Welcome to Real

In the beginning

Once upon a time (circa 2000), in a faraway land (Maryland), four young ladies found their soulmates in high school. No, not dudes. Best friends who balance each other in the best way and support each other through (literal and figurative) thick and thin.

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Fast forward 18 years…  We are now a doctor, a lawyer, a doula, and a financial planner deep in the weeds of young motherhood who learned to laugh together, cry together, learn together, and support each other through this season of life via one (in our humble opinion) very real, very wise, and brilliantly entertaining text chain, which is the foundation of much of this blog’s content.

We decided one day, on a whim, to start sharing our collective experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – with other people out there. The core value: keeping it #real with advice on parenthood, health, home, style, money and just whatever else comes up. LockersToLittles was that flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants adventure and wow, that was somethin’ else!

That blog life

The last 3 months have been a profound learning experience. We’ve laughed our buns off, cried in frustration and all 4 of us have learned more about ourselves than any of us thought possible. And most importantly, we discovered that there are other people out there who want to share our experience – you!! Wow! Our feedback and followers have blown us away with their support, ideas, and general awesomeness over and over.

We are taking that feedback and blasting off into a whole new level of the blogosphere peeps! You spoke and we have listened are are ready to serve.

To Infinity and Beyond

We are here to help others grow into the best version of themselves, and in the process are working to do the same. The best workouts for moms with no time? We gotcha. Best way to save for retirement no matter what age you start? You bet! Kids won’t eat vegetables? Coming to the rescue! Wondering what’s up with eating brie in pregnancy? #answeredthat. Just want to commiserate about this season in life being hard AF sometimes??? Oh yeah. Between the 4 of us we’ve had a whole lot of life happen and if it hasn’t happened to us, trust us, we know a guy.

People! The sky is the limit. Or is it?

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So if you haven’t visited with us before, then WELCOME. To all our returning followers, THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS. You’ve been with us this far and we cannot wait to share what we have in store with you.

To reach our much desired goals, we need YOU! Please enjoy and visit or lightly stalk us on our various social media outlets. Got a topic you want covered? Give us a comment, girl! Share your experiences, this is #momtribe and #parentlife and we’re all in this together. Oh, and share! ALLLLLLLL the sharing!

Welcome to REAL AS A M*THER!

xo, Annie, Christiana, Kristy and Margo

 

Money Mondays: The Road to Financial Recovery

The disease of addiction has left virtually no family completely unscathed.  It may be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, spouse, child or dear friend – but all of know at least one person struggling.

Thankfully, the stigma associated with this disease is starting to dissolve away.  The battle against those who would vilify the afflicted isn’t totally won, but I think we can all agree that where we are now in regards to general understanding and acceptance is leaps and bounds ahead of even where we were 5 years ago.

Addiction recovery support is something I’m personally passionate about, having known many important people in my life who I love, adore and respect who have benefited tremendously from treatment at a center specializing in the disease of addiction.  So, as a financial advisor, I felt personal responsibility to help in the best way I know how – which for me has translated into a volunteer education role at a local Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center.  Once a month, I lead a one-hour session with all of the in-patients in the facility (usually about 25-30 adults) focusing on financial education.

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This is how I start the session:  “Welcome, everyone.  My name is Margo.  I’m a financial advisor in the area.  You all are here at this facility because you are dedicated to your recovery from the disease of addiction, and you are serious about putting in the work toward that recovery.  Oftentimes, a part of the recovery from the disease of addiction includes financial recovery.  While battling our addictions, sometimes we make bad financial decisions, but believe me when I say that things are never too far gone to fix.  So, I’m here today as a volunteer educator because each of you inspires me.  Your dedication to your recovery means I’m dedicated to giving you the information, tools and resources to begin on the road to financial recovery, and once there, start practicing healthy financial behaviors to support your continued recovery.”

Here are some of the topics I cover:

  1. How to get out of debt, and why high interest rate credit cards are the things to avoid
  2. How to avoid bankruptcy and the steps to take to climb out of an impossible debt situation
  3. How our decisions affect those around us (i.e. What does it mean when we ask Mom/Dad to take a distribution from a retirement account before age 59.5?)
  4. How to differentiate between “need to have,” “want to have,” and “nice to have” and tactics to avoid overspending
  5. Why our credit scores are so important, why you deserve to be able to borrow at an affordable rate, and how to improve a bad credit score.
  6. How to avoid financial pitfalls like applying for a personal loan from a TV ad promising to minimize monthly credit card/debt payments.
  7. How to save for retirement, especially if your work offers a qualified plan with a match
  8. How to prioritize bill pay once out of the recovery center, how to sign up for online bill pay instead of auto-bill pay (and why), and how much to save moving forward.

I’m not going to share with you anything specific about conversations I’ve had in these sessions because all of that is private, but the thing I most want to share with you is this:  The people in that room are YOU and ME.  The face of the disease of addiction is the face of your peers.  It spans ALL ages and ALL demographics.  It is very smart and accomplished people who made the brave move to ask for help.

So, why this post?  Well, I wanted to suggest you all do a few things:

1. Do some soul searching to figure out how to use your talents/knowledge to help other people and then SIGN UP TO DO IT.  There are so many volunteer opportunities out there and 1 hour a month is totally doable for everyone.  It is exceptionally good for the soul and will make you feel like a million bucks, I promise.  If you want a book to read, check out The Happiness Project – One young woman was inspired to look into what truly makes us happy and (spoiler alert) it has to do with being grateful, helping others, and purposefully reminding yourself of the blessings in your life.  One way to accomplish this is through volunteerism.

2. Take some time to learn about the disease of addiction and how it is affecting your local community.  These are important issues that you should be informed about as you advocate for making your community a better place, and providing support to those who need it.  In my county alone, there have been more than 70 overdoses this year, 8 of which were fatal.  These are my neighbors and friends.  These are people who are deserving of our compassion and support.

3. Be kinder.  Many people are fighting battles that you are unaware of, and you’d be surprised how much a kind word or just general supportive gesture can change their world.  I know I’ve needed it at times, and I’m grateful for those willing to give it to me.

I can assure you that I get MUCH more out of these sessions than the participants.  I am reminded to be grateful for the support system in my life.  I am reminded to be vigilant regarding my behaviors and how I impact those around me.  I am usually taught at least one or two new things about financial pitfalls and how specific marketing can prey on those without the knowledge base to avoid financial predators.  (BTW: Why AREN’T we taught basic financial education in middle school or high school?!)  Most of all, I leave feeling inspired – inspired by people who have been through a GREAT deal of trials and who yet still are SO dedicated to self-improvement.

