That's right, I said it - sex. It never ceases to amaze me how many people cringe when you say it out loud. As a former Pure Romance consultant, I am all to familiar with the side eye. Because, let's face it, good girls don't talk about sex, right? Wrong.
Our culture is steeped with taboos and myths surrounding sex and sexuality, and one of the most prevalent is that good girls and boys don't talk about sex (and if you're a woman, don't think about it either). My experience growing up is somewhat regionally colored growing up smack in the middle of the Kansas Bible Belt, but I've heard this misguided ideology spouted by women from coast to coast.
Look no further than the age old wedding night adage attributed to Queen Victoria, "Lie still and think of England." This idea has permeated our culture for decades and caused untold damage to the psyche of women everywhere. From schools who teach abstinence only to religious institutions that advocate puritanical chastity, there is a tangible current of anti-sex rhetoric. You can practice whatever fulfills you spiritually, but hindering open communication about sex and sexuality isn't doing anyone any favors.
Talking about sex doesn't cause people to have intercourse with reckless abandon. It doesn't cause un-planned pregnancy, or STIs, or assault. Talking about sex encourages people to open the lines of communication with their doctors, therapists, partners, and families. Being sex positive means accepting sex and sexuality as a normal, healthy, and good part of life and it is something we should all embrace.
I once had a very angry woman practically spit at me (while giving side eye), "I suppose you just think that we should just start showing kids adult movies and let everyone have sex with everyone all willy, nilly like a bunch of heathens." First of all, kudos on the use of the word "heathens", and second of all having open communication about sex and sexuality doesn't mean that the world devolves into chaos (see previous paragraph) - quite the opposite actually.
Open questions have opportunity for informed answers. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, my parents didn't talk to me about sex, at all, because good girls don't talk about sex and so, I got my answers wherever I could find them - mostly other kids my age. When we give people permission to talk about and explore sex and sexuality, we open the door for healthy discussion. We can talk about it holistically as a natural part of overall health and well being and share answers for not only the "mechanical" questions but also the emotional, social, and spiritual ones as well.
Let's teach our children that sex and sexual health aren't dirty words. That they can come to us with their questions. That they shouldn't be ashamed to talk to their doctors about sexual health issues. That they should feel comfortable talking to their future partners. Informed consent is huge.
What if, instead of perpetuating the stereotype that good girls are timid and demure and boys are aggressive and hyper-sexual, we just normalized enthusiastic consent and open communication? Sex is supposed to be fun. If both partners are anything less than enthusiastic, then it's time to stop. If both partners aren't ready to discuss safety and preferences and individual needs, then it's time to stop. Our kids need to know that being heard, understood, and respected also extends to sex and sexuality.
When we normalize sex and sexuality, we remove the shame and stigma. Imagine if gonorrhea or syphilis were treated with the same regard as strep throat or pink eye - so many more would come forward for treatment sooner. Imagine if sexual assault survivors could come forward without fear of judgement or persecution - so many more voices would be rightfully acknowledged and vindicated. Imagine if people were free to explore gender identity without fear of discrimination - so many more would fine their personal truth and feel whole.
We're making so much progress as society, but we still have a long way to go. Embrace being sex positive by opening the lines of communication with your doctors, with your therapists, with your partners, and with your families because, good girls do talk about sex.
Time got away from me this past month as I know it has for so many of us, but I'm caught up now and ready to tell you all about the newest recommended reading - Chasing the Bright Side by Jessica Ekstrom. Normally, Conk's Community covers one book per month, but this gem will serve for April and May (to play catch up for lost time and because I think we can all use an extra dose of positivity about now).
Let me start by saying that I had never heard of Headbands of Hope before I read this book, and I'm so glad we'll all learn about it now. Jessica Ekstrom started the company in college and operates on a 1:1 model - for every headband sold, one is donated to a child with cancer. Right now, during the Covid-19 situation, they are donating one mask to a health care professional for every headband purchased (I totally bought two. Stalk my Instagram for pictures when they arrive).
So, to really dig into the meat of what this book is about and who it's for, let's take a look at the full title Chasing the Bright Side: Embrace Optimism, Activate Your Purpose, and Write Your Own Story. Ekstrom proposes that success in life relies an awful lot on practicing reckless optimism. Each chapter starts with an inspiring quote and ends with a reflection which could easily be a writing prompt if you are so inclined.
Entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and pretty much anyone looking to pursue a passionate and purposeful life can certainly benefit from this book. Ekstrom leads you through the hits and misses of finding her path and building her business. She doesn't shy away from painful set backs or hard lessons learned because optimism isn't about never feeling the sting of failure - it's about growing through what you go through.
This book aims to help you dig deep and ask yourself important questions about fulfillment, purpose, and what sets your soul on fire. Ekstrom uses her own story to illustrate with fiery clarity how to say yes, be open, and tackle life with kind of enthusiasm in a rousing movie montage (complete with badass music).
In a nutshell, Chasing the Bright Side achieves exactly what it sets out to do - guiding you to embracing optimism, activating your purpose, and writing your own story.
If you'd like to get in on the book discussion, check out my Facebook group page for ladies 18 and over - Conk's Community: Women Empowering Women.
It's Easter today and I'm filled with conflicting emotions. The Covid-19 situation has many states, like Kansas, under stay at home orders and we're all advised to limit the size of group gatherings and maintain a safe social distance of at least 6 feet. This means that so many people's Easter traditions are put on hold this year as we all scramble to acclimate to a new normal. But, I'm filled with a reckless sense of optimism this morning even as the skies are dark and the wind is howling outside my window. We're gonna be ok.
You have restored my faith in humanity. For all the dark, foreboding news clouding my news feed these days, there are just as many amazing people determined to find joy. My mother in law Facetimed us on her ipad yesterday and my father in law was wearing the silliest (and most terrifying) Easter Bunny mask. They took us on an Easter egg hunt through the house using clues she had made for the boys back in 2001. I must also add here that I do not have children, so it was just my in-laws, my husband, and I going on a virtual egg hunt. You are never too old to find joy in the little things.
Right now, I am most thankful for you, my audience, who give me so much love and support and a renewed sense of purpose. The world can be a scary, chaotic place, but sometimes all you need is someone to reach out and say, hey take my hand, let's go on an Easter Egg hunt, and it's exactly what you needed to catch your second wind.
"Lest we forget" is a line taken from the famous poem Recessional by Rudyard Kipling. It has come to be used in remembrance of war and veterans, and carries with it the admonishment to never forget the soldiers lost and the grave lessons learned. As I watched Iron Jawed Angels for the first time yesterday, the powerful story of suffragettes in America struck a chord with me and those words, lest we forget, have been echoing in my brain.
In moments like this, I truly understand why history is a required course in high school and in many colleges - to pass on the stories of hard fought battles and everyday heroes, lest we forget. But I think that we all have a responsibility to carry on stories. It is up to all of us to choose which stories we will help carry, and help keep the memories and lessons alive.
Today, I feel that the term "feminist" carries a largely negative connotation. To say you are a feminist or that you support feminist causes is tantamount to throwing the first punch in a fist fight. Actress Emma Watson said, "I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop." And, I couldn't agree more.
There are always radicals and militants in every cause ( I have to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that their hearts are in the right place at least), but those are rarely representative of the cause as a whole. Feminism is really about equality. To quote Watson again, "Feminism is equality: politically, culturally, socially, and economically. That's it, that simple".
So many female pioneers have dedicated their lives to the cause of equality: Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Pankhurst, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinman, and countless others. It is up to us to share their stories, to remember their fight, lest we forget.
There is no doubt that equality for women has come so very far, but the fight is not over. Until women are represented equally in positions of power, until men are not stigmatized for expressing feelings or taking on traditionally feminine roles, until we have stopped assigning value and ability for a given task on gender - the fight is not over.
Let's put our differences aside and raise our collective voices in remembrance of all those who have fought the good fight. Let's pick up their banner and be good and honorable human beings pushing forward to a new day. The future is up to us, and the lessons of the past are our burden to carry - lest we forget.
Last night, I was watching the documentary Miss Representation (which you should totally check out on Netflix) and something was said that stuck with me - women are hard on each other. It's such a simple assertion, but the more that I think about it, the more I realize just how true it is. We have been conditioned from birth to be hypercritical of not only ourselves, but other women too. We criticize physical appearance, fashion choices, parenting techniques, life choices - everything. We are judgmental and often distrustful, but there is hope.
