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When My Husband Became A Hero

  • Family and Friend
  • Life Balance

07/12/10 | Lorrie Sullenberger | 2 Comments

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Lorrie Sullenberger



As the wife of Captain Sullenberger, the pilot who landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River and saved the lives of 155 people, my life has, since that day, ricocheted from one emotion to another. The nation seemed to be celebrating in the aftermath of the events, but we were in shock.

The personal letters and well wishes that started to pour into our house helped us start processing our emotions. We have personally received over 20,000 emails, as well as thousands of personal cards, letters and packages. I joked with Sully that he has achieved Santa Claus status as many of the letters come without our personal address. They simply state Captain Sullenberger, or “Sully” hero pilot USA. And like Santa at the North Pole they show up at our door. One of my favorites was from Europe and was addressed to “Hero Pilot USA.” Then in a side note it said, “Dear Postmaster, I don’t know his address but I think you can find him. Please help me and forward to him.”

The letters are funny, sad and profound, but mostly they express an overwhelming gratitude -- that just when our country needed it most we had a collective feel good moment. And not just for the United States, but the world. We even received a recent letter from a young woman in Iran. Many of the letters stated that while Sully did not ask for this and is not seeking the limelight, we need a hero to feel good about, so please don’t turn away. And with that we feel a certain responsibility. As Sully likes to say, gratitude is a two way street. As the outpouring of support and gratitude came our way, it helped us to give back as well.

One young man wrote us early on and said his family had to cut back on gifts this year and were trying to be creative in gift giving. His dad was a huge fan -- could we possibly visit them? While that was not possible, Sully placed a call to their home, where the young boy answered the phone. I could hear the boy’s shrieks all the way across the room. After talking with him for a few minutes, Sully asked to speak to his dad. He told him what a thoughtful young son he had, a son who obviously loved him very much. I remember crying that night thinking how such a simple act on our part had made them so happy.

In all these months since the accident I can only recall three days when we had no mail regarding the accident. Just today we received a wedding invitation from an engaged couple who were on Flight 1549. Included in the invitation was a note that said, “Words cannot express how much we thank you. We now look forward to our marriage and starting a family.”

And so as I reflect on what my personal gratitude letter should include this year, I hardly know where to begin. But to those many people who wrote to us, my heartfelt thanks. And like so many letters say to us, thank you hardly seems enough.

Before January 15, 2009, Lorrie Sullenberger led a quiet—yet accomplished—life as a fitness expert, local television personality and suburban mom. With infectious enthusiasm, strength and candor, Sullenberger shows that the only way to make it through trauma is to point yourself in the right direction and take one step at a time. Currently working on a book on preparing for and making it through life’s challenges, Sullenberger empowers audiences by showing what skills are necessary to make yourself ready for whatever life throws your way.

A longer version of this post was first published in Woman’s Day November 2009 issue.

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It's Time to Pay It Forward

07/8/10 | Maud Purcell | 3 Comments

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Maud Purcell, Coach & Corporate Consultant

Especially in hard times, we need to remember how powerful one kind gesture can be.  When people are losing faith in the economy and in trusted institutions, small acts of unanticipated kindness can help restore faith in the fundamental goodness of mankind.

I like to think of myself as someone who looks for the good in others. I must admit, however, that in the past few years, in a culture where individuals seem to be have become increasingly self-focused, I have gradually become more cynical about peoples’ willingness to reach out and help others. But just last week, I re-learned a valuable lesson. Here’s what happened.

I got home from work to discover that our mailbox and the post supporting it had been destroyed.  My first thought was that it had been done by kids pulling a prank, or by vandals. But that evening my husband answered a knock at our front door. Two women who barely spoke English had come to tell us that they had accidentally backed into our mailbox.  They expressed remorse, and said that they intended to replace the mailbox the next day.  My husband and I were genuinely surprised that these strangers had gone out of their way to do the right thing, but frankly we didn’t really expect that they would fix it. Surprised yet again, the next evening we returned home from work to find that the post and mailbox had, indeed, been replaced. 

