This is a special “Extraordinary People Sharing Their Stories” Interview! Plus, March is Women’s History Month and today, March 8th is International Women’s Day. Join me, in reading about and celebrating Kris Diasio.
Kris is Owner of ADD2Life20. I have known Kris since our daughters, (now in their early twenties), were pre-school classmates!
We bonded then and have kept in touch intermittently over the years. We are both entrepreneurs and love the life with successes, milestones as well as setbacks.
In September, 2020, Kris had an enormous setback – she lost her home in the Almeda-Talent/Phoenix fire – and she lost everything. I mean everything. Kris is building back her life with an amazing force of resilience, energy, enthusiasm and vigor.
Read about Kris and her journey with Add2Life20, before and since the fire in our interview:
SJF: Kris, it’s so great to reconnect as always! I am so interested in your journey and am absolutely impressed with your resilience. To get started, please tell us about your special education coaching business Add 2 Life 20.
KD: Add2Life20 delivers special education coaching for parents, caregivers and teachers to support students with special educational needs. I specialize in working with challenged students (ages 13-18) to help them overcome learning difficulties and have a successful educational experience. I offer a variety of coaching tools and help them achieve their educational goals and see successful outcomes.
SJF: Did you make any personal discoveries (or aha! moments) when creating this new business? If so, please explain.
KD: I was a former Program Manager for Sex Trafficked Teen Girls…I loved my job but once the pandemic hit, I was let go. I had my coaching business prior to this job for twenty years. While I was STAYING HOME AND SAFE, I started looking on LinkedIn. I had this account for three years but did absolutely nothing with it. I was tired of going on other sites and getting nowhere. As I spent more time on LinkedIn, I felt like I had a virtual family. There was so much support offered for those of us looking for employment. I soaked up everything; Zoom, posts, whatever I could get my hands on. I then met my Visibility Coach through LinkedIn and thought, “It’s time to rebuild my Coaching business but ‘virtually’!” That’s when ADD2Life20 was born.
SJF: How did you decide on the business name Add 2 Life 20?
KD: The name came to me two years ago…I didn’t understand WHY then but I will break it down to you.
ADD-Stands for Attention Deficit Disorder but it’s also an ADD to life…many of my students have felt that they are so glad they have this.
So it’s a POSTIVE ADD.
Add2Life…is again a positive situation, not a negative.
The ’20’: I had my coaching business for 20 years and then rediscovered it again in 2020.
So Add2Life20 was born.
SJF: Why/How/When did you decide to start Add 2 Life 20?
KD: My big issue here is, I wanted to work from home and be safe with the pandemic out there.
I knew that the pandemic was seriously affecting students who are struggling with a variety of learning challenges and they would fall through the cracks in their education. In addition, I no longer wanted to work for an organization that didn’t value my health and welfare – that was unacceptable to me. So that’s where I was inspired to start Add2Life20.
SJF: What is your role as a Special Education Coach?
KD: I have taught, inspired and uplifted students diagnosed with AD/HD, Dyslexia and Anxiety/Depression for over 30 years.
*I use both my academic background (MS. SP. ED.) and practical experience to deliver an educational coaching service where I act as a translator between the student and parents in schools.
*I help students learn life and academic skills.
*I help parents navigate the difficult situations of their child’s educational experience.
*I support teachers in bridging the gap to work more successfully with students.
Through my unique and personal coaching style and learning strategies, I help my students greatly improve their grades, self-esteem and social skills in a relatively short period of time. Many of my “graduates” have gone on to successful careers as Scientists, Therapists, Military Personnel, Hairdressers, Technologists and more. I am passionate about inspiring and supporting my students to live a successful life without limits.
What Coaching achieves:
*Students will learn time management.
* Students will be able to forecast and use the calendar efficiently.
*Students will have better retrieval systems, so more homework will get done in a timely manner, and they will have fewer last minute frenzied searches for misplaced assignments.
SJF: What are some of your resources for working with your clients?
Here is a recent podcast interview with Kris on the “Maddie’s Chat Show Podcast” all the way from the U.K.:
SJF: Thank you, that is all incredible. The name ADD 2 Life 20 says it all. To change course a bit, is there anything you’d like to mention about challenges and most recently the tragedy in your life?
