Walking to End Domestic Violence

Dear Friends and Bloggers,

On Sunday, April 30 I will be walking the 25th Annual Walk for HAWC, to help the HAWC nonprofit organization with domestic violence services. I have participated in this event in the past, but I was especially compelled to participate this year for an unfortunate reason.

I have a friend who was brutally attacked by her husband, which made headlines in Boston. Lindsay was a ray of sunshine to all who never had a bad thing to say about anyone, so this news shook up the residents of the small town where we are from (Billerica, MA). The statistics are incredibly alarming: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. This doesn’t even include other forms of abuse that can come into play. 

 

imgresThat is why this walk is so important to me. Your donation of any amount will help HAWC’s comprehensive domestic violence services including their 24-hour hotline, Emergency Shelter, advocacy and legal services, and Parent Child Trauma Recovery Program, HAWC makes great strides every day in providing support to survivors in our community. 

Please consider donating to support my walk, on behalf of all of the people who have been/are victims of this terrible crime. You can also read about Lindsay’s current status on her GoFundMe page here.

Thank you!

Book Review: Gloria Steinem’s “My Life on the Road”

Hallelujah! I finally finished “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem, which I have had since my birthday last year. What makes this book so special to me – first and foremost- is that it is signed by THE Gloria Steinem, someone I have idolized growing up. Since the physical book is basically sacred to me, I think I was scared to open the book to actually read it but I did and….it did not disappoint!IMG_5082

The beginning of the book is Gloria’s tale of growing up with her father working as a traveling (and struggling) antiques salesman, in which she would travel with him in his car throughout the U.S. Meanwhile, her mother stayed at home and struggled with mental illness. As privileged as she was and still is, I was surprised at how humble her beginnings and how her time on the road with her father influenced her. Gloria would later chronicle her own many journeys throughout the U.S. as she gave speeches at universities and organized events.

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Gloria Steinem’s autograph. 

Many experiences (unsurprisingly) include her talking about how she was not taken seriously and disrespected. During the Lyndon Johnson administration, on the way to an event for Bobby Kennedy two famous writers in a cab in NYC with Gloria leaned across one another to say “You know how every year there’s a pretty girl who comes to New York and pretends to be a writer? Well, Gloria is this year’s pretty” (139). This is just one of many examples in which Gloria was mistreated due to her gender. We all know, of course, that she is no pretty face. Ironically, she went on to break barriers for women everywhere.

What I also liked is what Gloria spent the final pages of her book on – the plight of Native Americans and the successes of her best friend, Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation in 1985. This was a touching tribute to her friend that was with until her last breath, heaving fought many years recovering from a car accident and then succumbing to pancreatic cancer.

Between just Gloria and Wilma alone, there seemed so many possibilities as to what they could do, especially when together. Gloria was a women’s rights crusader who made feminism mainstream. Wilma was a true warrior spent her live improving health care and education for Native Americans. Both Gloria and Wilma were recipients of the Presidential Medals of Freedom. By the end of the book, you are left with the hopefully message that yes, life is a journey, and you really are free to make it your own. This may mean hitting the road and organizing events like Gloria, or finding passion at home. Whatever it is though, you should follow the path you love.

What’s your passion?

 

How I Spent International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and is also my birthday. I’d like to think this was destiny, or my mother pre-planned my birth to land on this day, but it simply a great coincidence. A tradition that I started last year and hope to have in the future, is volunteering on my birthday. I am very lucky that my company has paid volunteer days and were onboard with me taking off time to volunteer!

Like last year, I chose to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, a reputable organization that helps build homes for those with financial burdens. It was too cold to work on a house today, so I worked in their retail store. Their “ReStore” retail stores carries items that have all been donated, and all of the proceeds go to help fund the building of their houses. 17201056_10154912630742605_1389717025955409122_n

At ReStore, I organized book shelves, swept floors, tidied inventory, and even painted chairs. Painting furniture is not something I have ever done but have wanted to, so I was glad I could pick up a new “skill,” even though I’m an amateur!

I think that is the beauty of volunteering in general: you pick up new skills and also learn what you do and do not like to do. I know that we typically associate volunteering with community building but it really helps build YOU as a person, so that’s why I am happy spending my birthday’s serving others.

Who else likes volunteering?