But the story continues. That day, my husband, who was under a strict deadline for work, found himself offering to drive a co-worker to pick up his car at a repair shop.  My husband attributed his own willingness to help his co-worker, despite his own stressful circumstances, to the kindness demonstrated by the women who had hit our mailbox.  He remarked that he wanted to “pay it forward.”  I thought back over my own day, and realized that I had also been especially understanding with a client in difficult financial circumstances, for exactly the same reason.

Now imagine if the people my husband and I each helped, in turn, decided to help someone else, and so on.  It’s amazing how one simple act of random kindness can create an ongoing ripple effect.

We understand how these small acts can help those around us, but here are the reasons why reaching out to someone in need may also benefit you, personally:

  • Doing so will help you, in the moment, to forget your own problems.
  • You will be acting as a great role model for those around you, and especially for your children.
  • You will feel better about yourself as a person.
  • You will be helping, one deed at a time, to restore others’ faith in humanity.
  • Maybe, in time, the good deed you’ve done will come back around to you.

Maud Purcell, MSW, LCSW, CEAP, is a skilled and seasoned psychotherapist, as well as a trained Coach and Corporate Consultant. She is the owner of Maud Purcell & Associates Inc., and she writes a regular column for The Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, The Danbury Times and CT Post Newspapers.

More by Maud Purcell:

What Your Emotions Are Trying to Tell You

The 6 Hidden Blessings of Being Single

A Family Survival Guide for the Holidays

When Your Family Doesn't Cut It, Create a New One

Overwhelmed? Dump, Delegate & Deal

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Announcing The Great June Giveaway Winner

  • Family and Friend
  • Architects of Change

07/6/10 | The Women's Conference | 0 Comments

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Guys We Love: Who do you love & why?

At The Women’s Conference, we focus on women and women’s issues – covering everything from women entrepreneurs to women’s health to women Architects of Change. But we know that – as men need women, we women need men – to make a difference in the world, to inspire us, and to give us moral and emotional support.

Our Great June Giveaway offered The Women’s Conference community the chance to reflect on the great “guys” in their lives – and to share those guys with the rest of us.

We received many thoughtful, heartfelt responses from you. An overwhelming number of women chose husbands, partners, sons & fathers -- those who gave them love, respect, encouragement and affirmation. The winning response and two honorable mentions are below. Visit The XX Effect: Generation to Generation for more Guys We Love.


Cynthia Harty:

I love the guy at the auto dealership who talks to me like he would any man who walks through the door. I love the guy who installs or repairs something in my home and initiates a conversation with me as to what he is doing and accepts critique or suggestions. I love the man who defers to a woman in the room when she is an expert. I love my Internal Medicine Doctor whose first words when he met me were "Okay lets start from the beginning, tell me everything that happened", and then he listened. He then followed that up with "I'd like to get a second opinion". I love and admire the respect and will return it always.

Honorable Mentions


The man I love passed away over 20 years ago. That man was my father. He adopted me when I was four years old and was never anything but my "real" Dad. I only discovered that he was my stepfather when I was 12 years old. However, I never once questioned his love for me as his daughter. If someone made a comment about how much I looked like him considering I was not his biological child, he would immediately correct him or her and say, “of course she looks like me, she is my daughter”. He was the gentlest, kind, and loving person I have ever known. I never heard him raise his voice at me when he often had cause. He did not have to... all he had to say was how disappointed he was in my actions. And, then state that he was certain that I was more disappointed in myself.

I made a decision that the only way I could ever repay my Dad for accepting me as his daughter was to do the same for another child. My husband and I are now in our 60's and have three grown children. One child is adopted; I just cannot remember which one.

Kay Presto:

Who is the man I love?

He‘s a special person who has opened up a whole new life for me. He's explained things that I never had explained before, made me feel safe in my own body, helped me understand many mysteries, and so much more.

He has explained terms I’ve never heard before, has shown me eye-opening things I’ve never seen before, and taught me how to live a long and happy life.
And he does it all with a jolly smile and makes all these mysteries fun.

Who is this man? Of course, it’s Dr. Mehmet Oz himself!

Here’s a man who has shared with us the beauty and strength of our human bodies, showed us the bad effects of poor eating, smoking, and other bad habits, and makes it fun to live a good healthy life.

I’ve watched him ardently on television, even before he had his own show, and have marveled at his knowledge of our bodies, and how clearly he presents every single fact.

