Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is Chivalry Dead? - by Abbie

We live in a growing feminist world, which to many women is encouraging. Being a feminist, though, does not mean that you have to be “against” men. Believe me, I think it is extremely important to empower the women of the world and to inspire them to have confidence in themselves, especially since our society has grown accustomed to constantly degrading them. But there does seem to be this new type of characteristic associated with this feminist movement - the “I can do anything, and I do not need a man’s help.” motto that some have adopted.

Before I go on, I do want to stress the importance of believing in yourself and have the confidence to run after your dreams. I have dedicated a large portion of my time for the past five years working with and hopefully empowering young women. So, I hope that what I am about to say does not make anyone too mad, but actually encourages some thought and reflection.

One great thing about a confident woman is that she demands respect. I don’t mean in a physically threatening way, but her self-assurance and personal worth calls for kindness and a unique form of reverence, especially when men see her. As women, this is what we strive to be. Motivated. Poised. Independent. Men respect and seem to be driven towards this type of girl. But in reality, are we ever going to be that perfect version of ourself? As I mentioned in my last post, no because it is physically impossible.

In the media, there has been this recurring theme popping up everywhere. There is this theory that chivalry has been distorted, and some would even say it is inexistent or “dead”. I have been really intrigued by this notion, because as a girl I want to know why some men do not treat me with the courtesy that I deserve. (I hope I am starting to relate to most of the girls now. I think we all feel this way.) Most women immediately think that it is the men that have gone wrong and trashed the immaculate virtue of chivalry. And for a long time I believed that as well. I would walk into a building after a man, and get the door slammed in my face. I would sit on the floor in the lunchroom on a busy afternoon at high school. I’m sure you women can think of several times you were not treated with the utmost regard from a man. So, yes, men in general do not have a recent running record of chivalry, but can we really assume that it is all the guys’ fault? In my opinion, no.

First, I don’t think all men are raised to inherently see the dignity in a woman. I know that is no excuse, but we cannot hold a standard to all men. I think women are the same; we are not all perfectly kind to every man we meet, and some of those attitudes are products of the families we were raised in. In other words, some people just can’t help it. For the most part, though, I firmly believe that men do have a significant amount of respect for women, but are afraid to show they are vulnerable. The media puts a stereotype on men to be strong, unwavering, tough, and the list could go on and on. Not only does the media pressure most men, but I think some feel belittled by women. Now, I don’t mean that they feel inferior or anything, but the way that some women treat mens’ acts of chivalry is humiliating. This feminist idea that women do not need men for anything has influenced a trend in our society. When a man gives up a seat in a crowded room for a woman, most women would probably refuse it so they do not look weak. So when a man is put down one by one, he eventually becomes immune to the chivalry that was once burning inside him.

I heard one of my friends talking about this last week, and it really resonated with me, and I hope you can find some worth in it as well. He was saying that some (notice, I am not trying to group all women under this umbrella) women do not accept chivalrous gestures, so why should he feel inclined to offer them when he knows he will likely be humiliated? I think it is time for women to consider this. I want to challenge all of you women reading to simply accept kind acts from men. If you let them be courteous and chivalrous, I believe that it will slowly become the obvious thing to do. It is okay to be confident in yourself, and still acknowledge the kindness of a man. They can both coexist, I promise. And men, I want you to know that women really do appreciate your respect and courtesy. Give us another chance to accept your polite gestures.

So, to answer the question… No, I do not believe that chivalry is dead.

Abbie Hebron is a college freshman at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri majoring in Dietetics. Originally from O'Fallon, MissouriAbbie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014. Learn more about Abbie here!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Distinguished Opportunities - by Natalie

Distinguished Young Women has been a blessing from the beginning. I enjoyed every second I spent with the state and national participants who are now my lifelong friends! (There is nothing like having at least one girl in every state that you know you can call at any time!) The connections I made with the girls were completely priceless and they made every hour of fitness routine practice worth it.

I always knew DYW would be a great way to make friends. That is actually why I did the program, to meet studious, responsible, healthy, involved, ambitious girls! What I did not know is that DYW creates great business connections as well.

