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Redefining Feminism

There is a Charlie Perfume ad from the seventies, depicting “The Woman Who Has It All,” or at least, a very common perception of her. It was an image that stuck with Harvard professor Deborah Spar for a very long time.

The Charlie girl is exquisite: glamorous, successful looking, and clearly holding down some high-power job with her lovely pantsuit and smart briefcase. In some of the ads she is seen heading out after work with friends; in another, she’s clinking champagne glasses with a hot guy on a date; in yet another she is shown clutching the hand of a small, appropriately-adorable child.

Her message is clear: “This is who you want to be, ladies! You too could have it all!”

Well, verbatim of the message is “Kind of young, kind of now; kind of free, kind of wow!” But same difference. As Spar points out, “Who wouldn’t want that?”

Exactly. And hey, more power to the Charlie Girl. If she weren’t a fictional construct for ad purposes, we’d all want to know her secret. Because she made it look so easy. As any of us real alpha women know, the combination of work and family life is not so much effortless handling and breezy elegance, as it is desperate juggling and time-crunching – and situations that don’t always leave you looking glamorous. How big is the gap between reality and the illusion?

Deborah Spar discovered the difference in the grimy ladies’ room of an airport one morning, five weeks after giving birth to her second child. She was on her way to a business meeting, and briefly took the time to pump breast milk for her baby. Her breasts started leaking all over her clean business suit. “So I guess this is ‘having it all,’” she thought ruefully, recalling the Charlie Girl ads and the personal goal she had always striven for. Just like that, a light went on for her.

The feminist movement of the sixties changed the world for half of its population. But as liberating as the movement was, in many ways it brought along just as many shackles and heavy expectations for women, especially those under the impression that the battle was pretty much over.

The knowledge that we can now be astronauts or scientists or Supreme Court judges is a double-edged sword. It opens up a realm of possibilities…followed shortly afterward by the expectations we’ve internalized after spending much of our lives submerged in media images of the Charlie Girl, and other fantasies of what the working woman’s life must be like.

Spar explains what happens: We start thinking “if I can be an astronaut or a Supreme Court judge, why am I not an astronaut or a Supreme Court judge? What’s wrong with me?”

And it goes in other directions.

Business women begin to  feel like there is something wrong with them for not having eternally-flawless hair and poise, or a husband and child, or even the time to go on a date.

Working mothers who get caught in business suits stained with breast milk end up  feeling like they’re about to drop the ball in at least one aspect of their lives, but are not yet sure whether it’ll be work or family.

Women who back away from the workforce after having children feel like they’ve failed because they couldn’t find a balance.

The running theme is always “why couldn’t I have it all? Why is it not so effortless for me? Society expects it to be.”

Feminism is far from being won. It’s far from perfect. There are plenty of pitfalls to be aware of, and being aware of them is the first step to redefining feminism, and making it work for you.

Recognizing the Beauty Ideal for What It Is We all want to look gorgeous. For many of us, that’s just the ultimate confidence-booster. But ever notice how often the idea of the driven corporate woman is sexualized whenever she appears in the media? It’s not just that she’s expected to be smart and capable but she’s expected to be even more on her feet than the men are to really compete with them. She has to look gorgeous 24/7 on top of all that. It’s another expectation.

Now that’s not to say men don’t face their own expectations in the business world. But let’s face it – they don’t always meet every one of theirs, and it shouldn’t be super-important for us to meet this one. Clearly, you want to aim to at least be presentable in the workplace. But ‘presentable’ should be defined by what we feel good with, not by the standard of beauty demanded by society.

Recognizing that the Fight’s Not Over As Spar points out, we’re still fighting for pay equity. We’re definitely still fighting for a system of sustainable child care in most countries, a system of support for working families, especially those with new mothers. We’re often still fighting for our right as women to have children at all without being marginalized in the workplace due to pregnancy, or the need to take maternity leave.

Women with children, especially newborns, tend to find themselves at a disadvantage when they return to the office – they learn they’ve been taken out of the running for a promotion to some high-level job, or even that they’ve been demoted to a position that’s a little more out of the way. Presumably it’s to allow them better hours, so they can get home to see their children. But it’s hard not to notice how (comparatively) rarely this happens to men with children. And it shouldn’t take surrendering our ambitions to get the time to be a parent. It’s not a personal failure for this to happen, it’s societal. Fighting against it is what should define feminism.

Recognizing the Cons of Extreme-Parenting Spar notes that on the parenting front, it has become a thing in recent decades for parents to micromanage their kids’ lives. Parents decide what instruments their child will pick up, who their playmates will be, what sports they’ll go into, what colleges they’ll apply for…and of course it’s all with the best of intentions. But not only does it utterly cripple the children’s ability to be self-sufficient and independent; it also drains a lot of time away from the parents – especially the mother. Children’s lives don’t need to be micromanaged. And as the mother who wants it all, isn’t this a lot more time that could be spent making it happen?

Women should no longer be feeling the pressure to “do it all!” All that matters is that we feel like we’re doing all we want to, no matter where that falls on societies expectations!


Get The Skinny on How to Dress Your Body

How many times have you caught a cursory glance of yourself while passing a window, or had a photo taken of yourself and upon seeing the result, you cringed? You’ve got a lump here, a bump there and your clothes seem to be doing nothing for you. The woman you saw when you were standing in the mirror this morning is a distant, distant relative of the reflection you’re seeing now.

The problem is that sometimes we have no idea what the solution is. Our bodies are not the ones that we see modeling our clothing. We aren’t of the same dimensions as the store mannequins that first lured us into buying our clothes.

This problem is more common than you know. Many woman have no idea how to dress their bodies. We lose weight, we gain weight, we get older, and we get confused by the new trends, but what tends to stay the same is our unflattering styling.

This problem is so common that it was the topic of a recent episode of CBC’s Steven and Chris. Luckily for you, Women Who Run It was there to interview the show’s Fashion Expert Genny Iannucci to make sure that you get the inside scoop on how to dress to make your body shine instead of spending one more day hiding it.