And why do I love him so much? Because he has demystified our bodies, and taught us to be proud and happy with the one God gave us.

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Announcing The Great May Giveaway Winner

  • Architects of Change

06/9/10 | The Women's Conference | 6 Comments

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Just last week we announced the recipients of the 2010 Minerva Award®. This week we want to share with you the many, many more Minervas among us in The Women’s Conference community.

On May 1st we asked you to tell us when you first realized that you could make a difference -- What was your Minerva Moment? 

Hundreds of you have had Minerva Moments and recognize the power you wield in your day-to-day lives. Many of you have started foundations and nonprofits to answer a need in your communities and the world; others have used your time and skills to raise money or awareness on behalf of others. Some of you have stood up to abusive partners, and still others of you have taught your children the value of giving back.

Explore The Women’s Conference community’s many Minervas and Minerva Moments here, My Minerva Moment.

Below is The Great May Giveaway winning response, as well as the three honorable mentions. These women found the strength – sometimes in the face of adversity – to help the women in the Congo who had been brutally raped, to remember that giving back is something we can do every day, to reach out to AIDS patients, and to help other women who have been in abusive relationships.



My Minerva Moment occurred when I was a senior in high school. My mother was watching the Oprah Winfrey show as she normally did after work. One night she called me into the room and told me to watch something very important.

As reporter Lisa Ling told the horrific stories of women who had been brutally raped in the Congo I sat there, tears falling from my eyes. I was so moved to do something—anything!

My heart ached to help so I went before my school administration with the idea of a fundraiser. I was denied at first—told the topic was too racy. I fought for these women because their story needed to be told.
Eventually I received enough support. I ordered the transcripts from the Oprah Winfrey show, created a slideshow of images and retold the stories of these women in front of my entire community.

I put faces to stories, which made the topic real for people, who knew nothing of third-world suffering. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

I organized a weeklong bake sale to raise awareness. Donations came pouring in with notes of encouragement. We raised $1,100 and sent it to Women for Women International.

This was my Minerva Moment and it has become my life’s calling. I now work for a women’s magazine in NYC. There is no greater bond than that of one woman to another. It is a bond that knows no boundaries.

Honorable Mentions:

Sally Ann

How great would it be if we were all capable of not only having "Minerva Moments" to share, but we can share what it means to have a "Minerva Lifestyle". So I challenge you all who are writing about your "moments" to really think about not just having "sprinkles" of kindness, greatness, compassion....but consider living a life full of these "Minerva Moments". So many of us take on causes which we excel at but we fail in our day to day life to be loving to our children, kind to housekepeers, compassionate with our .....you know where I am going with this. It is our interaction and relationships with others that allows us to live a "Minerva Lifestyle". Do you inspire every person you meet to be better in some way? Do you bring sunshine as you enter a room? As trivial as this may sound, it is these little acts that send out energy to others that they also deserve a "minerva lifestyle" and hey...before you know it, we are all "minervaing".....if such a "verb" even exist. And if it does not, well maybe it should since Minerva is a word of action so it should be a verb;-) Best of luck to all of you!


In 1995, my husband and I were active in a local church. Our pastor was very dynamic but vehemently homophobic, a trait I found troubling. After working for years in the fashion industry, I had many gay friends and a great compassion for the gay community. Rather than change churches, we decided to confront the issue by spearheading an outreach to AIDS patients. The church wanted no part of our proposal, so we pursued the ministry on our own, launching a weekly Bible study at a nearby hospice. Many of the men we ministered to were wary – they had never received love and acceptance from Christians before. One evening, a very ill young man learned I was going through fertility treatments and offered to pray for me. His sweet, simple prayer touched me – he’d wanted nothing to do with God just a few months earlier. He passed away right before his prayer was answered – I gave birth to my son eight months later. At his memorial, the young man’s family thanked me for making a difference in his life. In truth, he was the one who made a difference in mine. Today, my husband and I are still called to reach out to those the traditional church rejects and have a passion to touch all people with God’s unconditional love.


