Tonight I Will Be Attacked: 1 in 5

**TRIGGER WARNING**

“The price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted.” – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

One in five collegiate women will be raped during their time at school. One in five.

One in five collegiate women will be raped during their time at school. One in five.

Tonight I am going to be attacked. The lights will be off so I won’t be able to see but I’ll probably be able to feel it coming, if only a second before contact. A man who is bigger than me and stronger than me is going to grab my wrists or grab my throat or come from behind and bear hug me with so much force my lungs empty with a blasting cough. His hands are huge and his arms are strong, stronger than mine, so I really have to scrap for any inch of freedom I might gain as we struggle. Stomp, kick, hit, bite…I’ll do whatever it takes. I’m going to try to fight him off while I’m still on my feet and hope he doesn’t take it to the ground. If we do end up on the ground with him on top of me I am going to try break his choke hold before he starts bashing my head on the floor or block his punch to my face, wrap up his arm with one of mine and grab his head and neck while I flip us over so that I can deliver a hit and kick before I try to run. At that point I’ll be hoping there isn’t a second attacker.

I know the man who is going to attack me, kind of. I’ve spent several hours with him over the past six weeks, so we’re acquaintances I guess you could say. That is usually how it goes, right? You know the guy who attacks you. So many times it is a friend or a date or a boyfriend, and that is what makes it so much worse. I remember thinking that when it happened to me a month before I went to college. In my case tonight my attacker will be one of my self defense instructors. We’ve worked for the past five weeks on fight and survival skills and tonight is the last class, when the attacks come in the dark. I’m scared out of my mind. I’m still showing up for class.

The same could be said for countless collegiate women all over this country. They are scared yet they still show up for class.

1 in 5.

Despite the bruises I have on my wrists and arms from previous classes, this is all just practice. It is pretend. We laugh and joke around during class. If we didn’t do the break away correctly they choke hold or head lock us again, making sure we understand how to correctly break free and get to safety. During class we’ve said how important it is for high school girls to take this course and I keep thinking what epic bullshit that is. We have courses that teach women how to not get raped, but nowhere in my town is there a course teaching boys and men not to rape. The male instructors at class are beyond respectful and nice to all of the women. They take extra time to really make sure we understand the moves, they are invested in our safety. The head female instructor is great. Still, every minute of every class I think about what happened to me at 18 years old.

I think about my daughter, when she will be 18 years old. 

I essentially have no fear of my young daughter being kidnapped, therefore I let her run free to explore her world. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States only 115 are abducted by strangers per year.

Yet even though her journey to college is ten years away I am already worried about her safety there. She has a 1 in 5 chance of being raped. 

1 in 5. 

When we look at the mathematical probability of our children being abducted by a stranger they have a greater chance of being struck by lightning on a trip to Florida than being abducted by a stranger in your neighborhood. And I’ve never worried about my kids being struck by lightning. I think stranger abduction is a deep, dark fear for ALL parents because it is our worst nightmare. But it is EXTREMELY rare. Yet our entire generation has changed the way we parent because of fear mongering and misinformation.

What we should be concerned about is our daughters being raped and our sons being rapists. Yet I never hear parents talking about that. Ever.

1 in 5.

I read about these issues online, but in my day to day life I have never heard a parent correct another after “Boys will be boys” or “that just means he likes you!” is uttered, explaining that is what builds Rape Culture. I almost never hear a parent teach their sons about consent. Maybe the occasional, “We don’t hit girls.” Perhaps it is because my kids are still young, but I don’t hear parents talking about what seems like the systematic covering up of rape by high schools and universities. I have never, ever heard a parent of a boy wonder aloud if they could be raising a rapist. And this is odd, because many of these mothers would have gone to college, so they either were the 1 in 5, or they were the other 4 but knew someone who was the 1.

Why aren’t we talking about this?

1 in 5.