While you can watch all of the tips by going to Steven and Chris’ website, we also got you some tailor-made (pun intended) secrets straight from Genny herself.
Genny Iannucci’s Dress Skinnier Tips:
1. Dressing skinnier boosts your self-confidence. “When you feel really good about the way you look it just blossoms in terms of confidence. “
When you feel that confidence it radiates from you in a way that will attract others. If you know you look good, others are going to know it too. Dress skinny and not only will it make you look better, but it will make you more confident and confidence is sexy!
2. Create the nicest, cleaning line on the body. Genny shared that the biggest fashion mistake is wearing the wrong size. “A lot of times we’re just wearing items that are either too big… Excess fabric is going to add some visual weight…on the other hand, people compensate for that and go too tight. If you go too tight it’s the same thing as wearing something too loose.”
Wear clothing that is as close to your body as possible without any pulling or tugging. Clothing should simply skim over your body.
3. No matter how comfortable a woman should never wear something that doesn’t make her feel beautiful.  Plain and simple.
4. No matter how fabulous a woman should never wear shoes she can’t walk in. This is for everyone’s benefit. For you, and the people who have to watch you massacre everything that is sexy about the stiletto.
5. Know your body. “Clothing is cut on a standard and we don’t all fit into that standard.”
We need to know where our body differs from this and know what we want to hide and what we want to accentuate.  By getting a good grasp on your body you’ll know what flatters it and what a good fit looks like. A good fit is the biggest battle that women face.
6. Or stick to some fool-proof tips. Genny always suggests keeping it vertical. Draw the eyes up and down, not across. Go with vertical prints, v-necks, heels that will elongate you, and dangly jewellery like necklaces and earrings to keep the eyes moving.
Her idea of a universally un-flattering shape is a giant, shapeless caftan and her idea of a universally flattering shape is a wrap dress or a great boot-cut jean.

Genny’s best tip of the day came when I asked her what most women don’t know about their bodies. We seem to be so stumped about what fits and what doesn’t, so I was looking for some kind of tip that us women are missing when it comes to seeing our bodies. Genny hit the nail on the head when she replied “how beautiful it is.”

So many times we complain about a part of our body, but we forget that there are other women out there who wish they had what we see as a burden. How often have you heard women of all bust sizes complain? We all tend to want what we can’t have but instead we should appreciate what we do have.
Celebrate your body in all the beauty it is and show it off. Don’t look at dressing as a way to hide, but instead to enhance so you never have to hide from that reflection in the window but instead strut past and think “Damn, I look good!”

Learning to Climb in a Dress

It wasn’t so long ago that the top of the corporate ladder was unreachable to women. The most we could hope for was to look up through a glass ceiling at the patriarchal community at the summit; to watch the male corporate bigwigs as they partied, schmoozed, plotted and formed alliances amongst themselves as the only real contenders for the top position. Whether or not those men were best qualified for that position didn’t always matter as much as whether they’d played the best political game out of all their competitors. And those men knew that – were used to it, even.

The glass ceiling may have shattered, but navigating the path to the top continues to be a challenge for smart, capable women.

The road is cluttered with residual chunks of glass from that ceiling such as:

  • Unspoken rules about what it takes to get ahead in a male-dominated culture.
  • Leadership standards that were defined in the decades when men worked and women stayed home still exist today.
  • Unconscious and even conscious biases that prevail and subjugate our reputation as leaders.
The real solution is to eliminate these intangible barriers that so many women face every day when they go to work. Until the time comes when organizations realize that the real problem suffocating women leaders is the very culture in which they work, we must become more adept at traveling the glass-cluttered road.

We can improve our odds of landing top, influential leadership jobs by knowing of certain personal behaviors that can sabotage our career advancement. Changing these behaviors can make a profound difference.

Here are three of the most common ways I find women limit their own potential, and several strategies to immediately overcome them:

1. Invisible Woman Syndrome:  Slaving at your desk non-stop is a surefire recipe for being overlooked for a promotion or key assignment. You do a great job, but no one notices. You are not given credit for the project that you tirelessly worked on to make the deadline.
  • Strategy: To optimize your career advancement key stakeholders, who can influence your career advancement, need to know just how good you are at what you do. You must stop hiding out in your office and eating lunch at your desk and start wasting time at the water cooler. In other words – you must get visible! Networking and forming relationships is not a waste of time.  It is time well spent. You’re getting to know others who can advocate for your career advancement and perhaps more importantly, help you make things happen in your current job.                                                                                                                                                                                         There are countless ways to get visible: volunteer to participate on a cross-functional committee, invite a colleague to go for coffee or lunch, identify the key connectors in your organization – those who seem to know everyone and everything that is going on. Be sure they know and like you, and know what you do as well. ( Note: these individuals may not be high up on the organizational chart, but they can create great buzz on your behalf.)

2. Political Iconoclast : The term “politics”, when associated with the workplace, is charged with emotions – typically negative.  Yet, every organization has the unwritten rule book called “office politics”, which are essentially the rules of the game you play to gain advantage for yourself or a program you support.These rules are understood by the politically astute and seem to baffle those who are politically naive.

The game of politics in the workplace is a fact of life. Love it or hate it, being politically aware and tuned in is essential to thrive in the corporate environment.  Yet many women abhor the idea of playing politics and disregard the importance of being politically savvy.

  • Strategy: Stop stonewalling when it comes to politics. Find a way to make office politics work for you, versus allowing them to derail your success. It does not have to be a black and white situation where you are either naive and politically off the grid, or slick, slimy, and overly political.  Begin by identifying the politically influential individuals in your organization.  Observe the informal groups, networks and relationships that possess the power. Build relationships with key players, but proceed cautiously before you align yourself too closely with any one group. This way, you can get the pulse on the politics from all the players in the game.
3. Fragile Self-confidence:  Lack of self-confidence is the wellspring from which flows the majority of women’s career-derailing behaviors.  Listening to the voice of your inner critic, and believing what you hear, is the mother of behaviors that will sabotage your career.

Notice that I didn’t say having an inner critic was the problem.  Everyone has self-doubts and negative thoughts running through their mind at some point.  But listening to your inner critic rant about your inadequacies and worse yet, believing the messages are gospel truth, causes a problem. Unfortunately, countless women do listen and believe.  Career-derailing behaviors are the result. They don’t speak up and voice their opinion in a meeting. They don’t apply for a job because they doubt they are good enough to land it. They don’t request a promotion because they fear they do not measure up. They are fraught with nerves when they stand on a stage presenting to an audience.

