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Submitted by anna on Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:29
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5 books by & for women

Traveling alone could be one of the most fulfilling and exciting experiences of your life--but, when you tell friends and family that you're embarking on a solo trip, you're often met with mixed responses. Suddenly everyone suggests that you bring a friend, gives you a can of pink pepper spray, or has some cautionary tale of a woman they heard of who was kidnapped and never heard from again. While their fears are usually warranted, there are some inspiring stories  of women who have had rewarding experiences. Here are five books, provided by BookPeople in Austin, TX, detailing the experiences of women who took a leap of faith and came out better on the other side. 


Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis (2011)

Becoming Odyssa


Davis is an avid hiker who grew up in North Carolina and fell in love with long-distance backpacking. At age 21, she found herself at a crossroads, unsure of what she wanted to do with her life. To find her purpose, she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, a 2175-mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine. As a solo female hiker, she wrote this memoir to detail the hardest and most challenging four months of her life. With every mile she hikes, she gets closer to understanding herself and what she wants to do with her life.  


Tracks by Robyn Davidson (1995)



Queensland-born Davidson wrote this personable (and hilarious) memoir about her 1,700-mile trek through the Australian desert with four camels and a dog for company. She tackles life in Australia in the 70's, recounting the rampant sexism, racism, and harshness of the outback. Tracks is the compelling journey of one women who made a courageous decision. 


The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman (2011)

Good Girl's Guide


Self-described "good-girl" Friedman did well in school and always played by the rules before doing something she had never done before: went out on a whim. She spontaneously bought a plane ticket to Ireland, forming a friendship with a free-spirited adventurer along the way. They depart on a year-long adventure galivanting through three continents. This memoir is exceedingly charming, and you'll be hard-pressed to put it down.  


Taschen's New York: Hotels, Restaurants, and Shops by Angelika Taschen (2009)

Taschen's New York


Beautifully illustrated and design-forward, Taschen takes you through New York City hotels, restaurants, and shops through the lens of a well-connected local. It includes off the beaten path recommendations that are sure to keep you on your feet and impress your friends. (Bonus-- it would be a stunning coffee table book). 


Swimming Holes of Texas by Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy (2018) 

Swimming Holes of Texas


Written by two Austin-based ladies, Wernersbach and Tracy, guide you through the best swimming holes in Texas. They spotlight one hundred natural spots across the state, some hidden finds as well as more popular ones. Every swimming hole includes stunning pictures of the scenery, making you want to jump in a car with your girlfriends immediately.  



HERdacity thanks BookPeople for providing all 5 women-centric travel books. You can find all of these books online or at their N. Lamar Austin store.

books for womens travel
books for womens travel


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Submitted by Jen at HERdacity on Fri, 12/15/2017 - 10:18
Sub Title
How to Preserve Your Sanity Over the Holiday Week

Tell the truth. How many movies have you watched this week? OK, don’t answer.


If there’s a support group for women who stay home with their entire family for a week each December, I haven’t found it yet. You may think I’m kidding, but along about the fourth day after Christmas (hey, that’s today!), I begin to feel like spilling all my troubles to absolute strangers on the internet or a local Meetup. I might even leave the house for that.


Can we be real? The holidays are rough for those who take comfort in a productive schedule.


Now, I know there are people who would relish the problem of too much family time, and I also realize there are extroverts who thrive on entertaining company in close quarters... This isn’t for them. This is for the rest of us.


Consider the melancholy some of us – not all introverts, by the way –  deal with over the holidays. The year’s door quietly closing forever. And the overspending. And the idiotic food choices we succumb to from about mid-November through Jan 1st.


Then, as if that weren’t fodder for open season on self-loathing, you’re trapped inside the house with all the people closest to you. For a very. Long. Time.


Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, chances are you have been in close unusually close cahoots with people you normally see coming and going from day to day, if not far less frequently. How soon the magic fades when there’s no work or school to break up the fun!


Is it any coincidence that there are Twelve Days of Christmas AND 12-step programs for overcoming negative habits, guaranteed to make you a better person – if not you, then someone else in your overfull household? (You know the one.)


Maybe you're like me, and it's already been too much Netflix, and too much Family Fix. On this, “the fourth day of Christmas,” the house is starting to feel like a pressure cooker.  If your creative juices have ben diluted in in wassail and inactivity, it’s probably time to break out. Here are some ideas.


Eleven ways to break out of the home pressure cooker:


  • Escape to a movie alone. By that, I mean leave the house. Find a flick that passes the Bechdel test, just for good measure.


  • Take a walk. The worse the weather, the better. Anyone who wants to come along with you may need the stress relief more than you. Take deep cleansing breaths full of fresh cold air.



  • Write in a journal, write late Christmas or New Year cards, write thank you notes, do a crossword puzzle. I learned long ago that when you have a pen in your hand, people don’t bother you. Try it.



  • Call someone. Texting doesn’t count. Holidays are just the time to catch up with old friends. Chances are that buddy on the other side of the country needs a time-out as badly as you.


  • Tidy up. Get a leg up on clearing out the Christmas decorations. We have a long Christmas week this year, and we had a long span between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so neatening up is fair game. A clean slate does wonders for your peace of mind.



