Join Me at Kate Spade for Self-care, Sweets, and a Book Signing!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, which means many of us are busily plotting ways to express our love to spouses, lovers, and family members. Hope you've got a fun and romantic Valentine's (or Galentine's!) Day planned!

But as you're splurging on chocolates, bouquets and champagne, I hope you'll remember the importance of self-love and self-care, too. Feeling loved by others is an unparalleled joy, and loving others is one of the best ways to ensure a rich, full life … but so many of us forget to direct some of that TLC toward ourselves. If your tank is empty, you can't go the extra mile for loved-ones, so always remember to be kind and gentle to yourself.

With that in mind, I'm thrilled to be partnering with Kate Spade for a special event in March! See details below:

Join Barbara for a Celebration of Self-care!
Sunday, March 19, 2017
11 a.m.
Kate Spade New York
Fashion Valley Mall, 7007 Friars Road, San Diego, CA 92108

Copies of my book won’t be available at the event, but if you purchase from Amazon and bring in your copy, I'd be delighted to sign it for you. We'll have some sweet treats, chat about the importance of self-care, and shop the gorgeous spring collection together. 

Military personnel and military wives will receive a 15% discount on any purchases with valid ID and everyone who brings a purchased book will have the chance to enter a drawing for a FREE handbag. How could you pass that up?!

I'm so excited for this event because it gives me the chance to connect with you fantastic readers in-person and hear your stories. Plus, unlike some of my other speaking engagements, I'm hoping this Kate Spade event will bring together wives of wounded warriors, caregivers of all kinds, and non-caregivers who want to support and encourage women doing this important and under-appreciated work. I can't wait to have you all in one place for great conversation!

Please join me for this unique event, bring your book to be signed, and bring your thoughts to share. I can't wait to meet you and learn about your own unique journey. We'll have a belated Galentine's Day together, complete with treats, laughs, and seriously stylish accessories!

Hidden Heroes Summit

San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer

in partnership with

Southern Caregiver Resource Center

present

Hidden Heroes Cities Summit

 

Thursday, March 2, 2017 9:30am – 2:00pm

Recital Hall at Balboa Park

2130 Pan American Road East San Diego, CA 92101

 

FREE conference for Military & Veteran Caregivers

For more information please contact 800-827-1008 or visit caregivercenter.org

To RSVP please click here

 

Join fellow military and veteran caregivers as we explore methods to build hope and resiliency. Participate in educational sessions on grief and loss, communication as key to advocating for yourself and your family, and planning and decision-making when your partner has a traumatic brain injury or post- traumatic stress disorder. Meet fellow caregivers and service providers and join us for breakfast, lunch, community resources and opportunity drawings.

Tiger Women of Asia: Cambodia's Complex Matriarchy

I've just returned from a life-changing three-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. I was humbled and inspired by the “Tiger” Women I met during my travels, and have so many insights to share from my conversations with them. Here’s the third in a series of posts on the surprising and fascinating things I learned while traveling through the rural countryside.

Women in power

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Cambodia has a long history of matriarchy—a culture in which women are considered to be the more powerful and important gender. Females, especially mothers, often hold the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property. In fact, the first person to rule all of Cambodia, Queen Liu Ye, was a woman and because of her history and power, many Khmer (Cambodian) terms that reference status and power reference women. Even to this day, husbands must offer a dowry and are expected to move in with their wives’ families after marriage.

Nearly 95% of Cambodians follow Theravada Buddhism, a religion that includes some fascinating female figures. Among them is Kwan Yin, who is sometimes referred to as the “female buddha.” Kwan Yin sought and achieved enlightenment, and has long been worshiped as a goddess of compassion, beauty, and grace in many Asian countries, including Cambodia.

Apsaras, female spirits of clouds and water, also hold a sacred place in Cambodian culture. In mythology, Apsaras are gifted in the art of dancing, and Cambodian classical dance includes a mesmerizing Apsara dance done in full costume.

Worshiped and controlled

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But this rich history of women in power is counterbalanced by a culture of “purity.” A facet of women's value and significance in Cambodia is the belief that girls and women are like clean, white sheets of paper that must be kept pure. Families tend to be protective of their daughters, holding them back from education since traveling to school puts them at risk for rape and assault by sex traffickers.