KD: Ah yes, the Fire! I can share that the past decade had brought many challenges starting with; divorce, breast cancer, single parenting, the loss of a job, diabetes and then the Fire last September. I realize now that all of that was all a “training wheel” for the Fire.
SJF: You certainly have been through so much the past few years. I saw that you were a part of this video about the devastating Almeda-Talent/Phoenix fire. I am including the video so our readers can see, understand and empathize with you regarding the devastation you endured. https://youtu.be/WqpCHua7pB4
KD: Yes, to lose your entire life memories in a fire is brutal…especially if you are a sentimental soul like I am. My neighbors were expecting their first baby when the fire hit. They have it all in front of them though…Baby’s first Christmas ornaments, little hand and footprints from Pre-School, recordings of all the firsts, middle and in between. It’s a bit different when you have a twenty-two year-old, who did all those things.
My parents’ friend shared with me a great idea; have your daughter recreate what you lost! I LOVED the idea and so for Christmas, I received a very familiar handprint inside a ceramic heart…granted it was a 22-year-old handprint but a TREASURE all the same!
It’s about taking private pain and turning it into something positive!
My daughter and I volunteered at her high school’s Health Classes, and shared both of our journey’s with Breast Cancer…taking private pain and turning it into public purpose! The classes were a big hit and we used theatre, humor and education to get our lessons across (and especially for our male students)!
I shared with my daughter before she went off to college, that all the pain she’s been through, will serve her later in life.
Later on, she shared with me that two of her friend’s parents were getting a divorce, and that she was now the adviser. Then, a parent of her college friend got cancer, and again she was able to guide and support them.
While it’s a brutal blow to go through all this trauma, it serves a purpose…oh trust me, I am still walking through four months post-fire but am inspired to write a book about the experience to share with others and want some of the proceeds to go to other fire victims.
Lastly this, the worst part is to recall everything I lost for the insurance company. Just think of your kitchen, the junk drawer, the towels etc. Makes your head blow up, right?! That’s what it’s like to recall everything and the worst part is I am near my limit on what my insurance offered! So all that work, energy and effort and yet I still have 2 bedrooms to cover…I won’t bother with all I lost in the garage.
I love this quote, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess!”
I think that’s about hopes and dreams in God’s hands, that’s how I like to hold it.
SJF: If you had to “do it all over again” would you change anything?
KD: This is a tricky one…you can’t say you regret a bad marriage, as you wouldn’t have your child.
What I can say is, I wish that my life was kinder to me, but I wouldn’t change anything as I am who I am because of the past!
I learned and grew and changed for the better. If everything was rosy, I wouldn’t be the compassionate soul I am today.
I know what it’s like to have cancer, diabetes, be a single parent (there should be a medal for all single parents…but OH the skill set you get!) have had to move around that rivals with a military family, and lose a home due to natural disaster.
The blessing in all of this, is that I am relatable, I understand, I can relate to trauma, managing to do things on my own but I also learned how to ask for help.
Something I didn’t share in a previous question is my faith! I am very strong in the Lord and if it weren’t for God, I have no idea what would have happened to me!
If there was anything to change…I think my older self (now) would tell my younger self, “Be easy on yourself, take one day at a time and know God’s got you!”
SJF: A brief history of your education, work positions, etc.
KD: I hold a Master’s Degree in Special Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.
I have been a Program Manager for Sex Trafficked Teen girls and had 18 employees, who did amazing work with these young girls.
My executive team was amazing and I called them the Dream Team. We all worked so well together and I promoted their gifts and talents.
It was incredible to watch and see all the gifts my staff carried out each and everyday, through the good, tough and hard and awesome shifts.
I loved my position and felt born for the role. I adored my work with the girls and was able to witness both growth and graduation success.
My joy has been my self-employment being an AD/HD and Educational Coach. I still keep in touch with my former students and seeing them as young successful adults is so rewarding. They all had challenges but overcame those difficulties and have gone on to some incredible careers. Many have gone on to marry and have families of their own. I could share volumes of how all these former students took their challenges and created something positive from their journey. For now, just know how proud I am of them all!
