Thursday Thoughts: Women’s Health Week & Summer Health and Fitness Goals

Good morning, everyone!

Ever have one of those nights where you sleep horribly? I had incredibly weird, messed up dreams all night, and I woke up multiple times thinking “Holy crap, thank God that was just a dream. That was awful.” It must’ve stressed me out something fierce, because my jaw hurts from having kept it clenched all night. Brain, stop being such a hater!

Anyways, on to more pressing (and uplifting) matters: the carnitas were a success! Many thanks to Jenna at Eat, Live, Run for the fabulous recipe, because after a few days of decidedly meh or outright no bueno meals, the carnitas were a welcome  (and much-needed) win. I’m hopeful that tonight’s recipe, Mediterranean chicken, will be good too — of course, I’ll keep y’all posted.

In other news, I was late to the party in finding out that it’s National Women’s Health Week — but better late than never, amirite? Women’s health is a topic near and dear to my heart; between gynecologic cancers that have affected women in my family, friends who’ve struggled with fertility troubles, and my burgeoning interest in maternal health in developing countries, nearly every aspect of my life has been affected by women’s health issues. So, y’know, the fact that there’s now an entire week dedicated to these issues makes me do a happy dance.

 

As part of this effort, women are encouraged to make their health a priority by taking five key steps:

  • Visiting a doctor for regular check-ups and preventive care screenings (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, y’all!)
  • Getting active (gettin’ your blood pumping = happy fun times!)
  • Eating healthy (because your body will thank you profusely)
  • Paying attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep (*raises hand sheepishly, looks around*) and stress management (*raises other hand sheepishly, looks around*)
  • Avoiding unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, not wearing seatbelts (ok, am I the only one who haaaaated riding the school bus because, among other reasons, there were no seat belts?) or bicycle helmets (your body can’t function without your brain — protect your noggin!), and texting while driving (because texting while driving is basically like driving drunk, and that’s not okay).

And, in a related effort, Joelle over at On a Pink Typewriter is putting together a campaign for health/fitness inspiration boards — collages you can make the old fashioned way with scissors and glue, or digitally via Pinterest, Polyvore, or Loupe. Here’s mine:

Fitness Goals Summer 2013

Now, to explain those images:

I’m really excited about focusing more on strength training — I love how strong I feel when I lift. I hope to work my way through TNROLFW this summer, and maybe once the fall rolls around I’ll be able to kick butt using just my pinky toe. (Or something.)

I also want to do a lot of hiking when we visit Colorado this summer; I haven’t been home in almost 18 months, and I’m incredibly excited to visit for my dad’s 60th birthday festivities. While I’m there, I also want to hike the Manitou Incline — it’s not far from where I grew up, and it’s a hard-core hike. Knees, ready yourselves!

While I’m not on vacation, though, I want to take time each day to go outside and get some sun. I work in a windowless office, and I’m convinced I’m going to get Rickets — Rickets, I tell you! — as a result of my working conditions. I drink lots of Vitamin D-fortified almond milk, but I know I need some sunlight synthesis as well. If I can take even 5-10 minutes to go outside during the day, I’ll be really happy.

Lastly, this girl needs more agua in her life. I’m really, really, ridiculously bad about my water drinking habits, and I’m trying to change that. I bought myself an Aladdin cold sipper so I can drink cold water in the office without having to worry about the bottle sweating all over my desk, and I’m hopeful that it’ll help with my H2O-chugging efforts.

Anyways, with all that being said, I now have to get to work — I hope everyone has an awesome day, and happy almost-Friday! Tell me…

How do you help ensure that you get lots of water? (I’ll take any help I can get with this!)

How have women’s health issues affected you or impacted the lives of women you know?

What are your summer health and fitness goals?

Time Management, Vulnerability, and Authenticity

Good morning, lovelies!

First and foremost, let’s do a recap of Operation: Time Management – Day One.

While drinking my coffee, I put together the Enchilada casserole — and it was all set and ready to roll by 0600.

Between 0600 – 0700, I put finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post, and then did a short and intense workout: 11 minutes of intensive cardio kickboxing, followed by 20 minutes of The New Rules of Lifting for Women (which I’ll refer to from now on as TNROLFW, because I live in DC and am fed a steady diet of acronyms).

The only problem was that I was still was late for work, but I was so spectacularly productive before leaving the apartment that I totally didn’t mind having to stay late in order to compensate for my late arrival into the office. WIN!

Once I got home, dinner was ready to be served up as soon as I walked in the door. It was freakin’ awesome. There was so little to do! Hooray!

image

And, with that, I also wanted to say that I loved all your comments on yesterday’s post. Kate brought up an excellent point about feeling alone in time management struggles: I always struggle with it and then think, “Is is just me? Why does everyone else have their act together yet I can’t seem to figure it out?” I think she hit the nail on the head with that: there’s a ton of pressure to make it look like you’ve totally got all your shiz together, even in the face of an insane amount of stuff to do and a general feeling of discombobulation.

Full disclosure: I tend to spend a lot of time feeling like a hot mess. I sprint to the bus stop each morning, my to-do list looks like it’s expanding faster than the universe, and despite using a planner and a bajillion to-do lists, I forget more appointments and tasks than I’d like to admit. As you can see, Operation: Time Management was borne out of an increasingly dire need to make things a bit more manageable.