Harvard Business School’s Women Empowered: Opening Keynote Address

On February 25, 2017, I attended the 26th Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference held at Harvard Business School. At this event, I heard from speakers including Jeanne Jackson, President at Nike, amongst many other powerful women in business. At this event, I took copious notes and think that if I were to write about it all, it would be a lot longer than a typical blog post! However, below are my notes from our opening session with Jeanne Jackson. I will likely continue to write about this conference in a separate blog post.

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Outside of the Spangler Center, where the 26th Annual Dynamic Women in Business event was held.

Opening Keynote with Jeanne Jackson of Nike called “Trailblazer in Retail, Branding and Sport: Lead Like you Mean It”

The fact that we are able to discuss female empowerment is a huge privilege in itself, since many women around the world today are still unable to use their voices. Back when Jackson attended HBS in 1976, only 7% of the class were women and traditionally, “power seeking” women were viewed negatively, unlike men during that same period.

Empowered comes from the word “power” (meaning: having the ability to control or influence others), but we should reclaim the word “empowered” to mean a person who chooses their own path.

The 4 Traits a Successful Person Must Have:

1.) Drive – Jackson admitted her drive was to make money, stemming from her need to pay off school loans. She provided an anecdote of having lunch with Serena Williams, and that Williams told her that she “threw out” all of her second place trophies, since she never would only accept being first.

2) Passion – Find something you love to do. With Jackson, she always found an emotional connection with a brand, which helped her in making decisions on where to work. “Happiness is the key to success, not the other way around” she stated.

3) Self-awareness – Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.

3) Initiative to Lead – Leaders must lead. People have expectations for you and business is not a popularity contest. As a person who has led 8 companies and has sat on 10 boards, Jackson knows! She also said to “be the person who punches the bully in the nose” when it comes to sticking up for your workers.

Jeanne Jackson gave an outstanding speech overall, urging a women to “take a seat at the table” next to men who continue to occupy the most positions in managerial and executive-level work. Despite us coming a long way in terms of women’s rights, we still have a lot more that needs to be done, but Jackson remains optimistic.

A Physician’s Ordeal Dealing with His Personal Opiate Addiction

Do you know someone or know of someone who has battled with a drug addiction, or has passed away because of it? Nowadays it is hard not hear about these stories, especially when the National Institute on Drug Abuse calculates that over two million people in America are afflicted with a drug abuse disorder related to opiate use.

Recently, I was able to hear a physician, Dr. Peter Grinspoon, author of “Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction” speak about his ordeal getting addicted to opiates, how he was confronted about it, and how he received help. This informative session answered questions I had about opiate addiction, as well as gave me insight that I wish I had before.

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Photo courtesy of Amazon.

A few things I picked up:

  1. Purdue Pharma lost a lawsuit back in 2007 for $600 million dollars after it deceptively marketed Oxycontin as non-addictive. As you know, these companies give big incentives to doctors prescribing their drugs, so you can image how many more of these prescriptions were doled out to patients.
  2. There are many more doctors who have suffered from drug addiction/currently have an addiction problem. One source estimates that up to 15% of doctors have a drug addiction.
  3. For some reason, Dr. Grinspoon mentioned, doctors have a much higher chance of recovering. He theorized it is because of fear of never being able to practice medical again as one possible reason why.
  4. Race and social class definitely make a difference in whether or not you would face jail time, he admitted. He is caucasian and not surprisingly, did not face jail time for (spoiler alert) writing himself faulty prescriptions.
  5. There aren’t enough beds for people who need in-hospital care so in turn, not everyone is receiving the care they need.

Overall, drug addiction to opiates is a problem that will go away soon, in part due to a trickle effect of opiates like Oxycontin marketed as harmless many years ago. However, we can all do our part to accept people for who they are – folks like us who have the unfortunate predisposition to addiction.

There was so much more covered in this talk and covered in this book, so you should definitely pick up this book if it piques your interest. Found here on Amazon.

A Day to Remember: Boston Women’s March

Uplifting. Untifying. Those are the two words that immediately pop into my head when thinking about the Women’s March in Boston I attended on December 21. Though I may not be the best account of the March, seeing as I had to leave early and was unable to complete the actual marching, I can still describe the feeling that was evident while I attended the rally in the Boston Commons.

The night prior to the March, I was starting to think I would not go because I wanted to sleep in. However, that next morning I felt as though my body was being possessed to go to the March, and I am so glad I did!

