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Justin: Yes. Conversation for another day.

Audra: Heard another like an amazing farm in Alabama Farm Collective that referred this is the nonprofit industrial complex. I'm totally down for this conversation, and we needed to disrupt it in the way that we could disrupt that and provide for MaxLove Project in perpetuity, in a sustainable manner, to be able to like make the commitment to be around forever, not dependent on corporations and, you know, folks interests, you know, year to year, but should be really much more sustainable. And then scalable is to create a revenue model. And how could we create a revenue model? What about taking the MaxLove Project way? Are our platform, our health and wellness, our mission, our goal, out to the entire world. Out to all parents. Like it's loud and clear.

What we do benefits everybody. And the more that I talk to doctors and like pediatricians, I would hear, oh, my gosh, I need this just for our typical like for my typical families, because I have 10 minutes with them in 15 minutes with them. I don't have time to go through all of this stuff. I don't have time to address how their burnout is informing their child's mental health and how that's turning into like difficult habits and then poor health. Like it's just sort of like a cascade of overwhelm and challenges. And if I could have this resource for all of my families, it's like I don't know. It's like having a health coach for them. And that is exactly where we're headed with The Family Thrive is like we want to be your family's health coach, health and wellness coach. We got you. Where we're at right now is we're in the midst of seed funding and we're fundraising.

Justin: Well, let's, I just real briefly, I just want to give people the context. So this would be coming out at the end of September. We launched The Family Thrive, like we opened it up to the world in July. And so we, before that,

Audra: We open up the app in July.

Justin: Yeah, we open up the app in July.

Audra: And launched our new full website. Yes.

Justin: Yes. And have we had a little small beta test with friends and family in June? But, yeah, we've been really doing this since July, but we have learned so much in these past few months. So we thought or at least my assumption was that the health coaching part of The Family Thrive was way off in the future, that we were going to start with all this wonderful content, and we have it fresh every single week from experts. It's amazing. I'm really proud of it because I'm the director of content. But one thing that we've learned from members in the app is that we have so much content that it’s actually a little overwhelming or maybe even a lot overwhelming. And so…

Audra: Maybe a little intimidating. You know, it's hard. It could be hard to connect with to some degree. You know, you see so much stuff coming out. You know, it's like, how is this relevant to me? And it is our goal to minimize the stress of looking for good information. It is our goal to make it easier. It is, you know, our goal to make like really, really great evidence base, you know, expert-backed health and wellness information for families like super easy to access. So how do we facilitate better access to that? And for us, it's having a little bit more of a guided, supported approach to that. Which you're right. We had it in our plan. So whenever, if anybody likes business podcasts or read business books, you'll hear like, you know, the plan is not how things are going to work. And that is exactly right.

Justin: Well. Mike Tyson said it best. Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Audra: So we had a plan to incorporate health coaching into The Family Thrive around year three when we thought we could really build a robust program. And I am a certified health coach, actually, through the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. This is how I learned about health coaching.

And my beautiful friend Shelby, who was a lead teacher in that program for a while, now works for another mental health app company, has teamed up with us to work on our health coaching component. And what it is, is it's going to be so deeply infused in the structure of the app and in the way you interact that it's our goal that you kind of feel coached as you're and supported as you’re in the app. Some of that will be through one on one support, chat, support questionnaires, all sorts of different things that, challenges. Some of it one day will be if you want even more will have, you know, a subscription for that. But to start, it's still the app is free to everyone. And this coaching component is going to be free and accessible and available to everybody.

Justin: If you want to be part of the pilot in our coaching program in the app, you can chat with us any time. Yeah. So. Just get into the app, the app is free, and then you can search for Audra and Justin or Audra separately or Justin separately, you just send us a chat and we will hook you up. We're going to be collecting a small group to start going through this coaching model. And I'm super excited about it, because not only do we have so much just daily fresh content on nutrition and stress and relationships and sleep and all the aspects of life that or all the aspects of health behaviors that can really improve quality of life, boost our vitality, our…

Audra: Connectedness, joy…

Justin: Connectedness. Yes. All the all...

Audra: And life span. I mean, we're talking about a long game here, too.

