5 Steps to Focus on Friday and Motivate for Monday!

Everyone who works a regular workweek of Monday through Friday, dreads Monday. The weekend is a nice buffer between the two days, but it gives us a sense of a freedom, a chance to remove ourselves from the humdrum of work life, so we can live life.  We may get more family time if we have kids.  We may just look forward to sleeping in.  We may find ourselves enjoying a mix of fun and catching up on work.  The point is, we usually have a choice about how we want to use our time on the weekend, so when Monday rolls around, we rebel.  How can we make our Mondays more manageable?

Here are the top 5 ways to make Monday easier for us to handle:

1.  The one thing that can be done to make Monday better is to utilize Friday a little more appropriately.  Many people fall into “it is the end of the week, it is Friday, I am so done mentality,” making Friday the least efficient day.  The problem with this is that this means it is time wasted.

2.  Tie up loose ends for the week so you are not worrying about what wasn’t completed over the weekend when you should be getting a break.  This will also keep you from starting Monday out already behind.

3.  Work ahead a little on next week’s work if you have already finished everything else you have to have done for the current week.  This could put you ahead and make your time on Monday less rushed.

4.  Make a list  of things that need to be completed, started, or planned on Monday.  Having a to-do list will make your day easier because it is already planned.  Just make sure you leave room for things that come up last minute.

5.  Prioritize Monday’s work so you will know what is the most important thing to be done first.  If you get the most difficult or dreaded items out of the way right off the bat, you will find the rest of the day will go smoother.

If we used our Friday better by focusing on the details and preparing for the next week, we could make Monday less of a monster for us.  Now is your chance to start as Friday winds down, and the weekend is looming ahead.  Plan for a better Monday today!


The Transformative Nature of Education!

There is so much controversy over education right now.  Prices of a degree can be difficult for many people and the job market makes many question the value of a degree.  There are many articles out there with statistics telling people whether a college degree is worth it.  For the most part, everything I have read seems to show a higher level of income for degree earners in many fields, but this post is going to explore something else.  Education is not just about the income that will be earned later.  Education holds a treasure that goes beyond the paycheck, it is transformative for the learner.

As a college student who has spent six years juggling full-time education and a family to earn two degrees, I can say I have gained much more than I anticipated from my years in college.  Perhaps it is the fact that I am at an all women’s day college right now, but I have become truly empowered.  I have found the professors at Cedar Crest College to be inspiring, always challenging me to become stronger and better.  The small class sizes instill an environment of collaboration, and I have gained much from this.  I have learned to speak about my beliefs and ideas with conviction, and I have grown as a public speaker.  I have gained confidence and determination.  I am an active leader who takes charge and builds professional relationships with people based on trust.  I can collaborate, network, negotiate, and accomplish more that I though possible.  I have changed drastically.

Beyond the skills I have attained and the confidence I have built, I have also learned a great deal about myself.  I have found that I am passionate about more than writing.  I now know that I love leadership roles and teamwork.  I enjoy being challenged, and I have a passion for advocacy roles in various areas.  I have learned that my career goals can be expanded and I can aim for more than I intended.  My education has given me the gift of knowledge about the business world, and the analytical thinking skills needed to solve and analyze problems.  It has also helped to uncover the potential I had hidden deep inside myself.  While there are debates about the value of education all over the web, I find the lessons I have learned to be invaluable.

I will carry my education with me as I move forward into a rewarding life because I am now much richer than when I began college.  Richer, in the sense that the treasure I have is a better understanding of myself and a realization that the possibilities for my future are limitless.  In fact, I now know that the only thing that ever truly limited me from reaching for my dreams before was myself.  I could never put a price tag on the education I have received because its value cannot be measured.  Confidence, empowerment, skills, friendships, connections, and personal growth are worth the student loans I will owe and so much more.  I know not every student will have the same experience, but that is because they choose not to.  We can make our education great by tapping into each resource offered, and becoming involved.  This is how I made the most of my education, and it has truly transformed me.  I hope more young men and women choose to do the same because it can make the difference between a career at the end, or a struggle.

