Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 21)

Where Our Hearts Belong

If something were to come my way
I’d never seen before,
With face and eyes and nose – or none
Two legs, or three or four

I wouldn’t try and shy away
From all that’s not like me,
Instead, I’d hold a hand outstretched
Despite no guarantee

I’d speak in gentle, soothing tones
To help put fear to rest,
And smile wide with lips and eyes
In hopes I’d pass the test

From outer space or heaven’s gate
Or just a foreign land,
I’d err to favor kindness
The type that’s offered friends

And if I someday find myself
On space ship, wing, or plane,
I pray to come across a being
Who’d treat me just the same

It matters not at all, you see
Which side you’re standing on,
For when we’re sharing common soil
It’s where our hearts belong

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, December 15, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-nine of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Gilbert Beltran

Kris Hallenga – The Girlfriend Takeaway

Kris Hallenga can sum up what has become her life’s mission in a few short sentences:

“I had never been told to check my boobs or anything about the disease when I was in school, and what if I had? Would it have made any difference, and would I have been checking myself and picked up on the symptoms sooner? I like to think so, and that it would have made a massive difference in my prognosis. Maybe I wouldn’t still have cancer now.”

This phenomenal young woman was diagnosed with stage lV breast cancer at the age of 23. Stage lV meaning that her cancer had spread beyond just breast tissue. She also had it in her spine.

“Because I didn’t know anything about the disease, and I didn’t know anyone who had it, I didn’t have any reference to something that I thought other people got, not me.”

Hmm. The dreaded Not me! statement. How many of us have said or thought that? Well, Kris is here to change that dialogue, especially for younger women.

Within just a month of her diagnosis, which is amazing in itself, she established Coppafeel, an organization focused on the education and empowerment of young women. No one was teaching young people about breast cancer, self-examining, or what to look for.

“I wasn’t sure what it would end up being, but after some research and a couple of festivals in the summer where we’d just talk to young people in a field about their breasts, we thought it’s probably best that we were a charity. More than anything, to be able to raise money to keep doing what we’re doing and have some credibility.”

Kris was given 2.5 years to live at the time of her diagnosis, but now, almost eleven years later, Coppafeel is raising approximately $2,000,000.00/year. Those funds go toward education programs in schools and workplaces, and providing reminders such as regular text messages to get checking and shower stickers listing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. And their face-to-face delivery is done by a cadre of ambassadors called Boobettes, all of whom have had cancer under the age of 35 and can tell their own anecdotal stories. They also attend festivals (festifeels) every summer in a big boob van. Yes, you read that correctly – a boob van. Love it!

One of the many things that impresses me about this organization and Kris’s work is the fact that they have also fought hard to get cancer education included in school curriculum. After years of campaigning and fighting to meet the right people, that is now happening.

“It makes so much sense for young people to learn those life lessons at an age when that kind of stuff can stick – before we learn a lot of fear associated with cancer. And knowing that they [students] have been given a much better chance of survival is what it’s all about. It’s about the fact that it is now curable and not something that has be with you for life. But the thing is, you have to catch it early, and you have the power to make sure that happens.”

To date, Kris’s own cancer journey, like those of so many others, has been challenging at best. Since initially having spread to her spine, it has since made its way to her hips, pelvis, liver, and most recently, her brain. Last year alone, she had 54 tumors successfully treated with very targeted radiotherapy. Regardless, she remains optimistic and positive even though her disease remains incurable.

“I just wish I knew of other people like me, and if I’d known when I was first diagnosed that people lived this long with this disease, I think it would have given me so much hope. I guess that’s one of the reasons that I continue to share my story and try and educate people as much as possible. Knowing that someone is out there still very much alive 11 years later, I think is very good to hear when you’re feeling so, so hopeless.”

Her own previous reference to the disease was in film and movies, none of which spoke to her own experience following diagnosis.

“It’s usually someone dies or they get the all clear. What about the people in the middle, or people who aren’t being told that they are going to survive but aren’t dying yet, either? Where do we fit in? So I’m out there trying to educate people about me and the fact that it’s possible to live with this disease in a relatively normal way.”

And thank God she is! When my best friend was diagnosed with stage lV breast cancer years ago, she was given 6 months to live and lived almost four years, and believe me, those first 6 months for her were hell. When she made it past that projected expiration date, she had a new lease on life, so let’s all, like Kris, celebrate possibility and taking one day at a time.

Kris’s work with Coppafeel is literally saving lives. Let’s honor her by copping our own feel today, kicking this disease to the curb.

Check those boobs, ladies!

You can hear Kris’s extremely important interview HERE, or by tuning into iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite podcasts are playing.

