Tell Your Story!

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From a young age I have always been fascinated with people’s stories and history. My dad once told me that I should have been a news reporter since I asked so many questions growing up. I guess I am just inquisitive by nature. I want to know the whole story, the backstory, history and every little detail.  Being a psychology major I also loved how our past and environments shape who we are and the power of our journey.

 

Recently I have been intrigued by a brave woman who told her story, her truth and how it changed history.  She shares the same first name as my beautiful grandmother, Fannie Mae Thompson 😊.

Fannie Lou Hamer was a sharecropper in Mississippi who wanted to learn more about voting and how to exercise her right to vote in the 1960’s. She was challenged at every angle to the point of almost losing her life.  She is famous for her quote regarding the oppression that she was facing in those turbulent times:   “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired”.

 

Black voters were met with constant opposition when it came to voting.  It is crazy that even in 2018 we are facing some of the same suppression tactics that were used in the past.  Fannie Lou was given the opportunity to share her story of voter suppression and the violence she endured at the hands of law enforcement to the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention in 1964.

The proceedings were to be televised nationally and there was fear that her story would cause then President Lyndon Johnson to lose support in the south.  The president decided to interrupt the televised program with an impromptu press conference.  More suppressive tactics in play but thankfully they backfired!  The news media realized what was happening and decided to replay her story later that night.  Her powerful account of her story and her truth shocked the nation and brought light to the horrible violence and atrocities in the South.

 

Her story was the catalyst that helped to pave the way for the passage of the Voter’s Rights Act in 1965 that lead to a huge increase of black voters voting in Mississippi and the South.   Just wow!!!  Fannie Lou continued to share her story and ended up running and becoming a state senator in her district and played a huge part in the civil rights movement.  Just amazing!

I’m honored that Fannie Lou’s actions impact me today as I am able to vote as a black female in the South.

 

Thank you, Fannie Lou and all the amazing trailblazers that were not afraid to speak their truth. I want to encourage everyone to reflect on your own amazing journey/story.   Share your story and gifts with others when you can – you never know the impact your life can have on others or the world!

 

I wanted to end this week’s blog post with the transcript of her powerful speech that day.  You can read it below and here the audio here >>https://youtu.be/ML3WaEsCB98.

 

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Speech:

 

“Mr. Chairman, and to the Credentials Committee, my name is Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, and I live at 626 East Lafayette Street, Ruleville, Mississippi, Sunflower County, the home of Sen. James O. Eastland, and Sen. Stennis.

It was the 31st of August in 1962 that 18 of us traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register to become first-class citizens.

We was met in Indianola by policemen, highway patrolmen, and they only allowed two of us in to take the literacy test at the time. After we had taken this test and started back to Ruleville, we was held up by the city police and the state highway patrolmen and carried back to Indianola where the bus driver was charged that day with driving a bus the wrong color.

After we paid the fine among us, we continued on to Ruleville, and Rev. Jeff Sunny carried me four miles in the rural area where I had worked as a timekeeper and sharecropper for 18 years. I was met there by my children, who told me that the plantation owner was angry because I had gone down to try to register.

After they told me, my husband came, and said the plantation owner was raising Cain because I had tried to register. Before he quit talking the plantation owner came and said, “Fannie Lou, do you know — did Pap tell you what I said?”

And I said, “Yes, sir.”

He said, “Well I mean that.” He said, “If you don’t go down and withdraw your registration, you will have to leave.” Said, “Then if you go down and withdraw,” said, “you still might have to go because we are not ready for that in Mississippi.”

And I addressed him and told him and said, “I didn’t try to register for you. I tried to register for myself.”

I had to leave that same night.

On the 10th of September 1962, 16 bullets was fired into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker for me. That same night two girls were shot in Ruleville, Mississippi. Also Mr. Joe McDonald’s house was shot in.

And June the 9th, 1963, I had attended a voter registration workshop, was returning back to Mississippi. Ten of us was traveling by the Continental Trailway bus. When we got to Winona, Mississippi, which is Montgomery County, four of the people got off to use the washroom, and two of the people — to use the restaurant — two of the people wanted to use the washroom.

The four people that had gone in to use the restaurant was ordered out. During this time I was on the bus. But when I looked through the window and saw they had rushed out I got off of the bus to see what had happened. And one of the ladies said, “It was a state highway patrolman and a chief of police ordered us out.”

I got back on the bus and one of the persons had used the washroom got back on the bus, too.

As soon as I was seated on the bus, I saw when they began to get the five people in a highway patrolman’s car. I stepped off of the bus to see what was happening and somebody screamed from the car that the five workers was in and said, “Get that one there.” When I went to get in the car, when the man told me I was under arrest, he kicked me.