Which numbers do you think American parents should be obsessing over and completely changing their parenting in response to? Which number should inspire a rash of safety products and apps to be developed and marketed? Which number should be discussed by parents at playgrounds and playdates? Which number should be covered relentlessly by media?

1 in 5.

Tonight I will be attacked, I know it is coming. I know who is going to do it. And I know when it is over that I’m going to be okay. This should never be what goes through the minds of our daughters when the embark on their journey to college. Rape should not be a foregone conclusion, part of the checklist we review when packing our children off to university.

Rape should not be the price of college admission.

 

This is how I teach my children:

1. Your body belongs to you, no one may touch it in a way that upsets you or hurts you. You own the right to demand people respect your body.

2. You must respect other people’s bodies. It is never appropriate to hurt or violate someone’s body. I will teach my son never to rape.

3. You must ask if it is okay to give a hug, kiss, hold hands, etc. Wanting to show affection is sweet. Making sure it wants to be received is critical. No means no.

4. My husband and I demonstrate respect towards each other so that this is the foundation my children grow with: Men and women respect each other. We are equals.

5. My children are young and establishing their framework of the world. I do not allow media that normalizes violence against women nor that which sexualizes and objectifies them. (As my children grow our conversations about this will dig deeper into cultural attitudes about women’s bodies and Rape Culture. We will also talk about boys/men as victims.)

6. If you see someone hurting someone else you must speak up, stop it, or seek help. You may not be silent.

More on this:

One Student – become a change agent on campus

NPR: Rape On Campus: Painful Stories Cast Blame On Colleges

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

If You Don’t Like “Rape Culture” Then Focus For A Minute On Sex and Status

Huffington Post series for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Everything Was Fine Until It Wasn’t: What Happend at the Doctor

**Trigger Warning**

“No. No no no NO! Please! Please don’t do this to me! Please! No, I am too scared! NO!”
“Hold her still. I’ll rip her pants down and stick her.”
“NO NOOOO NO No NO NO NO NO NO.”
“Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.”

Sometimes things happen so fast it doesn’t feel like there is time to think and when it is over, you stand there wondering if what just happened, happened. My hands were shaking and both of my children were crying, bordering on hysterical. It had happened.

Let me back up, to last Thursday when I took my children to the pediatrician to catch up on some shots we had missed. My daughter really hates getting shots, so I had spent the two days prior preparing her for the two shots she would be getting, and why she needed to get them. We talked about what would happen, we talked about some diseases being very serious and needing prevention, and we planned a special reward for when it was over. We arrive at the doctor’s office and the kids go bananas because the waiting room has been completely remodeled, there is a new fish tank to press noses against, and a circular leather couch the kids deem an air hole in the Arctic ice and they morph into whales. Next they notice a small set of carpeted stairs in the corner and turn it into a stage, singing something about cats while we waited for our turn. We don’t go to the doctor very often, so the kids hadn’t been in the office in eight months or so. A nurse or Medical Assistant we had never seen called us back and roomed us.

The patient rooms were also new, and the kids were still excited and exploring everything. When I made the appointment three weeks ago I mentioned that my daughter was very scared of getting shots and that this appointment needed to happen quickly. This nurse, or MA, asked me what we were here for, and I looked at her puzzled and told her the kids needed a couple of shots. She asked if I knew which ones, and I inquired into why she was not prepared, nor had our charts pulled. I asked her to open our chart on the computer, and she seemed annoyed by the request. She opened my son’s chart first, and said “Oh my God, he’s missing like everything. I’m not sure what to do. Do you want us to give him everything today?” No, I did not. I wrote down what I wanted for him. I asked her to pull up my daughter’s chart, and Amelia had quieted down and came to my side, eyes very wide. As I looked at her chart, I noticed vaccines listed on there I had not approved (we reduce and delay, a decision that is met with indifference at this office). I was pissed. I asked to see the doctor, and was told he was on vacation until next week. I tried to calm down since there was nothing I could do at that moment, and I wrote down what I wanted my daughter to have. The nurse asked if I wanted to speak to one of the other doctors, I declined.