Learn More/Follow:
Website
Coppafeel Instagram
Kris’s Instagram
The Sun Columnist Article

Potential

Far from edges of the woods
O’er the crest of hills,
Beyond a river’s flowing blood
And heaven’s window sill

Deep within our beating hearts
Laced throughout our lungs,
Printed on our finger pads
And written on our tongues

The same that’s found in man and beast
The same in tree and flower,
In oceans wet and deserts dry
We share a reverent power

For universe expansive, vast
Its energy within,
Running current, vibrant threads
Through all that makes us kin

To lose one’s sight of all that is
Will dampen at its core,
Potential peace, potential joy
Potential evermore

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, December 8, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-eight of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Logan Lambert

Sonia Couto – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“I always think of myself as part of a team. We’re all here to achieve the same goal, and if we all achieve success, we’re all going to be successful.”

It’s quotes like this that make Sonia Couto an award-winning leader. As Director of Konverge Digital Solutions and Founder of MenuSano, she’s gleaned a long list of awards, including CEO of 2019 from the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). During my interview with her this week on my podcast, Girlfriend, We Need To Talk!, it became obvious that they were all well earned.

“I try to lead by example. If I ask for something, I’ll also do it, just so that I’m leading, but I’m also showing that I can do the work.”

And her work is meaningful. Menusano launched in 2010, providing labelling software for users to calculate nutritional value in recipes and adjust ingredients to meet nutritional demands. And its development stemmed from the personal needs of both her team and herself.

Sonia is a breast cancer survivor, and her treatment journey unfolded while developing the software. Once in remission, she needed to be careful about what she put in her body. Now she’s able to keep track of that, and her clients are able to provide the info. For example, restaurants can provide calorie information on their menus and create labels on take-out, and users can create their own food analysis, which then allows them to replace ingredients in the software to bring down calorie count. It’s available on the cloud, so anyone can subscribe and use as needed. Brilliant!

I love that this idea came from a genuine need, and I love even more that she survived breast cancer, something she lists as her greatest personal achievement.

“This is such a big thing in my life, and it’s such a huge accomplishment to be able to survive it.”

Beyond the business and beyond the awards, Sonia also found a new approach to life and leadership as a result of her diagnosis.

“I learned how to trust people, I learned how to trust my team, I learned how to delegate. I used to be the type of person who thought that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. But getting sick and having to step back a little bit, and having to take time off for treatment and surgeries, I really had to delegate and trust that while I was away the work was going to get done. And my team just stepped up. They didn’t ask any questions, they just started doing the work, so I realized that I don’t have to do everything myself.”

Not afraid to admit to being “a bit of a control freak at times,” this was a valuable lesson, indeed. And a great way to practice self-care.

At one point in my nursing career, I worked in oncology and saw, firsthand, how cancer can change a person’s life. I have also seen, on numerous occasions, how people’s priorities can shift. And so they should, quite obviously, but how rewarding to create a product that can help others fight the good fight with a solid nutritional arsenal.

“Nutrition and food can be medicine. It’s something I live in my personal life.”

And we should all be grateful that she does, setting an example for others. The trick for the rest of us is learning how to appropriately fuel our bodies before we’re faced with this type of challenge instead of after.

Sonia and I agree on the importance of nutrition, and we agree on something else:

“The thing is catching it early. When your body tells you, and you go and you get it checked out, you have a chance to fight it and live a good quality of life afterward.”

Cheers to that. Congrats Sonia!!

You can listen to Sonia’s interview –> HERE <-- and it’s also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Learn More/Follow:
LinkedIn
Instagram
Menusano Website
Konverge Website
Recent Award for Menusano

December

In it blows, December’s wind
Leaving in its wake,
A blanket thick with virgin snow
Where angels kids will make

With magic clasping mittened hands
All snowmen breathe in life,
And lights come out and lights go up
To decorate the night

Trees appear in windowed homes
Tradition hung to branch,
As years gone by bring smiles, tears
And thoughts of past romance

I dream it still, as though a child
In fields of sparkling white,
That winter’s joy and beauty
Will bring hearts and souls delight

For in that field I also see
A chance to forge a path,
That leads to my December years
With peace and love intact

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, December 1, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-seven of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Leana Delle

Jeanette Bessinger – The Girlfriend Takeaway

Jeannette Bessinger is here to save our butts over the holidays. Well, to save them from getting any bigger, that is, but she’s also an all year round health and consciousness coach who knows a thing or two about balancing women’s fitness, food, and mood. I’m all for that. And she applies her know-how to the awesome lifestyle transformation program that she founded and designed called MeBoot.

