• Grown Woman Talk

    Once every couple of years, I find a book I love, and I can’t stop talking about it. Today, that book is Grown Woman Talk: Your Guide to Getting and Staying Healthy by Dr. Sharon Malone. 

    I was fortunate to have Dr. Malone as my doctor and involved in my health journey over the last 20+ years. 

    Though she no longer practices medicine, she remains even more committed to women’s health at every age, particularly as we age. Instead of influencing better health outcomes for women one-to-one, with Grown Woman Talk, she can now use her medical training, intellect, thoughtfulness, and lived experiences to positively affect the health outcomes for millions of women.

    “Grown Woman Talk,” is described as:

    “A practical guide to aging and health for women who have felt ignored or marginalized by the medical profession, from a leading OB/GYN and expert on menopausal and post-reproductive health.” 

    “It’s also for any woman who is simply standing at the intersection of aging and health, anxious and wanting solutions.”

    “Part medical handbook, part memoir, and part sister-girl cheerleader, this book is filled with useful resources and real-life stories of victory and defeat.”

    Her why…

    At the first stop on her book tour, Dr. Malone was asked why writing this book was important to her. She mentioned being the only doctor in her friend groups and family. She talked about how many medical issues she would navigate and negotiate for them. What’s remarkable is that these women had means and access. Dr. Malone recognized that if they can’t navigate these medical and aging waters, then maybe there were things she could share broadly that could be helpful to women overall. 

    Each chapter begins with a letter addressed “Dear Sis.” Her intention? “A love letter to my sisters. A way to express my love for women.”  Importantly, she didn’t want to write the book as a doctor. She wanted to tell her own story as a daughter, a mother, and a friend. However, her medical training and experience underscore important truths, guidance, and jewels important to everyone. 

    Put simply, the book is about “what to expect if you expect to live beyond 40” – a play on the title of one of the most well-known books for pregnant women, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” 

    The book covers every health challenge women face as they mature, including menopause, heart disease, fibroids, strokes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and even how we prepare ourselves and our loved ones for our death.

    And even though Dr. Malone talks about some challenging health issues facing women, her goal is not to leave you discouraged, but for you and what you’re going through to be seen and leave you hopeful and empowered. The book achieves this through storytelling, clear takeaways, checklists, and even a music playlist!

    Some of the points that resonated with me from her book talk:  

    • Take control of your health care. Have a relationship with a doctor who listens to you. I am fortunate to have doctors I love, who are responsive, work collaboratively, and are committed to giving me the best care at every stage of my life. 
    • Assemble your team. Dr. Malone speaks about the importance of your “doctor team.” Make sure all of your doctors are working together towards your healthfulness and longevity. And if you have a doctor who isn’t playing their role or you’re not 100 percent happy with them, get another doctor. I’ve dumped doctors before. My health is more important than pleasantries or awkward conversations. 
    • Know your family medical history. Your family medical history gives you an idea of what conditions you might be predisposed to. It’s an indicator and a warning sign, not a roadmap. Knowing your family medical history can be the difference between a prevention plan instead of a treatment plan. 
    • Be an advocate for yourself. You must be your own best caregiver. If you are waiting for someone else, they aren’t coming. Family and partners can help.  But no one knows if you’re feeling okay better than you. Speak up! 
    • Get used to what it feels like to feel normal and good. Dr. Malone talks about “interoception,” the concept of knowing what it means to feel good and normal without being “aware” of your body parts. Pain or tenderness is your body telling you something. We blunt that sense because we get used to feeling bad. I’ve been guilty of this and must remind myself to listen to my body.
    • Expect to feel good. Sadly, our expectation is that when we get older, we should bad, we shouldn’t feel at 100 percent. Our expectation and outlook should be that we feel great. And if that’s not the case, how do you restore that balance? 
    • Consider healthspan over lifespan. Healthspan speaks to how long you live healthfully. You can live a long time without being healthy. I come from a family with an incredible lifespan, but not always a healthy one. You may live to be 100 years old, but what if those last 30 years are painful, unhealthy, and deprived of joy? Healthspan requires active engagement that focuses on tried-and-true concepts: exercise, a healthy diet, no smoking, controlling your blood pressure and sugar, and sleeping better. 
    • Exercise isn’t about weight loss, particularly as we age.  Exercise is fundamentally about health. Exercise helps mitigate against almost every health malady: Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, you name it. 
    • Menopause is the only universal female experience. It’s not an optional activity. Some symptoms will resolve themselves. But menopause overall can make you more susceptible to other chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease. 

