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Posts Tagged ‘strength’


I am always amazed at how things often have a magical way of unfolding.

This past weekend I was supposed to go camping with my meditation group. We had had it on the calendar for a while and I had gotten the time off from my weekend job. I was excited as this would be my first camping trip in years and I looked forward to going deep, in the stillness of nature, with my sweet little meditation group.

But as it often does, things come up and as the weekend got closer, unfortunately a couple of people had to cancel and in the end we decided to postpone. I was disappointed, but I knew we’d go another time.

However, as the weekend unfolded, and different plans began to take form, I was blessed to witness something so magical, so inspiring, that I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.

My good friend Rebecca (also from said meditation group) and I decided to go for a day hike in Tennessee Valley, just a handful of miles north of the city. San Francisco summer was full on: it was hot, sunny and clear blue skies; the perfect day for a hike to the beach.

When we got to the parking lot, we decided it was too hot for sneakers and slipped into more comfortable shoes for the fairly flat walk to the beach. Rebecca put on her favorite pair of flip-flops and we made our way to the Pacific. It was a beautiful day at the beach. It was hot, but there was a perfect, soft sea breeze and for once it was actually warm enough to wade in the water (a rare thing in San Francisco).

Photo by Rebecca Fettig of http://goldenpointsf.com/

Photo by Rebecca Fettig of http://goldenpointsf.com/

We left our shoes in the sand, went into the water, and waded around happily for a while at the shore. Walking along the beach, the tide was clearly coming in and the waves were catching us by surprise and splashing playfully against us. Set against the shimmering water were the beautiful California hills, limestone cliffs jutting up dramatically against the sky.

We walked around a rock and at that moment, we saw a big wave coming. Rebecca managed to run away from it, but I on the other hand was not fast enough and got a refreshing sprinkle.

With the tide coming in so fast, our thoughts turned to our shoes and it occurred to us that we hadn’t even thought about how far they were from the water. We wondered if they were even still there, or if they had been whisked away, sacrificed into the sea. We began walking back the short distance of the beach, preparing and laughing to ourselves about the prospect of having to possibly hike back to the car barefoot.

As we got closer and closer, I saw no shoes in sight. I was convinced they were long gone and I chuckled. Yes, it would be unfortunate, but it makes for a great story, so the humor in it did not escape me. However, as we made our way back to the spot where we thought the shoes were, a friendly woman asked us if these shoes were ours, pointing to the wet, sand-covered shoes. Yep, that was them. The tide had in fact tried to steal them away from us, but thanks to the kindness of complete strangers, we would not have to go shoeless that day. That was just one of the magical encounters of the day.

I tell this part of the story because it is relevant to the next part. If we hadn’t found our shoes, we wouldn’t have ventured out on our next adventure and we wouldn’t have experienced the most magical encounter of all.

As we began making our way back towards the car, along the dry, dusty path, we saw several different trails, to the left and right, meandering up and over the rolling hills. We knew we didn’t have loads of time, and as the trail heads were marked with their corresponding mileage, we decided to take the shortest one, a 1.9 mile trail up to the right. And off we went.

Shortly after embarking along the path, suddenly we were under a canopy of trees, in what I can only describe as a tiny enchanted forest. We crossed over a sweet little bridge over a trickle of river and the sun was magically filtering through the trees. Within the rest of the dry, hot landscape, this little oasis seemed very out of place. We reveled in it.

Emerging out of this small grove, we then started heading up and up over the hill. As we got further along and it began to get steeper, Rebecca began to hesitate. She was uncertain if her flip-flops would be able to handle the slippery slope back down and she of course didn’t want to fall. We knew we weren’t prepared to do a major hike in our chosen footwear, but we figured we’d go as far as we could. So we paused for a moment as she tested out the security of her footing beneath her.

In that moment, I looked up and saw something I will never forget. I turned to Rebecca and in response to her question about whether or not we should keep going, I said, “Look up and I think you have your answer. Let’s keep going.”