I’ve got a lot of improving to do.   So, these brave people help me remember to get to it.

Much love,

Margo

Dear Teacher: An Open Letter to My Son’s Teacher

Now that it’s summer time, and we have the time to reflect upon a successful kindergarten year for my son, I have been thinking of you, his teacher, a lot.

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A few years ago, I took my son to his preschool friend’s birthday party.  A few of the other moms in attendance were complaining to one another about our kids’ assistant teacher. They were saying, “She’s mean. She doesn’t like children.”   I said, “She isn’t mean; she is strict. Discipline is black and white for her – there is no gray area. She doesn’t harm the children, and she doesn’t say discouraging or disparaging things to them.  She is tough. I am ok with that. Structure in the classroom is good.”  No one seemed to agree with me, and that’s ok.

My reasons for feeling this way stem from a few things, not the least of which is due to the kind of mom I am.  I work long hours. When I get home I want to enjoy my children.  However, if they have been unhinged all day, it’s impossible to do because I spend all evening trying to reel them back in. I would rather spend the evening enjoying them, eating dinner, reading books, playing games, riding bikes, rolling around on the floor and snuggling on the sofa watching a movie.

I do understand viscerally the emotions these women are feeling, so my sharing this story isn’t meant to shame them for how they feel. I feel it myself sometimes. When my son is on the playground and another child shoves him aggressively to get by, I feel an intense desire to intervene and protect my son. “Wait,” my husband says, “and watch. Let him handle it first.” I stand by, my palms sweating and my heart beating, imagining myself march up to the parent of this kid and ask why they haven’t disciplined their kid for putting his hands on mine.  Then, something magical happens.  The kid does it again, and my son turns calmly to him and says, “Hey.  Don’t push me.  Ok?”  Just like that, it’s over.  As I’ve shared here, I learn very important things from my kids every day – usually, and especially, when I let them try to resolve their own issues.

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We were watching reruns of Friday Night Lights recently. There was a scene where the coach is yelling at the kids in the locker room.  Not speaking words of encouragement – straight up yelling at the top of his lungs.  The team members shrunk in their seats, feeling the heavy weight of disappointment on their shoulders.  Then, they worked harder, they ran sprints, they rolled in the mud.  They learned their lesson and they tried harder.

As I was watching this, a light bulb went off in my head.  I thought about my husband’s volunteer coaching gig at a local high school and remembered him telling me a story about a kid’s parent who wrote him a strongly worded email, chastising him for “yelling at” his son.  My husband is not a yeller.  He explained to the parent that he expressed dissatisfaction to the kid because he was disrespecting his teammates, but he didn’t yell.  And so I thought to myself, what is our obsession, as parents, with trying to prevent our children from being disciplined by the very people that we are asking to teach, coach, and discipline our children?  When I played sports, I got yelled at by my coaches.  I didn’t like it, sure.  It didn’t make feel good.  But you know what?  I am so glad it happened.  It taught me so much.

I want my kids to learn how it feels to do something wrong – to feel the consequences, most intensely and piercingly being when you disappoint someone you love and admire. Your teachers. Your coach. Your mom. Your dad. I remember those feelings in the pit of my stomach. I don’t want to protect my kids from that. It’s better that they make mistakes and understand the consequences in a space where those consequences don’t result in life altering outcomes like injury, jail, death, addiction. Teenagers are emotional and impulsive creatures.  I don’t want the first time for my son or daughter to be held responsible be years from now when he/she is a teenager and makes a bad decision like drinking and driving which can result in a DUI or worse, hurting themselves or others.

Emotional intelligence is more important to me than book smarts. Responsibility. Bravery.  I teach my son to stand up for what is right especially when it is hard. When he comes home and tells me that his heart hurts because someone was mean to his friend, I revel in that moment. He needs to understand empathy. Not sympathy. He can learn his ABC’s any day.  It doesn’t take a genius to teach ABC’s, but it does take a great teacher to teach empathy, kindness, bravery, humility and leadership.  Those things don’t develop when teachers are only allowed to dole out positive reinforcement instead of appropriate discipline.

I want that when my son is given accolades for an accomplishment that he feels true pride in knowing what he did was exemplary. I want him to motivated by this feeling over and over again.  It’s impossible to know this feeling if everyone gets a sticker, award or trophy. It’s also impossible to know this feeling if you are never disciplined for doing something wrong.

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We find ourselves in interesting times. We are begging for leaders of strength, kindness, good-heartedness and intelligence. However, we aren’t fostering the growth of them. We won’t allow our kids to fail. Parents handle everything for their kids. Strength is not made when you don’t have to work for things. Our children must learn how to effectively communicate with their teachers, how to stand up for themselves, how to ask for help, and how to learn how they can do better, be better and reach higher.  Minds, souls and bodies are all like muscles. You must work them to grow them.

I am sorry, dear teacher, for the precarious situation you now find yourself in. I was surprised when my son’s amazing preschool teacher called me one day a few years ago  to talk to me about my son’s day. No, not because he is perfect. He most certainly is not, and I am thrilled that in our household we do not have those ridiculous expectations. But because she felt it was necessary to proactively explain to me that he was reprimanded for doing something mischievous with his friends (climbing a fence) and against the rules. That call made me so sad.  Not because my son did something wrong.  He was four, and he’s a very fun little boy who values his friendships above all else, so I wasn’t surprised.

The call made me sad because the teacher likely has to make dozens of these calls a week, if not more, in an attempt to protect herself from angry parents who want to know why their perfect child came home and told them that he/she was disciplined in the classroom.  You, teacher, must spend your evenings making these calls instead of relaxing after a hard day of being paid WAY less than you are owed.  What, my fellow parents, are we trying to accomplish with this intense oversight?  This is not a rhetorical question – I actually want someone to answer this for me.  Parents: What are you trying to accomplish by making our teachers and coaches afraid to teach and coach our children?

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I don’t want my son and infant daughter to be me. I want them to be better than me. In whatever way that means for them.  As I see their shiny faces, looking up at me, happiness and interest and calm, I want the world to be a safe place.  But it isn’t. I can make my home safe but I can’t control the world. I don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, if someone harms my child (physical abuse or worse), I will intervene (and God help whoever has to deal with me in that type of situation, believe me.)  But, that’s not what we are talking about here.  We are talking about normal discipline in a school setting.  Warnings, time outs, privilege revocation, etc.