     

    All of this assumes you are a woman who has health care, the means to be choosy about your health providers, and the financial resources to make it happen. I struggle with how economically challenged women navigate this rough terrain.  Sadly, I know the answer. Their health isn’t the priority and comes last after family and children, making ends meet. Instead of prevention, they are discussing treatment options way too late.

    This doesn’t scratch the surface of what this book has to offer. Share it with a woman you love—and that just might be yourself. 

     

  • Learning to Run

    Me purchasing a treadmill might be a surprise to everyone, including me. Most who know me know how often I’ve expressed that I don’t run. Hell, I don’t even walk.

    I love spin. I’ve been rocking with my @onepeloton bike since 2017. And I enjoy strength training.

    But for whatever reason I got it in my head that I should at least try out the treadmill. Equal parts curiosity and seeking a new challenge and modality.

    I purchased my @onepeloton Tread last fall. And 8 weeks ago I began their You Can Run training program. Perfect for someone like me who has never run before (unless being chased!).

    This morning I completed the final class, conquering 30-minutes of running. So I guess I get to say, I Can Run!

    I’ve enjoyed the journey and learned so much about the mechanics of running: pace, form, cadence, speed, and endurance.

    I’m proud of myself for being open to a new challenge and trying something outside of my comfort zone.

    Lessons learned or re-learned : Endurance over speed. Discipline over motivation. Curiosity over comfort.

    Can’t wait to take this outside for a 5K run!

  • Happy Mother’s Day to My Mom

    Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, Josie L. Allen!

    A Mother’s Day #throwback photo jogged my memory. Judging by the mushroom/bowl hairstyle I’m guessing I was about 11 or 12 years old and we were still living in Detroit.

    My mother loved going to this Mother’s Day brunch buffet at a Marriott near her job in the suburbs. We would get all dressed up. It was, by far, the fanciest occasion I’d ever been to. There were flowers, balloons, and beautiful table settings. And most times it would be just us, celebrating her.

    She wasn’t ever much into gifts or extravagant displays. What was most important to her was that I understood how much she had sacrificed for me, and that I understood it deeply. And that I would do my part to make sure those sacrifices weren’t in vain, that I would make the most of every opportunity I was given, because every opportunity came at a sacrifice she was always willing to make. She would bet on me every single day, and still does.

    And a special Happy Mother’s Day to her crew!, my mother’s best friends who served as godmothers to me. They loved on me, disciplined me, and took care of me like I was their own. My village was strong. Love these women. Janis Vaughn, Millie Logan, Carmelita Didlake, Johnnye Summerville (🙏🏾), Pamela Moore Jackson, Audre Dixon, Suzan Buyck, and Sandy Davis.

  • Girls Scout Cookies! – It’s Not Just About the Cookies

    My favorite time of the year is when Rain Williams, a Girl Scout from the Chicago area and the daughter of my sorority sister, calls me in January. Rain calls me every year like clockwork to ask me about my Girl Scout Cookie order.  She updates me on the new flavors and usually always gets me to increase my order.

    With the advent of technology and the pandemic, most Girl Scout Cookie orders are made online. And while Rain could easily just have her mom share the link, Rain doesn’t take the easier way out.  She still calls me personally.

    Selfishly, it’s also my opportunity to catch up with how her school and extracurricular activities are going.

    But I’m also reminded of the important role of the Girl Scouts in our modern age. It teaches presentation skills, entrepreneurship, negotiating skills, and drives a commitment to community.

    In her words, Rain mentions, “every purchase of Girl Scout Cookies helps support our local council and Girl Scouting in the Chicago area.” And she recognizes the valuable role selling cookies provides in learning essential life skills like “goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.”

    Rain’s troop plans to use their cookie proceeds for an upcoming trip to Savannah, GA.  If you’re interested in supporting Rain, consider supporting her and her troop by purchasing cookies online here.

  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    For the better part of 25 years I have been a part of The Faith and Politics Institute community. It began when I was a young staffer in the late 90s for Rep. Fred Upton who co-lead the annual congressional pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama with Rep. Mel Watt. Joyce Brayboy was Rep. Watt’s chief of staff. This began under the leadership of Rev. Doug Tanner and the late Rep. John Lewis.