She then said it would take her a few minutes “to get all these shots ready”. The nurse left the room, not once addressing or acknowledging either child. Freaking brilliant, I thought.

“What does she mean, ‘all these shots’?” asked five year old Amelia, her voice beginning to tremble.

“I don’t know why she said it that way, Honey. She needs to get two shots for you and two for Benny. It will be two quick little pokes in your leg, and then you are all done.” Me

“I don’t want shots. Mom, I’m really scared,” Amelia said, and the tears started to roll. I wrapped her up in a hug.

“I understand that you are scared, but shots are something we have to do so that we don’t get very sick with a bad disease that could put us in the hospital or kill us. The nurse will do it very quickly. It will just feel like a little pinch,” I tried reassuring her.

No luck. Amelia is an deeply emotional creature. She is very bright and very intense.  She is a wonderful little girl who is deathly afraid of shots. I’m deathly afraid of clowns. I get it. I respect her, and if the child is terrified, it is my personal experience having worked with children with deep fears of water and swimming, to wrap them in love and security and ease them through their fears to get them to a place of confidence and understanding.

The nurse came back with another nurse/MA, and again without looking at or addressing either child, she looks at me and asks, “Okay, so who’s first?” I asked where the nurses where going to give the shot, and where they wanted me.

I chose Benny to go first, scooped him up, and put him on the table. The room was small and crowded. Amelia scooted under the exam table. I could hear her crying softly.

I helped Benny undo his snap and wiggle down his pants. He laid down on the table and began to cry a little. I held his hands and the second nurse had her hands on his feet. I told him to give me Eskimo kisses as the shots went in. He cried from the pain, but was otherwise a trooper. I got him redressed and hugged him, handed him a book, wiped away his tears, and sat him in one of the chairs.

Amelia was at this point crying very loudly, and had plastered herself to the wall underneath the exam table. Because the room was so small and I had been dealing with Ben, I let her go there because it seemed to make her feel safe. Since neither one of the medical staff had even acknowledged her, I’m going to assume she didn’t feel secure in the hands of two strangers who had just made her little brother cry.

With Amelia crying hard, I reached under and pulled her hand to help her out. She did not come very willingly. I tried to pick her up from under her arm pits and plop her bottom on the table, but she bucked off, and began screaming “No” over and over again. I still had her under her arms, tummy to tummy. I had my face nuzzled into her hair, and was trying to tell her that she would be okay, I understood she was scared, and that I would hold her the entire time. I don’t think she heard any of it over the crying. I could feel the nurses getting tense. I understood their annoyance, but the kid was terrified. Terrified. Not acting like a brat, she was terrified. I was hoping one of them would say something to her, or try to distract her for a moment. They just stood there. Benny was still crying a bit, too, saying his legs really hurt. I was about to ask the nurses to leave and give us a minute to get collected, when it happened.

“No. No no no NO! Please! Please don’t do this to me! Please! No, I am too scared! NO!” Amelia.
“Hold her still. I’ll rip her pants down and stick her.” Nurse.

“NO!” screamed Amelia, and she began kicking when the nurse reached for the waistband of her pants.

“What?! NO!” I said very sharply, not wanting my child’s pants ripped off her body, nor her to have a needle jammed in her leg when her body wasn’t still.

But the words of the nurse and the pleas of my daughter did it. My head swirled like when you are about to pass out, and all of my rape memories came back to me. I don’t talk about it and I don’t think about it, but the words, and the cries of my daughter, it was just enough to trigger it all, I guess. I tried to say something to Amelia, but my mouth didn’t open. I wanted to punch the nurse in the face, but for obvious reasons, did not. I turned to look at Ben, and he sat there, his little three year old body in the big chair,he had tears streaming down his face as he said, “Nama, Nama,” his pet name for his big sister.

A nurse came on either side of Amelia, grabbed a leg and lifted her onto the table. I still had Amelia by the upper body, and I numbly moved along with them.

“Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.” 

It was Amelia saying those words, but it had been me saying those words in my mind 15 years prior when I had been drugged and raped. I had been awake enough to know what was happening, too drugged to move or fight back. I tried to squash all of that down, and be present for my daughter, but she had stopped fighting at that point, she had given up. I wanted to weep. The nurses had backed off, and were standing at the end of the table. I just wanted this over and these women away from my children. I could not believe we were experiencing this.

“Amelia, I know you are scared. It is okay. Mommy is going to undo your button and I am going to wiggle your pants under your bum and you are going to get your shots.” Amelia’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was crying, but in a way that was more like moaning now. This is absolutely dreadful, I remember thinking. But this all took place in about 20-40 seconds. I was upset myself and I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell them to stop? That we’ll reschedule? There was no way I’d ever get Amelia back in here. The second nurse reached up and very gently helped Amelia wiggle down her pants, they very quickly gave her the shots and put Band Aids on, said a short “Okay then you’re all set” and left the room.

I stood there in shock. Hurt and fury and shock. Amelia stood up, crying, fist clenched, and screamed in my face, “SHE HAD NO RIGHT TO TAKE DOWN MY PANTS!”. Amelia was righteously pissed.

Amelia should be. She has been taught since about the age of two what the rules of her body are. She knows the names of her private parts, of male private parts, and that no one should touch her nor ask her to touch them or somebody else. She knows whether it is a kid or an adult, a stranger or someone we know, whether it feels good or is scary, no one is to touch her body. She knows unless she is at the doctor and Mom is in the room, no one is to ask her to take her clothes off so that they can look at her. As she has gotten older, she has developed on her own an attack plan of what she would do if someone tried to touch her or steal her. We have talked to her about “tummy voices” and how to listen to her intuition. We have raised her to be aware and confident and not to be fearful. She knows she can ask me or my husband questions, or come to us if something occurs and that she won’t get in trouble. She has been taught this. She knows the rules of her body.

Years ago at her three year old check up, she sat in her Dora panties while the doctor examined her and felt her tummy, and when he pressed on her lower abdomen, she popped up, put her finger in the air and other hand on her hip and spouted off what we joke are her “Vagina Monologues”, which is a 90 second rant on private parts and who can and cannot touch her body. The doctor very respectfully put his hands together and backed off. Little girlfriend would have none of it.

And that is why last Thursday was so devastating for me. For Amelia. She had been taught and had embraced the idea that she was in control of her body. She knew what was right and what was wrong. She knew she had the right to say no. She knew her body was hers. Yet this nurse, in her demonstrated complete lack of respect for my daughter, was going to forcefully remove the child’s pants. Now, I’ve never worked as a nurse, but I have worked with kids consistently since I was twelve years old. That’s 21 years of kiddom. I can think of 4-5 things off the top of my head that the nurses could have done to gain the trust of my child and make the shots go more smoothly. Or they could have left the room and let me calm my terrified child down. My dogs have been shown more compassion by their vet.

Yesterday, when I spoke to the doctor, he said the nurses denied it happening and that he was unsure what to do. I said I wanted the nurse formally disciplined, and for his staff to be addressed on bedside manner to children, and having a little extra compassion for young children terrified of needles. He said he was so very sorry this had happened. I said I was furious that my husband and I had worked so hard to give Amelia a strong body image and know the rules of her body, and we come to the place whose sole purpose it is to safe guard her health, and that as the child is crying “No” all of it was undone by one nurse. The doctor said he doubts most kids would have reacted as strongly as Amelia, and that maybe that was a result of what we had taught her. He said it was usually best not to bargain and just get it over with. He said she wouldn’t need shots again until she was ten, so she would be okay and get over it. I felt completely patronized and judged. My daughter was terrified, and what happened to her was traumatic. We will not be returning to his care.