This outstanding woman was my guest on Monday’s podcast, and I liked her immediately. She delivered great energy, a great story, and even greater advice.

Jeannette had been working on a previous gig that had been successful but eventually left her feeling burned out. As a result, she took some time off, slowly pulling back from work pressures and the demands of social media. This led to a full-on break, involving a long road trip with her husband and beloved pets. It’s while on the road that “a shift happened,” which, after she returned, continued. She got a rare, if not singular, opportunity to spend several weeks alone with family taken care of elsewhere, and soon after, she and her husband downsized from a four-story house to a home with just four rooms.

What did she have to show for all of these radical changes? Epiphanies, that’s what, and we’re all better off for her having had them.

“It’s almost like all the pieces of my career, all the different things that I had done and people that I’d worked with, all of them kind of rose up in the air and rearranged themselves, and when they settled again, I had a completely different picture of what makes a vibrant, healthy lifestyle for women today.”

The result was the birth of MeBoot, her interconnected program that’s making a world of difference to her subscribers. She attributes this brainchild to her sequence of events, but she admits that the act of clearing out, both her space and her mind, led to one of the five essential pillars that make up her trainings.

“Before you can even begin to make changes in what you eat and your daily rhythms, you have to make space for something new to come in. It’s like a spiritual law of physics.”

But how does all of this relate to healthy eating?

“Changes occur in our forties and over on the plate but off the plate, as well. All of the other parts of ourselves and our lives are intermingled deeply, profoundly, with the way that we eat.”

Jeannette reminded me that 95% of weight loss attempts are failures, and there are fundamental flaws in the ways we operate. It’s all about that interconnected approach.

And the holidays? A time when people, including myself, traditionally gain poundage?

She talked about decision fatigue or our willpower batteries getting low.

“I think we’re on decision burn out all the time, and in the holidays it gets cranked up. If we have to make a decision every single time we’re faced with a holiday treat challenge, we’re literally going to wear out that battery by nine o’clock in the morning.”

And we all know that that lasts over a long period of days, not just Christmas morning.

My biggest takeaway from Jeannette was that we need to set behaviors and decisions in advance so that we’re prepared. An example of a decision could be, I’ll have one drink or one dessert, or I’m going to have one dessert in the next four days. But the trick is to make it non-negotiable. And the best part is this:

“Every single time you stick to it, you strengthen that track in your brain of being in a certain kind of mastery around your choices.”

In other words, craft your formula, and if stick to it, you’ll strengthen your choice muscle and reach mastery. BAM!

And one of the best pieces of advice that applies not just to the holidays but to literally everything in life: “Stay present.”

I couldn’t agree more, and although we’ve now made it through Thanksgiving, her advice will get us through Christmas, as well. Only Santa really needs those cookies.

Check out Jeannette’s interview –> HERE <--.

You can also listen on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite podcasts are heard.

Thanks, Jeannette!

Learn More/Follow:
A special message from Jeanette
Website
LinkedIn
Facebook

Thanks Giving

A day draws near for gratitude
One for giving thanks,
Though prep and planning in advance
Can fill a soul with angst

With travel near and travel far
As families reunite,
The bustle of the season
Can frustrate or delight

But in the midst of mayhem
A moment does await,
A pause, a rest, so fleeting
To blink may change its fate

When all have finally gathered
And worries fall away,
As voices mix with laughter
And stop only to pray

This is when it matters
This is when our hearts,
Should fill to overflowing
Before another parts

For those that are and those that were
And moments that we’ve shared,
Are truly all that matters
Truly something rare

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, November 24, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-six of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Debby Hudson

Karen Sugar – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“I learned a long time ago that we’re all connected by many of the same experiences walking the planet, because we’re women.”

Karen Sugar always felt compelled to make a difference. She’d worked with women and poverty issues for years, but after learning about micro-finance in grad school, she felt sure she could expand her reach. She describes micro-finance as “providing very small loans to people that don’t have access to traditional banking and loan intervention.”

But where could this approach have the most impact? When she heard about a post conflict region in Uganda, the decision finalized and the Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) was born.

Africa just wasn’t getting the attention that other locations were, and they’d been through hell. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had just ended its long reign of terror in the region, which included the abduction of children to be used as soldiers and sex slaves. That conflict ended in 2007, and the region is now in full recovery.

The changes since have been exponential, and the word “empowerment” is in the organization’s title for a reason. Empowerment is being delivered and sustained! WGEF to date has given out over 17,000 loans to women borrowing groups without a single default, and 572 women are now serving in leadership positions. They’re owners of restaurants, hotels, beauty shops, farms, you name it, and their daughters are following suit.

