Friday, October 17, 2014

Leaves & Roots: Preparing for Trying Times

Fall is in the air!  The weather is cooling.  Pumpkin sales are skyrocketing.  And the leaves are changing colors.  I’ve recently been thinking about lessons that can be learned from nature, and in particular, I have been pondering about how trees prepare for the fast-approaching winter.  And I noticed some principles that are pretty relevant in our lives.  I’d like to share with you a few things that I learned.

First, a lesson about trees.  Every year, in preparation for winter, trees shed their leaves.  This is done in order to help the tree conserve water and energy during a season where they won’t have the same access to water and nutrients that they enjoy in other seasons of the year.  During warmer seasons, the leaves use sunlight, water and air to help create energy to sustain the tree.  But in the winter, because of the dry, cold air, the energy leaves create is less than the energy it takes to sustain those leaves.  So, in order to conserve moisture in the trunk and branches, thus protecting the tree, leaves are dropped, the spots where they were attached are sealed, and the tree lies dormant until spring.  This keeps the tree alive during a difficult period of time.

Now, a lesson about life.  There will be many difficult seasons in life.  For students, some of those seasons may include midterms and finals.  For individuals who are affected with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), that season is literally winter.  For others it may be periods of poor physical or emotional health, times of loss, of financial difficulty, or of prolonged loneliness.  Sometimes these seasons of difficulty come suddenly and unexpectedly.  At other times we may anticipate them and recognize their approach.

At such times, it may be wise to follow the example of trees in nature and find ways to let go of certain activities that we no longer have the energy to sustain.  This is often difficult.  After all, many if not most activities in your life exist for a reason.  Do you neglect school work?  Work?  Church service?  Hobbies?  Relationships?  Scripture studies?  Community Service?  Meals?  Therapy?  Exercise?  Sleep?

I don’t have the answer, because it will be individualized to each individual or family.  Determining what “leaves” can be sacrificed for a time is a matter that is best approached with prayer.  Perhaps you will decide to simplify by making faster, easier meals.  Maybe you will feel that you should say no to invitations to social activities.  Maybe you decide to only put in sufficient effort into your studies to earn a C rather than an A.  Maybe you think to take your kids out of an extracurricular activity for a while.  Maybe you ask for fewer hours at work.  Maybe you will decide to give up time spent on social media.

But, as you consider what “leaves” you may be able to let drop for a season, be careful to not confuse leaves for roots.  The root system of a tree plays a vital role in sustaining a tree.  It is a store-house for food reserves.  It absorbs and transports water and minerals from the soil to the trunk and branches.  It also anchors the tree.  Even though it becomes necessary for a tree to drop its leaves in winter, a tree never detaches from its roots.  We likewise have sources of strength that nourish us and anchor us.

I wish to highlight four “root” things we should hold fast to during trying times:

1.       Health
To quote the six-fingered man from The Princess Bride, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.  Your physical body matters.  To say that you are too stressed to eat or sleep or exercise is like saying that you are too sick to take medicine.  You may need to adapt some patterns around these activities, but to drop them altogether is going to deplete you of the energy you need to sustain you when times are tough.

2.       Relationships
In the words of Sister Hinckley, “Oh how we need each other!”  Social science and lived experience supports this.  Don’t cut off all people.  Perhaps you will need to become dormant in certain social circles for a time, but maintain some meaningful connections.  Have someone that you can talk to and laugh with and confide in and seek counsel from.  If you are married, turn to your spouse as a source of strength and support and be a source of strength and support to him.  Connect regularly.  Have fun together.  Make time together a priority.

3.       Sources of Spiritual Strength
It can be tempting, in busy times, to let scripture studies or church attendance slide.  However, it is in stressful, busy times that you need the peace the gospel brings the most.  In difficult times we have extra need of the enabling power of the Atonement to give us strength, expand our capacities, and make up for our shortcomings.   