 

Done is better than perfect

 

Just as Kate said, though, I often feel like I must be the only one who feels like this. Everyone else seems to be so put together, organized, and polished, and many people present an image of being 100% in control. They put in an hour on the treadmill each morning, show up at work looking perfectly polished, run around all day and barely eat, then go home and cook dinner in well-appointed and perfectly clean homes.

I, by contrast, can’t eat anything without wearing it, I hurriedly work out in the mornings, and, well, see the last paragraph about sprinting to the bus stop and my cosmically huge to-do lists. I wind up feeling like I’m the only person who can’t seem to get it together.

However, when I actually talk with people one on one, it turns out that almost everybody feels overwhelmed and discombobulated. This got me thinking, and I started to realize that there’s tremendous pressure in modern society — and I suspect particularly on women — to appear capable of doing ALL THE THINGS and doing them perfectly.

It’s a vicious case of superwoman syndrome: despite the inherent limitations of time and the human body, many women feel that they need to do a bajillion things flawlessly.

This perfectionism, both the self-imposed variety and the kind brought on by societal pressure, can be totally soul-shredding. One of my favorite psychologists, Brene Brown, writes about this in I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t):

“If most of us stopped to examine the expectations we set for ourselves, we would discover that…our concept of perfection is so unrealistic that it can’t exist in one person. Instead, it’s a combination of pieces or snippets of what’s perceived as perfect.”

For me at least, when I try to do everything and do it well, I wind up doing a fraction of what I wanted to accomplish and doing it poorly. When I get caught in the trap of superwoman syndrome, I start thinking that I should be able to work, cook a delicious dinner from scratch, sweat through a long workout, and do some fabulous writing — but the fact is, unless I develop a mutant superpower that allows me to sleep no more than 3 hours per night for the next 60 years with no adverse side effects, it’s just not going to happen.

It’s easy to feel ashamed when we don’t live up to this impossible standard – and that shame probably pushes people even harder to maintain the appearance of perfection. It’s a vicious cycle!

So, then, how do we break that cycle? According to Dr. Brown, the best way to do this is to be vulnerable and authentic.

Vulnerability sounds scary, but it isn’t anywhere near as terrifying as it sounds. Not to be confused with weakness, Dr. Brown notes that “Vulnerability is simply defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. To be human is to be vulnerable.”

 

Brene Brown Vulnerability

 

Authenticity, meanwhile, is “a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Authenticity grows out of vulnerability.

Choosing to be vulnerable and authentic – especially in the face of tremendous pressure to be engulfed by superwoman syndrome – can be scary as all get-out, but it’s worth it. As Dr. Brown so beautifully puts it,

“When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof…we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make. Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

So, in the spirit of Dr. Brown’s research, I’ll say this: as writing and blogging have started becoming bigger parts of my life — and, thus, bigger priorities, Operation: Time Management has become a necessity. I often feel like I’m failing at adulthood, but I’m hopeful that this project/series of experiments in time management will at least help me feel like I’m in a better place with all this. I’ll keep y’all posted on my progress and the results of my experiments!

Lastly, I hiiiiiiighly recommend checking out Brene Brown’s TED talk from last year on this very topic – it’s one of the most highly-watched TED talks in history, and for good reason!

With all that being said, I hope y’all have a fantastic day! And now, some questions for you:

If you were to make an effort to be more vulnerable and authentic, how would you go about doing it? Would you talk openly about your struggles? Would you rather talk with a handful of close friends and family members?

In what areas of your life do you feel you can become more vulnerable and authentic? Struggles with body image, career choices, or time management are a few examples (and they’re the things I struggle with), but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!

Inspirational Women Interviews: Laura Williams

Y’all. I am seriously, massively excited for today’s Inspirational Women interview. Like, super-uber excited.

Today’s interview is with Laura Williams, the CEO of Girls Gone Sporty. Now, for those of you who are new to this blog, I’m a Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador — and of all the women’s fitness organizations out there, this was the first one I knew, almost immediately, that I wanted to be involved with. {Please pardon the minor stroke I’m having as a result of ending that sentence with a preposition.}

As soon as I learned more about their goals — most notably, embracing fun and adventure, of loving fitness not because it can make you skinny but because it immeasurably enriches your life, and being a source of uplifting and body-positive fitness and health information — I knew: this is an awesome organization. I want to be part of this. Pleaseohpleaseohplease, let them be accepting Ambassadors.

Sure enough, I became a GGS Ambassador, and I did a happy dance as soon as I found out I’d been accepted. So, to say the least, I’m extra excited about interviewing Laura. For some background, here’s her bio:

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science from Texas State University, Laura Williams focused her career on aquatic and fitness management. Over the course of eight years she moved cross-country three times to take on progressively more difficult roles. She left management in 2010 to finish her master’s degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She is now a writer, entrepreneur and the “Sporty Girl CEO” of GirlsGoneSporty. When she’s not working, Laura can be found running her dogs, snowboarding, lifting weights, attempting yoga or watching shamelessly trashy television.

Image source: http://www.girlsgonesporty.com

 

And, with all that being said, here’s her story.