I want my children to be equipped to thrive in the real world. To know triumph. To know disappointment so that the triumph is sweeter. To search and work toward a solution. To lose. To win. To be bad at some things. To be good at some things. To be prepared. To be unprepared. To love and innovate and shine independently from me. They don’t need to change the world – just themselves, and always in a positive direction. For as they become the best version of themselves, they will change my world, their world, and your world. All teachers are not the same.  Some are loving.  Some are strict.  Some are silly.  Some will like my kids, and some won’t.  But THAT’S LIFE.  My kids will learn, just as I did, that not everyone is going to like them, and that’s OK.  I want my kids to be prepared for the WORLD.

So to you, dear teacher, your role is an important one. You are my partner, and I am yours. We work together and support one another.  You aren’t the mother – I know that that’s my job. You are their teacher, and I am so glad you are.  Don’t give them the answers. Help them learn. Don’t let everyone win. Help them grow. Hold my child accountable. Hold us all accountable to ourselves.  I support you, and I hope for a world where you can do your job without fear of being fired because a parent is upset that you hurt their child’s feelings by moving them to the back of the line when they couldn’t listen or follow the rules.

Otherwise what is the purpose of school?

With Great Gratitude,

Margo

Lessons I’ve learned from my kids

Lying is bad:  “Mom, you don’t actually have eyes in the back of your head.  I checked under your hair when you were sleeping.  That means you weren’t telling the truth, and you have to sit in time out for 33 minutes because you are 33 years old.”

Image may contain: 2 people, including Lee Cook, people sitting and childHe has perfected the eye roll and he’s only 6 years old.

Rules are rules:  “Mom, what does S T O P spell?  Then why didn’t you stop at that corner back there?”

Don’t be mean: After Levi got his blood drawn, I was so impressed with how great he did.  No tears or fear.  I was telling someone about how proud I was of him, and how I couldn’t believe that the grown man next to him was scared and crying.  “Mom, that’s mean to talk about that man like that.  He has feelings too!”

Boundaries are healthy:  We are at the airport, and a kind-looking man in a suit leans down toward my 2 year old daughter Monroe and says, “What a pretty girl you are!  How old are you?”  She looks up at him, puts her arm out quickly in a Heisman move with her palm close to his face and screams, “GO AWAYYYYY!”  He tries one more time with the same result.  Guess she didn’t want to talk to you, dude, and it’s ok for her to say it.

Image may contain: 1 person, babySometimes it’s good to be sassy!

God lives behind our sofa:  “Mom, there is  a man in the front room behind the sofa.”  “Oh, don’t worry, Mom.  It’s just God.  Mrs. Sparks told the class that God is everywhere but he’s invisible so you don’t always see him.  So, I just wanted you to know that right now he is behind the sofa in the front room.”

I’m a bad mom for turning on Disney movies:  We were watching Ferdinand, and toward the end, Levi started to cry (more like sob.)  “What’s wrong?”  “Ferdinand sent his friends to the farm and he didn’t make it!  Now he might die!”  Then, at the end, after everyone was reunited and happy, Levi starts to sob again.  “What’s wrong?  It’s a happy ending!”  “I’m so relieved!”  Then, he starts to get mad.  “Why did you MAKE me watch this?  It was so sad!!!!”

Sometimes, it’s just time for bed:  Monroe, when she is tired, will grab her blankies and hug all of us and say, “Bye, bye, night, night.” Then she goes upstairs to her room and sings herself to sleep.

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Honesty is the best policy, but if you know they won’t like your answer, end with a compliment: “Monroe, are you going to use the potty?”  “No, mommy.  Love you!  Awww. So pretty.”

If it hurts someone’s feelings, it’s not worth saying.  (Also, avoidance is a strategy too.):  Levi was upset because someone at school wanted to marry him and he didn’t want to marry her.  “So, just tell her you love her as a friend only.”  “No, mom, that’s mean.  I just won’t say anything at all, and then when I am older I’ll marry someone else.”

Spiders have feelings, too: “MOM!  I didn’t tell you about the spider so you would kill it!!  It deserves a chance to LIVE!”

Time is relative:  “Four more minutes, Levi!”  “You didn’t say five minutes yet, so I still have five more minutes to play!”  (We can also place this in the category of: If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, did it make a noise?)

Make sure you dress the part:  “I can’t go outside to play basketball until I find my new basketball shorts!”

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Believe in yourself.  The sky is the limit:  “Mom, you know how you help people make money?  Can you help Cracker Barrel make more money so they can add a drive thru so I can get their chicken dumplings whenever I want?”  “Well, honey, they aren’t my clients.”  “Well, why not?”

Everyone you meet is a potential friend, and deserves a chance:  “Mom, someone was mean to me at school today.”  “Well, Levi, you don’t have to play with them if they are being mean.”  “Mom, that’s not the right thing to do.  The right thing to do is become their friend so they learn to be nicer.”

It’s never a bad time to sing a song:  Especially in the grocery store, when you can get some nice amplification of your voice without much effort.  Monroe’s favorite tunes, including Moana, Maui, Coco, and Frozen, sound especially great in the dairy aisle when sung by a 2-year old.

HEADSHOTMargo is a financial advisor, software developer, and married mom of 2 who is surprised and delighted when she makes it out of the house in the morning fully dressed for work.

Money Mondays: How Exactly are Financial Advisors Paid? And By Who?

Hi friends!

So, I’ve mentioned in the past that you should find a financial advisor that you trust to help you plan for retirement and invest your money.  I’ve had people say to me, “Margo, how come the person who sold me insurance is offering to do a retirement projection for free, but other advisors are charging money to do this?”  The answer lies in how different financial professionals are compensated.

This is where it gets a little tricky.  It’s not as easy as it would seem to figure out exactly how financial professionals are paid.  And, most people would agree that it’s kind of confusing to figure out how to find a financial advisor you trust if you can’t figure out how the advisor is paid!   Some people have told me that this prevents them from even trying to find one at all – because when you don’t know how they are paid it’s pretty hard to figure out what it will cost you.  To compound the issue, many professionals call themselves “financial advisors,” but they all aren’t created equal.  They each may have varying expertise and very different “end games” when it comes to their relationship with you.  I’m here to tell you:  It’s confusing, and I’ll explain it to you.  I’m also going to give you a list of questions you can ask the advisor when you are interviewing them to figure it out, too.

To simplify, we can basically put financial advisors into one of three categories:  Commission-only, Fee-only, or Fee-based.  Fee-only and Fee-based sound the same, but they are actually quite different!  Here are the details:

compensation of financial advisors

Fee-only:  Fee-only advisors are only paid directly by their clients for the services they provide.  This fee is usually represented as a percentage of your account value or an hourly rate.  They do not sell any products like insurance or annuities, they don’t represent a bank or any financial institution, they don’t have proprietary funds like mutual funds to place into your investment accounts, and they don’t receive referral fees for sending you to other advisors, like an attorney or insurance rep.  In this scenario, the financial advisor only represents the best interests of their client – they aren’t there to sell a product or represent the interests of a bank or other financial institution.  Every decision they make is in the best interest of their client because they don’t have any conflicts or receive compensation from any other party or institution.  Fee-only advisors are true fiduciaries for their clients.