Justin: And we have witnessed this firsthand over the last 10 years as we've worked with therapists and doctors and dietitians and coaches. And so we have learned all of this stuff and we are applying it all the time and then forgetting some of it and then reapplying it. And so we know the power of this firsthand. And so we're really excited for this next phase. But right now, we have just a lot of amazing content coming out every week.

Audra: Something that you just said reminded me of like the forgetting and coming back to it, talking to a friend recently, it was like, you know, my family's not thriving a lot of the time like we are sometimes. We're not a lot of the time. So it kind of feels kind of weird to be working with The Family Thrive. Like I just don't feel that we're thriving a lot of the time. And I was like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much for sharing that with me, because that is, I think, the way it is for all of us. Like, I think thriving is not a destination. It's not something that you've achieved. It's a practice. It is a journey, but it's not an end point. You know what I mean? Like it doesn't you don't get and go like, oh, great, I'm thriving.

Justin: Finally. And now I can take a break. Yeah. Yeah.

Audra: Now life is good. It is a hard journey. It's an arduous journey. And part of it and the reason why we oscillate, we all oscillate between, you know, maybe moments and periods feeling like thriving in certain areas and then not as much in others, and then feeling really great and then feeling like we went forgot something and, you know, kind of fell behind a little bit or whatever it might be is because it's not a linear path, because there are so many different elements and aspects to it, because we're a whole family unit.

Justin: Yes. It's not a linear path, but I do believe it's more like an upward spiral. Yeah. So…

Audra: Yeah. I'm on the mountain. Can I just share, though? It is kind of an endless mountain. You have to be in it for the journey, because each step in the climb…

Justin: And love the journey.

Audra: … feels great because each step in the climb is like a win. I mean, this is the life we have to live. This is time now. Why not make equality? Why not make it the very best it can be in that moment? So it's not about arriving at thriving. You know, it is about climbing that continuous mountain. And what makes the mountain higher? There's something that makes a mountain a lot higher than unfortunately it has to be.

Justin: What is that?

Audra: Modern life.

Justin: Well, right.

Audra: I mean, it's so when you take a mountain and then you put like all of these things on top of it that present like even greater obstacles. Right. And that's going to be everything from their food we have easy access to to, you know, poverty and inequity. And like, you know, like some of the underbelly of capitalism. We have environmental toxins and challenges. We have stresses that we've never dealt with before.

Justin: Ok, so that's all a downer.

Audra: But it's what these are the odds that are stacked against us. It's not your fault if you're not thriving. Yeah. You're facing some huge odds. Let's get real.

Justin: It’s not your fault. We are all in this same boat together.

Audra: We're all climbing the same mountain together. We're all you're sitting, you know, like not climbing the mountain, but.

Justin: Well, right. So that's the alternative is avoidance, ignoring, and resisting. And so it's not as if there's like a third option of like, oh, I get just this perfect bliss. And it's like, no, you are either going to choose to climb that mountain or you're going to avoid it and ignore it and you're just going to stay at the bottom. Those are the choices. Now, what we want to do, and I believe what we are in the process of doing with The Family Thrive, is we're making that journey easier.

Audra: We're walking with you, you know what I mean? And got a donkey with a little pack over the back and some water…

Justin: We’re making the journey more efficient. So I feel like, you know, if you're a parent saying, ok, yeah, I do want to feed my family better or I know that, you know, we can have more vitality, energy, connection or whatever. Good luck sifting the Internet through all of the misinformation, all of the false ... , all of the nonsense. So, I mean, what we've done with The Family Thrive is we've collected real credentialed experts, doctors, dietitians, licensed therapists, clinical psychologists, researchers, people who have the training, who understand what science is, who understand what evidence based health practices are.

Audra: In addition to that, though, they're not just like the run of the mill ones that like write for WebMD. Right. I have to say, there's a little key there. Yes. To all of what you just said and all of the evidence-based credential and all that. But these are people who also see the picture that we're talking about. They see the odds that are stacked against us. They see that there are things that we can do to mitigate these risks, or they see that we can change the odds through lifestyle. They're not people who just think that, you know, it has to be a drug prescription or a pharmacological answer or whatever it is. These are people who see that what we eat matters, how we move, how we, you know, process our emotions, all of that. So to me, that's that integrative wellness part of it, it's not just like run of the mill stuff from a, you know, regular health website.

