Spreading the Word, From One Heart to Another

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, killing approximately one woman every minute [1]. Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease, is equally alarming, causing one in every seven deaths in the U.S. [2]. CAD is caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in the heart arteries.

When plaque blocks more than 50 percent of an artery, it is considered obstructive coronary artery disease. Since a woman's risk of CAD increases with her age, it's crucial to understand the symptoms -- and know that they may differ from symptoms shown in men.

Women may not experience the typical indicators of CAD that men commonly do, such as chest pain or shortness of breath. Instead, women frequently experience less obvious symptoms that may indicate CAD, but could also stem from other, less serious conditions including heartburn, stress, and anxiety. However, when it comes to the heart, even mild symptoms can be big indicators [3].

Symptoms of CAD in women include: generalized weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness; nausea with or without vomiting; heartburn, indigestion or abdominal discomfort; awareness of heartbeat (palpitations); tightness or pressure in the throat, jaw, shoulder, abdomen, back, or arm; and/or a burning sensation in the upper body [3].

Testing options for CAD in women are as diverse as the symptoms themselves. Women have several testing options for coronary artery disease including:

A sex-specific blood test that takes into consideration the cardiovascular differences between men and women to help doctors rule-out obstructive CAD
An exercise stress test consisting of a half-hour treadmill session where the heart rate is monitored
An electrocardiogram measuring the heart's electrical activity
A nuclear stress test which utilizes imaging
An echocardiogram using sound waves
A magnetic resonance angiography using magnetic fields and radio waves
A coronary calcium scan using x-rays
An invasive coronary angiography which is a surgical procedure

To empower women to be proactive in discussing their heart health and testing options with their healthcare providers, the Society for Women's Health Research (SWHR®) has teamed up with CardioDx on a new patient advocacy campaign, Go Spread the Word. The campaign educates women and those who love them about CAD signs and symptoms, helps women identify questions they should be asking their healthcare providers, and empowers women to ask about which testing options may be safer and more convenient for them.

Take action now to Spread the Word about CAD:

Observe preventive measures, such as maintaining a healthy body weight with a nutritious diet and regular exercise
Use the Symptoms Checklist to see if you are at risk for CAD
Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and about your testing options

Be a champion of change and help raise awareness about CAD in women by visiting and learning more about the Spread the Word campaign at To learn more about SWHR's work on heart health, visit


1. American Heart Association. Facts about Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Available at Last accessed on December 18, 2014.
2. Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. On Behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2015 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;131(4):e29-e322.

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Why Challenges Excite Me

As any one of us sits in the middle of a challenge, the first thing that comes to mind is never a big "Thank you" to the universe, usually, it's more like "What the heck?", "Why me?", or the deep desire for us to just get through it already. In the same way, I now understand why life is set up in a way in which we don't know what the future will bring. We need to exercise faith, hope, vulnerability, love and allow our experiences to hone us for the better; no matter what happens, choosing to pick ourselves up, dust off, and say, "I will not allow this experience to break me, but it will make me better and stronger today."

As I write this, I'm six months away from being 10 years breast cancer free. It's also been 27 years since I escaped my native country of Liberia as a refugee and came to the United States at 15 years old with just one suitcase, 30 years since being hit by lightning and having an out of body experience, 30 years since I was held at gunpoint by soldiers, and 23 years since I escaped from the first war. All my life, I've had obstacles in the way, but I believe that one of the reasons that I've persevered is because I did not see them as such, but as adventures. Was I terrified when I came to the United States alone? Of course, I was. At that time, there was no Internet, Facebook or email.

When the war happened in 1989, there was no way to stay in touch with friends except for long distance phone calls. Finding myself in a brand new world was daunting, but I was thankful that I still had my life, which meant that I had options, a choice -- a future. Years later, I thought I had it all together -- the house, the car, the relationship, a beautiful daughter and an awesome job. I thought that I was finally free from the guns and war, then a breast cancer diagnosis brought it all crashing down on me again. Now, it felt like the war was inside of me. While undergoing treatment for breast cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I realized that life does come with challenges; but they do offer us opportunities for growth, for healing and the opportunity to become more than we can comprehend. The person that I became during that time was someone who was stronger, bolder, more confident, more raw, more vulnerable, more loving and more of what I was asking others to be. In that place, is where I found my purpose -- serving others through my life experiences by way of the organization I created while in treatment, Tigerlily Foundation.

It hit me -- no matter what came my way, those experiences were not only happening to propel me further and to mold me into who I was meant to become, but they were meant to be shared, to help others along their life journeys as well. I have met incredible people, who are also seeking, growing, and who desire to use their experiences to help others.

This is why now, challenges excite me. The opportunity that being alive affords us is incredible. No matter what we are dealing with, we have the power to choose whatwe create with our experiences; and we have the power to choose howwe live. When I'm facing an experience that is daunting, I often do a mental exercise where I imagine holding a coin -- on one side is excitement and on the other side is fear. I then make a mental choice to flip it to the side that allows me to break open, to grow, to love, to learn, to serve and to become more of who I was born to be.

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Hashtag Nation: Fashion World Reacts to the Killing of Cecil

Outrage at Dr. Walter J. Palmer’s hunt and its tragic conclusion spread to models, editors and others in the industry.

Orange Is The New Black Star Danielle Brooks Says Eff Your Beauty Standards With Sports Bra Selfie

Sports bra selfie anyone? Orange Is The New Black star Danielle Brooks just said eff your beauty standards with a flawless sports bra selfie on instagram. That's right while you were photoshopping that extra roll out of your bikini flick, Danielle Brooks was celebrating her body just as it is. The OITNB star confesses that she'd been wanting to hit the gym shirtless for a while but had been discouraged because her body wasn't perfect. "Today I decided to do something I've never done before: Go to the gym with my SHIRT OFF!! I thought I'd share why this is significant for me. I've always wanted to do this but have felt shameful and have told myself "until my body is perfect I'm forbidden." Today my inner being told me to turn up the notch on my self-love. I should not be ashamed of my body. I'm not a walking imperfection! I'm a Goddess. " [See the full post below.]


Preach Danie!

So who's taking the #SportsBraSelfie Challenge? Count me in. Lets stand in solidarity with Danielle and tell the world "Eff Your Beauty Standards"

I'm ready for the gym in my sports bra. #SportsBraSelfie

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Challenging Digital Boundaries

If your doctor only glanced at your chart before telling you that you have cancer and that you need surgery, you'd likely get a second opinion. If your surgeon greeted you on the morning of surgery and told you that he was awake the night before answering emails from the hospital's chief of staff, you'd likely jump off the table and run. Yet, in the name of customer service, we expect lawyers, accountants and other professionals to respond quickly to emails and be available 24/7. We have forgotten the value of a thoughtful response and well-rested professionals.

Employees respond to the growing digital pressure. A report by Knowledge at Wharton revealed that 83% of professional workers check their emails after work, 66% take their technology with them on vacation, and more than 50% report sending emails while having a meal with family or friends. The MIT Sloan Management Review reported that 73% of employees worry that they will be at a disadvantage at work if they disconnect or do not instantly respond.

Even when not pressured by the boss, many adults are as addicted to their smartphone as their children. Some adults check emails and texts more than 150 times a day. These urges are fueled by a psychological need to feel wanted, important and avoid "missing out." Failure to respond immediately results in stress, worry and fear so the sender makes more attempts to communicate and overwhelms others' and their inboxes.

Triaging work emails at night contributes to stress because emails are like rabbits -- they multiply. Emails beget responses, which beget replies. Additionally, checking emails from the boss or clients before bedtime contributes to insomnia.

A "faster is better" customer service style and a constantly connected work force is costly. Professionals who do not disconnect suffer from chronic stress, which contributes to physical and mental health issues. Because time and focus is lost each time one redirects attention from a task to an email and back, employees who are "always connected" are less productive and creative. Personal relationships are impacted too. Many parents sit at the family dinner table focused on messages from colleagues instead of family.

Companies also pay the price for the constantly connected work culture. Pressure to work everywhere and all of the time often results in increased absenteeism, burnout and work/life conflict. Additionally, companies are facing increasing threats of lawsuits from employees, who are seeking compensation for time spent answering emails after hours. This litigation threat may grow, if the Labor Department raises the salary threshold for overtime pay. It is time to challenge assumptions about a constantly-connected workforce.

Since no one wants to be viewed as a slacker, change must start at the top of an organization by revising policies that reflect thicker boundaries between work and home, including agreed-upon offline time. Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow found that just one predictable night off improved job satisfaction for teams. Additionally, work product and productivity can be improved by encouraging employees to disconnect for periods of time during the day to focus on a project. Just as patients want well-rested and thoughtful doctors, clients need to be educated about these benefits for all professionals. To allay fears of important clients and colleagues, key staff can offer their cell numbers, recognizing that people feel less comfortable calling than emailing after hours.

Because role models matter, leaders must model healthy habits with technology and respect others' boundaries. For example, leaders should put late night emails in the "draft box" to be sent during normal work hours to allow team members to psychologically detach from the office and recover from the workday stress. Consensus among teams and organizations about offline time and reasonable response times will help limit the build up of the inbox over night.

Checking dozens of times each day results in hours of lost productivity and accuracy because time is lost while reorienting to the original task and more mistakes occur after returning to the work task. Productivity and accuracy can be improved by spending focused time on email and turning off notifications between email sessions. For example, employees can schedule 30-minute email sessions three times a day or avoid email until the most important task of the day is done.

For those who feel addicted to technology, digital "recovery" starts by changing their self-talk. For example, it is important to recognize: 1) people are in charge of technology and not the other way around; 2) flexibility does not mean always available; 3) busy answering emails does not mean productive; and 4) emergencies are rare. Additionally, like the principle of scarcity, which suggests that people value the things that are not easily available, people who are not always available are valued more by others. Employees should be encouraged to identify their strengths beyond, "always available, first to respond."

Highly addicted people may need to start small, such as going to the grocery store without a cell phone or doing morning routines without checking email and turning off notifications to quell the urge to check. Separating personal and work emails will avoid inadvertently getting sucked into work matters after hours. Practicing mindfulness -- being present and attentive where you are -- also improves relationships and boundaries between work and home.

Following a heart attack, one chief executive officer at a national real estate company took a hard look at his life and his company's "always on" culture. He surprised his employees at a national meeting by challenging them to disconnect more and to create time for deep thought and reflection. In the knowledge economy, people are the company's greatest assets. Ignoring the costs of the constantly connected work culture is dangerous. There is no need to wait for a wake up call; developing a healthier relationship with and use of technology will benefit the organization, the employees, and their clients.

Also on HuffPost:

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Can You Out-Survive Donald Trump In A Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland?

Donald J. Trump is hypothetically on the road to becoming the next president of the United States. If that happens, I think we can all agree the end times are right around the corner.

But in such an event, and you were to survive in the post apocalyptic wasteland that was once the U.S., how would you fare against say, the bringer-of-doom himself, Donald Trump? Find out below.

For a constant stream of entertainment news and discussion, follow HuffPost Entertainment on Viber.

Also on HuffPost:

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Things I Wished I Would Have Done Before I Got Married

I am nine months into marriage and already have regrets. I do not regret my choice of partner, or our choice to get married, but do regret who I was prior to marriage and what I did (or didn't do) when I was single.

I wish I had more sex before I got married.

I wish I'd had sex with more men and women. I wish I hadn't been afraid to experiment with my desires, or that I had come into them sooner. I wish I had sex with different races than my own. I wish I had more one night stands and that I hadn't been afraid to have them. I wish I had guest-starred in someone else's threesome. I wish I could have owned the term slut, rejected the term slut, or been given the chance to grapple with the idea of what being a slut meant. I wish my number of sexual partners were higher than five.

There is the chance to take other women to bed with my husband and me now, but not other men. I don't want other men (but I once did) and I'm not entirely comfortable (yet) with sharing my husband with another woman, even if I want her too.

I wish I had spent more time being single.

I had my first boyfriend when I was 15, and dated him on and off until I was 17. After my first boyfriend, I immediately starting dating another guy and after him came two and a half years of long-distance relationship, followed by another two and a half years in a face-to-face relationship.

After those five years, I had my first chance to be on my own, but I did everything I could not to take it. I slept with my ex regularly, hoping he'd realize he was still in love with me and treat me better the second time around. I took up with a guy who cooked at the restaurant where I waitressed, so when things got bad with the ex, I'd pick up with the cook, and vice versa. I chatted with guys on OKCupid and flirted with others in clubs and at parties. I surrounded myself with men the best I could, and avoided any time by myself.

I wish I had used the time to read and write, spend time with my friends, and go to movies alone. I wish I had dated myself as fervently as I dated and attempted to date men.

Luckily, my husband and I are of similar mind. We both believe in quality time spent together and apart. But I wish that I had been courageous enough to override the fear of being lonely and learn how to be alone.

I wish I had studied abroad in college, or moved after graduation, or traveled in my 20s.

There was an excellent English and writing program in Bath that two of my best friends attended that I wished I had been a part of as well. I was attached to a guy at the time and chose him ahead of my education and stereotypical foreign self-actualization.

I also wanted to move to New York in the fall of 2012, but instead got engaged and have only visited New York once since. I wish I had fulfilled my romanticized, glamorous dream of slowly starving to death in a claustrophobic Brooklyn apartment, while trying to break into authorship and publishing.

I could have had a lot of sex in New York (these tie together).

I wish I had taken road trips, bought plane tickets, and visited all the major cities: Miami, Portland, Chicago, Seattle, and LA. I imagined the starry-eyed scene of traveling alone, preferably via railway or plane or some other giant metallic transportation system.

I didn't want to be engaged before my late 20s, or married before I turned 30. Instead, I met my husband at 23 and married at 26.

There is regret that comes when you meet your husband before you'd planned. There are sexual adventures to be put away or postponed, and your grand adventures now include a travel partner. But as far as my current sex life, personal growth, travel plans, and marriage? I have not one complaint. I'll take a tangible, flesh-and-blood husband any day.

This story by Liz Furl first appeared at, an alternative news+culture women's website.

More from Ravishly:

8 Romantic Movie Myths You Should Never Aspire To
Egalitarian Marriage, When Spouses Are Equal
A Postpartum Sex Primer

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Muslim Women Superheroes

Connecther was founded on a few major principles:

Women and girls suffer disproportionately from poverty, conflict, oppression and war.

