Daily Blog


What an Incredible Journey

  • Maria's Post

12/12/10 | Maria Shriver | 0 Comments

Maria Shriver 200x5
Maria Shriver

What an incredible journey this has been!  When I began as First Lady of California, I had a vision of what The Women’s Conference could be, but I had no idea what it would eventually become.  Together we have expanded into a global network and watched our community grow over the years into the nation’s premier forum for women.  Over one million of us have gathered together at our amazing live events and here online to help one another become Architects of Change in our own lives, in our communities and in our world.

Like so many of you experiencing transition and reinvention in your own lives, it’s time for me to start a whole new chapter.  As I move forward, I’ll do so as a wiser woman because of the many lessons I’ve learned over the last seven years. I know that l must continue to use my voice the way I believe it was meant to be used: to help empower women, to help families who struggle to balance responsibilities of work, children, and aging parents, and to connect people with one another. I want to make the world a more compassionate place, a place where people feel seen, valued and connected.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much we’ve all experienced, accomplished and shared over the last years.  Join me in taking a look back.

 


I want to thank all of you for your commitment, wisdom and support. I hope you continue to visit this wonderful site - rich with blogs, videos, special features on topics that shape our lives, and seven years of amazing conference speakers, sessions and behind-the-scenes video & photos.                       

And there's much more to come. I invite all of you in The Women’s Conference community to stay connected as I embark on my next chapter.  Visit www.mariashriver.com and sign up for my newsletter to find out what’s next. It’s going to be yet another incredible journey!

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Remembering Elizabeth Edwards

12/7/10 | The Women's Conference | 2 Comments

elizabeth edwards
Elizabeth Edwards

 

 

 

 

We at The Women’s Conference mourn the death – and celebrate the life of Elizabeth Edwards.

Elizabeth devoted herself to helping others, working tirelessly to further important social causes such as the welfare of children, breast cancer awareness and healthcare reform. She was also a committed mother, accomplished attorney and published author. She inspired countless women with her two best-selling books, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers and Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life’s Adversities.

In 2007 Elizabeth spoke at The Women’s Conference about the challenges of living with breast cancer and also appeared on a panel of leading presidential candidates’ spouses. In 2009 she returned to talk about the loss of her son, bravely sharing her ordeal in the hopes that she could help other women deal with their own grief.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend, Elizabeth Edwards," said Maria Shriver. "My heart goes out to her loving family. Elizabeth was a mighty warrior, and I've long admired her courage, her compassion and her personal quest for truth. She was a public servant, a dedicated mother, a tireless advocate and a loyal friend. She showed up to speak at The Women's Conference every time I asked, and our audience was always moved by the open and honest way she would share the struggles she faced along her journey. I hope her children know their mother was an inspiration to women everywhere -- a truly great woman."

Towards the end of her life, Elizabeth posted this message on her Facebook page: "The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren't able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It's called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."

We are grateful to have known her.

 

Elizabeth Edwards at The Women's Conference in 2007
Elizabeth Edwards at The Women's Conference in 2007

Elizabeth Edwards at The Women's Conference in 2009
Elizabeth Edwards at The Women's Conference in 2009

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10 Steps to a Healthier You

  • Health and Fitness

12/2/10 | Connie Guttersen | 0 Comments

Connie Guttersen 250
Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD

 

 

 

 

A food and flavor renaissance is sweeping across America. It started on the West Coast in California, where fresh, health-inducing ingredients are married to intensely pleasurable flavors, where innovative but simple meal preparation rules, and where the joy of a leisurely meal is embraced.  Embracing the “Sonoma lifestyle,” with an emphasis on enjoying food, leads to a happier, healthier life.  Everyone loves wine country and California, and now we are bringing this to your homes.

It’s vital to think about the healthy mind and its connection to cravings, hunger, mood and the body’s biochemistry.  The idea of 12 power foods is a great way to ensure that the meals are nutrient rich. Whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, beans and citrus all provide essential nutrients and flavor.  Taking advantage of these dream team combinations in meals is key in designing flavorful and appetizing menu plans that make the most of anyone’s calories and their health protective qualities.