Commission only:  These are your insurance sales-folks and annuity sales-folks.  What’s good about them?  You need to have certain kinds of insurance: home, auto, health & life, for example.  These people have expertise, execution and only indirect cost to you out of pocket.  Some of these individuals will offer free financial planning meetings, but beware.  Their planning usually revolves around insurance products and getting you to buy one.  The reason that they offer financial projections for free is that they use the time to convince you to buy a product that they sell.

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Sometimes, in these financial planning meetings, they might encourage you to buy insurance or an annuity that may not appropriate for you because it makes them money.    I carefully vet the insurance representatives that I refer my clients to, so I know they aren’t going to inappropriately suggest a product to them, but there are unfortunately people like this out there.  I also review all insurance before my clients sign on that dotted line.  Having a neutral party who only works for you, and not a bank or an insurance company, review these sorts of things is a very smart move to make so you know it’s actually best for you.  And even though you aren’t paying the commission-only advisors directly (out of pocket) for the product they are selling you, you are paying them indirectly because of the fees you are paying upon purchase and/or the life of that product.  These products are not inexpensive, and the advisor receives payment from the company offering the product as a result of the money you spend to purchase it.

Fee-based: This is where it starts to get a little more complicated.  Fee-based advisors are a mix between fee-only and commission-only advisors. They receive a fee from you directly for managing your investments, usually a percentage of the total dollar amount of your account AND they sell products like insurance, propriety mutual funds, and/or receive referral fees for other professionals they send you to.  I know a lot of fee-based advisors who are wonderful – very smart and very ethical.  However, if the fee-based advisor isn’t as ethical, you can see where they might get into difficulty.  Are the investments they are choosing in your portfolio always the best ones for you?  Or are they choosing them because they receive a commission?  Are they selling you a product like insurance or an annuity because it makes them a commission?  Or are they recommending it to you because it’s actually the best product for you, and it’s the right choice for your goals and risk tolerance?  When it comes to fee-based advisors, you are potentially paying them both directly and indirectly for their advice and the choices they make for you/recommend to you.  Again, I know a lot of really great advisors who are fee-based, and one of the positives of this model is that they can sell you directly the products you might need to ensure you are comprehensively planning for your future.  However, it’s imperative that you find an ethical advisor if you are shopping in the fee-based arena.

If this sounds confusing, you aren’t alone.  I’ve been asked the following question by clients pretty often:  “How do I figure out which bucket my financial advisor falls into?”

So, I created the following list of questions to help figure it out:

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If your advisor is fee-only, the answers to all of these questions are NO.

If your advisor is fee-based, the answer to any ONE of the following questions will be YES: 1, 2, 3, or 7.  A YES to any one of those questions means they are not fee-only.

If your advisor is commission-only, they will always answer YES to #1.  Another hint:  They won’t be charging you an investment management fee, which is how you know they are commission-only instead of fee-based.

Finally, if the answers to #4, 5 or 6 are YES, it’s time to find a new advisor regardless of the way they are compensated.

If you are looking for potential advisors, the initial meeting should always be complimentary.  This is an intro meeting so they can figure out your needs and how they might serve you.  So, cost shouldn’t prevent you from reaching out to a potential financial advisor and “interviewing” them to see if they are right for you.

In that meeting, use the list of questions I give you here to figure out how they are paid, culminating with the final one:  “How much will this cost me, and will you quote me ahead of time, or as we go?”

There are great financial advisors out there, and armed with this information, I am confident you will find the best one for you!

Happy Advisor Shopping!!

Margo

HEADSHOTMargo is a fee-only financial advisor and mom of two.

Save Our Water Series Volume 3: Filtering out Fluoride

As a mother, I want to ensure that, as much as possible, what my children ingest leads to their best possible health. I am grateful to be part of a community that is knowledgeable about healthy food, sustainable farming practices, and responsible waste practices. I am also hopeful that soon we can go even farther and follow in the footsteps of some countries that are banning GMO foods and many other know toxins from their food markets altogether. But, with all this progress, I’ve still yet to hear much talk amongst mothering groups about what, for me, is a giant elephant in the room.

What about the safety of our drinking water?

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Photo of Painting by Lead Saulnier: The Painting Maniac

It’s fairly common knowledge that water in most American cities is treated with fluoride, chlorine, and other chemicals to keep it “safe.” The Environmental Protection Agency has been in charge of the safety of our water since 1978 (1). Today, the United States has some of the safest water supplies in the world in terms of preventing outbreaks of disease (1). But, let’s take a closer look at what we are adding to our water, and what that means for those of us ingesting it.

Water Processing

So what is really done to “keep our water safe?”  The details become very chem-heavy so, for brevity’s sake, I’ll sum up what is done in most city-treated water (aka not well water).  When water is collected, a chemical is added that has an extra positive ion. That ion bonds with dirt to form sediment that has a higher density (makes it heavier) than the water and can be filtered out via gravity. Then, we add another chemical, usually chlorine (Um…like bleach? Yup….like bleach) to kill any bacteria or parasites that may be lurking. While the idea of drinking bleach water is a little alarming, we also don’t get cholera outbreaks, so that’s good. THEN, we add fluoride, a mineral that exists in nature and is considered safe in small doses.

woman drinking water

The good news there, folks, is that fluoride is a great tooth enamel strengthener, decreasing cavities by up to 25%. The CDC touts water fluoridation as one of the 10 “great public health achievements of the 20th century” due to its “contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s”. However, they, in the same beat, go on to say that “cavities are still one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood.” They also review all the ways you can get the benefits of fluoride if you don’t live in an area with fluoridated water, like, ahem, brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste that you then spit out. (2)

The Trouble with Fluoride

In 2014, the well respected medical journal, Lancet Neurology published this review of Neurobehavioral effects of developmental toxicity which was completed in a joint endeavor with the National Institutes of Health. They had previously warned about 6 toxins in a 2006 review. In this update, they add six additional developmental neurotoxicants to the list: manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers …..(3).<record scratch>

Hold up, I’m all for the prevention of cavities, but did you say… NEUROTOXICANTS??? 