Being in an abusive marriage, hiding behind lies and not telling anyone because I felt ashamed; I took this energy to help others. One day at work a supervisor came to me and pleaded with me to help one of the female worker's who had been out "sick" for several days by asking the owner not to terminate her. She was getting out of the hospital after her husband abused her. She did not want to press charges because she had two small children and was afraid. I went to my car and brought a handful of domestic violence brochures in Spanish that I helped create with the Los Angeles DA's office explained that she needed to be safe for her children and her was a list of programs and shelters. The next week the supervisor asked for more brochures. She wanted to hand them out in her neighborhood and she found out there was another lady at work who was also being abused. I gave her a box of the brochures and later learned that the female worker was in one of the shelters and getting help for herself and her children. I decided to start a program "Refuse to Abuse" for high schools along with celebrities, the Los Angeles DA office and people who had been effected by abuse to educate kids and make them accountable to stop the abuse and don't become part of the cycle.

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Man Enough for The Women’s Conference

  • Work and Money
  • Architects of Change

05/28/10 | Sean Molloy | 3 Comments

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Sean C. Molloy

By Sean C. Molloy

“We need a man in this office. If we get one more dose of estrogen in here, I‘m gonna lose my mind.”

Those words – from the well-seasoned professional who runs the influential Women’s Conference -- were music to my ears. She was looking to hire a man at the Conference headquarters. And that was my “in” to snag an interview for a job.

She wasn’t looking to procure a cure-all “Mary Poppins” or Man Friday for an executive’s office. These down-to-earth women just needed an administrative assistant -- someone to change the water cooler in the office or wrap the occasional gift basket, fabulously.

Nervously I prepared for my interview, out of my carpetbag of tricks, I pulled the crispest pink Brooks Brothers shirt (thanks Dad!), the most ill-fitting dark denim jeans I could squeeze into, and asked my numerous hair stylist friends for suggestions on my current coif. (If I could have afforded it, there would have been teeth bleaching, tanning and even liposuction.)

Armed with my resume of network television assistant endeavors and my snappy personality, I ventured into waters untested by such a bird of so many varied feathers as I thought I was. I hadn’t a clue that the job that I needed and wanted, but was never on my “vision board,” would change my life…and add a few more colors to my proud, feathered frock!

Over a year later, one Women’s Conference under my belt and one approaching very quickly, one Best Buddies Ride down, one Alzheimer’s walk finished, countless hours worked and volunteered with the WE Programs and a year of treasured memories and friendships forged in so many ways, I realize…

  • Where else can a guy with a hint of mint, openly discuss his relationships -- whether professional, romantic or family related – with some of the most amazing minds in the world?
  • Where else can a guy ask if he looks fat in Banana Republic chinos and get an honest answer?
  • Where else can you cry on a friend’s shoulder, laugh out loud at everything, bag groceries for the less fortunate, celebrate Women’s History month with the history-makers, offer flu shots to the homeless, meet living legends, sing show tunes with Emmy nominees, swap recipes with actual mothers, talk about the curse of diseases, interact with political dignitaries, wrap gift baskets with the women who run Hollywood and comfort abused single mothers?
  • Where else can a guy who toiled for years in an “evolved man’s world” actually get the chance to do something that will make a difference in this world?

Well, ladies and gentlemen…right here at the center of The Women’s Conference community. I thank the good Lord everyday for my life: problems aside or behind me, for my mother, my sisters, my aunts, my nieces, my girlfriends, my extraordinary colleagues, and, of course, this hugely life-changing experience.

P.S.- I cannot wait to see the fall collections on every one of you ladies!

Sean C. Molloy was born and raised in LA, he has a BFA in Cinema from Southern Methodist University and worked for years in network television before finding himself at the center of it all as an Administrative Assistant at the Women's Conference. He enjoys long walks on the beach with his puppy Clancy.

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In Celebration of Moms

  • Family and Friend

05/13/10 | The Women's Conference | 60 Comments

The Women's Conference Celebrates Moms

Maria Shriver on the profound power of motherhood and her own experience of being both a mother and a daughter.