However, many of us have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet – largely because unhealthy food tends to taste better (especially around the holidays!). But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are ten things you can do to begin eating healthier TODAY:

  • Eat in a relaxed setting as opposed to eating under stress or on the run, which is when you tend to overeat or eat poorly.
  • Eat without distractions because multitasking, texting, television, and the like interrupt mindfulness, causing you to eat longer and more, even when you’re not hungry.
  • Eat mindfully by paying attention to what and how much you’re eating. You’ll eat better, eat less, and enjoy it more.
  • Eat slowly so you’ll feel more satisfied on less food, so you won’t out-eat the signaling mechanism that takes twenty minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full, and so you can enjoy your meal more.
  • Eat with others because research shows that when you share meals with family or friends, you are more likely to eat healthier, feel more nourished and connected, and lose weight.
  • Eat with pleasure instead of micromanaging your meal or worrying about its effect on your weight.
  • Eat wholesomely by choosing natural, unprocessed foods. The more a food is processed, the more nutrients and natural flavors are lost.
  • Eat seasonally because the growing seasons can inspire your menus and give you flavorful rewards.
  • Eat locally and sustainably as much as possible. Just knowing where your food comes from and how it’s produced makes you a more mindful eater.
  • Eat with wine because, unless you don’t drink alcohol at all, a glass of wine enhances your enjoyment of a healthy meal, is heart-friendly in-and-of itself, and embodies the Sonoma spirit.


Connie Guttersen, RD, PhD is an internationally bestselling author.  Her new book, The New Sonoma Diet, will be released January 2011. Learn more on www.sonomadiet.com.

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What Are You Thankful For?

  • Life Balance

11/23/10 | The Women's Conference Team | 11 Comments

Thanksgiving Family photo 270x170

 

 

 

 

This time of year gives us the opportunity to gather together as friends and family to appreciate our blessings. We on The Women’s Conference team wanted to share with you what we’re thankful for this year. We hope you’ll share with us what you’re thankful for, too.
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I am so thankful I had the incredible opportunity to be First Lady of California – thankful I had the chance to work with such an amazing group of people and to have such amazing children.  I am thankful for my family and friends.  I’m thankful to be alive and living in the USA.

Maria Shriver
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I am thankful for the new love in my life, my dog, Noodle (even though she is eating one of my plants as I type this). I am beyond thankful to the shelter that rescued her from the pound and put up the cutest photo of her online, which I became obsessed with, and eventually led to her adoption.

Ande Dagan, Website Producer
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I am thankful for the good health of my family and friends, especially those who are battling cancer successfully as I write this. I am thankful for the physical strength that allowed me to survive another year of helping to produce the greatest Women’s Conference ever. I am thankful for the fortitude to make it through the toughest challenge I’ve had as a parent of a high school student —helping my son Ethan go through the nightmare of applying for colleges.  And I am really thankful for the sense of humor that helps me think these aren’t just challenges to overcome, but moments in which I can still see something touching and funny.

Alexandra Gleysteen, Executive Producer
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I am thankful that as an escape from my desk job, I teach yoga on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m., affording my devoted students and myself a weekly experience in breath work and exultation.

Liberty B. Conboy, Senior Aide
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I’m thankful that there’s a holiday that asks us all to step away from the myriad challenges, frustrations and demands of our intensely busy lives to reflect on our long list of blessings.  If only we could remember to make this a daily, not a yearly, ritual – to show gratitude for the people who turn our lives into a series of adventures.

Cherie Simon, Website Editor-in-Chief
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I'm thankful for the love of my life. I'm thankful for family and friends who make me a better person. I'm thankful for being able to work with a strong sense of purpose. And I'm thankful for living near ocean sunsets. It's hard to take life for granted when you can witness the day die each day.