During Nationals, about midway through our jam-packed two week schedule, we were all invited to a relaxing lunch where we could finally meet and personally thank our sponsors. I was blessed to be paired with, Hargrove Engineering + Constructors, a generous, Mobile-based civil-engineering firm who makes sure to have “the right people, at the right place, at the right time.”

After searching through a crowd of nametags. I found Mr. Roy Duncan “Operations Leader at Hargrove Engineers + Constructors.” It was a great honor to shake his hand and personally thank him for Hargrove’s sponsorship. I knew that without them I could never have afforded those two beautiful weeks in Mobile. Then, Mr. Duncan said something I never expected.

“You know Natalie,” he noted with a smile, “We like to sponsor this program because we hope you young engineering women will show interest in interning for our company in the future.”

WHAT?! Did that just happen? Was I just offered a real engineer internship before my first college semester? I couldn’t believe it! The only thing I could think to say was “Thank you!”… over and over again… “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” This was something I definitely wanted to consider.

When I told my parents about the opportunity, my mom commented knowingly, “Natalie, I just want you to know, you have your whole life to be an engineer. It is ok if you want to wait before taking this on.” I considered her advice, I really did. But after a whole semester as a pre-engineering student at Auburn University, I knew I didn’t want to wait! After all, why wait to start doing something you love?

So, I am proud to announce, on January 1st of 2015 I signed my official contract for a ten week summer employment with Hargrove Engineers + Constructors in Mobile, Alabama. (of course, they are giving me a week off for the Has Been Program!)

I cannot wait to be back in Mobile working for great people, at a great place, at a great time. This truly is a distinguished opportunity!

Natalie Palmquist is a college freshman at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama majoring in Civil Engineering. Originally from Moran, Wyoming, Natalie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Wyoming for 2014. Learn more about Natalie here

Thursday, January 29, 2015

When Life Throws You Footballs - by Brooke

2015 GoDaddy Bowl Mayor's Luncheon
2015 GoDaddy Bowl
Brooke with Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Danica Patrick
Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you. The one it threw at me happened to be in the shape of a football. Never have I ever been a sports enthusiast, but the GoDaddy Bowl and the Senior Bowl had a different plan in mind.

I had no way of predicting what to expect when attending these two events. What I ended up with was something better than I had ever imagined. I don’t know how close you’ve ever gotten to college football players, but let me tell you, they are huge! I won’t lie, I was kind of star struck, especially at the Senior Bowl.

However, at both events, when I had the chance to visit the USA Women’s and Children’s Hospital with the teams, it was clear that there was more to these guys than their muscles. I find people, myself included, always getting tied up in their own hectic life styles and forgetting to turn an eye to others around who might be in need. Nothing makes you more aware of other’s struggles than going to the source.

Meeting these strong children who are each fighting their own war against their diagnoses is inspiring to say the least. Even more inspiring was getting to watch the football players interacting with these kids. To see all competiveness be put aside and focused on making a positive impact on the kids brought a huge smile to my face. It was a well needed reminder of how connected we all are to one another and just how far an act of kindness can go.

Another one of my favorite moments from these two events would of course have to be getting to participate in the coin toss for the GoDaddy Bowl. Meeting Danica Patrick could not have been more perfect. She’s a wonderful example of the women out there making a stand in a “man’s world”. I had never been surrounded by so many cameras in my life. They literally blocked out the whole view of the crowd. The best word to describe it would have to be surreal. And just in case you were curious, yes, Danica is super nice!

Talking to the football players throughout my time there really showed me just how normal they are. We always make up these assumptions in our heads—that children are weak, athletes are rude, celebrities are conceited—and that these people have no relation to us whatsoever. In reality, we have more in common than we realize. The great thing about humans is that we all crave and need the support of one another. Looking back now, I think that the reason I’ve never taken interest in sports is because I always believed it had nothing to do with me. The two Bowls gave me a completely different perspective, though. I actually found myself enjoying the games and cheering along with the rest of the crowd. Who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me in the sports world after all.