I was carried to the county jail and put in the booking room. They left some of the people in the booking room and began to place us in cells. I was placed in a cell with a young woman called Miss Ivesta Simpson. After I was placed in the cell I began to hear sounds of licks and screams, I could hear the sounds of licks and horrible screams. And I could hear somebody say, “Can you say, ‘yes, sir,’ nigger? Can you say ‘yes, sir’?”

And they would say other horrible names.

She would say, “Yes, I can say ‘yes, sir.'”

“So, well, say it.”

She said, “I don’t know you well enough.”

They beat her, I don’t know how long. And after a while she began to pray, and asked God to have mercy on those people.

And it wasn’t too long before three white men came to my cell. One of these men was a state highway patrolman and he asked me where I was from. I told him Ruleville and he said, “We are going to check this.”

They left my cell and it wasn’t too long before they came back. He said, “You are from Ruleville all right,” and he used a curse word. And he said, “We are going to make you wish you was dead.”

I was carried out of that cell into another cell where they had two Negro prisoners. The state highway patrolman ordered the first Negro to take the blackjack.

The first Negro prisoner ordered me, by orders from the state highway patrolman, for me to lay down on a bunk bed on my face.

I laid on my face and the first Negro began to beat. I was beat by the first Negro until he was exhausted. I was holding my hands behind me at that time on my left side, because I suffered from polio when I was six years old.

After the first Negro had beat until he was exhausted, the State Highway Patrolman ordered the second Negro to take the blackjack.

The second Negro began to beat and I began to work my feet, and the State Highway Patrolman ordered the first Negro who had beat me to sit on my feet — to keep me from working my feet. I began to scream and one white man got up and began to beat me in my head and tell me to hush.

One white man — my dress had worked up high — he walked over and pulled my dress — I pulled my dress down and he pulled my dress back up.

I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.

All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first-class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?

Thank you.”

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By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.

Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.

Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/

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Calgon Take Me Away!

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Calgon Take Me Away!

The last few weeks have been action packed, busy, fun and exhausting. Yesterday I hit a wall after constantly pushing through pure exhaustion. The low gas warning light on my tank that I had been ignoring for several days suddenly flipped to empty and “Angry Mama Bear” arrived to take over. Everything was irritating me, and my patience was nowhere to be found. The look of horror in my daughter’s eyes when I growled at her to leave the room that mommy was done was not a proud mom moment for sure. Sorry pretty girl, mommy loves you! I stormed through the kitchen slamming anything that I could find and then stormed back into my bedroom. I told anyone within ear shot that I was done for that night and no one could ask me for another thing. I felt like a toddler having a tantrum and it felt good for some reason. Hello two year old Kara. Everyone would have to figure things out for the rest of the night and the house would continue to look like a war zone.

I took off my clothes, put on my pajamas, poured a glass of wine, turned off all the lights, and crawled into bed. I turned on my favorite show, “This Is Us” – love that show! My daughter came back in a few times with a stomach ache and a few other things, but I stayed in the bed and told her where to find something to settle her stomach and directed her to get things together. I settled in to watch the show and guilt slowly crept in and reminded me of the million things I needed to do and that my attitude and behavior was not nice. I pushed past those feelings and settled into bed and allowed myself to relax. I feel better today but still need to pour into my tank and need more self-care time for sure.

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As I thought about pulling something together for this week’s post (I missed by deadline so sorry Elisha 😉) all I could think of was the Calgon bath soap that was sitting by my tub. I remembered seeing the Calgon commercial as a little girl in the 80’s. It depicted a busy mom stressed with work, home and life. She got to her breaking point and screamed “Calgon Take Me Away”. Instantly she was transported into a beautiful luxurious spa like tub in a tranquil setting surrounded by the most amazing bubbles. She looked to be a million miles away from her home. She described the experience as a luxurious getaway. That’s some powerful bubble bath, Calgon I have my passport ready! I picked up a box of this magic potion a few months ago and I must say it is very relaxing!

A bubble bath is DEFINIETLY on my to do list for this evening as well as my intention to remind you to get away mentally as well as physically even if for a few moments. Take care of you. I know that I share these tips often, but it is easy to get to that empty tank and miss all the warning alerts at each mile marker.

Cheers to Calgon Take Me Away Moments, Mama bear growls and the journey to take care of YOU first!

By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.

Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.

Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/

My Emptying Nest – Embracing and Coping with Transition

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My Emptying Nest – Embracing and Coping with Transition

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It is that time of year again for parents – back to school time!  I have been busy getting my youngest daughter ready for her transition into high school and preparing to move my oldest daughter into her first apartment for her junior year in college!! What in the world –  it was just yesterday that I was a ball of tears sending my girls to school for their first day of kindergarten!