  • Organize a closet or a room. Get industrious. Choose productivity when you “should” be relaxing. Self-care to you may mean something completely different from the norm. Go with it.


  • Escape to the bathroom for a mini-spa. A peppermint facial or a foot massage and pedicure. Bathrooms are a great place to catch a little quiet time, so you may as well get something done while you’re at it.


  • Read a self-development book in front of everyone. When someone tries to interrupt you, just read aloud the author’s words. In this way, you can legitimately share (with the ones who need it most) how to be a better person. Without irony or aggression… bonus.


Of course, you love your family. And the neighbors, and the dog, and the uncles and aunts, your mom and dad, your adult children, all the wee nieces and nephews, and all; but if you’re looking for ways to escape for a few minutes, there’s no need to apologize for taking ten.


Consider this a gift, and we’ll talk again in the new year.


Please, if you have any other suggestions for decompressing, add them in the comments below.


preserve your sanity over the holidays
preserve your sanity over the holidays
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Manage Your Time to Spread More Cheer

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Submitted by Jen at HERdacity on Wed, 12/13/2017 - 13:04
Sub Title
The Ultimate Holiday Time Management List for Women Who Do Too Much

You know who you are…


When December rolls around, do you load up on parties, cooking and baking, gifting or charity work?


Maybe you’re one of those women who rings ALL the holiday bells. It’s the season of merriment, so more is more, right?


No, not if it means you enter the new year so bedraggled that you don’t catch up until March. If you find yourself piling on too much of a good thing, you can still salvage some peace this season.


Time Management for the Crazy-Busy Woman


Want to get better at actually enjoying the holiday with family and friends, and maybe even find time to feed your spirit?


Here are twelve ways to manage your precious time:


Whittle your list... 


of parties, of gift recipients, of donations, etc. Better yet, add yourself to the list. That way, you can say you’re already booked that weekend, and you won’t be lying.


Consider multitasking.


Combine chores with fun holiday activities, like a shopping spree with time spent with a loved one. Include an hour ice skating or painting pottery, or making a gingerbread house. Enjoy the time with a child or an older relative and relish the gift.


Plan in some self-care.


Put a necessary task on the calendar and make the intention to add some self-care, or an activity you enjoy. For example, wrapping presents could be spent with a holiday movie, a glass of wine or tea, or you could diffuse some essential oil into the air and enjoy your favorite playlist.


Buy the same gift for everyone.


Growing up, my grandpa always gave us kids a silver coin (or several, depending on the spot price). Each year, I try to find a gift that satisfies a lot of different tastes. One year, I gave nearly everyone a kitchen tool I found I couldn’t live without; another year, I gifted a jar of a wonderful new spice. This year I found some mush-able pocket back backs. When you discover something versatile, affordable, and fabulous, buy ten of them.


Forget a tradition or two.


Just literally forget about them. You don’t have to feed every ghost from years past. If you want to take a break from your annual open house, give yourself permission. Someone else in the neighborhood will take up the slack if it’s important to them. Don’t forget you have every right to design the holiday YOU want and need.


And if you think you can get by with it, just play dumb. Try this. Say “Oh, my goodness, I forgot to make the oysters, I can’t believe it.” You can say that, can’t you? No one will die.


Keep children’s activities to a minimum.


Don’t say yes to every kid-friendly event in town. Your kid will thank you, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of a calmer child. A busy kid is a cranky kid.  Remember the joy in looking forward to Christmas itself, without all the hullabaloo every single weekend for weeks leading up to the big day? Pure magic happens in the off-moments. December used to be a blessed and fun month, and it can be again. Your family depends on YOU to set limits for their sanity.


Double up with family member or friend.


Trade services during the busiest month of the year. Find creative ways to pare away driving time, shopping time, etc. and you might find it’s a habit you want to continue throughout the year.


Schedule the service.


Take advantage of caterers, delivery services, drive-through, and easy shipment options. OK, so the local caterer doesn’t offer Aunt Tia’s corn pudding like you can, but it can serve up scrumptious food and deliver it right to your door. Why not use them?


Expedite errands.


Whenever possible, check to see if the store allows you to order online and have the gifts ready and waiting at the counter for pick up. That way you don’t have to go in and get sucked into the consumer craziness. This one’s a game changer.


Don’t let stress build up.


When you’re at work, work. When you’re at home or playing, then play. Don’t mix the two. Get stuff done at work when you’re supposed to be working, and when it’s time to have fun, go all in. Respect others’ schedules and insist they respect yours. Pull the plug on social media when you’re trying to get something done at the office.  Put your phone in a drawer. Focus!


Build a buffer.


Create a margin of time around all your to-dos. Schedule in extra time to buffer your errands and tasks. Make it a priority to account for transitions and necessary transportation time so you don’t feel stressed and rushed. There will be traffic!


Share your calendar with your family members.


Make sure their calendars are in sync with yours. No surprises! Touch base at least every other day to ensure you’ve got that important business party on the books, or the children’s choir event on everyone’s mind. You might even schedule a movie or game night to enjoy with just your closest insiders. MAKE TIME to relax!


