My First Marathon

One week ago, I was lined up with more than 7,000 runners waiting for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon to begin. Some were listening to music, bouncing around, or starting to shed the sweats they layered for the start line. I was doing yoga, per usual, in  the little space I carved out for myself, and couldn’t help be intimidated by the people around me.

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Should I have worn a garbage bag over my torso? (A question I never thought I’d ask) I wondered what they ate for breakfast, or if I should have gotten to the corral sooner.

I was distracted from these thoughts when the emcee asked who was running a marathon for the first time. I threw up my hands and cheered, and tears came to my eyes.

When is the last time you did something for the first time? Whatever doubts I had about the next 26.2 miles were nothing compared to the intrigue of the unknown. I told myself, this is the last time you will run a marathon for the first time. You will compare any future race to this one, so you need to make this experience exactly what you want it to be.

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Whether you’re interested in running a marathon, or want to be the best cheerleader for someone else taking this challenge on, here are my takeaways and some of the best advice I received-

1. My fanny pack of love notes: On one of my long runs, I thought about a gratitude practice I could have during the race. I landed on asking friends and family to write notes with words of encouragement or anything they’d like me to read during the race. It took a bit of vulnerability to request this from others, but I’m so glad I did.

I had just over 26, and was able to open a note each mile. I would ABSOLUTELY recommend it, and can’t imagine this race without that ritual. Each mile marker, instead of thinking about how many more miles I had, I was excited it was time to open another note. I can’t thank my note writers enough!

2. “Just have fun and don’t be nervous, it’s not like you’re going to win!” This was 100 percent accurate, in fact, here’s who won, by literally running twice as fast as me. Truly, my number one goal was to have fun. At some points in my training, this seemed like a very unrealistic goal. But just like how my idea of fun being getting up at 6 am for yoga, or planning a great carpool, I had a blast running this marathon.

I was smiling ear to ear for 90% of it (here’s a hot take- what if the race was only 20 miles??) and because winning was off the table, I paid attention to my pace but not my time. That meant stopping to talk with and take selfies with the amazing cheerleaders that navigated closed roads and big crowds to watch me. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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Friends, Ingrid and Cyrus, mile 7
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Family friends- Taylor Ann, Owen (who ran out to hug me), and not pictured, Josh! Mile 10
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The soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Finlay!! The kisses from Lola were a game changer. Mile 13 and Mile 21
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My boyfriend and his wonderful family who visited for the weekend! Mile 17.5
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This put some pep in my step- Meeting our Senator at mile 24!!

3. Be flexible with your training: Enter the race with curiosity rather than a rigid plan. There will be surprises along the way, and this mindset will help you be present to embrace the happy ones— the INCREDIBLY enthusiastic dad that ran alongside his daughter, yelling, “ARE YOU SEEING THIS? LOOK AT HER GO!!!!”— and it will help you patiently assess the uncomfortable ones— like a stomach ache for the first 3 miles from a bigger breakfast.

Rather than reacting to this, I noticed it, and thought logically about where it could be coming from. Throughout training, I didn’t each much before my runs, which was more of a bad habit than best practice. I told myself the ache had to go away as I burned calories with each mile, and it did! Rather than going into a downward spiral about how I shouldn’t have tried something new, I postponed eating any gels until mile 7 because my body had enough fuel. You are always in control.

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Not the end of the race, or even a mile marker, just a really spirited street 🙂

4. “When something starts to hurt or get tired, think about how amazing your elbows feel. Notice the wind blowing in your hair.” This made me laugh when I first received it, and when I opened it mid-race. I can tell you one thing about a marathon, your elbows will not fail you.

I often tell my yoga students to notice everything they are doing, the space and strength they are creating, because it’s so easy to notice what we can’t do. That’s what I love about this- there is beauty in every moment.

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I loved this view crossing the bridge from Minneapolis to St. Paul

5. Lastly, carry a mantra with you. This was great advice from another yoga teacher, and I have another friend to thank for the mantra I chose. Inspired by Irene Fernando’s TedTalk, I borrowed the phrase “why not me?” If 7,000 runners are going to finish this race, why not me? If someone is going to make it up this hill, why not me? If there’s going to be someone that has fun for 26.2 miles, why can’t that person be me?