USA Children's and Women's Hospital visit with Senior Bowl players

Being introduced at the 2015 Senior Bowl
2015 Senior Bowl
Brooke Rucker is a college freshman at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida majoring in Dance. Originally from Cartersville, Georgia, Brooke was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia for 2014 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2014. Learn more about Brooke here!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Give and Take…For Yourself - by Astha

Sometimes we become incredibly focused on other people – I know that I do.  I’ve always been an extrovert and always will be – or so I thought.

Sometimes you give and give and it feels great.  At other times, it starts to drain you.  I’m not saying that I’m a selfless, blameless person.  I take too – being able to accept help when you need it is super important.

But often times the taking and giving is all through interactions with other people.  What about yourself?  When was the last time you took time out for yourself to read your favorite book, play your guitar, color in a coloring book, go on a walk, or just lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling and just THINK.  Not because you have to practice a song or finish an assignment for class but because you want to.

I cannot even tell you how many times I have heard students say that they don’t have time for “fun” reading anymore or that they stayed home from school sick but it was actually glorious because their illness forced them to do…nothing.

I’m a huge proponent for productivity.  But I also know I don’t take nearly as much time as I would like for myself.

I constantly felt like I was in a state of frenzy – there was so much I needed to do. I have lists upon lists of things to do, homework to finish, emails to send, letters to write, and baked goods to make.  And I HAVE to have fun.  I must make time to spend time with friends.

I learned a few new words and phrases in college – one of them is called FOMO or the fear of missing out.

Let me tell you, this fear was incredibly real.  I wanted to experience every bit of college and take it all in because it’s supposed to be the best four years of your life, and I feel so lucky to have gotten in here, and I’m paying so much money so I better enjoy and I need to do well in all of my classes but I still want to have fun and make lifelong friendships and I wonder if we will all end up like the gang on Friends or How I Met Your Mother and I don’t want to look back and have regrets and STOP.

Usually when my family or friends from home call, I can only talk for a little bit because I am constantly surrounded by people at college.  While I love being around my college friends, I realized that I truly am never alone.  In the past few weeks I finally sat down and spent several nights alone and I found that I didn’t feel lonely.  In fact, I felt happy to take the time to journal, doodle, and watch Netflix for the first time in months.  This time was not time that I had to give to anyone else or ask for – it was a gift to myself.

So, if you can, add one more thing to your To Do List…."Nothing”.

Astha Berry is a college freshman at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland majoring in Neuroscience and Writing Seminars. Originally from Franklin, WisconsinAstha was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin for 2014. Learn more about Astha here

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Year, New Me? - by Alex

When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, we begin to hear (and see on social media) people use the phrase “New Year, New Me!” And while the New Year brings new opportunities and memories, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to change everything about ourselves. It’s not a new you, but a better version of yourself, a “You 2.0.”

We normally hear the usual, “I’m going to start eating healthier and going to the gym more,” line when you ask someone what their New Year’s Resolution is. That’s an awesome goal to have, but if you’re going to be a “new person” this year, there are a lot more important things that you’re going to need to focus on. It’s much more important to start on things that are inside of you.

Everyone says that they don’t judge people by first glance, but let’s all be honest with each other for a second, we do! We don’t mean to, or at least I hope you don’t, it’s just a natural part of the world that we live in. As a society we judge people and more often than not, we’re wrong about our first assessment of someone. When looking at ways to become a better version of you, this is honestly one of the best places to start. Especially with all the new experiences coming up that many of you will be encountering.

There are so many more ways that you can fine-tune yourself to become the best version that you want to be. Instead of solely looking focusing on your outside appearance, I challenge you to look a little deeper. We can all grab the stereotypical New Year’s Resolutions and try to apply them to our lives, but it’s so much better to pick something that’s more important to you than that. Pick something that you’ll actually stick to and will challenge you in more ways than you ever expected. It’s so easy to take the simple way out and say, “Maybe next year,” but why not now? Why not be a better you? You already know what you want to change about yourself, so make this the year that you actually do it! Make this the year that when the clock is about to strike midnight on December 31st, you can proudly say that you’ve reached your “You 2.0.” 