Peace on Earth


A few small tweaks to an obnoxiously full calendar can do a world of good toward promoting peace on earth, at least your little corner of it. The big idea behind time off at Christmas is to enjoy the people you love, to reconnect and reflect on the good stuff in life. If you don’t plan to enjoy it, you’ll choke on your schedule and miss the greatest gifts of the year.


How do you find ways to take it easy during the holiday season?


manage time, spread more cheer
manage time, spread more cheer
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Double Duty: Style that Works as Hard as You Do

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Submitted by annageorgakis on Tue, 12/05/2017 - 15:14

You put so much effort into making the holidays perfect for others; sometimes it's a good idea to look inward.  How you feel and look matters.  You owe it to yourself to look at least as dressed as the turkey.  Here is one reader's suggestion on what to wear, whether you're cooking, moving chairs from the garage or posing for a photo.

It's an all-too familiar setting when you're hosting holiday events at your home… Every family member is either ready to eat or about to arrive, and you’re still running around throwing things in the oven, mashing potatoes, or setting the table, rocking yoga pants and a ponytail.

We often experience a downside to providing for everyone else- we neglect ourselves in the process. I know too well how much our clothing and overall appearance contribute to our confidence and happiness. 

With your comfort in mind, I created a Holiday Style Guide, complete with six outfit ideas, to help you feel self-assured and poised even while cooking and pouring holiday cheer, You are so ready to handle anything the holiday throws your way. 


outfit idea 1, holiday style guide


My first inspiration is this stunning Madewell x No.6 Silk Magical Dress in the color Vintage Rose paired with black tie-back booties. The Madewell dress loosely drapes over the body so you'll be able to run around with ease, and the wedge heel makes the boots comfortable enough to wear all day. Once guests start to arrive, throw on this set of two chokers also by Madewell to quickly dress it up.


outfit two, holiday style guide


I am loving this light pink bell-sleeved Tunic Top by Halogen. Nordstrom describes is perfectly, calling it "unapologetically feminine," to which I would have to agree. I mean, look at that velvet bow tie-back… Pairing it with gray straight leg twill pants keeps it casual (Bonus: they’re stretchy.) Adding a pair of snake print mules and Kate Spade silver studs adds an unexpected touch. 


outfit three, holiday style guide


Okay, hear me out. This spotted J.Crew jumpsuit may be totally out of your comfort zone but trust me, there is not an easier and more comfortable outfit out there. You won't have to worry about finding a cohesive top and bottom; this jumpsuit does it for you. Adding these red pointy-toe pumps and matching tassel earrings makes this outfit a no-brainer.


holiday style guide, outfit 6


This lantern-sleeve top pairs perfectly with washed-black wide leg crop jeans, both from LOFT. The outfit is relatively casual on its own, but can be quickly dressed up with the addition of these light blue ankle strap sandals and a black onyx beaded bracelet. Interestingly enough, the black onyx gemstone has been known to protect against negativity, just in case you encounter the evil eye or the stray, barbed comment from that certain family member over the holidays. 


outfit 5, holiday style guide


For a more effortless look, I bring you these relaxed utility pants. They're perfect for a hectic day. But don't be fooled, they look so chic when paired with a black and white striped wrap top. Add a pair of platform slides and rose gold chevron studs and you'll have an outfit you'll want to wear all day long.


outfit 6, holiday style guide


Lastly, I have these gorgeous weekender jeans paired with this delicate ruffle bell sleeve top. This combination is so understated, yet stunning. Throwing on this silver layered necklace and a pair of block heels easily takes this outfit to the next level. 

Remember, self-care includes loving how you look and feel in your clothes.

The holidays are full of fun and stress, especially when you’re juggling expectations and trying to sprinkle magic for others. Spend some time and money on yourself, and make sure you don’t put yourself last in all the preparations. You deserve the same comfort and joy you bring to others.

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Self Care - What Is It and Why Should It Matter?

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Submitted by Jen at HERdacity on Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:13

Want to press a woman’s buttons? Tell her she’s not taking care of herself the way she should. 

Just read the comments below this provocative article about self-care and you’ll see that it’s a hot topic among women. When someone apart from yourself (in other words, anyone) admonishes you about self-care; it’s an opinion, it’s irrelevant, and it smacks of judgment.

Before diving in to the controversy, what is self care? According to PsychCentral, self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is a conscious, deliberate act, something you enjoy, that you plan into your life. 

So why all the fuss? Why are there opinions about whether you’re doing it right?

First, no woman likes to be told how to take care of herself. It’s a little too personal. It would be like someone coming into your bathroom and telling you you’re putting your bra on wrong… it’s none of her business. 

A caveat: if you show up with your bra on backwards 10% of the time, then yes, those close to you may offer some advice. Furthermore, if one’s inability to get dressed means they’re not showing up at all, then please reach out. There’s a difference between omitting self-care and self-sabotage. 

Otherwise, save it.

In the real world, showing up is what matters. Not what you do to get there.

Second, telling someone who shows up, that she’s choosing the wrong things to show up to, is judgmental. It doesn’t matter whether it’s yoga class or the pantry, what you choose is your business.

One woman may insist on exercise, while another swears by a glass of wine and a novel. Neither one is right or wrong, although we might agree that some balance may be in order. 