Rather than stemming from competition, this mantra reminded me that all of the strength, endurance, focus, positivity, and passion I needed to complete this goal was already within me. P.s. this question drives Irene to take on amazing challenges and make an impact in her community- you can learn more here.

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If you said encouraging words once, if you tracked my number on the race app, or followed me around the Cities on race day, thank you for being a part of this journey. While I can’t run a marathon for the first time again, I’d be very surprised if it was my last.

Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower Wings

One year ago, I was less than a month into my new job at Comcast, when it was time for an end of summer potluck/cook off. I rarely have the chance to compete in things that do not require hand-eye coordination or an understanding of basic organized sports.

After years of guessing my way through football and March madness brackets, here was a competition I actually had the skill set for. My confidence paid off, and I made the italian summer salad, Panzanella, and walked away with the appetizer trophy.

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So Long Summer Cook-Off 2017

This year, my confidence was a given. I had gotten used to seeing that beautiful trophy on my desk, and explaining to others how I became the proud owner. I knew I needed to enter the appetizer category again, so I could win and keep the travelling trophy.

I landed on cauliflower wings being my golden ticket. They’re a vegetarian, paleo, gluten free spin on a fall favorite (#trendy), and they would catch people’s eye. The more people who taste my dish, the more that can vote for me.  IMG_1126

As you may know from this blog, my recipes are scrappy. The recipes are made up, the dishes often are as well, and game-time decisions are rooted in what I happen to have in the pantry.

With so much on the line, however, I was motivated to do multiple trial batches of cauliflower wings. Finding recipes from all different trusted sources, I looked for the commonalities and tested out the differences. I feel confident that this recipe is the best cauliflower wing recipe out there. There, I said it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 heads of cauliflower (I used 1.5 for the tray you see above)
  • 1 bag of Mill’s almond flour, I probably used 2 cups
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp old bay seasoning or paprika, garlic powder, and salt/pepper
  • 2 cups Frank’s buffalo sauce
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/8 cup butter (optional)
  • Baking sheet with tin foil and olive oil/cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Chop cauliflower into florets– think about what size you want the “wings” to be
  • Pour 2 cups almond flour into separate bowl and mix in seasoning
  • Beat eggs in a separate bowl (if you’re not sure how many wings you’ll be making you can start with less and repeat the almond flour and egg steps)
  • Set up baking sheet with tin foil and lightly cover it with olive oil or cooking spray. This is an important best practice to keep the “breading” on the cauliflower.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Moving one piece at a time, dunk cauliflower floret in the egg and then roll in it the almond flour. Many other recipes said to put the almond flour in a bag and toss the florets in it until they are COVERED with flour. Absolutely not. Roll it lightly but cover most the surface.
  • Place on *lightly oiled* baking sheet, and repeat until full.
  • Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, then flip each piece *carefully to not remove breading* and bake for another 20 minutes. Another unique detail here vs. others is that I insist on not adding the sauce until all baking is complete.
  • While the wings are baking, mix your sweet and spicy buffalo sauce- Frank’s buffalo sauce (not the spicy buffalo, I made that mistake), agave nectar, and sesame oil. Add melted butter if a creamy texture is desired and there’s no dietary restrictions against it.
  • Once wings are finished baking, decide how much sauce you would like to have. For saucier texture and strong flavor, dunk each piece quickly in sauce and set back onto tray. For a more controlled approach, use a spoon to do a heavy drizzle over the wings.
  • Note: If you are not serving these on the same day as baking, i.e. potluck, do not apply sauce until time of serving and keep wings in Tupperwares, not refrigerated.

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And for all of you wondering, the buzz for the cauliflower wings was unprecedented. When it came time to collect votes, I anxiously awaited the results while trying to pretend I didn’t care at all; as if, perhaps, this was just an office potluck.

They announced the appetizer category was tied. Truly I was crushed. If assuming mine was one of the appetizers tied for first, how in the world did I tie? I wanted to win by a landslide. Unanimous. Maybe it’s good I’m not eligible for many competitions after all.