I have been an Aquatic Fitness Instructor, which has nothing to do with my career but I get to teach adults and that’s been a rewarding experience. I get to hear how they are stronger, have more endurance and increased range of motion. I also love my music selection so we all get moving in the pool and have a wonderful time.
When I was much younger, I started out in retail and held that position from age 16-26. It served me well as I experienced firsthand challenges and it taught me how to operate in business. I was an Assistant Manager at Lady Footlocker and that’s where my interest in working with teens came from.
I would be assisting the part-time employees who were teenagers. My manager loved how well I would work with them it was through that journey I realized I was in the wrong field. So I switched gears and worked with juvenile offender teen Boys. This was my first job in the field of teens. It was a huge change but I loved it! That lead me later to becoming a Child Protection Investigator and Foster Care worker. I learned incredible skills in these positions and mastered the art of investigating. This helped with asking teens about what happened and getting their story on issues.
Interesting story on becoming a CPS worker; my ex-husband at the time was in the military. One of the wives approached me with a tough situation she was facing – she was accused of child abuse and a week before I met her and her family (baby and husband). They were a darling couple from the Deep South. I made a call on this wife’s behalf and I shared that the allegations were inaccurate, and that the family were both nurturing to the infant. I was so good at giving detail that after the phone call I was offered the position and then hired.
That started my journey into working with very challenging children, which lead me to working in another group home, which lead me to focusing on education.
My daughter was born and I wanted to stay home and raise her. I had a part time job at a tutoring center in California, that’s where my business was born.
I didn’t like the curriculum that was being taught and one of my students at this company was getting so frustrated and started to cry. He was a little one and I immediately changed the curriculum and thought to myself, “why don’t you start your own specialized tutoring business?!” and the rest as they say, “is history.”
Another position I held was being a professional organizer. That came from working with one of my student’s parents. I enjoy taking chaos and creating order…it’s one of my gifts and of course, I do that with my students!
I will end with this…we never know when life takes us in interesting journeys and experiences to see where we will end up. Just trust the process and you will get your star and your purpose!
SJF: What are your personal pastimes/hobbies/interests/passions?
KD: When I had my daughter, I became her paparazzi! I love taking photos and can pre-anticipate just about any shot at a birthday party, dance, prom etc.
Granted, my daughter is well passed all these things, but other people have children and can “capture” the moment like a boss!
My true love, and I have done this for 21 years, is scrapbooking! It was awful losing all my supplies (due to the fire), let alone 20 albums, but I have received many gifts to replenish my lost supplies. The big thing now, is to create virtual albums, and while I get this, after the fire, this is NOT me. I love manipulating the ribbons, paper and various embellishments! Last year I completed 6 Albums, while staying home and safe. With my Dad being a CERT leader in his neighborhood, he encouraged me early last year to create a Go Bag in the event of an emergency and I set aside 6 scrapbooks in this Go Bag. As I was evacuating my house, I grabbed 3 more albums and so grateful I had them. I had to literally STOP my brain weeks after the Fire from saying,” Why didn’t you grab…” I told myself…stay THANKFUL and you’re good!
I also love movies! I’m the one who catches what they call “goofs” in a movie, I can see if there was a candle in the background in one shot and the next shot it’s not there. Trust me, it’s an annoying skill but excellent in my line of work with AD/HD students. I mainly love Romantic Comedy but also love Mysteries and enjoyed Sherlock!
My passions are working with students and seeing them become incredible young men and women! Two of them are serving our country, I am very proud to say. The extraordinary measures my students have taken to be successful are incredible!
SJF: Tell us about your upbringing, geographically, personally etc.
KD: I was born and raised in NYC. It was an interesting life there. I learned to have eye’s in the back of my head and always sat in the back of the bus to observe people. A huge education for me!
My mother was a career Mom, and my Dad wasn’t much in the picture. Dad, I found out had mental illness but I didn’t realize that until my older years. My parents divorced when I was 13 and off I was on my own and learning about life – the good, the bad, the unusual. That was the makings of a great coach later in life!
My grandparents were my rocks in life and named my daughter after one of my grandmothers!