I know you’d held a number of sports management jobs before founding GGS, so heading out on your own must’ve been a huge change (and, if I may, it seems more than a little bit terrifying!). Were there specific experiences or factors that inspired you to take action towards starting GGS and taking the leap into entrepreneurship?

There were a lot of factors that played a contributing role, so this answer might take awhile!

I recently did an interview with Brett Hoebel, and he said at one point, “I don’t believe in luck, I believe in opportunity meets preparation,” and there was a lot of that at play when I started Girls Gone Sporty.

In 2008 I accepted my “dream job” as the Director of Programs for a giant recreation center in Salem, Oregon. The facility wasn’t built yet, so I had the opportunity to create all the programs from scratch, purchase all the equipment, hire all the employees for my department, play a key role in marketing the facility and introducing it to the community. At the time I was only 27 years old and in charge of a staff of 140 people spanning disciplines from rock climbing to aquatics to fitness and even fine arts. I was so excited and fired up for my career, and for the first nine months, I had a blast!

Then things went horribly wrong. It was like you could see the façade start to crumble and crack. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the facility, or even with the staff or the members. There was just this intangible, horrible “thing” happening in the upper levels of management – distrust, contempt and outright workplace bullying. For months I did everything I knew how to try to make it stop, to repair the damage being done, but no matter what I tried, things got worse.

A little more than a year after I was hired, I started weighing my options. I didn’t want to leave my job. I loved my staff, I loved the programs we ran, I loved the families who came in and used the facility. What I didn’t love was who I was becoming – I was becoming disillusioned, angry and bitter. I couldn’t shake the anger I felt when I left the facility, so even at home I was someone I didn’t want to be. I silently watched the interactions of other upper level managers – always vying for position, taking every opportunity they could to put others down, even lying and manipulating events for the sole purpose of making others look bad – and I remember thinking to myself, “I’m becoming like them. I can’t let that happen. I don’t want to be hateful and bitter.”

So I quit.

I had been working at a university and taking master’s degree courses prior to taking the job in Oregon, so I contacted my professors and asked if I could re-enter their program. I went back to school, and to make up for my salary loss, I started freelance writing for websites like LiveStrong, About.com, Exercise.com and SheKnows.

One thing led to another, and I was eventually asked to step in as an Assigning Editor at Sheknows.

All these different experiences were adding up, and at the end of my master’s program, I asked myself, “Should I go back into management, or should I do something with writing on my own?”

The answer was pretty clear. I knew that to go back into management, unless I was the owner of a facility, there was only so much I could do to determine the culture of the organization and the people I worked with. I wanted to create something where the culture would be exactly what I wanted – uplifting, exciting, fun and inviting. So, Lance and I developed Girls Gone Sporty. We’d always wanted to work together and do something on our own, and in this circumstance, opportunity met preparation and we were ready!

What have been the high points and the low points?

Oh, gosh! There have been some big ones!

Let’s talk money.

When you get into a brick-and-mortar business, there’s usually a big up-front investment, but (theoretically), with the right marketing and visibility, you can start seeing money coming in pretty quickly.

Online businesses are different. There are millions upon millions of websites, and unless you have a massive amount of money to spend on marketing and development, or unless you’re very geo-targeted, it can be hard to garner interest, especially for a content-driven site like ours. Yes, we have some products we sell, but ultimately we’re “selling” free content, which means we need tons of views to get advertisers to start buying in.

When you’re spending what feels like a million hours a week investing in a site for months and months on end, and making nothing? You can get really, really down and start questioning what you’re doing.

I’ll be honest – I still have a full-time freelance gig on the side. We’re starting to get more advertisers on board, but we’re not yet self-sufficient and probably won’t be for awhile. Just in terms of endurance, there have been moments when juggling freelancing and Girls Gone Sporty have seemed really hard. That’s when you start praying for encouragement, because it’s amazing how just a tiny bit of encouragement, or the right email at the right time, can remind you why you’re making the investment of time and energy. Ultimately, it’s worth it to be doing what you love and reaching people with your message.

The only other real “low” points have come when I’ve kind of lost track of my goals. Girls Gone Sporty is not about me. It’s about reaching others, offering a “safe” fitness and health site that doesn’t focus on weight loss or size. It’s about encouraging and lifting others up. There have been a couple times when I got distracted by external factors that kind of pulled me away from my goals and the intention of Girls Gone Sporty. The interesting thing is that I didn’t really recognize what I was doing at the time, but I did recognize that I was losing the joy I found in the site. When I sat back and reflected on why I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing, I realized it was because the site had become too self-serving and ego-driven. With a few small changes, the joy came back!

In terms of high points, there are lots! The success of the Ambassador program humbles me every day. I’m just so awed by all these amazing women who want to take part in Girls Gone Sporty.

Also, Getting invited out to the Jamba Juice FiTrends event in Santa Monica was a real special moment. While it was cool meeting Tony Horton, Venus Williams and Brett Hoebel, I was even more thrilled to meet some of the other women in the industry making their own paths. Jenn and Tish from Fit Bottomed Girls and Cassey Ho from Blogilates. These women are so inspiring, and to have the chance to meet them? It was great.