  • Strategy: Stopping the chatter is a herculean task, so don’t even try.  Just don’t let it stop you! Instead, acknowledge the voice of the critic and talk back!  “OK. I hear you saying I don’t have enough experience to apply for that big job. Thanks for your opinion inner critic.  But I am going to do it anyway.”  Why not? The more you become aware of the negative talk and your tendency to let it stop you, the more you will be motivated to respond!
Mastering these three strategies will significantly enhance your leadership profile and get you recognized as a powerful, persuasive, high-impact leader. Choose one to put to work today.

The corporate game isn’t fair. That’s a given. But when you can’t beat ‘em, you join ‘em, and you can play the game until you get to your rightful role in the company without losing touch with yourself as a person. Work to overcome your personal barriers and misgivings, bit by bit, and soon it will no longer feel like a chore. It will feel like you’re just being yourself…only letting more people know about it.

**Repurposed by Amy Kisaka, a staff writer at Goddess Connections’ publication Women Who Run It.

A Love Letter to Dilma Rousseff

“I once saw a photograph of Dilma Rousseff at age 22,” wrote Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the first female President of Argentina, in an article to Time magazine. “She was standing in front of a 1969 military tribunal made up of judges hiding their faces with their hands. She exudes defiance. The roles appeared to be reversed: it was Dilma who was indicting, not only the military, but an establishment complicit in the injustice of excluding the majority from power during the two-decade rule of the generals.”At 22, Rousseff’s dark hair was already rocking her classic pixie-cut. And with her thick lenses framing her eyes, she might otherwise appear to have been an unlikely heroine – if not for that same stubborn defiance being reflected in every inch of her expression, making her lovely. The photograph is a famous one. You would think the judges might seem happier at having finally caught “the Joan of Arc of the guerrilla movement,” as she was known by military prosecutors for her integral role in the armed revolutionary struggle of several groups against Brazil’s military dictatorship. Yet those judges were hiding while Rousseff held her head at an obstinate tilt, faced her indictment photo dead-on, and went to jail, where she was brutally tortured there for her devotion to the cause. “We fought and participated in a dream to build a better Brazil,” she has said. Fast forward nearly forty years, and Brazil has come a long way toward that dream, in large part because “…The woman I got to know in 2003,” writes Fernandez de Kirchner, “…possesses the same commitment as the girl in that picture.” There are countless reasons to love Dilma Rousseff, 65, and not just because she’s the first female President of the world’s sixth-largest economy, and arguably the most powerful woman in the world. Although, no lie, that is a pretty big one. Few of us could have faced the things she has and come out with those results, rather than being cowed by a dangerous regime. They forbade her from engaging in political activity after her release from prison, and expressly closed many doors to her. But we love her because she fought that opression by lying in wait for her political moment and seizing it when it came. When the dictatorship lost its grip on Brazil, she became active in one of the few opposing partisan groups, working her way up over the years to the senior levels of government. We love her because, in a political arena dominated by men, from which she had previously been barred, and with all eyes on Brazil as one of the world’s emerging great powers, she rose to Presidency and has stood her ground on her convictions and has made a commitment to gender equality which has led to a record number of women in high-profile positions of power and one-third of Brazil’s Cabinet being comprised of women. We love her because she’s done it all with the same iron-will that refused to be cowed by the judges at that military tribunal. This ladies, is what you might call “the ultimate alpha female” . Not convinced? Here are a few more reasons to love her:
She’s always the brains and fuel behind the operation “[Former President] Lula realized that she kept things moving.” – Franklin Martins, guerrilla fighter-turned-minister.

Though she has since tried to deny it, there are a number of reports from her past guerrilla days which cite her as one of the masterminds behind several revolutionary schemes conducted by the Marxist rebel groups who took on the dictatorship. She was one of the most wanted fugitives in Brazil as early as 1967 and her eventual capture three years later was seen as a triumph for the military regime. Rousseff is far from ashamed of her radical past but insists her role was mainly political and organizational.

Her radical stance has mellowed since her youth but those experiences were something that served her well later in life when she began climbing through the ranks of government and holding powerful offices. Her intelligence, managerial skills, and courage in facing difficult situations when they arose caught the attention of then-president Lula as early as 2002. Once he appointed her to be his Chief of Staff she became his protégé and her own presidential campaign started from there.

She always makes the choice to fight, rather than surrender “I voted for Dilma because she is a fighter. What we need is a fighter in the presidency to continue…Lula’s efforts.” – Estevam Sanches, pizza-parlour owner in Sao Paulo.

She did not have to entangle herself in a war against Brazil’s military regime. She could have kept her head down. Rousseff was born to a position of relative privilege in the upper-middle class of Belo Horizonte, the city in which she grew up. Her childhood dreams ranged from being a ballerina, to being a trapeze artist, and somehow guerrilla warfare didn’t make the list. She was in high school when she truly became aware that the “world was not a place for debutantes.”

The political situation in Brazil was getting worse at this time: the military’s generals seized power in a political coup and declared a reign of terror during which they suspended the civil rights of the people. It’s easier to stay out of conflict when it doesn’t directly affect you. Many would argue that it’s smarter too. But Rousseff couldn’t.

Not even when she spent three years as a political prisoner being tortured for information on the whereabouts of her fellow activists. “They gave me a lot of electrical shocks,” Rousseff has said. “I began to hemorrhage, but I withstood. I wouldn’t even tell them where I lived.” Her silence was not for nothing – at the time the “mysterious” disappearances of subversives was almost commonplace.

She paves the way for powerful women to succeed her “Given a choice between a man and a woman with the same qualifications, she prefers to hire the woman.” – Gilberto Carvalho, head of the presidential office.

Rousseff makes a point of appointing women to powerful positions within her office. Her advisory circle is, with one exception, comprised entirely of women. Previously, the political parties were always claiming they couldn’t find enough qualified women.  Now “[women] are strong in government, and we have the president to thank for that,” says Marta Suplicy, the vice president of the Senate.