These conflicting messages make moving through life as a Cambodian woman complex and challenging, to be sure.

Moving toward modernity

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The women I met during my own travels struck me as independent, wise, and grounded. I was thrilled to see multiple programs bringing bikes to young girls, allowing them to commute their way safely to and from school and further their educations. And connecting with pioneering entrepreneurs like Ms. Vy, who fearlessly built her business empire almost single-handedly, made it clear that many Cambodian women are moving beyond purity worries and toward a bright future.

Living within a culture that holds you in esteem but also holds you back from opportunity poses many challenges. But with their ingenuity, patience, intuition, and perseverance, it's clear that Cambodian women are ready to re-write the script and re-take their place of power in this traditionally matriarchal society!

Essential Archetypes: Honor the Sage Within Yourself

Last week, we continued exploring the four essential archetypes that inspired my foundation: Mother, lover, warrior, and sage. Today, let's discuss the Sage archetype.

A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
— Maya Angelou

When you hear the word “sage,” you might think first about the fragrant herb that’s a traditional part of the seasoning we enjoy for Thanksgiving dinners. Sage has one of the longest histories of any culinary or medicinal herb, and was used thousands of years ago in ancient Egyptian kitchens! 

But today, I want to focus on the other definition. The word sage also means “a profoundly wise person,”  referring to someone who is wise through reflection and experience. When you give someone “sage advice,” you give them sound advice gained through your life reflections and experiences. Wisdom is something that we often confuse with intelligence. Both have to do with deep knowledge, but while intelligence frequently stems from study, wisdom can flow from sources other than books. In fact, it often does.

Having a sage within you isn’t defined by book learning. You don’t need any academic degrees to be a sage. And although we often associate wisdom with decades of life experience, having a sage within you isn’t limited by age. You don’t have to be old to be a sage. 

Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

In fact, one of the wisest women alive is remarkably young: Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to win a Nobel Prize. In 2009—when she was just 11 years old—Malala wrote a blog post about living as a girl under Taliban occupation. She wrote passionately about her own desire to go to school, and how important she felt it was for all young girls in Pakistan to have the chance to learn. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an academic exam. She was punished for wanting girls to have access to education, targeted for her beliefs. Malala was only a teenager, but she listened to the sage within herself and spoke with courage about the importance of education for girls. 

Not all sages are battling for equal rights or embroiled in politics. Think of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote so eloquently about her emotional explorations in her book Eat, Pray, Love. Her willingness to share her personal journey inspired untold numbers of readers to make positive changes in their own lives. Think of Rachel Carson, whose writings were instrumental in the birth of American environmentalism. Think of Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland who forced women to think differently about fashion, and renowned chef Julia Child who forced women to think differently about cooking. Think of Oprah Winfrey, who began her journey as a journalist and ended it by positively impacting millions of women with her insights, kindness, and generosity. 

All are sages in their own ways.

Sages possess wisdom in many different areas and express that wisdom in many different ways. But they are all brave, and they are all driven, and they are all eager to continue learning. About themselves and about their worlds.

It is impossible to live without failing at something. Unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.
— J.K Rowling

So, how can you get in touch with the sage within yourself? How can you tap into her energy and use it to talk about the things that are important to YOU? Where is YOUR platform? And when you find it, will you USE it? Accessing this wisdom and bravery within yourself has nothing to do with status or money or degrees or job titles or power. It is about self-reflection, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge.

In conducting interviews for my new book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, I spoke with so many women who were thrust into overwhelming roles that made them feel anything but wise. But over the months and years, they found their inner sages emerging and guiding them. Many of the women I interviewed were still struggling to find their footing, but many more were grounded in hard-won wisdom gained through living the life of a wounded warrior's spouse. And the established sages I met were more than happy to reach out to the wives who still struggled. They were generous with their insights and eager to help their sisters comprehend and handle the complexities of their new roles.

And sometimes that's what it takes: An overwhelming new role or drastic life change that forces you to look inward. Sometimes the sage only emerges when you need her wisdom most.

But sometimes you can summon your sage just by focusing on your goals, your aspirations, the difference you want to make in the world. Or even the difference you want to make within yourself. As this new year unfolds, I hope you'll find a way to tap your inner sage and revel in her unparalleled wisdom.