Matthew DiGirolamo, Marketing Director

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I am thankful for my children Dana, Seth and Adam.  I am thankful for my health.  I am thankful for my incredible six years of working with Maria Shriver and for being part of an extraordinary team of extraordinary people.  I am thankful that I will soon meet my first grandchild.

Kathy Hersh, Director of Business & Legal Affairs

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I am thankful for the air I breathe, the food I eat, the family who loves me for who I am, and the wonderful friends I have made through Maria's amazing organization. I am also thankful for whirlwind trips to Miami to raise money for Best Buddies.
 
Sean C. Molloy, Conference Assistant
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I am thankful for my health. After spending two weeks tied up – and useless – with the flu, I have a sense of just how powerful good health is. With it, you can do virtually anything; without it, I, anyway, am very, very hindered. Wishing good health (wealth and happiness – but mostly health) to all.

Emma Brownell, Website Editorial Manager
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What are you most thankful for? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

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“Honey, I Just Want You to Be Happy”

11/22/10 | Paige Nesbitt | 1 Comments

Paige Nesbitt6
Paige Nesbitt

 

 

 

 

“Honey, I just want you to be happy” are some of the most loaded words we single women in our 20s/30s can hear.  What the words impart is a loving and generous sentiment -- concern for our welfare.  What they imply is something quite different. 

Namely, that we are not happy status quo.  That there is something “else” that would make us truly happy. That the happiness, achievement or wholeness we feel now may be lovely, but it is nothing compared to the happiness, etc. we will feel once married.

I heard these words recently when speaking with a family friend who is much like an aunt to me.   A few weeks ago, I realized an achievement with my blog, MartiniRescueSquad.com, that I consider a big deal.  No one else has to think it’s as enormous as I do, but I was excited.

My aunt e-mailed 70 of her closest friends about the achievement.  As various people replied to her with congratulations and encouragement, my aunt forwarded me each message.

One of those came from a mutual family friend Lucy, who lives back east.  “I love you, Paige!” she wrote, and added that she wanted to catch up the following week, when she’d be staying with my aunt and her husband.  I replied that I would love to have them all over for dinner -- Aunt Janie, Uncle Gil and Lucy.  Although I'm not a cook, I can handle that number.

That Thursday, two days before Lucy arrived, my aunt called me breathless, “Paige, Honey, this is extremely important - are you going to invite Lee and Annette to your dinner for Lucy next week?”

Lee and Annette are a married couple about my age, and they come from the same town as Lucy.

“No, Janie, I had not planned on it, but I will if you think Lucy would like that.”

“Oh, Honey, it’s very important that you let me know right away.  Our neighbors want to have Lee and Annette for a barbeque they want to throw for Lucy and would be mortified to have the three of them attend two of the same parties in the same week.”

I’ve heard of many traditions and mores in my lifetime, but have never heard of that one.  On the contrary, in any group of friends and neighbors, I have been at the same parties with the same people within the same week many times.

“That’s fine, Janie, tell your neighbor to go ahead and invite them.  I will invite them the next time Lucy comes to town.”

“No, Honey, I don’t think you understand…our neighbor wants you to have first dibs on inviting Lee and Annette, but would be horribly embarrassed if they were at the same party with Lucy twice in the same week.”

That is absurd.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Janie, but that does not make any sense,” I said.  Please tell your neighbor to invite Lee and Annette and I’ll have you, Uncle Gil and Lucy as originally planned.”

“Paige!  Lee and Annette have all of those cute men they want to introduce you to!  If they do not spend some time with you and get to know you better, they will probably not make any of the introductions.”

Oh, OK, so I see where this is going.  It’s not about how tacky it would be to have the same three people at two parties in one week, it’s about marrying me off as quickly as possible.

“Honey, I just want you to be happy.”

“I AM happy, Aunt Janie.”

“I know…but I just want you to be really happy…Oh, and our neighbors want to know if you will come to the barbeque as well.  The Saunders will be there with their cute son.”