She looked up and saw what I saw. There was a man, with not one, but two prosthetic legs, walking carefully down the steep dirt trail, ensuring that he had his footing as he went. And if that isn’t incredible enough, not only did he have two prosthetic legs, he also had one prosthetic arm. And this man was hiking, by himself. Are you blown away yet? Because there’s more. Yes, more. On top of having three prosthetic limbs, this amazing human being was also carrying a mountain bike over his shoulder. This man (perhaps a veteran of war?), who through some unknown turn of events was left with only one natural limb, was spending the day hiking and mountain-biking. Rebecca and I were completely dumbfounded.

As the man (who was quite good-looking by the way- just sayin’!) walked by, we greeted him and asked him how his day was going. He returned our greeting with a friendly smile. We asked him how much farther it was to the top and he told us we were about 65% of the way. We wished him a beautiful day and kept on going. And as we continued up the hill, our hearts were blown wide open. We, both of us, were absolutely in awe of this beautiful spirit, this incredible being whose story we knew nothing about, but who clearly had the immeasurable strength to overcome so much adversity. And we stood in wonder of the resilience of the human spirit.

We got to the top of the crest and looked out at the breathtaking scenery: romantic, rolling hills colliding with the churning ocean, and a group of hawks soaring majestically above. I was filled with goose bumps. Rebecca and I looked at each other and we acknowledged the absolute gift with which we had just been blessed; the absolute wonder and testament to the triumphant nature of the human spirit. The two of us were overflowing with amazement and gratitude.

Tennessee Valley

In the end, I’d have to say I’m pretty happy that our camping trip got canceled because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that encounter for the world. It was an experience by which I was deeply humbled, a gift for which I am truly grateful, and a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

And if ever you find yourself thinking that you are incapable of accomplishing or overcoming something? Think again.

“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.”

~ Helen Keller

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My brother and I in front of the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor.

My brother and I in front of the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor.

I come from a family of writers, and today my brother, David Page, expressed perfectly what it is that I and so many other Bostonians are feeling:

I moved to Seattle in June of ’95 and have lived here for most of the past 17 years. I have always maintained that although this great city has become home, Boston is also home. I’m not sure how you can have home in two locations, but it is true nonetheless. The events of this past week, starting with the Boston Marathon and continuing today with the massive manhunt and killing of one of the two terrorists involved, brought forth a surge of pride in me. I am proud of the people of Boston, continuing to show the same strength of spirit they have shown for four hundred years. I love Seattle, but it is not Boston… apples and oranges.

I am from Boston. And the truth is that everyone who is from Boston, regardless of where they move to and where they live, IS and will always be a Bostonian. I am proud of the city of my birth and proud of its indomitable spirit. And my final thought… NO ONE messes with Boston!

~ David A. Page

SAMSUNG

Related Posts: My Heart is in Boston

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Today I am honored and humbled to be featured on “Transformation Talk,” a new blog series where each Thursday Alana Sheeren will interview people who have deepened their passion or found their calling after experiencing a loss, trauma or diagnosis. I am truly honored to be a part of this project.

To all of you out there who are suffering from grief and loss, I hope that you will tune in each Thursday to Alana’s blog. She has many incredible and inspiring stories to share, the least of which is her own. ♥

*****

Can you share a little about your grief journey and a specific experience that had a profound effect on your path?

In 2007 I lost the best friend I had ever had in my life, a man who had been my rock and with whom I shared every aspect of my heart and soul, for almost four years. He did not die or anything that dramatic, but after he met a new woman, he chose to cut me completely from his life. As he truly was my best friend, and I was certain that this was a soul-connected being, for me this felt worse than death. I gave up a great job and a well-established life and moved 3,000 miles across the country to fight for him. But sadly I was met with only more anger and hatred from him.  He tossed me to the curb like a piece of garbage. That was 5 years ago, he has since married that woman, and I’ve never heard from him since.