We invited you to share your own personal stories about motherhood -- what your mom means to you or what it means to be a mom. The winners receive --

We've chosen the 3 winning comments. They are --

Kristy Campbell:

I’ve never felt as powerful as a mother as when I was 8 months pregnant sitting outside of the drug-testing lab with my teenage daughter. I had suspected something was going on with her and was adamant about finding out exactly what. As she screamed at me in the car about how much she hated me, I heard a voice come out of me that said… “Fine. Hate me. You'll hate me when you are 20, you'll hate me when you are 30, and you may hate me for the rest of your life. But, at least you will have a life from which to hate me. I am your mother. I am not your friend. And if you are doing drugs, I’m going to find out and deal with it.”

Our story has a drug-free happy ending and now 2 years later, my daughter is off to college and we are starting to evolve the mom/daughter relationship into a friendship. I love and value the current relationship I have with her, however, I know that if I hadn’t been a mother first to her, we would never be on this path to friendship.


I Love all the wonderful stories of 'Mommie and me,' by people who had warm milk by their bedsides and a fairytale told to them until their eye's were sealed with a loving kiss from Mom. At one time i couldn't stand to hear them. Mothers day was such a difficult time. It use to be, "Bah Hum-bug", on mothers day.

Mothers Day has always been a day of feeling guilty for giving Mom cards that didn't bare an ounce of truth of who we were. If i hadn't had such a great relationship with my own son, the yearly greiving over the relationship i never had with my Mom and achingly longed for, would have been unbearable. Yet as i go and grow through life i become more understanding of Mom's hurt and pain of never being loved by her own Mom. The suicide of my Dad, the loss of my oldest son, didn't help either one of us at all. But, when i tell you how much strength, courage, and love has risen in the midst of this family. Once i decided this generational abusive behavior would stop with me, It did. I was a single parent and my son who is now in law enforcement with a beautiful family. I was determined he would know without a doubt, he is loved. Now, i'm very passionate about leading others to a place of a 'Loving Reality'. I Love my Mom very much and now i know, she couldn't give what she never had.

Have a blessed Mother's Day and know, Love never fails.
May 2010


I and even more so my sisters are now my mother's mother. As my mother of 8 children in 10 years having just celebrated her 89th birthday is suffering from the early stages of alzheimers disease and her daughters have stepped up to care for her as she spent many years caring for us. I think how ironic this care is as we bath our mother in the same blue cast iron tub she use to bath us....was her hair as she use to wash ours, dress her as she use to dress us and feed her as she to feed us. But the one thing she still does for herself is to apply her make-up. Growing up I will always remember how mom taught us how to use make-up and to never leave the house without lipstick....needless to say my sisters and I always look fabulous when we leave our homes. 

Care for our parents comes full cycle. Many questions why we would do this instead of just putting mom in a 'home', but the choice my sisters and I have made is to care for mom as long as possible even as we care for our own families and self. Mom made room for us as we grew and now we are making room for mom. Happy Mothers Day..mom!

Explore the rest of the inspiring motherhood comments below:

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Struggle for Life

  • Architects of Change

05/7/10 | Anne Goldfeld | 1 Comments

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Dr. Anne Goldfeld




In 2003, one of the better places to die of AIDS in Cambodia was in a hospice on the edge of Phnom Penh with an open-air porch and a view of the rice fields. Run by the Maryknoll Missionaries, its 13 beds were always full.  It was that year that I approached the photojournalist James Nachtwey to help us inform the world about the suffering exacted by tuberculosis and AIDS and the need for solutions. If people could see with their own eyes the decimated young people, or the infected babies who knew nothing but fever and pain in their short months on earth, perhaps the humanitarian agenda just might be shifted.

In one of the first beds at the hospice, we found a young widow with a shaved head staring at a snapshot of her baby girl, and waiting to die. She was emaciated with very advanced AIDS.  Moments before, she had signed the papers to give up her small daughter for adoption—she had no other options.

There were also terrible places to die of AIDS in Cambodia. A priest had taken me to a ward that was a last stop for destitute TB and AIDS patients. With few doctors and nurses and even fewer medical supplies, it was like a dumping ground for the infected poor where mothers and fathers, wives and children had only their touch to lessen the suffering of those they loved.