What obstacles have you encountered, and how did you push past them?

I’m my own biggest obstacle! Really, I can get in my own head and do a number on myself. Having my husband as a partner really makes all the difference, because when I start voicing negativity and getting down on myself, he’s always there saying, “Laura, I need you to get excited. I need you to keep going.” And he’s right. He needs me just like I need him, so I decide to put my mental big girl pants on and stop being a jerk to myself. It can be hard to recognize the downward spiral into negativity in yourself, but when you have someone else calling you on it, and you’re willing to acknowledge that they’re right, it can make a huge difference!

The other big obstacle that I encountered was all about location. We were living in Oregon when we started Girls Gone Sporty, and we are not Oregon people. Lance is from Arizona and I’m from Texas. Dealing with cold, wet weather for nine months of the year was really taking a toll on my sanity. Add to that the fact that our house was in a tiny town without access to much in the way of up-and-coming fitness trends and the fact that three out of my four close friends had moved to other states, and I was feeling really lost, lonely and dissatisfied, and that dissatisfaction was taking a toll on my ability to stay motivated and engaged with GGS. I craved a move to Texas, but the right opportunity just hadn’t presented itself.

In February of this year, we hit a wall. It was move, or die trying. And almost as soon as we officially decided to make the move, the seas parted and all the steps became clear.

It was as if finally making the decision to move changed everything. I think sometimes you don’t have to know all the steps, you just have to start moving in the right direction. Being back in Texas has made all the difference for me. I’m motivated and excited again, and that’s being reflected in my work and interactions. It may seem like picking up and moving wouldn’t make a difference to a business, but since we are our business, our fundamental happiness plays a significant role in how our business runs. If you need a major change in your life, changing everything about your environment can do the trick.

Do you have a support network and/or personal cheerleaders who have helped you in this process? If so, what have they done to encourage you and help you move forward?

Like I said, my husband is amazing. I seriously couldn’t do this without him. Also, both of our parents have been great. I don’t think they entirely understand what we’re trying to do, and I think there’s some skepticism there, but they’ve also been truly wonderful when it comes to supporting, and not questioning, the untraditional choices we’ve made. This path isn’t for everyone. It’s uncertain and unpredictable, and I appreciate the fact that they’re there for us.

Finally, I can’t do this without the Ambassadors! Like I said before, I feel so accountable to them. The fact that these women want to be involved and are excited about Girls Gone Sporty is like wind beneath my wings. Every day the first thing I do when I get up is check the Ambassador Facebook Groups because they put a smile on my face every time.

 

If you could give advice to women who are either trying to find the courage to pursue their dreams or are at the beginning of their own journey, what would it be?

First, make sure whatever you’re pursuing is truly something you’re passionate about. You have to know your “why” – why are you pursuing this? If it’s just for money or because it seems like a good idea, you’re going to have a hard time sticking with it.

Second, write down your business plan. No one ever has to see it but you, but you need to write out your mission, vision and goals. There will be lots of distractions to pull you away, but if you have something written out that you can come back to and look at, it’ll be easier to get back on course.

Third, think about the long game. It’s easy to imagine that you’ll be one of the lucky ones who shoots to fame overnight with clear success and a lot of money. It can happen, but usually those “overnight successes” have actually been working at their craft for years. Recognize that whatever you do is going to take time, and mentally prepare yourself for the low points. Just like in a relationship, the hard times don’t mean the relationship is over, it just means you have to be committed to holding it together. When you go through tough times in a business, you have to be mentally committed to stick it out.

Fourth, give it your all every single day, but recognize that “your all” will change from day to day. When you’re juggling other work, family stress, moving cross country, or whatever, “your all” might just be a quick Facebook post one day. If that’s all you can handle, great! As long as you go to bed at night with the confidence that you did what you could, you know you’re moving in the right direction. Other days, “your all” may be a full-out 12 hour day committed to the business. That’s great, too! The point is recognizing your limitations and working with those limitations every single day, rather than looking at the experience as all-or-nothing.

Fifth, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing. Period. That whole, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well” cliche is nonsense. If it’s worth doing, go do it! Yes, you want to give things your best effort, but it’s way too easy to get caught up in perfectionism. Waiting to do something until the perfect time, or waiting to do something until you’ve mastered X, Y or Z, can really just be an excuse not to get started.  If you know your skill, and you know you can get something out there and improve it over time? Just start! A couple years from now, no one will remember how you started, and the product you provide two years from now will be a combination of the knowledge and experience you develop between now and then, which will be light years better than if you wait another 6, 12, 18 months to get started.

WAIW: Book Love, More Fro Yo, and Lots of Chicken

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you feel like you’re in need of something — even something small — and suddenly, BLAMO, the answer to your question/very thing you need is right in front of you?

I had this experience this weekend with my beloved Sonoma Burgers, but it also happened again Monday night: while I was on the bus, I was thinking about how I often feel like I don’t deserve to ask for what I really want.

I feel inexplicably selfish and, I dunno, bad when I say “Hey, I’d really like a helping hand/bit of encouragement/opportunity to open up.” (It turns out that while I’m really progressive and all about reinforcing other peoples’ self-worth, I’m like an angry Calvinist in caffeine withdrawal when it comes to doing those things for myself.)

