7 Ways to Boost Your Day

Everyone has a bad day sometimes, and it's not unheard of. Even the most positive people run into hurdles that they can't cross. This isn't something you should be scared of since it's not person specific. However, you should do whatever is in your power to turn that frown upside down! It's completely normal to have bad days, but if those days turn into weeks or months, something needs to be fixed. Even if you start your day bad, it's still possible to make certain changes and do certain things to turn it right around. Here are 7 ways to boost your day and make you happy when it's simply a bad day!


Live in the present


Don't worry too much about tomorrow. Don't dwell in the past. You have already lived what happened in your past, and you aren't capable of seeing the future, so why waste your nerves and thoughts in the past and the future? Live now! If you spend too much time thinking about what will happen or what has happened, you won't be able to enjoy the moment. Start becoming aware that you live your life in a single moment. Live in the present!

Stay positive


If something bad happens – it's not the end of the world. Remember the good old proverb that helped so many people: "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." People can survive a lot. Many people have gone through incredible pain at least once in their lives and have managed to move forward, albeit with a few changes. You can do this as well, all you need to do is try to stay positive. 

Exercise


Science has proven that exercising or any physical activity that requires you to work hard has a positive effect on the psyche. There have also been cases where exercise and working out helped people with depression live much more normal lives than if they didn't exercise and work out. We implore you to start exercising if you haven't been feeling yourself lately. Plus, you'll also keep your body healthy!

Have a happy meal


No, we don't mean the McDonalds Happy Meal; what we mean with ‘happy meal' is that you should eat something that makes you happy. This can be whatever you like, as long as it's something that you love to eat. Research has shown that certain chemicals such as Serotonin and Dopamine. Just be careful not to overeat food if it belongs to the category of junk food. You wouldn't want to gain weight and cause your body to become ill. We also recommend trying out Kratom tea. Kratom tea is a relaxing drink that can help you out by influencing your mood in a positive and healthy way.

Listen to upbeat music


For whatever reason, people love to listen to depressing and sad music when they're feeling sad. Admittedly, it's nothing strange as people generally connect with the songs in a specific and personal way. However, this doesn't help them get better. It might even make them feel worse. Avoid this by listening to happy and upbeat music. Give artists such as Bob Marley a shot. Anything that is focused on making you feel better about yourself and the world is acceptable. Upbeat music will also cause you to feel energetic and ready to take on the world. Help yourself!

Make a to-do list


Avoid having to remember everything by making to-do lists. There's a lot of stress involved in the process of trying to remember something, especially if there are a lot of things to remember. Having a to-do list helps you avoid this problem. Another issue that to-do lists solve is organization and not being in the mood. 

Get a good laugh


This might be the most important part of this article. There's no greater cure for sadness than getting a good laugh. If you're feeling especially lonely, get a few friends over and have a good time. Or, if you're not interested in hanging out, watch a funny movie or a show. Whatever might bring out a laugh is good, so take a pick!

 

The Women of the Alamo: Steadfast Mothers and Sages

On August 25, I'll be heading to San Antonio to attend and run workshops at two Hearts of Valor retreats! I'm already getting excited about the work I'll do there with retreat attendees. And in honor of that work being done in the great state of Texas, I want to dedicate a few posts to the amazing accomplishments of women who were born in the Lone Star State!

I'm eager to spend some time exploring the Alamo while visiting San Antonio, so today let's meet some of the incredible women who survived the famous siege.

“Life in Texas was an adventure for men and dogs, but hell on women and horses.”
~ Old saying


The Texas Revolution


In 1835, Texas was still a part of Mexico ... but it was also home to an increasingly large number of American settlers. The Mexican government had been clashing with these English-speakers for decades, and in October of 1835 the Texas Revolution erupted. A violent rebellion and battle for freedom, the rebellion raged for six full months, claiming many lives.

The most famous event from this rowdy episode in Texas history is, of course, the battle of the Alamo. A couple of months before this massacre, the Texan army had actually succeeded in driving Mexican troops out of the state! Around 200 troops were garrisoned at the Alamo Mission in San Antonio de Béxar, which would become modern-day San Antonio, waiting to see if the fight was truly over.

It wasn't.

On the morning of February 23, 1836, nearly1,500 Mexican troops commanded by President General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived in San Antonio de Béxar and launched a brutal siege that would last 13 days. Santa Anna would kill nearly everyone in the garrison before the battle was through.

Women among men


“You will remember this battle! Each minute! Each second! Until the day that you die! But that is for tomorrow, gentlemen. For today, remember the Alamo!”
~ Sam Houston

As you might imagine, most of the people who fought and died at the Alamo were men; soldiers, medics, commanders, and other military personnel. Among them were Colonels William B. Travis and James Bowie, and legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett. Some casualties were women, too.

Nearly all of the handful of survivors were also women.

The most well-known of these is Susanna Dickinson, wife of Alamo defender Almaron Dickinson, who spent almost all of the battle hiding in a small dark room with her infant daughter, Angelina. Legend says she ended up there because she was talking with her husband when he saw Santa Anna arrive, and he scooped up her and the baby and ran them to the mission just before the Mexican army opened fire. After the final assault on the Alamo when nearly everyone—including Susanna's husband—was dead, General Santa Anna interviewed each of the survivors himself. He was so taken with Mrs. Dickinson that he offered to adopt little Angelina and take her back to Mexico City where she'd receive a top-notch education. Stressed and stricken, Susanna refused the offer, unable to bear the thought of parting with her baby. A few days later, Santa Anna released them both, enlisting Susanna to be a messenger to General Sam Houston. Angelina would come to be known as “the babe of the Alamo.”