I traveled to the March alone because I knew no one else going and coming from a conservative household, there was no way anyone from my family would join me. On the train to Boston, I made friends with a woman who told me about how she too was traveling alone because her husband and son were strongly against the women’s rights movement. She then proceeded to tell me a story about how her boss from the 80’s sexually assaulted her, prior to the laws shifting towards sexual harassment (thank you, Anita Hill).

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As you may notice, there were men in attendance. You can’t tell from this photo, but they were in abundance to support their ladies. 

When my new friend and I got to Boston, we joined people that she knew would be there and made our way into the Commons. We were too far away to hear the inspirational speeches but the chant of “March! March!” were heard ever so often. With the distance between me and the microphone, it allowed me people watch.

What I noticed is that there was no shoving when people needed to get by. Women were polite to one another. They were sharing their beads and other rally decorum. They were sharing their stories of prejudice and discrimination. Overall, women were hopeful. I saw a lot of people with signs protest Trump but the feeling that shook me was how you could almost feel the strength and energy bouncing off of other people. I couldn’t hear the mic very well, but that’s because everyone was huddled so close together! This closeness is metaphoric to the connectedness of the crowd.

I feel very lucky to have experienced the day even for the short time that I was there. I hope that someday, when this day is in a history book, my grandchildren will exclaim, “My grandma was there!” and know that I was part of a movement grown out of the love, to protect our country from imminent harm.

I do want to believe in our government and our President. Even though he sees the March as “fake news,” I hope he is actually internalizing the effects of this historic demonstration.

 

Lindo Puerto Rico

This holiday season, I decided last-minute that I was going to Puerto Rico. To be able to book a last-minute trip anywhere I know is not something that anyone can simply do, so I feel fortuitous to be able to do so.

I had originally thought of going to Puerto Rico in March during my birthday month but after realizing I had leftover time from work that I had to use or lose, I made the most out of my time off.

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Puerto Rico was a my top choice out of all of the other places I had considered because I wanted to travel to a plan that is very warm, relatively cheap, and a place where I would be fine to travel solo to. Puerto Rico basically fit this criteria, though if I go back, I would prefer to go with a friend!

What did not surprise me about Puerto Rico is that the people were in general, extremely warm (as warm as the climate!). For instance, my first day I got a little lost on my way back from the beach and this elderly woman pulled me close to her so that I could share her umbrella. I am not so sure if people where I am from would consider doing this with a stranger!

One downside to Puerto Rico is that if you are a woman walking alone outside -in the daylight or not-you can expect to be catcalled. I learned this within minutes of stepping outside my front door. Another downside is that walking outside at night was not safe, based on conversations with locals. It sounds like a common sense but in Puerto Rico, you have to remain extra vigilant. These two things aside, Puerto Rico is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and I would love to go back again to explore the island further.

On a trip to Puerto Rico, the positive things you can expect are:

  1. Warm weather all year round;
  2. Kind locals;
  3. Breathtaking sunsets and sceneries;
  4. The only tropical rainforest in the U.S, El Yunque, which i did not go to;
  5. RICO COMIDA (“delicious food)!

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You should consider Puerto Rico for your next long weekend getaway.

Burqa Ban – For the Greater Good?

With the surge of asylum seeker in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a ban on full-faced vein’s “wherever possible.”Based on the Statista poll below, more than half of the Germans polled voted in favor the ban, while more than half of the Americans poll voted for people having the choice to choose their clothing.

Infographic: Strong Support For A Burqa Ban In Germany | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

From an American perspective who is not surprised by the American results, my thought is that dressing a certain way does not mean you are going to act a certain way; actions define us more than our clothing. Likewise, wearing a burqa won’t mean that you are a terrorist or are affiliated with them.

As attitudes change towards immigration both in the United States and abroad, I wonder how this ban will affect the country’s security. Will immigration-related crimes go down? Will this bill inspire more anti-Muslim sentiments?

A Reminder that it is OK to Protest

“Why don’t these people stop protesting?”

After the election of Donald Trump by the people/the electoral college, there have been a number of Trump supporters who do not understand why people are protesting. If you lean left politically and are surrounded by like-minded individuals, you may not understand this. However, for those of us who know, or share DNA with, people who are Trump supporters, it won’t be unheard of for those people to be complaining about protesters.

A few things come across when I hear these statements. First of which is that as Americans, we have a First Amendment right to protest. It can be confusing for our country to so strictly interpret the Second Amendment right to bear arms and not hold freedom of speech to the same standard, especially when gun crimes take so many lives, and freedom of speech does not. The First Amendment is the pillar of our democracy and protesting is exercising this important right.