Alex Grady is a college freshman at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Education. Originally from Iowa City, IowaAlex was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Iowa for 2014. Learn more about Alex here!

Friday, January 9, 2015

6 Fast, Easy, and Healthy Breakfast Ideas - by Amy

This year, along with basically everyone else, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat better. While I don’t really eat terribly in general, I’m more conscious of my diet now that I’m away from home and surrounded by so many new options. With ice cream, cake (some of the best I’ve ever had), cookies, beiju (a crepe made with tapioca), brigadeiro, smoothies, açaí (similar to berry sorbet), and many little fried snacks available everywhere, I have to be a little careful. So, in the spirit of playing nice with my future self and healthy eating, here’s a list of some quick, simple, and better-for-you breakfast ideas— no stove or oven required.

1. Overnight oats

One of my favorites because they’re super versatile and so easy. The idea is to let the oats soften and the flavors absorb overnight. For endless recipes from apple pie oatmeal to strawberries and cream oatmeal to tiramisu oatmeal, check out theoatmealartist.com. Any stovetop recipe can be converted to overnight oats, and there are plenty of specifically overnight recipes too.

An example recipe: Fudgy Banana and Peanut Butter Overnight Oatmeal (from theoatmealartist)
— ½ cup rolled oats
— ½ cup milk of choice
— 1 very ripe banana, mashed
— ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
— 1 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder
— 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter
— pinch of salt
— small spoonful chia seeds or flax (optional)

i. Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake or stir (the peanut butter and banana might need to be stirred for this one).
ii. Leave in the refrigerator overnight or at least for several hours.
iii. Add toppings if desired. Eat cold or heat up in the microwave (about a minute and half).

Note: add some yogurt for a thicker, creamier texture. Chopped dates also work really well in overnight oatmeal as a sweetener.

2. Yogurt with toppings

I like my yogurt thick and a little tart, so I use Greek, but you’re just looking for something that isn’t loaded with sugar. Some things that work well as toppings are fruit (dried, fresh, or frozen), nuts, coconut chips (I get them from Trader Joe’s but you could make them at home with an oven), and peanut butter/chocolate chips. Granola or cereal that isn’t super sugary can also be good. If you’re not using a single serving container, doing it parfait style just makes everything taste better.

3. Chia seed pudding

Another refrigerator recipe with a lot of room for adaptation.

A basic recipe:
— ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons raw chia seeds
— 2 cups milk (regular, almond, coconut, soy)*
*For a thicker pudding, replace 1 cup milk with 1 cup yogurt
— 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
— 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or comparable sweetener)
— pinch of salt

i. Place the chia seeds in a bowl. Add the other ingredients and whisk to combine.
ii. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (but preferably overnight), stirring occasionally.
iii. Stir, top, and eat!

My favorite way to make this is with coconut milk and vanilla Greek yogurt, leaving out the syrup. See some possible toppings under yogurt. I don’t really like frozen fruit in it, but blending fruit and stirring it in is an option. (Be careful with berries, though, as they usually make the pudding more tart and the seeds will change the texture.) Since the chia seeds themselves don’t have a flavor, pretty much anything goes. If you’re feeling fancy, try combinations like berries and lemon zest, bananas and cinnamon, mango with coconut and dark chocolate, or blood orange and pistachios. And again, if you’re not eating it straight from the bowl, parfait it up!

4. Smoothie

A classic for a reason. I like thick smoothies, so I usually just use Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and spinach, but the possibilities are endless. Blend in oats for a heartier smoothie, peanut butter for creaminess, or milk (of choice) for a thinner consistency. A common smoothie here in Brazil (that pretty much blew my mind) is avocado! It’s super rich and creamy with a nice light flavor on its own, but I think it would be amazing to amp up any green smoothie.