 

Lots of major transitions going on my way and during this time of year. We all face different transitions during our lives both minor and major.  I have learned to take transitions that are happening in my life more seriously.  When my freshmen daughter hopped out of the car two years ago and we pulled away from her dorm as a party of 3 and started our drive home I felt like my heart was breaking into a million pieces.  I felt waves of grief and sadness her freshman year that were often paralyzing and startling.  I felt crazy for feeling this way and alone at times.  Life was moving forward but I was stuck in how things used to be when we were one big happy family under one roof.

 

I knew it would be hard but nothing prepared me for this new level of parenting and releasing my daughter into the world.  I tried to carry on as if things were okay.  That’s what society tells us to do just keep it moving – this is a part of life, be happy! I was happy and proud but struggling at the same time.  You raise a child for 18+ years in your home caring for them, protecting them and then in the blink of an eye they have left your nest and you have a brand new normal. Your duties as a mom/parent are different.  The things that you worry about and how you support them when they are away are different and MUCH harder.  Your heart breaks to uncover a new level of loving, supporting and surrendering as a parent and individual.  The breaking pieces turn you inward and help lead you back to rediscovering and redefining who you are not just as a mom – but the process still sucks.

 

Through my experiences and healing I realize that embracing and carefully processing the changes that are taking place in our lives is very important to our wellbeing.  Taking time for self-care, healing and getting the support through family, friends or resources is vital.  A big shout out to my hubby who helped me cope during this transition and my many sleepless nights full of worry and anxiety.  Whew – no wonder God gave us partners!

 

As women especially, we power through things and have no time to slow down to pause and properly cope with challenges and milestones that we face.  We look up one day and realize that we thought we were handling things just fine when we really are not.  That happened to me about six months after we pulled away from that curb.  I looked up and realized I was not okay, needed help and that I had experienced a major change in my life that could not be ignored. I needed to feel and deal with the separation anxiety and depression that I was experiencing.

 

I want to use my experiences to help others.  We have support and gatherings when we enter motherhood but nothing in place when we experience this new milestone in the motherhood journey. I am ready to change this starting in my community.  I am planning some gatherings and a weekend retreat in October for moms going through transitions of a partial or full empty nest.  I want to provide a safe space to gather, celebrate, explore and be nurtured.

 

I have gone through it and still pick up the breaking pieces of my heart every fall.  We will start packing up my daughter this week for a third time and I already know that I will be a basket case, lol!  I look forward to sharing my wisdom, experiences, support, resources and love to moms and women as they go through these beautiful and life changing rites of passage.

 

Please email me at empowerherinc@yahoo.com or leave a comment to be added to my mailing list to get more details about upcoming events and resources.  I’m excited to use my experiences to help others!

 

Cheers to a new school year and the many transitions that we all experience on our journey.

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By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.

Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.

Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/

Find Your Voice – You are Your Best Advocate!

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Find Your Voice – You are Your Best Advocate!

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I have struggled with confidence for many years.  It’s weird because as young girl I was so creative and free spirited. You would often find me creating something, putting together plays, projects and dance routines for my family.  My cousins would say I was rather bossy and always making them participate in my adventures!  My voice was LOUD – then middle school and my teens hit and somehow my voice and confidence was gone.   I quietly entered womanhood and motherhood and my voice got even more quieter when it came to myself. Now when it comes to my daughters, hubby family, friends and causes that I am passionate about I am the loudest one in the room.   However, when it came to me it is a totally different story.

Self-advocacy is learning to speak up on your own behalf.   You are the only one that knows how you feel and what you need so you are the best person to speak up…duh! That sounds wonderful on paper and to most people but what happens when it is lost or disappears because you learned somewhere on your journey that your voice, opinions and needs did not matter? I think often as mothers and women this gets lost when we are caring for others so much.   We often feel that people are mind readers and know what we need.  Perfect example when I had my meltdown at work a month ago (check out my previous blog post to read more about my eye-opening experience) and my manager asked how I got to that point.  We assume that people know what we need but in truth it is up to us to say something and to keep saying it if necessary.

I recently had to speak up in a situation at work that was not working well for me. Most of the time I am a “go with the flow” and “take a lot of crap and strap on a smile” type of gal but lately this has not been working!  I am finding myself in more and more situations where just pushing through and not speaking up is just not happening.  So, I spoke up and addressed the issues I was having and that things were not working well for me.  I was shocked that I remained calm, was direct and firm. My managers honestly did not know what was going on and were disappointed that I did not speak up earlier before it got bad. They are working on solutions to readjust things to make it better not only for myself but also for my team.