Third – and this is crucial if we’re going to discuss self-care at all – comments about self-care are opinions, and reveal more about your source of stress and what you think about stress, than what calms, comforts and rejuvenates. 

Self-Care as Stress Relief

Hardly anyone would argue these days that self-care is selfish. Studies show that self-care is an integral part of wellness and stress management.

Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, How to Make Stress Your Friend, emphasizes that your views on stress affect your health more than the stress itself.

And since stressors are always in flux in any given life, no single stress-relieving practice or balm is ever consistently appropriate. 

If ideas about stress are personal, and self-care is acceptable, then individual definitions of self-care must be acknowledged.

Tried and True Standbys

Every woman I know has her own ways and means she adheres to, feels passionate about, and practices when no one’s looking. She wouldn’t deviate from them unless she were held hostage against her will. Many are non-negotiable daily activities.

self care is a wonderful way to spread comfort and joy

These are the things that bring comfort and joy. In other words, they fall under the umbrella of self-care.

We have a nebulous collective definition of self-care precisely because self-care is personal, and connected to the way each of us addresses and satisfies our most personal needs.

Why are some of these personal treasures kept private, while others are trumpeted at top volume?

Like most personal issues these days, everyone has an opinion.

What an individual chooses as self-care is revealed in her bank balances, her browsing habits, unaccounted minutes or hours, and what goes on behind closed doors.

We’ll never agree on how to get this basic need met until we determine if it is in fact elemental to survival, or a few notches up on Maslow’s hierarchy.

“Selfish” but Necessary

One woman would never want someone to know how much she spends on lipstick, another obsesses about her next Netflix fix. One relishes her weekly date with the hand cut French fries ordered in the drive through and munched on the drive home. Another may yearn to escape with a walk in the woods, keeping a pair of sneaks in her trunk for unscheduled forays into the nature.

Are any of these activities better than another? More Instagram-worthy? If you’re addicted to organic tea, you could start a movement and share everything you know… but what if you’re just into naps?

The people who have definite ideas about what constitutes self-care are often the people who follow self-care practices that have been approved by their culture, or proudly hailed as redemptive by a celebrity or influencer.

Reliance on trends and popular public opinion can be more stifling than liberating, however. Certainly, the media plays a part in our feelings about self-care. Yoga, meditation, daily 5:00 mommy juice (wink) may be trendy, but does that make those “me time” activities worthier than another’s? Pushing one self-care practice over another seems righteous and sanctimonious.

Let’s be honest. The most effective, deliciously indulgent self-care is the stuff that’s a wee bit um, selfish. That’s the point. Emerging from the self-care whole and intact, ready to face the day is the result.

You Do You

… and I say that with love. 

If you’re overly interested in defining self-care, it’s probably because you’re not getting enough.

The key word in self-care is “Self.”

Your problems are not universal and they don’t automatically make you virtuous. Neither are the ways you address them. In fact (you know this), many would probably view your problems as blessings. The overstressed woman holding three jobs has good reason to crave more self-care, but so does the one for whom just one job would be an amazing windfall of good fortune.

When you’re finally comfortable with the inevitability of stress – whatever your particular brand happens to be – then you can finally allow yourself (and others) the freedom to define self-care as you see fit.

Self-care is equally the arrows you duck and the extra hours you invest; as it is your leisurely, scandalous moments with pie or pedicures. 

As Voltaire wrote, “…Tend your own garden.”

self care what is it, why it matters
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Q&A: Kellie Walters Discusses How Her Non-Profit, Smart Fit Girls, Teaches Adolescent Girls Healthy Body Image

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:56

“I am a Smart Fit Girl. I am strong both physically and mentally. I respect my body and my mind. I love myself for who I am and everyday I strive to be the best version of myself.

I am a Smart Fit Girl, and I encourage and empower all girls to be the same.”

This is the vision that the non-profit Smart Fit Girls has for all the young girls that go through their 10 week afterschool program. Through research, education and programming they aim to help young adolescent girls improve their emotional, physical and mental health. This is achieved through physical exercise and activities that reinforce health body image and self esteem. The two co-founders, Chrissy Chard, PhD and Kellie Walters, developed this program after coaching adult women in exercise and seeing how prevalent self-esteem and body issues are. Kellie took the time to tell us about the program and her experience as a smart, fit, AND DARING woman.

What was the initial spark that drove y'all to start this organization? Was it a single moment or a long process? 

After working with adult women as wellness coaches, Chrissy and I realized that many of our, and our clients’, health concerns (e.g., poor body image, bad relationship with food, disliking physical activity) developed when we were young girls. After discussing this at length one day (during a lifting session, naturally). Chrissy said, “We should start a program called Smart Fit Girls.” In that moment, I think we both knew that it was going to happen. As luck would have it, we were admitted into an Adventure Accelerator program at Colorado State University where we learned valuable lessons on how to start a business and were also afforded the opportunity to do a crowdfunding campaign. Using the funds we raised from crowdfunding, we piloted Smart Fit Girls in the spring of 2014 in South Carolina and have been growing rapidly ever since.

What sort of differences do you see in the girls after they have participated in the program?