Though I had lost other best friends and had lived through devastating broken hearts in the past, nothing in my life could ever have prepared me for the grief that I felt when this man walked right out of my life and acted as if I’d never mattered at all to him. The person I had most trusted on this Earth, betrayed that trust, broke all of his promises to me, and abandoned me. Everything I had ever known and believed came crashing down around me. I had entered my “dark night of the soul.”

To continue reading the interview, click here.

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The world is living through a lot of tumult at the moment: governments falling, economies teetering on the brink of failure. As if that global drama is not enough for us to deal with, it seems that this turmoil is also playing itself out, albeit in a much more minor and somewhat ridiculous way, within our yoga community.

Lately, there has been one yoga controversy after the next. This week the controversy was about the New York Times article labeling yoga as “dangerous.” That one kicked up quite a firestorm!

And most recently, the one that is currently swirling around and in which I have found myself front and center, is the controversy of the Equinox Sex.. er, I mean Yoga, video.

I first saw this video last week when it was posted on Elephant Journal. I was immediately captivated by its raw beauty, by the absolute grace and poise the yogini displayed as she skillfully and mindfully moved between the challenging and complicated yoga poses. For me, this was watching art in motion.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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The year was 1995. I was 20 years old and I found myself alone at a friend’s apartment in London. It was a cold winter day and because London was dark by 3pm, I was stuck in the apartment very early in the day. Dinner consisted of a pathetic bowl of ice-cream as I watched a dreadfully boring tv show (on a screen full of static snow) about cheese-making in Britain. This was my first Christmas spent alone. It is a day I will never forget. I had never felt so alone in my life.

The second Christmas I would spend alone was in 2007. I was now 32 years old and living in Los Angeles. I spent the day curled up in an agonizing ball of tears, grieving over the man I loved, who would be spending his first Christmas with the woman who had replaced me. There was no eating on that day. The pain was too great to allow for food. It was too much to even answer the phone. I talked to no friends or family that day. The only place I could bear to be was alone with my grief. That was the low point of my life.

The third Christmas I would spend alone is this one: 2011. I am now 36, almost 37 years old and I am living in San Francisco. It is so fascinating and thought-provoking for me to reflect on all of the Christmases between this one and that first lonely Christmas spent in London. To be honest with you, I don’t even remember where I spent all of the Christmases in between. There may have been other lonely holidays spent alone, but the ones I remember are the ones I’ve mentioned. Those are the ones that stand out as the painful and defining moments in my life.

I ponder the 16 years that have passed since I served myself that Christmas ice-cream “feast,” and it is hard to even fathom the person I was and the person I have become. A lifetime of changes, heartaches, joys, triumphs, laughter, tears and adventures have taken place over those 16 years. From Spain to Boston, to Washington, DC, Los Angeles to San Francisco, I have lived across a span of 6,000 miles. I have gone from being a student living in Spain, to planning international travel, to being a graduate school drop out, to working at the United Nations in Geneva, through my first acquisition as a manager at a start-up, to working at a minimum wage job struggling to pay my rent, back to management in a start-up, to being fired and now to being an inspirational writer. It has been a path I could never have imagined and a level of growth and transformation that is immeasurable by time or space.

As I write this post, it is Christmas Eve and I am curled up in my pajamas with my two kitties, the only two constant companions in my life over the past decade. They are the wall between me and the full grip of loneliness. I will not be with close friends or family this Christmas, not because I don’t have those, but simply because we are all in different places this year and circumstances prevent us from being together. Is it easy to be alone? I would certainly be lying if I said “yes,” but I am here to tell you that there is an indomitable strength and fortitude that has come from having to face the depths of such solitude. Walking through such loneliness over a span of so many years has forced me to walk through the fire and it has allowed me to emerge a Spiritual Warrior. And with that has come the knowledge and the wisdom that I am my own strongest ally, that with my inner strength and fire I can overcome and endure any plight or challenge that comes my way.

