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Beauty is…seeing YOU

I wish people wouldn’t be scared of mental illness and it wouldn’t be such a touchy topic to discuss. I want girls and boys around the world to know that they are not alone whatsoever, and mental illness is just a bump in the road.

Courtney is just like any other high school student. She gets excited about dances and cherishes time with friends. She also has her own unique set of challenges.

Courtney lives with anxiety and depression. She may struggle sometimes,  but she has learned that those things don’t define her.

I do have the power to overcome anxiety and depression, but there will be times when it comes out of nowhere and I have to deal with it.

I had the opportunity to chat with this beautiful young lady and it occurred to me: We could all learn a thing or two from Courtney.

You have had a bit of a rough road to travel these past couple of years. CanAnxiety you talk about some of the struggles you have had and where you are at now?

I have always struggled with insecurity in myself, my life, the ones around me, and the world. I used to be so uneasy with who I was. I didn’t know when a panic attack would arise, and I began to feel so out of control. I would starve myself because that’s the only control I felt like I had in my life. I would think about ending things because everyday seemed to be less and less “real.” But the depression, eating disorder, and anxiety was more real than anything. I actually became so comfortable with my mental illness, I didn’t want it to go. I would run away from things that made me feel loved or worthy because all I knew at that time was hurtful words about myself. Sometimes still today, I just get so lost in my own thoughts that I feel like I lose track of reality. I used to get so frustrated with who I was becoming and why the anxious thoughts would never go away. Still today, anxiety is my go-to…but it’s different. I hear what anxiety or depression has to say. I will admit that sometimes it does overcome me, and I start to panic and I feel like the world is collapsing. But nowadays, there is so many more good days than bad ones. I have been able to see anxiety as separate from myself, me and anxiety are no longer the same person. Anxiety is not a part of me whatsoever. Instead of seeing mental illness as the enemy, I see it as bittersweet sometimes. It can really hurt me and the ones around me, but I have become so much stronger in who I am as a person and what I want to do in my life. Without all of the struggling years, I don’t think I would be who I was made to be.

What gets you through the rough days?

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Last April, I got “saved” which is basically saying that I surrendered my life to The Lord. He has worked through and in me so much, exposing me to so many different seasons of life. I hold all of my hope and trust in Him on my bad days, with the peace that He is always at work in my life.

Also, without my mom I don’t think I would be the woman I am today. She has never given up on me, she provides me with the love that I sometimes cannot give to myself. She can see all of my flaws and insecurities, and still let me know that I mean so much to this world. She has shown me what I want to become some day, completely selfless and loving with the knowledge that I might not be loved in return. She has shown me what hope and love really is; she is the fighter, not me.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Now what are your plans?

When I was little, I wanted to be a scientist. Now, I want to work with psychology.

What is the best song to sing in the shower?

The best song to sing in the shower would be “Brand New” by Ben Rector.

What is the best piece of advice you have heard? What was the worst?happiness (1)

The best advice that I have been given is “stop looking for happiness in the same place you lost it.” This piece of advice has changed my point of view on a lot of things. For some strange reason, I keep going back to the same thing or person hoping that this time around it will be different, but it never is. Looking for happiness in something that stole it from you will never suddenly change.

The worst advice I have been given is “just try to ignore it.” Whether “it” be anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder, telling someone to ignore it will only make the thoughts become bigger and stronger; you should never ignore what you’re afraid of.

It is Mental Health Awareness month. What is something you wish people understood about you and your journey?

I wish people wouldn’t be scared of mental illness and it wouldn’t be such a touchy topic to discuss. Today mental illness is more popular than ever. I want the world to be open to talking about it for what it is, a disorder, not some sickening disease. I want girls and boys around the world to know that they are not alone whatsoever, and mental illness is just a bump in the road. Personally, I wish people would understand that sometimes I can’t be like them. Some days I just can’t go up to a new person and say hello, and sometimes I just have to be quiet. I want people to understand what people suffering with mental illness go through, and understand that some days they just can’t do some things, and that’s okay. You might be laughing at one moment, then crying in the next, but you’re not a freak for that happening. I do have the power to overcome anxiety and depression, but there will be times when it comes out of nowhere and I have to deal with it. I want mental illness to no longer have the stigma of being weak or “walking on eggshells.” People need to treat someone with mental illness the same, but with the knowledge that they can’t do everything perfectly.

If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be and what one question would you ask?

If I could have coffee with one woman, I would have it with a woman who I met in my IOP treatment. She was a lot older than me, and she did suffer from anxiety and depression, but she would always look at me and tell me that I have so much ahead of me. I saw her a few months after I graduated the program, and she just smiled at me because she was so proud of where I was. I didn’t get to know her that much, but I want to know what she’s been through and how she got through everything.

Who is your favorite Disney princess?

I’m not a huge Disney fan, so I asked my friend (who loves Disney stuff) which princess I would be most like. She said Merida from Brave, so I decided to look her up and see what she’s like. Merida is described as “impetuous girl who wants to take control of her own destiny.” It also says that she is “stubborn” and “does not fit the stereotypical princess role.” Just these three descriptions make me think of myself, because I sure am stubborn and I seem to feel like an outcast a lot of the time. I’ve noticed that people tend to glance over the ones that are “outcasts” or “different,” and I have been that one the whole time. But, it is honestly really cool that Disney would take the time to make a character similar to someone like me. Merida is a princess who doesn’t look like a typical princess, and I think she would be my favorite because she reminds me of myself.

What is your definition of beauty? Or, when do you feel most beautiful?

I think beauty is when someone can hold confidence in themselves and who they are as a person. Whenever I see beautiful girls, I look at them with so much jealousy and desire, and I end up feeling less of a person than them. Telling yourself that you are less than someone else is not going to get you anywhere except to a place of insecurity and self-hatred. Still today, I struggle with feeling beautiful in my own skin. I look at other girls and I start to become incredibly negative. Beauty doesn’t mean that you have to love what you see when you look in the mirror, but it is when you realize that you’re not what those girls look like, but you are something. Personally, the last time I felt truly beautiful was on a late night car ride with the music loud and my friends beside me. Although I was not looking in the mirror at the time, I felt alive and happy. I was so happy in that moment, and I never wanted it to end because everything around me was so perfect. Beauty isn’t always loving what you see in the mirror; it’s being able to look in the mirror and just see YOU.

Beauty is seeing you




Motivation Monday: Listen to your body

Get out of social media and mainstream news and start experimenting with what works for your body and your lifestyle. Here’s a simple plan to help you Define Your Fit…


Let’s start with a little background: You are currently helping women (and men) find strength and balance in their lives. Tell me a bit about what led you to where are now. What challenges have you faced along the way?

I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for close to a dozen years. I knew it was my passion when I was in a cadaver lab in college and saw the inside of a healthy body that died of natural causes and an unhealthy body that died prematurely from a heart attack side by side. I got to feel the difference in the organs of someone who exercised and ate healthy versus someone who drank and smoked all their life. The difference was incredible and jaw dropping. That image has inspired me to educate women (and men) on the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.

I consider it a privilege to work with people to help them understand how the body moves and how to move it pain free. It’s a privilege to be invited along on someone’s health and fitness journey. I feel the most alive when I get to see those changes happen right before my eyes.

For so long I would train the man or woman who just wanted to look good (which I’m sure is most of us). I helped them to lose weight and fit into their little black dress but, I started to realize that something was missing. For me, that missing link was digging deeper and helping them to gain strength from the inside out. In my life, that inner strength comes from God. So, after many years in this industry I have finally found that my niche is Christian woman and teaching them what the Bible says about their bodies and where their strength comes from before they learn it in the gym.

The biggest challenge for me was identifying my ideal demographic or niche. Originally I just wanted to help everybody (kids, elderly, athletes, cardiac patients, moms etc). I got as many certifications as I could and marketed myself as a trainer to anyone who needed one. That was actually a disservice to my clients because I couldn’t be everything to everyone. There are very few trainers who can be amazing at training the entire population. You eventually find that you are better at relating to a specific group of people and you can serve them the best.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I went on my first plane ride and realized I was terrified of flying (not to mention I am also horrible at math). The only other thing I wanted to be was a mom and today I’m blessed to have adopted 4 beautiful children!


You mention on your site that you are a “recovering perfectionist.” Tell me a bit about that– what habits were you in and how were they affecting you? How did you move from perfectionism to acceptance?

I’ve always been very driven by success. Unfortunately my personal definition of success was “to never do anything wrong.” That often left me either feeling like a failure all the time or it left me doing nothing at all for the fear of failing.

That type of thought process produced anxiety and depression in my life that I couldn’t get rid of on my own. Once I started building a relationship with Jesus and understanding what the Bible says about who we are in His image, I truly realized that I don’t need to be perfect because I never will be. I don’t need to try harder to be accepted, I need to accept God’s love before I try anything at all.

What is the best song to sing in the shower?

LOL. I have to honestly say that I don’t think I ever sing in the shower. I will have to give it a try. Maybe your readers can leave me suggestions and I will follow up with how it goes 🙂

What is the best piece of advice you have heard? What was the worst?Self talk

The best piece of advice I have ever heard is described like this: When you change your self talk from ‘I have to’ into ‘I get to or I choose to’ you can change your whole life.

The worst piece of advice I have ever heard is “Everything will be ok because God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” That’s bologna. We are given things on a daily basis that are bigger than we can handle. Chronic stress is the result of things bigger than we can handle. The truth is that God doesn’t give us things bigger than HE can handle. When we trust in Him and what His word says, it helps us to understand what the “handling” process looks like.

How do you spend your down time? Favorite books, shows, movies?

I probably spend way too much time on Facebook. I love to read too many books at one time and I always have to have a highlighter with me when I’m reading. My favorite types of books are non-fiction. I love reading anything Christian based, self-improvement, leadership or business type books. My husband and I end our nights by snuggling on the couch with a few Netflix shows. If it’s his night to pick it’s a boring documentary. If it’s my night to pick it’s a romantic comedy or cooking show.

If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be and what one question would you ask?

My great grandma Ida. I only knew her when I was a young girl and it was well before I came to know the Lord. My grandma (her daughter) always tells me how proud she would be of the Christian woman I have become. She told me that my great-grandma read through the Bible several times in her life. I would love to have coffee with her and ask her to tell me about her faith journey.


What is your definition of beauty?

I think we’ve all heard the quote that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I believe that beauty is in the eye of the Creator. In my life, the Creator is God and He specifically tells us that everything He made is beautiful. I believe that with all my heart. You’re beautiful and I’m beautiful and no one can tell us any different nor can anyone take that away from us. And, don’t you ever forget that someone else’s beauty doesn’t make you any less beautiful. We get too caught up in comparing ourselves with each other and forget that there is enough room in this world for everyone to be beautiful.

someone else's beauty

Your list of certifications and continued education pursuits is impressive to say the least. What motivates you to keep learning more?

Like I mentioned earlier, part of it had to do with my unattainable strive for perfection and success. Part of me thought that the more knowledge I had, the more successful I could be. I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t ever “enough.” So, I poured my energy into education. I don’t regret anything I’ve learned, but I do regret the reasons why I pursued education so relentlessly.

Since my masters is in education I obviously have a love for learning. I don’t think we should ever stop learning and I hope to always be a student in some sort of capacity. What I have come to appreciate now is that being a student and learning something new doesn’t need to come with extra initials after your name. 🙂

What did you have for breakfast this morning? What is your guilty pleasure?

It’s 10:30am right now and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I’ve had 2 cups of organic coffee with stevia and I’m finally starting to feel hungry. If I wake up and I’m not hungry, I won’t eat. Some days I love a big breakfast and other times I enjoy what’s called Intermittent Fasting. I listen to my body more than following any type of plan.

My guilty pleasure is anything with dark chocolate.


It is National Fitness Month. What do you want people to know about health and fitness. How can someone get motivated to make healthy changes?

Everyone is a health and fitness expert these days. You can’t log onto the internet or walk through a grocery store magazine aisle without being told what to eat and how to workout. The information overload is insane and leads people to just not doing anything because they don’t know where to start.

What I want everyone to know is that YOU are in complete control of creating your own definition of health and fitness. Health and fitness for me is a meat & veggie heavy, lower carb lifestyle with some high intensity kettlebell or barbell training 3-4 days per week. I feel really good at 18% body fat and feel sluggish when I get up over 23%. This is what makes me feel my best. I know I need to change things up when I’ve had too many processed carbs (or glasses of wine), when my joints ache and when I feel groggy in the morning. I don’t do well with dairy, coconut or almonds. This type of plan won’t work for the runner or the mom who just gave birth or the 75 year old with arthritis or the vegetarian who loves yoga.

Get out of social media and mainstream news and start experimenting with what works for your body and your lifestyle. Here’s a simple plan to help you Define Your Fit:

Define your fit

  1. Define your whatwhat is it that you want to change with your health? Is it your weight, your dress size, your strength, your endurance or maybe your doctor has said if you don’t change anything you will have a heart attack in the near future.

  2. Define your whywhy do you want it? Your why will keep you going when the going gets tough. Dig deep and don’t be afraid to get emotional with this one.

  3. Define your how how are you going to make this happen? Will it require a nutrition overhaul? Will it require 3 days of exercise per week or more than that? Do you need to purchase a gym membership or equipment for your home? Maybe you can just start with bodyweight exercises.

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All of the images I used in this post are right from Kristen’s website. Aren’t they gorgeous?!

 (the edit in that last picture is mine)

Beauty is…treasuring yourself

May is National Fitness Month, so all month we will be talking to women who inspire health and happiness #MotivationMonday

 Lauren was bullied growing up, sexually assaulted when she was 16, and fought an eating disorder through her high school and college years. Her road to self-acceptance has been long and hard, but now she is dedicated to helping others pave their own road.

Lauren is the entrepreneur behind the WhatIsPerfection blog, a self-improvement blog for “the imperfect girl everywhere.” Her mission is to help women find happiness, feel beautiful, and be confident in who they are. “We all deserve to be happy, and we all deserve to be the best version of us. And we are truly capable of getting there. Because Perfection is Impossible. Happiness isn’t.”



Let’s start with some background. Where are you from? What was your favorite thing to do as a kid?

Hi! I am Lauren Eliz, of the What is Perfection Blog. I grew up in Long Island with my two sisters and larger than life Italian parents. Growing up was definitely an adventure for me. I lived on a block with a bunch of kids my age. Most of us, including me, went to Catholic School. Our classes were really small and I was basically with the same group of 50 kids from kindergarten through eighth grade. I was bullied a lot and didn’t really have a solid group of close friends. Then in high school I went to an even bigger Catholic school — and had over an hour long bus ride each day! I didn’t really like going to a private school. I hated wearing a uniform and learning about morality in a way that tried to make everyone be the same, act the same, and have little unique opinions about life. There weren’t many outlets for being creative or expressing your individuality. And being a creative person, that was really tough. I loved performing and spent much of my teenage free time performing in small theater shows around Long Island. And writing. I was always always writing: Music, Songs, Poems, Short stories – Anything and Everything. I guess my childhood is really what made creativity so important to me. It was what made me ME and allowed me to stand out in a world where everything was supposed to be plain and simple.

Take me through your typical day.

My Typical Day has changed over the last few months since starting the What is Perfecton blog. The five years before What is Perfection launched, I was a television producer for CBS News, and my typical day was chasing national stories, editing video all over the world and spending late nights getting important stories on television. But as exciting as that sounds, my typical day now is even more exciting! I get started working on blog projects from the minute I wake up till I head off to bed. I fill my days with photography shoots, brainstorming new ideas for stories and connecting with amazing women all over the world. I am still telling stories that matter, but with these stories, I somehow feel like I am making more of a difference in the world. My typical day is now spent being creative, expressive and allowing myself to be vulnerable. And I love that.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I’m pretty sure I always knew I wanted a creative life… and I am almost certain I always dreamed of being a writer. It was just in my soul from the moment I started living. Then when I got older and went to high school, I was set on being  Broadway star. I used to take classes in Manhattan every weekend to perfect my singing voice and auditioned for colleges across the country. But then once I got there, it didn’t feel right to me. I grew up, and realized I didn’t want to just recite someone else’s writing… I wanted to tell my own stories.

On your site, you talk about going from feeling like you were never good enough to embracing your imperfections. Tell me a little bit about that journey. Was it a gradual ‘awakening’? Or did you just wake up one day and say “OK, that’s enough of that!” Were/Are there any rituals or mantras or habits you have gotten into to help you get from where you were to where you are?

There was no specific Ah-ha moment for me…. no time in my life where the lightbulb turned on and I was like.. OH NO I AM LIVING WRONG! But looking back at my life I can definitely pinpoint the moments where my journey took serious turns off course to bring me where I am today. For those of you who don’t know my imperfection story, I can sum itLaurenEatingDisorder up for you: I was lost in insecurity my whole life. I was bullied growing up, and became obsessed with my body image. I suffered an eating disorder, sexual assault, a suicide attempt and a few other traumatizing things that really shaped my low self image. But my life has completely changed since then. I have found an amazing happiness and self confidence I never thought possible. I guess the big turning point for me was when I got divorced and lost my whole “perfect” life that I thought I finally had. That was really what pushed me over the edge and really forced me to do some serious soul searching. The three years after that I adapted some new habits that really turned my life around. I started reading self help books and tried to educate myself about all the emotional qualities I was missing in my life. I realized that no one else can shape my destiny but me. And if I didn’t start loving myself, I would never be confident enough to live a happy life being true to who I was and accepting myself for me. Journaling was really the ritual that allowed me to grow. I got really into it during my moments of self discovery. I’d ask myself things like, “What does the perfect life look like to me?” and “What is Happiness?” Writing all of those things out really forced me to look deeply at what I wanted, who I was, and where I wanted my life to take me. I also found means of meditation — like running, and coloring therapy. Those things really helped too.

Who is your favorite Power Ranger? Or Disney Princess? Or character?

I wasn’t ever really into power rangers.. And Disney princesses were cool and all, don’t get me wrong. But I was definitely a “different” kid. I was Mighty Mouse one year for Halloween.. and Beast from Beauty and the Beast another year. My favorite character though was always Simba. I guess I liked the idea of transforming your identity and finding happiness – even at a young age.

What was the best piece of advice you have received? What was the worst?Be true to yourself

The best piece of advice I ever got was to always be true to myself. No matter what. The worst piece of advice? Well… I’ve been told to  just trying a fit in, or to just let go of the past, or things like, “stop being so dramatic.” Those are bad things to tell anyone. You should never try to be someone for someone else… or just try to please other people. And that advice can make for some serious pretend living that is just incredibly unhealthy. I  am me. No one should ever try and change that.

You get into a packed elevator. Which way do you face?

If I ever got stuck in a elevator with a group of people, I’d probably be the one organizing some fun game to pass the time. So I would make everyone sit in a circle and share their deep dark secrets so we could all become best friends.

What is your ideal state? (In a perfect world, what are you doing? Where are you living? Who is surrounding you?) How will you get there?

This is my perfect ideal state. I am living my dream, I am surrounded by people who love me. Where I am living doesn’t matter. I am happy. And that is the only thing I need.

What is the best song to sing in the shower?

Anything Broadway!

What is your definition of beauty?

Beauty is something internal. It is not how you look or what you wear. To me, beautiful is something that happens when you connect with who you are and live true to yourself every single day. It shines through you. It radiates. You live life treasuring yourself and the people you love.. and that makes beauty.

Beauty is...Lauren Eliz


All images from (edits my own)

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Beauty is…doing things for others

First grade teacher by day, pit bull rescuer and Challenger baseball organizer by night. My #WCW is one beautiful lady!

It is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I am excited to feature one of the most beautiful teachers I know! Not only does she dedicate her time to helping each of her students reach their full potential, she spends her “extra” time giving even more– from pit bull rescue to Challenger Baseball, this lady is spreading love and beauty all over the place!

Who you are: Maureen Smith

What you do: First Grade Teacher by profession, giving my time and money to great causes by choice!

Where you do it: Rockwood School District


You are a first grade teacher by day, pit bull rescuer and Challenger challenger-baseballbaseball organizer by night. Tell me a bit about what led you to where are now. What challenges have you faced along the way?

St. Louis Challenger Baseball started on the 2nd date I had with my (now husband), Buck.  He talked about the league he started here in St. Louis and I was happy to come see what it was all about.  After the first summer of watching from the sidelines, I jumped right in to be a coach the following summer and have been for 12 years now.

Pit Bull Rescuing came a little later, after my husband and I were married and adopted our first rescued pit bull, Sally, in 2009.  We were hooked and can’t imagine our lives without her.  I work locally with Even Chance Pit Bull Rescue, Stray Rescue (walking dogs when I can), the HumaneEvenChance Society of the United States as an Animal Rescue Volunteer.  I have been deployed with them 5X to Florida and Tennessee to volunteer taking care of pit bulls who have been in dog fighting situations.