She’s a Power Mom “What is important about my being President is that now all girls can aspire to be President, and it will be seen as completely normal.” – Dilma Rousseff

Rousseff was listed at number two on Forbes’ list of “The World’s Most Powerful Moms 2012”. A mother for decades and a relatively recent grandmother, she has faced her share of personal problems as well, not the least of which being her recent divorce from her husband of nearly 30 years, Carlos de Araujo. Their only child, Paula Rousseff Araujo, currently holds office in Porto Alegre as the Labor Prosecutor.

Paula could have few finer examples.

Love Sucks, but You Can’t Beat It

If love in the real world were like the love seen in movies, we probably wouldn’t need the Hollywood romcoms. We’d be living them. You’d find Mr. Right after a series of amusing hijinx wherein he serves as your fake wedding date, pines for years over you before you’ve even begun dating, and/or gets into a fight with Mr. Right Now – who may or may not be a jerk, but it doesn’t really matter since he’ll obligingly vanish from the face of the Earth. And once the hijinx are over, you’ll get married, be happy, and never have a second thought because… well just because. WARNING: If you’re a hopeless romantic, searching for Prince Charming or Miss Marvelous, you’d better leave now. Because I’m about to steamroll any Disney-drenched happily-ever-after scenarios you have in mind. I’m starting my engine. Go now while your ideals are still intact. You can get yourself some Danielle Steel on Kindle.

Okay…I warned you.

“What’s with everyone going on about the ‘hard work’ of marriage?” I used to think. “If it’s so hard, it mustn’t be true love. True love has a meant-to-be-ness about it that’s gotta make everything easier. Like, if it’s THAT hard, then it just ain’t right. Right?” Uh huh.

My relationship with my own self is complicated, how could I expect it to be simple with someone else?

But I was single at the time. My panties matched my bras, my principles matched my big hair, and my astronomical phone bills matched my knack for getting involved with men who lived on the other side of the country. (The long distance fed my romantic longings. Longing. Always loonnnging.)

I’ve done some homework since then. Home. Work.


1. I don’t know a single couple with an easy, let alone blissful, marriage.  Okay. ONE couple: Donna and Brad. But they met when they were in their late forties. Brad’s wife had passed away. Donna was just out of a long termer. Within months of declaring their total and utter devotion, Brad discovered that he had cancer. They fought it with every known form of alternative therapy, and every dime and ounce of faith they had. They’re still going strong. It really is the stuff of love stories.

But back to the rest of us normal, non-Buddhist schmucks who got hitched earlier in life…

2. Most of my married friends have seriously considered leaving their mates more than once.

3. Within just the first year of marriage, at least half of my married friends and acquaintances thought to themselves, “What the hell have I done?”

4. Of all the longtime wed folks I’ve surveyed, each reported long, hellish periods in their relationship where they were merely enduring each other to get by.

Bubbles burst. Dreams get steamrolled. Imperfections and cruelties of life are made glaringly clear. Crap facts noted. Love stinks.

And love keeps going in spite of it all.

THE DELIGHTFUL, SWEET AND RADIANT FACTS MY RELATIONSHIP RESEARCH HAS UNCOVERED: 1. I have friends whose confessed infidelities blew a cyclone through their lives.  And they sorted through the wreckage to build something better than before. “The affair was the best thing that ever happened to us,” they say.

2. Couples who’ve rallied to beat addictions, have sweated and toiled to overcome them – tirelessly and without rest, because everything depends on victory.

3. One of my wisest friends figures that it took about thirty years for him and his wife to simply be nice to each other. Now there is a certain euphoria in their familiarity. A grace has settled in. He says that sometimes it’s magical. So if you’re out there thinking that the smoochy hot couple has got it easy, ha! Think again. If you’re down to a teaspoon of hope, envying the love stories on the other side of the fence, remember that while they were smiling for the cameras, Joanne Woodward was putting up with Paul Newman’s boozing in the early years. Fridah Kahlo’s beloved Diego chased skirts all through Mexico and New York. Cleopatra waited a long time for her man. Love and doubt aren’t exclusive. In fact, they can be the most fantastic dance partners. Give and take. Trust and turn. Bliss requires sweat.

It requires work, and a lot of it. It requires compromises, scheduling time to be together and even the occasional fighting. It also requires endurance when dealing with the rocky times, and really getting to know your partner, learning the most important things about them – which takes years, rather than months. It’s certainly worth it. But you can’t even come close to bliss without those years of sweat. It just doesn’t work that way. Sorry, Danielle Steel.

**Repurposed by Amy Kisaka, a staff writer for Goddess Connections’ publications Women Who Run it.

It’s Money Season: Five Steps to Less Stress in Your Money Life

Seasons change – winter, spring, summer and fall. We have a holiday season, hockey season and bathing suit season and we have Money Season.  Each brings up specific images, memories, decisions and actions.

With the January to April Money Season upon us, images and memories will come up and decisions will need to be made. We have all had to make choices around our money and we have all certainly made good ones and bad ones over the years.  For many, Money Season is cause for extra stress and anxiety.  A BMO study showed that the looming March 1st RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) deadline causes stress for 60% of Canadians, often causing them to make rash decisions. More than 70% of Americans say that tax filing is “stressful” or “very stressful” and studies show that this stress leads to health issues, more fatal car accidents and more challenging relationships.

Reduce your stress, get better results, and have more fun with your money by making the time and taking action now – before the deadlines arrive.  Here are five great steps that you can take to make your Money Season merry.

Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change. ~Jim Rohn

Get clear on what is important We spend all kinds of money on things we don’t care about, and often don’t even want because we don’t have a compelling reason not to. Instead of following the oft-given advice to tracking expenses, start your money life game plan by getting clear on what is important to you.

When you have a compelling reason to do something differently, it will change the way you think about your money. Your priorities, dreams, and goals can guide your Money Season decisions. Brainstorm the dreams you have and the goals you will achieve to get there.  Start by matching your money to your goals, instead of spending on things you don’t really care about.

Have a conversation We don’t talk about money in our society.  More than 60% of us are spending more than we make or living close enough that a late paycheck would make us nervous, but we don’t talk about it.

Start a conversation. Talk with your spouse, your best friend, your banker, a financial advisor, or a money coach.  Just start talking. Whether you are on your own or you are making financial decisions with a spouse, schedule time to look at your money life. Set up a regular Money Meeting and use it to create your game plan, make decisions, tackle the tasks, and adjust the plan. Grab the Money Life Toolkit for an agenda with which to host your own Money Meetings.