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Yups. Yes, they did. The scientists concluded that,

Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency.
Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. (3)

According to this study published in The Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives in 2012, researchers found that children tested in areas where water fluoride is higher have “significantly lower IQ scores than those who live in low fluoride areas.” (4)

The National Academies Press published this review by the National Research Counsel (NRC) on Fluoride in drinking water in which they discuss research in both human and animal models showing:

  1. Fluoride has a direct effect on the brain’s areas involved in memory. “Recently, the number of receptors for acetylcholine has been found to be reduced in regions of the brain thought to be most important for mental stability and for adequate retrieval of memories.”
  2. Fluoride exposure decreases lipids and phospholipids (which coat the brain cells), phosphohydrolases and phospholipase D, and protein content of the brain. These substances are responsible for neurotransmission, regulation of sugars that the brain uses for energy potentially impairing function.
  3. Fluoride exposure also increases free radicals in the brain (nasty substances that go around damaging cells) in several ways. “These changes have a bearing on the possibility that fluorides act to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

The NRC completed this large scale review in 2006. There was also a Harvard review article published in 2012 in which the author of the study, Philippe Grandjean, concludes, ““Fluoride seems to fit in with lead, mercury, and other poisons that cause chemical brain drain”. (6)

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Holy…..Canoli

But the controversial debate that remains is this: Is preventing cavities worth the mass administration to over 70% of the population with a known neurotoxin (7)? After all, the lethal dose is said to be 5-10G for an adult and 16mg/kg body weight for children (7). The dose in the water is much below that, but the IQ study referenced above strongly suggests a dose-response. Meaning, a lower dose has less negative effect than a higher dose, but still has an effect. The CDC and other large organizations think that small negative effect is worth it.

Not to go totally Erin Brockovich over here, but… I. Ain’t. Buyin’. It. While the CDC celebrates that fluoride was great in the 1960’s, I’m gonna go ahead and ask that someone raise the bar to today’s standards.  I mean, in the 1960’s, cigarettes were also advertised by that same era of physicians. Cigarettes?!

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Photo credit: Cigarettes.Stanford.edu

 It turns out that the original dogma proposed in the 1940s and 1950s that fluoride had to be ingested in childhood to strengthen teeth before they erupt was mistaken. This 2004 review in the journal Caries Research concluded that topical fluoride (like the one you get at the dentist office) is a safer and more effective method than ingesting fluoridated water (8). Other factors also play a large role in cavity risk such as what bacteria grow in your mother’s mouth (9). This 2017 study in Frontiers of Pediatrics concluded that,

The major contributing factors for the for the high prevalence of ECC are improper feeding practices, familial socioeconomic background, lack of parental education, and lack of access to dental care (10).

The final argument proposed is that many people can’t afford to take their children to the dentist for fluoride varnishing or maintain satisfactory dental care at home due to socioeconomic factors. I would argue that it seems like it would be a good idea to ask the parents of those children whether they are more worried about cavities or the increased risk of neurological toxicity before mass public action is taken like fluoridating the whole cities-worth of water.

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Sup, Erin Brockovich….Photo Credit Take Part

While I am picking on fluoride here, the second overarching point is the introduction of more and more chemicals via pesticide and herbicide treatments of irresponsible industrial farming into our water system (See: Volume Two of Save Our Water Series for more on that). While treatment plants do their best to filter and treat it, we have to decide if that is a risk we are willing to take with the information we have gathered about the amounts of these chemicals that exist our food, water sources, and the quality of the air that we breathe.

What to do

Even if it is deemed “safe”, I cannot help but cringe when I’m thirsty and take a sip of water fountain water, or watch my kids drink a mouthful that smells like the pool at the YMCA (you know what I’m talking about). But there’s a simple solution!

If you have city water, there are filtration systems that can be used in your home for ingesting: cooking or drinking. The one I most commonly recommend is the Berkey Water Filtration System. This has fluoride filters, chlorine filters, and the test results of the filters efficacy are posted on the website. One of these filters is good for a family of two to four to provide clean, chemical free, drinking and cooking water for a span of 12,000 gallons. We have been filtering our family’s water this way for nearly 7 years.

1917041.jpgOne of the ways to filter water that has made a buzz in health food stores is reverse osmosis water.  The concept here, is the process takes water with bigger molecules in it, i.e. saltwater or water treated with chemical molecules, and pushes it through a membrane that only fits the water through and not the other molecules.  It’ll filter out any added minerals or heavy metals in your water as well, such as mercury.

Additional options from Pure Water Freedom include a variety of filters that directly hook to your kitchen sink and/or refrigerator, along with reverse osmosis systems. Take a look!

So I have to ask again… should our health goals should be prioritizing a small improvement in prevention of cavities versus the brain health of the citizens?  Just because it isn’t close to the lethal dose, doesn’t mean the dosage in our water supply isn’t still dangerous. Particularly for smaller bodies.

If you’re as passionate about this as my husband and I tend to be, another proactive thing you can do is contact your local state Representative. Voicing our concerns for public health may take a lot of noise, but hopefully the squeaky wheels will get the grease eventually.

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Photo Credit Quick Base Blog
The decision to filter out your water is categorically just that, YOUR decision. If you are drinking city water, however, the decisions are being made FOR YOU, and it was my goal of this post to make you an informed consumer. Choose wisely what you want to do, my friends….but remember that it is your right to be fully informed when you make said choice.

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Kristy is a wife, mother of 2 children, one with no cavities and one with 6 (where were you on that one fluoride?)

 

 

 


References

(1) CDC Drinking Water FAQ https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/
(2)CDC Flouridation Information page https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/basics/index.htm
(3) Philippe Grandjean, Philip J Landrigan. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol 2014; 13: 330–38.
(4) Choi AL1Sun GZhang YGrandjean P.Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis.  2012 Oct;120(10):1362-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1104912. Epub 2012 Jul 20.
(5) Doull, John, et al. FLUORIDE IN DRINKING WATER:A SCIENTIFIC REVIEW OF EPA’S STANDARDS. pages 205-223.
(6) Dwyer, Marge. Impact of fluoride on neurological development in children. Harvard School of Public Health. July 25, 2012
(7)  Hrefna Palsdottir, MS. Fluoride: Good or Bad? Healthline. August 17, 2016
(8) Hellwig E1Lennon AM. Systemic versus topical fluoride 2014 Mar;93(3):238-44. doi: 10.1177/0022034513517713. Epub 2013 Dec 19.
(9) Chaffee BW1Gansky SAWeintraub JAFeatherstone JDRamos-Gomez FJ. Maternal oral bacterial levels predict early childhood caries development.
(10) Anil S1Anand PS2. Early Childhood Caries: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Prevention.  2017 Jul 18;5:157. doi: 10.3389/fped.2017.00157. eCollection 2017.