Challenges for all of these are TIME!  I always wish I had more of it.  Space in our home is getting to be a little more complex with Challenger and fostering puppies for Even Chance…there is always a lot of stuff.

It is National Teacher Appreciation Week. What do you want people to know about the real life of teachers?

We only want what is best for every single student in our classrooms and beyond. We are only one person and we try our best to meet every need for every child, every day.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I think I always wanted to perform.  I know in 6th grade I had a teacher who totally understood my passion, maybe because of his own love of the stage (he had a Bluegrass band). He was always asking me and my friends to “rehearse” our latest skit, and he let us “perform” in front of the class many times that year. We even had costumes for our performances.  My favorite was dressing like Pinky Tuscadero and the Pinkettes from Happy Days!  I was hooked!  I also babysat a lot and that probably molded my decision to “act” in front of kids.

You have “Drama Queen” signs all over your room. But you are probably the least “drama” filled person I have met. Am I missing something??

I guess now look at the answer to question #2.  I LOVE being on stage and performing, either in plays or musicals or choirs.  I have always been a ham, had the gift of gab (my mom is from Ireland) and find teaching the best place to perform improv on a daily basis.  One day I hope to be performing in a Broadway show…

Talk about multi-tasking! 


What is the best piece of advice you have heard?

giveMy husband always says: never pass up a chance to give.  He is right.  We live our lives that way. That is definitely why we started Got Your Back Pack in Rockwood.

What was the worst? Do not major in musical theater in college, that is a waste! Choose Accounting.

If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be and what one question would you ask?

Princess Diana. I would ask,  “Have you always had the passion and drive to help others or did someone influence you to make that your legacy as a member of the royal family?”

What is your definition of beauty? When do you feel the most beautiful?

Doing things for others…I wish outer beauty was not so much of our daily lives, but sadly it is.  I feel the most beautiful when I sing and hit the right harmony and notes.

Beauty is...doing things for others

5 Things You Should Know Before Reading How To Be A Woman

This month’s selection had all sorts of Our Shared Shelf-ers up in arms. Maybe folks expected something different from a book with the words “how to” in the title. Maybe they were not ready for her language. Whatever the case may be, folks railed against her exclusivity (she wrote from an exclusively white cis female pov) and words she used like “fat” and “tranny.”

Emma Watson started a feminist book club on GoodReads. This month, we read Caitlin Moran’s How to be a woman.

(You can check out the books from the last couple of months here and here)


Caitlin Moran is raw, funny, open, and nothing if not controversial.

(Though I try to be as family friendly as possible, due to the nature of this particular book, this post is not for young eyes. You have been warned.)

This month’s selection had all sorts of Our Shared Shelf-ers up in arms. Maybe folks expected something different from a book with the words “how to” in the title. Maybe they were not ready for her language. Whatever the case may be, folks railed against her exclusivity (she wrote from an exclusively white cisgender female pov) and words she used like “fat” and “tranny.”

So, in lieu of a review of sorts, I decided to go with a warning of sorts this month. Just in case you are thinking of grabbing this book off the shelf to take a gander…

  1. This book is not ok for young young ladies. Moran talks about– and thereby IMG_9485normalizes– things that are typically off limits (especially for us ladies). Things like masturbation, menstruation, drug use, miscarriage, and abortion. If these are things you have not talked about with your little lady, you may want to do that first. On the other hand, because of how raw and open Moran is, I think this could be used as a discussion starter with older teens. Mom and daughter book club, anyone?
  2. This is totally NOT a “how to” book. Before I started reading it, my eight year old saw it on the counter and said, “How to be a woman?! But, there is no RIGHT way to be a woman, mom!” to which I replied, “I am thinking that might be kinda the point.” It is, on the other hand, a memoir about her adolescence and young adulthood. One Our Shared Shelfer put it really well, “…the whole thing reads like a love letter to her younger self, like advice she wishes she could’ve sent back into the past… Like she’s teaching herself how to be a woman.” She opens each chapter with a personal memory, an experience. Then she takes us through lessons learned and her thoughts on those experiences now. So, if you are thinking you might want to see what all the fuss is about, remember, you will not actually learn how to be a woman. You might, however, learn about another woman’s life. And thereby learn a thing or two about yourself.
  3. Keeping the fact that this is a MEMOIR in mind, Caitlin is a WHITE, CIS FEMALE. She is now upper-middle class, though some of the stories about her youth strongly suggests she grew up downright poor. And she writes from this white, cisgender female, middle class point of view. Though this seems obvious, I add it to the warnings, because folks over at Our Shared Shelf were super upset about her ignoring the experiences of non-white, non-middle class, non-cis gendered females in her book. I might be totally missing the point of their argument, but I feel like I would have been pretty offended if she tried to include the experiences she had not herself experienced.
  4. She is not formally educated and writes in a very raw way. According to some book club members, she was homeschooled, and then started working as a pop culture and music critic when she was 16. She writes in a very readable manner-I like she is writing to a friend. She uses ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation marks!!!! So if you are looking for a scholarly discussion of the female experience, this ain’t it.
  5. She is not angry. She is a feminist, sure. But you will not find angry rants here. In fact, she talks about things like laughing at the patriarchal crap, encourages us to look at everyone as “one of the guys,” suggests replacing terms like “pro-women” with “thumbs up for the 6 billion,” and asking if things are “polite” rather than “sexist” or “misogynistic.” One group member put it this way:

I think one of the main things I am going to take from this book is that it’s time to laugh at the patriarchal crap that is said in my presence. Laugh at it and give it no power. Oh I will still fight for the things that need a strong and perhaps angry voice. But in my day to day life, it’s time to laugh as if what has been said is just too stupid to be taken seriously.

The response to this book was VERY mixed, and lots of members decided not to read it at all. One member, however, could not get enough. She wrote:

Can we appreciate this book for what it is? I also have a deep appreciation for her very graphic depictions of pivotal moments in a woman’s life, often considered taboo to discuss publicly in too much detail. While she still employs humor in those sections, the tone definitely shifts; the material is darker, heavier, and simply disgusting. I love it! I’m referring specifically to her graphic discussions of menstruation, masturbation, and drug use, but especially her first childbirth and later abortion. I know she is not the first or only writer to do this, but this is one thing that, in my opinion, we can’t get enough of. These issues need constant exposure to be normalized and to erase the stigma!

Personally, I enjoyed the book. I thought she used humor and blatant honesty to discuss things I had never seen anyone write about before. Yes, she was  insensitive about some issues that are on the fore-front of everyone’s minds right now, and I will not defend her for it. Nevertheless, I was able to take some nuggets of wisdom away from the book, and I thought it was intriguing to read about a coming-of-age experience that was so different from mine (or was it??).

If you are not at all familiar with Caitlin Moran (I had never heard of her before reading this book) here are a couple of clips to give you a feel for her style…

The first clip is an open letter to teenage girls. I dare you not to tear up.

In the second clip, she kinda sorta addresses a comment she made on Twitter. See, apparently she and Lena Dunham chatted and Twitter user lizzie c was not happy that Moran did not address the lack of women of color in Dunham’s show “Girls.” When Lizzie expressed her concern, Moran replied that she “literally couldn’t give a shit about it.” This obviously made quite an impression on folks. Though she doesn’t apologize (I have a feeling that’s not really her style), she does touch on it a bit at the end of the second clip. She talks about ‘Girls’ as being mostly about spoiled white girls in New York because Lena Dunham was a spoiled white girl in New York. Dunham is most comfortable making jokes about her experiences because they are her experiences. Moran mentions that she looks forward to more and more people sharing their own experiences, perhaps by using the template Dunham has laid out.






#WCW: The Ladies of Eureka High School Robotics Team

When I was in high school I was worrying about who to go to Prom with and if I would ever get my toe-touch (I never did).
These ladies are building. frickin. robots.

 When I was in high school I was worrying about who to go to Prom with and if I would ever get my toe-touch (I never did).

These ladies are building. frickin. robots.

Who you are: Catherine Colletti and Joey Schmaltz

What you do: members of the FTC Robotics team, The Quarks 3591

Where you do it: Eureka High School


What drew you to robotics? What do you love about it and what are the biggest challenges?

Catherine: I thought robotics would be a lot of fun and I would get a chance to learn a lot about engineering, plus I have been doing robotics of some sort since I was in 4th grade and I wanted to continue in high school. I love it because I get to apply what I learn in class about engineering to a real purpose. It is super exciting and there are so many different things we can do when we design our robot. The biggest challenge would be when the robot or the programming or the wiring is not working the way it is supposed to. Also, since this is a team effort, we have to make sure we work together well and consider the ideas of all team members.

Joey: My entire family is made up of engineers and I felt like joining something that would give me an opportunity to be around things where the main focus is engineering would just bring me closer to my family as well as to some of my friends that were already on the team when I joined. I love the team aspect of robotics, we (all 13 of us) act like a BIG family and we may have some “sibling” bickering and not getting along just like a real family does but we all love each other at the end of the day. The biggest challenge was probably the communication within the team. The team has one large group chat with everyone plus some in it and that can get out of hand sometimes and then there is also the face to face communication that didn’t always happen or if it did hardly anyone was participating in the discussion.

What accomplishment (within robotics or otherwise) are you most proud of?

Catherine: The Quarks received the Think Award, the award for the top engineering notebook, at the Missouri State Competition this year. This then qualified us to compete at the North Super Regionals, which was a really cool opportunity.

Joey: I was really proud of our team making it to super regionals, especially since this was my first year in robotics it was just awesome! Personal wise, I had brain surgery in 2013 so that’s kinda cool that I’m better now.

What are your plans for the future?

Catherine: First, I want to finish high school. 🙂 After that, I am looking to go to college for engineering, most likely Materials Engineering.

Joey: 100% honest here- I’ve no idea, but I’ve got a while to figure that one out

If you could have coffee with any woman, historical or living, who would it be and why?marie-curie-850

Catherine: I would talk to Marie Curie because I love chemistry and would be interested in her discoveries of two elements.


the-c3b4earlier-versionc3b5-as-the-portr-ait-of-lisa-del-giocondo_1021_html_m12df3fddJoey: The inspiration for the Mona Lisa, so that I could ask her what her name is and who does her eyebrows so that I can arrest them for theft

Fun question: M&Ms– plain or peanut? (or pretzel, or crispy, or peanut butter…)

Catherine: The original M&Ms, or peanut butter. Both are amazing.

Joey: Pretzel, is there even any other kind?

What is the best song to sing to in the shower or when you are alone in the car?

Catherine: I don’t really have a favorite. It’s generally whatever song I have stuck in my head at the moment or is on the radio.

Joey: I’m really bad at remembering lyrics to usually I just hum the tune of what ever song is stuck in my head and it mixed with 4 other songs and until you can no longer tell what genre it was even from to begin with

What was the best piece of advice you have received? What was the worst?

Catherine: The best two pieces of advice I have received are to (1) not worry about other people and do what makes you happy, and (2) aim high because even if you don’t do what you aim to, you’ll still end up doing something great. The worst piece of advice I have received is “just do what everyone else is doing”

Joey: The best was only you can take away your happiness, and the worst was when my uncle told me that doing a belly flop off a diving board wouldn’t hurt at all

What books or TV shows do you think everyone needs to read/watch, like, right now?

lord-of-the-rings-booksCatherine: The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a must-read.

Joey: It depends on what you like, but if you really wanted a recommendation list, I have one about a mile long (which is not as long as my to-read list)

What is your definition of beauty? When/where do you feel most beautiful?

Catherine: A person who is beautiful is someone who has a presence that just seems to glow because you can tell that they are happy and confident and they seem to spread that happiness wherever they go. I feel the most beautiful when I am around my family or friends doing something I enjoy.

Beauty is...glowing (1)

Joey: Beauty is something that someone achieves when they are completely immersed in whatever they enjoy doing the most or when they feel the most loved or confident. I feel beautiful when I’m reading or drawing, or surrounded by people that love me for who I am, not who they want me to be, like my family and friends.

Beauty is...immersion

Beauty is…strength and confidence

She holds four degrees, including a Doctorate in Engineering and a Masters in Business.

(Image from

 She has designed rovers for Mars exploration and robots destined to help study climate change in Antarctica.  

She has contributed to seven books and published over two hundred academic papers.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2001 Lew Allen Award for Excellence in Research from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Early Career Award in Robotics and Automation in 2005, the National Society of Black Engineers Janice Lampkin Educator Award in 2009, and the Georgia Tech Residential Life Cornerstone Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Community in 2013.

She is also a wife, a mama, and downright beautiful.

Dr. Ayanna Howard (image from


Who you are: Dr. Ayanna Howard

What you do: Robotics Engineer, Professor, Entrepreneur

Where you do it: Georgia Institute of Technology, Zyrobotics

Ienhanced-buzz-9274-1365708848-3 read that you were inspired to pursue a career in science after watching the TV show The Bionic Woman. What was it about the show/character that clicked with you? Before watching the show, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a young girl, I was always into sci-fi – anything with robots, space, super heroes – if it included any imaginary futuristic technology or world, I was hooked. The Bionic Woman attracted me, in particular, because it engaged me into thinking about my role in society. Here was this amazingly intelligent, beautiful, super hero that, not only highlighted the strengths of a woman, first and foremost, but had the primary purpose of saving the world. And then I knew that what I wanted to do was pursue a career that allowed me to build the Bionic Woman. Before that, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was always good at math and science, but didn’t really know what kind of career I wanted.

What were some of the biggest challenges you have faced on your professional journey? How were you able to move through them?

When I was younger, the biggest challenge was in learning how to not take things personally and push forward, despite any implicit biases expressed by others. Basically, the biggest challenge was dealing with the Imposter Syndrome, especially as, many times, I was the only female or minority present in a given situation. I once heard someone say “Fake it until you make it.” I realized no one feels confident 100% of the time, so you just press on until you do.

You are a role model for kiddos who are interested in robotics and engineering. Who were some of your role models growing up or as you went through university?

I float through role models – basically, I find individuals who are doing what I’d like to do and figure out how they got there and the lessons they have learned through that process. I also like to surround myself with ‘advisors’ – i.e. individuals whom I can seek out when I need advice. In essence, they function informally, at various instances of time, as my mentors, colleagues, confidants.  

Your list of awards and publications is staggering (your CV is 17 pages long!!). You have worked on building rovers for Mars, artificial limbs for kids, and robots that can explore the Arctic to help scientists study climate change– what are you most proud of?

I’m usually the most proud on the things I’m working on now.  Right now, I’m most proud of releasing the Zumo Learning System, which is an accessible electronic learning system for STEM. It brings together technology licensed from my lab at Georgia Tech, aspects of machine intelligence, K-12 math education, and addressing the needs of children with differing abilities.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?dsc_0884-copy-584x386  

Rocky Road

What is the best song to sing to in the shower or when you are alone in the car?

Don’t actually have one. When I’m listening to music – it’s usually Zumba music (since I teach a weekly Zumba class and the rule of thumb is – know your music).

What was the best piece of advice you have received? What was the worst?

The best piece of advice has been when someone asks a question that makes me think (causing me to give myself advice or seek advice to answer the question) – Why haven’t you written a book? Have you ever thought about starting your own company? Have you ever thought about an academic career?  

The worst piece of advice – I’m actually not sure since I tend to push negativism out of my life.

You have been interviewed and featured by just about everyone, from TIME magazine to PBS. Is there anything you wish they would ask, but they never do?

I wish they would ask: “You’ve done a lot and seem to be quite busy. How do you balance?”

My answer would be: My family – they keep me sane and grounded. They help me to say NO when it’s time that I should.

What is your definition of beauty? Or, when/where do you feel most beautiful?

Definition of beauty – strong inside, exuding confidence outside. Honestly, I feel the most beautiful when I’m on stage speaking to a general audience. Each time – it challenges me to rise above self – becoming stronger inside and more confident outside.

Dr Howard definition


Learn more about Dr Howard here:

The History Makers



SHEro Code 003

SHEro003 (2)


Daniela Delgado is fighting her own battle. She was born with Von Willebrand Disease, a rare bleeding condition that she will have to deal with her whole life. It keeps her from participating in contact sports and climbing to the tippy top of the jungle gym. But it doesn’t keep her from baking beautiful birthday cakes for kiddos who are fighting life threatening diseases, or dealing with any situation that might make them “feel sad or different.” She bakes and delivers the cakes at no charge to the families. She sings Happy Birthday and watches as they blow out the candles. She could be sitting around, feeling sorry for herself and complaining about her condition. But instead she is spreading love, and bringing smiles to kiddos who deserve a few more smiles in their lives.

And that makes her a SHEro in my book.

(Check out more SHEroes here)

Beauty is…resilience

I feel the most beautiful when I watch myself in the mirror during physical therapy. I feel so much pride when I see myself mastering things I never thought I would be able to do again after my amputation like standing or walking. I see resilience in the mirror and I think resilience is beautiful.

 Being a mom is not easy.

Being a mom before you enter college is hard.

Being a mom and going to college is harder still.

Being a mom, going to college, spending the better part of a year in the hospital fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma, and losing your leg as a result? Impossible.

But this mama is doing it.



Who you are: Irene Blum


What you do: Mom, college student, childhood cancer and limb loss awareness advocate.


Where you do it: Stamford, CT


Tell us your story.Motivated

I was born and raised in Stamford, CT. I used to play softball, volunteer at my local hospital, and was very social. I got pregnant at 16 years old. I had my son Jason during my senior year in high school. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I wanted to be a good role model so I became very motivated. I worked in social services helping at-risk youth and went on to study at the University of Connecticut. When I was 20 years old I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of pediatric bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. I had to stop working and going to school because my treatment was a year of high-dose chemotherapy and countless surgeries. I had many complications along the way, the most significant one resulted in an above-the-knee amputation. I have been in remission for 10 months now and am very blessed to be alive.

You have had more than your fair share of challenges and trials. What do you consider your biggest challenge? What got you through it?  

Jason (1)My biggest challenge in life was my battle against cancer. The chemotherapy drugs I was given were so toxic that I became debilitatingly sick. I spent nearly 10 out of 12 months inpatient. I was working so hard to just stay alive that I couldn’t be the amazing mom that I wanted to be to Jason. I went from being his primary caregiver to being lucky if I could see him during weekend visits at the hospital.

Treatment became so brutal that the folks at the hospital called me “Murphy’s Law Girl” because everything that could go wrong, did. I wanted to quit so bad and just go home to be with my son. My doctors talked me out of quitting because they would remind me that if I did, the time spent with Jason would be short because Ewing’s Sarcoma is aggressive and would most certainly return with a vengeance if I did not finish my protocol. If I finished treatment, I could return home and live a fulfilling life with my son with little chance of relapse.

If Jason weren’t here, I would have quit treatment because it was torturous. I wouldn’t be here answering this interview if my son wasn’t born… Fun fact: The name Jason means “the healer.” I definitely feel like he popped into my life early and unexpectedly for a reason. Another reason why I am lucky to have him is because my cancer treatment ruined my reproductive system. I am technically infertile. I would love to have children in the future but will probably have to adopt.

Image from

 If you could have coffee with any woman, historical or living, who would it be and why?

Mayim Bialik because she’s brilliant, progressive, outspoken, and has a great sense of humor.


Image from

 Who is your favorite Disney Princess?

Mulan because she was one tough chick. Instead of being a damsel in distress, she protected her disabled father from going to war and saved her entire country.


What is the best song to sing to in the shower or when you are alone in the car?

“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

What was the best piece of advice you have received? What was the worst?

“You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first,” was the best piece of advice I have ever received. The worst would probably be, “don’t do chemo, just pray and eat papayas.”

Good advice, bad advice
Good advice vs bad advice

What books or TV shows do you think everyone needs to read/watch, like, right now?

Grey’s Anatomy is my all-time favorite show. Grey’s is the best part of every Thursday. Jodi Picoult is my favorite author and after going through treatment, I re-read “My Sister’s Keeper” with a newfound appreciation for it and was moved to tears multiple times throughout the book.

What is your definition of beauty? Or, when do you feel most beautiful?

Going through treatment taught me to find beauty in absolutely everything. I define Rainy daybeauty as anything or anyone that provokes positive emotions when you look at it/them. Before cancer, I would look at a rainy day and think “jeez, what an ugly day.” It was a rainy day in March when I got discharged from the hospital after being inpatient for nearly 5 months. I cried tears of joy as I felt raindrops on my bald head. A year later, I still look at rain and remind myself how much joy rain brought me. I can look at a rainy day today and think, “what a beautiful day.”

I feel the most beautiful when I watch myself in the mirror during physical therapy. I feel so much pride when I see myself mastering things I never thought I would be able to do again after my amputation like standing or walking. I see resilience in the mirror and I think resilience is beautiful.