Divide and Conquer Spread out the money crunch by contributing regularly instead of trying to come up with lump sum amounts. Set up monthly savings amounts into your RRSP or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account) avoiding having to come up with it at the deadline.

If you have a business or work on contract, set aside 25-40% of what comes in for your income taxes and other deductions, so you aren’t scrambling in April.  Check with your accountant for the percentage that makes the most sense for your situation.

Look at your big annual expenses and divide by twelve to set aside an equal amount each month, ensuring that the money is there when you need it.

Use your tax return to get closer to your goals We seem to forget that our tax return is our own money being returned to us.  It is not found money or free money or a gift from the government.  When we see it as free money, we think about it differently and often spend the money before it even arrives.  Article after article will show you how you can blow that tax return on stuff and more stuff, but this year, do it differently.

Go back to your compelling reasons and consider how you can use that money to bring you closer to your goals.  Consider paying down debt, pre-funding expenses, or saving towards a great goal. You could use it to create an emergency fund, or make a lump sum payment on your mortgage. Still not sure?  Here are nine ways to use your tax return to get you thinking.

Plan something fun Take a break from the planning, organizing, and decision making to enjoy life!  It is easy to get into a funk around your money, which can filter into the rest of your life.  Keep your spirits up and remind yourself why you are doing all of this anyway.

Get out of the house with someone fun – your spouse, your kids, your girlfriends. Go for a hike or skate in the park. Go to the art gallery or out for coffee. Host a potluck or organize a euchre tourney.  Plan something cheap and cheerful and fun  – play, laugh and celebrate life.

This Money Season, make new decisions.  Take new actions and create new images for the future.  Small steps lead to big results.  Work hard, play hard, and create the money life that works for you.  Enjoy!

Do You Know What’s in Your Cosmetics?

It’s not often that we bother to do our own research on those long-and-complexly-named chemicals that we find on the back of our cosmetics. I can hardly reel off the ingredient list on my face cream, let alone my toner and concealer.

Can you?

We tend to recognize the particular ingredients we’re allergic to. And maybe there’s that one product that has been making headlines for being recalled off the shelves, or that other dangerous chemical compound we’re warned to be on the lookout for. But as for the rest of them? So long as they give us a healthy glow and don’t cause us to break out in hives, they pretty much pass Go with us.

No matter; surely the companies that produce these products know what they’re doing. We can trust them to have done the research and keep us safe…can’t we?
“Can you believe what they put in this skin cream?”, my daughter (a biologist) exclaimed to me over the phone one day, before reciting a long list of chemical ingredients. “Donʼt they know how bad petrochemicals are for you?”

The truth is, while extensive FDA regulations require cosmetic manufacturers to provide unadulterated products that are labeled correctly, they are not required to prove the safety of their products. They may be held liable for damages, but unlike drug companies, they are not required to test their products extensively before sale. Plus, imported cosmetics are rarely inspected at all.

So it could be years before dangerous or negative side effects from cosmetics are discovered. We are basically guinea pigs in a massive experiment to determine the long-term safety of our cosmetics.

As we continue to discover increasing numbers of harmful ingredients previously assumed to be safe, it becomes clear that it is up to us to protect ourselves from the potential dangers of volatile man-made chemicals in cosmetics.

The world we live in now is not the world of our grandparents.

Literally thousands of man-made chemicals flood our environment in our food supply, in the air, on our clothes (flame retardants), in pesticides and herbicides, in building/housing materials, in plastics, and in our soaps, shampoos, and make-up. Who knows how severe the cumulative effects of these exposures will be?

My personal philosophy is to minimize my familyʼs exposure to man-made chemicals as much as possible. That means eating organic food, using natural products for cleaning, and buying organic or natural personal care products. It is somewhat ironic that natural products generally cost more, even though fewer numbers of ingredients are involved. However, just as processed foods are cheaper to produce than real, whole foods, cosmetics and body care products that use pure, high quality ingredients are often more expensive than those made with synthetic substitutes.

Since quality goods do regularly cost more, we all have to make compromises while choosing the products we can afford. However, some ingredients are more harmful than others and should definitely be avoided regardless of cost. The following ingredients are thought to be problematic because they either disrupt hormones (endocrine disruptors), cause cancer (carcinogenic), or they are toxins:

  • Parabens: Endocrine and reproductive disrupters.

  • BHA and BHT: Endocrine disrupters and carcinogens.

  • Diazolidiny Urea (also DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea):Releases formaldehyde in the body/carcinogenic.

  • Dibutyl Phthalate: Suspected endocrine disruptor and reproductive toxicant.

  • Diethanolamine: Possible carcinogen.

  • Sodium Lauryl (th) Sulfate: Possible carcinogen.

  • Petrolatum: Possible carcinogen.

  • Parfum (fragrances): Allergens, carcinogens, and neurotoxins.

  • Triclosan: Endocrine disrupter / causes antibiotic resistance.

  • PEG – Polyethylene Glycol: Carcinogen.

  • Siloxanes: Suspected endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxicants.

  • Coal tar dyes (CL + 5 digit # or FD&C): Heavy metal toxins and carcinogens.

Keep an eye out for these synthetic additives in your personal care products, and consider substituting for safer alternatives when possible.

After checking your personal care products, be sure and read your lipstick container next. A disconcerting study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed the presence of heavy metals in 75% of lipsticks tested. A full 100% contained the metals chromium, manganese or aluminum. No amount of lead is considered safe for human consumption, and lead is easily swallowed when lipsticks containing it are applied (and reapplied) to the lips. It is worth the extra effort and cost to find lipstick that doesnʼt contain lead or other metals.

Many cosmetic producers argue that there is no danger from their products because our skin provides a protective barrier that is not easily penetrated. But we know that if the particle size is small enough or the base cream used is soluble, then products like hormone creams or medicine patches are easily absorbed through the skin.

We also know from blood and urine tests that hundreds of these additives have indeed found their way into our bodies. Since we donʼt know the cumulative effects of recurring man made chemical exposure, a wise precautionary position could be to assume that any chemical placed on the skin can potentially be absorbed.

I have heard the argument for years that since every chemical out there has the potential to kill us, why bother being careful? Something is bound to kill us someday. But there must be a thoughtful balance between complete denial of potential danger and paranoid overreaction.