“What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make."

Tiger Women of Asia: Ms. Vy's Entrepreneurial Spirit

I've just returned from a life-changing three-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. I was humbled and inspired by the “Tiger” Women I met during my travels, and have so many insights to share from my conversations with them. Here’s the second in a series of posts on the surprising and fascinating things I learned while traveling through rural countryside.

Building a delicious empire

Cooking and eating are two of my great joys in life, so as I was planning my trip I began to research cooking classes offered in Vietnam. Ms. Vy's classes quickly rose to the top of my wish list! She is a third generation cook whose family recipes have garnered recognition throughout the country, and she is generous enough to share her masterful skills with enthusiastic students.

Her story is a truly inspirational one! In 1992 Trinh Diem Vy opened her first restaurant, Mermaid, in her hometown of Hội An. It quickly became a destination for international diners and travelers, and she eagerly began to expand her empire. In 1994 she started offering cooking classes, and soon afterwards opened the Market Restaurant and Cooking School which still welcomes hundreds of students every year. More restaurants followed, and Ms. Vy now runs Cargo Club (a gorgeous café and patisserie) and Morning Glory in addition to Mermaid and the school.

In 2012, she published Taste Vietnam: The Morning Glory Cookbook, which sold more than 10,000 copies in its first two years in print. This is not a woman who rests on her laurels, but a driven, whip-smart entrepreneur!

A warm and welcoming teacher

I took just one class with Ms. Vy, but learned so much from her in a short period of time. The class included a boat trip from the Market Restaurant to Hoi An’s colorful central market and a lively tour of the market itself, followed by a master class that started with live cooking demonstrations and wrapped up with two hours of hands-on tutorials. We learned to make spring rolls and noodle dishes, and got to sample many other outstanding local delicacies.

Ms. Vy was a patient and meticulous teacher. As she demonstrated traditional cooking and prepping techniques, her deep passion for food and cooking shone through. Ms. Vy hasplayed an important role in keeping traditional recipes alive in her region, and it was clear that she took tremendous pride in her work as a chef and teacher.

Busting stereotypes

Many Westerners cling to the outdated stereotype of the Asian woman as quiet, meek, and retiring. Ms. Vy was never overbearing or strident, but her deep knowledge, intense passion for her craft, and incredible list of accomplishments made it clear that she was anything but meek! She has single-handedly created a world-renowned brand, a fleet of successful restaurants, and a thriving cooking school. Meeting her made it crystal clear to me that assuming Asian women will sit quietly in the background of their own lives is a huge mistake. Ms. Vy is a shining example of a talented, driven woman who honors her inner tiger every day.

Essential Archetypes: Why ALL Women Can Be Warriors

Last week, we continued exploring the four essential archetypes that inspired my foundation: Mother, lover, warrior, and sage. Today, let's discuss the Warrior archetype.

When life gives you something that makes you feel afraid, that’s when life gives you a chance to be brave.
— Lupytha Hermin

Do you consider yourself to be a warrior? Many of us don't. In fact, when I first started writing and speaking about the concepts of mother, lover, warrior, and sage, I learned that the “warrior” identity was the hardest for most women to embrace. The women I spoke with would tell me, “But I’ve never served in the military,” or “I don’t think of myself as a fighter.” I understood these comments and valued their honesty.

But in the big picture of women’s lives, being a “warrior” doesn’t always mean being a fighter.  It doesn’t always mean wearing a uniform and taking down enemies in combat. It doesn't always mean being physically strong and completely fearless. It certainly can, and many of the women we think of as quintessential warriors kick butt in the most literal of ways! Ronda Rousey, Tammy Duckworth, Harriet Tubman, and Grace Hopper all are valiant women warriors, and deserving of our admiration.

But the warrior woman in you—in me, in each of us—is simply our bravest, most autonomous self. She is self-sufficient, unafraid to ask for what she needs, and brimming with ambition. This brave self gives us the ability to set goals, to make decisions, to build our own lives.

The warrior woman in you is a planner, and she is a doer. She has fears and weaknesses and sometimes she stumbles and falls. But when she is weary, she doesn't quit, she merely rests. Pausing to replenish her energy and prepare herself for what comes next. She writes her own life story, one task at a time.