    I’ve written extensively about my trips to Selma with Rep. John Lewis. However, reflecting on the passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I’m reminded of the incredible work we do outside of the annual pilgrimages. This photo (late 90s?) was from our Congressional Conversations on Race. I’m not sure our current politics would allow for such vulnerable, thoughtful conversations on the issue. Looking at the picture now, I wonder if my optimism was naïveté.

    In 2014, I had the unique opportunity to travel to South Africa on a whirlwind trip and visited Archbishop Tutu’s home.

    I still remain deeply committed to The Faith and Politics Institute, now serving on the Board of Directors with Joyce Brayboy. A special thank you to Fred and Amey Upton for creating the opportunity.

    My optimism remains. The life of incredible men like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and John Lewis won’t let me believe otherwise.

    Rest in heaven.

  • A Thanksgiving Message

    A Thrive Global post reminded me that in spite of the current pandemic and so much uncertainty, it’s important to reflect on what we’re thankful for….

    Even though I’m going to miss seeing my mom on Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the care she receives. No one is doing this pandemic perfectly. But I’m grateful to health care workers for keeping her healthy and safe.

    I’ll miss her cooking. Even though our Thanksgivings were small, she cooked like no tomorrow. Her dressing and macaroni & cheese were banging. And who can forget standing in line to get a Honeybaked Ham.

    I’m blessed to have family in the Midwest (shout out to Gary, Indiana!) close to my mother to help care for her because I can’t be close.

    And I’m grateful because they also take care of me. And to my godparents, godsisters, godbrothers, and play cousins in Detroit. Thank you for always loving on me.

    I’m grateful to my friends. Too many to name. They are the family I’ve built in Washington, DC. I’m independent to a fault sometimes and fully represent what it is to be an only child. But I depend on them more than they probably know.

    I’m grateful to my friends and colleagues at the Consumer Technology Association. We are by definition resilient and I continue to be impressed by what we’re building for an all-digital CES for January 2021. Our work and relationships have become stronger in spite of the pandemic.

    Special shout out to our Government Affairs and Industry Affairs teams!

    I’m grateful to so many really smart people, government leaders, scientists, and health professionals who are making a vaccine a reality sooner than anyone could have imagined.

    I’m grateful to my former bosses Rep. Fred Upton and Carlos Gutierrez who continue to be an important political and moral compass for the country.

    I’m thankful that my last trip before the pandemic was with Rep. John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge one last time with Faith and Politics Institute before he went to be with the angels.

    I’m grateful to social media because it allows me to keep up with friends (even the ones I disagree with politically), their adorable children and pets, and feel like there’s connection even though we must maintain our distance.

    Ultimately, I’m grateful that this pandemic has treated me much more kindly than it should. There are so many people who are struggling with basic needs. If you have an opportunity to help, please make it your mission to.

    Some suggestions of organizations I’m grateful for and/or who I know are doing great work in this moment that could use some support are Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the CTA Foundation, and Project Give Back.

    And most of all, I’m grateful for mercy in spite of my mistakes and shortcomings. And enlightenment to know and do better.

    On a lighter note….I’m grateful for bagels with cream cheese and jam with a side of bacon. This is clearly taking over the #1 spot after the one-egg veggie omelet I’ve perfected during the pandemic.

    I’m grateful to outdoor propane heaters, firepits, and electric throws, mostly from Amazon that have extended my backyard and front porch time.

    And of course I’m grateful for Peloton (shout out to Alex Toussaint and Ally Love!) for keeping me consistent with a clear mind over these last several months. I’ve been riding since 2017. But Peloton in 2020 made me even more grateful.

    Shout out to Black Girl Magic Peloton Edition, Love Squad, and Feel Good Fam for the extra encouragement and motivation.

    Oh, I’m grateful to Best Buy for the 5 ⭐️ kitchen appliance consult and installation! My friends wish I would shut up about being able to get water and ice out of the refrigerator door!

    Always grateful for any drama produced by NBC’s Dick Wolf, Walking Dead, and Lovecraft Country. Thanks for getting me through!

    As a matter of fact, I’m grateful to too many CTA member companies to name that have allowed us to procure what we need to survive during this pandemic with some entertainment to pass the time thrown in for good measure.

