Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Michelle Obama

Poet’s Corner – Heartfelt Thank You


If I could wrap you up in ribbons;
And top you off with bows:
I’d thank you for your beauty;
And relieving us of woes.
You see, you’re tied up with my heart strings;
Tied up in my past;
You brought us back America–
From a death I feared might last.
I’d thank you for your kindness;
And what you each beseeched.
And finally a President,
That couldn’t be impeached.
I’d thank you for your conscience;
You did all that you could.
And I hope to God the next one,
Does just what he should.
I’d thank you for your insight:
We’re one big family,
While trying hard to show us,
That we’re the ones who lead
Our country into greatness;
Our world to greater peace;
And in the storm of change we’ll see
Exactly what that means.
I’d thank our lovely FLOTUS:
A blossom grown from grace.
Then thank your lovely children
Who gave our youth a face:
To lead us going forward;
Every woman; every man.
To remind us, live with courage,
Knowing:  YES WE CAN.

Bigstock Top Photo: President Barack Obama – Michelle Obama greets fans after his Inauguration in Washington, D.C. on 20th January 2013.

My Career Choice: Tina Hay – Napkin Finance


Tina Hay comes from a diverse background encompassing film, technology and finance. Her personal struggles understanding complex financial topics led her to found Napkin Finance, a guide to everything you need to know about money in 30 seconds or less. Financial topics are sketched out on napkins to illustrate and break down their meaning.

The mission of the company is to empower readers to make smart money decisions and build a lifetime of financial well-being. The most rewarding part of running the company for Tina has been the amazing response to the platform. It has appealed to all ages in need of a better way to understand personal finance. Napkin Finance has been featured in Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, E! Entertainment, and Forbes among others publications.

Napkin Finance has also partnered with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Education Initiative, Better Make Room, with the creation of a Napkin Finance course for helping students save and pay for college. Schools around the country have used the platform. It has helped students learn by designing their own napkins and also by creating a more interactive teaching experience than the traditional lecture format.

You can read more about Napkin Finance and Tina at the website.


Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
As a child I was always very competitive and active. I loved learning and was always curious about how things worked. I don’t remember one event that triggered my interest, but I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I believe my personality and interests are well-suited to the startup lifestyle. Otherwise, I don’t think I could have done it for this long!

What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
I love being an entrepreneur and everything it entails. The most exciting part is building a new product that solves a real need. There is nothing more rewarding than creating a business and a team around it that makes a difference in people’s lives. We love hearing back from our members that they love our content and we are helping them make better choices for their financial well-being. That’s the best part of what I do.

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
I was always very curious about business and started reading up on the market at an early age. I remember wanting to invest when I was very young and asking my parents to put my savings in IBM and Coca Cola. I started businesses when I was still in school and learned a great deal about the challenges in building a company. I continue to learn from my mentors and colleagues- it is never ending!

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
I have been lucky to have very supporting and encouraging friends and family. Of course, it is always a roller coaster ride when starting a business, but I feel my harshest critic is often myself.

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
I really didn’t!

student-loan-napkinA Napkin from Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative

When did your career reach a tipping point?
I think the tipping point came when we started to hear from other companies who wanted to partner with us. It is incredibly challenging to build great content, especially dealing with money and finance. Knowing that people who understood the market need valued our product was very powerful. It confirmed that all the hard work we put into building high-quality products and content is worth it.

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges is finding great people and partners. It has been very difficult to find the right mix of creativity, passion, attention to detail, and dedication in one person. We are lucky to have those people now on our team, but it takes a lot of time to find them.

What single skill has proven to be most useful?
I think my strongest skill is solving problems. I believe in thinking outside the box and finding creative solutions to those issues. The hardest part of running a company is often keeping everything moving. There are fires we need to put out every day while continuing to improve the product and serve our customers.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud and excited about our partnership with the White House and Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room initiative. Napkin Finance has created a course with “Napkins” that prepare students for the financial challenges of a college education. The Better Make Room collaboration with Napkin Finance has inspired and empowered students to fill out The FAFSA, learn more about ways to pay for college and understand how student loans work.