In one of the rooms of the ward, we found Chia Samouen. From Battambang in the west of the country, he had cleared landmines for a living. At 32, he had survived the minefields but not the visits to prostitutes he made two or three times a month. Samouen was typical of men who leave their village for work in the cities and become infected with HIV and then infect their wives. The husband typically dies first, leaving the wife and a new baby HIV positive. In fact, the majority of new AIDS infections in the world occur in monogamous women and in newborn children whose only crime was to share a heartbeat with their mother.

In addition to HIV infection, Samouen’s lungs were riddled with tuberculosis. And when TB partners with HIV, it becomes the perfect ‘match made in hell’.  TB has in fact, been the cause of death in nearly half of the 30 million AIDS deaths that have so far occurred globally, even though TB has been curable with a six to eight month course of therapy since the early 1970s.

Samouen was writhing in pain and holding his belly due to a bleeding ulcer. The pinks of his eyes were stark white indicating that his hemoglobin was extremely low, probably from bleeding. He was unable to drink or eat. His wife had spent all of their money, selling even their small plot of land, to bring him to the hospital, and there was no money left to buy morphine or intravenous fluids.

With a seven-year-old daughter playing quietly in the corner of the room, his wife said she had decided not to abandon him. She would care for him until the end.  We brought drugs and went to donate blood but he was too far down one road and the end came a few days later after massive internal bleeding.

Shortly after that visit, the Cambodian Health Committee, the local Cambodian non-governmental organization I co-founded, set out to transform that ward to a place of life and hope.  And in the seven years since, over a thousand patients have received AIDS medications and many more have been cured of their TB. It is the major site for an international clinical trial that will determine the optimal approach to treating TB and AIDS and knowledge from this former ‘dying field’ will set global standards.

In the world today there are at least 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS including 2 million children and only 10% of these people have access to drugs.  The World Health Organization estimates that there are at least a half million new drug resistant TB cases annually—with less than 50,000 on therapy. Many in fact think the global number of drug resistant TB cases could be in the millions.

That poor people are condemned to die because of a lack of access to life-saving drugs and care for AIDS and TB is the most basic affront to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

Engaging that unique human ability to share the pain of another begins the process of repair.  It leads to solutions.  As the great Hasidic master Nachman of Bratslav wrote in 1810 before his death from TB at the age of 38, “the whole world is a very narrow bridge…the most important thing is to have no fear at all.”

Anne Goldfeld, a native Californian, is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the co-founder of the Cambodian Health Committee (also known as the Global Health Committee www.globalhealthcommittee.org). Parts of this piece were excerpted from an installation photo/word piece created with James Nachtwey for the photo exhibit ‘Struggle for Life’ presented in Paris, Bangkok, and Berlin.

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Announcing the Great April Giveaway Winner

  • Architects of Change

05/5/10 | The Women's Conference | 2 Comments

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What’s the biggest risk you ever took, and did it pay off?

Here at The Women’s Conference, we have been incredibly moved and inspired by the responses from our community.   We’ve heard from women across generations and around the world who have risked so much and – for the most part - have gained even more.  They’ve risked everything  -- from walking away from successful careers to pursuing their dreams to leaving relationships and marriages – some abusive; from going into debt to start their own businesses to giving up the comforts of their lives to help others. The courage, resourcefulness and big-heartedness of The Women’s Conference community amaze us.

Below is The Great April Giveaway winning response, as well as the three honorable mentions. These women’s commitment to giving back and to staying true to who they are reminds us that it’s time to believe in ourselves – such that we take those risks that we might otherwise shy away from.


Cherie Davis, 50:

After finally getting my college degree at 36 (the first in my family), I sold everything I could and left a very successful career to backpack around the world at age 36. I went alone, with a one way ticket to Chile, a pack and boots. My purpose would be to help in communities where I could, teach about the environment, work in wildlife sanctuaries and getting to know more about the people that we share this planet with. My focus was especially on the women and I stayed with women in over 33 countries. It meant so much to me for them to share their world with me and to know that I brought something that enriched their lives in one way or another. I often stayed with the poor and helped by providing a little of what money that I had or helping in their fields. I tried to be the best ambassador that I could be for Americans and an example of what women can do. It took 4 years and I returned with my 45 pound pack at the age of 40 years old. I was then sleeping at friends homes, homeless, unemployed and had to start my life over at 40. It was a big risk. My career took more than 6 years to get back on track. It was one of the best thing I had ever done and it served to broaden the horizons of the children that followed me on their maps, friends and family members. My contributions were one family at a time. Women can do anything.....I am proof. Worth it.......I now work in my communities to be a better citizen of our world. I run a green business and know that we all have a bigger role to play outside of ourselves.