So there it is -- the driving force behind this whole back-and-forth was finding a mate for me, i.e. changing my lifestyle so I will finally achieve legitimacy and the happiness that comes with marriage.

Finding the right man and starting a family with him is a top priority for me.  When the time is right.  I put myself out there, date a fair amount and am blessed with a rather varied cross-section of friends.  I don’t sit at home and mope.

However, I’m not sure it’s healthy to base every choice I make in life - down to whom I invite for a small dinner - on the likelihood that it will lead to me meeting Mr. Right.

It seems a lot of us confront such messages and doubts as Aunt Janie’s.  The truth is, our happiness is really ours to determine.  If we are happy as we are, we don’t have to let anyone else’s concerns delegitimize our lifestyle choices.  If we’re not happy with things as they are, we’re in the perfect position to change them.

Paige Nesbitt is a Los Angeles native, an author and a blogger.  Her blog www.martinirescuesquad.com is based on her manuscript, Martini Rescue Squad, A Peer Expert's Guide to Being a Single Woman in Her Twenties or Thirties and Loving It.  Nesbitt has a Bachelor’s in Theater and French from Vanderbilt University and an MBA in Finance from Pepperdine University.

More by Paige Nesbitt:

When It's Time to Have Faith in the Biodome

15 Years Ago Today: I Should Have Died

Unavailable or Impractical Men: What's the Appeal?

When Your Life Feels Like a Layover

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Join Maria Shriver's Million Meals Initiative

  • Architects of Change

11/22/10 | The Women's Conference Team | 1 Comments

1 Million Meals 270x2

 

 

 

 

One in six Americans are going hungry. Of those 50 million people without enough to eat, 17 million are children.

What can you do? Join California First Lady Maria Shriver and The Women’s Conference as we make a donation to the California Association of Food Banks to provide one million meals to California families in need.

Today, Maria Shriver will launch the Million Meals Initiative in San Diego with a lunchtime visit to Father Joe’s Villages, an organization that serves more than 5,000 people a day through its soup kitchen. Shriver will then visit the San Diego Armed Services YMCA to join partners and volunteers to help distribute packages of healthy food to more than 1,000 families. The day’s events will culminate with a visit by Shriver to Qualcomm Stadium for the Million Meals Food Drive, which is being organized in partnership with the San Diego Food Bank and San Diego Chargers.

The Million Meals Food Drive was kicked off on November 20th, when the general public was invited to donate non-perishable food items. San Diego Chargers players joined the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department and other volunteers in the food collection efforts. The goal of the Million Meals Food Drives is to collect enough food to provide an additional one million meals to California’s families.

The San Francisco 49ers organization is also participating in the Million Meals Initiative. At their November 14 home game, the 49ers collaborated with the San Francisco Food Bank to collect 2,100 pounds of food and $2,100 in cash donations from fans as they were arriving at the game. Yesterday, the 49ers partnered with Sacred Heart Community Service to facilitate another Million Meals Food Drive, where they collected 1,400 pounds of food and $5,100 in cash donations.

“The Women’s Conference organization has worked on the frontlines to feed women’s minds, bodies and spirits, and during this time of need, we are committed to helping California women feed their families,” said Maria Shriver. “I am so pleased that individual Californians and thousands of organizations all across the state are joining together to support struggling families… I hope the Million Meals Initiative inspires even more Californians to join us by donating to Million Meals food bank partners across the state—so we can keep this spirit of giving alive throughout the year.”

 

 

The food donated through the Million Meals Initiative will be delivered to Californians through the California Association of Food Banks’ 43 member organizations and more than 5,000 organizations across the state.  In addition to the food banks, five organizations have also been selected to receive grants including Father Joe’s Villages, Sacred Heart Community Service, and three organizations led by the conference’s Minerva Award winners: Betty Chin’s Betty’s Blue Angels, Christy Porter’s Hidden Harvest and Janice Mirikitani’s Glide Memorial Church.

Californians can donate food, dollars or time to a Million Meals partner in their neighborhood by visiting www.cafoodbanks.org.