By working to advance women and girls globally, communities will be elevated since women give back significantly to their families & communities.

We need to highlight & invest in women leaders from developing world communities to help scale their efforts. For every woman leader we invest in, multiple more are created.

Encouraging women's access to space and voice is crucial. Connecther provides a platform for women & girls to tell their own stories.

Growing up as a minority in America (Lebanese -- Muslim -- Woman), there were so many shining examples of authentic, strong and powerful Muslim women around (both local and global), yet often times the pundits who were telling my story and talking about my identity were neither Muslim nor women.

In our work at Connecther and in particular with our focus areas being Southeast Asia and the MENA region, I have the privilege of working with some amazing Muslim women -- women who run highly effective grassroots organizations or speak out against injustice. Yet despite their achievements, the media seems to always portray Muslim women as victims.

So I was excited last year when Marvel Comics introduced its latest female superhero: Karmala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American girl with amazing shape-shifting powers. This inspiring character got me thinking: How many real-life Muslim women superheroes do I know? I asked Connecther communications specialist Elaine Robbins to profile a few of my superheroes.

These women are very aligned with our goals at Connecther and are achieving great things -- often against huge odds. Yet they rarely get media attention. While I refer to these women as "superheroes" and sure, they are one of a kind, but there are countless Muslim women out there doing remarkable work to advance their communities. Do you know any Muslim women superheroes in your community?

Dr. Hawa Abdi


When Somalia became ravaged by civil war, Dr. Hawa Abdi did what her culture's hospitality calls for: She opened her family land near Mogadishu to refugees fleeing the violence. In the decades that followed, her makeshift village grew to provide a safe refuge to 90,000 people. Alongside her two daughters, also doctors, Dr. Abdi cares for the sick at their 400-bed hospital and runs agricultural and livelihood training. When a militant militia seized her village in 2010, Dr. Abdi fearlessly faced down the soldiers. They kidnapped her, and when she was finally released, she demanded -- and received -- a written apology. Where does such determination come from? As she told Vital Voices, "My mother always told me" that no matter what happens to you, "you need to get up and help your people."

Muna AbuSulayman


What could Saudi media personality Muna AbuSulayman and Microsoft founder Bill Gates possibly have in common? Plenty, as it turns out. Like Gates at his Gates Foundation, AbuSulayman is bringing tough-minded business sense to the feel-good world of philanthropy. As former secretary general of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation and now as head of her own Directions Consultancy, she applies strategic thinking to some of the world's toughest problems. "I've had to educate myself," she has said. "I'm constantly asking what could be done differently or more effectively to maximize impact." Whether she's working toward female empowerment, coaching aspiring entrepreneurs, or fostering East-West relations by creating Islamic studies programs at places like Harvard and Cambridge, the TV host turned philanthropist is making a lasting impact.

Edna Adan


Edna Adan could have enjoyed the comfortable life of a retired World Health Organization official. But when she returned to her native Somaliland after a high-powered career, she found the newly independent country in disarray, its health care system destroyed by the civil war with Somalia. So she sold her beloved Mercedes and her washing machine and built the Edna Adan Hospital. There, Adan and her staff are saving lives in a country with one of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. Her latest dream? To train 1,000 midwives to work in villages across the country. Adan has delivered countless babies, but she's also given birth to something else: a new notion of what it actually means to live "a comfortable life."

Khalida Brohi


At age 16, Khalida Brohi witnessed the death of a good friend in an "honor killing." That tragic event led her to found Sughar, a nonprofit that brings women to village centers across Pakistan. There women learn to make traditional embroidery that is sold to the fashion industry. In addition to learning a marketable skill, they gain literacy and learn to speak out against oppression and violence. Brohi's work has attracted international recognition, and in 2013 she sat on a panel with Bono and Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg at the Clinton Global Initiative. She told the audience what inspired her to accomplish so much -- all before the age of 18: "My father always told me, 'My dear, don't cry, strategize.' "

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy


Fewer than 5 percent of Hollywood directors are women, so it is cause for celebration whenever a female director wins an Oscar. But award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has gone even further to advance women -- by shining a light on the challenges facing females in the Muslim world. She won an Academy Award in 2012 for her documentary Saving Face, which chronicled the struggle for justice of victims of acid attacks in her native Pakistan. "It takes one second to ruin a woman's life," she told Glamour magazine. "You may need a license to buy a gun, but in many places a man can buy acid from the corner store, throw it on a woman's face and from then on she is the living dead." The film helped win harsher punishment for the crime in parts of Pakistan. And like all of Obaid-Chinoy's films, it gives a voice to people whose voices are rarely heard.

Shirin Ebadi


Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, judge and professor who has devoted her career to defending human rights. Ebadi held the position of chief justice of a court in Tehran when the Islamic Revolution took power in 1979. Demoted to a clerk in her own court, she quit to practice law -- and has spent her career fearlessly defending political dissidents and fighting for women's and children's rights. Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2003. "My aim," she has said, "is to show that those governments that violate the rights of people by invoking the name of Islam have been misusing Islam."

Mona El-Farra


Trained as a physician and health chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent, Mona El-Farra has spent decades attending to the sick and injured in Gaza. Years of living under occupation has taught her that some of the wounds of conflict are invisible. That's why one of her missions is to bring to the world's attention the devastating and sometimes lasting effects on children of witnessing death and destruction. As director of Gaza Projects at the Middle Eastern Children's Alliance, El-Farra oversees programs that build playgrounds, install water purification systems in Gaza kindergartens, train mothers to help their children with trauma and encourage youth to express their feelings through participation in art, dance and performance.

Tawakkol Karman


Although the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia received more attention, Yemen had its own revolution. Journalist and human rights activist Tawakkol Karman helped lead the protests that called for an end to the dictatorship of Ali Abdulla Saleh. In 2011 she won the Nobel Prize for her role, sharing the prize with Liberians Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who helped bring an end to their country's 14-year civil war. While the final effects of Yemen's Arab Spring are still dangerously uncertain, one thing is clear: Karman and her fellow laureates have shown that women have a critical role to play in justice- and peace-building efforts.

Samar Minallah Khan


Award winning filmmaker and activist Samar Minallah Khan has been making social documentaries for over a decade. Khan has produced several documentaries on various aspects of compensation marriages, known as swara, a custom whereby girls, often minors, are given in marriage to end disputes. As an anthropologist, her work focuses on a culturally sensitive approach to development. What is unique about her films is that most are made in regional languages, and Khan has used them to reach out to rural audiences in Pakistan and Afghanistan to teach women their rights under Islamic law. Her films have also been disseminated to policymakers, religious scholars and tribal elders. In 2004, partly in response to her efforts, swara was officially outlawed in Pakistan. It's no surprise that Minallah was one of the 2015 DVF (Diane von Furstenberg) award recipients.



At the young age of 11, Malala Yousafzai wrote a blog about her experience living in the Swat region of Pakistan under the Taliban. She also wrote about her desire to go to school. In retaliation, in 2012 a Taliban gunman boarded her schoolbus and shot her in the head. She survived the attack and has courageously continued to speak out for children's rights, especially the right to an education. In 2014 Malala became the youngest Nobel Prize recipient in history. Last year, on her 16th birthday -- dubbed Malala Day -- she addressed the United Nations Assembly with these words: "The terrorists thought that they would change my aims...But nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."

Ingrid Mattson


From 1998 to 2012, Ingrid Mattson was Professor of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary in CT where she served as Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. Prior to this, Mattson served as vice-president, then as president of the Islamic Society of North America (USA), the first woman to serve in either position. Dr. Mattson is an interfaith ambassador and from 2009-2010, she was a member of the Interfaith Taskforce of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie was quoted as saying, "My work with Dr. Mattson has been among the most rewarding of my time as President of the Union for Reform Judaism...her invitation to me to address the 2007 Islamic Society of North America convention was brave, and it, together with her remarkable address to our convention later that year, opened a new chapter in Jewish-Muslim relations in North America."

Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser


Sheikha Mozah has said that her work in education has convinced her that there are ways to overcome barriers to access education. That is why she launched the Educate A Child initiative in November 2012. She is a staunch advocate for women, children, education and the disabled. She was a driving force behind Education City and Al Jazeera Children's Channel. She has been a supporter of Qatar Foundation (QF) for Education, Science and Community Development, established in 1996 as a private independent organization, chaired by H.H. Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser. Among the most prominent achievements of QF was the establishment of Qatar Academy, Social Development Centre and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)-Qatar College of Design Arts. Additionally, she has been named as one of Forbes' 100 Most Powerful Women at #75.

Ibtihaj Muhammad


When millions of viewers tune in to the Olympic Games next year, they may be treated to an uncommon sight: that of a woman fencing in a hijab for Team USA. New Jersey native Ibtihaj Muhammad is accustomed to being a sports ambassador for Muslim women. After all, it's not every day that people see an African American Muslim woman compete in a male-dominated sport. "I'm hoping that through my efforts and my journey as a minority athlete and as a Muslim athlete, I'm changing the face of sports," she told Zainab Salbi at the 2014 Women in the World summit. "I think that's what's so awesome about sports -- that it is able to bridge cultures." With a whoosh of her saber, Muhammad will continue to slashing stereotypes wherever she goes.

Alaa Murabit


It's no surprise that Alaa Murabit received a standing ovation for her compelling talk at TedxWomen earlier this year. Murabit was on the front lines of the Libyan revolution. As in many revolutions, women were encouraged to help lead the rebellion, but when the time came to have a seat at the table, they were asked to kindly retreat. This was not an option for Murabit, who founded The Voice of Libyan Women to ensure that women's voices continue to be heard. Her method? To use Islamic literature to teach both men and women that women are equal to men. Murabit is an advisor to many international think tanks and organizations, including the U.N. Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group and Harvard's Everywoman Everywhere Coalition. An Ashoka Fellow, Murabit was a Trust Women Hero Award Winner in 2013.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi


The United Arab Emirates conjures contradictory images of shimmering modern skyscrapers and women living in the shadows of a male-dominated society. It might be a surprise for some, then, to learn that the UAE has a powerful female cabinet minister: Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi. As the minister for International Cooperation and Development, Sheikha Lubna directs the oil-rich nation's international aid efforts -- which amounted to a whopping $6 billion in 2013. She also speaks about gender equality issues and serves on countless boards. No wonder Arabian Business magazine just named Sheikha Lubna the #1 most powerful Arab woman in the world (human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney, was #2).

Queen Rania


Unlike many royals, Queen Rania has no qualms about sharing her political opinions. When speaking to Huffington Post Editor-In-Chief, Arianna Huffington, she recently stated that "there is nothing Islamic about the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS." She went on to say, "They have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with fanaticism." Queen Rania is a progressive female voice in the Arab world. Whether pointing out her efforts to provide technology opportunities for Jordan's youth, her international voice of cross-cultural dialogue, or being UNICEF's first Eminent Advocate for Children and Honorary Chair of the UN Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI), her accomplishments are too many to list. Queen Rania launched Madrasati, a public-private partnership to renovate 500 public schools and enrich student curricula in Jordan and in 2010, expanded Madrasati to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ask any fellow Jordanian about Queen Rania and you will commonly hear, "She is such a good woman at heart. She cares tremendously about uplifting the voices of women and girls. I've met her at a few gatherings and have never seen a royal figure who behaves with such compassion and humility." Queen Rania has said, "I just wake up and feel like a regular the end of the day you are living your life for the people that you represent. It's an honor and a privilege to have that chance to make a difference - a qualitative difference in people's lives - and it's my responsibility to make the most out of that opportunity."

Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud


As CEO of Alfa International, Princess Reema made a bold move: She hired an equal number of women as men to work at sales clerks at the Harvey Nichols department store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. "You cannot have half of your population not working," she told Fast Company, which last year named her its Creative Person of the Year. This year she launched Alf Khair, the social responsibility initiative of Alfa and the World Economic Forum named her one of its 2015 Young Global Leaders. Although Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go -- it was ranked 130 out of 142 countries in the 2014 Global Gender Gap report -- women in the workplace are on the rise thanks to powerful women like Princess Reema.

Zainab Salbi


Zainab Salbi is an expert on war. Not on troop movements or casualty figures, but on the side of war that isn't normally reported on the evening news: the stories of women living in a conflict zone. After growing up in war-torn Iraq, she co-founded Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to helping women survivors of war. The organization has served more than 370,000 women in such places as Bosnia, Congo and Sudan. In her speaking engagements and in her three books -- Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam; The Other Side of War: Women's Stories of Survival and Hope; and If You Knew Me, You Would Care -- Salbi puts a human face on conflict by telling the stories of individual women who keep life going despite the horrors of war.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi


Since 1995 Sakena Yacoobi has achieved the near-impossible in her native Afghanistan: She has brought quality education, health care and literacy and life skills training to 11 million people. In the process, the organization she founded, the Afghan Institute of Learning, has become one of the largest employers of women in Afghanistan. How did one woman -- or any of these Muslim women superheroes, for that matter -- achieve so much? Ironically, by starting small. After appealing to a local mullah, she was given permission to open one school. Within a year, she had started 27 schools teaching 50,000 children. "When you have a passion for something," she has said, "you keep going."

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Modern Love: A Kiss Deferred by Civil War

They met at age 12. One was Serbian, the other Croatian. Separated by a civil war, they ultimately found their way back to each other.

The Power of Gratitude

gratitude / grat.i.tude / ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od /
The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
(Oxford Dictionaries, © 2015 Oxford University Press)

Gratitude is a simple notion, yet one that we formally honor but once a year. But how does gratitude color our lives when we're not sitting around a table laden with turkey, stuffing and candied yams? When did you last pause to recognize and acknowledge the many things for which you are grateful?

Time speeds by at an alarming pace. On the treadmill of life, we can forget to take a breather and enumerate what we have been given that we've forgotten or taken for granted. We tend to focus on what we don't have, not on what we have. That leaves us wishing for what is not in our lives instead of valuing what is.

Months ago, after producing a successful event for a women's news organization, my boss gave me an unusual thank-you gift. As Charlie Brown would say, on Halloween night, "I got a rock." Mine was an ocean rock that a friend unearthed in Gloucester, MA, and chose for its smooth, solid, flat shape. The simplicity of the gift touched me. On the rock's surface, my boss hand-painted the word Joy in bright red. The sender's note accompanying the gift contained a simple sentiment: " ...You fill the room with joy, every room in which you enter. Joy is pure and true and the cleanest burning fuel. ..."