After wrangling a few more taste testers, the final results came in. The chef of the Reuben meatballs was the new proud owner of the appetizer trophy. I smiled and applauded, just as I learned from all the awards shows. It was confirmed later that I was the other dish originally tied.

Truthfully, it took hours, some would say days, to accept this loss. I cleaned and organized my desk with a more minimalist look and feel, and haven’t noticed the absence of the trophy. As ridiculous as it sounds, I still would have rather gave my heart and soul into a silly competition and still not win, than be too cool or reserved to let myself get swept away at all. I counted my success in the number of requests for this recipe, and awarded myself an A+ for effort. Take this recipe and run with it, you’ve got nothing to lose.

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Mind Tricks for Marathon Training

Do you even blog if you don’t have a “tips and tricks” title? While something so cliche pains me, I have found that a large part of my training has been tricking myself to rethink and reframe the task at hand.

Here are some tips whether you’re training for a race (of any distance) or if you’re still in the beginning steps of Couch to 5K 😉
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Trust your planning:

As I’ve mentioned before, people love to do math for marathon runners. I’ve often got the response to new mileage accomplishments, “Wow, and you are still going to have X miles after that!”

It’s important to take these comments with grace, and trust that you’re planning has you on the right track. Once I chose a training schedule, I made events on my google calendar for every Saturday leading up to the race with the mileage I’d be running. This allowed me to plan around obstacles, like weddings and work events, months ahead of time rather than making an excuse week of.

I also added month countdowns for every 7th of the month. Having the events “MM 4 MONTHS AWAY!” helped me keep my training top of mind, but also allowed me to relax as I remembered I had months of training to go.

Count up rather than down:

I understand saying I’m going for a 14 mile run doesn’t sound very appealing, I tend to feel the same. Rather than letting this goal daunt me, I set out on my run saying instead, “I’m going to run 7 miles and then I’ll run home.” As I’ve mentioned, being stranded 7 miles away from home makes it very motivating to keep the run going.

As I reach miles throughout, I don’t focus on how many miles I’ve accomplished, not how many miles I have remaining. If I slip up, I come back to the big picture- “I’ve only done four miles, I have 14 left to go! Well…I’m running 18 miles today and I’m done with 4.”

Lastly, in my 20 mile run last week, I split up the mileage in my mind to think, I just need to run 5 miles 4 times. At each 5 mile mark I would stop for a quick stretch (less than a minute) or refill my water. Running 20 miles always sounded daunting to me, and kind of still does, but this trick makes it much more manageable.

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Supplement your running
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A big goal when starting marathon training was to not hate running by the end of it. Just above that goal was my hope to not get injured. I let these two work together by not running more than I absolutely needed to. This meant having a loose interpretation of training schedules, focusing on quality instead of quantity.

Outside of my long runs on Saturdays, I’ve kept my 6 am yoga and yoga sculpt practice in my routine, but have added in 1-2 days of running a week. One of those days is a 5-8 mile run outside, and the other is spent at FlyFeet Running in downtown Minneapolis to combine sprint work and strength training.

To be honest, I haven’t seen any training schedules recommend this (unless we can now count this blog post as an expert opinion). But I’ve felt better after my 18 and 20 mile runs than I did after any of half marathons, so something must be working!

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In my yoga class this morning, I shared the idea of cautious curiosity. We were building on dancer (above) to king dancer pose, and later had more opportunity for backbends of bridge and wheel. “Recognize what your body has already done,” I shared, “This might be the time to explore a bigger expression, because you’ve been building to it. Or this might be the time to back off, because you’ve already asked enough.”

This is what I’ve kept in mind with my training. Yes, I should be able to run X amount of miles on a given day because I’ve been working towards this, but I must remain curious and give my body the chance to weigh in.

On race day, this might be stopping throughout for short breaks or walking. If it does, I’ll be truly present, take in the sights, and say hi to any familiar faces 🙂 If you’d like to be there in spirit, comment below with a message you’d like me to see. I’ll be opening a different message each mile to remember the amazing crew I have with me at all times!

#VoteIrene

I am very rarely at the cusp of trends. I tend to watch from the sidelines to see if a fad is here to stay, and then decide my plan of action.