    Thanks to everyone listening and indulging me. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

  • A Knock at Midnight: Brittany K. Barnett and Sharanda Jones

    I remember the day in July 2015 when Chani Wiggins insisted we read a Washington Post article chronicling the life of Sharanda Jones who was serving life without parole for a first time drug offense.

    Chani was so compelled that we had a role to play in helping in Sharanda’s clemency petition. She immediately reached out to the incredible and incomparable Brittany K. Barnett, Sharanda’s lawyer. Brittany was exhausting all opportunities to make sure Sharanda’s name, plight, and case were known in the halls of Congress and the Obama Administration.

    After a conversation with Brittany we knew we had to do something. But we’re tech lobbyists? What could we do? This began a journey of using social media, relationships with the left, right, and center to know and SAY Sharanda’s name.

    To be clear, we played only a bit part.

    But President Obama granting clemency for Sharanda Jones in December 2015 was one of the most consequential and meaningful moments I’ve been a part of in my 20+ years in DC.

    Brittany’s book, A Knock at Midnight, was recently released and chronicles her fight for justice on behalf of her clients. She has been responsible for the successful clemency petitions for Sharanda Jones, Corey Jacobs, Alice Marie Johnson and others.

    When I finally had the opportunity to meet Sharanda she was a free woman with such a loving heart. Her clemency was a long time coming. Too long. Regardless, her heart was warm, welcoming, and pure.

    My life has been made better from meeting Brittany and Sharanda. Brittany’s book is worth the read. It reminds us that justice can prevail. Learn more about Brittany’s Buried Alive Project.

    And a special thank you to Ximena Lin for allowing us to use the Phone2Action platform. She didn’t hesitate to say yes once we told her about Sharanda! We were able to amplify Sharanda’s voice because of P2A!

  • John Lewis

    I had the opportunity to sit at his feet and be nourished by his lessons, actions and words. In times of turmoil, I would always look to him to steady myself, find the lesson, and understand the actions needed to move forward toward justice, equality, and healing.

    I never could quite understand how he could be so optimistic and have a heart full of forgiveness in spite of how he was mistreated. I would always strive to learn that lesson. And I still do today.

    Thank you for your service, Congressman John Robert Lewis. You have been a good and faithful servant. Here’s to a life that literally changed the world.

    As we mourn him, let’s not forget to learn and re-learn what he taught us on how to be better Americans and human beings.

  • My Granddaddy, Stepfather, and Da 5 Bloods

    My granddaddy and stepfather never talked about their time in the military. My granddaddy’s obituary doesn’t even mention it. My stepfather’s obituary mentions the year he enlisted and the year he was discharged, nothing more.

    The benefit of time helps me recognize that while John Lewis was being bludgeoned crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and fighting for civil and voting rights, my stepfather Robert Allen was serving a country that he wasn’t convinced served him back.

    This movie brought back so many moments, one-off comments, and witnessing of an internal struggle for black men serving our country. I see it in the black men I respect and love of a certain age.

    While fiction, the movie is an eye-opener on moments I witnessed but did not understood at a young age.

  • Happy 70th Birthday Mom, Mrs. Josie Allen

    Growing up, my mom and I believed it was us against the world. But in reality, we were surrounded by family and friends who became family that lightened the load, softened the blows, and loved away some of the bitterness.

    It certainly took a village to raise me:-) Some of you joined us to celebrate Josie’s 70th birthday this weekend and so many more of you were there in spirit. Others called, texted, and sent cards. We thank you. 

    Mom, you’ve taught me how to survive in any environment. Constantly working on channeling those survival instincts to thrive. 

    You’ve taught me the importance of family and friends that become family. We are incredibly fortunate to have our family who support us both every day. And I am blessed to have a circle of friends that have become my family. 

    You’ve taught me never to quit. To keep my head down, block the blows, and keep moving forward. I do that everyday and try to do so with humor and grace.

    You’ve taught me to always have my own. And to be independent. I live it every day but try and make room to be vulnerable (once in awhile). Most importantly, you’ve taught me to see beyond our circumstances. And I work and live every day to continue to make you proud. 

    You are a fighter, the definition of strength and grit. We still have battles to win, sometimes daily. But I love that you won’t go down without a fight. 
    Happy birthday. I love you.