The stone evoked memories of another rock featured in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." After trick-or-treating, the neighborhood kids compare their hauls. Charlie Brown examines his "bounty" and sighs, "I got a rock."

Charlie and I both received a rock. There, the similarities end. My rock is a constant reminder of my gratitude. How fortunate I was to have worked with this exceptional group of women on a transformative event. Catalyzing my own gratitude, the rock altered the trajectory of my "spiritual" journey. Initially, the rock occupied a small space on my desk. Now, it's my "gratitude rock;" I carry it wherever I go.

Whenever I touch the stone I give thanks for something good in my life at that moment. I consider how grateful I am for the wonderful relationships, experiences and joys in my life. The more appreciation I show, the more those gifts bloom.

I began to cultivate a daily practice of gratitude. I start, end and live each moment of the day in gratitude. I focus on the positive, not the negative. For instance, my to-do list has transformed from a burden to a blessing, symbolizing the people, projects and experiences with which I am involved.

I see my rock, think of all the good in my life, and thank the universe with a simple mantra: "I'm grateful."

It works!

By starting the first hour of my day with positive energy, I've set the next 24 in positive motion. Focusing on unhappiness blinds me to my opportunities for gladness and success. At the end of the day, I think about all the good things that I've received and choose one thing that's made me the happiest. It returns me to a place of appreciation, no matter what has happened during the day. Bathed in gratitude, I enjoy a more tranquil sleep.

My emotional circuitry is being favorably fine-tuned. Early on, I began to reap the positive benefits of daily gratitude, observing the world through a lens of thankfulness. Being grateful for what we already have creates waves of positive change within ourselves and around us. Gratitude directs us to a more fulfilled life. I'm mindful of little things and seek the positive within even what appear to be unpleasant situations.

Just recently, a setback turned into an opportunity. I was booked to manage an out-of-town event that was rescheduled after I had committed to another project. The conflict made it impossible to take on the first event, giving me some extra time on a day I wasn't even supposed to be in town.

Instead of mulling over the unfortunate turn of events, I took a walk around another neighborhood. As I strolled past a local college, a light bulb went off. When I returned home, I contacted schools to inquire about guest-lecturing positions. After promising conversations with practicing academicians in the events industry, I'm now awaiting confirmation. I was able to turn a potential disappointment into an inspiration.

The situation wasn't distressing; the problem was my perception of the circumstances. Yes, one opportunity was canceled, but another took its place. I now coach myself to dial down gloomy thoughts, remain thankful, and look for the "up" side. I asked myself:

How could the situation have benefited me?
Could I turn annoyance into appreciation for an opportunity?
Could I be thankful for anything within the situation?

As in meditation, changing one's attitude takes practice. Living in the here and now offers opportunities to see the entire picture, solve problems and not weave worst-case scenarios.

I've formulated a new checklist from my experiences:

Is gratitude transformative?
Does gratitude matter?
Does gratitude deliver as much to the sender as to the giver?

A growing body of data shows that people who cultivate an attitude of gratitude experience more energy, happiness and resilience. Robert Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology, University of California, Davis, and Michael E. McCullough, PhD, professor of psychology, University of Miami, have conducted studies on gratitude, and found measurable psychological, physical and interpersonal health benefits for subjects practicing gratitude.

According to Emmons's and McCullough's research, gratitude not only improves health and happiness; it also increases our levels of well-being throughout our personal and social lives. For further material on the benefits of gratitude, take a look at Dr. Emmons's website in which he further explores the benefits of gratitude, and refers to numerous research initiatives on the subject.

We all have something for which we may be grateful, even in the bleakest of times. I've created a personal "Gratitude List." Here's a sampling:

My family and friends whose love, encouragement and support inspire me and make me feel cherished. They "get" me and listen to me.
Laughter, a baby's giggle, a child's belly laugh. And humor.
The people in my life, the memory of those I've lost, and their different personalities.
Work I love and continue to find fully nourishing.
Smiles and hugs.
The chance to make the people I love know that I love them.
Deep breaths.
Quality television -- and Shonda Rhimes for creating "TGIT" TV.
Chocolate (all varieties). And mint chocolate chip ice cream, even though my fat cells are bursting to come out; and spoons for eating the ice cream.
Second and third chances, and forgiveness.
My resilience; tough times and setbacks that have made me stronger, more appreciative and empathetic.
The ability to embrace my flaws, weaknesses and failures; they continue to teach me.
Saying, speaking and doing whatever my heart desires.
Handwriting anything.
Being there for others in their time of need.
Post-it notes.
Eyes to see the neon glow of Times Square, and legs and feet to carry me to them.
Every new day -- to move forward, make progress.

It's been said that gratitude is the shortest-lived emotion. Try to get in touch with your gratitude. Be thankful for every moment of your life and enjoy the experience on a different level. How different the world appears when we deliberately focus for one moment on things we've never noticed before.

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Girl on the Rails, Once Upon a Time on Amtrak

I jump onto a train when I need to write and think. I avoid my laundry and my stories and the words and panties get piled up with life's multitude of distractions. So I use my Amtrak Reward card status and book a 3.75 hour each way tour on the tracks, run the washer full-stop and frantically fold before I walk the .8 miles to Union Station.

I get to see my sweetheart after the journey, so I have additional incentive to get to the rails on time. I am a "regular," -- the conductor's name is Tom. I promised myself (and my life coach, John, as a witness) I would post one vignette (blog) a week on my website from September 8, '14 for one year.

I hopped onto a train to write my first two stories the week prior to my penciled in deadline. I delivered on the goods The ritual is: snag a sweet seat in the bistro car, order a tea and honey and get to my "Once Upon a Times" within 15 minutes. Most of the journey rolls alongside water. I daydream and have to pull myself back to the page often. I like being alone unless I get the fore mentioned sweet heart to ride with me on the rails, where we pack picnic and bootleg and we write a story together or tend to our own words or sleep time. I don't make pals on the train, I place the force field bubble around me for "me time." I need it. I fantasize about it. Not Diane Lane in Unfaithful fantasize, but damn close to.

I am behind on the year end action plan commitment: 52 stories by this coming September 8. So I just booked three back and forth Portlandia to Seattle rail rides to help facilitate the dream come true. Last week, the Bistro car was full so I asked a sweet looking lady if I could share a table with her. The other two open seat options were rowdy youngsters drinking beer and slapping one another on the backs (could have been a fun option I suppose if I didn't itch for quiet). She had a gin and tonic and a turkey on rye to keep her busy. I ordered a wine and talked with her. Broke my own rule. Drinks and talking as well? What the hell was I up to?

An hour into the trip I mentioned that I had to focus and tuck into the my Apple for a bit. Not before she shared that her name was Renee and she was really tired. Little children, full-time work and no time for sex or sleep. I asked her if she liked her Honey still. Yes, just the other night he was fixing the sink and he was holding a wrench and I wanted him so fiercely. Oh my, I am getting warmed up. She was so excited just conjuring up the memory. What did he say about that? I ask.

I didn't tell him. I am too tired, that's why I am on this train. I need some friend time and some rest. Me too, but not that badly. She spends the next hour in quiet. Then she says, now I want to go home after talking to you. I just needed a couple of hours to myself and a drink and a bit of girl chat. I want my man, she says.

May I make a suggestion (life coacher butting in)? Let him know that he matters so much to you that you are on a train and sharing the shirt off (forgot that part) wrench in hand sexy husband fixing the damn sink moment. Really? Yes, of course, would you like to hear him tell you you are sexy more often? Yes, he does tell me even when I weighed 50 pounds more after baby birthing. She starts to cry. He really is a good man and I love him. What do you want Renee? I want to stay married and I love him more now that I am on the rails talking to a stranger. Renee just needs a nap and a few more broken sinks, I think.

She texts her man and his chest pumps up (in my mind's eye) with her want of him. He immediately responds with love and endearing phrases. Her stop comes up and we hug goodbye. Thanks for lifting me up she shares. Thanks for lifting me up, too. Meeting and opening up to a shared table and chat with Renee reminds me of a very basic to do, a to do we can not usually do in the chaos of our lives. That is: Notice when we are turned on, when we feel gratitude, when we are glad for the lives we have created (even with stepped in gum parts that inevitably sticky our lives up). One text, one thank you, a kiss can re-build a broken story. Thanks rail pal for the reminder of how fortunate I am to have my person and my purpose. I think I will send a text to my coach and also to my love (maybe I will get lucky with a broken sink scene when I arrive) and thank them for helping to orchestrate this lovely life chapter I am writing.

We all need a place to rest, to read, to think, dream and write. I found my productive space on a train. Yes, the library or Stumptown would be much more efficient checking out to check in spots, but the tracks influence my traction best. It is a bit old fashioned romantic to ride and write and anticipate the visit ahead, especially when I do not have to be stuck in a traffic jam. I have seven more vignettes to complete before birthday deadline and three more trains booked. I think I can, I think I can get it done before the midnight bell rings.

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Knowing and Being Known Is Worth the Vulnerability and Awkwardness

My first date with my husband was what we now call our "acci-date," or accidental date. We had made plans to have lunch with a friend of mine, but she had to cancel at the last minute due to a "dental emergency" (really), so we went ahead with just the two of us. Despite the fact that my friend and her root canal sounded like a ruse I made up to get him alone, he wasn't too broken up about the impromptu change. Neither was I.

Throughout lunch I was amazed and moved by Jonathan's ability to ask good, rich questions and lead the conversation into meaningful territory. He did not regard our time together as a series of chances to establish his place and promote himself. Instead, he focused on really hearing me and making my words welcome and treasured. A year later we were celebrating one month of marriage. But his conversations reflect this self-giving nature with everyone, not just his wife.

Over the past eight years I have studied his ability to love people through other-centered conversation. It's not pretense: he does not manipulate people or try to impress them. It's not effortless: it takes intentional work to know people, because putting aside yourself and your own needs does not happen naturally. He does it to build real relationships that push back against the entropic isolation of life.

As a child and adolescent I was shy when talking with new people. I worried the whole time if they really wanted to talk with me, if I were interesting enough, if they liked me at all. It was all about me, and it was crippling. As I matured and began to know myself, I realized that people's acceptance of me didn't create or reveal my worth. My worth is permanently settled in my dignity as a human being. I also began to see that everyone feels insecure; everyone is hurting to some degree. We are all more fragile than we let on, and that makes people much less intimidating.

Most importantly, we all want to be known. It's how we were made; real relationship is like fresh air and pure water for us. It's where we are most alive. Genuine, enriching relationships are held aloft by vulnerability and trust, self-giving and trustworthiness, dignity and truth. We seek the ultimate good of the other person, believing that they will do the same, in a delicate dance of sacrificial love.

In practice it does not always look so lofty, and there must be grace after injury, and wisdom about when and with whom to be open: relationships are also where we are most vulnerable. Past or present pain can make being known feel terribly dangerous. If our main experience of closeness is a parody of relationship twisted by abuse or fear, then numbness and distance feel like wise choices. Personal connection can seem like nothing more than an "in" for those who want to use and discard us. This is not everyone's experience, but perhaps there is a hint of these feelings in all of us.

I was fortunate to have friends who persevered with me through my limited ability to let people into my life. They didn't condescend to me or try to "save" me; they wanted to love me and know me. And gradually, being known became more valuable and more delightful than being impenetrable and fierce. I felt more and more safe, so my previously frantic goal of safety became less and less insistent. It gave me a new-found freedom to extend my heart to others to know and be known. The more I was loved, the more I could love.

A while ago I met with someone for lunch, and I started by asking some questions to get to know her more. At first she answered each question with one or two words and then stared at me expectantly for the next one, while I sipped my drink slowly to give her time to reciprocate. After her first few stilted responses, I felt the old worry rise up in me: "Does she like me? Does she even want to be here? Does she wish I hadn't invited her?" Slowly she became more animated and I felt more confident of her interest. It showed me a stark picture of how my mindset had changed.

Instead of giving in to the idea that this awkward conversation meant she hated me, I allowed the possibility that maybe she was nervous or tired, or finds one-on-one conversation a little difficult. Instead of worrying about whether I should give up and get out of there, I stayed the course, trying to find what sparks her passion and give her the space to express what she wanted to express. And it worked. We had a meaningful discussion that I hope paves the way for further relationship.

Seeking other-centered conversation frees us to love others. If I am intent on truly knowing the other person, I am not worried about their reception of me. Self-forgetfulness gives me the courage to persevere even when I feel out of place; even if it feels awkward, it's an offering of love. And love can never be a waste.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

F*** Judgment and Be Wild… The Results Will Transform Your Life!

Fuck judgment and be wild...the results will transform your life!

Wild woman. Crazy woman. Loud woman. Sexy woman. Challenging woman. While all these women are inside me, up until now I have not given them the slightest chance of expression. However, what I've totally mastered is "the nice girl". The successful woman; the responsible one; the pretty princess; the fun chick. Yes, I am those ones as well - but not only. And it took me an enormous, inhuman amount of energy to tell myself that these other sides of me are unwelcome and needed to be suppressed. What a waste of energy, spread out over a total of 32 years! 

The voice of judgment in my head has been running the show. Why? Because in this world of "should", we think it pays off to stay tamed, stay pretty, stay nice. We stay on track and we get our shit together. We are conditioned to neglect that voice inside until it gets so quiet that we confuse it with the trained voice of judgment - taking that voice for the truth. So my big mission right now is to empower my true soul voice.

Are you coming with me for the ride? 

What would happen if you dared being wild? What would happen if you dared being firm? Loud? Honest? Yes, you would offend people - because these people are holding back their own truth. They are listening to their voice of judgment. True, some people might pull back from you - because they are afraid of the truth and feel confronted.

But I'm asking you now - is this the world you want to live in? Are those the kinds of people you want to let in your heart? Or do you want to surround yourself with people who celebrate YOU. And with that I mean ALL of you. Once you start coming out as your true self you'll notice a humongous shift. You will actually start to inspire others. You will bring out joy. You will activate love. You will take the biggest burden off yourself - the burden of not fully being yourself. And you will have an insane amount of energy to laugh, dance and to celebrate life with all those amazing people who are right there, who are on that mission with you.

Let us stop doing the expected. Ask yourself instead: What does my heart expect me to do? We have been conditioned to think this would be selfish behavior. We have been told to always "consider" others. But which part of other people are we actually considering? Are we only paying tribute to their trained beliefs of "appropriate" social behavior, reinforcing them in their thought of what is the "right" behavior?