Nearly as legendary as Susanna is survivor Andrea Castañon Villanueva, also known as Madam Candelaria. She was an innkeeper's wife who ended up living to an impressive 113 years old, and spent much of her post-Alamo life spinning yarns for reporters and tourists about how she nursed Texian defenders, including commander Bowie. Many historians disagree about Madam Candelaria's true role in the Alamo, but most believe she was present for the majority of the battle. However unlike the troops and Susanna Dickinson, she came and went at will, rather than being confined to the compound. Her mystery continues to this day!

The third brave woman who tops most survivor lists is Juana Navarro Alsbury, a cousin by marriage to James Bowie. In fact, Bowie himself brought her to the Alamo Mission so he could keep an eye on her during the battle. Unfortunately Bowie became gravely ill on the second day of the siege. Although Madam Candelaria's claims to have been at his bedside are sketchy, it's almost certain that Alsbury nursed him throughout the remainder of the siege.

Echoes of the battle

“No. You'll settle for blood. I want Texas.”
~ Sam Houston

Several other women survived the 13-day battle, including Juana Navarro Alsbury's sister, Gertrudis Navarro, and Juana Francisca Losoya Melton who was married to Alamo quartermaster Eliel Melton. Ana Salazar Esparza was also among the handful of people who escaped with their lives. She was the mother of Enrique Esparza, who would earn the nickname “the Boy in the Alamo” and tell wild tales of the terrifying combat he witnessed as a child. All told, around seven women walked away from the mission with their lives.

As you can tell from their stories, many of these women were both Mothers to their own children and served as loving caretakers to the American soldiers who fought bravely at the Alamo. They also offered solace and serenity to the injured and dying, stepping into the role of Sage whenever they could. They never took up arms, but their presence during that pivotal battle offered hope during the firefights, and insight once the dust had cleared. May we never forget their presence, their support, and the comfort they brought during this dark hour in Texan history!

 

Four Agreements Women Can Make With Themselves

Have you read Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements? This book is a total life-changer, so if you haven't encountered it yet, order up a copy as soon as you can! The ideas you'll find in its pages are based on ancient Toltec wisdom, and present a powerful code of conduct we can use to transform our lives for the better. Ruiz himself is a shamanic teacher and healer who is dedicated to helping readers create a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love. His ideas have been healed wounds and sparked growth in people all over the world for more than 20 years. 

The subtitle to The Four Agreements is “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” and that concept has been rolling around in my head for weeks now. So much life advice is vague or hard to apply, but Ruiz's ideas are refreshingly specific and pragmatic! I wanted to create my own version of the four agreements as a way to honor our four dimensions, the archetypes of Mother, Lover, Warrior, and Sage, and to keep that spirit of truly useful, down-to-earth advice in mind in doing so. As women, we are constantly pushed and pulled in many directions, and remaining true to ourselves can seem impossible. But I believe there are some simple ways to honor our essential selves, and learn and grow in the process.

 

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word 
Archetype: LOVER

Ruiz says, “Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”

What could be more loving than embracing honesty without judgment? And yet this can be so hard to do, especially for women. We are taught that blaming ourselves is natural and normal, even when the true fault lies with someone else. But speaking with integrity and saying only what you mean are powerful ways to remain authentic to your inner beliefs.

To embrace the first agreement in the guise of The Lover, you can:
•    Take note of your internal dialogue. When you notice it becoming negative, put it lovingly on pause. Then say an affirmation out loud to re-center yourself.
•    Stop apologizing for everything! When you find yourself starting a sentence with “I'm sorry,” consider how else to introduce your ideas. Part of “not going against yourself” is standing tall inside your beliefs.
•    Slow down. We're living in a fast-paced world that encourages speaking without thinking. Breathe before you speak, make sure you know exactly what you want to say and why. 
 
 

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally 
Archetype: MOTHER 

The priceless nugget of truth here is that everyone in the world is self-centered, and their reactions to you are driven by their hopes and fears about themselves. It's so easy to take nasty comments to heart, or be hurt by accusations. But when you become immune to the opinions and actions of other people, you save yourself from needless suffering.
Mothers both know this, and teach it to their children. Understanding the motivations of other people and protecting yourself from their words helps mothers all over the world navigate their own family dynamics and shield their children from emotional pain.

To embrace the second agreement in the guise of The Mother, you can:
•    Practice empathy. If someone says something that stings, put yourself in her shoes. What might be motivating this negativity? Instead of feeling hurt, try to understand root causes.
•    Remember yourself. Opinions and observations can be especially hard to ignore when they've got a grain of truth in them. Be open to that. If someone tells you you're “stuck-up,” step back from the statement and examine its meaning. If what they're really seeing is pride in your accomplishments, that is nothing to feel ashamed of. Remember who you are to re-contextualize criticism. (You do this for your kids, now do it for yourself!)
•    Be patient. Living by this agreement is just plain HARD. Give yourself time to adjust to a new way of understanding people and the things they say. And if you feel wounded by a comment or judgment, go back to the first agreement and remember not to judge or blame yourself.

 

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions 
Archetype: SAGE

It is so easy to slip into assumptions. We lead busy, full lives and often don't have time to investigate things as fully as we should, so we just take the tidbits we know and make some mental leaps. But this is disrespectful, to ourselves and to others. To channel the wisdom of The Sage, we must be patient, ask questions, and never assume that we possess knowledge we haven't earned.

To embrace the third agreement in the guise of The Sage, you can:
•    Be curious, not judgmental. This gem of advice comes from poet Walt Whitman! The antidote to judgment is curiosity, so embrace it. Ask questions instead of assuming you know the answers.
•    Check your prejudices. Did you know women can be sexist … against other women? Or that most of us have at least a few racist ideas floating around in our brains? If you find yourself jumping to conclusions about another person, be brutally honest with yourself about why. Again, don't judge or punish yourself, just be wholly honest. Then think about what you can do to be more open-minded about an individual or group in the future. 
•    Listen: Asking questions is an important start, but actually hearing the answers is just as crucial. Don't ask for the sake of asking. Listen actively and intently when someone honors you with a response.