One of the best parts of Smart Fit Girls is that we’ve been able to study the effectiveness of the program since its inception. A majority of my dissertation for my PhD was focused on Smart Fit Girls, so we have substantial data (quantitative and qualitative) demonstrating that girls who participate in Smart Fit Girls experience significant increases in body image compared to their peers. We also have data demonstrating that Smart Fit Girls participants experience greater increases in self-esteem and physical activity enjoyment than their peers (which is SO important at that age). In addition to this empirical evidence, we also have years worth of anecdotal evidence. For example, many of our coaches report back to us that they see improvements in the girls strength and confidence as well as a decrease in their stress and anxiety. I’m clearly biased, but I think Smart Fit Girls has had a huge impact on the girls that participate in the program.

What do you think parents, educators, guardians, etc. can do to help young girls to see their strengths?

There are many ways parents, educators, and guardians can help young girls see their strength, most of which revolve around communication. For example, our first interactions with girls, whether they are our closest niece or neighbor we just met, often includes us complementing their physical appearance (e.g., “Your hair is so beautiful”, “Love that jacket”, and “I really like that eyeshadow”). This is a habit that is socially developed and is difficult, yet incredibly important, to break. Rather than complementing a young girl’s physical appearance, ask her about what she loves to do, her favorite class in school, and/or what she wants to be when she grows up. By doing so, we teach our girls that we care about who they are as a person rather than what they look like. If we can do this daily in our interactions with girls and women in our lives, there’s a real possibility we can make a systematic change in how girls perceive their worth.

Another way to help young girls see their own strength is by avoiding negative self-talk. In addition to encouraging young girls to speak positively about themselves, we need to do the same with ourselves. There is research to demonstrate that young girls mimic the body image concerns of their mothers, even if they have very different physically shapes. Girls see themselves in their mothers (probably because they are constantly told they look like their moms) so when they hear their moms say negative things about their body, the girls are going to think they should think that way as well.

Growing up, who were your most important influences? How did they inform who you were as a women? 

I am lucky to have many wonderful, inspiring women in my life; however, I’d have to say that my mother and grandmother are the most influential. They both were faced with great adversity growing up and hearing their stories of how they overcame barriers and pursued their dreams despite the many obstacles in their way has, and will always be, incredibly inspiring to me. They both taught me that a woman's role in society is exactly what she wants it to be, not what other people say it should be. I grew up knowing in my heart that I can achieve whatever I want to in my life and that success is not gendered. My confidence stems from generations of women before me who had to fight for basic rights and privileges in society, and because of their tenacity I believe I am a stronger, more empowered woman.  

Describe the time (if ever) when you realized women were treated differently than men… how old were you… what was the situation? What happened? 

My mom worked in a field that was dominated by men so from a very early age, I had a basic understanding of how women were treated versus men in the business world. For me personally, however, it wasn’t until I took my first job after getting my master’s degree. There was a woman who worked with me that had just had a baby and was walking around the office showing her off. While I was talking with my co-worker and holding her new baby, my boss at the time walked up and said something to the tune of, “You’re not ready for babies yet, right Kellie?”. At the time, I was so excited to have my dream job that I just nodded my head and smiled. Almost a decade later, I look back at that moment and wish I would have stuck up for myself. Who was he to tell me when I should and shouldn’t start a family? I know that that comment would have never been said to one of my male colleagues. It’s extremely frustrating that 1) My male boss had the audacity to tell me when that I wasn’t ready to have a baby, and 2) I was treated differently than my similar aged male colleagues who were having babies at that time!

When do you feel your most powerful?

I feel the most powerful after a great lifting session (naturally), but also after I teach, whether that’s a lecture to college students or a lesson with Smart Fit Girls. When I feel like I’m making a difference in the world, I feel the most powerful. I think that’s why I love coaching Smart Fit Girls so much.

We’re all about daring at HERdacity. What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

This is a good question. I’m not a risk taker per say, so I don’t have any great stories about sky diving or anything like that. For me, the most daring thing I’ve done is gotten a tattoo. The tattoo is simple: “Meraki”. It represents a time in my life where I dared to stay and ‘fight’ rather than run. Meraki is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe what happens when you leave a piece of yourself (your soul, creativity, or love) in your work. When you love doing something, anything, so much that you put something of yourself into it. After my first year of my PhD, I experienced a lot of personal strife. I was thousands of miles from my family and friends and felt very alone. There was a while where I considered stopping my PhD and moving back home. Because of the love of my career and Smart Fit Girls, I decided to stay and continue my PhD. Meraki is why I received my doctorate, it’s why I fought to improve my marriage, and it’s why I am where I am today.

Do you have a mantra? 

I know this is everywhere now, but I LOVE the mantra of “being the best version of you”. It’s simple yet so powerful. If we all strived to be our best selves, the world would be a beautiful place.

What do you carry in your purse or bag with you every day?

Carmex. I’m addicted and it’s a problem. No other type of chapstick will do. I have been known to have a freak out session over not having carmex on me – just ask my husband – this literally happened last week! Lol

What are 3 things left on your bucket list? 

  1. Start a family.
  2. Travel…..anywhere! I really want to see the world, especially Amsterdam and Japan. My mom was born in Japan so I would love to go back there one day and see if we can reconnect with family.
  3. Become a tenured professor.   