I did ask if there’d been cultural resistance to the changes, or if men, in particular, had been angered.

“In the beginning, there’s often push back when a woman enters any empowerment program, depending how culturally conservative her community is, but the longer and more successful she is, the more acceptance and change that happens. That’s definitely the case for us.”

And helping to micro-finance the endeavors of these women is only the start. They’ve also had 4,600 literacy participants and their Healthy Periods Initiative (HPI) continues to amaze. Prior to its inception, pads were either non-existent or unaffordable. As a result, girls were using rags, newspapers, and even leaves, making it impossible to go to school. The only option was to quit.

“It’s a human rights issues, and it’s about dignity.”

Thanks to HPI, a machine has been purchased that produces sanitary napkins. They’re locally made and sourced, and, through the initiative, WGEF has dispersed 3.5 million pads to 16 schools and three refugee camps over the last 2.5 years.

“This is changing girls lives, and it’s not rocket science. We want to keep girls in school longer, reducing child marriage and giving them the opportunities they desire and that they deserve.”

The contribution that Karen and her organization are making is phenomenal. Yes, one person can make a difference, but changing the world requires help. WGEF needs funding in order to fund, and Karen needs a community.

“I need some good sisters around me. I cannot do this on my own.”

If anyone knows what it means to be surrounded by a faith filled sisterhood, Karen Sugar does, but the more the absolute merrier and the greater the impact.

Oh, and she’s planning a trip to Uganda in April. Contact her below if you’re interested in seeing WGEF’s work firsthand.

Thanks, Karen, for all you do!

Karen’s inspiring interview can be heard HERE.
It’s also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Learn More/Follow:
Website
Instagram
Facebook
LinkedIn

Writer’s Block

Words, where are you hiding
Ideas now betrayed,
Leaving me in silence
Partially dismayed

What used to be so easy
And came with little thought,
Is challenging my patience
And leaving me distraught

Can we make ourselves creative
And force a thing to be,
Should we stress the outcome
Or set the process free

A school of thought supports us
In the doing of a thing,
A simple pen to paper
And the practice that it brings

But with no proof of reason
And even less on rhyme,
I’m simply going to walk away
Until another time

~ Leana Delle
Sunday, November 17, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty-five of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Neven Krcmarek

Maris Degener – The Girlfriend Takeaway

“Mental illness finds your cracks and fills them in with cement, hardening you until you can’t find your own foundation.” ~ Maris Degener

Her journey drew the attention of media and became the subject of the Netflix documentary, I Am Maris. Her influence has been growing ever since.

Diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in her early teens, Maris Degener learned how to hide things. Feelings, fears, evidence. None came to the surface until all did at once.

“It was almost easier to put on this persona every day of Everything’s fine. I’ve got everything figured out. It’s all under control, then it was to be really vulnerable.”

Her eventual hospitalization began a transformation that a discovery of yoga continues to fuel. She’s identified her practice (and teaching) as “a way to self-study, a way to self-soothe, and a way to finally have that language to understand who I was and what I was going through.”

She also incorporated a love of writing into her healing, bravely sharing her thoughts with others. This continues, as well.

Vulnerability in expression, as much as we fear it and want to run, is the key to connection. I’ve found this to be consistently true. There may be judgement by a select few, but most need to see someone else’s struggle before they can scratch the surface of their own. Maris’s blog posts began to offer that for many. She got “really, real” about what it’s like to experience mental health challenges. She allowed herself to show the mess.

I think most of us can relate to mess. All lives have it, but our cultural obsession with perfection seems to want to dictate otherwise. And, let’s be honest here – facades are exhausting. Not just in the presenting of them, but in trying to get past those of others.

“I don’t really resonate with perfect people or people who present to be perfect, because I don’t think I’m perfect. I don’t think I have it all figured out.”

Nor do most of us. Discovery is ongoing, but taking positive approaches to our challenges and resisting the urge to fall prey to unhealthy distractions is essential.

I recently started practicing yoga myself, and I can speak to the calming centeredness that I feel after each session. It also carries with me. It’s not just a 60 minute relationship.

I’m grateful to Maris for sharing her story, and given the number of followers she’s acquired through her honesty, it’s evident that others are, too.

You can hear Maris’s interview on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or by clicking HERE.

Learn More/Follow:
Website
Instagram
Facebook
I Am Maris Netflix Trailer

Monthly Book DrawClick here to subscribe to Leana's blog/newsletter and be entered in this month's draw for a free copy of her novel, Control Switch
Subscribe to Newsletter

© 2020 Leana Delle | Website: NAKB Design