 

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
Archetype: WARRIOR

Of this agreement, Ruiz says, “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” 

So gentle and helpful! Of course you want to give your all to everything in your life, but your all will be different when you're sick, exhausted, or overwhelmed. Commit fully to your life, but with the understanding that your real capacity may vary. Just like that of a warrior, who is capable of ferocious battle at full-strength and far less when weary or injured.

To embrace the fourth agreement in the guise of The Warrior, you can:
•    Listen to your body. Our culture values strength and endurance, but sometimes at the expense of actual health! If you are tired, honor that and rest. If you are in pain, get the help you need to heal. And adjust your expectations for yourself when your body tells you you aren't at full capacity.
•    Push yourself. Gently. On the flip side, be aware of when you're phoning it in. (You know when and why it happens!) If you can do better, lean into that. If you need help getting motivated to step up your game, ask for it.
•    Reflect. Doing your best means understanding what “your best” looks like. Journal, talk with friends, or find some other creative way to self-assess your performance at work, in your hobbies, in relationships, and other important arenas of life. This is especially helpful to people who tend to go-go-go without pausing to process.

 

The strategies and advice found in The Four Agreements can be used by people of any gender, but I loved looking at this body of wisdom from a woman's perspective. As women we face specific and nearly endless challenges, but given the tools we need to remain true to ourselves, we can refashion those challenges into triumphs. I hope that thinking about how Ruiz's ideas relate to the four foundational archetypes will help you make key changes to how you think, feel, and react so you can be more fully present in your own life!

Bessie Coleman: Fearless Aviatrix, Lover of Adventure

On August 25, I'll be heading to San Antonio to attend and run workshops at two Hearts of Valor retreats! I'm already getting excited about the work I'll do there with retreat attendees. And in honor of that work being done in the great state of Texas, I want to dedicate a few posts to the amazing accomplishments of women who were born in the Lone Star State! And I'm kicking off the series with a historic figure who blazed many trails in her tragically short lifetime: fearless flier Bessie Coleman.

“You've never lived till you've flown!”
~ Bessie Coleman


Humble beginnings in rural Texas


Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas in the winter of 1892, the tenth of thirteen children. Her parents were both sharecroppers—her father was of mixed black and Native American descent, and her mother was black. When Bessie was just nine years old, her father returned to his own home state of Oklahoma, leaving her mother to care for their giant brood of children. 

Bessie was a bright child, an avid reader, and an eager learner. She read about the Wright Brothers' first flight with tremendous interest, dreaming of tackling such world-changing achievements herself. She aced all eight grades of elementary school, and saved the meagre money she made picking cotton to pay for further studies. In 1910, she used all her savings to enroll in the Colored Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma. She only completed one term before she ran out of money and had to return to her family in Waxahachie, Texas.

But that setback wouldn't stop her.

At the age of 23, Bessie followed one of her older brothers to Chicago. It was 1915, and she began listening to and reading stories of World War I pilots, which rekindled her childhood interest in aviation. Unable to chase her dream just yet, she became a beautician and worked as a manicurist in barbershops on the south side of Chicago. Two of her brothers had served in France during World War I, and her brother John would stop by the barbershop to tease her, saying, “I know something that French women do that you’ll never do. Fly!” 

And that was all it took. Bessie swore then and there that she'd learn to fly, no matter what!

Triumph abroad


“I knew we had no aviators, neither men nor women, and I knew the race needed to be represented … so I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation and to encourage flying among men and women of our race.”
~ Bessie Coleman

 

But no one would teach her.

Bessie applied to nearly every flight school in America, hoping to find an instructor. But she was black AND a woman, two huge strikes against her in the early 1900s. She was turned down everywhere she applied.

Determined to achieve her dream, Bessie consulted her friend Robert Abbott, a skilled reporter and publisher of the Chicago Weekly Defender. He did some investigating, found that aviation schools in France were far less prejudiced than those in America, and urged Bessie to study French so she could apply overseas.

She did. And by 1920, she was sailing across the Atlantic toward her destiny.

A career in aviation


“The air is the only place free from prejudices.”
~ Bessie Coleman

 

Bessie studied at France’s most famous flight school, Ecole d’Aviation des Freres Cadron et Le Crotoy, and earned her license to fly in only seven months! This made her the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to earn an aviation pilot's license. And she was rightfully proud of her accomplishment.

Yet she still struggled to carve out a place for herself. No one back home in America would sell her an airplane, refusing to do business with a black woman. No American company would hire her to fly commercially either. It was 1921 now, and the war was long over, so Bessie knew she'd need stunt-pilot skills if she was going to make a living in the air. She trained further with expert fliers and aircraft designers in France and Germany, then returned to the United States to launch her career in exhibition flying.

As she booked stunt shows all over the country, Bessie was vocal about using her fame and fortune to create and fund an aviation school for black American pilots. This dream drove her, and buoyed her during dark times.

Although Bessie herself had experienced outright discrimination, her exhibition flights appealed to both black and white audiences. Bessie was incredibly beautiful, and white people saw her as curiosity; a pretty, petite woman piloting an airplane. Black people were proud of her pioneering courage, and to them she symbolized the hope that someday more African-Americans could join her in the skies.

Bessie's first stunt flight took place in 1922, and she would only have four years to enjoy her career. On April 30, 1926, an accident during a rehearsal for an aerial show sent her plummeting to her death. She was only 34 years old.

