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Second Act. Class Act. A Conversation with Amy Roloff

amy roloff

Amy Roloff, Reality Star, cook, businesswoman, entrepreneur, and new grandparent

For over 12 years now, the Roloff family has allowed us into their lives giving us a glimpse of what it’s like to be a little person in a world that is predominately designed for bigger people.  What we have learned from the Roloffs–and what might just be the greater point of the show is that their lives are essentially no different from any other family.

In their attempt to give us the most authentic view of their lives, we have been there to experience the mundane, the amazing, the exciting, some sadness, and even the deterioration of Matt and Amy’s marriage.  The show could have ended. Many thought it would but it’s still in full swing. Now we’re enjoying watching the kids (all now adults) enjoy their own lives and they’re gracious enough to let us in on it. The 13th season of Little People Big World premieres this fall.

Not long after the realization her marriage was over and she had come to terms, Amy began using the hashtag Second Act (#secondact), with a renewed commitment to living life to the fullest. However, Amy doesn’t seem to discount the importance of her first act or even regret it.  “After you graduate college you start your new job, and that’s like a continuation of the first chapter—I got married, and had my kids and that was a huge chapter of my life. My second act, as I expected it to be, ended. I’m an empty nester, my kids are now living their own lives, it’s not like I am not a mom anymore but I’m a different kind of mom.”

Amy is very open about the fact that things didn’t go as planned but she’s also clear that she knows she’s not the only person who has ever experienced the trials life can bring.

“My married life that I thought was going to continue forever isn’t there anymore and I’m divorced. But other people have faced divorce it’s not as if I am the first. People have faced it in different ways. Until you’re in someone else’s shoes divorce is just this general word, but then it becomes specific to you. I could have allowed it to put me in a place that would not be good, would not be healthy, but would have caused me to get stuck”

She explains she like many others who have faced these sorts of trials before, had to come to grips and to terms on her own, and that meant asking tough questions.

“There were definitely some moments there that I thought, “What am I going to do?” But I asked myself, “Amy what have you been doing all along? Continue to take hold of that and see where that goes and maybe change it. Maybe you go down a different road.  Maybe you get to follow a passion in a different way. So I call it my Second Act. It may be a little more challenging, but does life have to stop?  I think of it and tell myself– “You’ve still got a lot of life to live Amy.”  It’s the same life but it’s different. And I can continue to live it, and it can be good, exciting, adventurous and of course still filled with challenges.”

Amy, a devout Christian, attributes her positive perspective and grounded outlook to her father and her faith. “Your core is what you have to focus on. Ask yourself what your core is and focus on that. What is that one thing that regardless of what life throws at you, no matter the choices you make, what challenges you face, what great adventures you have, what love—what is that one thing? For me, it’s my faith. My dad taught me this back when I was in the first grade and I still hold onto it, “I’m good because I matter. I have value, and I still have a purpose.”

Much of Amy’s approach to overcoming a struggle or surviving a painful time is good advice to anyone really, “There are times in our life.” she says, “when we’re good with the status quo. Whatever we are facing, we just keep doing what we’re doing until we can do something else, but there’s also taking action. You keep moving. You keep waking up in the morning. There’s still something to do until you get out of this funk you’re in, and then suddenly you realize there’s a lot more to do. You don’t have to stay in the status quo anymore.”

She encourages people to get out of their comfort zones and enjoy life.  “A friend gave me this little stick figure drawing and the person is inside this circle.  Just outside that circle is a much bigger circle and it reads ‘This is where life happens, where imagination or creativity begins.’ You’ve got to get outside that comfort zone, take chances, and become vulnerable once in a while.”

Amy readily admits that she never really wanted to do television.  Still she realized early on that she could leverage her “known” (or celebrity) status to pursue greater passions and purpose.