Honorable Mentions:

Alystar Mckenneh

In August 05 as I watched Hurricane Katrina decimate New Orleans I hopped on my motorcycle and rode to Louisiana. I had 135 dollars in my pocket, a computer and a full tank of gas. I borrowed a cell phone from a friend. I arrived in New Orleans 4 days later and stayed there for two months rescuing animals, sleeping on top of my motorcycle and helping where ever I was needed. I didn't have a plan but I knew that one American with strong arms and a degree of optimism to spread could lead people who were tired and lost.

It worked, I saved animal lives, I helped heal hearts, I made friends who I will have for a life time and I felt bullet proof after that.

Verybusybeth, 50s

In 2000, I went to Washington, DC to testify before a subcommittee hearing on pediatric cancer research. At age 41, I had never been to Washington before. My 12 year old daughter, Katie, had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and she went with me. After telling my story, and shaking the whole time, the entire room stood up and gave all the kids present a standing ovation for the courage they had to fight the disease. It was out of that experience I dedicated my personal and professional goals to making a difference for other families living with cancer. Today I work for a cancer prevention organization in Alexandria, VA and I strive to make a difference each and every day. Katie passed away in 2001 after a valiant fight. To this day, strangers come up to me to tell me how she made a difference in their lives. I probably never would have come to DC if Katie had not gotten cancer. Now I know courage comes at the most unexpected times.

Jennschraut, 31

The biggest risk I've ever taken was coming to terms with my sexuality at 28 (I'm now 31), realizing I was gay and asking for a divorce after almost 5 years of marriage to a man. It was the most difficult decision I had ever made in my life. I was incredibly confused and scared, but knew that I wasn't living the life I wanted. Instead, I was living the life I thought I 'should' by my family (being raised Irish Catholic) and society's standards. I was afraid to admit to myself, never mind my husband (at the time), family, friends and colleagues that I was gay. I didn't know if people would accept me, never mind love me. When I came out, it was the most incredible experience. It felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, which I bared for years. Not only did I find myself and feel confident in who I was, but I found the love and support of family and friends, which I feared I would lose. My risk to be open and honest with myself, paid off in being a happy and confident woman. Had I not done this, I would never have met my partner and fell in love. And for me, love (of self and others) is the greatest pay-off.

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Back Unit Guys & The Non-Existent Back Unit Gal

  • Family and Friend

04/23/10 | Ande Dagan | 0 Comments

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Ande Dagan





There’s a certain prototype of male that is portrayed in movies - the adorable slacker. This under-employed guy with the quick wit and the high score on Wii bowling marks the passage of time by how long it takes him to go through a bag of weed. With his happy-to-be-exactly-where-I’m-at attitude and complete lack of ambition, we’re led to believe that this guy has it all – well, except for clean clothes, a girlfriend, a healthy body type, a second towel, access to a vegetable and a checking account. 

This slacker guy also exists in real life. My colleague, Matthew DiGirolamo, has cleverly branded this breed of male -- “Back Unit Guy.” He’s the late 20s/early 30s dude who lives in someone’s guest house and spends his unshowered days scouring the Internet for funny cat videos, and, ahem, other provocative entertainment. The real life version of the slacker, however, is not as lovable as his movie counterpart. We all know this guy and none of us wants to date him (for long), hire him, or admit we’re related to him. He’s given up on being a contributing member of society and as long as he’s not hurting anyone, or in need of a clean pair of matching socks, he’s free to be as he is.

Back Unit Guy’s free pass to slack got me wondering two things. Is there an equivalent Back Unit Gal? And if there is, would she be given the same leeway to exist as her male counterpart? 

I’ve known women in their late 20s and early 30s who don’t fully have their acts together. They can’t keep a steady job or commit to a meaningful relationship. They make bad decisions. But the one thing these women do have is ambition. They aspire to own furniture that didn’t come from their parents’ house, find a partner in life, and have a career oriented job that allows them to pay their bills and buy a vacuum cleaner. Sure some of them are lazy, but none of these women has accepted this lifestyle as their fate and is willing to live like this for the long run (unlike the Back Unit Guy who has cultivated this way of living on purpose). 