Respect

Motherhood is full of lessons. Starting with learning to aim your pee at a stick, then how to put on shoes with a basketball belly, how to not get peed on changing a diaper, and how to strap a screaming, squirming toddler into a car seat… it goes on and on. One of the biggest lessons for me by far has been learning to respect my body.

Respect is a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important, or held in high esteem or regard; it conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities; and it is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings.  -Wikipedia

Let’s break this down.

A positive feeling towards something held in high regard

Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Your body, as a female, is miraculous. Dudes are cool too, but having ovaries and a uterus means you can GROW A HUMAN. Not all women do it and it certainly does not make you any less phenomenal if you don’t. The possibility and reality of your body as a mother though, is truly astounding.

Lately, I’ve seen so many beautiful stories online of women celebrating their bodies in motherhood. From Katrina Scott of Tone It Up, to Chrissy Teigen, to Bikini Body Mommy, and so many others, stories filled with positivity in celebration of the pregnant, postpartum, and amazing female body are on the rise. And that should truly be the focus of all of us. Not stretch marks, not pregnant cankles, not undereye circles or any of the other criticisms we throw at our poor bodies that work so hard for us. But a freaking cel-e-bration, people.

Hold your body in high regard.

This was a huge area of growth for me. I spent years criticizing every little bit of my poor body. If I was out of shape, I would think negatively about my arms, belly, thighs, or butt practically every time I moved or saw myself. If I was in shape, I would pick on my skin, my nose, my chin, or some other thing. Basically, no matter what I did, my body was never good enough. Becoming a mom, particularly to a little girl, made me realize that is NOT how it should be. Through the lens of motherhood, I finally recognize and appreciate that my body is strong and capable of hard things (like really, really hard things!) and deserves praise, not judgment.

The process of honoring something by exhibiting care for its needs

This was even harder for me. My first pregnancy, I was a resident physician working 80 hours or more a week. I was used to being able to disregard my body’s wants and needs, like, ahem, sleep, food, etc… But then, I was so run down I puked until I needed IV fluids and started having premature contractions. I knew exactly what I would tell my own patients, but it took me sitting in Labor & Delivery triage, watching a monitor show me the effects of my actions, to give myself the same respect.

So then, I had it, right? Nope. Decided to whip my poor postpartum bod into shape after having baby number 2. Went on a crazy diet, worked out like a madwoman and what-do-you-know, my milk supply tanked. I struggled with this, refusing to treat my body with kindness, understanding, and yes, respect. Then, I beat myself up some more about having to give that baby formula too. Guess what, she’s healthy and I eventually, through coaching and kindness and respecting my body’s needs, got into the best shape of my life.

Finally, now, with this third baby, I’m *starting* to get it. I took leave from work when my body needed it in pregnancy. I listened when I needed to change my birth expectations. And today? Today I’m spending the whole dang day resting, drinking tons of water, and nursing my baby because I did a little too much the last 2 days and I’ve learned to listen and treat my body with respect.

Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

Moving forward

How can you start to show your body more respect? How can you honor it, show care for its needs?

Step 1: Look yourself in the mirror and say, out loud, “My body is incredible!” Or whatever you want your positive message to be. Not only does this make a difference in how you feel, but we are also teaching our children how to view and treat their own bodies. Setting this intention will guide even your subtle, subconscious actions to show it to them, and the world.

Step 2: Treat your body how you would want a loved one to be treated. For whatever reason, I have to get all 3rd person to figure out what is best for me. My internal drive to just soldier on is not always the best thing. If this is you too, imagine your sister or best friend or even your child telling you how they are feeling. What would you tell them to do? Give yourself the same consideration.

What are ways you all treat your body with care? Tell us in the comments so we can share ideas!

Photo credit: Little Wonders Photography

Dr. Annie is a mama of 3, family doctor and lifelong learner of how to follow my own advice.

 

Life & Littles Podcast!

Exciting news!!!

Our own Dr. Annie is on this week’s episode of Doctor Mommy, MD’s podcast talking about second trimester of pregnancy. The Life & Littles podcast may just be your new favorite listen, friends!

Photo credit Fiona Margo Photography

“Imagine your best friend is a doctor and a mom, what questions would you want to ask her over a glass of wine? What questions would you text her in the middle of the night?” Sound helpful?

Grab a coffee or glass of wine and tune in on iTunes and subscribe to get all the upcoming fun times!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-littles-with-doctor-mommy-md/id1451847392?mt=2&i=1000429939961

You can also find Shelly on Instagram and Facebook @doctormommymd and should check out her gorgeous blog while you’re at it!

Xoxo!

Sexy as a M*ther

There’s a new sexy in town friends, and I would argue, it’s even better than before. It’s mom-sexy. We may not have the bouncy bounty of hair and bikini top filling of yesteryear, but we have some new moves that can light the 🔥🔥🔥 of romance like none other. (Literally. Because no one who’s not a mom would do this stuff…)

Wardrobe

Those young folks are all rocking flowy, low-cut tanks and dresses that show a hint of side or underboob here and there. The sexy implication being a nipple could be exposed at any moment. Enter: nursing tanks. This garment has the significant advantage of being able to actually whip out a titty in 1 second flat. Hey-yo!!!!

Shock Value

Sure Victoria would have you think your partner wants you in lacy little get ups 365 days a year. Let me tell ya, when all they’ve seen you in for months is spit-up stained sweats and then you slip on a real nighty? Firecrackers!!!

Naughty Naughty

Remember those teenage trysts making out when you knew your parents might walk in and bust you any minute -so hot, right? Well, as a parent, you get to turn the tables! You never know when a kid might wake up with a need for an escort to the bathroom and discover you and your partner “practicing stretching” or “having a tickle fight” 😳

Exploration

Another level of kink factor is available for all you cosleepers. Kid is in your bed so that’s off limits (at least I hope, because, wow! Boundaries, people). Hello, laundry room! Or take it to the bathroom counter. Nothing makes for creative sexcapades like having a literal cockblocker in your bed.

You said it!

New Turn Ons

Totally aging myself here, but… Remember when Devin Sawa’s bowl cut was the hottest thing (or were you a JTT gal?)? And then a few years later, it was boy band moves, then Abercrombie store dudes in barely-not-showing-pubic-hair-low cut shorts? What turns you on changes with time. And let me tell ya, once you’re a parent, there is basically nothing sexier than your partner going above and beyond with home & childcare.

Tell Me What You Want

What you really really want…. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really Really want. Because I’m a mom. And ain’t nobody got time for that Oh-let’s-pretend-this-is-fun-because-I’m-too-shy-to-be-honest sh*t. We know what works (hopefully!!) and we know how to get it and THAT, my friends is sexy.