All around me, I see women making a conscious effort to lift up others, but while posting empowering messages on Facebook and Instagram is a good start, it's not enough. We can do more, we have to do more if we truly want to empower the women around us. So where do you start? How can you be the change you wish to see in the world?
First, shut down the negative feedback. Think before you speak: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Is it kind? Name calling, judging, and catty underhanded comments don't serve anyone. In fact, according to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, "There's a science behind that phenomenon called "loving kindness." And research shows that learning and practicing loving kindness can profoundly affect your attitude, outlook and even your health."
Second, be supportive of other women. An article from the Boston Globe sites a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found "... that the most successful female job-seekers from a top-ranked graduate school relied not only on a wide network of contacts, but also on a close inner circle of other women who provide support and gender-specific job advice." In other words, when women support women, incredible things happen. Reach out and look for like minded women in online groups like Conk's Community or start/join groups where you work. Be receptive when other women reach out to you by being welcoming and inclusive.
Third, spread the love. I know that might sound like something out of the hippie movement of the 1960's, but they didn't have it all wrong. When you have the opportunity to compliment someone, do it. And let's work on pointing out more than just a great haircut, weight loss, or a rockin pair of jeans. Let's give kudos to academic achievements, business wins, and artistic accomplishments. And share this news with others. Share inspiring stories about female entrepreneurs, about women who are killing it, about the women who matter to you.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to create a positive, supportive environment that lifts women up instead of tearing them down.
When I was teaching high school English, I'd often have students share the wildest information with me. Did you know that if you drink a soda and eat pop rocks you will explode? You can't get pregnant on your period. Spiders can lay eggs in your brain. Sometimes, it was easy to tell that they were misinformed - other times, not so much. So, every time a student would come to share the latest tidbit of information with me, I always countered with the same question, "That's fascinating! What's your source?"
In a world where we are constantly inundated with information, it can be hard to tell what's real, what's true, and what we should believe. Even as adults, it's a struggle to wade through it all. Most of us are intelligent, rational human beings and we think, I know what's true and what's fake. For example, if I told you that standing on your head and drinking a coke after intercourse will prevent pregnancy, most of you would laugh at me. But what if that same information was presented in a full color infographic that had a John Hopkins University logo on it? Might make you do a double take.
So, how do you decide what information is true, kind of true, and flat out false? Here are 5 things you should do when you encounter a surprising new piece of information:
1. Ask yourself, what is the source? Where did this information come from?
This sounds simple enough, but sometimes you have to do a little digging. In this day and age it's really easy to create and share graphics on social media. Just because your cool infographic says it comes from John Hopkins University doesn't mean that it did. If the official organization made the post that's one thing, but if it's a shared piece of information without the original source material or article, you definitely want to do some further investigation.
2. Ask yourself, what is my source's authority?
Once you've established the source, find out the author or sites credentials. A reputable research university has more authority than a tabloid news article designed to sell papers. I'm a blogger, so you could go to my about page to find out more information about me. You can also check to see if I site sources in my articles, and go check out the sources that I site. The importance of a source's authority will vary depending on whether you are reading for entertainment or for specific, credible information.
3. Ask yourself, what is my source's bias?
Once you've established the source, decide if they have any biases. The way information is presented can be colored by religious or political leanings, regional ideologies, personal feelings, or even corporate interests. Bias is not an immediate disqualifier, just be aware that the information you are getting might have a slant.
4. Ask yourself, how recent is my source's information?
Information changes at the speed of a mouse click in today's super digital environment. Researchers, scientists, politicians, and pretty much anyone publishing content are in a constant battle to provide the most up to date information. Always check the publication date when deciding if your information is relevant. Sometimes, especially if you are reading for entertainment, this might not be as important. But, if you are trying to determine the latest numbers on the stock market, information from two days ago is already out of date.
5. When in doubt, check multiple sources.
Sometimes it can be hard to determine what you should believe or how you should feel even after you have fully vetted a source. At the end of the day, this is a free country and you get to form your own opinions. Check out multiple sources on the topic and come to your own conclusions about what you believe based on the information you have gathered.
Have you ever felt off, miserable, blah like you just can't muster the strength to do what must be done? I'm feeling that right now. I'm behind on my group posts, my business paperwork, my chores. I'm not even sure I've got enough clean underpants to last the rest of the week, and it's only Tuesday. Lately, I've had a lot of health issues and they've been dragging me down like swimming with brick shoes and "self-care" has been the furthest thing from my mind. You know what I've been doing instead? Racking myself with guilt.