I am here today to reach out to all of the other lonely souls out there who feel that they are all alone and who feel that they are the only ones. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. I am here to tell you that you are one of millions, that as I write these words there are countless other people in the exact same situation, wishing that they had loved ones with whom to share the holidays. And I am here to tell you that there is strength in that. You are not alone. None of us are alone. We are all connected by heart and spirit. We are all Spiritual Warriors and if we can tap into that collective energy we can feel the love and brotherhood among us.

I am also here to tell you that there is opportunity in solitude. I could spend Christmas Day alone and depressed about how everyone else I know is with loved ones. It would be far too easy to go to that place. But I refuse to allow myself that poisonous indulgence. Instead I will begin my day with a deep meditation, allowing myself to access that profound well of inner calm and the connection to my higher self and Universal love; that place where peace washes over you. Then I have organized a Christmas dinner, a dinner of complete strangers, an opportunity for other solitary souls to come together to share a dinner in the comfort of community; an opportunity to get to know new people, to share stories, to laugh and to allow ourselves to feel the joy of simple human connection.

If you are alone this Christmas, be comforted in knowing that in fact you are not alone. Reach out and connect with strangers. Go out to the pub and strike up a conversation with your neighbor. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen and connect with others by giving of your heart. Go to a yoga class and flow with a community of like-minded souls. Remember that we are all brothers and sisters on this journey of souls and none of us are ever alone. We are all connected.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, from my heart to yours…..

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grief (n.)= keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Grief is a funny thing. Our society teaches us to avoid it at all costs, and yet it is part of the natural cycle of life. We will all experience it in our lives, that is if we have a pulse. And we will all experience it in different ways, different times and in varying degrees. Some of us will suffer the horrific grief from the loss of a child, others will suffer the heart-breaking grief from the loss of a love or spouse, and still others will suffer profound grief from the loss of a pet. That is just to name a few losses which we may face over a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter what the source, but life pretty much guarantees it: the grief will come, and for a time it will be debilitating. And what is for certain is that there is no way to measure the level of one’s grief. Nobody can say “my grief is more intense than yours” or vice versa. There is no scale of 1-5 that allows for an objective measurement and comparison. For each person, grief is different, and it is their own. One can try to empathize with someone who is grieving, from having been through their own grief, but at the end of the day nobody else can truly put themselves in your shoes. Your grief is yours and yours alone.

Everyone has different ways of coping with their grief: some will turn to therapy and others will turn to prayer, and some to both. I fall somewhere in the middle: I turn inward to meditation. What is clear is that not all methods of coping with grief will work for all people, and it is important for each of us to find the path that works best for us. While I’ve always been hopeful about its effects, and despite various attempts, therapy has never made any meaningful impact on me. But meditation has. By going deep within, calming the inner turmoil and mind chatter, and through lots of practice, I have found ways that I can literally raise my consciousness above the turmoil, where I can look down at it from above, objectively. Of course meditation is not a magic bullet. It takes consistent practice and considerable commitment. And it too is not for everyone. But what I do know for sure is that nobody can say to you, “This is how you should be handling your grief.” Nobody has had the exact same experiences that you have had, and therefore nobody, no matter how empathetic or well-intentioned they may be, can truly know what is best for you. Nor do they have the right to tell you so. When it comes to deciding how best to handle your own grief, you are the only person who can make that decision.

There is no formula for how long it will or should take someone to get over grief. I’ve heard it said that to get over a love relationship, it should take you 1/2 of the time that you were together. According to whom?? Based on what??? That would falsely assume that all people are the same, and that everyone feels the same level of emotions, and that every relationship is the exact same level of love and intensity, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are dealing with human beings, not algebra! We are all unique. For some it could take weeks to grieve, for others years, and still for some it will become a lifelong struggle. I know that anyone who has lost a child will tell you that it is a loss you never get over; instead one has to learn how to live WITH it and incorporate it into a new reality, no matter how gut-wrenching. But I also know that you don’t have to have lost a child in order to feel that level of grief. There are other types of losses that can be just as intense for people. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “She died of a broken heart.” That phrase didn’t appear out of nowhere and it doesn’t just happen in the movies. Sadly, it can and does happen.