For those right-wingers thinking “duh,” I wanted to give you this reminder as a segway into the meaty reasons as to why people are protesting.*

  1. He does not come across as presidential in the vain sense. It is true he has no political experience so it can be understood that his speeches won’t sound as rehearsed, but all too many people believe that he looks like a “cheeto.” This is a far cry from the days of JFK. If you think this sounds stupid, remember that Nixon lost to JFK due to his appearance on the their last debate. Appearance aside, he has sounded belligerent during debates – not something you even want to look at for 4 years.
  2. He has bragged about sexually assaulting women and has had numerous women claiming that he has acted inappropriately towards them. Sure, they may be allegations but when they come in massive numbers, at least some of them statistically have to be true. Look at Bill Cosby. Also, studies have shown that 95% and upwards of sexual assault allegations are proven to be true.
  3. Having the KKK on your side is never a good sign. Republicans can say all they want that Trump did not want this support but if the KKK supports your ideal, then there is a problem.

Unfortunately, if I were to list out all of the reasons, this would no longer be a blog post but a book. I think it is important to remember that even if you voted for Trump, you CAN still be a good person, but more than half of the election voters (get it, because Clinton won the popular vote?) is simply upset because you voted for a person who represents racist, misogynistic, xenophobic ideals. If you supported him, even for reasons that you think are the “right reasons,” you encouraged a way of thinking towards our fellow humans that may set us back 50 years. If you believe this, then being angry and ready to protest is the most natural reaction!

*Note: This is a post about Donald Trump and not about Hilary Clinton. For those who may think that this post is intended to place Clinton on a pedestal, this is not my intention. This post is an explanation of why people have felt compelled to protest against Trump.

 

 

7 Things that Surprised Me About Germany and German Culture

My 10 days abroad  in Germany were a success. Sometimes my days were dauntingly long but nonetheless, I came out learning a lot more than I thought I would. This is mainly because I spent 6 days of my vacation volunteering at a small village called Laubach (app. 1 hour away from Frankfurt). However, my first impression of Germany continued until the end of the program…

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Where I stayed in Laubach. It reminded me of home so much!
  1. The landscape of the northern part of Germany (and perhaps all of Germany), is very much the landscape that we see in New England. You will find lush, green forests and after spending many hours walking with German students in them, it felt at times as though I was in my own backyard.
  2. Frankfurt itself reminds me of my city, Boston. This observation was apparent as soon as my taxi from the airport approached my hotel. In Frankfurt, there is an older section of the city with more traditional German buildings, as well as some of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe. Though Boston doesn’t boast the tallest buildings in the U.S., the buildings were comparable to ours and the city felt just like home.
  3. Germans are extremely organized and punctual. This is not a bad thing and doesn’t seem like such a surprise but after spending time living in Spain where everyone is 15 minutes late, it was a difference experience to be where everyone is 5 minutes EARLY.
  4. Germany isn’t perfect. You hear that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and it’s true. Even with socialized medicine and education, people still still worry about the same things that are worried about here in America like mortgages, juggling work and home life, etc.
  5. There are good German songs. Here’s proof.
  6. Germany is more of a melting pot than I imagined. You may have heard that there are a lot of Syrians going into Germany and as whole, lots of people have been flooding into the country. To an outsider, Germany would seem like a favorable place to move to. Education and healthcare aside, Germany has the top employment rate in the Europe next to Sweden (based on a Statistica finding). The government has also been vocal about allowing migrants into the country. Whether that is a good thing or not is its own debate.
  7. As a whole, Germans tend to value staying in one place and not moving to other parts of Europe. As some Germans explained to me, if a person finds a steady job, they are not too keen to jump from job to job. When I asked about how they felt about Americans, I was told that their was an idea that Americans move around a lot changing jobs, but that we must easily move to different states for work. This is ironic because I would have thought that with European citizenship, a European would be keen on moving to different countries!

Visiting and moving to a foreign country will always be an eye-opening experience for me but what I was not expecting on this trip was that I would connect so well with the German people. The language was so different but the people and lifestyle reminded me of American culture which was surprising. However, I look forward to going back someday and visiting some of my new German friends. Despite what you might think about the “rough” German language and any stereotypes you may hear, Germans are as lovely as the country.