Since my personal bias is to consider food the solution for every problem, (food is our friend!) I naturally consider organic foods a viable substitute for some personal care products. Foods and herbs can provide natural, inexpensive, and safe alternatives and they are literally safe enough to eat! Foods high in antioxidants and healthy fats not only benefit the body from the inside, but can help from the outside too. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Organic, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil: It contains lauric acid, an antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial fatty acid. It works wonders on dry patchy skin.

  2. Cucumbers: These are thought to help decrease puffiness around the eyes due to their high antioxidant content. Cooled chamomile tea bags produce a similar effect.

  3. Organic apple juice: It is a natural toner and astringent.

  4. Egg whites: They help remove oil from skin, and an egg white mask has astringent properties to firm saggy skin.

  5. Antioxidant-rich avocados: They are moisturizing and full of healing vitamins.

  6. Brown sugar: Mixed with olive oil and a little water, it makes an excellent exfoliant.

  7. Full fat sour cream: It contains alpha hydroxyl acid, which improves skin tone and texture.

  8. Cornstarch: It can substitute for loose powder to soak up excess oil on the skin.

Natural plants and herbs can provide the cleansing and nurturing ingredients we need to stay healthy when eaten internally or absorbed through the skin externally. Why risk the dangers of synthetic chemicals in products when Mother Nature does such a fabulous job producing superior products naturally?

I know itʼs overwhelming to make drastic changes all at once, so start slowly. Take baby steps and begin by reading the ingredient list on products you are using now. As they run out, consider replacing the worst ones with natural alternatives or products made without dangerous additives. Over time, you can proactively decrease your exposure to undesirable synthetic chemicals and minimize the risk of the side effects they produce.

It’s always better to be vigilant, and to do the research on your own. The companies that produce our cosmetic and care products have their own interests, and there is no guarantee that they will line up with yours. By fully understanding what your own interests are, what results you want out of your makeup products, you can find out the safest, healthiest ways of getting those results and looking great – no dangers included.

**Repurposed by Amy Kisaka, a staff writer for Goddess Connections Publication Women Who Run It.

The Craziest Workout Trends of 2013

It’s nothing new that people will do just about anything for their health. Some people have no limits! We are constantly being told about new trends for working out, and we’re always looking for something new that will help us stay fit, or in my case, get fit in the first place. From products to exercises, there is no end to the things people come up with to get in shape.

There have been some crazy workout trends in the past year. The kicker? Some of them actually work! The others, however… the only thing they’ll do is make you look silly. Here are some of my favourite crazy workout trends from the year, and just incase you partake in any of these, I’ll let you know what you’re wasting your time with.

Let’s start with some of the crazy products people have come up with. These are always entertaining because you really get to see the extent some people go to in order to avoid going to the gym.

Here are my top 5 favourite weird products of 2013:

1. Vibration Plates – I saw one of these pedestals that you stand on that vibrate under your feet at my gym one day, and spent a good half hour of my treadmill time trying to think of what it could possibly be used for. Then, a few days later, I saw an older man using it, and it was so loud and obnoxious I couldn’t think of what that possibly could do for your body. According to ABC News, the base is actually vibrating under your feet, which forces your body’s muscles to contract to keep your balance while you do exercises on it. If you want one of these badboys for yourself, you’ll have to fork over about $2,500. There’s a chance it might help with your circulation and bone density, but it won’t help you with weight loss, especially if you’re using it to shorten your workouts.

2. Sound Wave Technology – There is a product called Vaser that uses sonic waves to get rid of your unwanted belly fat. It acts like liposuction and sucks it out. According to ABC News the cost for this procedure ranges from $8,000-$20,000. Sure, it works, but for that much money you’re better off just getting liposuction in the first place, which has long-term proven results.

3. Leg Weights – Apparently you can tone your legs while walking around the office or at work with the invention of leg weights. They are basically weights that wrap around your ankles or calves with the intention of giving your legs a strength workout while doing everyday tasks. Do you really want to walk around all day with weights on your ankles, though? Skip these, especially if you work a job where you sit the majority of the time.

4. The Treadmill Bike – Just incase you can’t decide between running and biking, you can now do both at the same time!  The treadmill bike is exactly what it sounds like: a treadmill on a bike. The bike looks like a giant scooter with a treadmill where the seat and pedals would be on a bike. The bike will cost you roughly $2,000CAD or $2,450USD, which is significantly more than a gym membership or running outside, and the medical bills this dangerous contraption might end up costing you are even higher. The best part of this, though, is that there is a side attachment you can get to “walk” your dog beside you.

5. The Entertrainer – According to Daily Life, this contraption is something you strap to yourself while you’re watching television. It monitors your heart rate, and when your heart rate drops too low, it shuts the television off until you do enough exercises to get it up again. These are perfect for those who can’t pull themselves away from the television for more than half an hour. It costs $139.99 on their website, which is less than the cost of your television, but this product is priceless for any couch potato.

Some people like to do the lazy version of things. That’s why we are hearing about products that shorten your workout time and use minimal effort to get you fit. But some people take it to the next level.

I am now going to share with you my 5 favourite crazy and weird exercise trends of 2013:

1. Backwards Running – This needs no description. Shawn Radcliffe of Men’s Fitness says that some people have reported that running backwards uses 30 percent more energy than facing the right direction. It’s also 100 percent more likely to get you seriously injured. And don’t try this outside.
2. Working out Barefoot – This has been a subject of much debate in 2013 especially, as more and more people are trying to live “like their ancestors did” or “as minimal as possible.” Working out in your bare feet is supposed to strengthen the muscles in your lower leg, feet and ankle as well as increase your balance. If you’re willing to get past the germs, bacteria, and overall dirtiness that comes from being barefeet in a public place, that is. Personally, I’d rather not put my barefeet on a disgusting gym floor just to increase my balance.

3. The High Heel Workout – According to Christine Egan of Blisstree, this workout is led by a professional dancer who leads you through a series of workouts while everyone wears- you guessed it- stilettos. It’s supposed to help you improve leg muscles and posture. To me, it’s just asking for a broken neck or ankle. If I can barely walk in stilettos I’m not going to risk injury (and loss of dignity) exercising in them.