Justin: And I think another thing that sets us apart is that because we are evidence based, we are not going to sell like this is the one trick that's going to solve all of your problems.

Audra: There's not one trick. I'm so sorry, but there's not one thing.

Justin: So that's why, first off, we have Thrive pillars. We have four thrive pillars. It's Nourish, Flourish, Embody, and Connect. Nourish for nutrition, flourish for mental and emotional health practices, embody for physical practices that don't generally include nutrition and then connect about relationships. And all of these have been shown to powerfully affect our health and happiness and wellness. Each one is kind of like a grain of sand that you're just putting on the weight to increase the likelihood that you're going to thrive, that you're going to have a connected, loving, vital, you know, family. And so it can be something as small as let's see, I think the week that this podcast comes out, I'm going to be working on an article with an expert on getting sunlight into your eyes in the morning.

So it's just simply like 15 to 20 minutes. Get outside, get some sun. And so this is a small thing that will not end in and of itself, change everything. But when you add this little thing in with some nutrition stuff, with some meditation and breathing and some relationship skills, and now you are starting to really roll.

Audra: Can I add to that?

Justin: That's what the family thrive is.

Audra: Yeah. And let me add to that, because what you're going, what you're talking about in that article was a great example, because since doing that, I no longer buy Sunglasses. I'm going to tell you, we're not telling you to buy something. That's an answer. We're telling you to not buy something and it will be better for you. Right. So get the sun in your eyes like these are things that you can just do without spending any money.

Justin: Yes. And that's a big thing for The Family Thrive as well. Yes, we know I've worked on several articles on some really cool, high protein, low carb products that are out there that we use, and they are more expensive. So there are a few things like, hey, you know, this is going to cost more, but for the most part, like 95 percent of the things that we look at will cost you no money.

Audra: And there are some things that we recommend that could cost a little bit more. And that is something that you will see throughout the health and wellness space in general. But as Mark Hyman said recently, “It's about time we start looking at food as health care.” Right. You are going to have the opportunity to mitigate the risks and the long, long term expenses in your health care by making some of these swaps now. And we're totally all about being in it to help make it more affordable. We don't need a designer lifestyle to do this.

What's really incredible about it, it's all like really low hanging fruit that once you get into this, you see, oh, by prioritizing pretty simple things, I can make a huge difference in my life. And that's something that we found in the MaxLove Project journey as well. I think it's really exciting. I'm super excited to be getting this out to more and more people in the world. And I want to talk about some of the behind the scenes things that people don't see. Like people don't know, for example, that I mean, we are on a shoestring budget making this business happen. Like talk about the business side of things. They don't know. Like I feel like I have a karmic something. I don't know what it's called that I need to resolve and learn around fundraising. There's something in money that I have been called to deal with in this life, from, so signing up to do MaxLove Project.

When I started MaxLove Project, I got a credit card, Legal Zoom, started building that nonprofit with garage sales and selling like artists would donate cool things, cool jewelry. We put up a website, started selling things to basically make money to send out care packages with cloud B, twilight turtles to kids across the country and around the world. And I got into it to make a difference, to connect with families, to help families get through, walk up this mountain, you know, to be with families walking up the mountain. And then I started to see in order to get more and more families up the mountain. And in order to help with the passage, in order to do all the things that we need to really make a difference on this passage, I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money and that I need to raise more money. And it is not what I signed up for. Or what I thought I signed up for.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: I thought I signed up to make a difference. But then that you're in the space and you realize in order to make a difference, I need to raise money. And it is my least favorite thing that one of the biggest challenges I've had to learn to embrace and so coming into The Family Thrive, ok, we're building our revenue stream someday for MaxLove. We're building this business. It's going to be a social enterprise. This is so exciting. We're going to make money so that we can give it. And then what do I end up needing to do? Fundraising. Again. I still have to fundraise. It's a different kind of fundraising. It's not charitable fundraising. It is investment fundraising. But it's still a world that I mean, I've learned about things that I never thought I would ever learn about. I've learned about cap tables and convertible notes and all kinds of things.