I am learning that life can be so much easier if we speak up – duh so simple, right? I am on a new path of self-love and discovery that is changing how I feel about my needs daily.  We can often get lost in the shuffle.  We look up one day and realize that life is going great for everyone else but ourselves!  I found these terrific tips to help anyone that might be struggling with this topic to help guide you through the process of self-advocacy. These steps may take time so be patient with yourself along the way!

5 steps to self-advocacy:

1.     Take responsibility and believe in yourself. You have the right to speak up for yourself and only you know what is best for you, therefore it is your responsibility to create change in your life.

2.     Be organized. Know your rights, know what you want to speak-up about and gather any information that is required to do so.

3.     Develop a plan. Plan how you are going to speak-up, then practice to yourself, a family member or a close friend.

4.     Take action. Speak-up for yourself, using open communication while remaining respectful to others.

5.     Seek support if needed. It is important to ask for help when you feel you need it.

 

Feel free to leave a comment on other tips that you use to be your best self-advocate!  We can all use them. Cheers to finding your voice, using it in EVERY area of your life and pushing back!

By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.

Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.

Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/

“Halfway There!”

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Whew -can you believe it is July?? The halfway point of the year! It caught me by surprise – especially when I realized that my youngest daughter will be starting high school in less than three weeks..eeeckkkk! Talk about time flying she was just a toddler yesterday!  I wanted to take this week’s blog post to remind everyone that it is the perfect time for a halftime break.  I invite you to take a moment to step back, evaluate your year so far and take action to get back on track if needed. Or if you are like me and have a lot going on, step off that ‘track’ and rip a few things off your plate before we get into the busy season of the fall!

 

Since time is flying so quickly I wanted to suggest a few quick tips to be more mindful and to be fully in the moment.

 

Don’t Wish It was Friday on Monday

 

It is so easy to wake up on Monday morning wondering where the weekend went and then start longing for it to be Friday.  I am so guilty of this and just decided that instead of waiting for Friday I am going to enjoy the 24 hours that I am blessed with every day.  Why should we suffer through and spend our days longing for the weekend when we have this moment to be happy and thrive?

Take a 5 minute “Do Nothing Break” Everyday

 

Sit in silence, become aware of your thoughts and focus on your breathing for just 5 minutes a day. It sounds so simple but our mind is constantly going a million miles a minute.  It helps to just take a moment to sit in silence to take in the sounds and energy that is flowing in the moment.  Take several if needed – I know I do!

 

Schedule Breaks and Leave Room

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If your schedule is like mine – jam packed with back to back meetings, appointments, etc. it is important to plan breaks in between your laundry list of to do items.   If you have a meeting or appointment scheduled leave a thirty minute or hour break in between to regroup. When you get home from work take a moment to relax and write down three things you are grateful that happened that day.  I am notorious for hitting the door when I get home and going 90 miles an hour into mommy mode after a long day at work.  We just need to take several chills pills (need to bring that phrase back) on a daily basis!

 

Make Undivided Attention a Daily Practice

 

We have become multi-tasking monsters doing a million things at once. Especially with cell phones it is so easy to handle multiple tasks and conversations at a time.  If you are having a conversation with someone focus on the conversation, being fully present and not distracted.  When you are taking care of a task be in that moment and focus on what you are doing.  In Georgia they implemented a hands-free law while driving as of July 1st.  You cannot hold your phone to talk or text while driving or you will be ticketed. It is crazy how much restraint I had to have on the first few days to not grab my phone and scroll while at a red light.  Now I just focus on the music in the car or just my surroundings more.  It is hard to believe that idle time has become something that we try to avoid.

 

 

Overall take a long deep breath in and savor EVERY wonderful and crazy aspect of your life daily. It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in the New Year and now it’s July.  Now more than ever we need to be more mindful and enjoy our lives as it is a gift! I heard something the other day that said that God is not in the past or the future only in the present moment. I’m learning to spend more time there for sure – it is the best place to be!

 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – Deepak Chopra and Oprah have a wonderful FREE 21-day mediation starting on July 23rd. It is a great way to develop a meditation and mindfulness practice. They will be exploring the energy of attraction and manifesting your best life. These are so good and only come around a few times a year! Sign up soon by visiting: https://chopra.com/.

Be sure to leave a comment letting us know your favorite ways to chill and slow things down!

 

Cheers to the halfway point of 2018 and making EVERY moment count!

By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.

Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.

Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/

“My Mental Breakdown”

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Last Friday around 1:13 in the afternoon I experienced a mental breakdown. Is that okay to share or talk about these days??  If not, this is a break from all regularly scheduled programs that are being broadcasted on the picture perfect social media channel.  I interrupt this program with a dose of reality.

 

After a week full of 9 – 10 hour days covering for a colleague’s work load on top of my own – my brain could take no more.  I had received three calls from frustrated suppliers and managers that morning.  During the last call I could feel my voice starting to crack as I tried to listen to this manager’s frustration.  Nothing to do with me, just her frustration with the process.  I hit my red ‘end call’ button on my phone and started to shake, then the tears started to flow.   Luckily, I was working from home. The dam that was holding all the stress and anxiety of trying to handle too many things together finally broke.  I mean I was seriously sobbing uncontrollably the kind of cry that comes from a deep place within.  My laptop continued to chime with incoming emails, reminders, skype messages pinging me everyone wanting something. All I could do was cry –  I could not take in one more thing.

 

Thankfully my husband returned home early and found me.  He didn’t know what was wrong and I could barely get any words out.  He told me that I needed to message my manager to tell him I needed a break as I was in full meltdown. He had watched me come home from work that week each night like a zombie.  How do you message your manager telling him that you are having a mental meltdown?   It’s not like in a sports game where you can yell to the referee that you need a timeout – this is life.  You can’t use the words “mental breakdown” in a skype or email message at work.  Well this girl had to break that ‘rule’ on a beautiful Friday afternoon as I simply could not pull myself together.

 

My manager responded after a few seconds and asked why I did not ask for help earlier in the week and wondered how things got to that point.  I told him that I thought I was handling things okay, but evidently, I wasn’t.  More embarrassment as I continued to try to explain how I got to this point – where tears were spilling onto my hands and splashing my laptop as I typed. He made me step away from work for a few hours to regroup.

 

I was in shock that I got to the point of breaking down. As a mom, I’m used to mentally juggling a million different things, throw work and life on top of that and this is just another day in my world.  Nope not that day – my brain and spirit said otherwise.  The whistle had been blown I was officially down and in time out.  I feel slightly embarrassed and vulnerable post meltdown at work especially with my managers.  I guess my meltdown did result in a conversation led by my managers the following week making sure that the team knew that although things are super busy we need to know that we can ask for help.  There is even discussion of a monthly mental health day.  I guess my tears are making a difference, lol!

 

It has me thinking, why is this the norm? Trying to keep everything buttoned up, perfect and okay.  We give our best selves to our work all day and come home with nothing to give but irritability and exhaustion to the people that matter the most.  Our society rewards and encourages this work horse, lean in, slaying it mentally. I especially do not think this is good for women and moms. We must take more things off our plate, speak up and ask for help.  The norm should not be to run a million miles an hour and juggling a billion things.  If you do have a lot going on you need to have more downtime and self-care.  It needs to be okay to ask for a time out at work.  Where do we find that courage to say we are not okay and make this a priority?  Our western culture rewards the hustle and places more value on material possessions, success and power while eastern cultures embrace going with the natural flow of life, shorter work days, time with family, slowing down and taking care of yourself spiritually, mentally and physically.

 

Last week’s meltdown was a scary wakeup call that I was NOT expecting. I feel differently and want to change my approach to my mental health.  I also hope to create social change in our culture and how we work especially as women in a society that was created by men with traditional 9-6 values.  Our bodies were not meant to slay it Monday – Friday for 8-10 hrs.  Especially as women we go through monthly cycles that sometime require us to rest more or need more downtime.  We are taught as woman to ignore our bodies and to be like men, umm yeah no we are different we birth babies for crying out loud! Our work systems were not designed with this in mind.   It is time for more conversations around this topic and change.  I’ll start here with sharing my meltdown moment instead of the highlight reels of my life that we all choose to share daily.

 

I hope my emergency broadcast will help someone.  If you are in a meltdown moment, find someone to talk to, if you have EAP (Employee Assistance Program) at work use it. If you are in extreme crisis and no one to talk to call 1-800-273-8255 or even message me if needed.  I’m here to help and support!

 

Feel free to leave a comment about any recent meltdowns that you have experienced or practices that you have in place to protect your mental health and wellness!

 

Cheers to breakdowns that lead to getting the help that we need!

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By Kara Norman- Empower Her, Inc.

Kara Norman Atlanta Based Women Empowerment Thought Leader and bi-weekly blog contributor.

Kara Norman has been working with Women and Girls for a number of years. Her nonprofit organization Empower Her Inc , have led to many opportunities in the space of making social changes as it deals with women and their many roles in society. You can learn more about Kara Norman and Empower Her Inc. at http://www.empowerherinc.com/