But what has been the result of applying these beliefs to our social behavior? Of modeling our social behavior according to the way we've been trained to think? What we've got to deal with now is anxiety, depression, loneliness, addiction, divorce, and eating disorders. And what don't we have, but crave? Connection. We want to be seen for who we truly are. Being loved for who we are. Being heard for who we are. We want to let our hearts relax.

So what would happen if we allowed ourselves (and others!) to do exactly that: See each other, love each other, listen to each other, give each other peace. And this starts with listening to who we really are and loving who we really are, giving ourselves time to generate peace in our lives, and in our hearts. In the end, does this sound terribly selfish? Not to me. What if a common conversation (as common as the weather and the most recent phone app) amongst friends was this: "Are you being your true self today? What does your heart yearn for today? What would make it light up?" And then we listen (a capacity we've largely lost) - and we respect that truth for the other person. And more, we find ways to create space for the implementation of that truth. How is that for an interaction? I'd take that anytime over gossip or fashion talk. And it will shift our interactions from 'what can we get from one another' to 'what can I give myself today'.

If I need peace, I allow space and time to create a sense of peacefulness. This might also mean that I'm not going to an event where my presence is "expected". I cancel plans and disregard the notion of "having" to go to a certain event. Part of this is also not to dress in an "expected" way. This takes courage!! And that's exactly why we need our sisters - we need to encourage each other to live our truth.

We are already going in that direction. Conscious brands are showing up everywhere, making us aware of our actions. Yoga and meditation are more popular than ever, allowing and encouraging us to listen. Gay marriage just got legalized - respecting love in every form it wants to show up. We are moving towards listening to the truth (our truth!), towards encouraging and celebrating individual perfection. Let's keep going!

Most importantly: In order to say 'fuck it' to external judgment we have to start with that loud voice of judgment in our own head. It's a tricky, delicate journey because it's a loud and messy one and the muscle of the voice of truth hasn't been trained much in this lifetime. But in the end, it will be the only voice that matters. So I invite you to not just ask yourself: "Can I be strong?" (because you are!) but rather: "Can I show my strength?"

My personal journey of unraveling my true self started many years ago. I attended a dance retreat and one of the workshops there involved Sufi spinning. At one point I fell on the ground and started sobbing "I am so done with making myself small just so that others protect me!" My friend collapsed next to me, in tears: Her heart was screaming the exact same thing.

As I have been embarking on this journey I keep noticing the large number of women who feel the exact same voice speaking to them from within their hearts. Let us be done with being the "pretty princess". Let us be done with being cute. Sister, how about we step it up to being queens? Caring! Roaring! Radiating! In charge of our actions! Responsible for the results of our behavior! Honoring our own needs! Deeply caring for the wellbeing of others!

Just as a warning - this process will transform your life! You might not be able to stay in certain jobs, countries, relationships, and friendships. This shift might bring about ridiculous amounts of energy, joy, love, tears, happiness and laughter.

I've been in my own personal "fuck judgment" phase for the last few months - after a big fashion trade show I did in New York I knew that my mission of revolutionizing the way women see themselves through the medium of my brand was NOT to play the fashion industry's game. I know I am on my own path and I am meeting incredible people every day who are stepping away from the system - questioning EVERYTHING that we have been told to do.

How can we tap into the energy of Truth?

I used to think showing up in my Truth would make me less loved. And guess what - the more I let people see my true self, the more love I receive. It's about being vulnerable and real. Then we attract those people who are aligned with those qualities and live the same way. They speak the truth. They communicate clearly. Yes, it's uncomfortable at times. But it is soooo liberating. It makes your soul dance. It makes your heart laugh. 

What if you agreed that it's unacceptable to neglect your truth?! Your craving for love. Your need to scream; to be heard; to be held. To be sensual; to say no - and to say yes. It's your call. Your soul's truth is the judge. Let us shed the trained judgments that are leaving us paralyzed, anxious, depressed, and lonely. Let us hug. Let us love. Let us be slow. Let us be loud. Do it now!!

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3 Key Traits of a Trail Blazing Woman

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Monica Enand, Founder and CEO of start-up Zapproved - a software-as-a-service provider based in Portland, Oregon. Their flagship product, Legal Hold Pro, is the first cloud-based litigation hold management software.

Monica is a petite, 4'11" powerful force of nature and possesses the qualities and characteristics of true feminine leadership. She went from being a big corporate engineer at IBM and Intel to launch her own company in the economy downturn of 2008. By definition, her bold move is courage! She believed in herself and held steadfast commitment to follow her passion. There is no room to play small for this mighty trailblazer!

What I learned about Monica continues to validate the things women need to elevate, adopt, and focus on in order to play bigger in their lives and careers. She stands as a testament and inspiration for other women to find the courage to follow their passion and intuition. What are her keys traits that have contributed to her success?

1. Overcome self-doubt by not allowing yourself to get overwhelmed by looking too far ahead. Monica now asks herself, "What is my highest priority?" before taking action. She then breaks it down in small focused steps.

This is something many of us struggle with - we get too caught up in becoming taskmasters and taking care of everyone else's needs instead of tuning into our own vision and priorities. Women often feel they must have a perfect plan to start and will over analyze, instead of taking action. I call this analysis paralysis and it stifles creativity and the ability to move forward towards our calling. Bottom line, DON'T OVER THINK IT and be willing to be uncomfortable.

2. Become a strategic thinker, instead of just checking boxes. Monica says "You have to surround yourself with people that think strategically and focus on macro-economic trends." Her strategic focus is always on making impact or what's the effect on her customers.

I couldn't agree more, we are the sum of the 7 people we spend the most time with - the law of proximity. If the people in your life aren't supporting you to follow your dreams and passion, and if they are an energy drain in your life, then maybe it's time to do some spring-cleaning with your relationships. Check out this short quiz to see if the people in your life are holding you back. Monica's advice: learn to brush off the people that don't support you.

One great example Monica shared with me goes back to when she was seeking investors. She knew on paper she had the right pedigree, but would sometimes meet with men who clearly weren't willing to see her credibility because of their gender bias and judgment towards her height. She learned quickly to walk away and not waste any time or energy trying to win them over, she simply moved on. This is hugely valuable insight for us all - DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY and move on to where you will be valued!

3. Focus on the upside of the risks you want to take. If you fail, learn how to recover quickly. Check your ego at the door, be willing to admit when you fail, and move on quickly. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about a start-up or a large corporations, Monica says, "Taking too long to recover from a mistake is what kills a company."

This is brilliant thinking from Monica and counter intuitive to most, but advice worth seizing. We tend to resist anything that takes us into the possibility of failing or not looking good. Yet, it is truly the only way to learn, grow, and expand. It is the path to confidence. Decisiveness and resiliency are what ultimately allow us to achieve our goals. Be willing try something, suck at it, learn from it and move on to something better. Ego is the biggest enemy here: not wanting to be wrong and hanging on too long to something that isn't working or not acknowledging the market is moving on without you. Again, it is about willing to stay uncomfortable, not fearing discomfort.

Monica's favorite quote:
"If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don't ask what seat. You just get on." -Eric Schmidt, former Google's CEO

It doesn't matter if you have an idea for a start-up company, a book, a new and better way of doing something, or a desire to try something new - if it brings up FEAR and RESISTANCE, it is your best emotional GPS to tell you what direction to pursue. Develop courage as your foundation, passion as your fuel, and use decisiveness to develop the confidence to keep pushing forward.

I love Jeff Bezos', founder of, personal philosophy. Before taking any risk, he asks himself, when I am 80 years old looking back on my life, succeed or fail, will I regret not trying? If the answer is "yes", he goes for it!

There is nothing more encouraging to me than meeting a mentor and colleague like Monica Enand. She is a trail-blazing woman, living life as a pioneer of the future. These are the traits that women are being called to bring as leaders, so that we may feminize the world to create impact for the greater good and evolve the human species to the next level.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

A Strong Woman’s Roar

Being single is tough. Being a single mom is harder. Having to be both the man and the woman at home for the kids, but then having to balance that in the outside world as to not be controlling or allowing for a man to help in different areas of life is possibly the hardest balance I've had as a woman. I can't be too tough, but I have to be tough enough. Something I have been told several times in the dating vortex is that I am intimidating. This is my open response, my roar of frustration if you will.

Intimidating? Really? That's the adjective chosen to describe ME in the "dating world?"

At least the clarity is starting; and admitting the fear is the first step to realize you aren't nearly as ready as you swore you were.

I asked, "What are you looking for in a woman?"

You responded, "Someone smart and funny, beautiful, sexy, determined, self-sufficient, yet ready to be in a relationship".

Hmmm, internally I said OK, so that's me, buckle up because here we go again....

As the days turn to weeks and months, you start to realize who I really am. Not the cleaned up version you thought I was showing you on that first date when I was really just being me. How un-trusting are you to think that I would put on a show just to make a good first impression? If I ever had any intentions of "this" going anywhere, why would I start it with something other than the real me?

Yes, I love my jeans and flip flops, but I also love getting dressed up and looking beautiful standing next to you. Yes, I have a lot of tattoos, a dirty mind and a sailor's mouth most of the time. That doesn't automatically mean that I can't speak with eloquence standing in an evening gown at any given event -- with only you in the room knowing that my back is covered, from the back of my neck to the top of my ass with a beautiful floral design that will forever be there, that only you get to see when we get home.

So, how am I intimidating?

Is it because I actually do work out nearly every day and take my health very seriously as I said I do when we first met? Is it because I am not afraid to intelligently debate you without personal attacks, on a topic instead of blindly agreeing with you? Is it because I know how to change my own tire but choose to call you for help? Or is it because I can tell you the '67 Camaro might be the most beautiful vehicle ever produced, but I can give you 10 schematic points on how the '67 GTO is just better? Is it because I'll go to a baseball game when I want to, even when you aren't available to go with me, because I don't need a date to a baseball game, or concert or dinner or movie? I would love to have a date at all of those things, but I certainly don't NEED you there.

Is it because I don't just have a job but a career I am passionate about? Is it because I have already raised one child who is away in college; or the fact that I have a 14 year old who will match your wit when appropriate, with a smartass comment every time, followed with, "Yes Sir" because respect has always been the first rule in my home? Or is it because I regularly buy myself flowers?

What exactly is it? Because everything I just listed, is exactly what you told me you were looking for.

So, to the men out there reading this.... If a smart and funny, beautiful, sexy, determined, self-sufficient woman crosses your path, and that's what you truly want in a woman, don't run away like a coward. Man the hell up. If you are truly scared by your emotions, say so. Don't blame it on the woman having a strong character.

I refuse to take your coward-like behavior and let it make me jaded, regardless of how many times I have been called "intimidating" or told, "I don't know how to love a strong woman". Man the hell up. Whatever you do, don't "try" to convince yourself that you want something you really don't, and don't mess with someone's feelings regardless of how "strong" and "intimidating' you may think they are.

Because truly what you are intimidated by is a woman who stands 5'2, 130 lbs., who sleeps alone with her teddy bear every night. A woman who can't watch a scary movie by herself, reach the top shelf without standing on top of the stove, and who has a hard time opening salsa jars.

You are intimidated by the woman who refuses to sit at the head of the table and the woman who won't sleep on the side of the bed closest to the door. You are intimidated by the woman who prefers pearls to diamonds, and the woman who is a total crying hot mess when chick flicks come on.

If you are intimidated by that - you might as well go ahead and turn in your man card and find yourself some pretty little cardigan-wearing Stepford wife. Please don't start things you have no intention on finishing. Regardless of "intimidating factors", skinned knees and bruises do actually hurt.

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The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

Like actors who want to direct, journalists want to write novels. So did I, back in the day -- I had a wealth of material gleaned from hours of interviews with high achieving people who were at or near the top of their game. I published two books (Women on Top and Making Good: Conversations with Successful Me) about how, and how differently, men and women experienced success -- not how they achieved it, but what it felt like. I wondered whether the price they paid was worth the payoffs they earned, and they were as candid and open as they could be. The women discussed their feelings openly, and the men, despite trying their best, squirmed or looked away when I asked them about their emotional lives, quickly shifting the conversation back to their greatest hits, career-wise.

I wanted to put all the juicy, off the record details I couldn't use in those books into a novel. Tradeoffs was the fictional version of what I learned about how women in the early 80s fared during a time when the goals of balancing work and love, having it all, breaking the glass ceiling, etc., seemed not only realistic but within reach -- a straight line from where they were then to the corner office, the C suite, the partnership. They were the first baby boomers to make it to the middle, if not quite the top, of the corporation, the network, the agency, or the law firm, and Tradeoffs ended on an optimistic note because in those heady days, its three central characters believed the future was theirs, once they solved the problem one of them articulates in the novel's first page: "How do we get to be like them without, well, being like them?"

Thirty some years later, women are just where they were then -- we haven't come such a long way, baby. We're woefully underrepresented in the still predominately male C suites, the glass ceiling is almost as impenetrable for all but a favored few, the boardrooms are still "a work in progress" in terms of gender diversity, as a recent McKinsey report concluded, and a new round of interviews with women at the same rung of the success ladder today as those whose baby boom mothers were similarly situated back then ring with a distressing familiarity. One of them, a friend's 30-year-old daughter, picked up a copy of Tradeoffs in a used bookstore recently, and called me when she finished it. "It's as relevant today as it must have been then. We're still stalled, tolerated, patronized, ignored and overlooked," said this senior manager at Google. "Real success is still tantalizingly out of reach, and as for balancing life and work, forget it!" I heard almost the same words from a 53-year-old woman who's a partner in a large law firm, just as her mother was 35 years ago: "She never expected me to run into the same obstacles she did, the same attitudes toward women, the same barriers." And from a 40-year-old creative director at an ad agency, "If you wonder what happened to Peggy, Joan and the other women of "Mad Men" after it ended, the answer is they never got the gold ring, at least not from their careers. Once my mother realized she couldn't do both, have a family and a career at the same time, she focused all that drive and energy into over parenting her kids."