Any advice for others entering your profession?
I think there is no better time to be building a business. There are numerous resources and tools to help create new technologies and solutions. My only advice would be to stay lean and experiment often and quickly to see what features work best.

Todd Moss’ Ghosts of Havana – Intrigue Behind the Scene


On July 20, 2015, diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were restored. And this past March, President and Michelle Obama visited the island nation. Airlines are scrambling to be approved for flights to Cuba and other companies who profit from tourism are lining up.

What negotiations really happened behind the scenes to bring about normalization of relations? In his new novel, Ghosts of Havana, Todd Moss imagines how it all might have gone down. Names, of course, have been changed, but the plot seems plausible, probably because Moss knows what he’s talking about. Now a senior fellow at a DC think tank, from 2007 to 2008 Moss served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State where he was responsible for diplomatic relations with 16 West African countries. A few weeks before the Obamas landed in Cuba, Moss was there and wrote about his experience in USA Today: “There are constant reminders that Cuba is a totalitarian state,,,[but] I left with the sense that Cuba was on the verge of major transformation.” That’s the Cuba we see in Ghosts of Havana, a country on the brink of change, but still holding onto the ghosts from its past.

This is Moss’s third installment, after Minute Zero and The Golden Hour, starring Judd Ryker, and his wife, Jessica. Formerly a college professor known for “teasing out patterns in data to uncover what was really going on,” Judd was recruited by the State Department to set up a Crisis Reaction Unit. Jessica is a CIA operative good at keeping secrets, even from her husband. The two have just returned from a harrowing assignment in Zimbabwe with a very positive outcome. During that assignment, Jessica apparently came to Judd’s aid and he realized that there was more to his wife than her good looks. (Since I jumped into this series without reading the previous books, more backstory about Judd and Jessica would have helped flesh out the characters.)

Ghosts of HavanaWhat begins as a seemingly innocent fishing trip by four poker buddies turns into an international incident. After their boat, aptly named The Big Pig, leaves U.S. waters, they draw fire from the Cuban army and soon find themselves prisoners being paraded before TV audiences in orange jumpsuits. Two of the men – Alejandro Cabrera and Brinkley Barrymore III – have an agenda that they haven’t shared with their two friends. But when it becomes apparent that those plans have gone awry, their capture places not only their own lives but the future of U.S.- Cuba relations in jeopardy.

Judd’s boss, Langdon Parker, the Secretary of State’s chief of staff, enlists Judd’s help. Yet in this case, as in previous ones, Judd finds himself in over his head. And, once again, he will find himself depending on his wife to get him out of a dangerous situation.

In this husband-wife partnership, Jessica not only has the brains, but also the brawn. She survives being chased and shot at through Florida’s swamps and has no trouble piloting a technically advanced helicopter into enemy territory. All this while taking care of her two young children on a Florida vacation that turns out to be anything but. Talk about multi-tasking!

Judd, meanwhile, should rethink leaving academia. He’s smart but no Jason Bourne or 007. One has to wonder why Parker keeps throwing him into situations where even a skilled operative would have difficulty escaping alive. In the end, that’s part of the appeal of both Judd and Jessica, a couple that turns on its head our thinking about what makes a good spy. Jessica has the grit and experience, but Judd’s naivete and inexperience allow him to gain people’s trust, as he does when he comes face to face with the volatile Oswaldo Guerro, “the Devil of Santiago,” and the power behind Cuba’s president.

There are the requisite shady characters: the CIA head known only as the Director of Operations; tough as nails Congresswoman Brenda Adelman-Zamora; billionaire Ruben Sandoval, with roots in Cuba; and “Ricky,” who is doing more than just renting boats in Marathon, Florida.

Ghosts of Havana is a plot-driven, rather than a character-driven mystery. It’s enough to keep the pages turning – very quickly, in fact – but at the end we feel we hardly know Judd and Jessica or, for that matter, many of the other players in this international drama. Filling in some of those blanks wold elevate what is already a terrific read.

Ghosts of Havana
Todd Moss

Top photo: January 11 2016: Typical scene of one of streets in the center of Santiago de cuba – Colorful architecture people walking around and vintage american cars in the roads. Santiago is the 2nd largest city in Cuba. Bigstock photo.