Hi, I’m Maria – the founder of Freedomlei State of Mind. I want to share my story with you in the hopes that I can inspire or at the very least, show you what is possible. I was born and raised in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago; my parents settled here when they emigrated from Mexico over 35 years ago. I have a tight knit family and was accustomed to travel to Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango, every year to visit family. As a kid, I would bring back candies from my trips to Durango and sell them to the neighborhood kids…. that’s probably where I got my entrepreneurial spirit from. I was surrounded by creative people who inspired me like my mom Eva. She enrolled at Instituto del Progreso Latino in 1988 to learn how to be a seamstress. My sister Angelica is creative in designing gift boxes or floral arrangements for special events. I am also raising 4 kids now, 2 of which are autistic and with the help of my husband and family we are doing our best. 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with AS – also known as ankylosing spondylitis and fibromyalgia. I was not prepared for what was to come, or how to deal with it. I knew I would have to learn to live with these debilitating conditions, but I was not ready. At the time I was raising 2 children – Alyssa and Anthony, it was important to me that my kids did not see me in pain, as I did not want to have them worry or feel scared. As I started treatments for my conditions, I knew immediately that what I was being given by doctors was not treating my pain, it was only numbing it. Fast forward to 2015, I was getting infusions, which were slowly killing me and taking all of my energy. I gave birth to Adelyn that year and was still managing my pain with western medicine. I started researching natural treatments and discovered medical cannabis. I had to convince my doctor to sign off on medical cannabis as a treatment, which was no easy task as I would eventually become her first patient to get a medical cannabis card. Finally, I was able to start using it for pain and it worked. I know the stigma surrounding it, but for me it has positively changed my life. Which is why I advocate for it as passionately as I do because I know it works. My doctor knows it works. My family knows it works. Now I’m not going to say I am cured or anything like that, but now I can manage my pain like never before, which is something that I know I have some control over. Since then, I had another girl, we named her Arabella. Last year my husband and I were planning a trip to San Antonio, which we paid for prior to the start of the pandemic. When Chicago locked down in March of 2020, I was scared, not only of what was to come, but of what we would lose. Through all of the fear and uncertainty that was brought on by the pandemic, I also had a lot of free time. So, I taught myself how to make bath bombs.
I used my vacation money to buy the bath bomb press and I also invested in oils and fragrances and soap molds, because I knew that soap making was going to be my next challenge. I learned to make not only bath bombs and soaps but also skin care products, meditation bundles and beard balms. In the summer of 2020, I started selling outside of my parent’s house in Pilsen. I engaged with everyone that came by my setup about the benefits of my products and about my story. What was striking to me, was how many people were going through the same thing that I had already gone through with my conditions but also the pandemic. I now live in the Back of the Yards/New City neighborhood, and am hoping to have an impact on the community. Since I started living here, I have made it a point to support local businesses and lay the groundwork for future collaborations. I would like to thank my husband, parents and even my kids for being so supportive in this new adventure, also a HUGE thank you to the vendors and customers that I met at the weekend vendor markets, for making me feel like this is something that can help people. Freedomlei State of Mind started as an idea but has grown into something much more than that. I really believe the sky's the limit and together we can make real positive change. Thank you for your continued support and please feel free to reach out to us for any questions or concerns or just to be heard.
Maria D Rodriguez