“I didn’t want to do television. For me, it was too much vulnerability and too much exposure, and I didn’t feel I was at a place, or that my family was at a place, that could handle the magnitude of all that would bring into our lives. But eventually I said ‘yes’, and very soon into it I was asked to come and speak at my alma mater.”

Amy attended Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

“I thought to myself, ‘Speak about what? Why would you ask me to speak? How can I contribute?’ And suddenly it hit me that I had been given a platform that might benefit something else out there.”

Amy Roloff’s humble nature takes center stage when she shares about her life.  “I really expected 50 people to show up, and there were over 1800 people there, and that’s the first moment I realized the importance of looking for opportunities to share or give something that can make a difference with the opportunity I’ve been given in the media.”

In 2009, Amy established the Amy Roloff Charity Foundation improving emotional, social, and educational opportunities for kids around the world. The organization is involved in a number of activities ranging from youth soccer after school programs, to resource support for disability related organizations, medical supplies for kids in the Caribbean, to Haiti relief and much more.  She’s also used her platform to help with hunger relief in the Northwest, and around the country through groups like Feeding America, and by supporting food banks in Oregon and Cincinnati, and wherever she can use her celebrity status to give back.

But Amy is not only a philanthropist she’s also a businesswoman with a strong and perceptive entrepreneurial spirit and business sense about her.

“I love cooking.  I have been cooking since I was 14 years old.  If I had a fantasy, it would have been to be a teacher or to be in the culinary world as a chef.  We have the farm, and we’ve been growing pumpkins for years, so I thought why not see what sort of products we can create from our pumpkins.”

Then Roloff Farms products were born. Pumpkin products like Pumpkin Barbecue and Pumpkin Salsa can be ordered online and can be found in grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest.

Amy’s love for food has led her to past appearances on Food Network’s Chopped, celebrity chef charity episode and also on Rachel Ray’s show, and she’s published a cookbook.  She has also passed that entrepreneurial spirit, independence, and business sense on to her children.

Jeremy and Audrey are definitely entrepreneurs.  They have a great online business reaching out and helping people, especially young people in relationships with dating, finance, marriage, and it’s called Beating 50%.  The time and effort they put into that inspires me.  Zach (who is married to Tori and just welcomed a new baby) is coaching competitive teams and looks for opportunities to work with kids and soccer, and he goes out there and makes himself available. Molly is a CPA accountant, and our youngest Jacob is exploring becoming a writer and stays busy blogging and on social media.  I’m hoping with all my kids they saw something in their mother or how I’ve been a part of raising them, and their father has contributed a lot to all that as well. I learn a lot from my kids every day, and they’re all grown up now.”

Like the rest of us, Amy wishes she could have known what she knows now as a teenager, but in the end, she knows success is the culmination of all of our life experiences.  “I wouldn’t be where I am if I had made different choices.  In the end, to me success is making a difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t even have to be a massive amount. Just a difference, and if that’s the case I’m happy.”

That sentiment translates into success for her kids as well.  “Success is also, ‘Are my kids ok?’ Are they in a good place right now?’ I think they are, even though I know they’ll face their own challenges.  If I die tomorrow, was I successful? Well, did I make a difference?  Did I leave some sort of legacy?  I think we have lost a little bit of perspective about the importance of life’s moments with people.  Not the fireworks, not the big vacations, but did you call a friend up you haven’t seen in a while and have a cup of coffee with them? Did you sacrifice some time for someone else? I find sacrificing some time for someone else part of our success. It’s about making connections with people and helping them be the best they can be.”

Amy Roloff is a woman of faith, an entrepreneur, a reality TV star, a parent—and now a grandparent.  If the rest of her Acts play out like the first, and second, she will no doubt leave that legacy of success she dreams of.  By using her very public platform to a make a difference, she has not only become an icon, she is a class act.

Learn more: 

Amy Roloff’s Website

Amy Roloff Charity Foundation

Follow Amy on Twitter

Follow Chester Goad, the author, on Twitter

 

*This article first appeared here at HuffPo. 

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