So The Family Thrive is a public benefit corporation. And I have walked through the process with some really incredible people, our legal team at Cooley LLP, to create this entity. We would like to become a B Corp one day. So we are on the path of doing that. And to become a big B Corp means that we're really intentional around our processes and our sourcing and how we support our employees and the kind of company we are in, the kind of companies we work with. And that's really, really exciting to me, because we want to be a company that is completely infused with integrity from corner to corner. You know, we want to do this right. And we're in the process of seed funding. And so the goal is to complete our seed round and then move into by the spring, by the time we hit a subscriber number and a revenue number, that we can go out for institutional funding and work with venture capitalists. Really start to realize the dream of The Family Thrive.

So what we have today is a minimum viable product. It is our start. It is sweat equity. It is love. It is intention. It's like all of this just the power of ushering this, of supporting this work to come into the world, to, you know, to benefit families and to benefit communities. And it's really amazing, because we've done this in under a year with very, very little resources, total shoestring, because we have a fantastic team, an army of like mostly volunteers and some contractors at this point who've totally just committed to getting this off the ground. They said this is important work. We're going to do this. And the one thing that I know through all the uncertainties, I've had to walk myself out of habits around fear of scarcity.

You know, I've done a lot of work in that area, so we do not go down those rabbit holes. And I really, truly believe that we're not only building this, but we're going to realize the potential of it. And it just takes. I don't know, it takes a pretty unique strength that I feel like I built over time, that's a strength in like dealing with fear and like really feeling into a very deep knowledge around the truth and power of what we're doing and believing in that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Hearing that, I am reflecting on the fact that I don't know anything about money because I have spent my entire adult life in academia. And so it's yeah, this has been a huge education for me as well. Money is a huge trigger for me. But as the director of content, like I am in charge of the podcast, I'm in charge of all the content, the workshops and all this. So I really try to just put my head down and do the work. And that's what I've learned as an academic. You know, I have two PhDs. I've done two dissertations, and I've learned that for me, I can just put my head down and just work.

Audra: Yes. That's a good segue into another thing that I thought would be kind of cool to reveal if this type of podcast could be about revealing that behind the scenes or revealing the kind of like the back end of these projects, revealing what's really going on with us is, we work together.

Justin: We’re married.

Audra: Live together. We've been together for 20 years plus. We've been married for almost 20 years, and we've been together for a number of more years than that. So we've been together for half of our lives. Yeah, we have our beautiful children together and Zeus, of course. And we work together not only on MaxLove Project, but on The Family Thrive on a daily basis. And so I bet you there's some curiosity around that from people like, how does that go? Like, how does that work? And there are probably other people who are in the same situation or other people who would never want to be in this situation, who might be into some like insight. How do we make this work? And is it all flowers?

Justin: I would direct listeners to two episodes that we've done, one with Ryel Kestano and then the other with Alexandra Tataryn. And I had to do a lot of what, I recognize now that I put up a lot of roadblocks in the past in our relationship that I just through my own hang ups, that I didn't have a lot of the communication and relationship skills, that were going to eventually help us do what we're doing right now. And so starting to do this work. It was really, the impetus was MaxLove Project.

So I was working on programs for MaxLove Project, and stress management was one of the things that I was working on for childhood cancer families. And so I was starting to get trained and take these courses and learn more about the stress management world. And then I came across emotional processing. And so I went through a course in that and then did some one-on-one therapy and training in that, and then eventually found authentic relating and then did training and coaching in that. And so from my perspective…

Audra: And then you found internal family systems therapy.

Justin: And so from my perspective, it was me learning about myself and then learning some really important communication skills, the amazing thing about communication skills is that they are free. Like once you know them, then they are free to use. And I think they've been some of the most transformational things that I've incorporated into my own life.

Audra: It's the combination of the communication skills with the emotional processing, because if you have the emotional processing but no communication skills and kind of like it stops there. And then if you have the communication skills, but you're not doing any emotional processing, then it's not really helpful either. Right. Like it's got to be both of them. So do you mind sharing about what happened the other day?

Justin: Which episode? Yeah. Which episodes? Yeah. Point out one of my many failings and then how I recovered.