What are your go-to indulgences or guilty pleasures? 

I love sweets. I was raised in a house where we looked at the dessert menu before the dinner menu at restaurants. I love chocolate (really, who doesn’t?) but now that I’m back in CA, I LOVE fresh Mochi.

You can pick one superpower… what would you choose?

Healing. The older I get, the more pain I see in this world and I would love to help people heal.

Kellie Walters

The Challenges and Rewards of Running a Vegan Handbag Business

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:22

Few people can say that a small project they dreamed up in college goes on to become their career. For Nikki Duong Koenig, this became a reality. In 2003, Nikki started her company Cykochik Custom Handbags while a student at Southern Methodist University and in 2013 made the leap to solely focus her career on the bags. All of the bags are made of cruelty-free, vegan materials and also eco-friendly materials. Nikki shared with the HERdacity community what it is like being an entrepreneur in the fashion industry and how other entrepreneurs can work towards more animal and earth friendly products. 

What was the initial spark that drove you to start this company? Was it a single moment or a long process?

The start of Cykochik Custom Handbags was a culmination of a lifelong passion for making art and fashion. My conscious decision to make it an actual business started in the fall of 2003 when I decided to sell some of my handbags at my university’s Holiday Market; and the rest, as they say, is history.

You obviously hold your products to high moral standard being cruelty-free, eco-friendly, and vegan. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is trying to launch their product or shift their products towards these standards?

My advice would be to do a lot of research into every aspect of the manufacturing process. Learn how things are produced and how they impact people, animals, and the planet.

What sorts of challenges might come along and how can they overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges will be creating or sourcing products that meet all of the high moral standards of cruelty-free/vegan, eco-friendly, and fair-trade. For example, a product may be cruelty-free but it’s not eco-friendly or fair-trade. A way to overcome it is to do your research and work with manufactures/producers who share the same moral standards as you do.

Growing up, who were your most important influences? How did they inform who you were as a woman?

My parents and my older sister were my most important influences, growing up as the youngest child. My family fled Vietnam as political refugees after the Vietnam War when I was three years old. My parents left their family, home, careers and risked their lives (also mine and my sister’s) for a better life for their children in the United States. Their courage, determination, compassion, and resiliency through trials and tribulations throughout my childhood instilled the same traits in me as an adult.

Describe the time (if ever) when you realized women were treated differently than men… how old were you… what was the situation? What happened?

I can't recall a specific experience when I realized women were treated differently than men. Even though my parents were "progressive" in raising me and my sister, they still had some traditional cultural expectations of us as girls/women. They occasionally made comparisons of what a girl should/shouldn't do versus a boy.  For instance; I was a "tomboy" as a child, I liked playing outside with boys without my shirt on, which my mom did not approve of.  I then started to question why I couldn’t do some things as a girl that boys could.   

When do you feel your most powerful?

I feel most powerful when I am able to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Whether it’s literally speaking up for animal rights or human rights on a public stage or influencing lawmakers/politicians/CEOs through petitions and protests.

We’re all about daring at HERdacity. What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

The most daring and scary things I’ve done in my life have also been the most fulfilling so far.

The most recent one was quitting my seasoned marketing career in 2013 to dedicate 100% of my time to growing Cykochik Custom Handbags and helping to make our world a more compassionate, sustainable, and happy place for all living beings.

Do you have a mantra?

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” -Mahatma Ghandi

What do you carry in your purse or bag with you every day?

I carry multiple Cykochik bags inside each other, like a nesting doll. A wallet inside of a clutch, inside a tote.

What are 3 things left on your bucket list?

Travel to South America, Africa, and Antarctica.

What are your go-to indulgences or guilty pleasures?

My indulgences are quite times to myself; to meditate, create art, or read.

You can pick one superpower… what would you choose?

My superpower would be to make people feel happiness!


Breakthroughs In Women's Sports

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Thu, 08/24/2017 - 09:53

Though the participation and growth of women’s sports even in the last decade is substantial, It is not uncommon for female athletes to get shorted on praise for their success. Whether that means not receiving as much media coverage or ‘not being capable’ of reaching the same level as male athletes, women are often stunted. Fortunately, there are many examples of this changing.

Take Katie Sowers for example. It was recently announced that Katie is set to become the second full-time female assistant coach in the NFL. She will be joining the San Francisco 49ers’ for this upcoming fall season after having interned as a part of the teams Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship. The only person prior to Katie to be full-time female assistant coach is Kathryn Smith, who coaches for the Buffalo Bills’.

Katie commented that, “It’s groundbreaking and all that stuff, but the more normalized it is, the better it is. As a female, the more someone can ask me what I do and I say ‘I coach football,’ the less shock on their faces will mean the better direction we’re moving.”

We see another step in the right direction in Australia where a female football league has traded in overtly sexualized uniforms for typical football attire. The new league called Gridiron West Women’s League was set up as an alternative to the Ladies Gridiron (Football) League where they wear particularly skimpy outfits. This new league will instead be focused, “on sport and the other on entertainment.”