It wasn’t all doom, while I was getting my education in “life” my mother and I moved to California when I was 16 and life was much better.
I attended San Jose State University and joined the ROTC program. I loved the structure and while that was only a small moment in my life, it gave me the structure and discipline I so needed.
Living in the Bay Area was wonderful and I had many wonderful experiences there. Made great friends, my career was coming together, obtained a Master’s Degree and had my daughter.
Eleven years ago, I moved to Oregon and have been here since. I love Southern Oregon and again, have made friends but the experiences were a bit different as I mentioned above.
SJF: Where can we find you on the web? Website, social media etc.
I also want to share that I have a wonderful Virtual Classroom and am excited to share this with my students!
SJF: Do you have any recommendations re: coping with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic? Stress management tools?
KD: COVID-19 -I used this as a time to catch up, organize, exercise, scrapbook, and reaching out to friends whom I haven’t talked to in forever.
I also rediscovered my business and dove right into making that happen. Decorated my house…yes, this is the one that burned.
If some people are wondering how I had time? I am an empty-nester and not married. I had time to do all of this.
What I learned is to be STILL, my prayer life is super important to me and would start my day with readings and prayer and time with God.
Being gentle with yourself is key, if you don’t complete something, don’t become unraveled…just pick it up tomorrow, if the schedule allows. We stress about all kinds of little things and have heard it say, “We major in the minors.” Not a good rule to follow.
COVID for me, was about learning to STEP BACK AND TAKE A MINUTE. Granted, that “minute” was 12 months ago – but it’s a minute in the scheme of a life time!
SJF: How has the Covid-19 affected you personally/professionally?
KD: I was laid off due to COVID but it brought my self-employment back into my life. So I am very grateful for that.
My daughter came down with COVID and as she lives 3 hours away from me. She had only a mild case, so I was extremely grateful for that one.
Staying home and staying safe lead me back into scrapbooking again and organizing my townhouse and I really had a good time before the fire.
The biggest struggle is to be a flaming extravert and stay home and stay safe. My crafts and some great music, kept me in Happy Land! I guess you can say in my career and in life, I have good coping skills.
SJF: Role models or persons that inspire you in your life?
KD: I would say the people who inspired me were both my Grandparents. They had good marriages and they were so incredibly kind and loving towards me. They were there for me and I absolutely loved visiting them. One set of Grandparents were Italian, and OHHH THE FOOD…I am so sorry that I didn’t get recipes from my Grandmother, but she could whip up gourmet meals like nothing!
In the AM, I would hear my Grandparents talk Italian and that was really cool, they didn’t think I was listening but I did. I had no clue what they were talking about, but I figured out later it was to be confidential as they didn’t want me to hear what they were saying. My other set of Grandparents were in the Midwest and completely had different experiences there. Still kindness and grace where there and my other Grandmother made incredible meals but I learned baking from her! Both sets of Grandparents, were my anchors in life and set a standard that I later held in my adult life.
SJF: Favorite quotes?
KD: “Think you can, think you can’t, either way, you’ll be right.” Henry Ford. And “DO what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt
SJF: Who (celebrity) would you like to have lunch or dinner with to discuss your business?
KD: Barbara Walters would be my pick to have lunch with and share my business! I would also pick Tom Hanks. I think his personality would appreciate what I do and have done in my career!
SJF: Significant moments?
KD: A) When I became a parent! It was great, thrilling and a little scary to know I am solely responsible for this little darling girl! That baby will be 23 soon and she’s done really well in her life and navigating adulting really well.
B) Cancer; Oh man oh man, was that a HUGE wake-up call for my life. This was the time that I had to really focus on myself!
My focus was on my marriage at the time, my child, work and everyone else in my family…then Cancer came knocking on my sweet door.
I learned self-care and basically changed my life. I also appreciate everything small and tiny…gratitude in a BIG WAY. Through this event, both my daughter and I taught Breast-Cancer Awareness classes for four years in all of the Health Classes at my daughter’s high school. We both gained an enormous amount from that experience.
C) September 8, 2020…The Fire; Home burnt to the ground…nothing but ashes!
Since that was only 5 months ago, it’s still a work in progress. I will be writing a book on my experience and sharing what a REAL GO-BAG should look like.