Anyways, there I was: sitting on the bus and feeling bad about the fact that I’d really, really, really like it if some key things in life could just fall into place. A few seconds later, I realized: I need some inspiration in my life. And where, exactly, is a nerdy girl like myself supposed to find such inspiration?

Books.

They’re my homies.

So, I pulled up the Amazon bookstore on my iPhone and browsed my little heart out as the bus hurtled down the highway — and within minutes, I’d found the perfect thing.

Image Source: http://www.positivelypresent.com

 

Like I said before: BLAMO.

As soon as I started reading it, I knew I’d found the perfect book for me. I’m 15% of the way through (thank you, Kindle, for giving me such precise percentages), and I already feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. All the messages and viewpoints that have led to me being so harsh on myself are getting debunked faster than Usain Bolt can run 100 meters. (Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration. But that’s not the point.)

Adding to which, all the gut feelings I’ve had in recent years — for example, the fact that everybody says that working and adulthood are supposed to be a slog towards retirement and that work is supposed to be more or less soul-shredding, while I keep thinking “That can’t be true. There has to be some way to work hard, earn a decent amount of income, make a meaningful contribution to the world, and actually be happy”are being validated left and right.

Needless to say, I lurve it. One could even say I’m eating it up, which brings me to…

Peas and Crayons

Woohoo! Thanks as always to Jenn over at Peas & Crayons for hosting. 🙂

My food offerings this week have been pretty consistent with my normal routine: Coffee and toast before my morning workout, followed by a big ol’ smoothie.

Lunches this week have relied on my foodie BFFs, the elusive but beloved Sonoma Burgers. I still can’t get over the fact that I finally found them after 18 months of fruitless searching!

Aside from the Sonoma Burgers, our one time venturing out for lunch this week wound up being a serious GF win: we went to Coastal Flats in Fairfax, VA after our closest-approximation-to-Tex-Mex plans (out here on the East Coast, we know we can’t get the real thing — but we’ve found a reasonable facsimile) were thwarted by the insane Cinco de Mayo crowds. The folks at Coastal Flats were incredibly accommodating of my gluten allergy; the manager came and talked to me about what menu options were safe, how they prepare the GF food, etc., and he was awesome. Not surprisingly, my meal — a chop salad with pan-seared chicken — was delicious!

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=6f94ded14d&view=att&th=13e81cedc17db97e&attid=0.3&disp=inline&realattid=c43081d3ecf668fc_0.4&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-TYtb2Y1y1ya4X0X6A7vFj&sadet=1368007718229&sads=PIVYneH3fVifxC8LOJZ21LlUhd0

My snacks have involved the usual suspects: Pamela’s Whenever Bars, Greek yogurt with fruit and granola, and fresh fruit (apples and cantaloupe: best snack fruit ever).

Dinners have been all over the place, and last week I made coconut-cashew curry chicken tenders with jasmine rice and broccoli…

DSC00851

…as well as a spatchcock-style roasted chicken with white wine, lemon, and oregano.

DSC00845Desserts have been — need we even ask? — fro yo!

Pinkberry

With all that being said, I hope everyone has a phenomenal Wednesday! And tell me…

Has the right thing ever fallen into your lap at exactly the right time?

Do you ever feel bad about asking for what you really want?

What’s your favorite dessert?

Charity Awesomeness: The Mothers’ Day Movement

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I’m getting bombarded – deluged, really – with emails featuring ads for Mother’s Day gifts. Shoes! Cosmetics! Clothes! Math is hard!

Until a few years ago, I struggled to find a good gift for my mom. She’s not particularly into shoes, cosmetics, or clothes – and I could only buy her so much perfume before she ran out of surface area on her dresser.

Around the same time that I was running out of ideas, I heard about the Mothers’ Day Movement. It’s based on a column written by Nick Kristof – one of the authors of my favorite book, Half the Sky – for Mother’s Day 2010, in which he wrote:

Let’s think about moving the apostrophe so that it becomes not just Mother’s Day, honoring a single mother, but Mothers’ Day — an occasion to try to help other mothers around the globe as well.

A group of women took this idea to heart, and they created the Mothers’ Day Movement: a non-profit organization which, each year in honor of Mother’s Day, raises money to support a 501c-3 charity whose mission is to improve the lives of women and children. For every dollar in Mother’s Day donations, they match the amount and give the net sum to the selected charity.

They started their campaign two years ago, and Brandon and I were incredibly excited to donate to the 2011 campaign in honor of our awesome moms. We did the same thing last year for the 2012 campaign, and I have to admit: the 2012 and 2013 selected charities make me especially happy, since I’m fascinated by the issue of maternal and infant health in developing countries.

Maternal and Infant Health
Image Source: Doctors Without Borders (www.msf.org.za)

 

This year’s Mothers’ Day Movement campaign will raise money for the Fistula Foundation, a nonprofit that helps give women new lives by repairing obstetric fistulas.

Now, to back up the truck for a second, we should first talk about what a fistula is (and as a warning, this is pretty gross stuff!): one of the most serious of childbirth injuries, fistulas occur when a woman has an obstructed labor — in other words, the birth canal isn’t big enough for the baby to pass through.  During labor, the baby’s head repeatedly pushes down on the mother’s pelvic bone during each contraction, which then causes a lack of blood flow to the soft tissue in the area.