Beauty is...resilience

SHEro Code 001: Do Your Homework

Mrs. Freeman knew the root of the problem was unjust and unconstitutional laws. So she fought to change them. That is why she is my SHEro.




Frankie Muse Freeman is a civil rights attorney in St Louis Missouri. She was the first woman to serve on the US Commission on Civil Rights. She won the case that ended segregation in public housing in St Louis. Instead of sitting in the “colored” section of the bus, Frankie walked. Instead of making a scene when she was denied service at coffee shops or restaurants, she promised “Later for you” and got busy changing laws. Mrs. Freeman knew the root of the problem was unjust and unconstitutional laws. So she fought to change them.

That is why she is my SHEro.

Supporting the Autism community, today and everyday

Bethany works with folks and families effected by autism every day. Here is what you need to know about Autism, and how you can support the Autism community.

Bethany Peralta spends her days serving folks and families who are affected by autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. She is also a wife, a mama, and a Mexican food enthusiast.

Bethany with her hubby and little one


Who you are: Bethany Peralta, Intake Coordinator at The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders

What you do: The last 7 months I have had the privilege and responsibility of guiding families through the process of seeking a diagnostic evaluation, enrolling in therapy services, and providing help and hope to individuals and families affected by autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders, through resources, research opportunities, and parent education and trainings. I have also been very involved in community outreach through our partnerships and affiliate programs in the community.

Where you do it: The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders, in Santa Ana, CA.

Beth at work
Bethany (far left) at The Center


Let’s start at the beginning. What drew you to work with folks on the spectrum? What keeps you coming back to work everyday?

I returned to school for a second time in my mid-twenties after working in early childhood education for over 10 years. My second time in college I sought training to become a Certified Medical Assistant. I knew once I finished my program that I wanted to stay working in pediatrics to some capacity, but my work opportunities lead me initially into the world of physical therapy. After 5 years working as an Office Manager, I left the small PT company and applied to positions through UCI (University California Irvine). An old friend of mine was working at UCI in the School of Medicine and pointed me in the direction of For OC Kids. Shortly before I came on board with The Center, the For OC Kids organization had received a catalytic grant from the Thompson Family Foundation that propelled our small specialty clinic into the leader in Autism assessments, diagnostics, care coordination, and family support that we are today. When I was first hired at The Center, I was a receptionist/scheduler. Within my first year was promoted to become our Therapy Service Coordinator guiding families through insurance coverage benefits and limitations and helping them get enrolled or connected with therapy services such as Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and ABA (behavior therapy). In August of last year the need for a full time Intake Coordinator was brought to my attention and I began working with families contacting our office with case management support. I had not intended to take over New Patient Intake, but knowing that I can provide information and support to parents who are seeking help for their child makes my job so fulfilling and meaningful. It can be a very stressful and emotional role, but knowing that the information I have can make a direct impact on their family life makes it all worth the struggle.


When we say “autism” what are we really talking about– what IS autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong impairment most associated with communication and social behavior. ASD deficits can be wide ranging, including nonverbal and self aggressive to high functioning with social interaction limitations, and everyone in between. Many individuals affected by Autism may also have sleep issues or gastrointestinal problems. Research is ongoing to better understand these connections and how they impact individuals.  In May of 2013, the DSM-5 was released. It is the current standard reference tool healthcare providers use to diagnosis mental and behavioral health disorders. Previously under the DSM-IV, a patient could have been given a diagnosis of Autism, Asperger’s, Pervasive Development Disorder-not otherwise specified. Now under the DSM-5, it is an all encompassing umbrella that addresses the wide deficits and  impairments of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What are some misconceptions about autism that still linger today?

The biggest misconception I hear from people is that ASD means their child, if diagnosed, will become nonverbal, stop making eye contact, will start rocking or pacing, etc. And although that may be true for some individuals, it is not true for everyone. I like to think of a diagnosis of Autism as a tool to help guide and direct patients into the therapies that will really help them excel and overcome the challenges that they are facing.

What are some things people can do for Autism Awareness month?

Autism Speaks has several great ideas for supporting and participating in Autism Awareness month:

  • The 8th annual World Autism Awareness Day is Saturday, April 2, 2016. Wear your favorite blue clothing to show support and use it as a fundraising opportunity. For example: organizations can allow employees to wear jeans or other casual wear to work and to participate donate any set dollar amount (say $5-10 per person to participate). Donate those funds to local Autism related recreation or wellness programs or to Autism Speaks directly through their #LIUB campaign (raising funds to continue research in the field of Autism.)
  • Light it up blue! Is the annual event to light up your home or office building in support of Autism. Go to  to register your home or business. (You can also pledge to wear blue on April 2nd from this page.)
  • Finally, people can register to create/join a team or volunteer to help assist at their local Autism Speaks Walk. These walks are vital for gathering funds to continue much needed research and provide awareness for this complex disorder.

AS Walk

Outside of Autism Speaks support, I encourage families to look into their local Universities and other community programs that offer many events throughout the entire month. For example:

  • our Center is having an Ask The Experts” panel where several clinicians will be available for questions and answers with our Education and Training Coordinator, Anna Laakman, moderating the evening.
  • Chapman University is hosting their annual Autism Social. This event is geared towards teens 16 years and up (through adult). Its a coordinated, cost-free event with music, dancing, art, games, food, and caregiver resources. There is also a designated quiet area, which is so necessary for large scale events like this. They really have thought of everything!!
  • OC Autism and Fullerton Cares Autism Coalition also have their annual events which include no-cost or low cost admission with family friendly entertainment and activities.

Train + Bethany.jpg

Time for some fun questions: Pepsi or Coke?

I think I would pick Pepsi. But really, as long as my cup has enough ice, I am happy to drink anything!

What is the best song to sing to in the shower or when you are alone in the car?

My current guilty pleasure includes Justin Beiber’s Love Yourself or anything from Fleetwood Mac.

What was the best piece of advice you have received?

I worked with an amazing Pediatric Psychologist when I first started in this field. She always quoted Maya Angelou when we hit a rough spot in our NCS research project: “ I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” That still is ever so true in the work that I do. Even if I don’t have the answer, I can take the time to listen and be patient and polite to a parent. And that really does make all the difference.

What was the worst?

Before I took over my current position, there was not an established resource/referral list for community clinicians. The worst advice I had prior to generating a frequently used and sought after list was giving parents pretty hopeless resources. I’m very proud of how far we have come and the service that I can provide to families.

What is your definition of beauty? Or, when/where do you feel most beautiful?

My definition of beauty is to be yourself. Be confident in what you know and be proud of who you are. I feel the most beautiful when I stand up for myself and I accept opportunity for change. Looks can be fleeting, so don’t limit your self worth to that alone. Have a kind heart and a sharp mind. They’ll last longer anyway.

Bethany (1)

What do you want people KNOW after reading about what you do?

Autism is not a death sentence. Early assessment and interventions do help to produce stronger personal advancements. But for those with teenagers or young adults, don’t give up. Know that a variety of clinicians, such as Neurologist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician, can all help. If your pediatrician or family doctor is comfortable making the diagnosis, they are also qualified to do so. And they can certainly make the necessary referrals for treatment services. If you have any specific questions or want to learn more about Autism, you can visit our website at:

Look into programs like Regional Center for low cost or no-cost screenings or contact your local school district for an education assessment as a place to start. There are a lot of resources available to families, and sometimes it’s as simple as starting with your pediatrician.

Emma Watson’s Book Club: All About Love

Emma Watson’s book club selection for March was All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. I had been hearing fantastic things about Ms hooks and I was super pumped to jump into this book!

In the first discussion thread, Emma posted an interview she recently had with bell. One of my favorite quotes from bell is:

I look at how to bring that whole self out. I’m interested in fashion, too. I’m particularly interested in fashions that are comfortable and beautiful. I have an overall obsession in my life with beauty. I’m always wanting to surround myself with the kind of beauty that uplifts you, that runs counter to some of the stereotypes of feminist women.

I was drawn to this for obvious reasons– I too am drawn to and interested in this idea of beauty and I loved how she kind of called for a challenge to the stereotypes that might come to mind when we imagine a feminist.

Emma and bell! (Picture from @bellhooksinst via Twitter)


After announcing the book, several discussion threads were quickly started.

The most popular by far was Not Feeling It.


I really wanted to love this book, after hearing such great things about the author. But, alas, something just did not click. Turns out, I was not alone. Here are some laments from the Not Feeling It crowd:

  • Several members thought the book was too “self-helpy” for them. Though it was largely based on personal experience and filled with opinions like a self-help book, the lack of practical advice makes it a tough fit for the self-help shelf.
  • Many folks, myself included, were put off by some blanket statements that seemed to be presented as well-known facts. For example, when discussing Nicole Simpson, hooks states that Nicole “kept herself and her children in a dangerous, life-threatening environment in part because she was not willing to sacrifice her attachment to a superficially glamorous lifestyle among the rich and famous…” (p. 112, emphasis added). Now, had bell talked to Nicole? Had Nicole expressed this to hooks? We don’t know for sure, but this is just one example of an opinion that seems to be presented as a truth, but is not supported with any “evidence.”
  • hooks is an advocate of love as a powerful force, but this idea came across to some readers as a bit extreme. More than one book club member expressed discomfort with the idea that any one solution can be applied to all problems.

My biggest struggle with the book came in the connection that was made a few times between being abused in youth and therefore being unable to love in adulthood.

Not too long ago I stumbled upon something online (a video? an illustration?) that was very touching. It was done by an adult who had been abused as a child. The individual remembers seeing and hearing this idea that all abused children grow up to be abusers. This only galvanized his feelings of shame and depression. He was horrified at this idea that he would have no choice– he would grow up to be an abuser BECAUSE someone had abused him.

It is tragically un-empathetic and unloving to continue to make such claims. Certainly, folks who were abused as children have a tougher task learning what healthy relationships look like, but to say things like “…the parents who came from unloving homes have never learned how to love and cannot create loving home environments…” (page 27) is truly hurtful. It makes me ache for the folks who have been through hell and work everyday to make sure that their children, or children they know, don’t know what abuse feels like.
I also have to take issue with her ideas that spirituality and religion are the key to being loving. On page 74 hooks writes, “Imagine how different our lives would be if all the individuals who claim to be Christians, or who claim to be religious, were setting an example for everyone by being loving.” As a non-religious person, I feel I am not off the hook when it comes to being an example of love. So let’s re-work this a bit: “Imagine how different our lives would be if all the individuals who claim to be humans were setting an example for everyone by being loving.” Ahhh. That’s better.

Lessons learned from All About Love


Though the criticism were many, I think that the overall message of the book is an important one. And there were some points that really jumped out at me:

I loved her discussion of “cathexis,” a word I had never seen before. Apparently, it cathexisrefers to the emotional investment we make in another person which is often mistaken for love. Very intriguing!

I loved her definition of love as an action. Borrowing from M. Scott Peck, hooks defines love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” and as a combination of care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect. Her words rang true when she wrote: “Undoubtedly, many of us are more comfortable with the notion that love can mean anything to anybody precisely because when we define it with precision and clarity it brings us face to face with our lacks–with terrible alienation.” (cue mic drop)

Don’t get along with your co-worker? Here, let me shove you into the same t-shirt. Not cool for adults = not cool for kids. (Image from BuzzFeed)

“Care and affirmation, the opposite of abuse and humiliation, are the foundation of love.” I can’t help but think of those terrible pictures floating around the internet of crying kids sharing an over-sized t-shirt with the words “This is our Get Along shirt” scrawled across the front. Or videos posted on social media with the sole purpose of humiliating a child who mis-behaved. What if we did this to adults? Have a co-worker you just can’t seem to get along with? You get to share a shirt for an hour and I will post pictures online! We wouldn’t stand for it. So let’s not do it to our kiddos, mmk? Humiliation is not the answer. We can do better than that.



Discussing TV shows geared towards families, hooks laments that they often favorably represent  kids who are overindulgent, disrespectful, or acting out. I could not agree more! Though the book was published a decade and a half ago, this is still the norm. Shows like Lab Rats teach us that dads are self-centered and arrogant, and that children should be ridiculed for their appearance (I swear, if I have to hear about how Chase is ‘too short’ or Leo is ‘too skinny’ one more time…!).

“When we hear another person’s thoughts, beliefs, and feelings, it is more difficult towhen we hear project on to them our perceptions of who they are.” Yes! YES! YES!! Please, for the love of all things good and beautiful, listen to people! Learn about who they are and why they understand things the way they do. And don’t be a jerk.

Quoting Richard Foster, hooks writes “Greed has a way of severing the cords of compassion.” Though an often repeated idea– that greed and money are ultimately hurtful– I liked this reminder that compassion is a necessity that can be overlooked if we find ourselves becoming focused on “getting more.”

“The more genuine our romantic loves the more we do not feel called upon to weaken or sever ties with friends in order to strengthen ties with romantic partners.” I wish I had heard this when I started dating!

I have to admit, this one was a bit of a tough read for me. But I remain hopeful that some of bell’s other works will make this one shrink from my memory and help me better see her as the incredible force she is known to be.

All About Love did make me think, which is the whole point, right?


If you are curious, next month’s book has been announced.

In April, Our Shared Shelf will be reading How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.



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Beauty is…confidence

Beauty comes from within. It shines through when you are truly happy with who you are, confident and feeling good in your skin. This also reflects on the way you treat others and the way you see the world around you.

What is beauty? I asked some experts! 

Check out my conversation with the lovely Melissa and Deynece of Deux Bella ❤️

Melissa + Deynece = Deux Bella

Let’s start with a little background: I understand you ladies are now living miles apart, but stay in touch via your blog, Deux Bella. How did you meet? How long have you been friends?

We met when we were both managing for different cosmetic lines at Nordstroms. It was basically love at first sight! We have been friends for 10 years- the funnest, craziest 10 years of our 20’s (and late teens for Dey). We have had the best times and the hard times together. Weddings, babies, moves, careers advancements, illness, deaths, breakups. All of it.

 What is the silliest thing you have done together?

Hmmm honestly there’s a lot to choose from- probably grocery cart races down the very steep hill from our state capital at ungodly hours. This wasn’t some random crazy night either, it happened pretty regularly and became kind of an epic event.

What are your “day jobs”? BobbyBrownLipstick

Deynece is an education and artistry coordinator for Bobbi Brown cosmetics, and an A- Team national featured artist.

Melissa is a semi-retired makeup artist, esthetician and psychotherapist, but mostly a momma right now.

What is the biggest challenge you have experienced in your professional life?

Melissa: I broke my hand when I was in medical school and had to really re-evaluate what my priorities were and the path I was taking and why.

Deynece: Learning to manage +50 employees all of different ages when I was only 22.

What is the best song to sing to in the shower?

Melissa: Punching In A Dream by The Naked and Famous or anything Britney Spears or Taylor Swift 🙂

Deynece: Don’t Stop Believe’n by Journey

What is the best piece of advice you have heard? What was the worst?

ADVICE from Melissa (1)Melissa:

Best: Never cook bacon naked. Ha But seriously, a bunch of old grandmas told me you can’t spoil a baby so I just snuggled and held my baby so much and I am so glad I did!

Worst: Don’t go to bed mad. This is the worst advice. People prolong fights and a lot of things could be avoided by stepping away and taking a break, eating and getting some sleep.


Deynece:advice from Deynece

Best: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Worst: When you’re not first you’re last.



How do you spend your down time? Favorite books, shows, movies?

Melissa: What down time? Ha jk. Binge watching Netflix late at night while I work. I love Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Law & Order SVU even though it’s not the same without Stabler.

Deynece: Netflix and chill- while working on a  million other things for the blog.

If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be?

Melissa: Queen Hatsheput of ancient Egypt or Queen Raina of Jordan (current) she is the epitome of class and beauty and strength. She has done so much for women and children not only in the Middle East but on a global level- and she’s stunningly beautiful and classy. I would ask her how she does it all.

Deynece: My grandma because I didn’t really get to say goodbye. She went in for a routine clogged artery and then had complications and passed away during the surgery.

Who is your favorite Disney Princess? Why?

Both of us said Belle! Because she is intelligent, strong, kind and beautiful!

You are experts on beauty– what is your definition of beauty?

Short answer- it comes from within. It shines through when you are truly happy with who you are, confident and feeling good in your skin. This also reflects on the way you treat others and the way you see the world around you.  Long answer- we’ve been answering in our Exploring Beauty series!

Beauty shines



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Beauty is…everywhere.

I like to think my sense of the beautiful only grows as I come to recognize more forms of caring and resilience and to appreciate a wider range of shapes and sizes and colors and textures. On my best days, I see it everywhere, and the more I see it, the more space it takes up, which is wonderful.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I chatted with Dr Penny Weiss, the Director of Women’s Studies at St Louis University.


Can you give me just a little bit of background. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What brought you to St Louis?

I am a native of Miami, Florida and a graduate of the University of South Florida. I went toslu_vert_blue university-of-south-florida-logograd school in the Midwest and have since spent most of my adult life here. I came to STL in 2008 because I had the chance to move from a position in a political science department to one in a women’s studies program, and from a rural setting outside a small city to the big city. It was a phenomenal switch!


What drew you to Women’s Studies? Was there one turning point or “ah ha!” moment?

I came of age when WS programs were starting and the women’s movement was hitting another peak. What drew me? Everything: the questions, the people, the politics, the passion, the purpose, the activism, the festivals. Women’s Studies, like feminism itself, made (and continues to make) sense of my life.

What is a common misconception you encounter when you are discussing feminism?

I think, unfortunately, that people know more about what anti-feminists say feminism is than what feminists say. Among the most persistent misconceptions: reproductive justice only means a right to abortion; most religions are incompatible with feminism; feminism means whatever any individual chooses to say it means (and feminism means you can’t criticize any choice anyone makes); and then there are the oldies but goodies…feminists hate men, are all lesbians, are selfish, are (too) aggressive and demanding, are unreasonable in their demands, etc.

It’s Women’s History Month; who are some women from history you have loved learning about?

Emma Goldman, Anna Julia Cooper, Christine de Pizan, Mary Astell, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many more. Just as important, I loved learning about the work women together did to bring about change, in organizations from anti-slavery associations and women’s labor groups to peace leagues and suffrage associations. And all that work is still being carried on around the world!


I recently came across this image and the idea it reflects online:

What are your thoughts on this? Can we fairly say that general history courses are to men what women’s studies courses are to women?

The cartoon is still all-too-true. We know that we still do not know about women’s lives to the extent we know about men’s. It is the accomplishments of men (especially in politics and economics, narrowly defined) that have been deemed historically important, the deeds of men (especially in war, industry, and government) that have determined the ways we distinguish one historical period from another (such as pre-Civil War or post-industrial), and the arenas in which men acted (military, legal, etc.) that important things worth recording were said to happen. This leaves out three things: the impact of all of these deeds and events on various groups of women, the stories of women’s lives both within these boundaries (at work, in political office) and beyond them (in the community, participating in street riots, as victims of gender-based violence, as caregivers, raising crops and children, as activists, etc.), and how we might reconceive historical eras (and philosophical schools of thought, etc.) once we read women into them. I’d say that “general history courses are to men what women’s history courses are to women,” rather than “what women’s studies courses are to women,” because we teach much more than women’s history (including the study of masculinity).

Who are some women in your life that have inspired you?

My two daughters amaze me. My colleagues and students in Women’s and Gender Studies amaze me. The women in my neighborhood who keep on keeping on amaze me.

What is your definition of beauty?

That it evolves (I’m not attracted to the same things or people I was 20 years ago, nor do I aspire to the same ideals I did then) and mostly involves appreciation. I like to think my sense of the beautiful only grows as I come to recognize more forms of caring and resilience and to appreciate a wider range of shapes and sizes and colors and textures. On my best days, I see it everywhere, and the more I see it, the more space it takes up, which is wonderful.

Beauty is everywhere (1)

Who should we be talking about for Women’s History month?

This list is far from complete and our conversation is far from over. Let’s come together to educate and lift up. Who would you add to the list?

Women's History Month

I recently happened upon this article by Yale grad student Barbara Sostaita. If you were not among the thousands of people who read and shared the article, let me sum up. The picture at the beginning of the post is of a young Latina flipping off the camera– that sets the tone for the entire article. Sostaita writes passionately about her refusal to celebrate “your feminism,” which she (correctly) understands as being overwhelmingly white.

Maybe it was the tone of her writing, or maybe it was the intensity of her passion, but after reading the article I felt deeply ashamed, embarrassed, and left out. I am white. I thought it was a good idea to celebrate the suffragettes. I thought Hillary Clinton was ok to talk about. And Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is on my “to-read” list. I did not recognize a lot of the names that Sostaita brought up. I am not familiar with Toni Morrison’s work; I don’t know who Gloria Anzaldua is; I was unaware that female asylum seekers in a Texas detention centers went on a hunger strike for immediate freedom. I  didn’t know who these women were, and that embarrassed me.