Although she fought like a Warrior for her rights and beliefs, I see Bessie Coleman as someone who embodies the Lover archetype. She never married and never had children, but her brave heart and love for adventure informed every decision she made. She loved the idea of flying, and she crafted her life so she could experience the exhilaration of actual flight. She loved her community, and although she wasn't able to give them the gift of a flight school, she expressed her love for them with every breath. She was taken from us too soon, but not before she broke barriers, blazed trails, and followed her heart into the high-flying career of her dreams.

Discover the Possibilities! Spotlight on the National Ability Center: A Place of Healing, Learning, & Self-discovery

If you're military and want a free get away or want to get involved in helping others discover the healing power of recreation you’ll love the National Ability Center (NAC)! No matter where your political allegiances fall, you'll probably agree that we're living during a divisive time. A time when turning on the nightly news can be enough to make your blood pressure skyrocket. I believe that in times like these, the heart-driven work of organizations like the NAC becomes more important than ever! A welcome dose of inspiration and unfiltered positivity. I'm so excited to share their mission with you today, since it's all about unity, community, and empowerment. 

 

 

What is the National Ability Center?

This phenomenal non-profit was founded in 1985, by Meeche White, a woman with a big vision. It exists to provide high-quality, inclusive programs to people of all abilities and backgrounds, including those in need. The center's programming is focused on sports and the outdoors, recreation and educational programs, giving all participants the chance to feel physically powerful and capable. The NAC is open to everyone, but is especially supportive of differently abled people who are struggling to feel confident and independent. 

As you might imagine, I found them through my work with wounded warriors and their wives, since the center has several programs geared toward wounded veterans and their caregivers. I think being able to use my job to get into places and do things that matter is the biggest gift, because it’s not about me. 

In fact, two of the women profiled in my book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, had transformative experiences through programs like the ones the NAC offers. Their stories show how pivotal these offerings can be in a warrior's recovery process, and his reconnection to his family.

 

How outdoor and recreational programs heal

Jane had become resigned to not traveling or going on adventures, and she missed that part of her life. Then she and her veteran husband, Kyle, had the chance to participate in skiing program that changed everything. Kyle had lost both of his legs to an IUD, so instructors strapped him into a monoski and put him on the bunny hill. Jane skied alongside him and watched him open up and transform before her eyes. This program got him out of his shell and rekindled their shared love of the outdoors. 

Larry lost an arm and an eye while fighting in Iraq, and returned home a changed man. His wife, Kendal, struggled to reconnect with him for months before discovering the equestrian center. At the time, Larry knew nothing about horses, but had always been curious about them. Months later, he would say in couples therapy that being close to the animals, smelling them, hearing them breathe, and feeling their soft yet powerful necks brought him a feeling of connectedness he could barely explain. He said it was the first time since his deployment that he remembered feeling comfortable in his own skin.

These experiences, these opportunities for reconnection and deep healing, are what the NAC provides. Service members who incurred service-related injuries or illness are given access to all National Ability Center sports and recreation programing at absolutely no cost to the service member or their family members. How incredible is that?

Supporting the NAC's outstanding services


On July 1, I hosted a book signing at Dolly’s Bookstore in Park City, Utah, and donated $250 of the proceeds to the NAC. At the event, I was lucky enough to connect with Kevin Stickelman, the organization's COO, and told him in person how much I admired the work his organization pioneered. Spending time at the Park City facility, I learned more about their programs for returning military veterans. These include PTSD camps, healing through horses, and multi-day wellness retreats. The NAC offers cycling, waterskiing, archery, and golfing in summer, skiing, snowboarding, fat-tire biking, and snowshoeing in winter. All for our brave wounded warriors and their amazing families. 

 

All of us have wounds, but not everyone can see them. The National Ability Center concentrates on healing both visible and invisible wounds though sports and outdoor activity. As participants build self-confidence, they gradually feel capable of taking on more challenges and living more successful lives. I'm proud to support and volunteer with them, and invite you to do the same: You can donate here, sign up to volunteer, and find information on matched gifts and corporate sponsorships, too. We can all serve those who serve. I may not wear a uniform, but I can give back in other ways. Volunteering to help with skiing and horseback riding is my niche, but you may find another way to contribute.

And don't forget, you can still order copies of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife on Amazon!

Sheila Michaels: Warrior for Women's Independence

Did you know that the word “Ms.” wasn't widely used until the late 1960s? Neither did I until last week, when I learned that feminist Sheila Michaels had passed away, and that she'd become famous for popularizing it! Before Sheila, all women were called either “Miss” (which meant they were unmarried) or “Mrs.” (which indicated they were married). Today, let's look at how she fought for a term that recognized women aside from their marital status.

“No one wanted to claim me, and I didn’t want to be owned. I didn’t belong to my father, and I didn’t want to belong to a husband — someone who could tell me what to do. I had not seen very many marriages I’d want to emulate.”
~ Sheila Michaels

Ever the rebel


Sheila Michaels was an outspoken, smart, equality-minded woman in an era that preferred women be sweet and silent. In the late 1950s, she got kicked out of the College of William and Mary at the age of 19 for protesting censorship of the campus newspaper. Just a few years later, her progressive views found her eagerly joining the civil rights movement, a decision that caused her family to disown her. But Sheila was a warrior, and losing her family would not keep her from fighting for the rights she knew her fellow humans deserved.

Through her work with the Congress of Racial Equality in New York, Sheila met and befriended Mary Hamilton (who would also end up having a huge impact on how women are addressed). Sheila and Mary became roommates, and spent several years protesting, traveling, and registering voters together.