The blood-deprived soft tissue then dies, leaving the woman with a hole between the birth canal and either her bladder or her rectum (sometimes both).  Women with fistulas are permanently disabled and are unable to hold their urine or bowel contents.

Because of this, they are often rejected entirely by their husbands and families.  In many cases, women with fistulas are left in the wilderness to die.  

Take, for example, the story of Mahabouba, who had lost her baby due to obstructed labor and developed a fistula (excerpted from Half the Sky):

“People said it was a curse,” Mahabouba recalled. “They said, ‘If you’re cursed, you shouldn’t stay here. You should leave.’” Mahabouba’s uncle wanted to help her, but his wife feared that helping someone cursed by God would be sacrilegious. She urged her husband to take Mahabouba outside the village and leave the girl to be eaten by wild animals. He was torn. He gave Mahabouba food and water, but he also allowed the villagers to move her into a hut at the edge of the village.

“Then they took the door off,” she added matter-of-factly, “so that the hyenas would get me.” Sure enough, after darkness fell the hyenas came. Mahabouba couldn’t move her legs, but she held a stick in her hand and waved it frantically at the hyenas, shouting at them. All night long, the hyenas circled her; all night long, Mahabouba fended them off.

She was fourteen years old.

This is routine treatment for women in the developing world who are saddled with obstetric fistulas through no fault of their own.

Despite the severity of the injuries caused by fistulas, they’re fairly easy to repair: $450 can cover the costs of a fistula repair surgery and post-op care.  

The Fistula Foundation – which received a four-star ranking (the highest possible rating) from Charity Navigator – provides funding to hospitals in the developing world where fistula repair surgeries are performed by partnering with productive, respected, and effective local hospitals and surgeons.

You can learn more about how the Foundation finds ways to blow through all the obstacles to repair surgeries in the developing world here.

So, while our lovely moms surely appreciate flowers and shoes, if you think your mom would get a kick out of knowing that you’ve done something unique, meaningful, and helpful in her honor, check out the Mothers’ Day Movement – and let’s work to make the world a better place for all the moms out there.

Article Round-Up: April 21-27

Good morning, everyone, and happy Saturday!

I slept in until 8:15 this morning, which is basically unheard of for me — true to my grandma status ways, I usually wake up on my own at 7. I get this trait from my dad, who’s also an “early to bed, early to rise” sort of dude; I’m pretty sure my own tendency towards such things is hard-wired and inherited from mi padre.

My sleep habits used to really irritate me when I was in high school (“Why can’t I be a normal teenager who sleeps in until 10 or 11 on the weekends? What am I, a teenage mutant ninja turtle honors student?”), but now I really like it. It gives me quiet time to myself in the mornings, and I use that time to get stuff done. By the time other people are waking up, I’ve checked things off my to-do list and thus feel no guilt about getting some R&R and spending quality time with the people I love. Win!

Anywho, on to this week’s article round-up — grab yourself a beverage, sit back, and read away.

country
There, now doesn’t that make you feel all relaxed and filled with Saturday morning serenity?

Health & Fitness:

NYT: Do We Have to Cool Down After Exercise?

NPR: Recalls of Diet Supplements Highlight Mystery Ingredients

Mind, Body, Green: The 6 Best Fruits and Veggies to Buy for Spring

NYT: Long Runs or Sprints?

HuffPost: Vitamin P: The Secret to Health and Longevity

 

Stress Relief & Life Management:

Huffington Post: Easy Stress Relief: 5 Ways to Decompress in 5 Minutes

Mind, Body, Green: My All-Time Favorite Tips for Dealing With Stress

Huffington Post: Want Less Stress and More Happiness? Get ‘FAT’

 

Gender Issues:

Fast Company Infographic: How Barbie Stacks Up Against An Average, Real Woman 

Atlantic: ‘Messages of Shame Are Organized Around Gender

Slate: How Not To Be an Overt Sexist

Atlantic: Even Candy Land Isn’t Safe from Sexy

NoGym: We All Have Body Dysmorphic Disorder 

 

Humor & Warm Fuzzies:

Buzzfeed: 21 Photos That Will Turn Your Heart Into Goo

Funny or Die: The Childhood Drawings of Kim Jong Un

 NPR: Masterpiece in a Mug: Japanese Latte Art Will Perk You Up

Buzzfeed: Can You Make It Through This Video Without Happy-Crying?

Buzzfeed: 29 Ways Your Life Could Be A Million Times Worse

 

 

Inspirational Woman: Samantha

Good morning, everyone! It’s been a while since our last Inspirational Woman interview, so I’m proud and excited to introduce y’all to Samantha (AKA: Sam, Samoo, Muumuu) — one of my former roommates, a dear friend, and a major source of inspiration.

After five years of working in her comfortable but decidedly not gratifying career of graphic design, Sam found herself feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. After some soul-searching, she decided to make a huuuuuuuge change of course and pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant.