For more ways to contribute to your community, read 10 Ways to Give Back This Season

For more about The Women's Conference We Connect program, which is driving this initiative, visit www.weconnect.net

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Stay Fit While on the Road

  • Work and Money
  • Health and Fitness

11/18/10 | Carolyn "The Healthy Voyager" Scott | 0 Comments

Carolyn Scott 250x2
Carolyn "The Healthy Voyager" Scott

 

 

 

 

Sure, it can be tough to stick to a workout regimen if your job takes you out of town, but there are plenty of ways to keep to your fitness routine while also breaking up the monotony of your “business” dealings—and releasing that business trip-induced tension.

Here are a few things you may want to pack so you can get your groove on, whether you’re staying at a 5-star hotel (with a 5-star gym) or your joint has a tiny, or worse, no gym:

  • Athletic shoes – Yep, you can’t do much in your dress shoes.
  • Exercise clothing – A comfy shirt and shorts will do the trick. Nothing fancy or bulky (think suitcase-efficient).
  • Jump rope – It takes up virtually no space, and a few minutes of jumping in your room can really get your heart rate up.
  • Resistance tubing – This is another fabulous exercise tool that takes up no space in your suitcase and can do so much. You can work out every muscle in your body with some simple sets that incorporate your travel bands.
  • Music and headphones – If you opt for the hotel gym, your tunes will help you stay on track and motivated through your workout.
  • Exercise video or DVD – Most business travelers carry a laptop, which makes it easy to do some floor routine or yoga DVDs in the hotel room.
  • Weightlifting gloves – These are easy to pack and very helpful if you choose to hit the gym.
  • Swimsuit – If your hotel has a pool, laps are a great workout for your body and mind.
  • Tennis racket – These may take up some space, but if you want to make your workout social, there’s nothing better than a tennis racket (or golf clubs).


(For a different type of travel workout, you might ask the hotel staff about renting a bicycle.)

Once you’re packed and safely at the airport, kill time (since we need to get there so dang early anyway) by getting some exercise. Wear your walking shoes and store your carry-on bags in a locker (if available). Walk briskly through the terminal while waiting for your flight. Pump your arms to increase your heart rate. Light exercise before a flight will actually help you fly better by oxygenating your blood, relaxing you and helping with jet lag symptoms. During your flight, get up occasionally to stretch and walk.

If you’re traveling by train, walk through the cars every 30 to 60 minutes. Walk outdoors when the train stops to let passengers on and off. If you’re driving, take frequent breaks to get out and stretch. Even a short walk around a rest area can boost your mood and energy level.

No matter where you are going, or for how long, it’s easy to fit in fitness – keeping you healthy, balanced and sharp!

Carolyn Scott is the executive producer, creator, host and writer of The Healthy Voyager brand, www.healthyvoyager.com. Her web series, radio show, site, blog and social network show you how to live, and travel, healthy & green.

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How to Find Your True Path

  • Work and Money
  • Architects of Change

11/15/10 | Dianne Aigaki | 6 Comments

Dianne Aigaki 200
Dianne Aigaki, Writer/Social Activist/Artist/Philanthropist

From the time I was a little girl I was driven to help others. My three never-married aunts, who lived together their whole lives, guided and influenced me.  They were women who traveled the planet, built great friendships and had successful careers.  My aunts came out of the Great Depression with the attitude that you pull together as family, and with this united strength, you have love and resources to share with others. They taught me that one person can make a difference—and that person could be me.
 
In the beginning, my community was my elementary school and my role was defending the child being bullied at school or helping the kid who couldn’t read.  As I got older, my world expanded, and I became involved in advocating for universal health care and fund-raising for environmental causes. As a young woman, I dropped out of college and traveled to South America to live; I came back to the States a year later, driven to finish my education, so I could help people poorer and less fortunate than myself.  By the time I was an adult, I seemed to be unable to take a vacation, or make a painting without immediately projecting forward how I could use this initially self-motivated activity to help others.
 