4.       Self-Care
Take time to do things that refresh you.  Perhaps your self-care is rooted in one of the other roots.  Perhaps you exercise for self-care.  Perhaps you love having late-night dance parties in the kitchen with your roommates.  I find myself refreshed by conversations with close friends and going thrift store shopping.  Find something that helps rejuvenate you, and take time to “sharpen the saw”.

Just as trees shed their leaves to conserve energy as winter approaches, at times in our lives it may become needful to let go of certain practices for a season.  But we should never detach from those things that give us our strength. 

By: Allison Ellsworth

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Learning to Speak

I'd like to introduce you to a girl named Malala Yousafzai. Maybe you know of her, but in case you don't, here's a little bit about why you should. Malala was born in Pakistan, where during her youth, the Taliban took over her town and banned girls from going to school. Following after her father, Malala spoke up against this injustice. She was only 11 years old when she began to speak out. In 2008, she started writing a diary for the BBC under a pseudonym. She spoke on radio stations in Pakistan decrying the Taliban ban on girls' education. By the summer of 2012, Malala had gained notoriety in Pakistan and abroad, and the Taliban began to fear her influence. Just over two years ago, on October 9, 2012, Malala was shot through the head, neck, and shoulder by a member of the Taliban. But Malala survived.

And her voice hasn't gone quiet. On July 12, 2013—her 16th birthday—she spoke to the United Nations about education for all children. You can watch her speech here. [ ] (It's well worth your time.) A few months later, she appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where again she spoke with eloquence on why she did what she did:

“Why should I wait for someone else? Why should I be looking to the government, to the army, that they would help us? Why don't I raise my voice? Why don't we speak up for our rights? The girls of Swat [Malala's home region], they spoke up for their rights. I started writing the diary. I spoke on every media platform that I could, and I raised my voice on every platform that I could.”

            Four days ago, Malala became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous call for change. This young girl has so many reasons to not speak up anymore. She has so many reasons to not share her opinion. But she continues to proclaim the power of voice—of using it and not being afraid to take a stand.

In this world of political correctness and respect for others opinions, I sometimes feel imprisoned. I am constantly aware of what everyone else is thinking, constantly aware of how I'll be interpreted and judged by the things that I say, constantly aware of how I might not be able to fully express acknowledgment of the wide variety of logical viewpoints of an issue and show respect toward them. I'm so worried about inadvertently giving offense that sometimes I don't speak at all. I don't want to come off as rude. I don't want to come off as ignorant. I don't want to come off as non-empathetic. And so I'm left not saying anything.

As I heard Malala speak a year after she'd been shot, proclaiming with eloquence, clarity, and wisdom in a language that was not her first, I thought, "She got shot at for her opinion, but she still keeps speaking. Can I not speak and be unafraid of far-less-terrifying consequences?"

                And even with that emboldening question pulsing through my brain, quickening my courage, and forming words in my mouth (or key taps in my fingers, as the case may be), I'm still nervous to speak. But maybe, like Malala, courage is forged a single act at a time.

And the truth is we need more Malalas. We need more people speaking up when they see wrong happening around them. We need more women adding to discussions and solving problems. I might just be one small voice, but so was Malala’s—small, at first, housed in a teenage body in a faraway valley in Pakistan.


Amanda Kae Fronk

Cranberries: A Magical fruit!

I heard a long time ago that cranberry juice was good for women’s health, and I’m sure that’s pretty well-known, however I had no idea until recently what exactly it was that cranberries helped with. An old roommate of mine used to joke that they were good for “your lady parts.” Through some research, I have discovered that this is partly true.

FIRST: Cranberries play a part in the prevention of urinary tract infections (UTIs). There is some debate on this however, because it’s not a 100% guarantee. Anything’s better than nothing though, right? Before I got married, I had pre-marital visits with an OB/GYN. A woman can be at a pretty high risk for UTI's when getting married after practicing abstinence. Her body will be exposed to germs and bacteria it isn’t used to, and this can cause a UTI rather quickly. When meeting with my OB/GYN, she suggested I drink lots of cranberry juice for the first little while. Many doctors believe that the acidity of the cranberry juice can make your urine less ideal for bacteria to reside, hopefully preventing the bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract. If you’ve ever had a UTI before, you know they’re no walk in the park, so drink up!

