She’s a Woman on Fire! Meet Sherrerd Hartness

Welcome back to our ongoing series to introduce you to each other.  She’s a Woman on Fire! member and we want you to know her.  Please say hello to… 

Sherrerd Hartness is a Woman on Fire-

Sherrerd Hartness

Greenville, S.C.

WOF member: #00257

Member since:  December 20, 2013

Please tell us about YOU, your family and your work. What you are “on fire” about? 

I am the mother of two fantastic sons who are now grown up and out on their own. Since 1988, I have worked for myself in interior design. Juggling children and trying to work whenever I could took a lot of time and energy. Now I am ready to grow my business, invest in myself and conquer my fears.

I am on fire about expanding my business. In addition to that, I have a coffee table book I want to create. Part of the proceeds will benefit Habitat for Humanity, so stay tuned!

Also, my friend and Woman on Fire Nancy Neal’s husband, Tom, has asked me to raise $300,000 for a documentary he is co-producing on James Jamerson, the legendary bass player who was on more recordings than the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Beach Boys combined. I bet all of you can hum the bass line to “My Girl” right now! I have never done anything like this before, but the more I learn, the more fired up I am. Bring it on!

How did you originally connect to Women on Fire?

Last summer, I had the most fantastic intern, Emily Neal, who is the daughter of Nancy Neal, and granddaughter of Marge Snyder, a co-author in Women on Fire, Volume 2. Emily had interned during the summer of 2012 for Women on Fire, and she kept talking about Debbie Phillips and Meredith Schoenberger when she was working for me.

I went on Amazon and bought Women on Fire, Volume 1, and then signed up for the newsletter. A few months later, I became a member. When I read about the retreat, I thought, “I may not know anyone, but I’m going to attend. I’m sure I will find some people I like.” And, boy did I! Now I would use the words like and love!

What’s your favorite component of the Women on Fire membership?

What do I like best about Women on Fire? My answer is EVERYTHING! The support is pretty mind-blowing!

What is your favorite part of the day?

I love to start my day early, at 6:00 to 6:30 a.m., with a cup of coffee and quiet time in my reading room. My black-and-white kitty, Mowgli, usually spends this time with me, which I think is super sweet.

I light a candle and often put on headphones and listen to a guided imagery or a meditation. Sometimes, I use a Hemi-Sync CD. The Uplift Meditation by John Selby is also a favorite of mine. I have been saying the beautiful prayer that Kristine Carlson shared during her interview with Debbie Phillips: “Divine love, play me as an instrument in your finely tuned orchestra of life.”

I also love late afternoon and dusk when the world is slowing down again.

What was the last book you read that you would recommend to other Women on Fire?

Incognito by Andrea Raynor and First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (I am about halfway through). I am also wild about all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books.

What is the one thing you’re most proud of?

I am most proud of my two wonderful, kind and fun sons. I am also proud of myself.

It has taken me more than 50 years to realize and own that most people who have experienced what I have in my life — the murder of my sister; the loss of my older brother to AIDS; the dysfunctional, cruel and neglectful home life I grew up in; and an abusive marriage — would end up bitter and angry. I still believe in my fellow human beings, and even though there have been decades filled with dark days, I remain optimistic most of the time.

The counselor who encouraged me to stand up for myself during my divorce told me that I am a Miracle. A psychologist who helped me deal with the heartbreaking events in my family told me the same thing. And the staff psychiatrist at the hospital where I took my mother before she died told me, “It is amazing you are the person you are.” My friends have been telling me this for a long time. And finally, I am starting to realize the truth in these words.

Share a special Women-on-Fire moment or experience.

The retreat in Naples, Fla., as well as phone conversations with my new friends were special. I’m excited that Woman on Fire Andrea Raynor spoke at my 113-year-old book club. I’m sure this list will grow and grow!

Name another Women on Fire who has inspired you and tell why?

That’s easy—EVERYBODY! When I think about Debbie’s dream to form Women on Fire, and that it has become a reality, it really knocks my socks off!

What’s your big dream?

My big dream has two parts: On the business side, I want to expand and do more vacation homes and sell my upcoming coffee table book. Personally, I want to meet a wonderful, genuine, kind, brilliant and fun man who will see me for who I am and not be afraid of the hard things that have happened in my life.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced? How did you overcome it?

Most of my life has been extreme with challenges, and it has been very fear-based. The biggest challenges have been the murder of my little sister, the death of my brother, a household where we were scared to do anything wrong when we were growing up, and an abusive and destructive marriage.

How did I overcome all this? Believe me, there have been plenty of times when I wanted to just give up —to go to sleep and not wake up. My journey has been lots of little steps forward and sometimes many steps backward, and then finally getting stronger and learning, little by little, to stand up for myself.

Since the Women on Fire retreat, I am telling my story, a little at a time. I believe and know that things are now changing in me and for me.