Audra: So when I gave you the heads up, we're having a meeting about creating a new pitch deck because we're going into a new phase of seed, with seed funding groups and we need to redo our pitch deck. And so I called to give you a heads up that what the meeting was about and what I received was what?

Justin: Yeah. What did you receive?

Audra: What I heard.

Justin: Yeah.

Audra: On the other side of the phone was, like kind of flipped out, you know, sort of don't have time, don't duh duh duh du, you know…

Justin: This is not on my schedule. This is not on my to-do list.

Audra: I have a huge to-do list. I have. I have. I have. I have.

Justin: So, yeah, I experienced a…

Audra: What was that like for you? Yeah.

Justin: So I experienced a heightened emotional response to this that I felt... Yeah. If I was to really I didn't do a ton of emotional processing at the time, but I did enough to know afterwards that I did have an intense emotional reaction and that I needed to at least relax a little bit around this emotional reaction and then see in this more relaxed state, how do I want to communicate and how do I want to show up for not just The Family Thrive as a whole, but for my partner.

And so I was able to relax and not doing a ton of emotional processing, which, if you don't know, that would be to get really clear and emotionally granular around what I was feeling, which is probably a sense of inadequacy, of not being able to do all the things that, I have so much to do. And so feeling maybe a little inadequate, maybe feeling helpless that, you know, like I'm not fully in control because I've got this huge list. And now this other thing is just piling on. It feels kind of like a tornado or an avalanche. So I was able to at least get to a point where I relaxed around it. And I knew in that more relaxed day after I took a breath and just calmed down a bit that I knew that I wanted to show up for The Family Thrive, but also for my partner, and that if I didn't show up, that it would just be more on her plate. And I know that she has a ton to do. So I was able to respond later and say that I'm ready for the meeting. I'm ready to take this on.

Audra: And you said I'm sorry. Yeah, that I had…

Justin: Oh, I think I said that I had a tantrum. Because I had been talking with other parents about toddler tantrums and toddler meltdowns. I was like, you know what? There's an internal toddler that was just feeling just really pissed off and out of control yelling, this is not what I want.

Audra: And how often do we as adults have tantrums? Yeah, I mean, I think that's a really great way to put it. It’s not just a thing that kids do like.

Justin: Yeah, we just hold it in a little bit better.

Audra: Big feeling sometimes, I mean, you know.

Justin: We don't bang our head on the floor like our daughter did when she was a year and a half old. But the way that we do this. So from my perspective, I think we work together really, really well. Like I love working with you and I like…

Audra: We do. And I want to share that working well doesn't mean not having things come out, you know, like when that came up. So there's, in this particular instance. First of all, I called you to tell you, you said it was a counter invite had already been sent and all that, but I called you to tell you about it because I knew you'd need time to prepare.

Justin: Well, I ignored the invite because I was like, this cannot possibly be for me because she knows I have way too much on my plate and this could not possibly be for me.

Audra: So the interesting part is like when this goes down, sometimes these sort of things go down and I'll be like, oh, God, he's the worst employee. He would never do this to just like a random, like a random boss.

Justin: Yeah. What happens when you need to do a quarterly review for your husband, yeah.

Audra: You know, so there is definitely more freedom in the relationship for both of us to be very open and honest about how we're feeling. And very often in a work setting, you wouldn't just have a tantrum or just say, no, I want to. No, I don't think I should have to do that. You know, and so we are able to be very open. But I mean, I do think that those communication skills are everything, because we do have frustrating times, but we work through them and we grow through them. One thing that I think is frustrating for both of us is like I will have a vision for the next thing.

And I was like, for me, it's like going from A to like H. It's easy, you know, there's nothing in between. Like it's like there might be a little bit of things you have to do, but like don't you see, don't you see where we're headed? And you hear it, you'll be like, I'm mapping mentally mapping the process from A to B, B to C, you know, C to D, you know, you're going like this. I can see every little thing in the steps. Like and like, why can't you just see what's out at H? No. You know, like we're just doing it. We're going to do it. It's like it's the thing, you know. And so there can be that rub, where I'm frustrating, you know, I think because I jump in to vision and then I get frustrated with you and you can't jump into vision with me. But we've learned over time that I wait about a week and you're usually going to be like in it, if it's good.