Then one day, Mary received a radical newsletter in the mail, which came addressed to “Ms. Mary Hamilton.” Sheila was thunderstruck. Here was a way to address a woman that didn't instantly reveal her marital status or connect her to a man! After a little digging, she discovered that “Ms." wasn't a typo, or a brand new idea. As early as 1901, grammar lovers had been suggesting its use in regular correspondence. But it never caught on.

Sheila decided to change all that.

Partners in verbal crime


“The first thing anyone wanted to know about you was whether you were married yet. I'd be damned if I'd bow to them.”
~ Sheila Michaels

She began a one-woman campaign to ensure that any woman who preferred NOT to reveal her marital status could go by “Ms.” It was a quiet, long campaign that finally gained some traction when she gave a radio interview in 1969. Sheila spoke with New York radio station WBAI on behalf of a women’s rights group, and during a lull in the discussion, brought up the “Ms.” issue. Prominent feminist Gloria Steinem got wind of the interview, and decided to title her revolutionary magazine “Ms.” just a year later. Soon, women everywhere were insisting on using it.

Years earlier, Sheila's friend and roommate Mary had fought a parallel battle. When she'd been arrested at a protest in 1963, she'd been put before a judge who refused to call her anything but “Mary.” You see, Mary was black, and the courtroom was in Birmingham, Alabama. And, in a power move designed to make black people feel condescended to and inferior, white people in the American South had long refused to call them “miss” or “mister.” Mary would not answer the judge until he called her “Miss Hamilton.” He refused and found her in contempt of court. She was fined and thrown in jail, but the NAACP took her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in her favor. That ruling declared that anyone appearing in court deserved titles of courtesy (also called honorifics), regardless of race or ethnicity. 

Since Mary had already fought to be called by any honorific at all, she was the perfect ally to Sheila in her fight for an honorific that allowed women to be totally independent. And together, they made history.

A tiny legacy with a huge impact


You might be surprised to hear that the feminist movement—which was extremely active during the 60s and 70s—wasn't super excited by Sheila's “Ms.” cause. They felt they had more important matters to worry about. But with Steinem's magazine, everything changed and feminists everywhere got on board.

And although something like an honorific might seem insignificant on the surface, it carries a lot of weight. Neither “Mr.” nor “Mister” indicates anything about a man besides his gender. Why should we women be identified both by gender and by marital status? Sheila Michaels recognized this inequity, and made it her business to right it. She fought so that all women could use two little letters and a period to make themselves known on their own terms. And her quiet-but-insistent fight changed how we speak about, write abou, and refer to women forever.

Clara Barton: Pioneering Mother, Civil War Heroine

I hope everyone had a food-, family-, and fun-filled Independence Day this month! Since we're celebrating the birth of our nation, I've got historical American heroines on my mind. And although she did her groundbreaking work almost one hundred years after we won our independence, I'd like to focus today on a woman who changed our nation (and the world) for the better: Clara Barton.

“I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.”
~ Clara Barton

Compassion embodied

Born in 1821 in Oxford, Massachusetts, Clarissa Harlowe Barton was called simply “Clara” by her family and friends. During a time period when women were expected to keep house and keep quiet, Clara was a rebel! She soaked up every ounce of education her family would give her, and schooled herself in the ways of the world by working as a clerk and bookkeeper for her oldest brother. 

But she was also somewhat shy, and always on the lookout for ways to be helpful to others. When her brother David was injured in an accident, 10-year-old Clara basically put herself in charge of watching over him. The doctor taught her how to administer his medication, and she continued to care for him long after everyone else had given up hope. Under her watchful eye, he eventually made a full recovery, and Clara knew she'd found her calling.

First, though, she needed to grow up a little. She studied hard and, at the ripe old age of 17, became a school teacher herself. This accomplishment is even more impressive since most teachers in this era were men. Although nursing pulled at her heart, she also adored working with children and finding ways to relate to them. (Growing up with rambunctious brothers helped a lot!) Her career as an educator included founding and running the first free school in New Jersey. But after the institution grew to 600 students, Clara was ousted by a man elected by the school board. They (foolishly) believed that running such a large organization was “man's work.”

Fearless and equality-minded

“I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man's work for less than a man's pay.
~ Clara Barton

Disillusioned and angry, Clara knew she needed a change. Sick of the long, cold New England winters, she decided to try her luck in warmer Washington, D.C. There, in 1855, she took a job that became another in her long list of firsts: She became a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office, where she was one of the first women to work for the federal government. Unwilling to stomach the same treatment she'd gotten in New Jersey, she demanded a salary equal to a man's salary!

This triumph didn't last long. Clara was staunchly against slavery, and being vocal about her political opinions made her too controversial for a government job.

Shortly after she was fired, the Civil War broke out.

Natural nurse and brave care-giver


“I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while our soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.” 
~ Clara Barton

As soon as she got word that the war had begun, Clara knew she needed to act. While the military focused on mobilizing and the public was in a panic, she put her energy toward helping the men in uniform, some of whom were already wounded, many hungry, and some without anywhere to sleep or any clothing besides what they had on their backs. She was pragmatic, organized, and clear-headed. She collected some relief articles on her own, appealed to the public for more, and figured out how to store and distribute them to “her boys.” Clara's huge heart shone through in her efforts to keep their spirits up: she read to them, wrote letters for them, and prayed with them. 

But after a few months she knew that where she was needed most was not in Washington, but on the battlefields.

Having gathered a small force of support volunteers and nurses around her, she campaigned to bring her expertise and much-needed supplies to the front lines. In August of 1862, she arrived at a Virginia field hospital at midnight with a wagon-load of supplies, to the unspeakable relief of the surgeon in charge. After that, Clara earned the nickname, “Angel of the Battlefield,” tending to injured and distraught soldiers at the battles of Fairfax Station, Chantilly, Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Charleston, Petersburg, and Cold Harbor. She ordered her supply wagon drivers to follow the Union cannons and traveled all night, pulling ahead of military medical units. She put the health, comfort, and safety of the troops ahead of her own again and again.