I've been beating myself up for being tired, for not accomplishing things, for falling behind. Sound familiar? I feel like women are taught to forgive everyone but themselves. What would I say to my best friend if she were feeling this way right now? How would I comfort someone who is sick and overwhelmed? And why do I extend this love and generosity to others but not myself? Stop. Take a deep breath.
It is OK to be human. It is normal to get overwhelmed or feel sick and like you are failing everyone, but when you do, you MUST stop and take a deep breath. I am saying this to you as much as I am myself. Look in the mirror and imagine your best friend. Imagine they are telling you everything they are feeling right now. What do you tell them? Say what you say to them, out loud, and say it to your reflection.
"It's ok. Just breathe girl. I've got your back. You are beautiful, and kind, and amazing. Things are really tough right now and it's totally ok to feel your feelings, but I promise, this too shall pass. You are not a failure, you are not a bad person. No one hates you, and if they do, to hell with them - anyone who can't see how amazing you are isn't worth your time. So cry if you need to cry, yell if you need to yell, just let it all out. I see you girl. I accept you. I love you. It's gonna be ok."
How does it feel to be on the receiving end of your own love and acceptance? Pretty powerful stuff. You and me, we got this girl.
Thoughts on "Let That Sh*t Go: A Journal for Leaving Your Bullsh*t Behind and Creating a Happy Life" by Monica Sweeney
I'm so excited to share a review of our next book club book for the Pure Romance by Deedre VIP Community. If you're a woman age 18 or over and you haven't joined our community yet, you can click here to sign up for my emails and get exclusive access. We'll be starting the discussion over this book in February, so dive into this review, then join the community for a free PDF reading guide and bookmark.
Let me start by saying that this is not a book you read cover to cover ( I mean, I suppose you could, but that's not really the point). It's an interactive journal with exercises that involve both introspection and coloring. That's right, I said coloring.
Monica Sweeney is funny and irreverent while inviting the reader to really break down some serious topics. It appears that her purpose really is to help us "let that shit go". Stop taking yourself so seriously, stop overthinking, stop feeling guilty, and stop feeling overwhelmed. This journal is designed with very short to the point exercises that don't take that long to complete, but still leave you feeling a sigh of relief when you've finished. From the Swippy Swap that focuses on diversions for bad habits to Not Today, Satan! that helps blast through anxieties, this journal is chalk full of insight and naughty words.
I would recommend making Let That Sh*t Go part of your daily routine. Whether you start or end your day with it, or just squeeze it in over the lunch hour, there are enough prompts to keep you going for almost two months. And, if you need more, rest easy knowing that Sweeney has two more journals: Find Your F*cking Happy and Zen as F*uck.
Want to join the book club discussion? Join my Facebook Group Conk's Community: Women Empowering Women (for ladies 18 and over).
So, you've had a hysterectomy but you have the sinking suspicion that you weren't adequately prepared for what comes after. I'm here to tell you that you are not alone. Hysterectomies occur for extremely varied reasons and even the procedure itself differs from woman to woman, but one thing I have found almost universal among the women I've met is the inconsistency in information. This is your body and you deserve full disclosure and a safe, understanding environment to discuss your questions and concerns. If I can impart any wisdom at all, it would be this, advocate for yourself and never stop.
I've had issues with my reproductive system since puberty. Horrible cramps, excessive bleeding, nausea, bloating, and the list went on and on. I was diagnosed with endometriosis in my early twenties and poly cystic ovarian syndrome in my late twenties. I tried every prescription, herbal, and over the counter remedy you can think of and nothing helped. At 36, I developed a cyst the size of a goose egg on my right ovary and it wasn't going away. Due to massive internal scaring from multiple mostly unrelated surgeries (I was born with a birth defect of my right kidney), the doctors were concerned about performing an operation. I get it, honestly I do, but what transpired was nothing short of exasperating.
My gynecologist, now not so affectionately known as Dr. Douche Canoe, proceeded to tell me exactly how this was going to happen. I would have a total hysterectomy and I would take hormones and that would be that. Now, I had advocated for a hysterectomy for years, but I was fought every step of the way because of my age. But, I wasn't all on board for hormones. I've read conflicting research on the subject and wanted to try my luck without them first. Do you know what he said? He proceed to talk down to me like I was a petulant child and pretty much told me that my vagina would shrivel up and stop working if I didn't take them. Seriously? DO NOT take everything your doctor says at face value. If something feels wrong to you, get a second opinion.