Justin: Because I've then, I've seen all the dots and all of that. You have the vision and then I start to fill in.

Audra: So I think we're less frustrated with each other learning over time. We did the Enneagram process together. Have we talked about that on this? I don't think we've talked about that.

Justin: No, that’s in the future.

Audra: We had a great time doing the Enneagram and learning and like the particular one that we did was the Enneagram Institute. My top three, because they did it more like strings finders, where they give you the list of all of them and where you land. They have a cluster. That's the top three. That is your bottom three. And when you see that, you're like, oh, I totally understand. And what it gave us was a language to use around where we're having challenge.

Like it gave us a way of understanding, like where the rub is. And that is really important. So it's not that it's easy to work together. It takes work to work together, but it's fruitful and productive. And we work really well together, we are very complementary. And I think just sharing that like it isn't cruising, you know what I mean? It's not like the easiest thing in the world, but that's in many ways what makes it good, because that's how you produce real change and results is by maybe not just agreeing all the time, like if we were the same kind of people and it was really easy...

Justin: There would be, well there would be I think, there would be big gaps in what we're doing. I do feel like The Family Thrive as it stands today is a really amazing resource. And I feel like we are, to use another sports metaphor, we're punching way above our weight, like we're producing stuff that I think is amazing. I think the podcast is fantastic. I think the app is great. I think the content is great. Of course, I am in charge of a lot of that stuff, but I feel like we would have many more gaps than what we have today.

And when I think about the future of The Family Thrive and all the cool things that we have on tap, that we are planning, it's because we do have very different strengths and that we can really work off of each other. And we, yeah, I think we work really, really well together, considering we're very, very different.

Audra: What advice would you give to anyone else who has to work with, has to, gets to.

Justin: Oh, man, this...

Audra: I'm hearing you, not “has to”, “gets to” work with our family and loved ones, partners.

Justin: Okay. For me, there are a couple of keys and but it really boils down to honesty plus connection. And so this is what I learned through my authentic relating training. And that has been my touchstone is that if I can be honest and authentic and really just reveal what are my desires here, what are my expectations, what are my assumptions, what are my stories, if I can be honest and then the key is, also remain in connection or commit to connection. Even if I don't feel like I'm in connection, that I'm committed to it, that I'm saying like I am committed to being connected to you and I'm committed to growing this relationship. Meeting you where you're at.

So it's for me, it's these two two things of it's honesty and it's connection, authenticity, connection. And if I can hold these two together and really commit to them both, then I know that we are going to come out in a higher place. We're going to come out in a stronger place.

Audra: I agree with you. And to highlight that, I was like, I'm on my phone actually right now because I was looking at a post by Yasmin Cheyenne and I really loved about boundaries, and I think it comes down to along in complementing what you're saying. It comes down to boundaries. It comes down to Brene Brown's clear is kind.

Justin: Clear is kind.

Audra: And that’s communication and honesty.

Justin: That’s the honesty part.

Audra: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the boundaries are important. I think I.

Justin: Ok, I'm sorry. So I the boundary thing, I feel a little off balance hearing the boundary thing. So. So why?

Audra: Why do you feel that way?

Justin: Oh, because for me, when I hear boundaries, I'm hearing other people who I am not fully committed to. And so I am putting up a boundary like, no, we're not going to go there because I am not committed to like spending my life with you and you being my life partner. So I don't feel like I don't….

Audra: Yeah, I don't I think we do have boundaries. I think we have boundaries to say when we want to be in the space of work and when we don't, when we want to, how we want to talk about things, we want to approach things like it's not a boundary again. So I'm not protecting myself from you. It's the space of like clarity where there are times when for you, you know, you have to draw a line somewhere for in being clear about that to say, this is how I want to proceed with this. You know, this is how I want to interact around this. This is how I want to be in a space like this, you know…

Justin: I totally get that. And that's an absolutely beautiful and perfect way to articulate boundaries. And for some reason, I just don't think about our relationship as having boundaries, although we have really clear communication and we are very clear and authentic and honest with each other about like, no, I need this right now and this is my thing or whatever the case is. So we do have boundaries. I just don't use that word in my mind because I don't know, maybe I have just some like romantic idea that like boundaries nice for other people, not for me and my partner. But no, but I think you're absolutely right.