A loving mother to all

“Everybody's business is nobody's business, and nobody's business is my business.”
~ Clara Barton

Even after the war, Clara continued to show compassion to those around her. She found herself a point of contact for families looking for men who had been reported missing. Once again, she recognized an important human need and did something practical to address it herself. She contacted President Lincoln to seek permission to take charge of finding these “missing” soldiers and informing their families of their whereabouts. Just before his assassination, Lincoln granted this permission. Over the course of four years, Clara and her assistants responded to more than 63,000 letters and identified more than 22,000 missing men.

And still she worked tirelessly to help others!

After a lecture tour spent describing her experiences on the battlefields, Clara traveled to Europe in 1869 hoping to take a much-needed break. But—ever the loving mother-spirit—she found herself connected with the International Red Cross, a relief organization active during the Franco-Prussian War. Seeing the incredible work being done and its clear universal value, she began to campaign for the creation of an American arm of this group. It took more than a decade of work, but in 1880 the American Red Cross was founded, with Clara as its first leader.

Although she never married or had children of her own, Clara Barton had the ferociously protective and nurturing energy of a mother. She cared for her students as a teacher, her patients as a nurse, and the entire country as the founder of the American Red Cross. She was pragmatic when others were overwhelmed, brave when others were afraid, and willing to put her life on the line for the greater good. She honored our country with her steadfast service, and was a true American heroine!

 

Catherine Deneuve: Gifted Artist & Mysterious Sage

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I'm back from my marvelous trip through France, and already missing the country's gorgeous landscapes and magical cities! Since my heart is still brimming with emotions and memories from my travels, I'm going to continue my series on inspirational French women. (What can I say? I want to re-live my experience for as long as I can!) Today, we'll learn about actress (and model and human rights advocate) Catherine Deneuve, one of my all-time favorite performers.

 

“People who know me know I'm strong, but I'm vulnerable.”

~ Catherine Deneuve
 

Born to perform

Catherine is the daughter of two Parisian stage actors, and both she and her two sisters were bitten by the acting bug as young girls. The entire family was drawn to both singing and acting, and Catherine landed her first film role at the ripe old age of 13. She continued to dabble in both stage and screen roles, but got her big break in 1964 when she was cast in the musical film, “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.” She was just 21 at the time, and became a huge star in her native France … but it was her next role that would make her an icon.

 

Controversial director Roman Polanski cast Catherine as a cold but deeply erotic figure in his horror film, “Repulsion,” and she took to the role so well that she earned the nickname, “Ice Maiden.” She was so suited to this type of character that it became her trademark for quite a while. Catherine was cast again and again as an aloof, enigmatic beauty with deep sexual magnetism. Just two years later in 1967, she starred as a housewife-turned-prostitute in “Belle de Jour,” and was so compelling she received a BAFTA award.

 

Catherine continued to take roles as mysterious sirens, but also wanted to spread her artistic wings. She didn't enjoy being typecast, and was eager to show her range as an actress. She would go on to take roles in comedies, dramas, and musicals, and even perform voices for animated films! She starred in the cult classic vampire film “The Hunger” along with David Bowie and Susan Sarandon, and was nominated for an Oscar for her role in “Indochine,” the heart-wrenching story of a French plantation owner and her adopted Vietnamese daughter. Catherine has made more than 100 films so far, and, now in her 70s, shows no signs of shying from the spotlight.

 

An iconic beauty

“Being an actress is a very physical thing. If I didn't look the way I looked, I would never have started in films.”

~ Catherine Deneuve

 

From the start, Catherine was aware that her mesmerizing beauty was an asset. In addition to her acting work, she took on several prominent modeling jobs. Legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent considered her a muse for several decades. She became the face of Chanel No. 5 perfume in the late 1970s, a campaign that won the hearts of American fans. And, following in the footsteps of Brigitte Bardot and Mireille Mathieu, Catherine was chosen as the live model for Marianne, a national symbol of the French Republic, from 1985 to 1989!

 

Even into the 2000s, as the cruised through her 60s and 70s, Catherine continued to land gigs with Louis Vuitton, M.A.C., and L'Oreal. I love seeing her in advertisements, a proud and still-radiant older woman!

 

The rebellious sage

In her private life, Catherine was never interested in following the rules. She's only been married once, and for just seven years, though she's taken many long-term lovers and had two children with them. She expresses her views on the institution in this great quote:

 

“Marriage is obsolete and a trap.”

~ Catherine Deneuve

 

She has also championed many political and human rights issues, some of them quite controversial. She's staunchly pro-choice and has spoken out about her experience receiving an illegal abortion. She vehemently opposes the death penalty, and has worked with Amnesty International to fight it worldwide. She's been involved with charities that fight AIDS and cancer, as well as organizations that battle for children's rights.

 

Catherine Deneuve may have spent much of her long career being revered for her physical beauty, but she strikes me as a wise sage. She's dealt with the politics and pitfalls of show business since she was a teen, sought out complex and interesting roles, shunned social traditions, fought for her beliefs, and done it all on her own terms. She is smart and compassionate, but also blunt and determined. Her fearlessness is a shining example to all of us, but especially those of us who my shy away from our ambitions and beliefs. May this fabulous French icon inspire us for many decades to come!

Marie Antoinette: An Iconic Queen with a Lust for Life

The French have long been known as a passionate people and even their kings and queens were often lusty rulers who prioritized pleasure over practicality. France's final queen, Marie Antoinette, was no exception. She was a lover through and through, who enjoyed nothing more than an extravagant party! And it was this very hunger for luxury that became her downfall. She’s famous for many reasons, being strongly opinionated, feminine and bringing fun fashion to France.