Pregnant Sex

Ok, this one is transient, but can be ahhhhhmazing!! Increased blood flow? Yes please! Embracing your new curves? Oh yeah! Those pregnant boobs? 🙌🏻🙌🏻! If comfort allows, this can be one of the biggest perks of gestation. Get. After. It. There is a big ol’ dry spell (literally, so dry down there) coming up after baby. Store up some good times to last you through!

As always, keepin it Real

Real Talk

In all honesty though, it can be hard to feel like your former sexy self as a mom. Your body is different. It might feel better, it might feel squishier, it might feel completely foreign – no matter what, it changes. You may not have time for basic self care, much less a “beauty routine”. But instead of beating ourselves up about it and missing out on the fun, why not embrace it?! Your body can LITERALLY grow human beings. It’s miraculous. This is a special season in life and won’t last forever. Get out there and have a spicy Valentine’s Day, mamas! I, for one, think you’re SMOKIN!!! 😘

Dr. Annie is newly a mom of 3, a family doctor and finding new ways to be sexy all the time 😜

 

 

Turn up the heat on your winter fitness routine

January, the quintessential month for fitness and health resolutions, is arguably one of the crappiest times to start a new fitness regimen. The New Year holiday notwithstanding, in much of the United States, January and February often land you right in the heart of winter when outdoor swims are completely out of the question, outdoor running and cycling can you leave you frigid (or on.your.face. – black ice is a thing, y’all), and the motivation to “just get out and walk” can be at an all-time low. Unless of course you live somewhere tropical. In which case we’re not mad, just jealous.

So,  if your are struggling with how to add some variety to your winter routine, how to stay motivated through a cold spell a polar vortex February, or how to propel your New Year’s goals past the winter doldrums (AKA February), you ARE NOT ALONE. And you can do it! We are here to tell you, wholeheartedly to

bundle up, but DO NOT give up!

Between us, we have 10 postpartum fitness recoveries, a marathoner, a couple of cross-fitters, a few yogis, and a personal trainer. Here are our favorite ways to stay on track through winter weather, whatever your fitness level or style.

people exercising inside brown painted room

Hot Yoga

Don’t let the name scare you. This is nothing different than yoga in your living room except with a fancy heater.  There are now a variety of vinyasa or “flow classes” offered in heated studios as well as the traditional Bikram classes usually done somewhere between 84-110 degrees. Which, this winter feels about as close to a tropical vacation as we’re going to get. Several studios offer a weekly “community class” at reduced rates and offer student/military discounts.  As a former hater, “I sweat enough in regular yoga” I said… I have converted! I urge everyone to just GO. Don’t forget to pre-hydrate well and tell the instructor if you’re a beginner. Plus based on a 2018 Texas State University study, doing hot yoga can significantly lower body fat.* Which sounds on point for any New Year’s health resolution if I do say so myself. Take that, February.

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Spinning

No icy trails to hold you back, and all the calories to burn. Spinning is particularly great because you can pace yourself, and control resistance yourself, BUT still have the benefit of trying to beat everyone else in the room. (Wait, is that just us?) Spinning is an intense cardio session that will leave your heart rate high, your motivation soaring, and pretty much guaranteed… your T-shirt soaked. No snow days for spin bikes.

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Photo Credit: Sweat by Kayla Itsines

App based Circuit workouts

With great equipment-free workouts literally in the palm of your hand, your winter excuses run out. Lucky for you, there are several outstanding fitness apps that provide killer circuit routines with full equipment work-outs for the gym OR with zero equipment necessary for at-home use (Read: In your living room lunging with a child on your shoulders. Yea, it works.) A few of our favorite apps are featured in our Best Fitness App post, and lately we’re digging Kayla Itsine’s Sweat App and the free Daily Cardio App as well.  If you don’t want to subscribe to an app to do this training at home, let it be known that we fully support kitchen cardio-dance parties. (Cocktail, optional.)

three woman in assorted color sport bras holding and watching their smartphones

Phone a friend

Winter weather is much less likely to dissuade us if we know there is a friend holding us accountable for a missed workout. Ideally, we should all show up for ourselves. But especially when you are trying to set a new routine or if you know you have a tendency to sell yourself short, have a friend hold you accountable! Meet a friend at the gym or just ask someone to help hold you to your schedule by texting you to pony up when you say you will. You can also get this in a major way through class accountability. Crossfit, as one of many examples, has daily scheduled classes that help create friendships, workout buddies, and before you know it BAM….you have your accountability texts right there.

So get out there and get your fitness goals on… the cold need not bother you, anyway!

Sources

*Effects of yoga interventions practised in heated and thermoneutral conditions on endothelium-dependent vasodilatation: The Bikram yoga heart study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29349832

 

b8fd0f48-abdd-41a9-9b27-0b537b307a55We are moms to 10 kids, marathon runners, yogis, spinners, cross-fitters, gym-buddies, and kitchen dance party enthusiasts that believe fitness should always be a part of your life, even if it is -7 degrees.  And even if you dance with a cocktail.

We are Real As A M*ther.

Strong Women Series: Tackling Addiction with Compassion

Every day, millions of lives are touched by the disease of addiction. Whether personally, or through the eyes of family members or dear friends, many of us have watched and hoped while those we love fight their battle with addiction. According to the Surgeon General’s 2016 report, Facing Addiction in America, one in seven Americans will experience a problem with alcohol or drug abuse in their lifetimes, approximately 20 million Americans have current substance use disorders, and 78 Americans are dying from overdose every day.  Addiction knows no boundaries, and touches all walks of life and socioeconomic statuses, from celebrity to poverty.

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Introducing Mary Page Shinholser

It is through this lens, that I am proud to introduce an amazing woman that I most definitely look up to, despite being almost 9 years older than her.  I first came to know Mary Page Shinholser through Crossfit, about a year ago, and found the more I got to know her, the more I admired her. I had only heard bits and pieces of her story, but I always found her energy positive and relatable.

One of the many reasons Mary Page is a hero to me is because she clearly answered a call from the universe to help, and teaches from her own personal experiences with addiction and empowers people to reclaim their world from its clutches.  Another is that she follows this call inexhaustibly, never failing to touch people and remind them that they are NOT ALONE. Ever.

In her words…

Here is Mary Page Shinholser’s story, in her own words:

Hello blog world! I’m here to tell you a little about me, what I do in the addiction and recovery field, and why it matters.

My experience in this world is long and personal. I have lost count of the funerals I have been to of those who have overdosed or had an addiction-related death. Some of the most amazing people in my life are in recovery. My father, step mother, three uncles, both grandfathers, a few good friends, two cousins, and a former boyfriend all are in recovery from Substance Use Disorders (SUD). They are kind, hard working, and compassionate people that as a child, I looked forward to spending the evenings with, either at Narcotics Anonymous meetings after school in a basement church, at cookouts, campouts, or holiday parties. I used to write some of my parent’s friends letters while they were in jail.  