4. Doga – Doga, or dog yoga, is apparently a real thing where people bring their dogs to yoga class. The dogs can either choose to participate or run around knocking the zen out of everyone. Shawn says that people who attend these classes claim that the dogs bring a sense of fun and lighten the mood of the classes. Just make sure you bring a poop bag.

5. Flirty Girl Fitness – This is the ultimate workout if you want to piss off a feminist. In these classes, which have been described as a “showgirl workout,” stripper poles are used as an accessory. Other accessories, according to their website, are pink feather boas and kitchen chairs. These classes teach you moves you’ll be able to practice at a nightclub if that’s what you like to do for fun.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering if there are some crazy exercise trends that actually do work. The answer is yes, some people aren’t just crazy- they’re actually getting a good workout! Here are some of the crazy workout trends that actually do work, if you can get past how strange they are. Try them out yourself and see how sometimes these crazy people are really on to something.

One of my personal favourites is drum fitness. Not just because I’m a musician, but because my personal workout mentality is that a workout needs to be fun or I’m not doing it. Drum fitness oozes fun from the name alone. In these workouts rhythmic drumming is combined with aerobics, like squats and lunges. It’s a full body workout focusing on your arms that’ll give you killer results (and a super fun time). If you’re interested, “Drums Alive” and “Pound” are the most popular drum fitness classes and you can look them up to see how you can get involved.

Jungshin is another of my favourites. It’s a martial arts workout that uses a sword. How can that not sound awesome? It’ll give you an amazing strength workout as well as a full-body aerobic experience. On top of the amazing results you’ll get, it will make you feel like a warrior and a badass. Who doesn’t like feeling like that? You can hit up their website to find out more information.

One of the most effective weird workout trends of 2013 is tabata training. Tabata workouts can be completed in 4 minutes. That’s right, you’ll have no excuse for not being able to fit it in. In the time that it would take you to drive to the gym you’ll have already completed your workout. Sounds crazy, right? The key is that tabata training uses high intensity interval training, or HIIT. HIIT is an effective way to structure your workouts because your body burns fat at such a high rate you’ll continue burning fat after you’ve stopped working out. This particular Japanese workout consists of 20 seconds of intense training, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is repeated over 8 rounds. To find out how you can get in on this quick workout, visit their website.

The biggest workout trend this year has been mashing up different workout classes. You’ve most likely heard of piloxing, a mix of pilates and kickboxing. Then you’ve got zumba, a mix of latin dance and aerobics, and buti, a mix of tribal dance and yoga. Aqua spinning is another, which mixes swimming and spinning. These are awesome workouts because they change things up and give you something new to try.

Who does single-type classes anymore, anyway? That was so 2012.


Positive Thinking for Positive Profits

You wouldn’t think negativity was such a conversation-starter, would you?

When asked, most people want to believe they’re the type to focus on the positive things.

That is the ideal.

We all know consciously that it’s what we should aim for, but think about it the next time you’re talking to someone. How often does your mind jump to something negative, which you then bring up, even if it’s just to bond with others over complaining about that thing? It’s perfectly normal, enough so that we don’t usually think about it – but it’s also telling.

One of the biggest energy vampires in our midst is what I like to call “negative focus.”  If you’re like me, you can get easily sucked into it.

Sometimes, it goes like this:

You see somebody you know well and you say, “How’s it going?” And they say, “Not so well, I have a cold.” And if you’re like me you might be tempted to say, “Oh yeah… I think I’m going to need a root canal.” And they reply with something like, “That sucks. Hey, did you hear that this coffee whitener causes brain tumors?” “No kidding? I heard this new carpeting is linked to foot cancer.”

And it goes on from there. You build a mutual bond of misery.  And it can really drain your energy to have those kinds of conversations.  It doesn’t mean you don’t take action when needed, but to dwell on the negative is a great way to adversely affect all areas of your life.

Research shows negative focus in one area of life can affect ALL other areas. A wide variety of university research studies have now proven that negative focus affects all areas of your life. For example, if you dwell on the state of the economy it might make you more likely to catch a cold. If you dwell on what you dislike about your boss, it can make you less resourceful when faced with a client issue. In other words, all kinds of negative focus adversely affects your health, productivity, creativity, and happiness. In fact, negative thinking is directly linked to digestive problems, allergies, moodiness, and ADHD. Over the long term negative focus has been linked to financial problems, poor relationships, depression, suicide, cancer, and dementia.  And yet, despite all this research, many people still get stuck there regularly.

Why people let negative thoughts run their life. If you think a certain thought often enough it can become like a program in your mind. Then it can run on autopilot the rest of life until you change it.

The mind is full of programs for good and useful things, and also for bad and destructive things. For example, knowing how to tie your shoes or drive a car are both useful programs. Without the mind’s ability to go on autopilot like this you would have to relearn those things over and over again. The down side is that your mind can also store programs that undermine your success in life and create phobias. For example, if you once forgot your lines in a school play and the other kids made fun of you, this may have stored a program in your unconscious about fear public speaking. As an adult, when you have to speak to a group you freeze up, which affects your health, your career success and on it goes.

Consciously imprinting a better program changes everything. The human mind tends to be like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.

Neuroscientists say this is a primitive brain response.

Our brains are not totally evolved to be in synch with modern times. For example, if you touch fire and burn yourself, the brain imprints that experience deeply so you don’t do it again. If you see a great sunset, the brain doesn’t see this as necessary for your survival so it won’t imprint it so deeply. The problem with this kind of mind system is that humans tend to remember many more negative experiences than positive ones, giving you the overall impression that life is dangerous and unpleasant. Whereas, if you imprinted the positive memories as much as the negative ones you would notice they probably far outweigh the negative.

The mind will base expectations about the future on past experiences. So, if you have more positive memories imprinted, you expect a better future. If you expect a better future you are more likely to be confident, relaxed, and creative about how to deal with challenges.

3 tips for breaking free:

Luckily, the brain is very malleable and you can remold itself as necessary. That is best done by installing new software, or positive memories, in your brain that will override the old programs. Here are 3 tips for doing just that:

1. Look for the silver lining: The next time something challenging happens ask yourself, “What’s good about this situation?” Every challenge has a good side if you look for it.