I felt deliberately left out of this conversation because of the color of my skin. It wasn’t until the next day that it hit me. Maybe I was feeling just a small bit of what my sisters around the country and the world feel every. frickin. day. I was feeling sorry for myself because I felt left out. But how many women are left out of conversations not only because they were born with the ‘wrong’ anatomy, but the ‘wrong’ amount of melanin in their skin as well.

But Sostaita didn’t stop there. She goes on to say:

This Women’s History Month, I refuse to celebrate a white feminism that keeps women of color on the margins. This Women’s History Month, I refuse to celebrate a white feminism that alienates, subjugates and oppresses women of color. I don’t want to be hear about the first Latina [insert public office title] or the first Asian [insert professional sports title]. I’m sick of women of color only being mentioned and deemed worthy when we are the “first,” when we fit neatly into a box crafted by white women’s version of history. We have been, are, and will always be “exceptional” and “important.”

Ms Sostaita got me thinking– who else am I missing this Women’s History Month? Who  should we really be talking about? I asked around, and it seems the majority of the women we generally think of when we think of important women in history are indeed white. There are obviously a few exceptions, as some amazing African American women are consistently lauded (I’m looking at you Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth).But I was disappointed to see not one Asian, Hispanic, Indian, or Native American woman on my list.

Here are some of the ladies I heard mentioned when I asked, “Who are some of your favorite women from history?”

themostbeautifulcurveMy mom: for real though, big ups to our mommas!




“If you’re not living on the edge, you are taking up too much space!”


(image from Wikimedia)  Harriet Tubman: abolitionist, activist, nurse, underground railroad conductor, military hero;  buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.
“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

mte5ntu2mze2mzc5mdu1nji3Lucy Stone: suffragette, abolitionist; convened the first national Women’s Rights Convention in 1850.
 “I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned.”

emma_goldman_21Emma Goldman: fiery speaker and advocate for peace, free love, and birth control; she was deported to the Soviet Union in 1919.
“The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair; but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved.”

annajuliacooper-1884-oberlincollegeAnna Julia Cooper: born into slavery, Cooper went on to become an author, speaker, and one of the most prominent African American scholars in US history.
“...not till race, color, sex, and condition are seen as the accidents, and not the substance of life; not till the universal title of humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is conceded to be inalienable to all; not till then is woman’s lesson taught and woman’s cause won–not the white woman’s, nor the black woman’s, nor the red woman’s, but the cause of every man and of every woman who has writhed silently under a mighty wrong…”

christineChristine de Pizan: born in Italy in 1364, she is considered a pioneering feminist writer and one of the most notable women writers of medieval times.
“[I]f you seek in every way to minimise my firm beliefs by your anti-feminist attacks, please recall that a small dagger or knife point can pierce a great, bulging sack and that a small fly can attack a great lion and speedily put him to flight.”

sojourner_truth_01Sojourner Truth: a leading civil rights and women’s rights activist, Truth was born into slavery, but escaped with her baby girl and went on to successfully win her son’s freedom in court.

“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”

ida1Ida B. Wells-Barnettdaughter of slaves, she became a journalist and led an anti-lynching campaign in the 1890s; she formed the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 and is considered a founding member of what would become known as the NAACP.
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

ap69010102601_custom-e1a28a7b5adcce275aa3e0d232b671b0f786bad9-s6-c30Elizabeth Cady Stanton: early leader of woman’s rights movement; wrote the Declaration of Sentiments  (a call to arms for equality).
 “I would have girls regard themselves not as adjectives but as nouns.”

img_9703-e1362439761550Ashley Rhodes-Courter: a former foster child herself, Ashley advocates for children in foster care

“Your mother is a hard act to follow. She will always be the love of your life.”



margaretchasesmith1960Margaret Chase Smith:  politician, U.S. congresswoman, presidential candidate, author; she cosponsored the Equal Rights Amendment with Congresswoman Winifred Stanley in the mid-1940s and worked on improving the status of women in the military.


“When people keep telling you that you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try it.”



20160202012946shirley_chisholmShirley Chisholm: first African-American congresswoman, and first major-party black candidate to make a bid for US presidency


“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”



800px-marywollstonecraftMary Wollstonecraft: English writer, educator, journalist, and women’s rights advocate who argued for equality and educational reforms.
“Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.”

jane-addamsJane Addams: pioneer for social work, advocate for peace, and social activist; founder of Hull House.

“Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.”

222px-astellproposal1Mary Astell: English philosopher best known for her theories on the education of women and her critiques of John Norris and John Locke.
 “If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?

This list is far from complete and our conversation is far from over. Let’s come together to educate and lift up. Who would you add to the list?

Let me know in the comments below!









Happy Social Worker’s Month

Happy National Social Workers Month

Did you know March is National Social Worker’s Month? Probably not, because despite the work that these incredible women and men do, their profession is woefully misunderstood and underappreciated.

I asked a few of my favorite social workers what a social worker IS and what a social worker IS NOT. Here is what they had to say:

What a social worker is…


A social worker is...AnnaA social worker is...keke (1)A Social Worker is (Megan) (2)A social worker is...Maria (1)A social worker is...Marcy





What a social worker isn’t…

A social worker is NOT...


If you know a social worker please tell them you appreciate what they do, this month and throughout the year.

 What is a social worker to you? Let us know in the comments below!

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That Beautiful Black Nun: Sister Antona Ebo

“You want to really, actually learn about peace? Well, get busy doing something for justice…Each of us is called to so something for our neighbors to express our love.”

Sister Antona Ebo (1)

St.  Louis’ very own civil rights hero

She has been called an icon, a trailblazer, and a hero. I call her beautiful.


A rough childhood

Sister Ebo was born Elizabeth Louise (she was called Betty Lou) on April 10, 1924. Her mother taught her about God and had her baptized in the Baptist church. Elizabeth’s mom passed away when Elizabeth was just 4 years old, and her father lost his job as a library janitor shortly after. Unable to keep their home in Bloomington, Illinois, Elizabeth’s father put her and her two siblings in McLean County Home for Colored Children. In the home, a boy nicknamed “Bishop” was the first to expose Elizabeth to Catholicism. He wasn’t allowed to openly practice his faith in the home, but that didn’t stop him. One day, he and Elizabeth were sent on an errand to pick up some day old bread. On the way, he slipped into a Catholic church, knelt at the Communion rail, and prayed. Sister Ebo recalls:

He was longing for his church. I cased the joint, and it was beautiful. The sun was shining that day through the stained glass windows and I knew all those stories. I was interested in everything in that church…Bish was explaining while he knelt at the Communion rail about this little house (tabernacle) where Jesus was kept, and that the bread became Jesus during the words in Scripture–that was the difference… I had already joined the Baptist Church and only had Communion the first Sunday of te month, and it was cracker crumbs and grape juice…Communion in the Catholic Church becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and nobody else was telling me that.

It was on that day, at the tender age of 9, that Elizabeth knew she would be Catholic one day.

As a child, Elizabeth battled tuberculosis in her thumb and was in and out of the hospital for treatment. While in the hospital, Elizabeth asked nurse Mary Southwick if a visiting priest could come by her room. The priest and nurse would become a pivotal figures in Elizabeth’s life, teaching her about Catholicism, and later helping her get into Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Bloomington.

The children’s home where Elizabeth had been staying did not welcome her back once she decided to join the Catholic Church. As a result, she was sent to live with a couple of older African-American women, where she stayed until she finished high school. She was the first African American to graduate from her high school. 

She recalls her experiences with segregation:

Segregation for us was like going to Woolworth’s and ordering a hamburger. At that time, if you went with a white friend, they would bring it to you on a plate. If you went by yourself, the order was packaged in a brown to-go bag. Known as ‘the brown bag treatment,’ that was to let me know that they didn’t serve colored (people) in that store.

Starting her career

After graduating high school, Elizabeth wanted to attend a Catholic nursing school, but was rejected because of her race. She remembers, “They told me they had never admitted a colored girl before.” School officials didn’t talk to her about her previous studies or her academic capabilities, but rather focused on the color of her skin. It was experiences like this that Sister Ebo remembers as “bruises” that she carried with her throughout life.

She entered the United States Cadet Nurse Corps at St Mary’s Infirmary in 1942. It was a three year program designed to train replacements for volunteer nurses who were serving in the war. She remembers these days and nights as “hectic. Maybe you would get a nap in, and the rest of the time you were either on duty or in a classroom.”

Sister Ebo (far left) is all smiles as one of the first three African American women to enter the Sisters of St Mary in St Louis.


In 1946, Elizabeth was one of the first three African American women to enter the Sisters of St. Mary in St Louis (now the Franciscan Sisters of Mary); she became Sister Mary Antona. In 1962 she earned her degree in medical records administration from St Louis University. In the early 60s Sister Antona served as the assistant administrator of St Mary Infirmary, and she was given the position of Director of Medical Records in 1965. At that time, she was the first black supervisor ever to be in charge of any department at St. Mary’s.

Sister heads to Selma

Sister Antona always listened to her employees, and the Monday morning of March 8th, 1965 was no different. She listened as her employees talked about what had happened in Selma the previous day, on what would become known as Bloody Sunday. She listened as they told her about the protesters who were attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in order to call attention to voting discrimination that was rampant in the area. Marchers were brutally attacked by police, and several were hospitalized. She remembers her first thought as being, “If I wasn’t in this habit, I would be down there with my people.” Little did she know, she would soon have her chance.

Despite her initial gusto, Sister Ebo had her doubts about going to Alabama. Firstly, she was in her 40s and busy running the medical records department at St Mary’s. Besides, she knew how the protesters had been treated on Bloody Sunday, and she had heard about people like Emmet Till, a 14 year old black boy who was murdered in 1955 in Mississippi for reportedly flirting with a white woman. In Selma, a young white minister had been beaten along with the other marchers. She thought if they could do that to him, what would they do to her? She also knew that if she or any of her friends from the St Louis group were arrested, she would be segregated from them in jail. “If they get arrested, they’ll be together. If I get arrested, I’ll be alone.”

What she may not have known was that Selma was the headquarters of the White Citizen’s Council. The council was bent on maintaining white supremacy, but in a more “genteel” fashion than their friends in the Klu Klux Klan. Their unofficial motto was, “Why burn a cross, when you can foreclose a mortgage?”

The tensions in Selma were already high by the time Dr King came on the scene. In fact, marches and demonstrations had been going on since late 1963. So much so, that an injunction was passed in July of 1964 banning mass meetings in churches (generally accepted as the headquarters of the protesters), and public protesting about voting rights. Yep, you read that right. The government in Selma effectively negated their citizens’ right to peaceful assembly. Sheriff Clark and Mayor Smitherman did not budge on enforcing these new laws. When it was publicized that only 300 of the estimated 15,000 adult black population of Selma was registered to vote, a federal court ordered Selma to register 100 voters per day. This did not sit well with many, and black protesters moved their meeting place to nearby Marion. When Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot in Marion, the protests in Slema gained new life. Many thought they should march Jimmy’s body right to the state capital, to show the governor just what was happening in Slema. And so, the idea to march from Selma to Montgomery was born. The first march was led by John Lewis Hosea Williams, and ended at the bottom of Edmund Pettus bridge in what would be remembered as Bloody Sunday.

Sister Ebo had every reason to be scared. She had just voted in St Louis, and part of her felt like what was happening in Selma wasn’t her fight. But Sister Ann Christopher felt differently. She was teaching and living in the black community in St Louis at the time. When she heard about what happened on Bloody Sunday she immediately felt she needed to be there. After Dr King called for clergy to join him in Selma, it was decided that several priests from St Louis would go. Sister Ann asked the father in charge of her parish if she could join them. The priest called Cardinal Ritter, and Ritter answered that not only should Sister Ann accompany the priests, but sisters from each parish in St Louis should be sent as well.

When Sister Ebo’s superior first asked her if she would like to go, she remembers answering, “No, I would not like to go to Selma. I know I do a lot of fussing, but I don’t feel bad enough to want to go down there and be a martyr for somebody’s rights.” But even as she was saying those words, it was “coming into (her) mind that it was bigger than voting rights. It was the right to be self-determining.” In the documentary, Sisters of Selma she says, “It is one thing to have a right on a piece of paper, but if you cannot express that right in the way you live, the way you vote, the way you are self-determining, something has to give.” All the same, Sister Ebo was terrified.

Her fear was soon trumped by her faith. For her, the question of getting involved in social justice is answered in Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” She felt that she had to take a position, and that position had to be based on faith. She felt that, as a Catholic, it was her responsibility to meet her brothers and sisters in Christ, and “realize we all come from the same God.” She felt she had a “responsibility to speak up and become part of the response.” Her response was supported by the Second Vatican Council, who had encouraged sisters to get out of their ivory towers and out of their habits and into the communities they were serving.

With over 50 delegates, the St Louis contingent was the largest to respond to Dr King’s call for religious leaders to come to Selma and join the second attempt to march to Montgomery. Sister Ebo was one of only six nuns, and the only African American woman in the group. The sisters and priests were joined by leaders from various denominations and arrived in Selma on March 10th. When Sister Ebo stepped off the plane in Slema, a priest there thought, “Oh my God. This is going to make a difference.” They met the rest of the marchers at Brown Chapel AME, where crowds parted as minister Andrew Young introduced Sister Ebo and she was seated in a place of honor at the pastor’s chair in the sanctuary. The St Louis group was asked to lead the march that day, with the sisters front and center.

Sister Ebo addresses reporters at Selma


The sisters led the way as the group set out on the second attempt to cross over the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the way to Montgomery. They had men surrounding them, for their own protection. The men were afraid that the crowd would push the sisters forward, and they had their backs. But the group didn’t get far. Contrary to the re-telling of the second march in the movie Slema, Dr King did not lead the group, and the bridge was not opened to them. In fact, the Mayor stopped them before they reached the line of state troopers just ahead. He reminded them of the law against marching in protest and said that he expected that law to be followed. It was then that someone had the idea that the religious leaders should “bear witness” as to why they were marching. And it was then that Sister Ebo became an icon when a broadcaster recorded an exchange between her and local government agents. She told them:

We are here from St Louis to demonstrate and to witness our love to our fellow citizens in Selma. We are here, secondly, to protest the violation of rights. I am Negro and very proud. I feel it a privilege to be here today. I am Sister Mary Antona from St Louis, Missouri, and I stay at St Louis Infirmary. I might say that yesterday, being a Negro, I voted. And I’d like to come here today and say that every citizen–Negro as well as white–should be given the right to vote. That’s why I’m here today.

The entire group then knelt to say the Our Father, and made their way back to the church. Their march was short, but their impact was immense.

Finally, a federal court order was issued to allow the march, and President LB Johnson pledged his support. National Guard troops as well as U.S. Army troops protected the marchers on their four day journey to Montgomery.

It would be another 40 years before Sister Ebo would fulfill her desire to cross the famed Edmund Pettus Bridge that spanned the Alabama river and led to Montgomery.

Sister Ebo finally crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge



The image of Sister Ebo marching in Slema that day would become an icon. She remembers:

It turned out that the habit was what got everyone’s attention very quickly, because nuns had not been seen doing anything like that before. It didn’t ring a bell with me that we were getting involved in something hysterical and historical.

There is no doubt Sister Ebo is glad she went. She has said, “The one thing I didn’t want to do was to become a sweet little old nun that was passing out holy cards and telling people ‘I’ll pray for you’ and not really having mastered or developed an expertise in being a caregiver from a good theological base.” And develop an expertise she did…

Life after Selma

When she returned home to St Louis, Sister Ebo picked up right where she left off, but seemed to do so with even more gusto.

  • In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference (she would later serve as President).
  • She earned her Master’s degree in hospital executive development from St Louis University in 1970.
  • In 1976 she was appointed as the executive director of the St Clare Hospital in Baraboo, Wisconsin. She was the first African American woman religious to head any Catholic Hospital in the nation.
  • After some health problems of her own, she decided she wanted to stop paper-pushing, so she got her second Master’s degree, this time in theology of health care in 1978 from Aquinas Institute of  Theology and began serving as hospital chaplain. In a 1978 article in the Catholic Herald Citizen, she compared her position as chaplain to that of a clown, “Clowns don’t do a lot of talking. They’re quiet. they bring happiness by smiling in a way that is both happy and sad. It’s a wry smile that says, “I’ve experienced life– both the gladness and the sadness. I’m human just like you.
  • In 1989 the National Black Sisters’ Conference presented her with the Harriet Tubman Award, and described her as being “called to be a Moses to the people.”
  • In 2000, at the 35th anniversary of what came to be known as the “Right to Vote” Bridge Crossing, she was honored with the Living Legend Award by the Voting Rights Institute in Selma.
  • In 2002 she received the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from the Dr Martin Luther King Jr State Celebration Commission of Missouri.
  • She was honored as the Lifetime Achiever in Health Care by the St Louis American Foundation at their 12th annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards in 2012.

 Additionally, she has been the recipient of six honorary doctorate degrees from the following Universities:

  • Loyola University-Chicago (1995)
  • College of New Rochelle of New York (2008)
  • Aquinas Institute (2009)
  • St Louis University (2010)
  • University of Missouri St Louis (2010)
  • University of Notre Dame
Sister Ebo receiving her honorary doctorate from Notre Dame


She has continued to speak out for voting rights of not only African Americans, but all Americans

There is a concerted effort to suppress the votes of the poor and blacks. The effort  was made during the last election to make sure we didn’t have people standing all the way around the block, just to get the right to vote, but it is still happening in individual states.


She has also been vocal about present-day racism and injustice that is seen in substandard educational opportunities for minorities and recent shootings of unarmed black youth. A friend drove Sister Ebo through Ferguson shortly after the shooting death of Michael Brown, and when he stopped to talk to some law enforcement officials that he knew, word soon spread as to who he was escorting around. The head of security in Ferguson, Capt. Ron Johnson of Missouri Highway Patrol visited Sister Ebo first, and several soon followed suit. A small video crew from Birmingham Alabama had walked past the car, not realizing that the living legend was inside. Capt Johnson stopped them and told them they were going the wrong way– they should be talking to that beautiful black nun. Sister Ebo told the crew to not be satisfied by taking some superficial pictures. “You are going to raise the rug and look at what’s under the rug. The mistake I think many of is made in the 60s is we were taking somebody else’s word for it; you have to look under the rug.”

Sister Antona Ebo visited with Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol on her visit to Ferguson in August.
Sister Ebo with Captain Ron Johnson


She was present at a Faith in Ferguson prayer service in March of 2015, where she urged people on both sides of the conflict to meet for dialogue. She noted that dialogue between races and cultures creates understanding and builds bridges. She challenged the congregation: “You want to really, actually learn about peace? Well, get busy doing something for justice…Each of us is called to so something for our neighbors to express our love.” In the words of Pope Paul VI: “If you really want peace, work for justice”

Sister Ebo told the group in Ferguson that “every 20 years or so, we go through a new discontent.” She recognizes that there are many human rights issues to deal with today, and encourages people to ask themselves, “What do I need to be responding to?”

Sister Ebo has done her fair share of responding. Though not a native to St Louis, we will claim her as our very own beautiful black nun. Our very own civil rights hero. And our very own responder.


Emma Watson’s Book Club: What you’re missing

In January Emma Watson started a virtual feminist book club. And it is kind of a big deal. With over 100,000 members, it is undoubtedly the largest group on Goodreads. So far the group has explored Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road (in January) and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (February’s book). For those of you who are curious, but just don’t have the time, here is a synopsis of what is happening in the club:

The Color Purple

In January Emma Watson started a virtual feminist book club. And it is kind of a big deal. With over 100,000 members, it is undoubtedly the largest group on Goodreads. So far the group has explored Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road (in January) and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (February’s book). For those of you who are curious, but just don’t have the time, here is a synopsis of what is happening in the club:


The Discussion Topics range from the super popular and super broad “Finished the Book” to the virtually ignored “Shrinking Evil.” There are a few of my favorite threads:

The book for February was The Color Purple

Discussion Topic: Finished the Book

The most popular discussion is “Finished the Book” which was started by over-achiever Amy, who read the entire book in one night and opened up a thread for other speed readers to discuss their thoughts without having to worry about us slow-pokes getting upset about spoilers. Most commenters loved the format of the book, and pretty much everyone struggled at first with the dialect in which the book is written, but got used to it. One commenter mentioned that the subject matter, especially in the beginning, was like a “punch in the face.” I have to agree. I had no idea what I was getting into, and the first couple of pages had me reeling. I was hooked, though, by what another commenter described as a “horrific and beautiful” novel.