 

From princess to queen

In many ways, Marie was a quintessential princess: Born to royalty, spoiled by her wealthy parents—the rulers of Austria—and schooled more on social graces than academics. Her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir to the French throne, was arranged when she was just 15 years old, and still very much a wild, flighty teenage girl. In the months leading up to the wedding, the French sent a tutor to straighten her out, but he had no luck, saying that since, “she is rather lazy and extremely frivolous, she is hard to teach.” Ouch!

 

Once married to Louis, Marie continued to act impetuously. She wrote long, impassioned letters to her mother describing her frustrations and loneliness, and shunned court rituals. The teenaged prince she'd married was her polar opposite: He was an introverted, indecisive boy who loved reading and spending time alone. She was naturally social and vivacious, a true social butterfly who loved partying, gambling, and the most extravagant fashions she could get her hands on.

 

The married couple lived at Versailles as heirs for four years before Louis was crowned king. Marie was 19 when she became queen of France, and did her best to build the fun-filled, wild, ecstatic life she felt she deserved at court.

 

Wild child

It's said that as queen, Marie habitually slept until noon and threw parties that lasted all night. She spent money like it was going out of style, sparing no expense on rich food, wine, clothes, wigs, and hats. Balls and parties weren't her only extravagances; She had a tiny model farm built on the palace grounds so that she and her ladies-in-waiting could play dress-up as milkmaids and shepherdesses. Royal hairdresser Léonard Autié became one of her closest friends, and created enormous elaborate hairstyles for her that often towered several feet above her head. Once, he actually styled her hair into a replica of the French warship La Belle Poule!

 

But despite her efforts, Marie wasn't happy. Her marriage appeared to be a relatively loveless one, and for the first seven years it was childless, too. Furious and hell-bent on her daughter producing an heir to the French throne, Marie's mother sent one of her sons, Emperor Joseph II, to Versailles to intervene. It's not totally clear what all he did, but whatever it was worked! Within a year, Marie bore the first of her four children.

 

Although Marie's arrival in France had been celebratory and ecstatic, the longer she stayed the less her adopted country felt inclined to adore her. France was saddled with massive military debts, and while the wealthy elite paid no taxes, commoners were taxed within an inch of their lives. News of Queen Marie's expensive antics infuriated the French people, since she was visibly frittering away what little money the country had.

 

An easy scapegoat

Things got steadily worse over the years, and the French newspapers and people were quick to blame Marie. Her lavish spending earned her the name “Madame Deficit.” The king attempted some tax reforms, but the wealthy French aristocrats resisted … and believing Marie to be entirely to blame, the commoners began calling her “Madame Veto,” too.

 

Marie still partied hard, but she began to feel the strain of her massive unpopularity. She spent more and more time apart from the king, and soon rumors about an affair with Swedish diplomat Count Axel von Fersen began popping up. (Spoiler: The rumors were true!) Her reputation was already unraveling when a bizarre scandal erupted with her at the center.

 

A thief dressed as Marie Antoinette stole a massive 647-diamond necklace and took it to London to be sold off in pieces. The real queen had nothing to do with the heist, but the people of France remained convinced that she was somehow involved.

 

Rebellious to the end, Marie ignored the uproar and continued to spend. She began constructing Hameau de la Reine, an extravagant retreat near her private castle, the Petit Trianon, in Versailles. That's right, she already had a castle and felt she needed a cottage, too.

 

Revolution!

After years of class discrimination, the French people were fed up. In July of 1789, nearly 1,000  workers and peasants took over the Bastille prison, stripping it of arms and ammunition and marking the beginning of the French Revolution. In October of the same year, an angry mob of women protesting the high cost of bread and other essential household items marched to the palace, dragged the entire royal family back to Paris, and imprisoned them in the Tuileries.

 

It's important to note here that THE MOST FAMOUS thing about Marie Antoinette is actually a myth. It's said that when she was told that the people had no money to buy bread, she responded by saying, “Then let them eat cake!” Not so. Marie was dismissive and snobbish to be sure, but she never uttered this particular phrase. In fact, it was used many years before Marie's arrival to describe how out-of-touch the wealthy French upper class had become.

 

But her other outlandish behaviors had sealed her fate. She and Louis escaped Paris for a while, but were recaptured and eventually locked in a tower. They spent the next few years embroiled in political turmoil and accused of a slew of awful crimes including sexual promiscuity and incest. In 1793, Louis was executed. Ten months later, Marie herself was sent to the guillotine and beheaded for treason.

 

Important but not beloved

French people can hold an epic grudge, and most of them still actively hate Marie Antoinette, even hundreds of years later! Her frivolous behavior and total disregard for the needs of her country made her an arch villain. But Thomas Jefferson wrote, "I have ever believed that if there had been no Queen, there would have been no revolution." So although Marie's focus on fashion and fun became her downfall, she may have been the exact kind of hot mess that France needed to kick-start the machinery of democracy.

 

And although she was reviled for her opulent tastes, there's no denying that Marie Antoinette was a lover. She loved beauty, she loved excitement, she loved adventure. Her passion and artistry, her unquenchable lust for life were And although she was reviled for her opulent tastes, there's no denying that Marie Antoinette was a lover. She loved beauty, she loved excitement, she loved adventure. Her passion and artistry, her unquenchable lust for life were destructive … but also spectacular to behold.

 

destructive … but also spectacular to behold.

Joan of Arc: Fearless Warrior for God

 

I'm currently traveling through France, and am feeling so inspired by everything I've seen! The history of this marvelous country comes alive at every turn, and I've been soaking it all in. I recently visited Chinon, and was enthralled by what I learned about Joan of Arc during my stay there. Talk about a fearless woman warrior! Joan has always fascinated me, but immersing myself in her story here has made me fall in love with her all over again. She's the patron saint of France, and her legend is still very much alive here. Today, I wanted to share her story, one of the most mysterious and tragic tales in the whole of French history. Maybe even world history ...