A back-pack with tiny toiletries does not a GO-BAG make! I can no longer look at a fireplace with peace, but if the flames are small it’s okay.
There are certain fire smells that are okay…like that of a fire place but there’s a completely different smell when homes are burning.
I am grateful that I left fifteen minutes before my house caught fire. My former student came by only fifteen minutes AFTER I left to check and see if I was okay, and he shared that the back of my house was on fire. Gratefully, I got out of there and was spared seeing my house on fire, even though the next day I saw a video that showed otherwise.
People came with a tidal-wave of support for me; my high school friends, relatives, literally people out of the woodwork came and supported me. Even more gratitude here, I think everyone else had a sense of how severe the situation was verses where my trauma-brain was at at that time. I live gratitude everyday and am slowly building up some of what I have lost. I shifted from having a DVD collection to purchasing streamed movies…less clutter and I can watch my movies on any device! Something the younger group knows vs. us! Going lighter on paper and there are more tools on the computer which is linked to the Cloud!
Fire Humor; When people asked if I have this or that…I say,”Yup, it’s in the Cloud…I just can’t access it! LOL”
A tiny piece of my book:
What to say to someone who has lost a house to a Fire? “I can’t even imagine.” That’s right…you have no idea!
Bring a solution to the Fire Victim, “Can I bring you lunch tomorrow?” Be as specific as you can when offering something, because we can’t even think about our new reality.
What NOT to say,” Well, you can replace items…the key thing is you are okay.” This one is really bad, and you think I can purchase a tiny footprint of my daughter when she was 1?
Or how about ALL the Mother’s Day cards my daughter ever made me? Or the two bins that had all of her best-of-the best of schooling, report cards, awards, letters to Santa…yah, they don’t sell that at Walmart! There’s a thousand other items like Baby’s First Christmas ornament, very specialized, all the Christmas ornaments she made for me in Elementary School…that’s right…won’t find that at Macy’s. Or how about my Grandfather’s military uniform…not on Amazon! Also don’t say, “What do you need?” I laughed so hard when I heard that…again, ask, “Would you like a gift card to your favorite store?” Bring solutions, not questions. We are in trauma-brain, my list would have been like this: bandages, duck tape, bra’s, underwear, Q-tips, mascara…” We need everything…so bring SPECIFICS to the conversations.
Another note; Please don’t share YOUR fire story…this is not the time to think you could possibly know what we are going through. You might feel it’s a way of connecting with us but it just makes us upset as we need to tell OUR story, not hear YOURS. So listening to how you Grandma lost everything in the fire really doesn’t do it for us. Wait for a year before you share that story.
INSURANCE; This is a God-Send BUT…You better have the time and the concentration to write down all that was lost. Here are some things you will need; item, where purchased, serial number (my personal favorite! LOL!) how long you’ve had the item and describe the item. Oh for those of you who think you have it covered by taking pictures and video…NOPE, that photo or video is for YOU. You still have to write it all down. No off-the-hook for you. It’s a gut wrenching experience. Remember when you take a photo of your couch, the Content person doesn’t know if that couch is $800 or $8000.
The wonderful idea my parents friends had was to RECREATE some of those special items I lost in the fire. I suggested this to my daughter about the recreation and she purchased a heart shaped plaster wall hanging where she put her 22-year old hand print in. There you go…a replica of her handprint at age two was made! That was the BEST gift…and what do I care that she’s a grown up…the sentiment was there and I love it! Creativity is key and it’s healing and fun!
SJF: Where/How do you ‘give back’ to your community/communities?
KD: I mentioned how my daughter and I took private pain and turned it into public purpose and talked about the journey through Breast Cancer. While we were teaching our BC classes in Health Classes, we also participated in Relay for Life.