MP and Dad
Me and my Father

I was always proud of the world I grew up in. I had a fantastic childhood. I vividly remember my very first drug talk at the age of seven, and my first drug test. Drug tests were kept on top of our fridge, and my first one was administered at the age of 12. I knew no different, in fact I was shocked to find out that most other kids didn’t grow up the way I did.

The first time I experienced the stigma attached to the disease of addiction (yes, disease, I’ll touch on that a bit later), was in middle school. I wanted to have a sleep over and my friend’s parents wouldn’t let her come over to my house because, she said “my mom said no because your dad is a drug addict.” I didn’t understand, and my little broken heart said “my dad is NOT a drug addict. He’s in NA, he is clean, and has been clean since before I was born! HE WORKED THE STEPS!” I was distraught. I cried, a lot. I guess that is where the educator in me was first born. 

Fast forward 15 years. I’m teaching 8th grade civics and economics and loving it. When I was told by the county that I wouldn’t have a job the following school year, I was absolutely crushed. Here I was, finally loving what I do and I was damn good at it. I had a 94% SOL passing rate, (do you know how hard that is to achieve with middle schoolers obsessed with Instagram and Fortnite?) I was coaching Track and Field, and I was making a difference. 

Throughout this period in my life, the opioid epidemic was at an all time high, and it really pissed me off. I heard this little voice in the back of my head saying, “Mary Page. DO. SOMETHING.” Well, the universe heard me. Soon after that, I had a recruiter reach out to me on LinkedIn and asked me, “Have you ever thought about teaching people about addiction and recovery?”

MP fam
Me with my Dad and Stepmom

“Well, Hell YEAH!” I thought, and a few interviews later, I received an offer that I just could not refuse. I landed a Community Relations role with a treatment center that truly is on a mission to provide the best high-level treatment and care in the field. #winningforeveryone

My job is to travel around the state of Virginia, let people know who I am, who we are, what we do, and how we do it. I get to talk to people in probation and parole, inmates, counselors, doctors, lawyers, politicians, school counselors, and beyond. I not only get to teach people about treatment, but I also get to give people hope. I get to tell people they’re not alone. I get to give people a first, second, third, or fourth chance at a better life. Most importantly, however, I get to educate people into getting the right treatment options for them. And if we are not right for them, I point them in the direction of the best fit for their recovery.

What is SUD?

SUD is categorized and defined as a disorder and mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association and is listed in the most recent version of the DSM-5. There are three subclassifications (mild, moderate, and severe) that fall into four major categories: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria.

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Photo Credit The Recovery Research Institute

Addiction is not a one size fits all disease. There is no single treatment that works for everyone who walks through our doors. There is no chemotherapy, blood transfusion, surgery, or transplant that can cure it. It is pure hard work. Tackling recovery, whether it’s your first time or your twentieth, is majorly hard. It is emotional and it is raw.

In a way, I have found my purpose in life through this new role I am in. I want to educate people not only on addiction, but also on mental illness in general. There are so many diseases and disorders out there that people know nothing about, but cast judgement upon it, which makes it so much harder for people to reach out and get the help they need. If I can reach one small group of people, or even just one person, and let them know, “Hey, I see you. I will help you. I love you, and you are not nor will you ever be alone. I will fight with you and I will fight for you,” then I can sleep soundly at night.  

I want to end this post with two things. First, if you or anyone you know are struggling or even showing small signs of SUD, reach out and ask for help. It is out there and it is closer than you think. Second, be kind and be compassionate.

The human race has mastered the art of covering things up with a smile. You never know when you’ll be faced with SUD head on, but I can guarantee you this; this community is strong, this community is welcoming, and this community is filled with fighters.

I will say it again, so you can hear it. You are Not Alone.

Feeling Inspired?

Big thanks to Mary Page for telling her inspiring story! For more resources and further reading on SUD and addiction, check out the Surgeon General’s full report on Addiction in America, or this fantastic TED talk by Johann Hari. And please, pay your knowledge and compassion forward. Share the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website and free confidential helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) with those you love. The SAMHSA offers 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Let’s commit to saying it loud, together: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Stay tuned, because Mary Page has an awesome Podcast launching later this month entitled “Ment”. It will primarily focus on mental and behavioral health issues that fly under the radar. People who have suffered from these disorders will be given a platform to share their stories, how they reached a point to seek recovery, and how their recovery is thriving. The hope behind this new endeavor for Mary Page is to pay recovery forward. To allow people to know that you are “Ment” to be right where you are in your journey.  You can look for more updates as they come on our Real As A Mother social media sites.

 

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Kristy is a birth doula, massage therapist, homesteader, mother of two, and supporter of strong women in Virginia.

 

 

Balls of Energy

I’ve gotten a few requests for more specific recipes for the energy bites from our How to Spoil A New Mama post, so here are 2 faves, adapted from this Family Circle article. These are a good project to do with younger kids if you’re looking for activities but also come together super fast, no bake, lickity split if you make them by yourself 😉

Cocoa-nut Almond

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Photo Credit: Family Circle

In a large bowl, mix together:

  • 2/3 C Chunky Almond Butter
  • 1/2 C dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C organic old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 C cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

When dough comes together (it takes a bit of work to get it all mashed up – it shouldn’t be too sticky or fall apart, add a little extra cocoa if too sticky, or extra maple syrup if won’t come together), refrigerate covered for 30 minutes. Form into 1 TBS sized balls and roll in more shredded coconut. Makes ~20.

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Photo Credit: Better Almond Butter

If you want to upgrade this one, try making it with Better Almond Butter, toasted version. This awesome small-batch almond butter is organic, non-GMO and uses sprouted almonds which takes out the enzymes that make it hard to fully absorb all the nutrients from almonds. Plus it’s freaking delicious! Not an ad, just a personal recommendation.

Very Berry

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Photo Credit: Family Circle

In ziplock bag, crush 3/4 C freeze-dried raspberries

In large bowl, mix:

  • 1/3 of the crushed raspberries
  • 2/3 C Cashew butter
  • 1/4 C chopped roasted cashews
  • 2/3 C organic old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C apple-juice sweetened dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt

When dough comes together (again, it takes a bit of work to get it all mashed up – add a little extra raspberry if too sticky, or extra honey if won’t come together), refrigerate covered for 30 minutes. Form into 1 TBS sized balls and roll in the remaining raspberry. Makes ~20.

Happy snacking!

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Dr. Annie is a mom of 3 and constant snacker in California.