 

Plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.
— Margaret Thatcher

Consider women like Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Consider Clara Barton, a trailblazing nurse during the US civil war who founded the American Red Cross. Both were women of action, unafraid to enter dangerous territory so they could help heal the injured. They never took up arms themselves, but they were brave warriors nonetheless.

Consider Rosa Parks, who stood up for her rights as a Black woman during a time of tremendous prejudice. Consider Amelia Earhart who flew solo across the Atlantic during a time when women weren't “allowed” to be pilots. Consider Aung San Suu Kyi who was a political prisoner for 20 yearsin Burma, but became so beloved and respected for her bravery that she went on to lead the very country that had imprisoned her.

All are warriors, through and through. Courageous, self-reliant, ambitious, and visionary.

But all are extraordinary examples, and may feel out-of-reach for us average Janes. So what does the modern-day warrior in each of us do? How can we lead our communities in solving social problems? How can we follow in the footsteps of legendary women like Helen of Troy, Joan of Arc, or Cleopatra?

Here’s how: We can stand up and speak out when we see injustice. We can show compassion, push beyond our fears, and help those in need. The warrior spirit works in each of us. It’s the inextinguishable fire that drives us to fight unfairness, fight indignities, fight hopelessness. And it's the calm, wise, centered energy we need to set boundaries for ourselves, meet our own needs, and chase our dreams tirelessly.

 

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.
— Maya Angelou

While researching my new book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, I spoke with dozens of women who had married warriors, but had to learn to view themselves as warriors, too. As they faced down life-changing decisions, wrestled with endless medical jargon and unending bureaucracy, and were forced to reconfigure their entire lives around a beloved and now-disabled spouse, they dug deep and summoned up their inner warriors. These women weren't fearless, but they knew how to face their fears with dignity and patience. Their spouses fought bravely on the battlefield, and they stepped up to fight bravely on the home front.

May we all draw inspiration from their examples. May we all stretch out a welcoming arm to our own inner warrior, pull her up, and embrace her wholeheartedly. The world needs warriors who fight with might, but also needs warriors who fight with words, with generosity, with big, bold acts of love.

Let us all charge into battle armed with determination, kindness, and the knowledge that our determination alone can move mountains.

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her her way, she adjusted her sails."

Tiger Women of Asia: Biking to Independence in Cambodia

I've just returned from a life-changing three-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. I was humbled and inspired by the “Tiger” Women I met during my travels, and have so many insights to share from my conversations with them. Here’s the first in a series of posts on the surprising and fascinating things I learned while traveling through rural countryside.

Bicycles: More Than Just Transportation

Bike culture here in the U.S. is getting stronger every year. As more people start using their bikes to commute to school and work, more cities create bike lanes and bicycle-friendly cultures to support this eco-conscious movement. 

But in Vietnam and Cambodia, bikes aren't just a way to get around. They represent a means of traveling safely, access to education, personal freedom.

Young Cambodian girls often have to travel long distances on foot to get to the schools closest to their homes. Since they are at high risk for rape or abduction by sex traffickers, many families choose to keep their daughters at home rather than put them at risk by sending them to school. Because of these well-founded fears, only 11% of Cambodian girls attend and graduate from secondary school.

But give those girls bikes for their daily school commutes, and they are much faster and substantially harder for potential abductors to catch. And when they can commute safely, they can attend school and learn and grow. Organizations like Lotus Pedals donate bikes and repair kits to girls in rural Cambodia, enabling them to get to and from school safely. World Bicycle Relief, another organization that provides bikes to children in developing countries, reports that access to functioning bicycles can help boost school attendance, grades, and graduation rates for both girls and boys. I was overwhelmed to see the huge difference that bikes were making in the lives of the beautiful Cambodian children I met while traveling.

Bike Entrepreneurs

And it's not just the young girls who benefit from bikes! Cambodian women are two-wheeling their way to better living conditions, too.

Vietnam and Cambodia have enormous stretches of sparsely populated rural land, which means that farming families may have a difficult time getting supplies or selling their crops. Although large amounts of cargo cannot be moved on bikes, women are able to transport small deliveries, carry messages, and travel to local markets by cycling. Many families cannot afford cars or trucks, and those who can must conserve precious gasoline, so this alternative mode of transportation is incredibly helpful.