This is something I miss about living in a sorority house. Information travels fast, and at Alpha Gam specifically, I could get ten different takes on a new place, fashion item, class, or topic just by sitting down for dinner.

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One of my greatest takeaways that I brought into the working world was how to collaborate and delegate. I learned it the hard way, by drowning in silent auction donations as a freshman holding my first leadership position as Philanthropy Coordinator. I silently made note when I noticed the boundless skills of the diverse women around me.

There was too much to be done, and too much that could be done, to do it alone. If I didn’t have an answer, someone did. If I didn’t have a skill, a connection, a resource, a sister did. Slowly, I realized our network was limitless, and that we might all be able to bring that spark to the communities and groups we encounter.

I remember one day, our alumnae Chapter President, Irene Fernando, and Recruitment Advisor, Ashley Harville, came to the chapter house during Monday night dinner. I was struck by their approachability. They showed me how I wanted to be an alumnae to the chapter. To be involved, relatable, and connected.IMG_0030 copy

In 2015, they stood in front of me and one hundred other senior sorority women, at an event Ashley planned and Irene was the keynote speaker.

She shared how the thought of “if someone is going to graduate and transform leadership, why not me?” changed the scope of what she believed was possible.

This question led her to wonder, in a dorm room with friends ten days into college, wouldn’t it be cool if we changed the world and Students Today, Leaders Forever (STLF) was born. (Find full speech here)

Last week, they stood in front of me again. This time in Ashley’s backyard, introducing Irene, this time as the DFL endorsed candidate for the Hennepin County Commissioner for District 2.

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#HypeCrew Meet and Greet at Ashley’s cozy NE home

Despite my delayed awareness for trends, once Irene announced her campaign last fall (the first candidate to do so) I knew I needed to be involved somehow.

Now, when I see the Vote Irene lawn signs, I have the reaction of Will Ferrell in Elf finding out Santa is coming- “I know [her]!!!” Working closely with Irene in our community makes me truly certain of her ability to lead, innovate, and transform Hennepin County.

Before this campaign, I didn’t know that the Hennepin County Commissioner was a role. I didn’t know it managed a 2.4 billion dollar budget, which put into perspective is more than the combined income of Beyonce and Jay-Z. I didn’t know how many decisions were being made and dollars allocated that directly impacted my neighborhood and community.

“In the face of outrageous circumstances, we are called to fight for the common good.” Irene Fernando

With this administration and current state of politics, I think everyone is wondering aloud or to themselves, what can I do. Sometimes that question is so overwhelming and the solutions seem so grand, that we do nothing at all.

I was stuck in this place for quite some time. I wanted to learn from all sides of the aisle that I stayed stationary and listened. As someone who rarely stops talking, I had a feeling this wasn’t the worst thing. What I was reminded of in this time, is that we didn’t need to figure this out alone.

For some, the curious question of “Why not me?” will lead to starting an organization or a campaign. For others, it’s recognizing how you can support what already exists.

Ashley and Irene have again paved the way for me, to display how sisterhood evolves. Irene’s #hypecrew is made up of Alpha Gams. And in that crew, there is a role for me, off the sidelines, that answers that scary question of, what can I do?

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Ashley is the queen of hosting
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Can we take a moment…

Today, Hennepin County Distict 2 Minnesotans, that answer is you can take part in a local primary election, and believe in what’s possible by voting for Irene Fernando.

“My future, and our future, is thanks to the told and untold stories of those who came before us. Ordinary people who chose to pave a path when there was none. Everyday people who risked some of themselves for the opportunity, for the responsibility to make a change.”

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Maya’s on the lookout for voters

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Marathon Training- Scrappy Style

I have always been driven by curiosity. And FOMO.

That’s why when the opportunity to join Team Comcast for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon arose, I knew I needed to be in on it. With five half marathons under my belt, I always had interest in doing a full marathon, but was too intimidated to pull the trigger. Thank god for FOMO.

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Hal Higdon Training Schedule, I mainly pay attention to the distances per week

When I trained for half marathons, I would do a long run each week, adding on a few miles each time. I wouldn’t bring water, mid-run fuel, or listen to music because it was distracting and it had never felt necessary. I figured I would do all the same things for the full distance, but with the guidance of a real training schedule (above) to tell me how to add that mileage on.