So I decided to republish my novel. I hadn't planned to update it or make any changes at all, but as I read it, the typical mistakes of a first-time novelist kept tripping me up -- the more I read, the more I wondered why my editor never red-penciled the extraneous verbiage, put yellow post-its in all the places I told instead of showed, and circled my use of the passive voice where an active one would enliven a sentence. I didn't change anything essential, just edited it the way Elmore Leonard said a writer should, by leaving out the boring stuff. It was a pretty successful book back then, when "midlist," like "feminism," wasn't a dirty word; it sold around 75,000 copies here and another 25,000 in Europe.

I was telling a young woman about it just the other day. "Is it an historical novel?" she asked, and I just smiled. Yes, I told her. And no.

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Self-Love: Six Ways to ‘Fake it’ Til You Make It’ and Become Your Own Best Friend!


"What is Love?" This age-old question consistently tops the charts as the most-Googled query in the world. Yet, when we speak of "love,", most people have some understanding of what it means to love another person. Things get a bit trickier when the question changes to "What is Self-Love?", and zeroing in on a working definition becomes more elusive. Still, "Self-Love" is a popular term that is used now, more than ever, and is thought to be something that is a prerequisite for a good life and loving relationships. But what exactly is self-love, and why is it so important?

Thankfully, psychologists have been studying self-love and have defined it as a very positive concept involving the practice of several self-enhancing qualities of thinking, feeling, and acting towards yourself. Self-love is a process consisting of six distinct components wherein a person acts as both the self-as-the-doer and the self-as-the-object in relating to oneself. These six components include:

1) Self-Attachment: Feeling attachment to yourself, physically and mentally
2) Self-Affection: Feeling at peace with who and what you are, along with enjoying your own company
3) Self-Regard (Positive): Unconditionally accepting yourself despite successes, failures, or status.
4) Self-Worth: Belief that your life is a valued possession; trusting your ability to respond to your needs
5) Self-Knowing: The ability to see yourself from the outside, to listen to, know and understand yourself.
6) Self-Caring: Behaviors aimed at maintaining your health and personal welfare.

While this definition is helpful (albeit kind of dry), putting these concepts into practice can feel strange, like you are getting in your own way. The good news is that you can learn to look at your life from the outside, "fake it 'til you make it," and master the six components of self-love.

Here are Six Tips to 'Fake it 'til you Make it' and Become your Own Best Friend:

1. Get to Know the Real You.
Like any meaningful relationship, becoming your own best friend and experiencing greater self-love isn't going to happen overnight. Instead, your relationship grows as a result of quality time and being honest with yourself. Give yourself 10-15 minutes of solitude everyday where you simply think about yourself and your life. Begin writing your thoughts and journaling about what you really like and dislike, what drives and motivates you, and your goals and dreams for the future. Making this time for yourself fosters both the self-knowing and self-worth components of self-love.

2. Schedule and Enjoy Two Solo Activities per Week.
Best friends plan and share enjoyable activities with one another. Likewise, becoming your own best friend will require you to plan and enjoy activities by yourself. These solo activities can be hobbies such as exercising, reading, writing, listening to great music, meditating, or engaging in the fine arts. Make sure that you plan at least two fun experiences per week. This is important, so no cheating here! This alone time will help you appreciate your own company, deepen your understanding of yourself, and cultivate the self-love components of positive self-regard and self-affection.

3. Practice Forgiveness and Acceptance.
Best friends really listen to one another and offer the safety of trust as they share their true thoughts and feelings. They support one another with acceptance and encouragement. Practice talking to yourself as you would talk to a best friend. And go easy on yourself! Soon, talking to yourself this way will be automatic and you'll notice positive changes in both self-worth and positive self-regard.

4. Take Good Care of Yourself.
OK, this one is obvious, right? We all understand the importance of maintaining our physical and psychological health by engaging in healthy eating, exercising, and overall living But taking good care of yourself also involves reflective thinking and being responsive to your body and to your feelings as the basis for taking action that is best suited for you. Don't forget this one, because when you're taking good care of yourself, you are strengthening all six components of self-love.

5. Use the "Best Friend Test"
In good times and bad, a best friend simply wants what's best for us, without a hidden agenda. When things are going well, a best friend is there to share in your happiness. He or she also stands by you through the tough times. And, if someone is treating you badly or taking advantage of you, your best friend is there to stand up for your rights.

The Best Friend Test is a simple exercise where you imagine how you would support a best friend in the same situation. Think about your best friend and imagine that he or she is struggling and stuck. What would you say? Then, say these things to yourself and act on the situation. Using the Best Friend Test (and acting on it) strengthens the self-attachment and self-knowing components of self-love.

6. Don't Ignore Your Best Friend's Advice.
We've all been there--Hearing that little voice in our head telling US that something just isn't right, but choosing to ignore it in favor of what we want. It's the D word - Denial. Our brains use self-justification and self-deception to manipulate our thoughts and behaviors to explain, defend, and protect us from recognizing unacceptable truths. And when we blind ourselves to our true motivations and feelings, we unwittingly sabotage our own efforts for happiness and satisfying relationships. Don't let it happen to you! When making difficult decisions, fight the urge to ignore what your best friend would advise. Listen to your best friend, make the decision, and then act on it. Period.

Practicing self-love can be challenging, especially in times when we are feeling hurt and facing difficult decisions. By implementing these six tips, you are strengthening your love for yourself, and your ability to recognize the things that are undermining your well-being and happiness. Use them- You'll thank yourself later.

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From Curiosity to Passion: Women on the Fly

An Interview with Abbie Schuster

A few months ago, I centered on the personal challenge of teaching myself how to fly-fish (with the help and patience of my friends and family). Through this experience, I've already had the opportunity to meet a number of inspiring individuals from the fishing community. Their passion for the sport is infectious and has motivated me to continue learning and practicing. Below is an interview with Abbie Schuster, who leads all Women's Programs at Emerald Water Anglers in Seattle. In her responses, Abbie shares a bit about why she loves the sport, her thoughts on opening up the industry to more women, and tips on how to approach the sport as a beginner.


Share a bit about yourself: where are you from, what do you do now, and why? How did you first start fly-fishing?
I have always had a strong desire for adventure and a deep love for nature. Fly-fishing is the ideal way for me to fulfill my love for outdoor adventure. My dad taught me the art of fly-fishing when I was very young - he was determined to have a life-long fishing partner. We would wake up before sunrise, load up the kayaks and head out to catch stripers and blues in Long Island Sound. Watching sunrises with my father, and stripers in hand, I realized that my dad was giving me a life-long gift. My passion led me to many different rivers and streams throughout the East Coast. I became even more obsessed with fly-fishing while attending the University of Montana, where I guided on a variety of different rivers and creeks. I've also been lucky enough to spend time on the serene flats of the Bahamas and Mexico catching bonefish.

While getting more involved in the fly-fishing industry I was baffled that I was not working with more women. Historically, fly-fishing has been a male dominated sport, but I want to help change that. I am currently the Women's Program Director at Emerald Water Anglers in Seattle, Washington. I run casting clinics, schools, guided trips and, of course, a wine night here and there to talk fishing and to get women anglers together. It's been an amazing experience to watch women who were curious about fly-fishing come together and have it become their passion.


What do you think are the biggest roadblocks preventing women from entering into the sport? Would you argue that mental inhibitors are at work, or are there more tangible, industry-related challenges?
I think many of the roadblocks preventing women from entering into fly-fishing are false perceptions of the sport. Yes, in the past it has been known as a man's sport, which was supported by the industry catering and marketing to men. Today, that barrier, although more penetrable, still exists - making it intimidating for women to jump into a new sport. When I moved to Montana I had already been fishing for years, but there were moments when I felt intimidated because every shop I went into had a macho feel. Also, every guide I worked with and met was male. Granted, many of them became my very dear friends, but this experience made me want to focus my energy and time getting more women involved and breaking the barrier.

Although the industry has a ways to go, recently there has been great improvement.  The major fly-fishing companies are finally making women-specific equipment.

What are the first things a beginner should do to take up fly fishing?
The first thing a beginner should realize is that fly-fishing is a lifelong sport and it takes time and patience, but that is what makes it so rewarding and fun.

Every time I go out on the water I learn something new. Of course, a beginner should practice the cast - but it's equally important to learn how to read the water.  Once you learn to read the water you can begin to appreciate the beautiful life that the river sustains. While getting to know the water you are also truly connecting with nature, which is what fly-fishing is really about. Nothing is more exciting than watching someone look at the water, cast into a rich run and have a fish respond. It is a truly rewarding experience.  Go with confidence and patience and fish will come.


What do you think are the most daunting aspects of taking on the sport? How can some of these challenges be resolved?
Starting anything new is a daunting task, no matter what it is. Also, as whole, fly-fishing can be overwhelming with all the gear, knots, learning the water...etc. - but what I always tell people is that this is a life-long sport, so don't stress and concentrate on one aspect at a time and it will all come together. The fish are just a small part of the beauty of fly-fishing. Being outside in nature, listening to the river and casting is so soothing in itself that a fish is just icing on the cake.

I have found that many women anglers feel intimidated because not only is it something new, but women are usually coming in as the minority. That is why I feel it is so important to get women together to learn or practice.  I have seen that during my women-focused lessons or trips, the walls are let down and the women can truly concentrate on connecting with the water, nature, themselves and the sport.


What do you love most about fly fishing?
Oh my! There are so many things I love about fly fishing. I love that it reminds me of growing up and being on the water with my family, I love that I can truly find solitude and nothing is on my mind except my cast, the bugs, the river. Fly-fishing can bring you to some amazing places all over the world and you can connect with so many different types of people and places just by casting a line.  I love that now I get to share this passion with other women anglers and see them have similar experiences.

Follow along on Instagram and Tumblr as I teach myself how to fly-fish.

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What Your Sleeping Position With a Partner Says About Your Relationship

By Elyse Wanshel, writer at

We all sleep, but did you know that the way you sleep says a lot about who we are as individuals?

For instance, if you sleep on your back, it often means your the strong, silent type; and if you sleep on your stomach, it typically means you have an open, gregarious, and playful personality.

So, what happens when you throw different sleeping styles -- and personalities -- into one bed? Or really, any two individual personalities into one of the most intimate and venerable situations we humans experience?

It's actually quite fascinating.

When we sleep, our subconscious minds take over. Because of this, the body language we use with a partner while we snooze can be a remarkably precise way to gauge what's going on in our relationships.

"Even if you can't or don't articulate those things while you're awake," says Patti Wood, a body language expert with more than 30 years of experience and author of Success Signals, A Guide to Reading Body Language. Many other experts and psychologists agree with this idea and have conducted studies in and written books on the subject. They have uncovered the ten most popular couple sleeping positions and the secrets they have found about each is truly intriguing...

The Spoon

According to a study done by relationship psychologist Corrine Sweet, the position is only adopted by a fifth (or 18 percent) of couples and demonstrates a dynamic in which, " One partner takes a protective stance over the other."

Although it's a sweet, it can also be a little saucy. "It's a very vulnerable position that's sexual, but says, 'I trust you,'" said Patti Wood, a body language expert with more than 30 years of experience and author of Success Signals, A Guide to Reading Body Language.

The Loose Spoon

New couples tend to have the most physical contact in bed, but once the relationship matures, the novelty of sharing a mattress wears off.

The loose spoon is typically what a couples that are a fans of spooning eventually do once their relationship matures and each individual wants to revert to a position that produces the best quality sleep, said Paul Rosenblatt, author of Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing.

It's like the big spoon saying, "I've got your back, you can count on me," but it's not as sexual as spooning closer, Woods said.

The Chase

This is like spooning, but it's when one person is in pursuit of the other. One person has drifted to the other side of the bed, and the other one is "chasing" them.

This can mean two things. One that the person who is being chased wants to be pursued, or is playing hard to get.

The other thing it can be, according to Samuel Dunkell, author of Sleep Positions: The Night Language of the Body is something called "illegal Spooning" because the person has retreated because they want space.

The Tangle

This extremely intimate position is even more rare than the Spoon. It tends to happen when there is either intense emotions at play (like after lovemaking) or at the start of a romantic relationship.

Some couples maintain it throughout their relationship but it isn't necessarily a good thing. According to Elizabeth Flynn Campbell, a New York psychotherapist, "[the couple] could be overly enmeshed, too dependent on each other to sleep apart."

The Unraveling Knot

This position starts with The Tangle position, but then unravels after 10 minutes or so.

Believe it or not, this position is a sign of a stronger relationship than The Tangle. Yet only eight percent of couples adopt this two-part position. Dr. Sweet said it's, "A compromise between intimacy and independence, allowing for the best of both worlds."

The Liberty Lovers

If you and your partner sleep facing opposite directions with space in-between ­- don't fret! This is actually a good thing.

According to a study done by relationship psychologist Corrine Sweet, couples that sleep back-to-back without touching are "connected and secure in themselves. This position shows both closeness and independence in the relationship."

It's also popular, 27 percent of couples prefer this sleeping style.

The Back Kissers

If you sleep back-to-back but you touch with your butts or backs, this is also a good thing -- but it's also novel.

According to Dr. Sweet, this means, "Both partners are relaxed and comfortable with one another." Yet this position is more common amongst newer couples, or those that have been together for under a year, rather than a more long-term duo.

The Nuzzle

This sweet position, in which one partner rests their head on the other's chest, while their legs are intertwined is often seen in early relationships and occasionally rekindled ones, according to Dr. Sweet.

This is a very nurturing posture that creates a sense of protection. Shirley Glass, a psychologist and martial therapist, also notes, "There's a high level of trust here," as this snuggling position has a "strengthening sense of comradeship and protection."

The Leg Hug

According to Wood, if your partner plays footsie with you in bed, or intertwines their legs with yours, it means they crave an emotional or sexual connection.

A pair of tangled legs is also a sign that the two of you can't get enough of each other -- even when you're sleeping. "It means your lives are intertwined, that you function as a pair. You probably finish each other's sentences and take care of each other," Wood said.

The Space Hog

If a partner takes the "starfish position," one in which they sprawl out and hog the bed, this means that they tend to be selfish -- especially if they begin to push the other partner so they're hanging off the bed.

If this is happening in your relationship, it's time to have an honest conversation.

"One partner dominates the space, while the other takes a secondary role," said Sweet, and most people do not want to play second fiddle.

You can also tell who is dominating a relationship by where their heads are when they sleep.

When a couple's heads are right next to each other, it means they are equal, and if they touch, even better -- it's a sign that they have like minds and know what's going on in each other's heads, Wood said.

People who sleep closer to the headboard tend to feel more dominant and confident, while those who place their heads further away from it tend to be submissive and have lower self-esteem, she also said.