Advocacy Blog Series: Parents as Advocates

I think it is crucial to discuss the aspect of advocacy that blends into the role of parenting.  When a child is born, the parent is automatically the advocate unless the child is a ward of the state or another family member.  There is an instant responsibility that goes deeper than basic care and devotion.  Every time that child has a problem, is ill, needs supportive services in school, requires a legal guardian for sports, or anything else, the parent falls into the role and becomes the child’s advocate.  Some parents take to this quite easily, and if they are lucky, they will make it through the 18 years of guardianship without a hiccup.  However, it is likely that something will happen.  The child will probably be hospitalized at some point, they may require counseling for depression or more severe mental illnesses, they may be a victim of bullying or abuse, and they may have a physical illness.  It is almost guaranteed that a parent will face at least one serious issue where they must advocate for their child.

What does this mean?  It means you must be willing to be informed, to question, to learn, research, have sleepless nights, make tough decisions, and do whatever else may be necessary to help your child get the help they need.  The system, whether educational, medical, state, or judicial, should be there to support you and your child as well, but things can go wrong.  Even the people working in the system may make misinformed decisions, stereotypical assumptions, or mistakes.  This is why it is so important for parents to put the extra effort in.  here are a few examples:

When my son struggled with mental health issues that threatened the safety of my family, we had to research his conditions, understand the medications, seek residential care, and fight the doctor who attempted to place him in a group home where he would have ended up in the state system.  It was not easy.  In fact, most of my days were spent researching, making phone calls, or sending emails.  The one truly important lesson I took away from this situation was the need to document everything.  When the doctor was acting unethically, I began to copy very detailed emails about his plans and our concerns to people in the government, at the top of the insurance company, and advocacy agencies.  This had a major impact, all info was documented, and he was fired.  We were able to get my son into a facility that was able to help him.

When my daughter was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, we were shocked at first.  Thankfully, I had an incredible woman at the hospital who was an advocate for me as I tried to get my daughter on SSI.  It was a nightmare, and I had suffered abuse over the phone from my local SSI representative.  I was not strong enough at this point to fight, but this woman helped me, she fought for me, and was a perfect example of why advocacy is important.  After I grew stronger, and did some research, my life became about doing everything I could to care for my daughter.  My husband and I were proactive, we kept medication logs, medical records, notes, and anything we could to help track her care between surgeries.  This was another example of the need for documentation, but also the realization that outside help from an advocate can be incredibly helpful.

Finally, in the educational arena, we have had to work very closely with my son’s schools to accommodate his disabilities.  He has had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) since he was in kindergarten, and it was very useful.  For a parent, it can be confusing at first, but there are a few things you can do to help.  First, read the school’s handbook, next, research IEPs, and look at specific state regulations.  Pay attention to your child and how he/she learns, responds, calms, or reacts at home.  Take notes on a regular basis about things that help and things that do not.  This is information you can supply in IEP meetings.  The more knowledgeable you are about the school system and what accommodations can be made, the better you can be at advocating for your child.  You also need to be open to recommendations.  If something doesn’t feel right, say no, but listen to reasoning first, and do not be afraid to ask questions.

These are only a few examples, but they truly express the ones that stand out to me as learning experiences.  Every parent will need to step into this role in some way, and some more than others.  Do not fault yourself for mistakes, or feel guilty when you miss something.  There are handbooks everywhere, but none that can truly guide you in your specific situation.  As an advocate, it often feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but if you reach out for others, you may be surprised at who is there, and who has been through similar experiences.  Please feel free to share your experiences.


Advocacy Blog Series: Narrative Medicine

So what is Narrative Medicine, and how can it help in advocacy?  Continuing from yesterday’s post, I want to explore the communication gap between medical professionals and patients or caregivers.  Unfortunately, there are many cases where a patient or caregiver is afraid to speak up or not sure how to speak with a medical professional.  They may feel ignored or mistreated in some way.  This is not always the professionals fault.  In fact, the burden is often carried equally due to miscommunication, lack of knowledge, or because of other issues.