Both women and men have also been seen to use their bikes as mobile market stalls. Bikes 4 Life has donated hundreds of bikes to children and adults in Cambodia, and the organization's founder, Ebony Butler, reported seeing riders with stalls full of goods constructed on the backs of their bikes! What a creative way to make the most of your mode of transportation!

A Simple Machine Makes a Huge Impact

I spent the majority of my visit biking through the countryside myself, so I got to see firsthand how much bikes meant to the girls and women of Cambodia. A beat-up secondhand mountain bike might not look like much to an American consumer, but to a Cambodian third-grader hoping to get to school safely or a struggling Vietnamese woman trying to sell her wares at market, it can be a tremendous blessing.

Interested in helping Cambodian and Vietnamese women who need access to bicycles? Here are some amazing organizations that can help you change the lives of Tiger Women with your donations!

•    Worldvision – Donate a Bike
•    Lotus Pedals
•    88 Bikes
•    World Bicycle Relief
•    Bikes 4 Life (Australia)

4 Tools for the Spouses and Children of Wounded Warriors

As so many of the women I interviewed for Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife told me, living with a combat-injured veteran frequently means living in the shadow of post-traumatic stress (PTS). Vivid nightmares and terrifying mid-day flashbacks are the most well-known symptoms, but many wives also spoke of violent mood swings, quick tempers, jumpiness, and depression. Family members often feel confused and helpless, unsure how to best support their beloved wounded warrior. PTS aftershocks can be especially hard for the children of wounded veterans, since kids from toddlers to teens may feel unsafe and unsure around their suffering parent, never knowing what reaction to expect.

With that in mind, here are a few tools that the spouses and children of wounded warriors can utilize as they adjust to life with a PTS-sufferer:

  1. Don't be afraid to communicate: Studies have shown that overdisclosure and endless, graphic descriptions of the trauma that caused a parent's suffering can be damaging to children. But those same studies tell us that silencing all conversation around PTS and the trauma that caused it will increase everyone's anxiety levels. Use your judgment, but try to be open. Especially if your children ask specific questions. They need to understand why dad/mom is behaving in this erratic way, and finding a way to explain it that resonates can help them cope.
  2. Do what you can to cultivate closeness: The Sidran Institute says, “In homes where the [parent] suffers from PTS, normal adolescent tendencies towards separation and rebellion can combine with the children’s need to distance themselves from the veteran’s agony or anger. Problems arise when the children’s need for distance or self-assertion takes the form of rejection or disregard for the veteran.” Forcing closeness may make matters worse, but creating opportunities for it can help. Try a regularly-scheduled family movie night or game night, get season tickets to a sports team, or tackle a home or craft project together.
  3. Teach coping techniques to everyone: Breathing and muscle relaxation exercises are prescribed for many PTS sufferers, but they can also be helpful to spouses and children. Learning and practicing them together helps family members learn to cope when their own anxiety revs up. Perhaps more importantly, doing so shows them firsthand what their combat-injured veteran parent/spouse will be doing to calm their inner turmoil.
  4. Say, “This is hard.” Spouses and children who live with a PTS sufferer can feel trapped in a cycle of anxiety, fear, and guilt. The guilt stems from mistakenly believing they are making their wounded warrior's state worse, or that they should be able to help more effectively. Self-care is vital, and a very simple first step toward self-care is acknowledging that the situation is a difficult one. Teach everyone that when tensions are running high, it's OK to say, “This is hard” to yourself or to everyone involved. In fact, doing so can diffuse that tension.

Living with the invisible wounds of war is challenging, both for the trauma victim and the family who loves and supports that person. Always know that seeking professional help is a great way to build trust within a stressed family. But during the in-between times, keep these four tools in mind. They may help your whole family cope with the unnerving ripples that PTS can create.

The Challenges of Living with a Wounded Warrior...

Read this SanDiego Magazine review of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife

 

Three years ago, while driving across the Coronado Bridge, Barbara McNally saw a man stop his car, walk to the bridge’s railing, and jump to his death. McNally, who later learned that the man was a military veteran, says that what she witnessed that day changed her life...

Read more...