Now, I live between three countries (India, Mexico and Tibet), working as a consultant to nonprofit organizations worldwide, helping them make their dream into a solid plan of action; documenting the rare and endangered flora of the Tibetan Plateau as a scientific botanical illustrator; writing a novel, and leading tours to Tibet as part of an ecotourism partnership with Tibetan villagers and nomads that sends 100 poor children to school, supports political prisoners, and provides health care for frail, elderly Tibetans.
 
Every one of these aspects of my life is rooted in the same values my aunts passed on to me when I was five—help others and have great adventures while doing it. I start and end every day with a statement of intention that reminds and refocuses me on what is truly important: “May everything that I think, do and say today help me end suffering in others.”  Every evening, I sift through my day to see if I have stayed true to my values and that intention.
 
My Life Strategies:

  1. Take time to reflect on and identify your core values. Define your core values and never do anything that does not reflect them. That way you are always acting with integrity, and even if you don't achieve your specific expectation of success, your life will be a true reflection of who you are.
  2. Know what makes you special and act on it. There is no one just like you and you are here for a unique reason.  Consider what that may be and act on it. Give yourself credit for the parts of your personality and approach to life that make you special.  Soar with your strengths.  Do the activities in life that come easiest to you, and seek help and support for those things that are not so easy.
  3. Create a Life List that magnetizes your goals to you. Write down the things in your life you would love to do (not what you think you should do—although they may be one and the same), that would make you feel exhilarated and optimistic about your future.  Write the list from your heart and become the person who can live it.
  4. Seek to inspire and mentor others. Become a person who can inspire others. Believe that living a life of integrity is an inspiration to those struggling to define themselves. Take the time to respond to a child, teen or adult who is looking for direction.  Consider that this time spent is one of your most valuable gifts —to yourself and to society.
  5. Believe that you can make a difference in the world. The world is made up of people who have accomplished great things through sheer force of will, passion and focused direction.  Once you have determined what you can do to make a difference, don’t give up.  Keep looking for people who share your vision and can become partners with you in making a difference.

 

 

Dianne Aigaki's documentation of endangered flora from the Tibetan Plateau
Dianne Aigaki's documentation of endangered flora from the Tibetan Plateau


Dianne Aigaki is a writer, social activist, artist and philanthropist. Besides being a consultant for nonprofit organizations and training over 4,000 people worldwide, she has been an artist for 35 years, working in acrylics, watercolor, stained glass, print making, and cyanotypes, a technique used in the 1700s to document rare plants. As a woman explorer, she is a member of both Wings World Quest and the Society of Women Geographers, the two premier women’s exploration organizations in the world. Her blog is www.dianneaigaki.wordpress.com; her website is www.dianneaigaki.com

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It’s Time… To Invest In You

11/11/10 | Jennifer Beatty | 1 Comments

Jennifer Beatty 200x250
Jennifer Beatty, Author, Point of Difference

On a daily basis we are bombarded with images of who we should be, what we should look like, and how we should act in public. If you fail to define your identity for yourself, a perverted sense of self will form. True confidence comes from within, and genuine beauty radiates from an intrinsic joy that no one can take away. Developing a healthy relationship with yourself is an essential investment — one that many of us must purposely make. But it’s worth it. Think about it… you are the only person you are guaranteed to have a relationship with for the rest of your life.

There are many ways to strengthen one’s sense of self. One of the most beneficial habits that I’ve developed is taking myself out to dinner. I refer to it as my Table for One experience. Initially, it was vastly intimidating. I was convinced that everyone was staring at me, judging me for being alone, as if I didn’t have any friends to join me. But I was allowing my own insecurities to taint the experience and squander a wonderful opportunity to grow. I decided to put my worries aside and enjoy my own company. (The added benefit to my Table for One was getting out of my comfort zone – which helped build up my inner strength and confidence.)