In my experience as a parent with two sick children.  I have had to be a strong advocate for them.  There were many instances where I was ignored because the professional did not feel I knew or understood my child’s condition.  In fact, my daughter’s heart condition required extremely low oxygen saturation between her first and second surgery.  If her oxygen was turned up, it could flood her lungs and cause serious problems.  One nurse came into her hospital room and attempted to turn up her oxygen when she saw how low her sats were, and I had to assert myself and my knowledge.  She did not want to listen and I demanded she go read my daughter’s chart while I turned the oxygen back down.  Needless to say, she did apologize and a note was put on the oxygen control to warn anyone else.

I had some other problems with incorrect medication dosage, but for the most part, the professionals I worked with were incredible.  In fact, at Denver Children’s Hospital where 3/4 of my daughter’s hospitalizations were, we had doctors who listened and stood by us.  My daughter’s cardiologist always remembered her and us, and that personal touch made me feel like he saw her for the little girl she was, not just a patient.  This is not always the case.  Many people have different experiences.  Professionals are pushed harder to get patients in and out as quickly as possible.  Technologies are introduced that make fields a drop down box and tale the personal storytelling out of patient care.  This is where patients begin to feel alienated in a sterile environment and professionals feel analytical instead of connected.  This is why narrative medicine can help.

Columbia University is the pioneer of the narrative Medicine program, and I highly recommend a visit to their site.  The work they do is incredible and it was headed by Rita Charon.  You can watch her YouTube video below.

In my own Narrative Medicine class with Gillian Pidcock, I learned a great deal about the process and how beneficial it can be for various people.  As a person who wishes to be an advocate and a writer who helps parents and caregivers with sick family members, I see how this process can benefit me.  In health advocacy, often stories of trauma are held onto.  We keep these stories in when they need to be born into the world.  If we can help our patients find a way to express what ails them through writing their narrative, we can lessen the heavy load they bear.  If we can help medical professionals let go of the clinical side of their job and connect to stories where they were challenged by a situation or where they felt the humanity in what they do, we can help professionals connect to their patients a little more.  We can also help people let go of the stress these stories contain.  Narrative Medicine can benefit patients, caregivers, family members, professionals, and anyone else who works in this field and more.

As an advocate, think about the ways narrative can spread.  If the medical field can benefit, so can social work, law enforcement, psychology, and so much more.  As humans, we want to open up, share our stories.  It is natural and beneficial to do so.  Please share any comments you may have on this important subject.


Empowering Women Series: Gratitude

Today is Thanksgiving, and it carries with it the traditional aspect of giving thanks, or showing gratitude for what we have and for the people in our lives.  This is an important tool when it comes to empowering women.  It may seem like common sense that we should be thankful, but sometimes, we do not see the various ways to express gratitude or realize who we should thank.  When women become empowered, it is because they have accepted support when it was available, reached for opportunities when they were in grasp, and they developed the skills necessary to become strong, determined, knowledgeable, and confident.  As women flourish, they should express gratitude for the opportunities and support they have had because it helps them to remember where they began, and to realize there are other women that need the same support.  The expression of gratitude can lead to the act of giving.

I am a woman who was blessed with a group of family and friends who supported me.  They encouraged me, stood beside me when I made difficult decisions, and listened to me.  Without these people, I may not be where I am now.  It takes a lot of strength to rise from abuse to become confident and accomplished.  I worked hard, but it is important for me to recognize the people who guided me along the way.  I have had professors and people in my network who validated me, and pushed me harder.  These people deserve my thanks.  I have been presented with opportunities that have made a huge difference in the direction of my life.  I had to grab the opportunities, apply for them, or work for them, but the fact remains that without them being available, I would not be where I am.  Part of being empowered is the realization that success, accomplishment, etc… is a group effort.  We all gain when we give.

Three types of gratitude can help you to bolster empowerment:

1.  A simple thank you to mentors, teachers, advisors, employers, family, or friends who have helped you become strong can not only strengthen your relationship, and it can inspire them to continue helping others.

2.  When you are grateful you may be more willing to give back and help another woman rise from abuse, lack of self-esteem, or any other situation that limits her.

3.  Any connection made when networking should be recognized, and if it was from a speech, or someone who offered stimulating conversation, a thank you email can encourage a stronger connection and make them more willing to associate with more rising women.

This is only a small list, and there are so many ways to express gratitude and various reasons to do so.  The important thing is to realize we are not born skilled and ready to take on the world.  We all take various paths, but there are people and experiences that help to make us stronger.  Without recognizing this, we miss an opportunity to forge stronger relationships and to give back.