If you had the opportunity to teach a child one strategy that would help to guide her life, what would that be?

I am going to quote Woman on Fire Terri Cole here because her answer resonated so much with me: “Be mindful that, most of the time, fear is just a feeling. Use fear to inform your decisions rather than to dominate them.” I sure wish I had learned this in grammar school.

If you had an unexpected free day, how would you spend it?

I would go on a long trail ride on a really nice horse. I grew up riding and still love it! Sitting outside and reading would be pretty sweet too!

What is your favorite city in the world?

New York!

What is something that we might be surprised to learn about you?

I took off my junior year of college and traveled as a cast member in the Up With People show. My cast traveled more than 90,000 miles that year and toured the western United States and Florida, Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Mexico.

I lived with more than 80 host families and stayed in houses ranging from a shack with a dirt floor in Panama City to the home of the CEO of a large international company. I stayed in an orphanage on an Indian Reservation in British Columbia and a house on the plains of Wyoming where the wind whipped through the cracks in the exterior boards.

My cast mates were from many U.S. states and about 16 foreign countries. What an education and what an organization!

I love to throw a football, and I have a pretty good spiral! Usually, you can find a football in the trunk of my car in case one of my friends’ sons will throw with me. Once I got a porter from a hotel in Charleston to throw with me out in the street. It was a blast!

Name the women who have influenced your life and what you’ve learned from each.

My godmother, Rick Ravenel, in Charleston, S.C., and Susan Boyd, my second mother, in Columbia, S.C., have shown me unconditional love and support. They are AWESOME. I wish you all could know them.

Who cheers you on?

My Women on Fire sisters cheer me on, as well as the women I mentioned above. My wonderful counselor, Marla Libby, has been invaluable, for sure! I call counseling “Life 101,” and I think everyone should be required to take it!

What is your go-to self-care strategy?

It is a composite of various things: long walks, swimming laps, eating lots of fresh veggies and fruits, quiet time to go within, and sleep. Being with friends for something fun is important to me too, and I am working on incorporating more fun into my life.

When you reflect on your life so far, what are the first words that comes to your mind?

Fear be gone! My time is NOW!

More about Sherrerd Hartness…

Sherrerd, who has a B.A. in studio art from Converse College, established Sherrerd Hartness Interiors in Greenville, S.C., in 1988. She creates beautiful and livable spaces using inspiration from nature, and strives in every design to protect the world by focusing on both home and environment.

Sherrerd has begun to share the story of her sister’s murder in 1977, including the additional trauma of the high-profile execution of the murderers. She believes that there is more to a person’s life than the way they died and seeks to celebrate her sister’s life. She also hopes that, by sharing her experiences, she can support and encourage others who might feel lost and overcome by their circumstances.

She has spent much the last few years caring for the needs of her elderly parents. She volunteers with the Junior League of Greenville, S.C..

You are welcome to say hello to her at Visit her website,, which was designed by Woman on Fire Emily Neal.

She’s a Woman on Fire! features are compiled by senior writer Becky Adams. 

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Best-ever Women on Fire Retreat!!

My heart is full.

What an amazing, inspiring weekend with women from 22 states and Canada at our annual Women on Fire Retreat held this year in Chicago!

The fabulous women who attended the Retreat! (Photos by Heather Stone)

Next week I’ll say more about what it was like to be in the energy of all these dynamic, creative, supportive women who are making a difference in the world.

But right now, those of us on the East Coast are preparing for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and I am sending love and hope for everyone’s safety.

Meanwhile, please join us in a few Women on Fire moments from the weekend! More pictures next week.

Chicago host and Woman on Fire Debi Lilly cheering!

The wise and talented Sophfronia Scott, publisher of the next Women on Fire book, shared our plans for inviting co-authors to participate. Very exciting!

Kim Davis, Dana Frost, Nancy Neal and Cindy Clendenin listen intently to Margo Frazier sharing what she is “on fire” about in her life!

Blue Women Group? Not exactly! Dreaming Big was this year’s Retreat theme.  Everyone received a blue-gel mask to promote relaxation, better sleep, good dreams!

My sweet mother Mary Lue Phillips attended her first-ever Women on Fire Retreat. Here she is, happy in the moment with Laura Benton, Meredith Schoenberger and Arlene Alexander.

Enjoying the Retreat with my best friend Jan Allen, a coach and life strategist, who moderated a panel on Career Leaps and Changes and also discussed on her experience giving a TEDx talk. (Photo by Jamie Eslinger)

Yoga teacher and trainer Laurel Hodory led us to discover techniques for becoming centered and grounded.

To everyone who participated in this powerful, engaging, life-changing Retreat, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Safe travels home.  And stay tuned for next year’s Retreat date and city!

If you haven’t attended a Women on Fire event, I hope you will soon. No better way to fill your cup:-)

No talking!

My husband calls me a “professional talker.”