More Articles From LittleThings:
The Way You Sleep Reveals Secrets About Your Personality. Mine Was SO True!
The Unbelievable Way Your Sleep Position Is Causing You Physical Pain
In 3 Seconds, This Sleeping Puppy Will Have You Laughing Out Loud!

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7 Things We Know About Getting Men Involved in Gender Equality

Even though we're seeing the first serious contender for a female head of state in the United States, and high box office sales from a romantic comedy with a complex female protagonist, we're still quite a ways - at least 80 years at the current rate of change - from seeing true gender equality.

Globally, women still make 24% less than men do, experience violence at alarming rates from male partners, and do 2.5 times more unpaid care work. If we want to see this change - to see women achieve full economic, social and political equality - we need to work with men and boys as partners with women and girls. But, how?

At Promundo, we've been working for almost 20 years, conducting research and advocacy, and implementing and scaling up programs to find out what really works when it comes to engaging men in the fight for gender equality. This is what we've discovered:

1. Challenge stereotypes: We can't change what it means to be a man without talking about it. Media, in particular, sends a wide variety of messages about how to "man up" and to "be a man" which, more often than not, involve taking sexual risks, being dominant, and being violent. We need to encourage men to deconstruct the expectations of what it means to be a man and to dare to define their own paths.

2. Approach from all angles: Talking is a great start, but we can't just work with individual men on a small scale. We need to think big - working with whole communities, as well as nationally and internationally - and to target schools, employers, health systems, and more.

3. Get governments involved: We will never achieve gender equality without policies that support it. That means access to contraceptives and comprehensive sexuality education; it means maternity and paternity leave, non-discrimination clauses, and laws that hold perpetrators of violence and sexual assault accountable.

4. Partner up: We can't do it alone. Working with role models, political and religious leaders, and even celebrities can help amplify messaging and impact, normalizing respect for women and creating a positive movement for change.

5. Think about who cares: The fact that men and women are still far from equal when it comes to unpaid childcare and domestic work might be one of the single biggest indicators of - and obstacles to - equality. We need to push to radically redistribute care work to achieve political, social, and economic equality for women and men.

6. End the cycle of violence: When men see or experience violence as children, it's one of the strongest risk factors for them to use violence later in life. Knowing this is powerful. It means that we know we must intervene with young men and new fathers to break the cycle - and to teach the strength of non-violence from early on.

7. Work together: Engaging men does not mean silencing or ignoring women or the powerful work that women's rights groups have been doing for decades. Just the opposite. It's essential that men are thoughtful, educated allies and advocates - and for this to happen, men and women need to work together.

This blog was co-authored by Alexa Hassink, Communications Officer and Program Associate at Promundo.

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The 6 Most Paralyzing Blocks Successful People Have Overcome to Be Happy in Their Work

Last week, I had a career consultation with a client that hit me right between the eyes. While I've delivered hundreds of laser-focused consulting sessions in the past, in this one, it was clear in literally 10 minutes why this individual had struggled for 20 years in her work as an attorney, and what she needed to do to change that. A powerful realization emerged for both of us -- that how she internally conceived of, and viewed her work with divorce had been triggering significant pain and emotional trauma from her childhood.

I'm seeing more clearly than ever that the way people speak and write about their work, the way they frame it and emotionally relate to it reveals exactly what's in the way of their moving forward to a happier life. And from their responses to my Career Path Self-Assessment survey (a specially-designed set of questions I wished someone had asked me when I was just starting out and that all professionals need to answer), they reveal striking clues about the pain, negative internal messaging and emotional struggles from the past that are now hampering their ability to move forward to craft a joyful livelihood.

Literally every single client of mine in the past 10 years who is stuck in an unhappy career is struggling with at least one of the six common blocks to progress. On the flip side, the highly successful and happy professionals I work with who find joy, reward, and passion in their work have overcome these blocks, either intentionally or organically.

I believe that it's an inevitable part of our human condition to have developed subconscious mindsets, beliefs and blocks that will somehow, at some point, thwart and undermine our happiness and success unless we work to uncover and resolve them. I've faced all six of these blocks myself in my 30 years of professional life, and can attest to how damaging they are.

Below are the six core blocks that successful professionals have overcome to be happy and well-rewarded in their work. And these six blocks keep others stuck in career misery, confusion and paralysis.

Block 1: The outcomes you are striving for are, in some core way, conflicting with what you believe is good, right and true.

You simply can't succeed if you're in a tangle about the outcomes you're focused on achieving in your work.

Years ago in my corporate life, I found that the marketing work I was doing felt very wrong to me. I was promoting products that I felt had no real meaning or benefit to customers, and our sweepstakes promotions were attracting people desperate to win big money because they couldn't pay their bills. They didn't want our products; they wanted to win money (I'd listen in to our telemarketing calls for the sweepstakes promotions and my heart would break). In the end, I hated the outcomes I was paid to achieve.

You will not achieve success (emotional, financial, professional or otherwise) if you can't get behind the outcomes you're bringing about in your work. Shift your work focus so that you're proud of and fully behind the outcomes you're striving for, advertising and promoting.

Ask yourself: What are the critical outcomes my work currently focuses on? Now... how excited and supportive am I, really, about these outcomes?

Block 2: Your shaken confidence and faltering self-esteem have impaired your ability to see that you're worth great money and respect in the workplace.

How well you're doing professionally is inextricably linked to your relationship with and feelings about money and self-worth. If you feel, for instance, that you need to keep your service prices down to the bare minimum (where you're not earning anything) because you aren't sure what you're worth (or you think that charging a lot is "bad"), you'll most likely fail in your business. There are ways to be of service to every budget, certainly, but you need to build a smart, flexible, multi-tiered business model that allows you to serve both those with and without access to money. You can do that many different ways including offering high-quality free materials and low-cost products as well as higher-cost services and programs. But in the end, you'll go broke if you think that charging good money is a bad thing or that you're not worthy anything to anyone.

In another example, as you're going out in the world interviewing and applying for jobs, if you subconsciously doubt that you are worthy of being well-paid, you never will get the offers and recognition you deserve.

There are many ways to earn great money doing soulful, mission-driven work, but again, you need to be clear about your beliefs around what you "should" be earning and charging and how you feel about being wealthy or well-paid. If you have any shame about charging well, then you'll need to heal to issues around self-confidence and self-esteem, and gain more clarity about the great skills and talents you have to offer.

Ask yourself: What do I feel I truly deserve in terms of compensation for my work? How do I feel about being well-compensated, even wealthy, doing this work? What holds me back from earning more?

Block 3: You persistently doubt that you are smart, talented or experienced enough to succeed at what you want.

My goodness, I'd be a millionaire if I had a dime for every person I've worked with who doubts the power and usefulness of her smarts, experience and abilities. Thousands of people I've worked with in my teleclasses have suffered from some degree of "unworthiness" (and I have too). If you're feeling that you really don't have the talent, brains, expertise or experience to be valuable in the direction you long to, you'll have to address this block proactively. You need to look first at where you got the idea you're "nothing" or not enough, and secondly, you need a realistic assessment of what's required to succeed in the field or direction you wish to pursue.

If you need additional experience or training, then go out and get it. Find a way. If you're solid right where you are (with no need for more training or experience), stop yourself from your chronic put downs and from thinking you don't have what it takes. Fake it until you become it (see Amy Cuddy's powerful Ted talk for more on this). If you don't know if you need more training or experience, do some exploratory online and in-person research with people, recruiters and hiring managers in the field and figure it out once and for all.

Ask yourself: Do I believe I have the talent and expertise (and worthiness) to be a tremendous success at what I long to do? If not, what step can I take today?

Block 4: You were culturally trained and taught that it's not right or good to shine too brightly or stand out.

No matter what field or function you're in today, you have to be able to broadcast in powerful, engaging ways what you're great at (your "superpower"), and you have to do it both online and in person. You need other people to help you succeed and thrive, and to engage others, you need to talk about what you do incredibly well (and everyone has something that they're amazing at). Become more comfortable sharing what excites and enthralls you, and stimulating others by your passion and your mission. If that's too challenging, get some support to overcome this resistance.

Start by reading my book Breakdown, Breakthrough and Peggy Klaus's book Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, and take steps to begin speaking and sharing about yourself and your work in engaging and compelling ways.

Ask yourself: Was I raised or conditioned to think that shining my light too brightly was garish, arrogant, unseemly or not humble enough? Was I shamed by my family when I shone too brightly? Was there someone else in my family I was told not to outshine?

Block 5: You have been taught that following your passion is a huge mistake - you believe it will hurt you or you'll end up broke or miserable if you do.

The people who are the most successful and joyful (and empowered) in life have followed their passions, values, integrity and interests to a very high degree. They know what they're made of, and they aren't afraid to pursue an "unsure" path because they understand that the happiest lives are about being of use and making a difference in ways that matter. They know how they uniquely contribute and they won't be stopped in delivering those contributions. Because of their indifference to the "sure" path, they are risk tolerant and have found great joy and security within themselves.

On the other hand, there are thousands of people who were taught and trained by their parents that following their passions for work would be a disaster -- crazy, irresponsible and stupid. Many of these folks were potentially well-meaning authority figures who wanted security for their children. Sadly, their dogged insistence that "following your passion will lead to failure" generated a very negative result. These parents stripped their adult children of the ability to think for themselves, and live by their own beliefs, values, and standards, independently and confidently.

What to do? Complete my Career Path Self-Assessment and brainstorm every day for a full week about what you would pursue if money, time, support, etc. were no object. What would you research, explore and try on, and what new directions would you identify as desirable? Identify the visions you could, in actuality, commit to bringing into reality. And determine the activities that you're passionate about that should remain as hobbies vs. endeavors you wish to explore making at a living in. If you don't know, start talking to people doing work you're interested in, and shadow folks engaged in what you think you want to do. Try on the professional identity. When you do, you'll learn quickly if it's for you.

Ask yourself: Do you believe that following your passion for your work will end badly? Who taught you that and what was their motivation and agenda?

Block 6: You think you must chuck everything and leave your old career totally behind to be happy.

This is the most misguided belief of all. You don't necessarily have to leave your old identity and your old work completely behind to have a happier life. More often, it's a pivot or a tweak - in direction, focus, outcomes, those you're helping, and how you're operating in the world - that will bring the most fulfillment, not chucking everything and completely starting over. In fact, the pain you're feeling won't go away if you just run - it will follow you wherever you go unless you learn how to BE different -- and see things differently -- in the world.

Take the time this month to brainstorm ways you can draw on what you've already learned, done and achieved. Identify three new directions that could potentially marry up and make great use of everything you are already, and everything you've learned and done. Understand who you are and the great skills, talents and abilities you already possess, and find new ways to leverage those.

If any of these blocks resonate with you, there's work to be done. Don't waste another minute being blocked and stymied in doing your best, most joyful and rewarding work.

For more about how to transform your career, visit The Amazing Career Project online course and

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8 Things to Know About Amnesty’s Draft Proposal on Sex Work

Confused about the Amnesty International draft proposal? Here are some of the major points, broken down.

1. The proposal does not support forced and underage involvement in the sex trade.

Amnesty supports criminal laws against trafficking, coercing individuals into the sex trade, and soliciting sex from minors. Quoting the draft proposal, "Amnesty International considers children involved in commercial sex acts to be victims of a grave human rights abuse. Under international law states must ensure that offering, delivering or accepting a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation is covered under criminal or penal law, and must take all appropriate measures to prevent the exploitation and abuse of children."

2. The proposal does not support "wholesale decriminalization of the sex trade." And Amnesty is not inherently opposed to state regulation of adult, consensual sex work.

Quoting Amnesty's draft position: "...regulation should respect the agency of sex workers and guarantee that all individuals who undertake sex work can do so in safe conditions, free from exploitation, and are able to stop engaging in sex work when and if they choose. Additionally, such restrictions must be for a legitimate purpose, appropriate to meet that purpose, proportionate and non-discriminatory. States should also ensure the participation... in the development of any regulatory frameworks."

3. The proposal explicitly supports labor rights and fair labor relationships.

Amnesty's draft proposal explicitly supports fair labor relationships and states that countries must "respect and protect the right of sex workers to just and favorable conditions of work, including fair wages, safe and healthy conditions and limits on working hours" and "ensure that sex workers are entitled to equal protection under the law and are not excluded from the application of labour, health and safety and other laws."

4. The proposal recognizes the link between intersectional discrimination and oppression and compulsion into the sex trade.

Quoting the proposal: "The factors underlying sex workers' marginalization are manifold and intricately entwined with global economic inequalities and multiple forms of intersectional discrimination and oppression... Amnesty International recognizes that intersectional discrimination and oppression ... can play a role in an individual's decision to engage or remain in sex work and their experiences whilst in sex work. Systems of oppression such as gender discrimination, racism, socio-economic inequality and legacies of colonial occupation, deny people power and lead to poverty and deprivation of opportunity. Groups most at risk of discrimination and oppression are frequently over represented in sex work."

5. The draft proposal takes a strong position against economic compulsion into the sex trade and advocates for expanding options for marginalized groups.

Amnesty's draft proposal recognizes how economic inequality and discrimination of certain groups result in few viable economic options, and that intersectional inequalities can compel disadvantaged groups to choose sex work. The draft proposal calls for "policies which aim to support and improve the situation of marginalized people must focus on empowering individuals and groups and not devalue their decisions, compromise their safety and/or criminalize the contexts in which they live their lives."

They propose "provid[ing] appropriate support, employment and educational options that actively empower marginalised individuals and groups, respect individual agency and guarantee the realisation of human rights" and taking "necessary measures to eradicate discrimination against marginalised individuals and groups who are commonly represented in sex work, including discrimination in employment."

6. Amnesty supports voluntary, non-coercive programming for individuals who want to leave the sex trade.

The proposal asserts that "states have an obligation to ensure that no person continues to sell sex against their will and that everyone can leave freely when and if they choose."

Quoting the draft proposal: "In the same way that intersectional discrimination and oppression can limit employment options for people considering selling sex, it can also curtail individual's' ability to leave sex work when they want to."

The proposal urges "states to take appropriate measures to realize the economic, social and cultural rights of all people so that no person enters sex work against their will, and those who decide to undertake sex work should be able to leave if and when they choose."