This would be a pertinent time to interject that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually molested or assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. For boys, 1 in 6. My children are taught the rules of their bodies. 1 in 4 teens will suffer violence in a dating relationship. 15% of rape survivors are under the age of 12 years old. My children know their bodies belong to them, and that they have the right to demand respect for their bodies. As a parent, I will not apologize to my doctor or to anyone for teaching them that natural born right. You’re damn straight my daughter reacted strongly.

Later that afternoon I had to go to Madison for a segment on the news. I let Amelia come to the studio with me. She had a tired and glazed look in her eye. She had stared out the window, not talking, for the 45 minute drive to Madison. She was withdrawn. In the parking lot, she asked if she could question the reporters about whales. I said we would try. After my segment the anchors called her over to the news desk, and she was shy at first as they lether ask her questions about news stories on whales. Amelia is obsessed with whales, and they were asking questions back and answering her questions and the light came back on in her eyes. She was Amelia again. Within ten minutes she was sitting on the lap of the anchor I had done the segment with, and was inviting all of them to her birthday party. They had taken the time to gain the trust of the child.

When we returned home that night, she was talking to my husband at the dinner table, and she pounded her little fist on the table as she said to my husband, “That nurse had no right to take my pants down.” My husband agreed with her, he assured her that he and I were very angry, and that we would be talking to that nurse’s boss and that what she did was very wrong. Luckily, several of our dear family friends are nurses, and we are going to schedule some time for Amelia to go in and see them at work and give them hugs and have an experience that allows her to see loving, respectful nurses at work. We took time over the next couple of days to talk with both kids about what happened, what was not right about it, and why. We talked about how Amelia could have acted differently, even though she was very very scared.

I asked Amelia if she wanted to write the nurse a letter, to tell her what she thought about what happened. She answered in true Amelia fashion.

“Smalls, I know you were so upset today. Maybe it would be a good idea to write the nurse who upset you a letter,” I suggested.

“Mom, my brain was telling me to relax but my heart was telling me to cry and I was so scared and my tummy was telling me to puke,” Amelia explained.

“I understand that. You were very upset and very scared. You won’t have to get shots for a long time, so we have lots of time to practice being calm. So do you want to write the nurse a letter?” I ask.

“No. But I do want to mail her a toad,”  Amelia says.

“What if she doesn’t understand what that means? What does that mean, by the way?” I wonder as I try to figure out where this is going.

“Oh. Oh-ho-ho-ho. Oh she’ll know what it means,” says Amelia, as she pushes away her chair and gets up to go play with the puppy.

Amelia seems to be okay, but I do not know what to expect the next time she has to go to the doctor. And now I have to find a new doctor. While I hate what happened to us last Thursday, I am thankful I was present when it happened, and can help her understand it. I am thankful beyond words it was not a more serious situation, say one of sexual molestation or assault. I don’t ever want that level of violation to happen to my cherished daughter’s body, to any child’s body. It is the right of the child to have their body pass through their childhood much loved and unharmed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here’s what I want parents to take away from this story:

1. Please, please get comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies, private parts, and sex. You might need to get honest with yourself and move past some issues you may have in order to have this ongoing and evolving conversation with your child. Do that.

2. Please, please teach your children about their bodies, the correct names of their body parts, what appropriate and inappropriate touches are, and their right to say no.

3. Please, please get honest about the fact that these inappropriate touches 90% of the time come from people the child will know and consider safe. Your child must know that he or she will never be in trouble for being honest with you.

4. When a situation happens that is uncomfortable to talk about, get uncomfortable and talk about it. Allow your kids to express their emotions, and ask questions about what happened. Help them interpret their actions and the actions of the others involved. Their being a child does not diminish their rights.

5. Take time to get to know the staff at your doctor’s office. If something doesn’t feel right to you, ask questions or even take a timeout to take a step back. Respect a doctor’s time spent in school and knowledge, but recognize that you are the boss of your child’s body and will have a say in their medical care.