Here are some photos from ‘Relay for Life’
I was a Co-Captain for Relay and my Co-Captain Leslie handled our Team, who were Breast Cancer Survivors. I handled the Students, who were going to participate in the 24 hour Relay. So my daughter and I recruited 25-40 students for this event during our classes, during the school year. I realized, I needed help and acquired three more students who demonstrated true leadership ability during the first Relay. In addition to my daughter, we had four amazing leaders to run Relay. I got the Dream Team in place during the 2nd year of Relay, so they were quite seasoned in what to do during this event. I trained my Dream Team for four months on how to handle students during Relay. The Dream Team was able to successfully forecast any challenges that would arise. On the day of Relay, both me and my Co-Captain Leslie, watched in awe as these students ran things. My Dream Team had to work on scheduling, posting different students at different events through out the day. Always have accountability every hour on where these students were, who was on break, who was working where etc. The Dream Team managed all the in’s and outs of this event and would check in with me hourly on the various activities. The students participated in walking for our team and other fun events, and working specific stations, including doing bathroom duty.
It was a huge success for four years and I was so proud of all the students who participated in this event, especially, the Dream Team!!
SJF: What qualities should the younger generations aspire to that you think are important in this day and age?
KD: This is simple; PULL AWAY FROM YOUR DEVICES and realize that Social Media is NOT always correct. Get back out into nature! TEEN CHALLENGE; For one day, leave your phone at home! That’s right…1 whole day…then they can see what life was like when we were young:)
SJF: Tell us some of your thoughts on Motherhood!
KD: Motherhood – Enjoy the little years! While you are thinking during the temper tantrums…”I can’t wait until they grow up, so I can have a real conversation with them!” They really won’t be too interested in what you have to say then. I see the little years as the “Wonder Years.” Granted, I had fantastic “little years” experience, so I’m somewhat tainted!
Once they hit 18…start asking them questions! Like, “So how would handle that?” Put more of the solution in their court than in yours. As your child learns and grows, sit back and listen to their view of the world. Let them be the expert…remember they have had a completely different experience growing up in a different time than you did! The greatest moment for me, is when I have watched my daughter coach her Gymnastics Team! She’s a MASTER in her field…and only 22! To see your child become successful, to see your child navigate in a relationship, is wonderful! They have to figure it out. If you hear something that freaks you out…let THEM figure it out!! This does not apply if there is danger or high risk, then parent away! I’m talking when they think they can do some things and YOU know better…let them figure it out. We didn’t have anyone to really slow the brakes on us…by letting go, they grow up! Cherish the short time you have with your adult child as they grow older and realize they are doing the best they can. The good thing is, when they leave the nest…for the most part, they LOVE coming home, and the memories flow and I even heard from some of my friends who are Grandmothers, that your adult children will actually apologize to you for being so selfish! Don’t hold your breath or wait on that one…if it comes, it’s a bonus:)
SJF: How do you handle loss?
KD: Loss; that’s a tough one. Each of us has our own coping skills on how we handle ourselves during Trauma/Loss.
For me, TAKE IT EASY…be kind to myself!
Realize that people are doing the best they can…even if they annoy you to no-end!
Each day brings different things but hold on to FAITH, NEVER GIVE UP…the miracle might be just around the corner…I have waited and the miracle did come.
I have walked through, Divorce, Breast Cancer, Single Parenthood and the loss of a Home to a Fire…I refuse to be an EMPTY SHELL person! Gratitude is a MUST, and I hold to that daily. I have heard it say,” Cracks are where the Grace of God shine through!” So shine, grieve, cry, get mad but don’t let anger get the last word!
Be extremely gentle with yourself, take naps, power down, walk, exercise, dance and call someone who you haven’t talked to in awhile.
You will want to PLOW through it all…there’s only one way to deal with pain…GO THROUGH IT, in order to get to the other side of WELLNESS!
SJF: Where have you traveled and where would you like to travel once Covid-19 is OVER???
KD: After COVID; I want to take my daughter to Central California and stay at one of our favorite places called Apple Farm in San Luis Obispo or as the locals call it SLO!
As my business starts doing well, I want to go to England, as I have so many new friends through LinkedIn!! I’m excited about that experience!
Honestly, I just can’t wait to go the beach, be in a crowd, without having heart-failure about COVID! Be out and about with peace and serenity is fine by me!
SJF: To sum it up, is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
KD: One more thing…The song “I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John really resonated with me and says it all!
SJF: Absolutely, that song is spot on…definitely! Thank you Kris, it’s truly been a pleasure. All the best in 2021 and beyond!