Our relationships with others grow mostly through communication. I always like to say that intimacy is no more than the act of sharing thoughts with others. So how do you go about sharing with yourself? Journaling is a great way. I find that the more I write, the more I’m able to reflect. It gives me the tools to ground myself and realize how I’m actually feeling in the day-to-day.

Most people wait for others to show them adventures that they’ve never experienced before. But you can expose yourself to new experiences on your own – often without leaving your own town or city. Almost every major city in the United States has a museum of modern art. Not in the mood for fine art? Go horseback riding, to a cooking exhibition, or to see a play. You can expand your world simply by stepping outside of your comfort zone.

There is a famous quote in To Kill a Mockingbird that says, “Everything must grow or die.” Life is about getting out of your comfort zone – it is about growing. Knowing who you are and having confidence in yourself is key to pushing boundaries and exploring the world – physically and intellectually.

Jennifer F. Beatty is the 19-year-old author of Point of Difference, a motivational book on how to become the best version of yourself. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and is currently a sophomore at The George Washington University in Washington D.C. The expected publish date of Point of Difference is 2011.

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Does Dad Have Alzheimer’s?

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness

11/8/10 | Dr. Cheryl Mathieu | 1 Comments

Cheryl Mathieu 250x300
Dr. Cheryl Mathieu

 

 

 

 

“I’m so worried about my Dad. He is forgetting things lately and seems confused. How can I find out if he has Alzheimer’s? And if he does have it, what do I do?”

As a geriatric care manager, I frequently receive calls just like this. Fear of the unknown can be the most troublesome part of caring for someone you love when they begin to demonstrate changes in behavior. The following information can decrease your stress and help you ensure that mom and dad get the best care possible.

Each year a million people start a mental decline called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) with memory loss somewhere between normal aging and Alzheimer’s. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the U.S., there are many reasons why someone’s memory can decline. Some of these causes are treatable. Generally, Alzheimer’s disease has a gradual onset of symptoms over months to years and a worsening of cognition. If the memory loss or confusion comes on quickly, this could indicate that something other than Alzheimer’s is going on. You’ll want to ask for a thorough evaluation by someone who specializes in memory impairment as a first step – this could be a psychiatrist, neurologist or a geriatrician.

The evaluation will include testing for conditions that look similar to dementia – but aren’t, such as:

  • Delirium (sudden onset confusion due to infection, medication, acute illness)
  • Depression (which can sometimes include memory problems)
  • Thyroid problems, metabolic abnormalities (abnormal glucose and calcium, kidney and liver failure)
  • Vitamin B 12 deficiency, symptoms of a progressing chronic disease (low oxygenation due to lung disease, anemia or heart disease).
  • Urinary tract infection (the symptoms of which can appear like dementia).

 

Imaging the brain can also be helpful to check for a tumor, stroke, or increased pressure on the brain. These tests can help determine the cause of memory loss, and if it’s treatable.

Once dementia is confirmed, the next step is to determine whether it is Alzheimer’s. (There are different kinds of dementia, other causes of memory loss and then there are declines that are still considered “normal aging.”) If it is Alzheimer’s, there are medications that might be helpful in slowing the progress of the disease. People with Alzheimer’s may do better in the long term if they have early intervention. And do stay in touch with your loved one. If they exhibit any of the behaviors listed here, it may be time to consider getting them live-in help or moving them to an assisted living facility.

This will be a hard time, but there is information and loving support available for you and your loved ones. There are books, support groups, websites, geriatric care managers and others who have gone through this before you to guide you every step of the way.

Helpful Weblinks:
www.ALZ.org
www.AgingPro.com
www.CareManager.org
www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers

Cheryl Mathieu, Ph.D., M.S.W. is a geriatric care manager and Alzheimer’s specialist, founder and president of AgingPro.com, the nation’s most comprehensive eldercare resource. She is also the author of “The Essential Caregiver’s Toolbox.” Using education, compassion and humor, “Dr. Cheryl” assists caregivers to gracefully manage the many challenges of their aging loved ones.

More: Alzheimer's: Everything You Need to Know

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