Empowering Women Series: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  I could have posted yesterday about violence and how desperately we need to fight against the abuse that strips women and girls of their human rights.  However, I waited until today to make a point.  Violence, abuse, and inequalities plaguing women and girls lead to them living in poverty, contracting diseases, losing any chance for an education, and suffering indignities beyond comprehension.  Yet, the day recognizing this issue has past, and people who are not in this situation or working with women who have been in this situation can move on with their lives.  They thought about it, but now, they can move on until the next campaign or recognition takes place.  How does this fix the problem?

Awareness is key to finding resolutions, but if there are only certain days that this problem is brought to light, people will forget.  It is easy to forget what is not seen.  It is like the saying, “out of sight out of mind”.  The women and girls that are enduring appalling conditions right now need help.  The woman in the house down the street that hides her bruises with makeup, and looks down in the hopes people will not see her eyes where her story lies in wait, lies in wait for someone to rescue her.  She needs help right now.  The mother, sister, cousin, friend, and aunt who carry their abuse in silence need your help to reassure them their voice can and should be heard.

I was one of these women.  My first marriage was filled with physical, mental, and sexual abuse. I was forced to stay in the shadows of our apartment.  I was controlled, used, and treated as though I was nothing.  I lost every bit of self-esteem I had and I only left after my son was born because I knew he was worth more.  I did not recognize my worth at the time because that is what happens to women who are subjected to violence regularly.  I was lucky to have family who stood by me and helped me when they found out.  There are women who do not have anyone, and they are waiting for someone to find out, to help them.  I am strong now, and this is a topic I am very passionate about.  This is an issue that needs to be addressed daily because countless women are hurt daily.

When we make the world a place that is safe for women to open up about the pain and suffering they endure so they can find peace and protection, the world will become a better place.  When women are free to express themselves, get an education, and lead in their jobs and communities, their families, companies, and communities become stronger.  We need to be willing to speak up, help others, and hold the hands of those weakened by violence.  This is an international issue, but we can start in our own communities.  Support a women’s shelter, speak to abused women and offer them your strength and support, be the one who reports abuse if it is happening, and you can make a difference.


Empowering Women Series: Empowering Women Through Education

This blog post continues the Empowering Women Series by exploring the influence of education and how it can empower women.  As a woman, I have been pushed down many times in my life.  I did not fit into the mold popular girls fill in high school.  I spent most of my pre-teen and teen years trying to understand and help my mentally ill mom, and dealing with my own emotional breakdowns.  I did not value education as much as survival because I was not ready.

After high school, I realized there was a whole world out there.  I had spent so many years in my own narrow perspective and I was not as prepared to deal with life.  I made poor decisions because I had low self-esteem.  I craved love and attention, and I found it with an older man.  I married him at 18 years old.  He turned out to be abusive.  My life was contained within the tiny expanse of our apartment because he controlled me.  I will share more of this element of my life in my post on abuse this Wednesday.  I was defeated, and the only reason I left was because I valued my son’s life, not my own.

It is easy for girls to fall into the stereotypical worlds presented to them with marketing, toys, and television.  The media children are exposed to is exponentially high due to technological advancements.  While there are some improvements, and colleges tend to have more female students, there is still a lack of confidence that pervades women.  Men are more likely to be assertive and to negotiate when it comes to salary and other job perks.  Men are more likely to have mentors to teach and guide them into executive positions.  Women are more likely to be looked over for a job because they are of child-bearing age, or to be discriminated against if they are an expectant parent.  There are laws to protect women, but there are still many cases being brought forth because the playing field has not been leveled.

Education is becoming more and more critical for financial success and personal growth.  It is important for women to recognize that classes and homework are only one aspect of this education.  Achievement requires determination, and women willing to go the extra mile.  The classroom provides the knowledge, but a truly valuable education requires immersion in leadership opportunities, and networking.  I am currently attending Cedar Crest College, an all-women day college, and I have found the potential for growth is immeasurable.  This college, http://www.cedarcrest.edu/ca/index.shtm, is one that is valued for its relationship in the community, the support of donors, the recognition as a best value regional college in the north by US News & World Report, and because it empowers women.  In fact, the Women’s College Coalition website, http://womenscolleges.org/, produces encouraging statistics about the benefit women have when attending a women’s college.  I can say from my experience, Cedar Crest College has proven these statistics to me.  I am more confident, I feel ready to engage others in a career, I feel like I can lead, speak, and perform well.