7. The proposal calls for an end to direct criminalization of sex workers.

The draft proposal condemns laws that "seek to punish sex workers through sanctions such as criminal prosecution, detention and/or fines because of their involvement in sex work."

In the proposal, Amnesty cites research and asserts that evidence suggests that the "enforcement of criminal laws against sex work can lead to forced eviction, arbitrary arrests, investigations, surveillance, prosecutions and severe punishment of sex workers. Where sex workers face penalization when reporting crimes, their capacity to demand payment from or condom use with clients is also compromised. Notably, police routinely confiscate and/or use condoms as evidence of sex work in a number of countries around the world. The criminalization of sex work also frequently works to exclude sex workers from protections available to others under labour and health and safety laws and can impede or prohibit them from forming or joining trade unions to secure better working conditions, and health and safety standards. This, in turn, can render sex workers at greater risk of exploitation by third parties."

8. The safety and human rights of sex workers, not the interest of clients and third parties, drive the call to end indirect criminalization of sex work.

Laws against demand, and many third party laws, increase vulnerability to violence, "violate sex worker's human rights, including their rights to security of person, to just and favorable conditions of work and to health."

According to AI's research, "even when the sale of sex is not explicitly criminalised, laws that criminalise activities related to sex work, such as bans on buying sex or on solicitation, promotion, brothel keeping or other operational aspects of sex work, are frequently used to criminalise sex workers and/or work in effect to make their working environments more dangerous."

The full draft proposal can be found here.

Sound good?

Sign the Global Network of Sex Worker Project's letter in support here.

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Social Q’s: Even a Near Slur Demands an Apology

Plus: a dividing survey issue; vaccines and a new baby; and flight boarding by group.

Why 40 Is Better Than 20

How has it been 20 years? Weren't we JUST sitting in that sweaty gymnasium?

In reality, more time has passed SINCE graduation than all of the years leading UP to that momentous event.

And yet time has flown.

Sure, there have been the subsequent life events: the freshman fifteen, cross-country moves, first-job jitters, bittersweet heartaches, joyous weddings, and the game-changing addition of kids...

But 20 years? No. No, that can't be.

And yet... It's. True.


At 18 we thought we knew hardship. (No. No, we did not.)

We thought friendships were etched in stone. And while some were, others weren't. And that's ok.

Some of our loved ones fell ill; others left us way too soon.

And we grew up.


Photo: Ten Year Reunion (2005) with best friends Liz Balck Monsma and Patty Edison Racco

We followed our passions.

Among us we produced entrepreneurs, athletes and executives. Among us we now have attorneys, doctors and parents.

Among us we are more similar than we are different.

In fact, popularity and test scores had little to no bearing on our achievements.

Instead, age has been the great equalizer.

Approaching 40, we are rounder, balder and are confronting the harsh realities of maturing parents.

We are wiser.

By now, each of us has an infinite number of successes and failures. Through education, travel and experience we've gained perspective. We've forgiven others.

We've forgiven ourselves.

"(Be sure to) have a past juicy enough that (you're) looking forward to retelling it in Old Age." ~ Pamela Redmond Satra

And So... Here's My Wish:

When life challenges you, return to age 18. Think about Graduation Day -- fidgeting with your hat, the tassel swishing back and forth, crossing that stage while surreptitiously eyeing your (very) proud parents.

What were your dreams back then?

What if for just a moment, you experienced that thrill again -- the adventure, the unknown, the excitement... where would it take you?

Leverage what you've learned... to seek out what you don't yet know.

Enjoy the next leg of the journey, my friend...

Jennie writes about pop culture, marketing and parenting. And yes, she had a blast at her 20 year reunion! Follow her on Twitter: @jenniesuth

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Why I Have No Intention of Loving My Body

My reflection gazed back at me from the full-length mirror on my bathroom door. I frowned and tilted my head to one side, considering. If I'd had time to buy a new swimsuit before my vacation, I probably wouldn't have picked out this two-year-old blue-and-green bikini, its elastic on its very last legs. My hips and belly formed rounded arcs over the bottom, while my thighs pressed idly against each other, waiting none too patiently for me to pass judgment.

Finally, I shrugged and reached for my shorts. "Meh," I said, getting dressed. "It fits."

After spending the past three years in recovery from anorexia, this is the climax of my body image journey. This is my Everest. This is as good as it gets.

Because I don't love my body. And honestly, I don't particularly want to.

Body love is a way of life for some people. It can be incredibly empowering to claim love for your body, especially when society is telling you to hate it at every turn. There are many banner-waving members of the Body Love Revolution, and I take my hat off to all of them. I respect them. Of course I do -- I work with a group of amazing activists dismantling body hate.

Many incredible people love their bodies. I'm just not one of them.

Even early on in my recovery journey, I decided positive body affirmations weren't for me. They felt insincere, forced. Pick a body part you hate and come up with a reason you love it! Folks, I can't even pretend to like Coldplay in mixed company. If I don't like a thing, saying "I like this thing!" every morning won't change that. This is real life, not a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

Still, even if I could flip a switch and fall madly, deeply, head-over-heels in body love with myself, I wouldn't do it.

Because from where I stand, body love has been compartmentalized and commodified, packaged and separated, until it offers me nothing.

"Body love" is the latest catchphrase picked up by lingerie companies and big-box retailers, cosmetics companies and diet cereal. Just like they did with thinness and sex appeal, these companies promise yet another invisible, impossible-to-verify product -- this time, self-love -- that we can own if we only smile and do what we're told.

Don't love your body? Don't wake up and feel butterflies in your stomach as you consider your earlobes? Buy our shampoo. Wear our bras. Put on our swimsuits. Because you are the owner of an absolutely perfect body -- if you buy what we're selling you. Ideologically and literally.

I'll grant you this: I'd much rather have companies sell me "you are beautiful" than "you are a sex object" or "you are insufficient and unlovable and imperfect." I'd rather see un-Photoshopped models than the $20 billion diet industry's fever dream. But at the cellular level, I don't always see the difference. There's an unattainable ideal to strive for in either case: the thigh gap, or a radiating, sunbeam-drenched sense of our own beauty.

And there's still that sense that even if body-love companies aren't trying to shrink my waistline, they're still trying to shrink my wallet.

Hello, capitalism. I did miss you.

Even leaving corporations aside, there's an awkward feeling of commodification around the need to love our bodies as bodies. "Your body's a temple," they say -- thus separating it from my being, turning it into a house for my soul, something I carry around, or something that carries me.

Every time I'm told to love my body for what it can do, I cringe at the erasure inherent in these phrases. Would my legs be less lovable if they were unable to walk or run? Would my hips be less adorable if they weren't ever going to be "child-bearing"? Are only cis, able, privileged bodies worthy bodies? Too much of the body-love movement seems to think so.

Every time I'm told to see my body as a collection of beautiful parts ("Love your thighs!" "Aren't your curves beautiful!"), I feel myself take another step away from my body. I peer at my legs across a vague, foggy distance, trying to decide if they are worthy of love objectively, separate from myself. This thing I'm supposed to "love" becomes more objectified the more I break it down.

Sometimes I wonder, looking at this possession of mine, this body, how different body love really is from a stranger shouting "nice tits!" at me on the train.

I am not interested in treating my body like a temple. I'm not interested in "dressing for my body" to play up my favorite parts. I will wear my same cotton-poly-blend sweaters until they unravel on my shoulders, and then I will probably buy more, one in every color.

I will glow with happiness when someone tells me a conversation we had helped them make it through a rough night, or when they compliment how I responded to criticism of my work in a client meeting.

And I will probably continue to cringe if anyone tells me I am beautiful. Not because, like in years past, I am intrinsically incapable of believing them. But because they're giving me a compliment I give a grand total of zero fucks about.

I don't love my body.

It's not a beautiful object.

In the words of Erin McKean, "Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"

My exterior does not define me. I'm not an object that gains value by being cherished.

Because when I pulled on that same bikini in public and hit the beach last week, I was not a person with a body, loved or hated or otherwise. I was a person on vacation, swimming in the warm, clear, salty water, watching tiny silver fish flicker around me. I was laughing, smiling, making terrible puns about sea turtles. (You can make a surprising number of puns about sea turtles.)

I don't know how I looked. I didn't think about my body once.

And I can't remember the last time I've felt so free.

Also on HuffPost:

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5 Things All Healthy Relationships Require

Toxic. Abusive. Destructive. Unhealthy.
These aren't words that we'd want to associate with relationships, yet so many of us have experienced this or are still experiencing this. Why? This is a question I used to ask myself often... I was that girl. The one caught in a string of toxic, abusive, destructive and downright unhealthy relationships. I would commit the same mistakes over and over again, barely aware of the fact that I was the one creating my mess. Simply put, I didn't know how to have a healthy relationship, but now I do.

After years of painful relationships, I found my way out. I've discovered what it really takes to attract and maintain healthy relationships. It's like a veil has been lifted and I can finally see love for what it truly is... Pure, unconditional, uplifting and supportive. Anything less than that is no longer acceptable in my life.

Healthy relationships are available to everyone, you just need to know what they require to exist. Here are five things that all healthy relationships require:

In order to have a healthy, loving relationship with another human being, you must first learn to love yourself. Self-love creates a stronger capacity to love others. It opens you up to experiencing love without fear. Self-love makes you stronger, and when two self-loving individuals get together, they have the ability to experience the full potential of love.

This may seem obvious, but so many people are with partners they don't trust. Work on building your confidence and loving yourself completely prior to setting foot in another relationship. The stronger you are as an individual, the easier it will become to trust. And if your partner really isn't trustworthy, ask yourself why you're staying. The answer to that question is directly related to your self-worth.

Too many people believe white lies are ok. But what happens when you build white lie upon white lie upon white lie? Your relationship will find itself in a web of lies. Be with someone you can be 100 percent honest with -- a partner who will be 100% honest with you. True freedom in a relationship comes from the power of honesty.

There's a difference between talking at someone and talking to someone. A healthy conversation between two people does not result in raised voices or vicious attacks. Communicate to each other with love and compassion and check your ego's at the door. Speak, listen, and really hear what each other is saying. Don't just wait for your turn to speak... hear your partner out.

It's far too easy to get caught up in our careers. Work has a tendency to take priority these days, but the truth is... your relationship should be your priority. This is your homebase, your sacred place, your biggest support... this is your person. They deserve to be your priority just as much as you deserve to be theirs. Make a point to connect with each other daily. Do things together. Make time for each other. And above all else, enjoy life together. Don't miss out on your beautiful love story because you're pushing for paychecks. Dedicate real time to connecting with your partner.

Master these five things, and you will master your relationships. It's time to say goodbye to unhealthy relationships. It's time to stop settling for less than you deserve. It's time for you to embrace healthy relationships. After all... you are worthy.

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The 1 Thing Women Won’t Talk About

It's hard to say for sure, but I doubt people meet me and think, "Wow, this woman really lacks confidence." I teach confidence. I speak in front of hundreds of people regularly about confidence. I try to exude strength and confidence in everything I do

But even I need to work on confidence regularly. And in particular, I've learned there is one significant, but often neglected, part of being a confident person: talking about oneself.

In other words, I need to tell my story.

Because for a long time, I wasn't

It all started when I was a professional athlete.

It felt uncomfortable to talk about myself, so I started downplaying my career. I'd say I was in 'athletics' and try to quickly change the subject.

The habit of downplaying continued even after I was no longer playing professional basketball. I found myself being really vague and sort of shrinking behind the words, "I own my own business."

I see this a ton with the women I work with. Which got me thinking:

Why do women apologize for being good at something?

And how does this keep us from telling 'our story'?

About a year ago, during an interview with a young female sales person, I asked, "What do you like about sales?"

She responded, "Sorry if this sounds bad, but I like it because I'm pretty good at it."

Always the coach, I asked, "Why are you apologizing? You're either good at sales or you aren't. Which is it?"

Reluctantly, she responded that she was good at sales. Talk about pulling teeth.

I see this with the athletes I work with. I'll ask an entire room of super successful female athletes, "Who in here is an amazing athlete?" Usually the women raise their hand and point at someone else. (Either that, or it's one of the male coaches raising his hand!) The women just don't want to admit that they are actually good at something.

The moment it changed for me

I saw people in my field (men mostly if you want to know the truth) boldly telling their stories. Even ones who hadn't accomplished as much as I had were telling their stories; some even made it sound like they'd been curing cancer.

And, to be honest, it sort of pissed me off.

But then I thought, "Yeah, but at least they're telling their STORY!" Good for them for having the balls to do it (excuse the pun).

Besides, it wasn't really them that I was pissed off at.

I was angry at myself. It was then and there that I gave myself a little pep talk that went something like this:

Don't keep your awesomeness a secret
Because if you do, I can guarantee someone else will be shouting theirs from the rooftop while you're whispering in the corner. And when you aren't being heard by the world, that means your message, your vision, your calling, also isn't getting heard by the world.

And that doesn't do anyone any good.

How to get started telling your story

Remember, there is a difference between choking people with your accomplishments and simply being honest about what you do, who you are and why you do it.

Here's a list of five things to get you started telling your authentic story:

1. Ladies, get your sales pitch down...
Like many things, it's easier if you have a plan ahead of time of what you're going to say. Whether it's the response to 'What do you do?', 'What are you good at?', 'What makes you, you?' Have a response ready.

2. ...then practice it
Everything that's scripted ahead of time sounds weird at first. Practice until it sounds natural and normal. Make it authentically you. This is what I say:

"I'm a mental training coach and entrepreneur and I focus on teaching people how to be more mentally tough in all they do."

A lot better than: "Uh, I own my own business...?"

3. Cheer for (other) women

Let's face it, us women are not consistently great at boosting each other up. But the good news is that this is a fixable habit. And the really good news? The better you feel about yourself, the easier it becomes to cheer for others.

4. Call women out on it

Do you hear women around you apologize for their awesomeness? Do you do it yourself?

It's hard, if not impossible, to analyze what you are saying and how you are saying it. We need mirrors around us to let us know how we are doing.

Be that mirror for a woman in your life and let her know it's okay to talk and act and sound confident! Ask others to do the same for you.

5. Talk about it

Insecurity is not the easiest topic to ask others about, but it's golden if you can have those conversations.

I have some pretty badass women in my life-head coaches at big universities, C-level executives at Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurs, Olympic athletes-and every time I tell them I'm working on being more bold in my personal story they identify with it too.