Discussion Topic: Book vs Film

This discussion opens with a link to a review of the film adaptation of The Color Purple. Apparently when the movie was released in 1985, there was a backlash from males in the black community who resented that the film depicted them in a negative light. Commenters in this thread largely found that to be a bit short-sighted and thought such views kind of missed the point of the book/movie. As commenter Jackie put it, “I’ve always read it as the story of an undereducated, abused woman coming into her own with the help of other strong and supportive women.” And group member Iluminada agrees, “To me, it seemed the book was trying to convey the loss in a man’s life, white or black, when he can’t see women as human beings.”

The thread goes on to discuss some of the differences, good bad or indifferent, between the book and the movie:

  • The relationship between Shug and Celie: though some thought it was not as well portrayed in the movie as it was in the book, commenter Jackie argued, “I actually thought that the Celie/Shug relationship and the Celie/Nettie Relationships were the only ones that transferred well in the film.”
  • The character of Mary Agnes/Squeak is not explored enough in the film.
  • The redemption of Mr ____ is left out of the movie version.
  • The time sequence (sooooo many readers had an issue with the time sequence) is different in the film.
  • Shug singing is a powerful addition to the movie that we were not able to get in the book.

Another important point that this thread brought up was the incredible jobs Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and Danny Glover did in the film. Group member Kressel noted, “Wow. IMBD says 11 nominations and not one win. It makes me think differently about the boycott on the Oscars this year, which I was skeptical about until now.” This is just one of the ways that this book seems to transcend time (more about that below).

Discussion Thread: Indifference

This thread was largely and woefully overlooked. It touched on the indifference that the native tribe in Africa, the Olinka, had towards missionaries in the book. Though the thread was started out of what seems to be a super personal experience, I think it touched on a very important issue. As one group moderator noted: “Missionaries are often unwelcome, and native populations are under no obligation to welcome their teachings.” The Color Purple touches on so frickin’ many issues it is unreal. And, as I mentioned above, it completely transcends time as every issue is still being discussed today.

I hadn’t given much thought to missionaries until I was an Anthropology minor in college. Let me be clear that I am speaking to religious missions, not humanitarian aid. The two are very different, though I know that modern missionaries have endeavored to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the people they are traveling so far to help. The problem for me is the underlying idea that these people need spiritual help in the first place. Generally, a missionary’s understanding is that the group to whom they are proselytizing have an inherently WRONG understanding of the world and must therefore be saved. Missionaries tend to go into their mission field with the understanding that their own story is correct and worth sharing, while the stories of the people whose homes they are entering is wrong and needs to be changed. This is tragic to me because it misses the beauty and richness that has lived and thrived in the native culture. The so-obvious-it-really-shouldn’t-need-to-be-said-but-I-will-say-it-anyway exception to this is any tradition or custom that infringes on basic human rights, like child brides and female genital mutilation. That shiz needs to be changed.

Discussion Thread: Other Aspects of the Book

Being a feminist book club, this thread was started in order to touch on other issues (besides the growth and empowerment of the female characters) the book brings up, like colonialism/missionaries and sexuality. These issues are what make Purple so timeless. The book was written in the 1980s, but these issues are nowhere near outdated. Some issues that were not mentioned in this thread, but are also vital to the book are the concept of faith (this is touched on in another thread, though) and how the image of god changes through the course of the book, and the human relationship factor– the growth of each individual character and how that personal “coming of age” impacts the relationships the characters foster.


This is my first time being involved in a book club of any sort, and I have absolutely loved it so far. A couple of things I especially love about this group is the sense of community that has already grown within it. For example, last month the book was VERY difficult to get a hold of. For some, it was a money thing– $16 for the e-book just wasn’t in the budget. For others, the book was simply not yet available in their part of the world or in their language. One member responded by putting the entire book on her OneDrive and then sharing it with the whole group!

Another awesome thing that is happening is meet-ups. From Belgium to Los Angeles folks are getting together and talking about these books, which I think is pretty darn cool.

I also love the diversity of this group. There are entire discussion boards in Spanish and French. I just wish I spoke those languages!

And one more thing I love about the group– Emma has been great about interacting with authors. Shortly after we started reading Gloria Steinem’s book, she announced that she was going to have the pleasure of interviewing the author at an event in London and opened up a discussion thread for members to suggest questions for Ms Steinem. For The Color Purple, Emma talked to Alice Walker over the phone and shared some insights from the author herself. And Emma just announced the book for March, All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. Again, Emma has a connection with bell, as bell recently interviewed Emma for Paper Magazine.

I love that this group is a thing. And I love that I get to share it with you!







Lessons I learned from Civil Rights SHEro Frankie Freeman

Frankie Muse Freeman will be celebrating her 100th birthday this November. She could be sitting at home, resting on the laurels of her innumerable accomplishments. But that’s not how she rolls. Instead, she is speaking out about the progress we have made as a nation in the area of civil rights, and what we can continue to do moving forward.

I read her book, A Song of Faith and Hope. I saw her speak at a local library event. And I was honored to speak with her over the phone. Here are just a few lessons I have learned from Mrs. Freeman.

Mrs Freeman’s book. Don’t read it unless you want to be super inspired. (Image from



1. Just do it.

Growing up, Frankie always heard people say they were “fixin'” to do this or that. Her parents didn’t love that. Instead, they encouraged Frankie and her siblings to get on with it– don’t “fix” to do it, just do it! (I think Yoda would have approved)


Frankie carried this simple yet powerful message with her throughout her life. I can’t help but think that many of her accomplishments are largely due to this mantra– this drive to just keep DOing.

Mrs Frankie Muse Freeman being escorted in to St Louis County Library Author Event featuring Mrs Freeman and Mr Koran Bolden.


At the last event at which she spoke (pictured above), Mrs Freeman was introduced as being the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. When it was her turn to speak, she corrected the mistress of ceremonies: “I was not the first African American woman to serve on the Commission. I was the first woman period. Black, white, yellow, blue, or otherwise,” to which she received thunderous applause.

Mrs Freeman with her colleagues from the US Commission on Civil Rights in 1966.


The list of Mrs. Freeman’s accomplishments is staggering. Not only was she a rock star of a  civil rights attorney, winning a landmark victory that ended racial segregation in public housing in St Louis, she went on to serve on the very housing commission she had just defeated in court, to help them implement the changes she demanded. As mentioned above, she was the first woman to serve on the Civil Rights Commission, and went on to become Inspector General for the Community Services Administration (these are positions appointed by the President of the United frickin States, y’all). The number of hats she has worn is staggering– from being the national president of her sorority to serving on just about every board known to man, including (but nowhere limited to): the League of Women Voters, the National Council on Aging, the YWCA, the Girl Scout Council of St Louis, the St Louis Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, the World Affairs Council of St Louis, oh, and the African American Jewish Task Force (no, she’s not Jewish, she just thinks its cool to reach out across cultural and religious boundaries). Now, with a resume like this, you might be thinking, “Oh, she’s had a great life.” You might even call it ‘charmed.’ You would be wrong.

Loss has not been a stranger to Mrs. Freeman. She has buried her mother, her father, and her husband. But she has also buried her son– a grief no human should have to endure. And she has battled cancer–twice– and won.

Mrs Freeman’s husband, Shelby, with their son.


She has also fought one hell of a battle professionally. In her book she recalls one particular instance in Alabama, where she and the Civil Rights Commission were conducting hearings focusing on economic rights in Montgomery. In her words:

One evening, after the Montgomery hearings, I returned to my motel room after dinner. It was a pretty evening in April and I had the curtains open; I could look out– and anyone who wanted to could look in. I was sitting at a table with a member of the Alabama State Advisory Committee, reviewing the day, when boom, something struck the window and broke it. I thought it was a bullet. It apparently was intended for me, but I was not hit.

She was also fired, at least twice, for speaking up and being a “trouble maker.” But you think a little death, cancer, and possibly a bullet is going to stop Frankie?! She could have given up and not one person would have blamed her or said she hadn’t done enough. But nope. She just. Kept. Moving. As she says in her book, you have to keep your hand on the plow.

Even today, Frankie is a do-er. At the aforementioned speaking event, she was joined by youth activist and motivational speaker Koran Bolden. When asked about entities working to keep people divided, Koran spoke powerfully about how and why today’s youth needs our support. Frankie was so moved she jumped in and said, “What you just said touched everybody here, so there is no reason they can’t start tonight.” She went on to encourage everyone in the room to support Mr Bolden’s mission, saying, “Don’t wait until tomorrow for something that can start tonight. It is an individual’s responsibility to bring about change. Let’s begin it and let’s get on with it.” I have a feeling that Mrs Freeman has rarely waited for tomorrow.

IMG_8623 (1)
Freeman and Bolden at St Louis County Library Headquarters


Is there anything more beautiful than a woman who doesn’t say she’s “going to” do this or that, but actually goes out there and does it?

2. You are powerful.

Mrs. Freeman grew up in Danville, Virginia,  the last capital of the Confederacy. She and her family lived on the 200 block of Ross Street, where all of her neighbors were black. The 100 block of Ross Street was a white neighborhood, and young Frankie and her siblings would walk through that neighborhood on their way into town. Mrs Freeman remembers that white children playing outside would often smile and say “nigger, nigger, nigger” and she and her siblings would smile back and say “cracker, cracker, cracker.” When the Freemans needed their shoes repaired, they would take them to a shop in the basement of Mr Wrigley, a white man. When the shoes were ready, Mr Wrigley’s children would return them to the Freeman family. These were normal occurrences.

Baby Frankie


Peaceful though it was, little Frankie grew up knowing that people who looked like her were treated differently, and that was not ok. She also grew up knowing that she had the power to change it. Her parents taught her that if you stand for something, there will be times when you have to say, “Enough”– but that doesn’t always mean you make a scene right then and there. She was always encouraged to do something that would be effective.  Public transportation was segregated in Danville, so the Freeman family simply walked everywhere they went. If a friend of the family was mistreated in the local department store, the Freeman’s would no longer shop there. Frankie’s parents, Maude and William, were very active in Danville so Frankie grew up seeing her parents making a positive impact their community, and she knew she could too.

3. Make your own path

When the black community in Danville could not get a loan from the white owned banks, Frankie’s relatives started their own bank.

After graduating from law school, Frankie applied to law firms in St Louis. She was told they could use her in the office, perhaps to do research, but they would not hire her to try cases. Following her relatives’ lead, she started her own practice. She met with judges in St Louis and tried the cases no one wanted. The first few times she showed up to the courthouse and told the clerk which case she was there for, she was told to have a seat and her lawyer would be there shortly. But it wouldn’t be long before they learned who Frankie Freeman was. (By the way, Mrs Freeman practiced law until 2009. That’s 62 years!)

IMG_8948 (1).JPG
Frankie with NAACP attorney Constance Baker on the steps of the St Louis Federal Courthouse. Frankie was arguing Davis et al v the St Louis Housing Authority, the case that ended segregation in housing in St Louis.


4. You do not acquiesce.

Throughout her book, this mantra “Later for you” pops up again and again. I loved seeing it every time because I knew it was a promise, and I knew whatever the situation was, Frankie was going to make it right. Like at a restaurant in Flat River, Missouri. Or a coffee shop in Louisville. Here is how she explains it:

Sometimes when you beat your head against a brick wall, you have to realize that you are damaging your head, not hurting the wall. Therefore, you do the best you can so long as you do not acquiesce and you do not give up. You say, “later for you,” and promise yourself that when you can do something about it, you will.

There were times when Mrs Freeman chose to give in to the law of the time, in lieu of being arrested. She knew she could do more in the courtroom than she could in the jailhouse, so she promised, “later for you” then got to work changing the world. (More on that below).

When I spoke to Mrs Freeman, I asked her what she sees today that makes her think, “Later for you” — what do we still need to work on? Living in St Louis, I was expecting a comment on the police violence that we have been hearing so much about. But she surprised me when she said that every state in America still has segregated schools. “Not by law, of course, but it is true.” She told me that there is still racial segregation, or isolation, in public schools today. And I don’t have to look farther than my own childrens’ school to see that she is right. We live in a suburb of St Louis, and the majority of the students are white. In fact, the few African American students we do have are those who are bussed in from the city. Frankie laments that diversity is not yet as valued as it should be. She is saddened to think that children don’t have the chance to really play and interact with kids who look different from them until they are adults. She encourages working with teachers and parents alike to figure out a solution. She told me that she called for more diversity and spoke about the value of it in 1969, and can say the exact same thing now. As she said in her book, “To move away from racism, I feel we need to get to know one another.” And getting to know each other should start happening at a young age.

5. Speak. Up.

Frankie didn’t always say “Later for you” to herself. As a matter of fact, she spoke right up when she found herself in a situation she knew was unfair, unethical, and unconstitutional. For instance, in February of 1961, Frankie was making her way via bus to Hayti, Missouri to be the keynote speaker at an event held by her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. On the way, the bus stopped at a restaurant in Flat Creek. She got off the bus with the other passengers and made her way to the restrooms. A waitress loudly informed her that “The colored use another entrance.” When Frakie proceeded towards the ladies room anyway, a white customer blocked her path and repeated what the waitress had just said, “Colored can’t come in here. You have to go to the other side.” Frankie froze. The bus driver got involved and defended the restaurant’s policy. Frankie thought about pushing the lady out of the way– but what would that solve? Frankie would have been arrested and her sisters in Hayti would have no speaker for their event. Instead, Frankie headed back to the bus and re-wrote her speech. (This might sound like Frankie gave up, but stay with me).

At the next stop, Frankie called home and asked her husband to contact a friend of theirs, attorney Charles Oldham. She wanted to file a complaint against Greyhound and against the restaurant, and file a complaint she did. Greyhound soon issued an apology and the restaurant agreed to change its policy. Two weeks later, when some folks visited the restaurant to make sure they had carried out their promise, they found that the separate facility for “colored” had been eliminated.

She had a similar incident at a coffee shop in an airport in Louisville. She was denied service, she spoke up, and changes were made. Mrs Freeman was confident enough to stand up because she knew she had the Constitution on her side.

6. Stay humble.

In her book, Frankie tells the story of when she was nominated as president of her Sorority. Now, let me point out that Frankie did not join while she was in college. She had known about Delta Sigma Theta when she was an undergrad at Hampton Institute, but they did not have sororities on campus then. And while studying law at Howard, she had no time to join. So it wasn’t until after she had received her law degree and was living in St Louis that Frankie became involved in the nationally known public service sorority. She worked hard for the sorority, and in 1967 she was on the ballot for national president. Now, the results of the election were to be announced at a banquet on the third day of a national convention. But word got out that Frankie had won, and she was receiving congratulatory phone calls while she was trying to get ready for the banquet. Consequently, she was late. In her own words:

I was late, honestly late; I am never late, but I truly was that time. However, some people thought I was coming in late on purpose–that I knew I was elected and was trying to make an appearance. Jeanne Nobel teased me later that I had “flaunted in,” but I replied that “I don’t flaunt.”

When you have lived the life Frankie Freeman has lived, you don’t have to flaunt.

While I was talking to Mrs Freeman on the phone I confessed that I had been holding onto her phone number for a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t had the courage to call her. I told her I was a bit intimidated because she is such a big deal. She just laughed and said, “Oh, I am not a big deal. I am a 99 year old woman!”

Well, that didn’t convince me. Frankie is most certainly a big deal, and she has every reason to flaunt. But she stays humble, and that is beautiful.


(See, I told you she was a big deal)

7. Do your homework.

Frankie’s parents, Maude and William Muse


Frankie’s mother was a public school teacher, and though she gave up her career to stay home with her children, she never stopped teaching. The Muses were strong believers in the power of education, and told her children that once they got an education, no one could take it away from them. Maude knew her children would go to college, the only question was where. She and William paid for their own children’s education, but Maude went even further and raised scholarship funds so other children could pursue their education as well.

Frankie remembers that her parents– her mother especially–filled their home with books. When I spoke with her, Frankie recalled: “There were books all over the place– and we had to read them all!” But she didn’t mind. She loved reading anything she could get her hands on.

When I asked her what the best piece of advice she had received was, she paused for a long moment and really thought about it. She finally answered, “My teacher told me to do my homework. That was the best advice.” And I can see that throughout her life, Frankie did just that. She worked hard, both in school and in the courtroom, and brought about real change in her community and her nation. That’s pretty damn beautiful if you ask me.

 8. Take care of yourself.

Looking at Frankie’s life, it is easy to get the impression that she was all-business. How else could she have accomplished everything that she did? That is why I love this story of her just throwing caution to the wind and doing something unexpected: After being fired (the first time), Frankie went out and treated herself to something she had always wanted– a full length mink coat (don’t tell PETA). She put it on her husband’s credit card, but told him not to worry, she would pay it off as soon as she got back to work. Which, was like, the next day.

When I talked to her on the phone, I brought up some things she had mentioned in her book that had brought her joy. One of these things was cooking. I could hear her smile through the phone when she explained that, especially in the beginning, she was working so hard to get her career going, that she had to take time to relax, and cooking helped her do that. She told me her favorite thing to cook is her famous corn pudding, or her veggie salad with marinated green peppers, celery, tomatoes, and whatever other vegetables she can find. (My  mouth is watering).

There is no arguing that Mrs Freeman worked hard throughout her life, but she knew how to treat herself as well. And that is beautiful.



At the end of my conversation with Mrs Freeman, I asked her what her definition of beauty is:

Beauty is Frankie
Image from


I was honored and inspired to have to opportunity to not only see this beautiful woman in person, but speak with her personally. She is truly an inspiration, and an example of what one individual can accomplish if they would just get to it.

Unless otherwise noted, all information and images were taken from Mrs Freeman’s book, her speaking engagement at the St Louis County Library Headquarters, or from my personal interview with her.

Beauty is…being a rebel

As you probably know, today is President’s Day. As you may or may not know, today is also Susan B Anthony’s birthday. Here are a few things I learned from scratching the surface of her life story…

As you probably know, today is President’s Day. As you may or may not know, today is also Susan B Anthony’s birthday. Here are a few things I learned from scratching the surface of her life story…


1. To be a rebel, you gotta find a cause. Or six.

Susan B Anthony Rebel

Throughout her life, Anthony fought for equality above all else.

Abolitionist: Members of Anthony’s family were very involved in the anti-slavery movement, and in 1856 Susan became an agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. She hung posters and gave speeches calling for an end to slavery. In 1863 Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized a Women’s National League to support the 13th Amendment. In her newspaper, The Revolution, she argued against lynchings and racial prejudice.

Educational Reform: In 1846 Anthony was a teacher and became active in calling for equality in the classroom. She called for better pay for women teachers and for equal education opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, or their family’s former state of servitude.  In the 1890s, she raised $50,000 to ensure that the University of Rochester would admit female students.

Labor Activist: Anthony advocated for an eight-hour work day in her newspaper, and she encouraged women who were excluded from male dominated trade unions to form their own unions. And of course, she called for equal pay for equal work.

Temperance Worker: Anthony was raised a Quaker, and as such, she believed drinking alcohol was sinful. She was an active member of the Daughters of Temperance, a group of women who drew attention to the effects of drunkenness on families and pushed for stronger liquor laws. When she was denied the right to speak at a convention of the Sons of Temperance, she held a meeting of her own. In 1853 Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton endeavored to petition the State Legislature to pass a law limiting the sale of liquor. The petition was rejected because most of the 28,000 signatures on it were from women. Anthony and Stanton  realized that women needed the vote so that politicians would listen to them, and they resigned from the Temperance Society to focus on getting women the right to vote.

Suffragist: Anthony and Stanton had believed that the Republicans would reward women for their work in the abolition movement by giving them the right to vote. When that didn’t happen, they were disappointed. Then they got to work. They founded the American Equal Rights Association and began publishing their newspaper, The Revolution. Anthony toured the west, giving speeches and raising awareness. She gathered petitions with thousands of signatures and spoke in front of every Congress from 1869 to 1906 to ask for passage of a suffrage amendment. She was a leader in the suffrage movement until she retired as president of the National American Women Suffrage Association in 1900 (she was 80 years old). However, she was still an active and respected voice  in the movement. She presided over the International Council of Women in Berlin in 1904 and became honorary president of Carrie Chapman Catt’s International Women Suffrage Alliance. Women finally got the vote when Congress passed the Ninteenth Amendment (also known as the Susan B Anthony Amendment) in 1920, fourteen years after Anthony’s death.

2. Haters gonna hate.


For just about every cause she championed, somebody hated on her:

  • She faced mobs, threats, and was even hung in effigy for her efforts to end slavery.