The most important element in the process of overcoming grief is simply time. But there is no way to predict the amount of time, and it is also the nature of grief that it can and will come in waves. One can be feeling fine for months or even years, and then suddenly out of the blue a reminder comes pounding in like a wave, and drags them into the undertow: it could be an Anniversary date, a song, a photograph, there are a million little things that could trigger a wave of grief to wash over you. And when that happens the best thing that the grieving person can do is try to “ride the wave”, knowing that it is a temporary storm in the sea of life and that this wave too will pass. The only way out is through.

How many of you have been told, “You need to get over it. It’s been too long.”? Every time I hear someone say that I want to spit, and I am reminded of how impatient and lacking empathy human beings can truly be. Of course people mean well when they say that, but by doing so they are belittling the loss that you have lived through and they are not respecting the grief process that YOU are living. The grief process is yours and yours alone. If anyone tries to tell you that, and it hurts or angers you, don’t fret. Step back and know that you are standing in your own process and be true to yourself: do what you need to do for yourself and do not be concerned with what anybody else thinks of you. At the end of the day you are your own best friend, and you know better than anyone what your own spirit needs.

I am often shocked by how few people want to deal with one’s grief, how afraid of it people tend to be. From writing in this community, I have met several other writers who are dealing with their own deep grief, and I’ve seen a reoccurring theme: they’ve all had friends and family who have pulled away from them, and in some cases permanently, because the friends or family were too uncomfortable and unequipped emotionally to deal with the other person’s grief. This is a sad statement; because of course when one is grieving that is when one needs their friends and family the most. But I have learned this same lesson in my own life, multiple times. Some people simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth, sensitivity, patience or level of empathy necessary to handle someone else’s grief. If everyone had that ability, then everyone would be a Priest, a Nun …or at the very least a grief counselor!

But most importantly it is a stark misconception to think that grief is bad and that we should in any way try to rush through it, push it aside or numb ourselves to it. Sadly so many people do this: they try to avoid the pain of a lost love by jumping into the next love; they push the devastating emotions down and try to pretend that they don’t exist, which sadly will often lead to the manifestation of disease; and others will try to drown out the pain with drugs and alcohol. None of these escape mechanisms will work. To quote Ovid,

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”

By trying to distract ourselves from grief, we are making a mistake. By trying to ignore the grief, we are not honoring the loss that we have experienced. We are also denying ourselves one of the most powerful opportunities for growth and learning that this earthly life affords us. Our darkest times are our most powerful teachers. The sage knows that to try to skip over such difficult times, is to deny himself of powerful learning and soul evolution. In the wise words of Marcel Proust,

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

There is no doubt that grief is painful, and in many cases, devastating and debilitating. I’m sure none of you will argue with that. It can change your life forever, and often against your will. That has certainly been the case in my life. And while it may get easier with time, it can still be something that we simply have to learn how to live with, as difficult as that may be. But even in that circumstance, if we can dig in deep and instead of running away and hiding from grief, if we can muster up the strength to walk through it and experience it, and allow ourselves to ride the wave, it has the power to transform us.

“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”- John Adams

This post is dedicated to my friend Judy.

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Previously featured on Elephant Journal.

Growing up as little girls in America, we are fortunate to have no shortage of empowered women to whom we can look up as role models. From the early childhood years we learn about Susan B. Anthony and her contributions to the women’s suffrage moment, and as we mature we delve into the progressive politics of Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman ahead of her time, who made tireless contributions to workers’ rights, women’s rights and human rights as a whole. More recently we can look to Oprah Winfrey, with whom I grew up, having been at the impressionable age of 11 when the Oprah Winfrey Show first launched. Throughout my adolescence and into my womanhood, I watched in awe as Oprah changed and inspired the world for the better. Pretty incredible for a poor, black girl from rural Mississippi. For me, Oprah encapsulates the essence of female empowerment.

