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From a Trailer to Yale: A Father’s Sacrifice (Mary Marantz ep. 288)

John O’Leary welcomes Mary Marantz onto the Live Inspired Podcast to share her how one spark changed a generation.

Mary Marantz would have been her family’s third generation of loggers in rural West Virginia; an impoverished life filled with days of hard, dangerous work. But, one choice Mary’s father made sparked a much different path for her: He used what little money he had to buy learning materials to prepare her for school as he saw education as her opportunity to lead a big, beautiful life of her choosing.

Mary joins us today – a Yale graduate and recent author of the book Dirt: Growing Strong Roots in What Makes the Broken Beautiful – sharing what it was like to grow up in a deteriorating, single-wide trailer and, more importantly, with a father who would sacrifice it all to ensure she had a bright future.

Today’s conversation is beaming with resilience and hope and will inspire you to find comfort and appreciation in your roots.

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  • Giant tin can: Mary grew up in a deteriorating single-wide trailer with a leaky roof, mushrooms growing out of the carpet and missing floorboards.
  • One part firecracker, one part sassafrass: Mary attributes her stubborn determination to her grandma Goldie who cinderblock by cinderblock singlehandedly took down a garage on their land.
  • Mary was healed from a lifetime of hurt and estrangement by her mother while writing her book Dirt.
  • Mary + her father had a complex relationship but he dreamt of her life beyond rural West Virginia.
  • Highlighting her once-shameful trailer and her father’s calloused hands were symbolic and purposeful.
  • While on the trajectory to follow in her family’s logging footsteps, Mary instead became the first to attend college and went on to graduate from Yale Law School.
  • The spark that changed a generation: At 4 years old, Mary’s father wanted her prepared for kindergarten so he purchased homework books and encyclopedias on an installment plan.
  • “I’m living proof that education and just one adult believing something better for you can change everything.”
  • Mary chose to honor her father’s sacrifice by finding significance over success.
  • Get a copy of Mary Marantz’s book Dirt.
  • Watch the MLB Network video when Mary refers to my story.


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My new book IN AWE is now available… and became an instant bestseller! Learn how to rediscover your childlike sense of wonder to unleash inspiration, meaning and joy. Visit ReadInAwe.com today! 

Mary Marantz's Live Inspired 7

  1. Q. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
    A. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.
  2. Q. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today?
    A. Ability to be free + happy.
  3. Q. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be?
    A. Nothing, which is very defining because I worked so hard to have "stuff".
  4. Q. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be?
    A. My grandma Goldie and ask about heaven.
  5. Q. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
    A. Treat people like people.
  6. Q. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
    A. Assume it works out so then you can enjoy the journey.
  7. Q. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?
    A. Slow growth equals strong roots.