Is it because women are caretakers by nature that they have goals and aspirations? Or is it because women simply aren’t allowed to be this way? 

From an early age, our subconscious is stimulated by images of petite, physically attractive women. Rarely do you see a woman who is 15 pounds overweight on TV (reality shows exempted), let alone a woman who hasn’t showered in days and has a ketchup stain on her shirt (Britney Spears doesn’t count – that’s a whole other post). But for men, such deficiencies are just part of the "charm" of being a Back Unit Guy.

Are there fewer Back Unit Gals because women hold hygiene in a higher regard? Would we find ourselves simply grossed out by living that way of life? Why is it not acceptable or charming for women to be Back Unit Gals? What do you think?

Ande Dagan is the web producer for The Women's Conference.

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Tips to Reduce Your e-Waste

  • Architects of Change

04/21/10 | Reena De Asis | 7 Comments

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Reena De Asis

Are you one of the average consumers who replaces her cell phone every nine months?

In a world of constant electronic upgrades, we’re generating more than 3.2 million tons of e-waste in the U.S. each year alone, according to the EPA.

But it doesn’t have to be this way -- your e-waste can be reduced, reused, or recycled. Here’s how:

Choose green electronics

In the market to buy a new electronic gadget? Choose one that will generate less waste:

  • Visit Greenpeace International’s Guide to Greener Electronics, ranking the top 18 manufactures of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.
  • Scan through the myGreenElectronics searchable database for green products. (This site is loaded with solutions -- including tips on how to fix and extend the life of your electronics.)
  • Find products that have the ENERGY STAR logo, indicating that they are energy efficient, which will help you save on your bills, too.

Reuse or sell your e-waste; Don’t let it gather dust

  • Donate your working e-waste to a friend or a charity. If, for instance, your old cell phone is still usable, consider donating it to a good cause. Cell phone donation locations, programs and drop-off sites are available nationwide. Recycle with CollectiveGood and support regional charities. To make recycling easy, CollectiveGood has drop-off sites like Staples stores, or you can send them your phone via mail.
  • If you feel like making a little money by selling your e-waste, consider listing it on ebay and be part of the Rethink Initiative, educating and enabling members to take action to reduce e-waste.

Locate local recycling options

Recycle on the go. Download Earth911’s iPhone app iRecycle, or visit TIA E-cycling Central to find the nearest recycling center accepting select recyclable items – like compact fluorescent light bulbs, computers, phones -- based on your zip code in the U.S.

Join a recycling incentive program

Need a little incentive to recycle, like earning points that you can redeem for stuff? As a member of RecycleBank, you can earn points by participating in a curbside recycling program. The weight of your cart will determine how many points you earn, redeemable from over 1,500 partners such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods, CVS Pharmacy, etc. To date, the material recycled by the households they service has enabled RecycleBank to save cities tens of millions of dollars annually in landfill disposal fees, save over 1.5 million trees, and save millions of gallons of oil.

Participate in manufacturer and retail recycling

The Electronics Takeback Coalition has an online list of manufacturers that have a voluntary takeback program.

Take it from Kermit, who figured out it isn’t so hard to be green after all, “I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful and I think it's what I want to be.”

Reena De Asis is a MarCom professional with experience in the corporate, agency and non-profit sectors. As an enthusiastic, resource-savvy and creative solution leader, she embodies the innovative main character in Amelie. When she's not initiating a corporate volunteer program or organizing a renovation mural project, Reena immerses herself in live music or savoring chocolate nuggets of wisdom. Words to live by: "My life is my message," by Mahatma Gandhi. Her passion is www.laworks.com

More by Reena De Asis: Skip the Staycation: 7 Ways to "Earn" a Real Vacation

More on How to Go Green:

Kim Barnouin on How to Save Your Waistline & the Planet

Debbie Levin's New Tips on How to Clean Green

Save Money (& Your Health) By Going Green by Whitney Lauritsen

Debbie Levin on How to Green Your Holidays

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