  • Ironically, Anthony’s work for women in labor got her labeled as an “enemy of labor.” She was president of the Workingwomen’s Central Association, which drew up reports on working conditions and provided educational opportunities for working women. She supported the Sewing Machine Operators Union and the newly formed women’s typesetters union. She tried to establish trade schools for women printers. When printers went on strike in New York, saw it as an opportunity for employers to see that women could do the job just as well as men could and therefore deserved equal pay for their work. So, she encouraged employers to hire women to take the place of the strikers, and was accused of strike-breaking and being an enemy of labor.


  • Injustice was served. In 1872 Anthony was arrested for voting (she also refused to pay her streetcar fare on the way to the police station). She also refused to pay her bail and applied for habeas corpus (in which an individual reports an unlawful detention or imprisonment), but her lawyer paid her bail and kept the case from going to the Supreme Court. She was indicted near her home, so the Rochester District Attorney asked for a change of venue, fearing that a jury in Albany might be prejudiced in her favor. The judge in the new venue, Canandaigua, made sure there was no issue with jury prejudice when he instructed them to find her guilty without discussion– the jury did not even get to discuss the verdict! The judge fined her and ordered her to pay courtroom fees. When she refused to pay, he chose not to imprison her, thereby denying her chance to appeal.

3.  Stay focused.

While working in the Temperance Movement, Anthony made a tough decision. In additon to speaking and gathering petitions, Anthony and Stanton had drawn attention to the case of Abby McFarland. Abby’s drunken and abusive husband, Daniel, had shot and killed the man Abby divorced Daniel to marry. Daniel was aquitted on a plea of temporary insanity and given custody of their son. But even though temperance was a cause that was dear to Anthony’s heart, she decided to stay focused and not support Prohibition because it distracted from the bigger issue– women getting the vote.

Susan B Anthony


4. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one.

In 1846, when she was a teacher, Anthony argued that girls should be educated as well as boys, because there is no inherent difference in their brains. Over 100 years later, science is backing her up.

equal brains

5. Girl, you better work.

What blew me away the most when I was taking this little glimpse into Anthony’s life was her constant WORK. She seems to have been indefatigable in her pursuit of equality. She reminded me that if there is something you want, pursue it relentlessly. She never saw the fruits of her labor, but she didn’t give up. She stayed the course. And I am so grateful that she did.

you better work
Image from

I got my info about Susie B from

Beauty is…making your own opportunities


CJ Walker (1)CJWalker

Sarah Breedlove was the first free-born child of her parents, Minerva and Owen Breedlove. She was born on December 23, 1867 in Delta, Louisiana. Though her parents encouraged their children to get an education, the KKK burned down many schools for African American kids in Louisiana.




Sarah’s parents were sharecroppers, and she worked the cotton fields for 12 hours a day before coming home to dig potatoes for the next night’s dinner, feed the chickens, and sweep the yard. On Saturdays, she and her mother and sister (Louvenia) washed clothes for themselves and white people. They got 1$ a week for washing. 

Sarah’s mother and father succumbed to disease and she and her siblings were orphaned by 1875; Sarah was 7. One of their brothers, Alex, went to Vicksburg to look for work, and the girls did laundry day and night in order to survive. When crops failed, the girls went to Vicksburg as well. Louvenia married a cruel and dangerous man, and Sarah lived with them until she could stand it no longer and got married herself. She was just 14.


Sarah’s daughter, Leila

After her husband died, Sarah moved to St Louis where she had heard that laundresses could make good money and where there was a large black community. Her brothers were there working in a barber shop, and Sarah learned about hair care from them. She worked hard and was determined to save enough to send her daughter, Leila, to school. Sarah also collected money for St Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, where African Americans could go to learn to read and write, though it was illegal for them to go to school. By 1902, Sarah had saved enough to send her daughter Leila to Knoxville College.

Sarah spent time in women’s kitchens as they tried to straighten and restore their hair. Her own hair was weak and she was going bald. All of the so-called cures only made it worse.

At the 1904 World’s fair in St Louis, she heard Booker T Washington’s wife, Margaret Washington, speak. Sarah was struck by Margaret’s poise, her confidence, and her hair. Sarah went to bed praying that God would stop her hair from falling out. That night Sarah had a dream of Africa– the earth, soil, and vegetation. She knew she had her answer. She would seek out oils and herbs that were native to Africa and try them on her hair.

In 1905, Sarah learned that one of her brothers had died. She moved to Denver to be with his wife and children. In an attic room, she set up her laboratory and got to work developing a formula for her hair. During the day, she worked as a cook for Mr. E.L. Scholtz, who owned the largest pharmacy in Denver. When she thought she finally had her formula just right, she tried it on herself. And it worked! Her hair began growing back in faster than it had ever fallen out.

National Museum of African American History and Culture: Product

She began going door to door with her three new products: Vegetable Shampoo, Wonderful Hair Grower, and Glossine. She would wash women’s hair with the shampoo, apply the hair grower to nourish the scalp, then apply the Glossine with a specially designed metal comb that had been heated on a stove. She was careful to avoid using words like “good hair” (which usually referred to white hair) and “bad hair” (which usually referred to black hair) because she found them, and the idea behind them, insulting. Most hair care companies were owned by white men, who advertised to African Americans by telling them how unattractive they were and glorifying long straight hair. Black ministers, on the other hand, preached against women straightening their hair instead of remaining how God had created them. Sarah believed that what a woman did with her hair should be her own business, not a man’s.

She used her own before and after pictures in her advertisements, not images of light Madame-CJ-Walker-before-and-afterskinned women with long light colored hair. She conveyed confidence and self-worth in her advertisements, something that was often lacking for women– and especially women of color– at the time.


In 1905, Sarah married Charles Walker, and changed her name, and the name of her company, to Madame CJ Walker. She moved to Pittsburgh, where she and Leila (who had finished school by then), trained salespeople, or agents, to go into women’s kitchens and show them how to use Walker’s products. Every customer was a potential agent, and Madame Walker and Leila talked to them not only about health and beauty, but also about self-sufficiency. They told women they could earn money in a respected profession as a hairdresser or saleswoman, while still being good wives and mothers. Agents could expect to make $5.00 a week, which was a pretty penny in a time when black women typically only made about half that. Black men made about $5.00 a week, while white men could expect to make around $17.00 per week.

CJWalkerCar2In just two years, Madame Walker had nearly one hundred representatives and was making $400.00 a week. She opened the Leila College of Hair Culturists. Women flocked to the college to learn a new profession that would give them pride and independence. Madame Walker left Leila in charge of the business in Pittsburgh, and moved to Indianapolis to spread her products. By 1911, the company was making more than $3,000 a week (about $70,000 in today’s money). For a business run by a black woman, this was almost inconceivable.

In Indianapolis, Madame Walker was outraged when she was asked to pay more for a movie ticket than a white person had to pay. Then and there she began design plans for the Walker building, which would cover an entire city block and include office and factory space, as well as a movie theater for the city’s African American population. The more Madame Walker made, the more she gave, pouring money and energy into her community. In 1913, she made the largest donation of any African American to the construction of the Indianapolis YMCA. She rewarded her agents for making contributions to their community as well.

She divorced Mr Walker in 1913. That same year  she attended the National Negro
unnamed Business League convention in Chicago. She was the richest black woman in America, yet she could not get the attention of the speaker, Booker T Washington. Finally, she stood up and demanded his attention. “Surely you are not going to shut the door in my face,” she said. She told her story. She spoke of cotton fields and the Ku Klux Klan burning schools. She spoke of washtubs and starting her own business. Then she said something no man there had said, “My object in life is not simply to make money for myself, but to use part of what I make to help others.”

And help others she did. Along with giving thousands of women like her the training and opportunities they needed to create a better life for themselves, she was a voice for her people. She once demanded a meeting with the President to address violence against African Americans. When she heard Woodrow Wilson was in a meeting about a farm feed bill and could not be bothered, she wasted no time expressing her anger: “You are talking to us of animal feed when colored people are being murdered in the streets!” In 1919 Madam Walker became seriously ill while on a trip to St Louis. She was rushed home, where she ordered her accountants to make a donation of $5,000 to the anti-lynching fund of the NAACP. It was the largest donation the organization had ever received.

CJWalkerCarBefore she died she said, “I want to live to help my race.”

Madam CJ Walker not only helped her race, she has helped countless women by proving that when life doesn’t provide you with opportunities, you have to make them yourself.

She followed her own path. And that is beautiful.


Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker by Kathryn Lasky


Beauty is…being limitless

These women rose above the limits put on them by others to accomplish amazing things. And that is beautiful.

 These women rose above the limits put on them by others to accomplish amazing things. And that is beautiful.

We will be adding stories of incredible African American women to this page throughout the month of February.


Image above is from Original image was sketched by Scipio Moorhead for the frontispiece of Wheatley’s book Poems on Various Subjects

Madam CJ Walker
Image from




Mary Fields (1)

Beauty is…sisterhood

Women were not allowed to learn to read and write Chinese, so to stay in touch they took it upon themselves to formulate their own means of communication.

The ancient secret language of Nu Shu

Beside a well

In a time when women’s feet were bound, women were kept in doors, and the goal of marriage was to bear sons, women in the Jiangyong County in Hunan province of China found strength and satisfaction in each other. Growing up, girls were confined to ‘women’s chambers’ in their own homes, and would later be confined to the home of their husband’s family. To ease their isolation, girls were brought together as “sworn sisters” until they were married. A laotong relationship was a step further– girls would be brought together by a matchmaker and would sign a contract. The relationship was expected to last for life. In Lisa See’s novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan See describes the laotong relationship as “… made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose — to have sons.”

When girls were old enough to be married, they were expected to live wherever their husband’s family lived, and sworn sisters were often separated. Women were not allowed to learn to read and write Chinese, so to stay in touch they took it upon themselves to formulate their own means of communication. Nu Shu, or “women’s writing,” was developed phonetically, as opposed to traditional Chinese languages in which characters represent ideas.

NuShu with Chinese
Chinese (on the left) compared to Nu Shu (on the right). Image from


Nu Shu was not only written, but embroidered and used to adorn fans. Nu Shu was also found in “Third Day Books,” journals that a woman’s friends and family would make for her upon her marriage. The clothbound books were delivered to the new bride three days after she was married. Inside, family and friends would fill the first few pages with their laments over losing a friend and daughter, and their hopes for her happiness. The rest of the pages were left blank, for the new bride to fill with her thoughts and feelings. Everything was written in Nu Shu, and though the men couldn’t read it, they seemed to think it was harmless and therefore didn’t mind it.

Lisa See’s book, and a movie based on it, have renewed interest in this ancient and secret language. Since girls have been able to go to school with boys and learn traditional Chinese, the number of women who can read and write Nu Shu is dwindling. People like Hu Mei Yue are trying to change that. Every Saturday Mei Yue visits Pumei, a Nushu Cultural Village with a museum and school dedicated to Nu Shu. She teaches the language to any village girls who show up.

One girl taking the class said, “I don’t know how people can write like this. Each word is like a flower.”

Sample of NuShu
Example of Nu Shu. Image from




(my sources)

Beauty is…sitting down

These ladies, and so many others like them, were on the right side of history. And that is beautiful.

They sat. A nation stood. Celebrating Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin


Rosa Parks

“Mother Superior of the Civil Rights movement”

Today we celebrate Rosa Parks Day. And for good reason. It was Rosa who drew nation gty_rosa_parks_mug_kb_ss_130203_sshwide attention to Montgomery Alabama, where transportation segregation was rampant. And legal. What I didn’t realize– and you may not have known either– is that Rosa was sitting in “her” section of the bus. So, she was actually following the law. But when all the seats filled up and a white man was left standing, the bus driver demanded that Rosa give up her seat for him. She refused. And the rest is HERtory.

It is a very special thing to learn what happened from the woman herself, in her own words.  Take it away Tom Brokaw…


(I grabbed this video from YouTube, but it is also available on NBC Learn. It originally aired in 1995)

But before Rosa, there was Claudette…

 Claudette Colvin

Civil Rights activist, Medical professional (1939-)

I first heard Claudette’s story on an episode of Drunk History. I was in awe. Here was this fierce little 15 year old girl, who refused to give up her seat on the bus NINE MONTHS BEFORE Rosa Parks did it. According to the episode (and this article by NPR), Rosa Parks was a sectary for the NAACP who had a natural gravitas. Parks was an adult, with the right look and the right hair. She would be the face of the boycott. Colvin was young, had darker skin, and got pregnant soon after her arrest– not the poster child the NAACP was looking for.

Civil Rights (2)

Recalling that day, Claudette says she remembers it was Negro history month at her (segregated) school. Her head was swimming with the stories of leaders like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Her class had talked about the injustices they faced every day under the Jim Crow laws. Injustices like not being able to eat at a lunch counter, or try on clothes. She remembers, “We couldn’t try on clothes. You had to take a brown paper bag and draw a diagram of your foot…and take it to the store.” With all of these images fresh in her mind, she had finally had enough. That day she would not be moved. She would not get off that bus– she says she felt like she had Sojourner Truth on one side of her and Harriet Tubman on the other, holding her down in that seat.

When Claudette refused to give up her seat, the bus driver notified police. I will let Claudette tell the rest of the story herself:

CLAUDETTE: One of them (the police officers) said to the driver in a very angry tone, “Who is it?” The motorman pointed at me. I heard him say, “That’s nothing new . . . I’ve had trouble with that ‘thing’ before.” He called me a “thing.” They came to me and stood over me and one said, “Aren’t you going to get up?” I said, “No, sir.” He shouted “Get up” again. I started crying, but I felt even more defiant. I kept saying over and over, in my high-pitched voice, “It’s my constitutional right to sit here as much as that lady. I paid my fare, it’s my constitutional right!” I knew I was talking back to a white policeman, but I had had enough.

One cop grabbed one of my hands and his partner grabbed the other and they pulled me straight up out of my seat. My books went flying everywhere. I went limp as a baby—I was too smart to fight back. They started dragging me backwards off the bus. One of them kicked me. I might have scratched one of them because I had long nails, but I sure didn’t fight back. I kept screaming over and over, “It’s my constitutional right!” I wasn’t shouting anything profane—I never swore, not then, not ever. I was shouting out my rights.

It just killed me to leave the bus. I hated to give that white woman my seat when so many black people were standing. I was crying hard. The cops put me in the back of a police car and shut the door. They stood outside and talked to each other for a minute, and then one came back and told me to stick my hands out the open window. He handcuffed me and then pulled the door open and jumped in the backseat with me. I put my knees together and crossed my hands over my lap and started praying.

All ride long they swore at me and ridiculed me. They took turns trying to guess my bra size. They called me “nigger bitch” and cracked jokes about parts of my body. I recited the Lord’s Prayer and the Twenty-third Psalm over and over in my head, trying to push back the fear. I assumed they were taking me to juvenile court because I was only fifteen. I was thinking, ‘Now I’m gonna be picking cotton, since that’s how they punished juveniles’—they put you in a school out in the country where they made you do field work during the day.

But we were going in the wrong direction. They kept telling me I was going to Atmore, the women’s penitentiary. Instead, we pulled up to the police station and they led me inside. More cops looked up when we came in and started calling me “Thing” and “Whore.” They booked me and took my fingerprints.

Then they put me back in the car and drove me to the city jail—the adult jail. Someone led me straight to a cell without giving me any chance to make a phone call. He opened the door and told me to get inside. He shut it hard behind me and turned the key. The lock fell into place with a heavy sound. It was the worst sound I ever heard. It sounded final. It said I was trapped.

When he went away, I looked around me: three bare walls, a toilet, and a cot. Then I feel down on my knees in the middle of the cell and started crying again. I didn’t know if anyone knew where I was or what had happened to me. I had no idea how long I would be there. I cried and I put my hands together and prayed like I had never prayed before.

• • •

MEANWHILE, schoolmates who had been on the bus had run home and telephoned Claudette’s mother at the house where she worked as a maid. Girls went over and took care of the lady’s three small children so that Claudette’s mother could leave. Mary Ann Colvin called Claudette’s pastor, the Reverend H.H. Johnson. He had a car, and together they sped to the police station.

• • •

CLAUDETTE: When they led Mom back, there I was in a cell. I was cryin’ hard, and then Mom got upset, too. When she saw me, she didn’t bawl me out, she just asked, “Are you all right, Claudette?”

Reverend Johnson bailed me out and we drove home. By the time we got to King Hill, word had spread everywhere. All our neighbors came around, and they were just squeezing me to death. I felt happy and proud. I had been talking about getting our rights ever since Jeremiah Reeves was arrested, and now they knew I was serious. Velma, Q.P. and Mary Ann’s daughter, who was living with us at the time, kept saying it was my squeaky little voice that had saved me from getting beat up or raped by the cops.

But I was afraid that night, too. I had stood up to a white bus driver and two white cops. I had challenged the bus law. There had been lynchings and cross burnings for that kind of thing. Wetumpka Highway that led out of Montgomery ran right past our house. It would have been easy for the Klan to come up the hill in the night. Dad sat up all night long with his shotgun. We all stayed up. The neighbors facing the highway kept watch. Probably nobody on King Hill slept that night.

But worried or not, I felt proud. I had stood up for our rights. I had done something a lot of adults hadn’t done. On the ride home from jail, coming over the viaduct, Reverend Johnson had said something to me I’ll never forget. He was an adult who everyone respected and his opinion meant a lot to me. “Claudette,” he said, “I’m so proud of you. Everyone prays for freedom. We’ve all been praying and praying. But you’re different—you want your answer the next morning. And I think you just brought the revolution to Montgomery.”

Excerpt from Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose (via NPR)


Both of these ladies deserve to be honored today. As do the hundreds of civil rights advocates that made the Montgomery bus boycott a success. And the thousands of African Americans that demanded to be heard by peacefully boycotting. If they had given in and taken the bus, we might still be years behind.

These ladies, and so many others like them, were on the right side of history.

And that is beautiful.

Beauty is how you treat people

A conversation with Human Trafficking advocate Amanda Mohl


intl inst logo_2c vert

Amanda Mohl is the Anti-Trafficking Community Coordinator at International Institute of St. Louis, which focuses on refugee resettlement and immigrant services. Through a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, the International Institute manages the St. Louis Rescue and Restore Coalition. The Institute also provides funding and technical assistance to United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) in Southeast Missouri so they can run the Southeast Missouri Rescue and Restore Coalition.  Both coalitions focus on outreach and education with the ultimate goal of identifying victims. Amanda’s job involves educating the public about human trafficking, increasing public awareness, outreach, and coalition building. Her end goal is to increase identification of trafficking victims, who themselves sometimes don’t even realize they are victims.  Victims brought to the United States to work, for example, might not be familiar with our labor laws and might think their situation is normal. So, it is important for Amanda to ask the right questions and develop relationships with communities whose members might be at risk of exploitation.

Amanda is on the front lines fighting against human trafficking here in St Louis. Her “typical day” includes reaching out to various communities throughout the area– keeping up with her contacts in those communities, and making sure she is present at their events. She organizes presentations and writes curriculum to teach different groups according to their needs and what will resonate with them. She works directly with immigrant communities, building trust and offering resources should they need them.

At a recent event to raise awareness about human trafficking, Amanda spoke about what she does and what the trafficking situation looks like in St Louis. Here are a few things that really stood out to me:

  • Here in St Louis, there is a large amount of Hispanic males who are victimized in the landscaping, construction, and industrial cleaning sectors.
  • Debt bondage is a common form of labor trafficking. Recruiters charge anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to bring workers here LEGALLY (in a recent Urban Institute study, it was reported that over 70% of victims talked to were brought to the us-visa-webformUS on a LEGAL visa), where they then charge victims a huge interest rate on the amount owed, along with other “fees” for the use of tools, housing, etc. No matter how long
    a victim works, the debt is never totally paid off.
  • Many times, the victim’s visa is tied to the employer. So the trafficker has A LOT of control over the victim.


I had a chance to sit down with Amanda and talk about what she does, why she does it, and– of course– her definition of beauty.


668d12fe7ef735cd822e0e17e6eccd39Question: Human trafficking is undoubtedly a big problem. But just HOW big seems to be tricky to pin down–there are so many numbers floating around out there. I have read that there as many as 30 MILLION victims of trafficking worldwide today. Is that an accurate estimate? And how are these estimates made?

Answer: Really the only solid numbers we have are the numbers of people HELPED. There is work currently being done at Washington University to find a more reliable way to produce statistics, but right now it is very tricky. Looking at the number of human trafficking cases, for instance, isn’t as reliable as it might sound. Human trafficking is sometimes hard to prove in court, so prosecutors might go for a lesser charge that is more likely to get a conviction rather than risk losing a case and letting the trafficker back on the streets.


Amanda, and many like her, are committed creating a St Louis free of trafficking. She works hard for victims and at-risk populations in her community. She travels and teaches and raises awareness. She is making a difference, and that is beautiful.

Mama Said

Conversations with the most beautiful woman I know, my mom.