Questions like this will direct your mind away from just the negative and allow you to view it from a positive perspective as well. This can be an invaluable habit that leads you to a better life because you will see opportunities that other people are missing.

For example: Someone hacked my Gmail account and sent a message saying I was mugged in the UK and needed money sent to a bogus email address. It was sent to all the people I had ever sent a message to on that account, so at least 500 people. I had to spend hours dealing with it. I finally asked myself, “What’s good about this situation?” My answer? I got to reconnect to people I had been out of touch with for a long time, which I loved doing. 2. Really think about what’s good: Put a notepad next to your bed, and each night before you go to sleep write down 8 things you appreciated about your day.

It only takes a minute and can imprint the good memories in your unconscious.

Hundreds of people have reported to me that after just 21 days they noticed symptoms such as moodiness, low motivation, and even physical pain in the body decrease significantly.

For example: Just write out 8 things you appreciate about yourself, others or life circumstances each evening, such as:

  •   My relationship with my kids

  •    De-cluttering my desk

  •    Managing to fix my computer problems

  •    My health is better today

  •    My recent vacation was wonderful

  •    My job is interesting right now

  •    Seeing my hockey team win

  •    Having a roof over my head

3. Choice Repatterning: Doing the activities above can produce amazing results. And, if you want to make sure your goals manifest in a big way as soon as possible, I highly recommend listening to the guided meditation everyday. This is a recording that you would listen to for 15 minutes every day for 30 days. It helps you imprint positive programs in your unconscious mind and dissolve away limiting beliefs, so that you are more likely to achieve your goals.

These can be goals such as:

  •         a health or weight loss goal

  •        improved sales and performance at work

  •        more clarity about what’s next in your life

  •        a better relationship with a key person in your life

  •        moving on from a setback in life

         …and much more. Chances are that if you have an issue in your life it is because you have an unconscious program working against you.

Choice Repatterning is like installing better software in your internal computer so that it overrides the bad programs—creating a life that is more fulfilling to you.

So don’t let negativity permeate all areas of your life just because our brains are wired for it.

Negativity isn’t inevitable!

Wiring can be faulty, and when it is, it’s rewired for better functionality.

You can do the same for yourself! Make the healthy choice to root out those negative impulses when they come, and consciously turn your mind to focus on the positive silver linings instead. Soon, that will become the new normal for you – you actually will be the kind of happy, positive person you want to be, and you won’t ever look back.

*Repurposed by Amy Kisaka, a staff writer for Goddess Connections publications Women Who Run It and How to Put the Fun Back Into Dating.

So…Are You a Food Addict?

Often the holidays come with some awful setbacks.

After the dust (or glitter) settles you’re left with credit card bills, returns, hangovers, and the prospect of another year of work. Not to mention the worst setback of them all: weight gain.That dreaded feeling of excess usually kicks in right after New Years.

During the holidays it’s way too easy to indulge with desserts and baking, huge dinners, a few too many cocktails, and plenty of fatty/salty/sugary hors d’oeuvres. Not to mention all those gifts you got that include chocolate, candy, baked goods, and wine that are so easy to gobble up in the blink of an eye.

I know how it starts. Believe me, I’ve been there. You have a bite, and then another, and the next thing you know, the entire box is gone and you feel like shit. And this isn’t the first time this has happened.

You’re disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, and – even through the fog of a sugar high – you know you’re SO much smarter than this. So why can’t you stop eating?

Here’s your answer:

It’s not actually about the food!

It’s about numbing and distracting yourself so you can avoid something unpleasant. It could be anything that’s bothering you or that you don’t want to deal with. The boss from Hell, the distant spouse, trying to forget something from the past, avoiding the future…

My own food addiction in college stemmed from a deeply internalized fear of entering “the real world” with no job, no money, and $40,000 in student loans. Rather than face these fears head-on, I’d hit up three different drive-thrus, eat my weight in greasy sandwiches, hate myself for a few hours, go to bed, wake up, hit the gym, and let the cycle begin again.

Sure there was some greedy appeal in the deviously, chemically-addictive food itself, but the added appeal was that the more time I spent focusing on how out of control I was in this area of my life, the less I had to worry about the other parts. So the distraction was subconsciously intentional.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d write about this topic again. I’ve already been there, done that and I recovered a long time ago. Long enough ago that the Backstreet Boys were still together.

While I didn’t use this word at the time, I know without question that I got my life back through mindfulness.

In fact, the day I started to heal was the day I (finally) admitted I couldn’t change what I couldn’t acknowledge. Once I opened myself up to observe what was making me use food to escape my life, I began to learn that the root cause of my binge eating was actually stress.

Here’s the disclaimer: You don’t have to be a food addict to recognize the pattern of emotional eating. We’ve all reached for the ice cream at some point to soothe the pain of a broken heart or a broken dream. The difference is that addicts can’t stop. While mending a broken heart with ice cream happens on occasion, and then you move on, a food addict can’t move on and remains stuck in the same patterns.

I was definitely an addict.

Being mindful created a space for me to “kill the monster when it’s little.”  In other words, I was able to catch myself being triggered LONG BEFORE I showed up at 7-11 like a junkie – and by catching myself I was able to choose a different response.

Waking up to that choice saved me. Do I still have moments where the monster returns? I’d be lying if I said no. The Holidays in particular is rough, with the candy and snacks being unavoidable and constantly in your face.
Still, just being aware of my triggers means I can be smart about avoiding old habits. I don’t keep junk food in my home, I don’t go to certain restaurants, and I have lots of handy excuses for those cute little Girl Scouts who sit outside my grocery store. Removing temptation has been my first choice, but it’s not foolproof. There are occasional times when the ugly monster rears his ugly head, and in those times turning towards the feeling has become my second.

Mindfulness means asking yourself, “what is this really about?”

An addiction is not something that anyone would wish on anyone else and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously, but a very important lesson came out of this particular addiction. You need to start to respect yourself, and the more you do it, the easier it will become to do so.

  • Respecting yourself is the first key to being happy and in control of your life.

  • Choose yourself because you are the only person who can control it, and no one else is going to choose you if you don’t give them a reason to.

With the above tips you can truly tackle your weight loss goals for the New Year and conquer it for the rest of your life.

*Repurposed by Lesley Cornelius, a staff writer for Women Who Run It.