6. Teach your child that medical professionals are there to help them, and that sometimes we have to do things at the doctor we don’t want to do, like eye drops or shots or a throat culture to protect our health. But it is possible for a nurse or doctor to step outside of the realm of professional appropriateness and your child always has the right to speak up when they don’t like what is happening to their body. If it helps, develop a code word with your child that is a signal that they are uncomfortable (also works with neighbors or coaches or extended family) and need to speak to you in private ASAP.

7. YOU are your child’s biggest advocate. You are their voice in situations they cannot fully understand. Children cry and act out when they cannot voice what is happening to them. Children see the world differently than we do. Show them respect and see things from their eye level. Use your voice to stand up for them. It may not change what happened, but it will teach your child they are worth fighting for, and that you speak up and speak out when something is unjust.

 

When we discussed this on Facebook last week, I received some judgemental comments saying that Amelia’s behavior was inappropriate for a 5yo and that I had allowed my daughter to act in a way that was bratty and that I need more control as a parent. I want to make clear, this wasn’t Amelia being bratty, this was Amelia being terrified. There is a big difference, and the difference is an important one. I think telling a child to “Suck it up” when they are in a state of terror directly tells them their feelings are unimportant to what adults want to do with their bodies. I will not teach my children that, and if that makes me a bad parent, I’ll take it. I am stern with my children, but not in a way that disregards their feelings, especially when that feeling is terror. I try very hard, every day, to be present and parent from a place that is loving and respectful, not intimidating and dismissive. I respect them enough to not force my will on them, but rather have them come around to a decision because they understand the situation. At 5.5 yo and 3.5 yo and both extremely intelligent, they are capable of doing this.

Let’s please not turn the Comments into a vaccine debate. That is not the point of this post. We reduce and delay our shots, these were the last on my well-researched list, and we have family that lives abroad so it was important to get these in before we saw everyone at the holidays and my kids were exposed to things they normally would not be in this country.

To all of you who expressed love and concern for Amelia last week, my family thanks you.

I will thank you in advance for being respectful with your Comments.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

July 19, 2014 — I wanted to update this story with two things. One, after this incident took place we moved our care to a new pediatrician at a new office. Both our doctor and her nurses are outstanding and beyond respectful to me and my children. We love our new doctor’s office and while there are still some tears after getting shots the staff has worked so patiently with the children do diminish their fears. Amelia and Ben both still remember and talk about this incident, but as time has passed it has become less traumatic for all of us. The children use it as their benchmark for never being touched in ways they don’t like and for when adults are out of line with children.

Second, I wanted to share this video of a pediatrician who clearly is a master of his craft and clearly adores his small patients. This is what respect looks like in pediatric care, towards children and towards parents. This is how we teach children they are in control of their bodies and that mom/dad/doctor will look out for their health while including the child in that process as an active participant rather than a specimen.

I don’t know who this doctor is or where he is from, but he is amazing. What a lucky family to be in his care.

Thank you to PPBB Community Member Jill S for sending me this video.

How To Celebrate International Women’s Day From Your Comfortable Suburban Home

My view of a day spent in a Cape Town township, South Africa.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  A day to celebrate economic, political, and social gains by women worldwide. Today we honor achievements, and remember the women before us who brought us to this day. Today. A day to celebrate women.

Sisters, wives,  mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, friends, schoolmates, and coworkers.  The women of our world.
 
Yet in many places of the world, today will pass without celebration. Odds are good somewhere a woman will cradle a starving or sick child. Somewhere a woman will receive verbal threats or a physical blow from an intimate partner. Somewhere a girl will be raped as she walks to school. Somewhere a woman will walk miles for the clean water she needs to feed her family the one meal a day they can afford.
 
Somewhere a woman will be informed she has lost her job because she had taken time off to birth a child. Somewhere a woman will take home a paycheck that is nearly 1/3 less than that of the guy in the office next to her, although they do the same job. Somewhere a girl will sit in a classroom and be too timid to raise her hand. Somewhere a woman will give up on political ambitions.
 