In the end, Dr. Douche Canoe was not qualified to perform the operation due to my extensive scarring and I had to be sent to a specialist. Guess what? She DID NOT recommend hormones unless my quality of life was severely impacted because hormones can cause more harm than good in patients with endometriosis! Did you notice I said she. My family doctor is also female and she agreed that hormones were not necessarily a one size fits all prescription.
Turns out, for me, hormones were not necessary. You absolutely have to do what feels right for you. Ask the questions, weigh the answers, and speak up when something doesn't feel right. If Dr. Douche Canoe treats you like an idiot, there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a different doctor.
In the hundreds of Google searches and subsequent rabbit holes I fell into, I found so many women who have the same story. Women who have been pushed aside, ignored, misdiagnosed, and told it was all in their head. Women who have cried, been frustrated, and fought for answers they may or may not have found. This sounds disheartening, but in the age of social media, smart phones, and the internet, women have the unprecedented opportunity to share their stories. To find support in each other. To make our voices heard.
If you have had a hysterectomy, are going to have a hysterectomy, or are facing the prospect of having a hysterectomy, I strongly suggest checking out the HysterSisters website. It's a woman to woman support group with a wealth of articles and resources for helping you make the most informed decisions, understanding the changes in your body, and connecting with other other women who understand what you are going through. Always remember, it is your right to advocate for yourself. Never let anyone take your voice.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by everything going on in your life, everything that has to be done in a day? You sit there in your unwashed stretchy pants ready to pull out all your hair because making one more decision feels impossible. There's just too much laundry, too much cleaning, too many errands, too many people who need you to figure out what comes next. It's like the cartoon character who's head explodes and all that's left is a little burned match stump.
Take a deep breath. No, really. A deep breath right now, in through your nose and out through your mouth. According to an article in Healthline "Taking deep breaths can help you voluntarily regulate your ANS, which can have many benefits - especially by lowering your heart rate, regulating blodd pressure, and helping you relax, all of which help decrease how much of the stress hormone cortisol is released in your body". Deep breaths help us to refocus our attention so we can slow down and take stock of what's really important.
Ok, now that you've taken a few deep breaths, let's take Anna's advice from Frozen II and "do the next right thing." Don't over analyze it, or get in your head, just listen to your body. Do you need to pee? Then go to the bathroom. Do you smell like a swamp yetti? Then take a shower. Are you thirsty? Then go get a drink. Don't think about what comes next, just go do the very next thing that you need to do to bring yourself a little balance.
Now, grab yourself a pen and paper and make a list. Break it into three columns - must do, should do, can wait. The "must do" column is for things that require your attention right now, that really must be done today. Feeding the dogs, feeding the kids, paying the bill that is due today, putting out the grease fire in your kitchen (you know, all the things that will unquestionably be problematic if they are not finished ASAP).
The "should do" column is for things that you should try to get done, but the house won't burn down if they're not. Finishing the laundry, meal planning, household chores etc. And the can wait column is for everything else. If you struggle with knowing what goes in the can wait column, ask yourself the following question, "What is the worst that will happen if this is not done?" If the answer doesn't involve a crisis or emergency, then it probably can wait.
Before you go to execute this list, I want you to do one more thing, and it's really, super important, ok. In your "must do" column add one task or activity that brings you joy: take a bubble bath, paint your toenails, color in a coloring book. This absolutely can't wait. I don't care how important everything else in your life is or how many people insist that they need you to do something else, this is non-negotiable. Remember that burned little match stump? The only way to truly find balance is to make your mental and emotional health a "must do" item every single day. If you can't carve 20-30 minutes out of your day to take care of you, it might be time to delegate some of your responsibilities, or to talk to friends, family, or even a professional about how to make sure your personal needs are met.
Starting every day with a few deep breaths and breaking down your must do, should do, and can wait will help you start to put things in perspective. You absolutely do not have to do it all. You do not have to be everything for everyone. All you have to do is breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth and do the next right thing.
Entrepreneur. Blogger. Eternal Optimist. Helping people find their happy, encouraging others to grow.