Lastly, you may have seen tennis star Andy Murray call out a sexist reporter earlier this summer, and he has continued to empower women in this interview with Elle. He talks about how the powerful women he’s worked with throughout his career and how other men, including athletes, can help lift up women in sports.

Murray notes how, “There's a perception that women don't handle pressure as well as men do, but it's not true. A lot of the top men are very, very emotional on the courts. Not all of them. But some of them. And I would be one. I don't handle my emotions particularly well in comparison to a lot of the women. If you talked about the worst- behaved tennis players, most of them would be men."

Whether it’s forming a new league, coaching, or advocating for female athletes, all of these people are daring to make positive change for women in sports.

Kelly at HERdacity

BLOG: How to Embrace the Seasons of Your Life

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Wed, 08/23/2017 - 08:37

This blog was submitted by HERdacity member Morgan Moone. Your voice matters. Share it! Learn how to submit a blog to HERdacity by clicking here now. 

Endings. They’re inevitable. 

In every season, every chapter and every journey in life, there exists an end, a stopping point, a conclusion. Our relationships end, our careers end, our journeys end. And while we never stop growing or learning, there are spells in our lives that end in order to propel us into the next phase of our sojourn.

As we move through life, we sometimes have long seasons that stretch out over years or even decades. These dramatically prolonged periods nourish lifelong relationships and lasting support networks. There is time to go deep and peel back the layers and protective boundaries of fellow companions, because the relationships aren’t rushedand there is time. The love you build during these phases is unbreakable and the bonds are true, connecting to other’s souls in a way that cannot be found during any other spell in life.

These seasons also build strength and trust and courage. They promote powerful and meaningful understanding of one’s self, even if that understanding doesn’t manifest until a different season. Slow seasons are introspective and magnetic, promoting the development of not only the mind, but the spirit.

Other times, our seasons are shorter. Rapid and fleeting because the lessons are heavy or the challenges appear insurmountable. These phases are fast, quick and exhausting. They pass like lightning and sometimes leave destruction of things that we think we need to rebuild.

But be still.

Our human minds and hearts are eager to begin searching for answers and repair obvious damage before we consider the reasons why the this destruction occurred in the first place. Know that short seasons are times of rapid permutation and necessary adjustments—and a time for energetic growth, rapid metamorphosis and tectonic emotions.

These periods are also the time for the deepest level of healing and reinvention. Through these short seasons, we learn our true passions and strengths. We learn that, not only are we evolving into different versions of ourselves, but we are moving towards greater awareness and deeper knowledge of our beings. It is through this chaos that we determine our strength and worth. It is through tumultuous transformation that we begin to understand the patterns of not only ourselves, but of the society we live in and the world we all inhabit.

So, when an ending comes, do not shy away from it, but embrace it. Embrace its power to transform you. Understand its purpose on the journey. Praise its jurisdictional regency to close doors and create new possibilities.

Honor your metamorphosis and welcome the ending—for growth and new beginnings are a necessary and empowering part of our lives. 

Morgan is a law graduate from Loyola University New Orleans and focuses on international human rights and communities at risk. Hailing from Cincinnati and currently living in New Orleans, Morgan is passionate about female empowerment, solo travel, Star Wars and coffee. When not working at her day job, you can find her blogging with the help of her rescue pit bull, Bama.

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INTERVIEW: Kerry Gross, the Cross-Country Biker Sharing Daring Women's Stories

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Submitted by Kelly Smith on Wed, 07/26/2017 - 08:24
Photo by Barbara Larrain (courtesy of Kerry Gross)

Adventure is out there, and Kerry Gross is there to find it.

Kerry is currently on a cross-country bike ride across the U.S., collecting interviews from daring women along the way. The project, Women Who Dare, will eventually publish the interviews to a podcast that, “aspires to offer more, accessible examples of amazing women.”

Kerry’s adventurous life took her from a career in market research, to a Ph.D. program and now a cross-country bike ride. Even though her project aims to share the stories of daring women, we wanted to hear from her on her own experiences as a daring woman:

Q: What have you learned from some of the inspiring women you have interviewed? Do you think you have inspired any of them?

Kerry: I have learned so many important things from these women. First, from spending time listening to such an assortment of wonderful, strong women, I have learned how to speak my own truths with greater fluency and conviction of self. These women are unapologetic about their experiences, passionate about what they do, and unafraid to correct misconceptions. These skills have been infectious, and I hope that listeners to the podcast will also catch the bug.

Beyond their ways of being in the world, I've also picked up some important pieces of advice. In just a few paragraphs, I can't do these ideas justice, but here are some highlights:

1) Do what you know is right.

2) Learn how to say no.

3) Build a team of cheerleaders (and don't be afraid to lose people who bring you down).

4) Ask for help.

I'm not sure if I've inspired any of the women. At a minimum, I hope I've reminded them that their stories are important and people want to listen.

Q: Have you had a single place so far on your journey that was a standout? Somewhere you're looking forward to?

Kerry: Recently, I really enjoyed riding through Iowa. The people I met (mostly) had no concept of cross-country touring, but they wanted to help me in any way they could. The spirit of generosity has been amazing all across the country, but Iowa was especially great.