5. Upgraded oats

I’m talking about instant oats, but if you can make stovetop oats then power to you. Anyway, I choose the extra fiber kind because I honestly can’t taste the difference, and usually stick to plain, sweetening it myself, or brown sugar. After the oatmeal is done cooking in the microwave, I pour in some frozen fruit (I like using a berry blend) and stir. The heat of the oatmeal thaws the berries and the result is like a berry pie oatmeal. Yum. See other possible stir-ins/toppings under yogurt.

6. Avocado toast

Or, I guess, avocado warm bread if you don’t have a toasting device. Smashed or sliced, avocado is wonderfully rich and silky, and its mild flavor means you can take it any of about a million different ways. Try salsa or pico, cheese, spice (chile flakes, spicy oil, hot sauce, etc.), smoked salmon, cream cheese, tomato, olive oil, honey, or just keep it simple with salt and pepper. If you have a stove, egg or bacon is also a classic.

I hope this was helpful in some way. I just really like talking about food.

‘Til next month,

Amy Liu is a college freshman at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey majoring in Chemical Engineering. Originally from Princeton, New JerseyAmy was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of New Jersey for 2014. Learn more about Amy here!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Be Perfectly Imperfect - by Abbie

“Practice makes perfect.” Does this phrase, although uttered quite frequently in our society, have any truth behind it? How much practice, in fact, does it take to become “perfect”? What even is “perfect”? We have come to believe, through the influence of media, that perfect is attainable; it is something we can reach if we would just be “better”. In reality, perfection is having no flaws, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that is remotely possible.

Now, I hate to say that being perfect or striving to be perfect is “bad”, because I think everyone needs to “shoot for the stars” and “dream big”. There is, though, a difference between expecting perfection and wanting to be the best you can be. What separates those two ideas? Knowing that you will never be perfect.

Yes, I just said that. I am sorry if you think you are perfect, or think you will ever be perfect. It is ultimately impossible for you to have zero mistakes. This might seem harsh or cruel, but it something that is imperative to know in order to be the best YOU. Imperfection, contrary to what the media tells us, is actually normal. It is quite perfect in its own way.

In my own life, I can confidently say that perfection is something I always strive to attain. But even though I want to be perfect, I constantly know that it will never happen. Now, I was not always okay with that. It wasn’t until the end of high school that I actually started to accept my imperfections. Being able to understand that, though, changed my life and the way I saw myself. Before, I compared my failures to other peoples’ successes. I only saw my flaws, and focused so much on them I couldn’t see the great things I did. The worst, I didn’t see the potential I had, I only could see a future full of continued disappointment. These were all happening because I truly believed I could be perfect. I am sure that most of you have felt this way before (or maybe are going through these mind circles right now). I don’t want to undermine this problem, and say there is an easy fix, because it took me a long time to change my mindset and accept my imperfect individuality. Even after I found my true character and came to acknowledge my flawed self, I still fall into this trap every now and then. It never escapes our minds, and that is largely due to the media’s hold on us.

How to fix this? Well, first you have to find who you are. Whoa! That was pretty deep, wasn’t it? Well, it is true. You have to figure out what you like, what you don’t, who you want to be, etc. Don’t be fake and try to be someone you’re not. It is a waste of time, because someone else is already taking that role. Be UNIQUE. Be YOU. Finally, when you think you have a grasp at who you are and who you want to be, it is time to accept your flaws. For prideful young girls, this is especially hard. Although we lack true “confidence”, we actually think we can be perfect. This is because we set our standards too high, and if you think about it, this is why we are not confident in who we are. Now, I’m not saying to set your standards or expectations low. I am saying to be real, and know that you can only accomplish what you were made to do. Still shoot for incredible dreams, crazy goals, and unimaginable heights, but constantly know that you will survive if you do not reach all of those almost-impossible things.

Being able to recognize the imperfection in yourself (although depressing as it may seem) is absolutely freeing and empowering. Knowing that you are good enough, actually perfect enough, at being YOU is the best feeling in the world (I think). Just remember this, if nothing else- “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” ~Amy Bloom

So, go ahead, be perfectly imperfect. Be YOU!

Abbie Hebron is a college freshman at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri majoring in Dietetics. Originally from O'Fallon, MissouriAbbie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014. Learn more about Abbie here!