It had been a while since I had talked to my mom. So when I called her this past Sunday, I was disappointed when she didn’t answer. Disappointed, but not surprised. She works hard, and she takes care of herself by giving herself Sundays off. So, sometimes, her phone is tucked away on the weekends.

Happily, she called me right back, but she was not pleased. Apparently, there was some important football game going on (who knew?) and her most favorite football player in the whole wide world was playing (yes, she loves her some Peyton). So the ring of her phone had distracted her from watching the game, and that, my friends is just not ok. I apologized profusely and vowed to check the football schedule before I called next time. That seemed to appease her. My lesson:

Dont call your mama on game day
Peyton says, “Don’t be calling your mama on game day.”

Then she asked for my opinion on Peyton’s father, Archie Manning’s behavior recently. Apparently, at a critical point in a recent game, Archie covered his face and turned his back on the field where his son was making a very important play. My mom has a degree in Psychology, and is very interested in body language. So she thought that, while it might be understandable for Mr Manning to be nervous and maybe cover his face a bit, the act of turning his back really rubbed her the wrong way. I agreed that people often “can’t watch” tense moments, and I realized that we cover our face just in case the people we are watching fail. So the very act of hiding our face is basically communicating that failure is a very real option–probably not something we really want to communicate. And turning one’s back is even more powerful. Our conversation turned to body language in pictures, and how it people’s feelings for each other are very clear in photographs. Our natural tendency is to lean in to whoever we are in the picture with, so anytime I see one person leaning away, even ever so slightly, I have to wonder if they are really that into the other person. This is especially interesting with pictures of couples. Next time you are scrolling through Facebook, pay attention to people’s body language in their pictures!

archie manning can't even

body language






Then my mom shared a couple of revelations she recently had.

Continue reading “Mama Said”

8 Things You Can Do To Fight Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a huge issue that impacts millions of people worldwide. It is easy to feel powerless against such a pervasive issue. But there ARE things you can do to help. Here are a few:

Human trafficking is a huge issue that impacts millions of people worldwide. It is easy to feel powerless against such a pervasive issue. But there ARE things you can do to help. Here are a few:

  • Become a conscientious consumer. Labor trafficking and debt bondage are the most common forms of human trafficking. Our demand for cheap products encourages situations in which workers are either grossly under paid, or not paid at all. You can fight it by:
    • Shopping at local second hand stores to keep profits in your community.
    • Buy refurbished electronics to decrease demand for the minerals used in production, which are often mined by children and slaves.
    • Chocolate and coffee are among the industries most known for using children to harvest their raw materials. The Fair Trade certification isn’t perfect, but it is a good step in the right direction. Look for one of these symbols on your chocolate and coffee and rest assured no slaves were exploited in the making of your treats. fairtradelogobig
  •  Check out the companies doing the most to stop slavery in their supply chain by going to: free2work.orgf2w-logo-fb
  • Take this quiz to see how many slaves work for you, and ask your favorite companies to do more to make sure there is no forced labor in their supply chain.chain_330x170

Continue reading “8 Things You Can Do To Fight Human Trafficking”

3 Beautiful Female Civil Rights Leaders

All of these women, and many more, contributed to the civil rights movement we are so familiar with today. Though the image we see is usually of men in suits giving important speeches, lets not forget about the strong, passionate, brave women who were also on the front lines in the fight for civil liberties.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gets his day, but these ladies deserve to be celebrated, too.

Continue reading “3 Beautiful Female Civil Rights Leaders”

Dear Reader

So my goal with OperationalizeBeauty is to encourage a dialogue whereby women and girls think about what being beautiful really means. If they can see truly beautiful traits in other women, maybe they can recognize them in themselves, too. And then maybe, just maybe, the mean old so-and-sos of the world won’t be so powerful after all. And that will be beautiful.

I have worked with kids for close to a decade. I have worked with them in classrooms, on playgrounds, and at a crisis nursery (yes, it was as heart-breaking as it sounds). One thing that always bothered me was when a kiddo would come up to me complaining about some terrible thing another kid called him– “Mrs. Blair!! So-and-so said I was bad at baseball!” (I know, terrible, right?)

Continue reading “Dear Reader”

National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we stand with the survivors, advocates, and organizations dedicated to building a world where our people and our children are not for sale. Together, let us recommit to a society where our sense of justice tells us that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, where every person can forge a life equal to their talents and worthy of their dreams.

Our people and our children are not for sale.

It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”

President Barack Obama, 2012

Continue reading “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month”

8 Things (Part Two)

In 2016, don’t let the expectations of others determine what comes out of your mouth, or what you put on your body.

Tara Carr’s SHOULD number five: dish out compliments, just like to female characters from 1950s sitcoms did. She notes that, while compliments should go both ways, “men should receive way more compliments than women because they are way more sensitive and insecure than they let on.”

Continue reading “8 Things (Part Two)”

8 Things You Should Definitely Do In 2016 (Part One)

And although we sometimes have to do things we don’t love, you should never feel like you HAVE to cook because you were born with a vagina. You can always order take out.

It is that time, folks. Time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close, and set goals, intentions, or even resolutions for the coming year.

Not too long ago, I came across an article that got me thinking about the things I should maybe be doing on a daily basis. The article’s author, Tara Carr, lays out some very specific things she thinks I, as a woman, should be doing. In the intro to her article  Carr seems to praise the ladies depicted in the movie Mona Lisa Smile, who went to college not for a degree but to find a man, “get married as soon as possible and put those Home Ec skills to good use!” She mentions that now it is ok to have a career, and your own mind, and “what not,” but encourages women to do at least some things the “old fashioned” way.

I disagree with pretty much everything she says. But, make no mistake, I don’t necessarily disagree with Carr’s “shoulds” as much as I disagree with the WHYs behind them.

Continue reading “8 Things You Should Definitely Do In 2016 (Part One)”

Soccer mom,social worker, advocate

People like Marcy are what make this world beautiful

Meet Marcy, a working mom of two boys. She is proud to be a feminist, an activist, and a soccer mom. Like most moms, her kids keep her busy, motivated, and inspired. What sets her apart is her passion for making a difference. Marcy is tackling huge social issues like domestic violence, child abuse, and poverty every day. She works directly with the families who have been profoundly impacted by these issues.

Social work is a grossly under appreciated, and often misunderstood, line of work. People like Marcy are what make this world beautiful.

Vocation: Social Worker/Activist

Location: Orange County, CA

A bit of background

I’m a mom to two boys, ages 10 and 8. I grew up behind the Orange Curtain (aka Orange County, CA). I’m a feminist and an activist, currently I’m employed  as a social worker. I majored in Women’s Studies in 2007 and taught ballroom dance for a few years before going back to school to become a therapist.

When did you start doing what you are doing?

I finished graduate school in 2013 and although my degree is in counseling/marriage and family therapy, I’ve worked in various settings including a therapist at a domestic violence shelter,  a counselor at a group home for teenage girls on probation and a social worker.  I started as a social worker back in 2013. For almost two years I worked for a non profit that trains and assists foster parents in caring for children placed through Children and Family Services. Currently I work at CFS as a social worker in the continuing courts program. My caseload is generally focused on family reunification and if that doesn’t happen, looking for a permanent placement for the child.  I’ve been an activist as long as I could speak.

Why do you do what you do? Who/What inspired you to take this path?

I sort of just fell into what I do now because of training and past experience. I never aspired to be a social worker but it fits for now. It’s been an opportunity to work on a micro level with some huge social issues (child abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse, poverty, incarceration, trauma). It was an adjustment at first and I had a lot of conflicting feelings about working in the system but those feelings make me work harder for my clients. I know how many people feel about child welfare  social workers, they see us as busy bodies and kid snatchers and you meet a lot of resistance and every day is a challenge but I love helping families. They don’t always want help at first but with a lot of patience and hope you see a change for the better.

Continue reading “Soccer mom,social worker, advocate”

11 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know About Malala

You know her name, and you probably know some of her story. But did you know…


  • She was born in Mingora, in Pakistan‘s Swat Valley, in July of 1997. Mingora is a beautiful city with moderate weather and ancient Buddhist ruins and stupas nearby. When the Taliban sought to control the area, they destroyed an ancient Buddhist statue.
  • Not long after the Taliban began it’s takeover of the Valley in 2007, one militant began a pirated radio channel based just a few miles from Mingora. Over the airwaves, he campaigned against girls’ education and liberal ways of life. The center of Mingora, known as the Green Square, went from being a bustling hub of cultural and social activities to being the stage on which the Taliban showcased what they were capable of. They hung the bodies of those who opposed them on the electric lines. The area became known as the “bloody square.” This was the atmosphere in which young Malala lived.


  • Malala’s father founded the school Malala attended, and despite the Taliban’s calls for an end to the education of girls, she did not give up her right to an education. In 2008 she gave a speech calling out the Taliban entitled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”


The school Malala attended in Mingora.
  • In 2009 Malala began anonymously blogging for the BBC. She wrote about living under threats from the Taliban. You know, the typical stuff 12 year old girls deal with.

Continue reading “11 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know About Malala”

Mary Wollstonecraft

So if we must define beauty as something worth attaining, let beauty be intelligence. And passion. And independence. Let it be what you say it is. Only then will no one have the power to take it away from you.

If I could sit down and talk to Mary Wollstonecraft, our interview might look something like this…

Who you are: Mary Wollstonecraft

What you do: Write

Where you do what you do: I have lived in various places around London, as well as Paris. At one point, I had hoped to live in America. I had fond visions of the simple and free life I might live there, but those visions were not to become reality.

Tell us a little bit about your childhood and background.

Honestly, I would really rather not. I do not have many fond memories of my childhood. My father was a gambler who pretended to be a farmer. We were shuffled around quite a bit growing up. Moving residences often become quite a common theme throughout my life. My father had a quick and fierce temper, the full force of which my mother, my siblings, and I often felt. I hated my father’s brutality, though it might be said that I inherited more from him than from my weak-willed mother. I have heard it said that I have his temper and the same hatred of restrictions. Better those than weakness, I suppose. I never understood why my mother didn’t fight back. Why she didn’t try harder to give herself and her children a better life. But, had she left, she would not have been able to support herself. And leaving him would have meant loosing her children (we were, after all, his property) and facing social ostracism. Early in life I vowed I would never be dependent upon anyone for my happiness and well-being. I grew to abhor the image of marriage my parents presented. I, instead, have sought a relationship between equals in which both parties are esteemed and respected. As I wrote in my Vindication, a woman who values and flaunts her weakness might “excite tenderness and gratify the arrogant pride of a man, but the lordly caresses of a protector will not gratify a noble mind that pants for and deserves to be respected.”

My mother, though I most certainly never desired to be like her, was nevertheless dear to me. I yearned for her love and attention, like any child does. However, her affections were taken completely by my eldest brother, Ned. In him she saw no fault, and though it was I who held her hand as she breathed her last, I am certain her affection toward him remained steadfast. I will admit, I have felt resentment and jealousy towards him. He, who was free to pursue the desires of his heart without thought to family duties. He entered the military, and though I repeatedly asked for his assistance in the support of our sisters, he was aloof and unfazed in regard to our struggles.

Most abrasive to me was the education I was restricted from pursuing. At home I had learned to read, but I was hungry for more. I was finally able to attend school when we moved to Beverley in the summer of 1770, but I was sorely disappointed in the curriculum at the local girl’s school. While my brothers studied history, mathematics, and Latin, I was expected to be content to learn skills suitable to women, like needlework and simple addition. I have always resented this, and have written several treatises on the importance of education for women and girls. Indeed, how can men judge women as less intelligent and less capable if we are not even given the opportunity to increase our intellect. Determined as I was to be entirely self-reliant, and as I understood that education was the gateway to opportunity, I read and educated myself in earnest. Happily, men such as John Arden helped shaped my intellect and feed my curiosity early on.

Education was the primary focus of your early work. Tell us a bit about the role education played in shaping your life, as well as that of your sisters.

My thoughts on the matter are expressed in my book Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, but the topic is touched upon in other works as well.

 Indeed, I recognized that a girl would certainly not get anywhere in life without the most basic of an education. However, I am not so naive as to think that education alone is a perfect savior. Growing up I heard girls be advised to hide their intellect as not to scare away suitors. What rubbish! Clearly, it is not only the education of girls that needs reforming, but the whole of society itself. As I wrote in Vindication, “men and women must be educated, in a great degree, by the opinions and manners of the society they live in…till society can be differently constituted, much cannot be expected by education.”

Nevertheless, education of the whole mind has always been important to me. I myself held many teaching positions early in life, and was gracious enough to employ my sisters in similar positions. However, I never saw teaching as my heart’s passion. As a woman in the 1700s being a governess or an educator are the only somewhat respectable vocations one may consider. So, I took positions as both, and even ran a school of my own at one point, as a means to an end. The end goal, of course, being to maintain my independence and self-reliance.

And what was your heart’s passion, if not teaching?

I wanted above all to be heard. I found the norms of society rather silly and outrageously confining. I wanted to shake people–especially women–out of their haze. Did they not see the bars they were behind? Beautiful though the bars they may be, they were bars just the same. The home is not the only stage on which a woman can shine. I have always been very aware of my social standing and the expectations put on me. And, when possible I have tried to meet them. For instance, as the eldest daughter, it fell on me to provide care for my mother as her health failed, and to support my sisters as they were unwed. I put my plans on hold to be by my mother’s side as she passed from this world. I rescued my sister from an abusive marriage, even when she had second thoughts about leaving her baby behind (again, the child, as the wife, was the property of the husband). I found gainful employment for my sisters, though they continued to complain about their circumstances. When I found constant work as a writer, I sent most of my earnings to them and subsided on less than what would have been considered reasonable.

So, you see, I did not abandon all the trappings of being a woman in the 1700s. But I so deeply desired to. My independence was of the utmost importance to me. I found the fight for independence in France invigorating and inspiring. I longed for a revolution for women, and was hopeful it would come to pass in Paris. After the king was de-throned, women gained many rights they had not enjoyed before, like the right to divorce and inherit property. But, their freedom was short-lived as those who rebelled against the king’s authority began showing us that they would be no better as rulers. Robespierre’s regime put women back under men’s thumbs, and began executing anyone who did not agree with them. They were bloodthirsty and vengeful, and I turned to images of America for inspiration. There, one could be truly free. There, I could be equal to any man.

And that, I suppose, was my heart’s true passion. The equality of all and the end of injustice and oppression.

Continue reading “Mary Wollstonecraft”

Beauty is…a marriage of passion and reason

Mary Wollstonecraft is often lauded as a pioneer of Feminism. Her most popular book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was published in 1792 and is considered a groundbreaking work that laid the foundation for the argument for women’s rights.

Mary was a passionate woman who considered independence to be the utmost goal of every individual, but especially women. She was raised by an abusive father and emotionally absent mother. As the oldest sister, she was expected to care for her siblings. Mary struggled to balance this role of care-giver that was placed on her, with the role of independent human she desired for herself. If she was alive today, I would like to think she would be a supporter of OperationalizeBeauty, as she is remembered as a woman who most definitely questioned–and shunned– the labels put on her by others.  When she made her way to London to pursue a career as a writer, she took a sort of pride in eschewing the style of the time. She arrived on the scene in thick-soled sensible walking shoes and a beaver cap. She felt she did not need to fit into a world she loathed (the world of the rich and well-connected), and would not waste time making herself attractive for the benefit of others. She absolutely detested the ideal of femininity popular during her lifetime, and eschewed the behavioral norms women were expected to abide by as well. For example, she found it silly that women were expected to lay in bed for anywhere from a week to a month after giving birth, and insisted on being up and about the day after having her first child. She insisted that having a baby was a natural process, not an illness.


She was quite the conundrum. She did provide for her sisters, finding them employment and sending them money; yet, she did not take their feelings about that employment into account. She was a woman of reason and learning, yet she was fiercely passionate and emotional about causes and people dear to her heart. She was a great supporter of the Revolution in France and held idealized images of America as a land of true freedom, yet she seems to have absolutely reveled in the domestic duties of wife and mother. She valued independence above all, yet became deeply attached to a few people. The attachment she would foster was often unhealthy, and the absence of the object of her affection would send her into depression that resulted in at least two suicide attempts.

  henry-fuseli-by-james-northcoteOne of her objects of affection was German-Swiss artist Henri Fuseli (left), to whom she grew quite close. Though details are not known for sure, it is said that at one point, Mary showed up at his doorstep and asked to move in with he and his wife. Allegedly, she claimed she sought no physical relationship with Fuseli and posed no threat to his marriage; she simply could not live without seeing and talking to him daily. She needed a spiritual connection with him. Fuseli’s wife threw Mary out and forbade Henri from ever speaking to her again. Later, Mary would propose a similar, and incredibly unorthodox, living arrangement with her estranged husband (and father of her first child) and his paramour.

Mary was a firecracker to say the least. Prone to swings of unbridled 170px-josephjohnsonenergy and focus, as well as boughts of depression and self-doubt. Those close to her, like friend and publisher Joseph Johnson (right), learned to maneuver these dark spaces of Mary’s personality. Once, when penning a rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, she expressed to Johnson that she wasn’t sure if she should continue. Having already printed what she had written so far, he assured her that if she didn’t feel up to the task of completing the work, he would throw the printed pages into the fire and forget the piece altogether. With the perfect response, Johnson struck a cord with the proud and zealous Mary, who quickly got back to work and completed the piece.

Mary lived and loved fiercely. She is a shining example of a woman who fought for the right to CHOSE her own life path, which is what most feminist leaders have called for from the beginning. She wanted to be the one who decided what her life would look like. She enjoyed living and writing as a single woman in London and Paris. She likewise enjoyed living in a small cottage with a simple garden outside the city and raising her child (very much parallel to the happy suburban housewife).  What stayed constant in Mary’s life was her passion to carve her own path, the high value she placed on reason and education, and the overall driving desire for independence that informed much of her life’s trajectory.

If Mary could send in a definition of beauty, it might look something like this:

Mary Wollstonecraft Definition

Beauty is…little hands doing big things.

Daniela and her family make beautiful birthday cakes for kids who are dealing with hardships. She hand delivers them to the birthday boy or girl and sings them “Happy Birthday.” All while fighting her own battle.

Daniela Delgado is just like any other 8 year old girl. She goes to school, loves reading and participating in running club, and spending time with her family.

But Daniel is also extraordinary. She and her family make beautiful birthday cakes for kids who are dealing with hardships. She hand delivers them to the birthday boy or girl and sings them “Happy Birthday.” All while fighting her own battle.

Daniela took some time out of baking and running and reading to answer a few questions for OperationalizeBeauty.

(Warning: you may experience renewed feelings of hope for our future after reading this interview.)

Who she is: Daniela Delgado from Daniela’s Little Wish

What she does: Bake birthday cakes at no cost  for kids with life threatening illnesses or disabilities and kids suffering a sad situation in their lives.

Where she does it: Stamford, Connecticut, but I travel all around Connecticut to deliver my cakes and now I am starting a project to deliver cake toppers to other states (sadly not the cakes, I cannot send them).

Meet Daniela

I am 8 years old and  I am  from Stamford, CT.  I do not have siblings. I live with my parents, both are immigrants from Colombia (my mom) and Mexico (my dad) and I am so proud to call myself Colombian-Mexican-American. Like a normal girl I play with my dolls, I love reading books (it is my passion, too) and do exercise (I am in a running club to be healthy). I have a beautiful 3 pound of “hair” yorkie and I love to camp. I love nature and animals.

My mom always said that I am very mature for my age and I agree! I help my parents not to worry about me. I am never mean to anybody and I am very respectful to others and especially adults (I love to talk with them).  My parents are raising me well, teaching me good values and morals.

I love to help others. I am so happy with myself!!

P.S I am a little disorganized but I am working on that!!

What is Von Willebrand and how does it affect you?

I have a health condition called Severe von Willebrand Disease Type 1. It is a condition that can cause extended or excessive bleeding. The condition is most often inherited (my mom has it too) and it is a deficiency in our impairment of a protein called von Willebrand factor, an important component in your blood-clotting process. In general, it takes longer for people with von Willebrand disease to form clots and stop bleeding when they’re cut.

I live a normal life. I just have to be very careful not to hit my head, my stomach, or my inner arms. I have to avoid contact sports and stay away from heights of more than 8 feet. I always carry with me special medication that could save my life in case of minor and big accidents. My school and my classmates have to know about my condition and avoid rough play with me. I feel special because I have a nurse in school that takes care of me and the secretary of my school, Patti, always takes care of my minor boo-boos and calls my mom about the incident. I am having nose bleeding episodes without a reason and my mom taught me how calm I have to be, lay down, pinch my nose in a special place, take my medicine and rest for a while.  I always wear a medical  bracelet with my condition and it is good because in case of accidents doctors and paramedics know what to do. My body is changing, so I can expect any effect related with my condition. I do not feel shy or different to anybody, I just have to be careful with myself.