SECOND: Can cranberries prevent breast cancer? Cranberries are high in Vitamin C and fiber which both have been shown to increase overall health and avoid many types of cancer. So while cranberries aren’t going to single-handedly keep you cancer-free, they certainly do help.

THIRD: That Vitamin C strikes again as an important antioxidant that keeps your heart healthy! According to the American Heart Association, heart disease causes nearly 1/3 of female deaths every year. Antioxidants are an important part of a woman’s diet to keep her heart healthy and strong. Cranberries are a great source for those antioxidants.

FOURTH: The last benefit of cranberries I will mention here deals specifically with pregnant women. Cranberry juice can help prevent pre-eclampsia, a disease in which heightened blood pressure and too much protein in urine can cause pre-mature birth for your baby. Again, Vitamin C is a key here. The high abundance of Vitamin C in cranberries makes their juice a very effective way of lowering a woman’s risk for pre-eclampsia, especially if she is already at high risk.

There you have it! The mystery is solved; cranberry juice really is beneficial for women’s health –and men’s actually, as they can also suffer from UTIs, breast cancer, and heart disease. While it’s not a cure-all elixir that will make all your problems go away, it is a natural, effective, and preventative boost for your overall health. Of course, there are other ways besides drinking a delicious juice to lower your risk for UTIs, breast cancer, heart disease, and pre-eclampsia, but really, who wouldn’t want to opt for that sweet taste over a bunch of large pills if that’s a valid choice for you!

~ Janai Gariety

Sources:; American Institute for Cancer Research; American Heart Association

Monday, October 13, 2014

Days for Girls

Celeste Mergens, this year’s Mother of the Year for Washington State, had been working with an orphanage in Kenya for months when she woke in the middle of the night with a burning question—what did the girls do during their periods? When she asked the director of the orphanage, his response shocked her: “Nothing. They wait in their rooms.”

In developing nations across the world, millions of women do not have access to sustainable feminine hygiene. Many make do with supplies that they have on hand (rags, leaves, bark, cardboard, or even trash), but others are forced to wait out their monthly cycles at home. Over a lifetime, these girls and women miss out on hundreds of days of school and work, and expose themselves to germs and reproductive health risks by using unsanitary materials to slow the flow. There are reports that some girls have been so desperate that they have been manipulated into trading sex for feminine products.

Days for Girls, the organization that Mergens began in 2008 as the result of her epiphany, is seeking to change all this by providing sustainable feminine hygiene kits to women across the world. Days for Girls volunteers sew and assemble feminine hygiene kits that include a portable drawstring bag (to allow the kits to be carried to school or work); a washcloth; a bar of soap; two Ziploc baggies; a specially designed “shield”; and specially designed fabric pads.

Each shield is designed to snap around a pair of panties and hold up to three pads in place, and is also equipped with a special waterproof layer to prevent leaks. Each pad, designed of absorbent cotton flannel, has been carefully designed using a tri-fold pattern that allows for greater absorbency. The tri-fold pattern also helps the pad look like a handkerchief when it is unfolded—this inconspicuous shape lets women hang it out to dry in cultures where anything menstrual-related is taboo. All elements of the kit are made of brightly colored and patterned fabric, which makes the kits pretty but also helps hide dark-colored stains.

Since 2008, Days for Girls has reached over 100,000 women and has formed a presence on six continents, and is now teaching citizens of developing nations how to sew their own kits in order to increase self-sufficiency. The organization, which has been featured in The Oprah Magazine and is a GuideStar Gold Participant, has an ultimate goal of providing feminine hygiene and health education to every woman in the world by 2022. However, to reach this goal, Days for Girls needs the help of people all over the world to sew kits, teach others, and make donations.

By Amanda Seeley

To learn more or find out how you can help, visit the Days for Girls website here:!about-us/c79o, or catch Celeste Mergens’ TedTalk here:!videos/c13ms

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