I later realized how many times I was telling myself, “this is the way it’s always been done” in reference to something I’ve never done.

If there’s one thing you could gather from this blog or from knowing me, it’s that I’m not great at following directions. They bore me. I’m more attracted to intuition, whether in cooking, marketing, design, or training. However, intuition cannot always replace reason, and that revelation hit hard when I was doing my first run past the half marathon distance.

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This 15 mile run compared to nothing else I had ever done. I needed to stop and stretch every couple of miles and was really only motivated by sticking to my training schedule and the fact that I wasn’t near home.

My legs felt like cinder blocks I was dragging along, but I kept going like this until 15.5 miles and walked the rest of the way home. Feeling lightheaded and pale, I thought about how the cars passing must be thinking about how sad I look. They must be thinking, “Aaaand that’s why I’m not a runner,” rather than “I bet that’s someone who just ran the longest distance in their life!” Based on how painful achieving that goal was, it didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment at all.

After consulting a few marathon-running friends, I realized my body didn’t fail me, I had failed my body.

Turns out, I had completely depleted my electrolytes by running that distance on little-to-no food prior, and only stopping for water once. The lead of my first aid/CPR class said I may have even been in shock.

Thinking about the 11+ miles I still needed to achieve after that run made me wonder if I could actually do this. This glass-half-empty mindset is a slippery slope. That’s the one thing I don’t like about sharing my marathon training with others, they’re always doing math for you. They ask about the longest distance you’ve run, and then calculate how much longer you still have to go. It’s really quite uplifting.

Before giving up on that, I needed to fully embrace that I’m not the expert, and that scrappy plans can only get you so far. Clearly doing it my way wasn’t working, so it was time to pivot instead of quit. What’s the point of being curious anyway if there aren’t any surprises?

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New and improved training best practices for long runs:

  • Hydrating the day before my run
  • Eating breakfast before run (I was leaving so early some mornings I didn’t realize I missed this)
  • Running with water bottle though I may order a belt with additional bottles
  • GU Gels for mid-run refuel: rough schedule so far is taking half of one before run, a full at mile 7, and then each 5 miles
  • Marine Collagen for joint recovery- bovine collagen peptides are more popular, but those aren’t pescetarian.
  • Cold shower afterwards (maybe one day I’ll be brave enough for an ice bath)

Maintaining original plans of:

  • Running Tuesday mornings with my early bird bestie
  • Long runs on weekend mornings, directly after I teach (if I go home I get distracted)
  • Cross training with yoga and sculpt throughout the week at my second home, Corepower Yoga
  • Going to Flyfeet Running around once a week so that someone holds me accountable to do sprints!
  • Not listening to music…we’ll see if I can keep holding out of this as my runs get longer. It’s partially for safety reasons (scary people, cars, bikes) but it also doubles as a moving meditation when I can actually hear myself think

17I can say with great pride that as of this week, this revised plan allowed me to accomplish 17.1 miles without pain or doubt. Of course, it was a challenge, but that’s what I signed up for.

I still took breaks, but they were intentional and purposeful rather than out of desperation. Most importantly, it allowed me to prove to myself that I can keep moving forward regardless of any bumps along the way.

I can say with confidence, but not certainty, that I can finish a marathon. But I don’t need to run a marathon today, or anytime soon, that’s for us to find out on October 7. Don’t worry, I’ll save you the math- that’s two long months away.

Energy Balls- Bites of Joy

We’re told to not set goals in an if-then mindset. Once I weigh this/get this promotion/buy this/ get married, I’ll be happy. For most things, I agree.

But the rules are broken for my recent purchase of a food processor. That DID make my life easier, happier, and I AM making all of the recipes I said “one day” to before. I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it.

These were meant to be peanut butter brownie bites, but I got feedback (from one of the 15 coworkers that devoured these) that the date and PB combo made it taste like a PB&J sandwich.  51Rz319kCLL._SY355_Uncrustables needed a face lift anyway. Welcome to 2018, kiddos.