I still remember the phone call where she told me she’d finally figured out what she wanted to do, and my gut reaction was “That makes perfect sense — she’d be damn good at that.” Sure enough, she dove into doing all the things she needed to do (and believe me, there were a lot!) in order to take her life in a totally different direction. Fast forward six years, and she’s busy kicking butt as a PA and is in a much happier place.

Here’s her story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat inspired you to take action towards your goal/dream?

I realized I was not happy with the chosen profession I was in at the time. I was comfortable, but I was unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and generally unhappy with both my job and my career. As I realized this, I also realized I had control over what I did with my life – and that because I had control over where my life went, I was going to take charge and find a career that would genuinely make me happy. I explored different career paths that I thought might interest me, and before long, I decided on medicine. Since my previous career was in graphic design, I started taking some pre-reqs in math and hard sciences so I could go back to school to become a Physician’s Assistant.


What have been the high points and the low points?

The high points: I am much more satisfied now. [Side note: Sam is a seriously badass PA in an ICU, which isn’t exactly a low-stress gig. She’s awesome at what she does, which involves making life-saving decisions under high pressure while dealing with a bajillion different – and often competing or conflicting – variables. If, God forbid, you ever find yourself in an ICU, you’d be one lucky guy/gal to have someone like Sam taking care of you.]  The low points: I gave up a lot of time. The time I spent in school was time that was dedicated almost solely to my pursuit of a new career. The rough part is that this seems to have been to the detriment of other areas of my life (most notably, finding love/getting married/starting a family).


What obstacles have you encountered?

Especially early on, it was hard to give up a paycheck (and the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to with one). It was also hard to give up my free time especially when that translated to maintaining friendships, dating, etc.


Do you have a support network and/or personal cheerleaders who have helped you in this process?

My parents and friends were really helpful. They listened to me when I was struggling, boosted my confidence when I was unsure I had the ‘stuff’ it took to get to the end.  It also helped to have school friends that could commiserate with tough experiences and validate feelings that popped up along the way.


What have they done to encourage you and help you move forward?

They remind me of my strengths. They remind me I am not alone. They refresh my memory as to why I set down this road in the first place, and they help me renew my desire to get to my destination!


If you could give advice to women who are either trying to find the courage to pursue their dreams or are at the beginning of their own journey, what would it be?

There are no wrong decisions, so don’t waste energy regretting what’s already done. You have control of your life – if you’re unhappy, root out why and make your best attempt to remedy it. Although it can be scary and intimidating, you can make a change. So: if you think you need one, go for it!  A good friend had a great magnet on her fridge with a motto that I subscribe to: Leap, the net will appear. This helped give me the reassurance and strength I needed to take a big risk in making a huge career change, and it has definitely paid off.

LEAP and the net will appear, Via Facebook ~ Words of Wisdom. Trust your instincts - they are there for a reason. #quotes #beinspired

Grown-Up Saturday Morning Cartoons: Weekly Article Roundup for April 14-20

Good morning, lovely people, and happy Saturday!

I’d say that it’s an especially happy Saturday after last night’s capture of the remaining Boston bombing suspect. That piece of awesome news ended what was generally a week of awful news (warning: that link goes to an article which makes prolific use of the f-bomb; if you’re not a fan of such things, don’t read it) on a much-needed high note.

Also awesome? We had a huge thunderstorm last night. I love me a good thunderstorm, and this one didn’t disappoint.

sim-radar
Image Source: Capital Weather Gang (Washington Post)

Yesterday my mom and I went to both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for an epic food shopping extravaganza, which means that this morning will soon be completed by GF strawberry pancakes. If you hear a strange noise right now, that’d be my stomach growling in anticipation.

In the meantime, though, here’s this week’s article round-up — grab a beverage (or some pancakes) and enjoy!

Health & Wellness

NYT: Why We’re Motivated to Exercise, Or Not

The Atlantic: Relationships Are More Important Than Ambition

NPR: Low Sodium Labels Woo and Confuse Consumers

MindBodyGreen: 10 Ways To Get Healthier at Work

 

Stress Relief

Huffington Post: Laughter Benefits: Why Humor is the Best Way to Cope

Greatist: How to Manage Workplace Stress

Huffington Post: Teach Yourself How to Relax: Here’s How

 

Gender Issues

The Atlantic: Good Daycare Was Once a Top Feminist Priority, and It Should Be Again

NYT: An Overwhelmed Mother’s Departure Memo

Cogent Comment: The Rape Culture Project

The Guardian: The Everyday Sexism Project: A Year of Shouting Back

 

Humor and Warm Fuzzies:

Tressugar: Why You Should See Girl Rising

BuzzFeed: The 15 Most Ridiculous World Leaders of All Time

Huffington Post: Baby Hedgehog Fights T-Shirt To The Death

Maurice Williamson, New Zealand Parliamentairian, Gives Speech on Gay Marriage

EOnline: Allison Brie Imitates Popular Memes

A Brief Compilation of Random Awesomeness

Good morning, everyone! Since mi madre is visiting, I’m going to keep things short and sweet so I can spend time with her. With that, here’s a brief compilation of things I’m diggin’ this week:

This ad that my mom saw in the NY Times last week — she cut it out and brought it with her, and she correctly assumed that it’d be refrigerator-grade hilarity for Brandon and me:

NYSC Kim Jong UnThe fact that I have a new article up with Girls Gone Sporty — hooray!