 

Imagine being 12 years old and seeing visions of saints and angels. Now imagine those saints and angels kept telling you that your destiny was to save your country in the name of God. This was precisely what happened to Joan of Arc, a young woman whose bravery would change the course of world history before she'd even reached her eighteenth birthday.

 

Joan was born in northeastern France in 1412 during a series of ongoing military clashes with the English called the Hundred Years War. By the time she was 10 years old, she'd seen dozens of her own neighbors thrown out of their homes by the invading English forces. They even burned her hometown to the ground at one point. Joan's family was incredibly poor and although Joan couldn't read or write, her mother taught her to adore and trust God.

 

That adoration and trust began to take strange forms as Joan grew older.

 

Around the age of 12, Joan began having visions of holy figures. She saw and spoke with St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and the Archangel Michael. In her first few visions, these holy figures simply urged her to lead a pious life dedicated to God. But over time, they became more vivid and specific. By the time she was 16, the angels and saints in Joan's visions had convinced her that France's fate was in her hands.

 

Joan's quest

Around this time, the French throne was in dispute. Both Charles of France and the English king Henry VI claimed to be France's rightful ruler. Through her visions, St. Michael and St. Catherine told Joan that she had been chosen as the savior of France and that she must find a way to meet with Charles. It was her destiny to lead French forces to beat the English and install him as king. As she traveled through the country, the French people heard her story and rallied around her. There was a prophecy that a virgin girl would save France, and both Joan and her supporters believed that she was the chosen one. Some of them began to follow her everywhere she went.

 

After a six-month campaign to get permission to visit Charles, Joan finally persuaded his guards that she was the real deal. She cut her hair short and dressed in men’s clothes for her 11-day trek to Chinon,  convinced that her visions were finally coming true.

 

When she arrived, though, Charles hesitated. Some of his advisors urged him to meet with this passionate girl, but others were convinced she was a fraud. Maybe even a traitor. So Charles decided to put her to a test. He granted her an audience, but disguised himself and hid among the members of his court. She picked him out almost immediately, having never seen him before! After that, he agreed to speak with her privately.

 

During this talk, Joan proved herself by repeating to Charles the words of a prayer he'd made in private, something only God could have heard. After she'd sworn she would see him crowned king at Reims, Charles gifted Joan a suit of armor and a horse, and asked her to accompany the French army to Orléans, the site of an English siege. Joan arrived, she fought valiantly, and after months of stagnation the French finally began to win. Joan's presence had turned the tables on the invaders. At the age of 17 and with no military training, Joan fought like a true warrior and helped her army drive the English out of Orléans.

 

Shortly after, Charles was crowned King Charles VII, just as Joan and predicted.

 

Defeat and capture

Joan was elated that she'd been able to make her visions into reality, but wanted to continue to serve her king. Paris had been captured by enemies to the crown, and she was eager to re-take it. Although King Charles wasn't wild about the idea, Joan bravely led the charge herself, her passion and faith driving her actions.

 

But she was unable to capture the city. And this was the beginning of the end for her ...

 

Several months later, the king ordered Joan to fight the traitorous French Burgundians in Compiégne. As she was attempting to defend the town and its people, she was thrown from her horse, and her own troops abandoned her outside the town’s gates as they closed.

 

Then the Burgundians took Joan captive.

 

Then King Charles lost faith in her. He left her to rot in the Burgundian prison for months without attempting to free her.

 

Joan's supporters made several attempts to rescue her, but all of them failed. Eventually, she was exchanged for 10,000 livres to the English. Well aware that the French people adored Joan and saw her as a messenger from God, the English decided to make an example of her. They charged her with 70 crimes, including witchcraft, heresy, and dressing like a man (illegal at that time). To make matters worse, many French officials sided against Joan and chose to oversee her trial.

 

She'd been abandoned by her king, accused of betraying her beloved God, and turned on by some of her own countrymen.

 

Her trial dragged on for more than a year.

 

She was interrogated dozens of times, threatened with rape and torture, and yet she remained calm and stuck to her claim of innocence through it all. Since one of her crimes was dressing as a man, she was forced to wear traditional women's dresses during the trial … but she rebelled and found ways to sneak men's clothes into her cell so she could wear them proudly! Joan's courage could not be snuffed out, and she held her head high no matter how many times her inquisitors tried to beat her down. She believed in herself, stayed true to her own heart, and was a rebel to the core.

 

Finally, on May 29, 1431, Joan of Arc was convicted of heresy. The next day, she was burned at the stake in front of a crowd of 10,000 people, many of them weeping for their beloved virgin savior.

 

Decades later, King Charles VII ordered an investigation into her trial, cleared her name of all charges, and declared her a martyr. In 1920 she was canonized as a saint, and is now the valiant and adored patron saint of France.

 

Saint Joan

Although Joan of Arc was inspired by her visions of angels and saints, she isn't merely a religious icon in her native France; she's a national symbol of independence. Her unquenchable love for her country and her drive to follow her heart are her legacy. Even today, her actions inspire women in France and all over the world to stand up and fight for their personal freedoms.

 

Sticking to your beliefs in the face of criticism is hard enough, but actually fighting for your beliefs takes a special kind of courage. Joan of Arc felt called to fight for France, and she listened to her warrior's heart until the very end. Her heroic actions helped install a king, save hundreds of lives, and alter her country's history.

 

Even now, nearly 600 years later, Joan call on all of us to dig deep into our cores and summon our ferocious woman warrior selves.