Most importantly, one coworker, who is looking for me to help him be healthy described them as Bites of Joy, which took the cake in my book. Especially to my skeptical manager’s praise of “much better than I expected.”

Most importantly, here’s how you make them. And just like all the blogs that drove me crazy for years, I can only speak to how to make them with a food processor. You could try out a lot of almond chopping and date crushing, but I can’t make any guarantees.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • ~20 medjool dates, or use the full pack from Trader Joe’s like I did and skip the counting
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup mix ins: I used cocoa nibs and chia seeds
  • Sprinkle of sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Put almonds into food processor, grind until they are finely chopped like an almond meal
  2. Add mix ins, cocoa powder, peanut butter (disperse this as much as you can) salt and maple syrup
  3. Pit dates (I just pulled the pits out) and add to mixture. Run until they are finely chopped and blended with all other ingredients.
  4. Take out and form into balls, and enjoy! Keep in fridge for best results.

Enjoy!

Mother’s Day- Inspire the Woman, Impact the World

I love Mother’s Day for reminding myself and others to reflect on the powerful and supportive mothers and mother figures in our lives. For my mom, that was done through bridging our Minneapolis-Milwaukee gap with a phone call this morning, and a card en route (and taking its sweet time if I may say). But this year, that’s not all this holiday means to me.

While my mom will always be the Queen of my Mother’s Day, today, I was also reminded of the powerful and supportive female-driven communities I am a part of and have access to. For me, the last week was like a drum roll to Mother’s Day.

inspireSunday afternoon brought me back to my sorority chapter house for our monthly Executive Council meeting, on which I serve as the Philanthropy Advisor. While the meetings aren’t known for their brevity; for me, the time flies. I become consumed by the energy in the room and the vibrant conversation– the main topics and the side conversations I can’t help but start.

This time, I was most struck by the impact the chapter women have on our community. There are collegiate women serving the country through National Guard, they are in the marching band, orienting new students as welcome week leaders, and running student groups across campus. While it’s no longer our key phrase/slogan, I was reminded of the words, “Inspire the Woman. Impact the World.” I love this phrase, this mission statement for not being an if; then. It’s absolute. It’s not a goal, it’s a reality in this very moment.

The next night, the External Affairs team at Comcast offered me a seat at the Girl Scouts: Women of Distinction dinner and benefit. Once there, my guilt set in as I realized the breadth of this organization; and while I was able to rise under the preset of “once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,” I knew elementary-Sarah didn’t even skim the surface of the opportunities available.girl scouts

I heard similar values I associate with my sorority being echoed by Girl Scouts ages 16 to 70. GIRL now stands for Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader. I can only imagine how my outlook, experiences, and priorities would have shifted if those were elementary-Sarah’s guiding values. If that was how I described myself, and even more so, if that was how I described the girls around me.

Girl Scout CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, shared her own story of refusing to choose between earning the baking and science badge, and pursued them both. Despite being told by a college counselor, “Girls like you don’t go to college,” she went on to be one of the first Hispanic female rocket scientists.

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Thursday, I was invited to fill in for a coworker at the YWCA luncheon, and didn’t even check my calendar before accepting. By attending, I was able to sit at a table of driven Comcast women and listen to speakers from all different walks of life speak to the impact YWCA has had on them. ywca1.jpg

After Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” perfectly welcomed her to the stage, Kim Nelson, former Vice President at General Mills, shared this powerful sentiment with us,

“My hope for my daughters, for all of you, and for myself is that each of us wake up everyday and live as women of power. Confident, courageous, and intent on empowering ourselves and others to change the world for better.”

medal1.jpgThe week ended with two sponsored events of Jessie Diggins, the Team USA Gold Medalist Cross Country Skiier. Even though I was taking my self-proclaimed job of photographer and videographer very seriously, I couldn’t help being in awe of the number of girls cross country ski teams that came in, together, to meet their idol and inspiration.

They were poised, and prepared with great questions of how Jessie reaches new goals. They sought advice and soaked in every word she gave them. These girls struck me as the type to describe themselves and each others as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

I saw first hand, they’ve been inspired. They will impact the world.

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