Tell me a little about Daniela’s Little Wish. When did you start DLW? What inspired you to start? What exactly do you do?

Well, I started this community group when I was just 4 years old. My mom and dad were making a cake and I raised my magic wand (spatula) and wished that I could make cakes for kids suffering in this world with sickness, disabilities, domestic violence and any situation that makes them feel sad or different.

Continue reading “Beauty is…little hands doing big things.”

Beauty is…how kind you are

Four years ago Daniela made a wish. She wished that she could make cakes for kids that were suffering with sickness, disability, domestic violence, or “any situation that made them feel sad or different.”

Meet Daniela Delgado.

All of our posts this week will revolve around this beautiful little lady.

At only eight years old, Daniela is reminding us what beauty really looks like.

Four years ago (yeah, that’s right, she was only four years old) Daniela made a wish. She wished that she could make birthday cakes for kids that were suffering with sickness, disability, domestic violence, or “any situation that made them feel sad or different.” Because every kid deserves a cake on their birthday.

And she has been baking up a sweet storm ever since.

Learn more about Daniela and her incredible work in tomorrow’s post.

Beautiful is how nice you are.
Beautiful is how nice you are.

Beauty is…rocking it!

Shelby is all about sharing her story, supporting other women with PCOS, and eating all the M&Ms

Who you are: Shelby aka PCOS Support Girl

What you do: Certified Fitness Nutrition and Weight Loss Specialist (NASM), Online health and fitness coach, Founder of PCOS Positivity, Full Time mom

Where you do it: From my home in Atlanta GA!


On your blog you describe yourself as a PCOS sufferer and ED warrior. Can you talk about what those two things are and how they affect your life?

I have always been the ‘big’ girl in my life. Out of 4 girls, I was the only one who significantly suffered with weight and health issues. I was always the biggest girl in my group of friends who couldn’t borrow any of their clothes because my boobs were too big or my belly too round. I was the chubby girl on dance team who dreaded the days we had to wear the crop top uniform to games. I vividly remember pretending to have the stomach flu those days.

Struggling with my weight, low self esteem and pressure from every direction to be a certain size or weight lead to my long rocky road with disordered eating (for more of my ED story).

I didn’t know it then, but part of my body weight issues were amplified by having PCOS, orShelbyPCOS Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS affects approximately every 1 in 10 women of reproductive age.   Symptoms and complications of PCOS include: ovarian cysts, amenorrhea, hirsutism, acne, insulin resistance, weight gain, anxiety, depression, fatigue, hypertension, Type II Diabetes, and infertility.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t know one other single person going through what I was going through with my disordered eating and PCOS. I turned to social media, looking to connect with maybe one person who knew what I was going through. I was amazed by how many women I met going through the same things. So I decided to connect and help as many people as I could and built the PCOS Positivity community, a network of women across the world who come to together to share support and promote self love and acceptance.

The biggest thing these battles have done for me has set me on my path to self love and acceptance. I want to help others understand they are not alone. I want people to know loving yourself is not easy. Whoever says it is, is a liar. It’s a deliberate decision. And you have to work at it everyday.  And hating yourself is exhausting. It really is. I got so tired of disliking myself.

I had to think WHY do I dislike this about me? Why is it so wrong to be okay with who I am, flaws and all?  The truth is, I am not your poster girl for perfect anything by any of society’s standards. But why is what society thinks of me any of my business? I had to decide that what others think of me is none of my business. And to be honest, in the end it just didn’t matter. What mattered was if I liked myself. The minute you stop searching for gratification and fulfillment from outside sources is the moment you can be who you really are.

I am not saying I don’t stop and think about what I post before I do it. I have questioned if I am sharing too much, or being too vulnerable. Too open and exposed. Too much. I always ask myself before posting anything:

If my daughter was posting this, would I be proud?

As long as I am being true to myself, and being an example of the kind of woman I want to raise, I’m confident in sharing myself.

But you will always be too much for someone. Not everyone will get what you do. Doesn’t mean you should quit doing it.

There is freedom in knowing who you are, and not being afraid of it. The minute you stop caring what people think about you is the minute you can focus on more important things.

Loving Yourself

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was growing up. It changed daily. I wanted to be anything from a dance teacher to a math teacher. Indecisive, much?  It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I found my true passion in helping and supporting other women. It is so true when they say, “You know you’ve found your calling when you wake up wanting to go to work.” I enjoy every second of the work I am doing.

You talk about your journey to health on your blog. What does that look like for you– what is your “ideal” state? What are your goals and how are you working toward them?

It’s simple. I want to be happy and healthy. I want to know that even though I have this ShelbyHealthycondition and have had these struggles, It’s not who I am. I am a mother and a friend and a woman of strength. I just happen to have a shitty endocrine disorder and an eating disorder.

As far as what I want to contribute to these communities, I want to be an example to anyone living with these battles of a REAL woman with REAL struggles that is living a happy healthy life despite her diagnosis. I want to continue to share my stories in hopes of helping others.  I want to be a positive example of how being positive and loving yourself despite your struggles can be just as healing and productive as the physical aspects of treatment.

And most importantly, I want to be the person I needed at 14. I want to let younger girls know that they aren’t alone. They aren’t any less worthy or pretty or lovable because of their diagnosis.

I have PCOS. So what? PCOS sucks, but I don’t have to. I’ve battled the demons of disordered eating. That doesn’t define me. I want to see women overcoming, living life fully, surviving. I want to see how women can take a negative and turn it into a positive. But most of all, I want to be around women who support other women. Because positivity breeds positivity. Being real and sharing our stories encourages others to do so. And everyone’s stories have something someone can relate to. Can feel less alone in. Find strength from.

What is the best song to sing in the shower?

What song ISN’T the best song to sing in the shower is the better question. My go to is always Britney. Or Journey. Now Don’t Stop Belevin’ is going to be stuck in my head.

What is the best piece of advice you have heard? What was the worst?Not a bad life

It’s a bad day, not a bad life. It’s a reminder for me that you just need to take everything one day at a time. Forgive yourself for your past, accept yourself in the present, and work on the future.

Worst advice I’ve ever heard is Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. First off, Kate Moss, you’ve clearly never had Hawaiian rolls. But more importantly, it just promotes disordered eating. Everyone thinks being ‘skinny’ or a certain size or weight brings this magical euphoric happiness. I have been everything from a size 0 to a size 18, and I can tell you I was just as unhappy at both sizes.

How do you spend your down time? Favorite books, shows, movies?

When I do find myself with down time, I enjoy a bubble bath, a good book, music and a big glass of Shiraz. I love reading self help books. I spend most of my days being a support system and uplifting others. I find it’s a nice break to try to help my mind so I can better help others. Currently I’m reading, “ You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.

Image from

If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be and what one question would you ask?

Betty White. I think there is such a beauty in her nature. Behind the funny words and humorous quips is a woman with powerful, empowering words. My favorite quote of hers is, “I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about people so much.” I think I would just pick her brain. There is something so intriguing to me about a woman who is completely herself, unapologetically.

M&Ms: peanut or regular (or crispy, or peanut butter, or…)

All of the above. Have you tried the coconut ones? They are amazing!

What did you have for breakfast this morning? What is your guilty pleasure?

I just finished up a egg white omelet, a ton of bacon (because, well, PROTEIN) and tomato slices. I don’t get why everyone dislikes tomatoes so much. They’re delicious

Guilty pleasure, eh? Which one? I would have to say reality TV and long strolls down every aisle at Target. Alone. With a 6 shot iced skinny latte.

Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you want to chat about?

You have to just forgive yourself. So you’re 60 lbs heavier than you were on your wedding day? So you ate a whole pizza and drank a whole bottle of wine last night because they killed McDreamy on Greys? It happens. Everyone struggles. Everyone falls down. It’s not the falling down and failing and binge eating cheeseballs that makes it a failure. You’re human. Welcome to the club. There’s like, 7 billion of us. The failure comes in not getting back up. Wake up the next day, get your ass to the gym or get to the grocery store or quit rescheduling that doctors appointment you’re afraid to go to. Just keep going. And if you get stuck, find help to get you unstuck. We are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to be flawed. Quit beating yourself up and start focusing on your shit. Take it one day at a time.

What is your definition of beauty?

Beauty is knowing who you are, being proud of it, and rocking it. I’ve never felt more beautiful than now. There’s such happiness in being yourself unapologetically.

Knowing who you are

Need more Shelby in your life? Check her out on her blog, or on any of these social media platforms:

Instagram logofacebook logoTwitter logo


All of the beautiful images in this post were right from Shelby’s site and her Facebook page (well, except for that shot of Betty White). The edits were done by little ole me.

Beauty is…climbing mountains.

I was never athletic growing up. I did beauty pagents and McDonald’s commercials. Not soccer and softball.

You know that beautiful quote, “She believed she could. So she did”? I have loved that quote for many a moon.

But today I did not believe I could. But I did.

She didn't believe she could.


We are lucky to live near several parks and recreation areas. We have bike trails out the wazoo. One such trail leads to one such park– a state park that is riddled with hills. It is where cyclists go to die. Leading into the park, there is a mountain. Ok, we are in central Missouri, so it is really more of a hill. Anyhoo, I decided today would be a good day for a nice 20 mile ride. It has been a while since I have gone that kind of distance, and I would really like to participate in a “metric century” (67 mile bike ride) in the summer. So I though today was the day to do some training. I hoped on the trail and planned to head in the direction of the big scary state park. I knew I was not quite ready for the hills therein, but I thought I could handle the road TO the park. As I happily coasted down the never-ending hill that led to the park entrance, it dawned on me. I would have to turn around at some point. I would have to go UP this beast. Not going to lie. At that point, I cussed a little.

Flash back to TWO summers ago. In another state park near us. My husband is patiently teaching me HOW TO RIDE A BIKE. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. My 30 year old booty was on a bicycle seat for the first time. I got to the point where I could go straight. But turning was out of the question. And those little pillars at the beginning of trails that indicate cars are not allowed– they were terrifying. I was sure I would crash into each one. And I did hit a few. I would walk my bike DOWN hills lest I get to going too fast and loose control. I would walk my bike UP hills because my legs just could not do that. I was a mess. Not even a hot mess. Just a mess. But I kept peddling.


Today that hill seemed to have no end. Going up it, I remember thinking at least three times, “Yeah, I can’t do this. Pull into that driveway.” But then that driveway was behind me. So I thought, “OK, at THAT sign I am going to have to stop.” But then the sign was behind me. Why wasn’t I stopping?! I literally NEVER told myself to keep going. I never said “You can do it self! Slow and steady! You got it!” There was literally NO positive self-talk. And then, I was at a flat bit. And the mother of all hills was behind me. What just happened?!

When I got home I texted my husband: “I climbed the hill outside Babler!” He expressed File_000his pride. And I realized that these physical feats mean a lot to me. I was never athletic growing up. I did beauty pageants and McDonald’s commercials. Not soccer and softball. The lessons I learned doing those things were many: Eye contact is a lost art, casting does not have time for your silly questions (for real though, don’t ask Danny Goldman what your motivation is), it feels damn good to command a stage (even if you don’t know you are doing it at the time), practice practice practice, be articulate (those interviews, man!), go to every audition no matter how “small” the part is, win gracefully, loose gracefully, and always ALWAYS thank the judges.

What I didn’t learn then is what I get to learn now– the awesome things my body CAN DO! Did you know I can run?! I got that handy “Couch to 5k” app last summer– and I ran 3 miles straight MULTIPLE TIMES! I even got the “Couch to 10K” app in my exuberance. I got up to about 5 miles STRAIGHT. But that shiz takes a long time. Now I’m back to nice little 2 milers. And I can RIDE A BIKE! Those things are crazy– just two little wheels holding you up! Like high heels, but scarier! Because stilettos can’t go 20 miles an hour. Human bums were not meant to sit on those little seats for long periods of time. But we do! Because we can!

I have spent a while saying things like, “I’m not a runner, but…” or “I’m not a cyclist, but…” I think that is toro poo-poo. Do you run? Yes? You’re a runner. Do you pedal a bike for any distance at all? You are a cyclist. I bought my bike from a second-hand bike/coffee shop. I do not have those cool, but so easy to make fun of, padded shorts. Sometimes I forget which finger to use to change my gears correctly. But I am a cyclist. Just ask that hill outside of Babler.



#WCW: Lessons From Mom

Mother’s Day is behind us and we have all moved on from the cards, flowers, and brunches. But I still have a couple of things to say about my mom.




My #WCW this week was easy. Mother’s Day is behind us and we have all moved on from the cards, flowers, and brunches. But I still have a couple of things to say about my mom.

I last saw my mom in March. Before that it had been two years since I had seen that smile. Maybe it’s because I am a bit older, maybe it is because I am a bit wiser, but with every conversation and with every visit, I am becoming more and more aware of the lessons my mom has taught me and is continuing to teach me.


Here are a few things I learned from her on her last visit:

Take Care of Yourself. The very first stop we made after I picked her up from the airport was to Sally Beauty Supply. We got hair “masks” and face masks. She had brought 16 bottles of nail polish. We may have looked a fright with those masks on, but we had one heck of a time sitting around the table, putting each other’s masks on and meandering around YouTube looking for cute designs to put on our nails. We laughed at videos and marveled at some of the designs these ladies were doing. We took our time. We did things that served absolutely no one but ourselves. And that is ok.

Put your phone down. My mom works mostly from home, so being close to her phone and her laptop is a necessity. Nevertheless, there would be times her phone would ring and she would NOT run to answer it. That little device did not control her life. She was engaged with the people in front of her. The phone could wait.

Labels have only the power you give them. We hear that words are not supposed to hurt us. The truth, though, is that they do. If someone puts a label on you that you would not put on yourself, I do think it is healthy to examine it. Am I selfish? Am I rude? But as you examine it you cannot let it consume you. Be aware of your actions. Be conscious of how your actions affect others. But, ultimately, if the label does not describe the person you actually are– the person that people who love you see– let it go. Do not give the label (and the person doing the labeling) power over your life and your actions. Or, in other words:

Graffiti in St Louis. “Make no harm. Take no shit.”



Feng Shui. The second day she was here, my mom re-did the girls’ room, had them get IMG_1195 (1)rid of 20-something items, and sketched out the different areas of our apartment according to Feung Shui. She made a list of what items and elements needed to be in each section of the house. She swept our front stoop and put coins under our doormat. We painted some rocks gold and cleared everything out from in front of the windows. We put the toilet lids down. We went and got a couple of Feung Shui books. We have a lot of work still to do, but it felt good to de-clutter a bit and make a little room for some good chi.

Get a bigger purse. We were getting ready to head out the door, when my oldest daughter asked me to put something of hers in my purse. She was holding her own purse when she asked, so I told her to put it in there. She responded that her purse wasn’t big enough, to which my mom and I both replied, “Get a bigger purse!” Sometimes we look to others to solve our problems, but if we take a step back the solution is actually quite simple. I wonder how many of the world’s problems could be solved if we only carried a slightly bigger purse…

Pause. Think. Then verbalize (The classic, “If you don’t have anything nice to say….”). We have all heard it a million times, and for good reason. This one was directed at my often-quarreling daughters. They bicker about the most ridiculous things. My first inclination is to remind them of the big picture–my own version of “Eat your Brussels sprouts because there are starving children in Africa.” My mom went a different route: Think Before You Speak. Is this worth fighting over? Are my words helping the situation? Can I find a solution, rather than just complain about the problem?

Sunrise (but not over the Smokey Mountains)

Until you have seen the sun rise over the Great Smokey Mountains, you haven’t lived. My mom describes herself as a gypsy. And, having lived in multiple states and traveled to a ton of countries, she has walked the walk. As my husband and I are getting older, and our girls are getting less high maintenance, our wanderlust is beginning to grow. There are so many places we want to see, but so little time. We have set some goals (with the guidance of my mama) and we are checking off our list. The bottom line here: Get. Out.


Just because you have the right to say something, doesn’t mean you should. This one was directed at the girls as well. I have tried to be open with them, and have made a real effort to not answer their “But WHY..?!?!?!” with an equally annoying “Because I said so!!!” I haven’t demanded they blindly obey me. In fact, I try to encourage them to formulate their arguments and be able to articulate their point of view. I want them to be able to stand up for themselves. I am afraid of them being victimized (now or in the future) because they have learned that they must do what they are told to do by an authority figure, regardless of how they feel about it. The down side of this is that I get A LOT of backtalk. I mean A LOT. Hearing my kids argue with me was almost too much for my southern mama. She wants them to be able to stand up for themselves, too, but she showed me that they really don’t need to be standing up for themselves so often…against ME! Yes they have the right to express themselves in ways children of past generations never did. But when it comes to things like brushing their teeth and making their beds, just because they have the right to argue does not mean they should.

IMG_1196Vision boards. We talked about having goals for the year, and about writing those goals down. We created vision boards to help us stay focused. I love planning, so the act of writing down some very specific things I want to get done this year and then creating a vision board out of those goals was very cathartic for me. The girls got into it, too. Now, when they are bored, I ask them if they have been working towards anything on their vision boards!


My mom has been through a lot in her life. She has lost loves, survived abuse, and has raised me mostly on her own. Though there are countless lessons she has taught me, one of the biggest is to WORK. You want that job? Work. You want that vacation? Work. You want that house on the hill? Work. No one can look out for you all the time, so you have to take that responsibility on yourself. It sounds a little sad at first, to say that there will not always be someone there to take care of you. But if you think about it, it is really empowering. It means you are in control of your life, your future, your happiness. It means you get to decide what you will do today that serves you. It means you get to learn about you– what makes you feel fulfilled and satisfied and whole. It means the world is at your feet. But it also means:

you better work

Thanks, mom.

Beauty is…radiant authenticity

May is National Fitness Month, so all month we will be talking to women who inspire health and happiness #MotivationMonday

According to her site, Shauna is a nerd, a jock, and a hip-hoppin’ yogi.

She holds degrees from Stanford, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins.

She is an athlete who is sponsored by Under Armour and teaches fitness classes all over the bay area.

She is also a scholar, with a PhD in Public Health.

In June, Shauna will be in Arizona speaking at the Girls For Progress conference, an even that was created by a 12 year old girl to inspire girls to change the world.

Now that is beautiful.

Photo by Dana’s Eye Photography



Can you share one of your favorite memories from growing up? When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Favorite memory growing up was the day I got into Stanford. When I was little, if you asked me what I wanted to be, I would’ve said, “I want to go to Stanford.” Clearly, not the answer to the question, but that’s all I could focus on.

On your site you describe yourself as a jock AND a nerd. What were your most challenging experiences in each arena? What got you through them?

Photo by Matt Roy Photography


Physically [aka as a jock] the most challenging things have been in body acceptance, which I struggled with more when I was younger, but is still a constant challenge now and dealing with injury. I don’t know that I’ll ever “get through” the body image thing, but I definitely get better at letting it go. I focus more on what my body can do, rather than what it looks like and that has been game changing for me. Dealing with an injury as an athlete is always traumatizing, often more mentally and emotionally than anything else. Again, it’s about refocusing attention from the fact that I can’t do something to what I actually CAN do and how amazing the body is at healing.

On the nerd side, the most challenging was very distinguishably my PhD. By far, it was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it taught me the most about my ability, work ethic, mental and emotional strength, relentlessness, and endurance. It’s a lengthy process with tons of steps along the way. Looking too far ahead was incredibly overwhelming, so I had to be present with where I was, put my head down, ignore any doubts and just work my ass off. Those are all things that I continue to apply now.

You are a health and nutrition expert. What is your guilty pleasure?

I don’t allow guilt around food, so I don’t have one. I am ok with eating whatever in moderation and with consciousness.

What was the best piece of advice you have received? What was the worst?

Best: Write your own rules. Worst: I don’t remember probably because I just stopped listening!

Pepsi or Coke?

No, thanks. 😉

What is the best song to sing to in the shower or when you are alone in the car?

Anything 90’s rap.

Photo by Matt Roy Photography

What is your ideal state? (In a perfect world, what are you doing? Where are you living? Who is surrounding you?) How will you get there?

I am currently living in my perfect world for me at this moment. That may change in the future, but this is where I’m supposed to be right now and this is what I’m supposed to be doing, so it’s perfect for me!

Just about everyone has something they want to improve about their health or physical state. How do you recommend they get started?

Find something that you like or that piques your curiosity. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it. Period.

What is your definition of beauty?

I think there’s beauty in authenticity. There’s something about when the inner heart and soul comes shining out to the rest of the world that is magnetic and magic. It’s when you wear your inner you on your physical body. It’s radiant authenticity.

Beauty is... radiant authenticity
Photo by TRX Training. (Edits mine)