All of those things have just happened in the time it took you to read those sentences.
 
None of these stories have changed in the 100 years we have celebrated women on this day. But still, we celebrate. Because for over 100 years the voices of women have not been silenced, their dreams have not been swept away despite often times incredible odds, their ambitions have been fulfilled despite being met with resistance. Women have always been strong. We have to be. We bear the weight of the world.
 
Women do 2/3 of the world’s work, earn 10% of the income, and own 1% of the land.
 
70 million girls are denied access to education in our world, and another 60 million will be sexually assaulted on their way to school.
 
That all seems far removed from me, as I sit in my comfortable home, typing on my laptop and fetching my son snacks while my daughter is playing at her preschool. It seems as far away as the photo above, that I took during a trip to South Africa in 2003. The children in the foreground danced around us as we unloaded treats from our pockets, and clung to our hands as we talked to the women gathered around those cement basins doing their wash. Do you see the women just right of center, in the white shirt and jean skirt? She was my age when I was on that trip – 25. She had a baby with her, which she later wrapped to her body as she carried her bundled wash on her head. She invited me to walk with her, calling me Tante Melissa. Auntie Melissa. Within minutes we had become sisters. We had nothing in common. Our worlds so different we could have been from separate planets. But still, she offered me smiles and we held hands while we walked. She was proud to show me around. I was honored she accepted me as her friend. When the combi drove away late in the afternoon, she was standing there, waving goodbye to me. I pressed my hand to the glass as I watched her get smaller and smaller.  
 
That trip changed my life. Africa has a way of doing that to you. I have not been able to go back, as now I have my own two babes to carry around. I cannot leave them yet for several weeks at a time, so my return trip will wait. But my compassion does not have to.
 
Today I will celebrate the women in my world. I will send messages to the family members and colleagues who inspire me. I will thank the teachers at my daughters school. I will call a friend to say hello. I will inspire sisterhood in others. I strongly believe that sisterhood – the power of women coming together and working together – is the final untapped natural resource of our world. And it is continually renewed, with the birth of each new baby girl. We are all sisters.
 
There are only two IWD events in my entire state. But I won’t let that limit me. I do not believe in limitations. I will not let the comfort of my day-to-day routine in my predictable suburban neighborhood, in my cozy suburban home, make me blind to what we all need to be seeing.
 
So how can you change the world from where you are?
 
-Think globally, and donate to the amazing efforts of The Girl EffectCharity WaterKiva, and  Heifer International.
-Think locally and donate to a women’s shelter, food pantry,  Girls Inc, write a letter to a woman soldier, or offer assistance to a family you know that is in need.
-Write a letter and thank your mama.
-Give flowers to a friend or mentor with a hand written note telling her why you honor her.
-Over tip the waitress.
-Stand up and walk over to a nearby office or cubicle and tell a colleague you appreciate them.
-Cook a meal for a neighbor. Or get together with a neighbor and cook some meals for a single mom, a new mom, or a widow.
-Invite that single mom or widow into your home for dinner.
-Round up old toys and books and donate them to a crisis nursery.
-Send cards to your closest girlfriends, thanking them for having your back.
-Bake some cookies with the kids and take them to teachers or nurses on the maternity ward, thanking them for what they do for children.
-Sit down with your children and go through a book or website that shares the biographies of the intrepid women who brought us to this day.
-Draw self portraits with your girl, and help her write down her attributes that make her unique and wonderful.
-Send a note to a former teacher. Do you know how important teachers are?
-Make a commitment to offer more grace and kindness to other women.
-And finally, tonight, when all is quiet and you have your mind all your own, write a letter to yourself. Offer gratitude for everything you have in life. Write down those dreams you are too shy to say out loud, and acknowledge the dreams you’ve already made come true. Write down some happy memories from the last year, and new ones you hope to create. Take the chance to inspire yourself.
 
From me to you, Happy 100th International Women’s Day. Cheers to us, and let’s prepare to celebrate 100 more!