Now why am I singling out women as the shining examples of empowerment? Of course there are thousands of examples of empowered men who have made significant impacts on our society, but as we live in a society where women still earn on average 20% less than men, and men still dominate the executive offices, I think it is more important than ever that young girls have positive, powerful and capable female role models. As I think of Oprah and the other empowered female leaders of our time, it occurs to me that I don’t need to look any further than my own circle to find powerful examples of female empowerment… starting with my own mother. Here, I would like to introduce you to some of the incredible women in my life, who have inspired and continue to inspire me, everyday:

Meet Marilyn (a.k.a. Mom). Mom was born into a generation where most women did not have a college education and many did not have careers. Of course, never one to sit idly by, Mom was way ahead of her time. By the age of 35, Mom had earned a Master’s degree while raising three children under the age of five, she had a solid career in education and had lived in two countries and five different states.  Later on, motivated to further her career, while raising three teenagers and working a full-time job, she proceeded to earn her Ph.D., and added three more states to her list of homes. She has now been a distinguished professor at three different colleges, has published three books, has lived in eight different states and has traveled to 20 countries. Mom taught me everyday, simply through her own actions, that women in our society can accomplish anything they want. Of course it’s no surprise that Mom was as empowered as she was, having come from a long line of empowered women. Her mother, my Grandma Monks, although from a generation when women rarely drove, was tenacious enough to get her first driver’s license at the age of 62, and even more amazingly to earn herself a Bachelor’s degree at the sprightly age of 72. As if that weren’t enough, that same year she decided she also needed to hike to the  summit of a 3,165 ft. Mt. Monadnock. And what of her mother? My Great Grandmother Beckford was the most feisty of the bunch. As a widow, she raised two kids during the depression, she ran for a legislative office in 1940 (only 20 years after being granted the right to vote!) and she refused to take social security until age 80 when she stopped working. Who does that?? With influences like those, it would be hard to imagine any other possible outcome than for both my mother and myself to have ended up as empowered women. When asked what she would do if she had all the money in the world, Mom answers, “I would build a home in Maine, make sure my kids all had homes, travel to Greece and also I would support an incubator for people who developed unique plans for helping disadvantaged or troubled teenagers.”

Meet Julie. Julie and I met almost 15 years ago as colleagues planning educational tours abroad for students. An adventurer from the start, by the age of 15 Julie and a friend had decided to send themselves to Europe for the summer, where they spent a month in Spain, followed by a second month in France. This was just the beginning of her adventurous life. Over the following two years she spent a total of six weeks in both Guadeloupe and Ecuador on study programs, and by the age of 22 she had spent two separate years living in two separate parts of France. Was that enough?  No way. A Francophile practically from the minute she left the womb, Julie went on to obtain a Master’s degree in French studies at NYU, taking her to live in France a third time. Throughout all of this incredible journey, she has managed to devote herself selflessly to several different volunteer organizations; among them completing an entire year of inner city volunteerism with City Year, and additionally with two organizations specifically focused on women’s economic inclusion and empowerment (a topic about which Julie is impassioned): Women for Women International and Women’s World Banking. All of this hard work and understanding of foreign cultures and economics has led Julie to a prestigious career working in international trade and investment with the French government. Julie is now responsible for creating and nurturing business ties between French and U.S. entities, companies, and governments. She has now traveled to 25 countries across five continents. When asked what she would do if she had unlimited wealth, her answer is “I would do what I am doing right now – only more of it – more money to causes I support, I would take care of my family financially, and I would travel more.”