These are strong, accomplished, badass chicks, and they have to work on telling their awesome story? Wow! I guess we all do.

So here's to all of us telling our unique story to the world!

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. What's YOUR story? What makes you unique? Are you sharing it with the world? If not, why not?

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The ADA at 25: A Commitment to Our Neighbors

In 1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, I had not yet made my decision to begin ROTC and a career of military service. I had no idea that I would join the Army, become a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. I certainly had no idea that eight months into my deployment a rocket-propelled grenade would tear through the Blackhawk helicopter I was flying, rip off one leg, crush the other and tear my right arm apart. The power of the ADA is that it ended up changing my life long before I ever imagined it would.

The ADA is the living testament to our Nation's commitment that we will always stand up for our neighbors' right to live fulfilling lives. It recognizes the fundamental reality that every American is merely one medical diagnosis or one accident away from a serious disability that forever alters his or her life. The ADA is essential in helping me overcome the obstacles I face as a Wounded Warrior and empowers me to assist other Veterans. It allows me to be physically active, have my pilot's license and serve in Congress. Simply put, the ADA enables me and millions of other Americans to move forward with our lives.

The ADA allows persons with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the world around them. Sidewalks and streets are now accessible because of curb cuts. Football stadiums and movie theaters now have accessible seating. Restrooms and elevators are now useable by people who depend on wheelchairs and walkers. Our courthouses and our government buildings now have ramps so that everyone can enter them to do business.

Our interaction with technology changed as well. Telephones are more accessible because we have video relays that allow those who are deaf to communicate with others. Television and movies are captioned. Our computers have touch screens so that those who have difficulty typing can use a pointer or other devices.

The ADA truly changed the world for all Americans.

As we celebrate the ADA's 25th Anniversary, our country should also use this milestone to renew its commitment to fully achieving the four main goals written into this landmark law: equal opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency.

We must never be satisfied with a status quo where only a third of working-age people with disabilities participate in the workforce, despite the fact that 80 percent want to work. During the great recession of the late 2000s, people with disabilities lost their jobs at a rate 10 times greater than that of people without disabilities and they have not yet returned to the employment level they had in 2008. This is not only a tragedy for those who can't find work, but also for employers. Persons with disabilities represent a tremendous talent pool in this country. These hard-working employees are tremendously loyal to employers who give them a fair chance, boasting a retention rate far higher than the overall workforce.

Equally troublesome is the rate of poverty among people with disabilities. Over 26 percent of the disabled population lives below the poverty line.

Without good jobs at fair wages in inclusive settings, economic self-sufficiency will not be achievable. Without reliable transportation or accessible housing, full participation will be unattainable. Without sound education at all levels, equal opportunity to compete for a job will not be a reality.

Our world changed for the better because of the ADA. As we look to the next 25 years of its implementation, it is time to take the next step and ensure that all Americans with disabilities have access to good jobs, accessible housing and reliable transportation.

The time has come for Congress to take action to fulfill the community living promise within the ADA. In the coming months, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strengthen the ADA. We all want the 56 million Americans with disabilities to be fully integrated into our communities and be equal participants in the American Dream.

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Three Unexpected Places to Meet Quality Men

One of the most common questions I hear is, "Where can I meet a nice man, Steve?" Maybe you've flirted with all the eligible bachelors at your church already, or you're looking for alternatives to the usual places where you hang out with your friends and family. The funny thing is that "nice" single men are all around you, but you may not be hanging out where they tend to spend some of their free time. Or maybe you're too shy to walk up and introduce yourself to someone new? Well, I've got some advice that should make it a little bit easier for you.

Here are some of my favorite places for women to meet men, as well as some icebreakers to get the conversation flowing without making it feel forced or especially awkward:

1. A good steakhouse. Apologies to all you vegetarians, but this man eats meat. So, I'm excited by the idea of a woman who will go to a steakhouse and eat her meal alone, which tells every man in the place: "I'm single!" Don't sit down to eat at the bar, though; sitting at a table near the bar looks a lot classier (besides, if you eat dinner at the bar then all he can see is your back, which makes it hard to catch your eye and flirt a little). Don't go with a pack of girlfriends, because then he'll be too nervous to approach you in the middle of a crowd. Instead, sit at a small table near the bar and with your chair facing toward the main dining room.

Once you've made eye contact: Ask him, "What cuts of meat do you prefer to cook yourself at home?" or "Which sides do you recommend here?" If y'all end up moving seats so you can eat at the same table, ask him which steakhouse he'd suggest you try next and why. People have so many great memories and stories that revolve around food, it shouldn't be hard to keep the conversation going until you're both ready to leave. Even if he's not the perfect man for you, he may have a single friend who'd love to have you over for a cookout this weekend!

2. Hardware/home improvement store. This spot offers has one great and usually overlooked benefit: any woman who goes to Lowe's or Ace Hardware by herself is likely single, and plenty of single men doing their DIY projects can be found picking up supplies here on weekend afternoons. But ladies, don't just go there and wander around staring at the men shopping. Instead, see this as an opportunity for a little self-improvement in addition to scoping out potential dates.

Once you've made eye contact: Before you go, make a list of things you need to pick up anyway, like air filters, light bulbs, trash bags, etc. That's your excuse so you don't leave the store empty-handed. Then, grab a basket and walk up and down every aisle. If he's getting paint mixed, ask him which finish he likes best and why; if he's in the gardening section, ask him to help you pick between two potted plants for a sick friend. Men like to feel needed, so asking him for help is an easy way to get him talking. Whatever you do, though, don't lie just to have an excuse to talk to him. Lies are like parking tickets -- they tend to pile up and start costing you extra pretty fast!

3. Auto shop/mechanic. Look, you have to get your oil changed, right? Men do, too - and the best part is, you're both going to be waiting there for a little while. Think of this as an opportunity to "shop around" for dates while you're getting your vehicle serviced. It's just enough time to meet someone and talk a little, but leave you wanting to carry on the conversation afterward if you're both feeling that spark.

Once you've made eye contact: Ask the man you're interested in that you're thinking about getting a different vehicle and ask what kind of car he drives and why. Or ask him if he can show you how to do some very basic task yourself, like adding wiper fluid, checking the air in your tires or how to clean a corroded battery cable. As I mentioned in #2 above, men love to feel helpful - and car maintenance is something everyone should know how to do. And if you run across a man who's fixing up a classic car or building his own bike, that should give you both plenty to talk about.

Each of these places has a lot to offer you on their own: a delicious meal, stuff that you need to pick up from the store anyway and keeping your car in good working order. If you're going out to run some errands, see every trip you make as an opportunity to meet a good man. Once you've got yourself into that frame of mind, you're bound to run into him soon!

In addition to being a world-renowned comedian, talk show host, philanthropist, husband and father, Steve Harvey is the Chief Love Officer of online dating site He draws on his personal experiences and the stories that millions of people have shared with him over the years to help more people find and keep the love they deserve.

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10 Ways To Know If Your Relationship Is Truly Marriage Material

By Michelle Horton

I'm officially "of the age of marriage" -- meaning my Facebook feed has far less 2am bar photos and increasingly more "I SAID YES!" updates.

Old friends -- my little sister's friends, even -- are Instagramming engagement rings and testing out wedding hashtags. They're planning not only a future, but a celebration -- with excitement and gusto! -- consumed with dress choices and bachelorette planning and wedding budgets.

And I'm over here like, "Do you know what you're getting yourself into?"

I don't want to be "that person," jaded and hurt and bitter, throwing back another glass of champagne before making a sarcastic toast to love... as if love will carry them through.

After seven years of marriage, I have a deeper appreciation and understanding for marriage than I ever did as a young starry-eyed newlywed. But that's the thing: there's so much about marriage -- about the long-term consequences of joining lives with a messy, frustrating human, about the reality of changing alongside a changing partner -- that's impossible to grasp without actually experiencing it.

At this point, I've lived through "worse" times, poorer times. My husband almost died in an extreme example of "in sickness."

Our vows have been sufficiently tested. I know that real marriage is not a reflection of a carefully planned Big Day. Real life doesn't start in a tropical honeymoon.

With that in mind, maybe we're going about engagements all wrong. We're already pairing up when we're out-of-our-mind in love, vowing to always be as considerate and loving as we are in that blinded state. That's crazy enough.

Then we spend our engagements on our best behavior, in a static celebratory state of anticipation. We get married after a few shorts years together, imagining that if things have been good for two years -- even five or six years -- how could it be any different?

No no no, you need to see someone at their worst before you can agree to accept their worst. You have to see them pissed off, sick, wronged and vulnerable. You have to experience some seriously un-ideal situations.

I hereby propose the sh*tty engagement period to really test if your relationship is ready for marriage. Quit making dreamy Pinterest wedding boards and planning fancy dinners, and do some of these instead:

1. Get stuck in traffic for a few hours, and run out of gas miles from a gas station, while you're late for something important.

We can all keep it together when things are going right. You need to witness each other's coping strategies when everything's going wrong.

2. Be together for at least 24 menstruation cycles, at a minimum.

Committing to a lifetime before he sees your full-blown PMS rage? You're rolling the dice, my dear.

3. Watch him take care of a sick, elderly person.

How he treats the old and the young says a lot about his character.

4. Have him take care of you.

You're vowing to stand by each other in sickness and health, so you should probably know if and how he takes care of you during an especially bad sickness.

Does he step up to the plate? Run and hide? Act seriously annoyed and burdened by your illness? You need to know these things!

5. Go on a cross-country drive with him... and his mother.

A two-week drive in a cramped car will bring all of your ugly, cranky, moody tendencies right to the surface. It'll also give you an opportunity to get lost, to blow out a tire, to run out of gas, and anything else that could possibly go wrong.

Guess what, folks? Life is going to go very wrong, and you'll have to navigate it together. Throw in the mother-in-law for added tension.

6. Invite your mother to stay for a week, or two weeks.

Then say, "I'll probably turn into her. Still wanna marry me?"

7. Skip breakfast and lunch, and then go to dinner at a restaurant with really slow service.

See that rage-filled, whiny, miserable man sitting across from you? You'll have to accept that part of him, too. And he'll have to accept your hangry rage as well.

8. Go camping on a cold, rainy weekend.

Forget the tropics; sometimes marriage is damp, grey, and uncomfortable.

9. Have at least one mega drag-down fight.

You can tell a lot about a couple's longevity by the way they fight. And yes, the fights will happen, friends, no matter how calm and respectful and choose-your-battles rational you may be in those first few years.

One day the gloves will come off and you'll see each other's ingrained fight tactics. Does he hit below the belt, saying mean insults meant to hurt you? Does he shut down and give the silent treatment? Does he get too aggressive?

Does he lose his damn mind? Do you? You need to see just how deep the crazy goes before saying you "I do."

10. Have disgusting, violent food poisoning together, in a small apartment with one bathroom.

NOW do you still want to get married?

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College Student Helps Immigrants Build Their Businesses

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Deepti Sharma Kapur has always had a deep desire to help her community, but instead of going into politics, she decided to start a company called, which connects local food vendors with large corporate clients.

The idea struck her in college. “I was waiting on line at a food truck and I was waiting for about 30 minutes, and all I got was a peanut butter cookie. How is it that this is the only way for me to access what this food truck is selling?”

After speaking with dozens of food truck owners, the now 28-year-old found out that many of them didn’t know how to utilize technology to grow their businesses. As the child of immigrant parents, Kapur also identified with the business owners on a personal level.

“A lot of them are immigrating from countries like Bangladesh or India, and they’re just looking to start somewhere,” she said. has grown from an online ordering service to a company that connects over 900 local food trucks, restaurants and vendors with corporate clients. “We take these amazing vendors and bring them into corporate offices that they never even thought that they could get to.”

Kapur is proud of what she has achieved in her career thus far and plans on expanding her company even further. Until then, she has some words of wisdom for other ambitious entrepreneurs. “I don’t think that you have to follow somebody else’s path,” she advised. “Concentrate on what it is you want to do and achieve, and keep at it.”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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Why I’m Letting Go Of My Immune Disorder

hospital gown
"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
-Henry Ellis

I'm letting go of you, body. I'm letting go of the welts and the bumps, the bruising from needles. I'm letting go of shallow breaths, fuzzy thoughts, dizzy spells. I'm letting go of bloodshot eyes, pain in my back, pain in my stomach, pain in my pelvis. I'm letting go of stiff necks, burning behind my eyes, spinal taps and hospital paperwork.

I'll remember you, body -- shedding skin, hair breaking, floating to the floor like leaves from the trees during fall. I'll remember you, arms on fire, knees frozen and locked; I'll remember how you kept bending and flexing, standing and walking. I'll remember how you kept moving. How you kept me moving. How you kept all of that pain contained.

I'm letting go of you, anger. I'm letting go of the immune disorder, it's lack of a name. I'm letting go of the misdiagnosis and having to start all over again. I'm letting go of that panic rushing from brain to heart, fast and hard like water on the rocks. I'll let it all go: the doctors who got it wrong, the doctors whose faces morphed into question marks, the doctors who said, "This will work, no that will work. No this." I'm letting go of hating the body that failed me, the immune system that flipped inside out. I'm letting go of the why.

I'll remember you, anger. You kept me from being too sad. You kept me fired up and calling the doctors, calling insurance, trying the next thing and the next and the next.

I'm going to let go of you, fear. Fear that it could start over again. Fear that the never knowing what this thing is called will mean that it's never really gone. Fear of the blood work, the test results, the short voicemail. I'm letting go of the fear that my body isn't strong enough, that I am not strong enough. That I am not enough. I'm letting go of worry. Letting go of seeing the unknown as a shadow, and seeing it more as a light. Letting go doesn't come in one swift act. It's not the swinging of a door, but the sliding of a window. Slow and deliberate.

Instead, I'm making room for you. Room for the bumps that heal and the scars that fade. Room for the colds that pass. Room for being just fine with over the counter medicine. Room for deep breaths -- big inhales and long exhales. Room for looking in the mirror and remembering what it feels like to be me. Room to recognize my eyes. My cheeks. My smile. I know you.

I will always remember you: me of my twenties, me that girl scared and angry and sick. I will always save some love for you. I will remember the way it hurt and I will remember the small ways it got better. The new fuzzy hair around my temples, the softer skin on my shoulders. The refills that expired. The name of that drug, just on the tip of my tongue. I've forgotten it now.

So I'm letting go of you to make room for me. I am in this body but I am not the body.

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