In terms of landscape, the California coast was so much more distinct and remote than I expected. Riding on Route 1 North, the cliffs drop away to your left and all you can see to the western horizon is a great blue expanse. To your right is a beautiful, wooded ridge line. And the road is fun to ride because it just twists and turns.

Looking forward, I'm excited to see New England through the lens of a bike tourer. So far, I've only been traveling in places which are unfamiliar. I'm curious to see what places I'm familiar with are like when they're seen at bike touring pace.

Q: Once your journey is complete and the podcast is released what can listeners expect to take away from the interviews?

Kerry: The goal with the podcast, first and foremost, is to share a range of women's stories. From every interview, listeners should expect to hear one woman's take on making her own path in the world. Some of these women are entrepreneurs, some are athletes, some are activists, some don't fit in convenient boxes, but all have advice and a story to share.

Q: Describe the time when you realized women were treated differently than men… how old were you… what was the situation? What happened?

Kerry: Having grown up in a generation of women who were told they could be anything they wanted to be, in a household that talked of firefighters and police officers rather than firemen and policemen, I'm a little late to the 'women get treated differently from men' party. To be honest, this is a party to which I wish I'd never been invited, let alone attended. But now I have, and these are two events from 2016 which taught me how to put a name to the feeling of sexism:

Two years ago, I moved to Indiana for graduate school. As a way to keep involved with the ski racing community, I found a little hill that was looking for ski instructors. When they found out I was a certified race coach, they set me up to help out with their existing program coach. Despite my being a fully grown adult and having extensive knowledge in the sport, he insisted on calling me 'kiddo' and tapped me on the ass to thank me for 'helping out.' After that happened, I talked to some other instructors about my experience. They explained I had to, "understand that the mountain is run by an old boys network, and they aren't used to capable young women."

A month or two after this exchange, I went to an adventure race orienteering clinic* in western Illinois. Before heading to the clinic, I knew my land navigation was quite strong; but I also knew I needed more compass skills. After the clinic, I approached the husband (of the husband-and-wife duo who led the training) for some tips. He was jazzed to learn that I wanted to be a navigator. Even though his wife is the navigator in their duo, he told me the traditional make up for an adventure race team was still, "a guy who can navigate, a strong guy, and a girl. Any girl."

Having realized that my actions are also evaluated along the standards for a 'good woman,' I look back at my corporate career with a different lens. While there are many subtle instances of being treated differently, the words which were used in my performance reviews stand out most vividly. Even though my work was praised, I was recommended to be 'less intimidating' and less like a 'know-it-all' if I wanted to keep progressing in my career. My (female) bosses left me these nuggets as 'helpful advice.' Present me wishes past me had asked if I would be getting the same feedback if I was a guy.

*Adventure races are multi-sport orienteering races which last anywhere from 6 hours to 10 days. Usually, races include paddling, biking and on-foot sections and are raced in teams comprised of 1 to 4 people.

Q: When do you feel you are most powerful?

Kerry: When I'm at the gym, lifting heavy things. That's a very literal take on power, but getting a workout in every morning reminds me that I am, this day, still strong and powerful.

Q: Were all about daring at HERdacity. What is the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Kerry: Deciding to leave a PhD program after a very successful masters in order to pursue a project like Women Who Dare is definitely the most daring thing I've done. It wasn't easy to say no to traditional forms of success in order to pursue a project based on my belief that it's what I can best contribute to the world. Plus, in addition to being the most daring decision I've made, jumping into Women Who Dare with complete focus and passion has also been the most life-changing. I am so honored to talk, face-to-face, with women who live truthful, engaged, and inspiring lives; whose experiences help me to be a stronger and more compassionate person in my own right.

Q: Do you have a mantra?


Two current mantras:

1) Learn how to stand still in your own discomfort, so you don't pass it on to others. (Paraphrased from Lindsay Hill's Sea of Hooks; a mantra that has come to embody the personal growth of this bike trip.)

2) I am strong, stronger than yesterday, and tomorrow I will be even stronger. (A mantra we yelled at the start of a training class I took while growing up in Camden, ME. Now it's my tough uphill refrain.) 

Q: What do you carry in your purse or bag with you every day?

Kerry: Food. I get hangry, so rather than stress about when or where or what my next meal will be, I always pack something to eat.

Q: What are 3 things left on your bucket list?

Kerry: I'm not really a bucket list kind of person, I usually just make plans to do the things I want to do.

But some things still on the still-to-complete adventure list are:

Q: What are your go-to indulgences or guilty pleasures?

Kerry: Spending all day lying on the floor, reading a book from cover to cover.

Q: You can pick one superpower… what would you choose?

Kerry: Flying.

To follow Kerry’s journey track her progress at or on Instagram/Facebook @kerry.m.gross


Thank you so much for this interview....I am blessed to be the mom of Kerry, and I would love to connect with other mothers of do we nurture each other, and ourselves, to get outside our comfort zones so we can grow? 

What a great pursuit! I just commented on the 'What is it like to switch careers in your 40's and 50's campfire' and found this incredible interview. I don't believe Kerry is in her 40's or 50's, but I love that she is pursuing what she wants with purpose--and she did so because it gave her a purpose that felt authentic. I love that--way to inspire my day! 

Kelly at HERdacity