Audra: Buy for others who are working with their family members and loved ones, like, I think being able to be, you know, open, honest, clear, like we're saying about how we're feeling, you know, even like sitting down, even if it's been 20 years that you've been working together and there's just still some really difficult things that are dragging you down or if it's new. Being able to get together and say, “hey, can we communicate around some really to communicate around some, just some ground rules with how we approach this?” Like I want our relationship to be, you know, number one. And in work, sometimes things can get difficult and blurry. And if we come to some clarity, I think a part of the challenge is then when we think things should just work out or if it's right, it just works, or if it's good, it just happens the right way or whatever. And that's never the case, really. There always is a need for clear, honest communication.

I mean, it's something that we work with our kids on too. And Maesie, at the age that she's a great girl. It's challenging, right? Like that's kind of like an age when you can really benefit from developing some of these communication skills and being able to clarify and develop boundaries. It's only going to benefit her. I have some challenges with boundaries, as my friend Jenny has been helping me understand, being a people pleaser, helper, peacemaker, you know, kind of kind of type of person. I think that my childhood I think I was a placater potentially for folks around me and things like that.

So I think boundaries have been I've been learning in all facets of my life how to become much more clear and much more focused on that communication and much more focus on honoring like myself and in the boundaries that I need. So I think that's definitely helped us. And I hope I'd love to maybe talk more about it on a on another episode, because I think that's something that Jenny and I have been talking a lot about, is how to like be a boss or a supervisor or someone in charge of other people or someone in charge of a business or so in in, you know, somebody who has to take ultimate responsibility. Right. As a people pleaser. It's a journey.

Justin: So we are definitely going to have that as its own podcast. There's a lot there. What I do want, because we are coming up against the hour, we want to keep this at an hour. I do want to plug a big thing that's happening in October for The Family Thrive.

Audra: Yes, please.

Justin: We are launching a parent/teen communication workshop with eight different experts, therapists, psychologists, researchers. It's amazing, relationship coaches, the communication skills that I've referenced or that we've referenced and the relationship skills are all going to be in this workshop, but it's going to be directly targeted at the parent/teen relationship. This is going to be a game-changing workshop for any parent who takes it. If you don't have teens yet. But, you know, the teenage years are coming. Please hop into this workshop, if you have teenagers now, please. This is going to change your relationship. And even if you have maybe a young adult, you have a teenager who has now moved out, but they are still young adults. There's a lot of applicable stuff there.

Audra: Grandkids.

Justin: Yeah. So please visit The Family Thrive. You will have the website. You'll be able to sign up for it probably by the time this podcast comes out. And then we're going to start it on October 17th. But you can sign up for it before then. All the proceeds from this workshop will go to MaxLove Project. So this is going to support an amazing cause. It's going to be a game-changing workshop. So please sign up. We're going to be talking a lot more about it in the app, so you'll get more information there. One other thing, our next workshop after the parent/teen communication workshop is going to be in November and it's going to be all about relationships and partnerships like we just talked about. But it's just going to be a one-week workshop. So it's going to be really intense. We're working with, again, some amazing…

Audra: Not really intense like work, like intense…

Justin: Intense, like you're going to get a lot…

Audra: A lot in a small period of time. Right. Right.

Justin: So stay tuned.

Audra: No we’re not gonna be putting you into an in-person bootcamp or anything.

Justin: All right. I think that's it.

Audra: So how can people support us if they're interested in growing with us, growing The Family Thrive movement with us? They want to be a part of this as we climb this mountain. How can they support us?

Justin: So the biggest thing I mean, like if you just want to go straight to it, you're like, hey, just let me into the app. You can go to app.familythrive.com, and you can get straight into the app. But if you want to learn more about us, then you can go to thefamilythrive.com, which is the website, and you're going to get all sorts of good stuff there. Please subscribe to the podcast. Tell a friend. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Audra: And if you're in the app already, please become an ambassador. You have your own unique link that you can use to send all of your friends and family. And we have some cool prizes, too, for people who successfully invite others in.

Justin: Awesome. All right. Thank you so much for listening, we’ll see you next time.

Audra: Bye.

Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.


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