Meet Kim. Kim and I also met at the same educational travel company where I met Julie (apparently an incubator for empowered women!). Another daring adventurer, by the age of 23, Kim had already lived in three separate foreign countries: The UK, France and the Netherlands. (Italy and India would be added to this list before the age of 30!) Having had the dream to work in the field of foreign affairs, Kim worked tirelessly to get herself accepted to Harvard and earned a Master’s degree in International Education. Ever the consummate achiever, Kim went on to be awarded the prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship in 2003, leading her to a highly successful career with the U.S. Department of State.  Throughout her seven year tenure at the Department of State, Kim has excelled to achieve the highest GS grade level, for her performance on managing foreign assistance, and has spent a tour living in India. She currently has the very important responsibility of managing all of the United States Government’s foreign assistance used for security purposes, including our commitments to Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, etc. Kim has traveled to a staggering 72 countries and her work has taken her, with two separate Secretaries of State, to every continent except for Antarctica. In addition to maintaining this high-powered career, Kim is now serving in the most important role of her lifetime, as the mother of a beautiful baby girl. With Kim as a role model of female empowerment, I have no doubt that her daughter will follow in her mother’s footsteps to achieve equally impressive accomplishments. When asked what she would do if she had unlimited wealth, Kim answers, “After providing a modest safety net for my daughter, I think I would pay it forward in as many situations as possible, help the neediest and those truly struggling, support key issues that are important to me such as animal welfare, abused and neglected children, education reform and the environment.”

Meet Kathleen. She is one of my favorite examples of total female empowerment, and not for any of the reasons I’ve mentioned above with my previous friends.  In fact, Kathleen has had quite a different story from any of these ladies. You see, Kathleen gave birth to her first child at the tender age of 15. Even she herself finds that hard to believe as she reads it! She went on to have a total of three children, and unable to take the traditional path of college and career, she had to make great sacrifices for her children. Now a single Mom, and barely over the age of 30, her oldest child is soon to be entering college… and despite the hardships and obstacles she has faced, Kathleen has managed to work herself into a very successful career in banking, all the while raising three happy, healthy and well-mannered children. Having gained the perfect niche skill-set, Kathleen became integral to the FDIC during the plethora of bank loan and mortgage defaults that occurred after the 2008 recession. This unique and sought-after experience later led to Kathleen being hired by one of the largest and most prestigious banks in the state of Georgia. When I look at Kathleen’s life, I am completely in awe. Not only is she without a doubt, one of the smartest, most eloquent and well-spoken people I know, here is a woman who can take on the world. True. Female. Empowerment. When asked what she would do with all of the money in the world, Kathleen answers, “I would take care of my family, who has supported me all my life, and show my children the world through travel.”

Meet Steph. Last year I was traveling with a tour group to Brazil and Argentina. Among the members of the group was a lovely family from New Zealand, who were visiting their daughter, Steph, who was spending the year living in a remote village of Argentina. Having studied abroad in college myself, when I met Steph and saw her level of maturity, I was sure that she too must be a college student spending her junior year abroad. I was shocked to learn that she was only 16! Only 16 years old, and this brave young lady took herself to the other side of the world, where she knew not a soul, to spend an entire year away from her family and the comforts of home. When I think back to myself at age 16, I could barely fathom leaving the state, nevermind the country, for that length of time. This was a truly impressive young lady. When I look back at my other friends mentioned above, who took similar, life-changing actions in their teenage years, I am filled with excitement to think about what Steph’s incredible journey will have in store for both her, and for the world. Where will she go? What will she do? Anywhere and anything she wants. The world is her oyster. When asked what she would do with all of the money in the world, Steph answers, “I would follow my desire to go to college and study law, and to learn Italian and French. I would then like to travel further abroad, extending my horizons, giving support to those who are truly less fortunate. I would eventually like to do work involving international relations.”

This is just a small glimpse into the lives of the empowered goddesses that surround me, and it is just a reminder of that which women are capable, at all ages and under all circumstances. Who are the women in your life who have served as powerful and positive models of empowerment for YOU? Have you ever thought about how they have influenced your own life and about ways in which they might have shaped who you are today? Have you ever looked at your OWN life and realized how you might be more empowered than you ever realized?…. that in fact YOU might be serving as a model of empowerment for others? Write down your own story, as I have done with these “Wonder Women,” and you may just be surprised by what you find. Look around you and within you, and see the examples of strong, capable, empowered women, both young and old, who shape you and inspire you everyday. And if you have the chance to serve as a role model for a young girl, take it.

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