Getting back into my workout routine after weeks of being thrown out of whack by the Breaking Bad marathon. I’ve been cardio-ing my little heart out (pun intended), and although I hate to admit that those weeks without my daily trip to the gym left me woefully out of shape, I’m glad that I’m back at it. I think it’s safe to say that exercise is kind of addictive for me; I love the way I feel after a good workout, and it was driving me nuts that I didn’t have time to get to the gym when Walt and that evil mofo Gus were taking over our lives.

EHRMAGHERD.

My routine this week is heavily reliant on the elliptical and the bike, since the insanely high pollen count has kicked my asthma into high gear. When my asthma acts up like this, I have to forgo running — even with my inhaler as my trusty sidekick, the wheezing started after .75 miles yesterday. In the interest of not dying (y’know, a minor detail), I decided to call it quits after a measly one mile and stick with the sort of cardio that makes me sweat like mad without being quite as taxing on my lungs. I’m adding weights back into the mix today (which I’m pretty effing stoked about), with a mix of upper body and lower body strength training. Have I mentioned that I looooooooove strength training? SO. EXCITED.

Half the Sky Movement Awesomeness: As y’all might know, it’s taken me a lot of soul-searching to figure out, well, what I want to do with my life. After the spectacularly painful realization that the line of work that I’d spent 10 years preparing for — and starting a career in — actually leaves me feeling unhappy and unsatisfied, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what sort of work I’d find meaningful, enjoyable, and edifying. I eventually realized that some of my long-buried passions — writing, health, and international women’s issues — are what really drive me. 

Rumi quote

Once I realized that, I became a community ambassador for the Half the Sky Movement. (Side note: if you only read one book or watch one documentary this year, make it this one. You won’t regret it!)

Through that ambassadorship, I found out that Half the Sky rolled out two awesome initiatives yesterday: the first, Rise4Women, will help raise resources and recognition for non-profits focusing on issues that affect women around the world — issues such as human trafficking and sex slavery, access to good prenatal and obstetric care, access to education, the ability to earn income, and a ton of other things we take for granted.

Through the Crowdrise challenge, the organization that earns the most money between April 24 and June 6 will receive a portion of the campaign’s $75,000 in prize money. I hiiiiiiiiighly encourage you to look through the list of organizations and see if there are any that resonate with you. Are you appalled by the fact that human trafficking and sex slavery even exist, let alone affect hundreds of thousands of girls and women? Check out the Polaris Project. Are you a mom or mom-to-be who can’t fathom giving birth without a skilled attendant on hand? Check out the Friends of Edna.

The second Half the Sky initiative that I’m really excited about is a Thunderclap campaign — started by the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC) — to ensure that women and girls remain a priority for U.S. foreign policy. Under Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, issues affecting women and girls around the world were a key element of her policy planning. Now that John Kerry is at the helm of the State Department, the IWHC and Half the Sky want to make sure that women and girls are a priority for foreign policy. Imma blow up Twitter with these hashtags, y’all.

With all that being said, the last thing I’m srsly excited about is the legit arrival of spring. Yeah, the pollen count might kill me, but it’s totally worth it for stuff like this:

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=6f94ded14d&view=att&th=13e1cd6a6922c094&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=5722bd6d6b714fbf_0.0&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-TYtb2Y1y1ya4X0X6A7vFj&sadet=1366283681293&sads=-jWvpCc5_JRCYviFKG6AwiLX3Bg
My airways are closing, but I don’t caaaaaaaaare!

Hope everyone has an awesome Thursday — so tell me, what random yet awesome things are inspiring you or making you happy today?

Grown-Up Saturday Morning Cartoons: This Week’s Article Roundup

Great moments in brain fail: last night as I was falling asleep, I thought of a great way to start today’s post — but now I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. I mean, I remember that it was truly awesome and that I was all excited about it, but that’s it. My brain has purged any related memories from its records. Argh.

Oh well: the silver lining here is that the lack of an intro means that we can dive right into this week’s article round-up. 🙂 Enjoy, and have an awesome Saturday!

Health & Fitness:

NYT: How Exercise May Boost the Brain

NPR: Surprise! Organic Apples and Pears Aren’t Free of Antibiotics

HuffPo: The Best and Worst Foods for Allergies

NYT: Ask Well: Exercising Before Bedtime

 

Stress Relief & Life Management:

HuffPo: Be Here Now: 3 Exercises to Be More Present

MindBodyGreen: 5 Ways to Quiet Your Mind

Regret-Free Life: Smart Risk Management

 

Gender Issues:

NYT: How Shared Diaper Duty Could Stimulate  The Economy

A Practical Wedding: My Life is Good*

Slate: This Is Me Leaning In: Why Do Accomplished Women Lack Confidence?

NYT: School Vote Stirs Debate on Girls as Leaders

 

Humor & Warm Fuzzies:

Wedding Message From Afghanistan: Deployed Pilot Films Midair Speech for Brother’s Nuptials

HuffPo: Baby Covered in French Bulldogs Is Even Cuter Than It Sounds

BuzzFeed: 17 Shakespearean Insults to Unleash in Daily Life