Whether women choose an all-women college, or co-ed, they need to be ready to become assertive and to work hard.  Networking is crucial.  The career world still has a glass ceiling in some fields, and a gap in pay.  It is time for more women to gain the educational background, leadership experience, and drive to initiate change in the world.  From the cities and towns they live in, to the state, and federal level, women can make change.  Raise your voice, and join the cause for empowering women through education and more!


Empowering Women Series: The Truth in Numbers

I want to start this series by looking at data to determine where the weaknesses lie for women around the world, and specifically, in The United States. To empower women, we have to figure out how the structures of society, the marketing strategies, the government and private businesses, and perceptions weaken them. We cannot begin to fix a problem without understanding it. Moreover, even when we do understand it, we can only fix it one step at a time. The process for change is usually a long one, but with attention, the steps become larger, and the number of people involved in implementing change grows. Many organizations release campaigns as a catalyst for transformation, and one, which was recently brought about at the UN, is called HeforShe. If you have not seen the incredibly moving speech presented by Emma Watson, I have provided it for you.

What we need to understand is that women and young girls are typically brought up to see the world in a certain way, to embrace emotion instead of toughen up, to be weak, to not argue, and to do what we are told. The list continues. Boys are taught to be assertive, to be strong, to not cry, and so much more. We are all capable of the same things, with a few exceptions; yet, we force ourselves, and our children into specific roles, which could ultimately hinder us from becoming successful. If girls cannot grow up as assertive, how can they forge their way into a position as president? If boys cannot express emotion, how can they connect with patients as a therapist?
What does the data say? When studying the world overall, the website for The UN Women, looking at available data, finds that “Between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime” (UN Women, 2012). These numbers vary greatly across countries because the underdeveloped countries see more violence against women. We know young women are at a higher risk of being assaulted, but the numbers are staggering, “Worldwide, up to 50 percent of sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16” (UN Women, 2012). There are girls suffering from genitalia mutilation, and, as seen with the current crisis in the middle east, marriage and assault for girls as young as age 7. Human trafficking, which has found its way into even highly developed countries, has become an extremely profitable industry.
What these numbers show us is that violence is prevalent against women, and this creates an element of fear. If women are treated as objects, not provided an education, and expected to conform to inequality, how can they rise to fight or even know they have something to fight for?

The United States

          While we are free from much of this in The United States, there is still a high level of assault and abuse, sexual harassment, and inequality in the workforce. While The United States celebrates a society built on principles of equality, the numbers show otherwise. Women are finding their way to the top, but not in the numbers that should be expected.
In The United States, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four women will suffer from domestic violence in their lifetime (2007). Even more alarming, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (Rainn) reports “an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes” (2009). These numbers show how much abuse and assault against women is a part of our society, and it does not even address child abuse or emotional abuse. With statistics like this, it is easy to see how so many women still do not speak up in a job when it could lead to promotion, or how women may feel intimidated in a board room full of men.
What do employment statistics show for women in The United States? According to Employment Law for Business, while “47%, nearly half of the workforce, is female…women earn 75% as much as men at all levels of educational attainment” (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2012, pp 344). We know that more than half of college students are women, yet, “3 to 5 percent of top managers are women” (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2012. pp 347). These statistics are alarming, and something needs to change. There are various opinions on why women make less, and why fewer women hold top executive positions, and we will begin to explore this from an educational perspective tomorrow. If you would like to see me add something to this discussion, please comment, and please feel free to join in and discuss this important issue in the comments.


Bennett-Alexander, D. D., Hartman, L. P., (2012). Employment Law for Business. New York:McGraw-Hill. Print.
RAINN, (2009). Statistics. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Retrieved From https://www.rainn.org/statistics
UN Women, (2012). Fast facts: statistics on violence against women and girls. UN Women. Retrieved From http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html