And my mother underscores the notion of my talkative nature with her own story.

When I was five months old she peeked into my room and from my crib I looked up at her and said, “Hi!”  She claims she almost fainted to hear her baby talk and that was only the start.

By the time I was 12 months old, I spoke in sentences.  And, when I was 7, she and my Dad bribed me with offers of 50 cents an hour for my silence.  I don’t remember making any money;-)

So you might be surprised that the most exciting dream for me this summer was to go on a “silent retreat” down this path you see above. No talking, no schedule, no plans.  Three whole days to myself in silence.

Have you ever done that? Or wanted to?

My year had been so full – happily so – yet nonstop with activity and  — talking — that’s when the idea of time alone to myself in silence came to me.

Close friends Edward Beck and Nancy Neal had shared fascinating experiences with me about silent retreats they had taken in California and Colorado.

Sadly, I realized I was too tired to travel to another location to get the rest and quiet I needed and wanted.

That’s when Woman on Fire Lisa Umberger Arundale stepped in and generously offered me her beautiful home in the woods, only a few miles away from my own home.

So I packed a three-day supply of clothes and food, kissed my husband and our cat, and without a computer or iPad, off I went to my destination — a 10-minute drive to my wooded nirvana.

Here is what happened and what I learned in those three days — and why I recommend even a day-long silent retreat to re-energize your life.

When I finally stopped running, stopped being busy, stopped talking, unexpected feelings came up.

I wasn’t particularly happy or joyful on Days 1 and 2 of my silent retreat.  Thoughts of my father who died 8 years ago bubbled up and I realized I hadn’t fully “leaned into the grief” of his loss. So I cried and just went with it.

I woke up and went to bed with the sun.

Each day I took a two-hour nap.

I ate granola, yogurt and fruit for breakfast — and on two nights for dinner.

I read and prayed and stretched and soaked in Lisa’s giant bathtub.

I sat outdoors and marveled at the hibicuses and hydrangeas. (And, took this picture so you could see how pretty it all was in the glow of nightfall.)

On Day 3, I started my morning by writing a gratitude list in my journal.  And then in less than an hour I wrote a plan — no, the plan wrote itself! — for what I want to accomplish this next year.  No struggle.  No questioning.  It just flowed.

The transformation between Day 2 and 3 astounded me.  Being in silence had  worked for me to regain a sense of peace and clarity!

The surprising thing was that I didn’t miss talking.  In fact, I didn’t even think about it.  When the three days were over, I was ready to go home.

I felt refreshed, re-invigorated and much clearer than when I arrived in the woods.

As I bundled up my belongings and straightened up the house to leave, I noticed three perfect words to describe my retreat were printed on Lisa’s side table.

And, I broke my silence with a big laugh.

Let’s take a joyride!

Happy day to you celebrating Easter and Passover — and births and birthdays!

Easter with my great-niece Kinsley!

There is a lot of joy in our Women on Fire community so today we’re going to celebrate a sampling of it.

At a tea in Naples earlier this year, Woman on Fire Julie Shepardson of Oviedo, Florida inspired us all with her theme “Year of the Joyride!”  Love that, Julie, and hope you don’t mind me borrowing for today;-)

Happy birthday, Woman on Fire Mandy Pratt of Boise, Idaho with the double blessing of your special day falling on Easter.

Happy birthday on your big day this weekend to wonderful Carolyn Ellis of Toronto, Canada. To dear Nancy Neal of Greenville, South Carolina. And, love to my own mother (Women on Fire member #00001!) Mary Lue Phillips, of Huntsville, Alabama who celebrates being eternally young on Monday!

Big congratulations to Amy Laine and her husband James of Columbus, Ohio on the birth of their daughter Ava Louise this past week.

Amy attended a Women on Fire tea in Columbus last fall and learned a few days later she was having a baby girl.  She sent me an email I will always cherish, rejoicing that her growing baby was coming into the world surrounded by “women who will make her feel powerful!”

And, it was a year ago, that many of you commented on “Hello, Baby Girl,” the SPARK! I wrote when my first great-niece Kinsley, was born prematurely to Ryan and Sarah Ausley of Nashville. Even though Kinsley had great care, it was a harrowing time for all of us.

What a joyous difference a year makes!

Here is Kinsley at Christmas. She’s healthy, strong and growing beautifully. And, she has already developed a taste for pearls.

And, here is Kinsley today as she celebrates her first birthday on Easter with all of our family.

Kinsley with mom and dad Sarah and Ryan Ausley.

Kinsley waiting for cake on her first birthday.

I know many of you are celebrating all kinds of wonderful events and milestones. Please share the joy in your life in the comments section belowso we can all take a joyride together!

Wishing you a delightful week ahead ~


P.S. The cake finally came. It was the first time Kinsley ever ate chocolate, and from the looks of it probably not the last!!

Kinsley reflecting on the joy of chocolate!