International Women's Day: My #Pledge4Parity.

March 8 is International Women's Day. According to their website, it's a global celebration of women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

(Apparently March 8 is also National Peanut Cluster Day, National Proofreading Day, and IHOP's National Pancake Day. What is a peanut cluster, even? And why would you celebrate peanut clusters when you could celebrate women all over the world? …I digress.)

This year's International Women's Day theme is #PledgeForParity.

I've pledged to do my part — that much was easy to do. (You should do it, too!) I've printed out the "selfie card" and will plaster it all over my Instagram tomorrow — and that's even easier, for a selfie whore like me.

This year, though, I wanted to do something more than pledge my support for women's equality. I'm putting my money where my selfie is — and you can help.

All this week, I'm holding an online trunk show through my new business with India Hicks.

And I'll be donating 100% of my commissions from this week-long sale to the Chicago chapter of the Step Up Women's Network.

Step Up is a a national organization that empowers young women in underserved communities and nurtures them, through mentorship, to become "confident, college-bound, career-focused, and ready to join the next generation of professional women."

Find out more about this amazing organization on their website.

Browse the sale now!

Go your own way

Looking for a way to support gender parity yourself — but not feeling the love for my India Hicks wares? That's your prerogative, friend.

I asked my best Facebook hive mind, the #MsTech community, to share their favorite causes for advancing women, and they gave me this list. All would be more than worthy of your donation — no matter the size — on International's Women or any day of the week.

Make a donation yourself to one of these organizations, if its mission resonates with you.

  • Work + Shelter, a fair-trade outsourcing service, recommended by McKensie Mack
  • Connections for Abused Women & Children, which seeks to empower Chicago-area women affected by domestic violence, recommended by Nicole Vasquez of The Shift
  • The Live Well Project, an annual one-day event benefiting at-risk girls in San Diego, recommended by Lisa Magill
  • Heshima Kenya, which provides shelter, education and community outreach services for refugees in Nairobi and empowers them to live healthy lives, recommended by Nora Brathol

However you choose to support International Women's Day's #PledgeForParity, please do support it.

 

 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story. 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass. 

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself. 

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. 

— Max Ehrmann, 1952

Live the questions now.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Common Threads: The next chapter begins.

The Camras School is on Mango Street. Yes, that's actually the name of a real street. It's past Kimball, past Pulaski, past Cicero, past Central. Farther than I thought I could bike on a single street and still be in Chicago. The signs were in English, then in Spanish, then Polish. Mowimy po polsku.

I arrived just as students were letting out for the day. The atmosphere, on one of the first warm spring days, was more street festival than school dismissal: The streets were closed to traffic, CPS security on standby, in black polo shirts; paletas and duros vendors readied themselves for what I can only guess was the usual afternoon rush.

I fought against a waist-high tide toward the main office, where I was directed to the third-floor cafeteria. The Common Threads chef instructor was just finishing her prep work in the kitchen — graciously vacated by overworked lunch ladies, and made available for our use — and about to introduce herself to the 20 or so kids waiting at the lunch tables to begin their culinary adventure.

We learned about American dining customs and etiquette, and reviewed the recipes were were about to prepare — and, more importantly, where the ingredients fit into our daily nutritional needs.

I moved to sit next to different kids on lunch table benches as we went through the lesson. The older kids took turns reading paragraphs in their books; a younger girl in a pink hair bow turned to me and whispered conspiratorially, "I love to cook. I made chocolate once; I locked the door and my mom never knew."

Then the kids donned logo aprons and kid-sized, Velcro-fastened toques, and we headed to the kitchen.

I spent the next two hours with a group of five wonderful and adorable elementary schoolchildren who begged for every opportunity to chop, measure and stir ingredients, even wash dishes. We built a dredging station for chicken tenders seasoned with chili powder and dried basil; the kids squealed as they touched raw chicken for the first time.

Their floppy white hats bobbled and the noise level rose to a dull but high-pitched roar; they delighted in the mess they were making as they moved their tenders from flour to egg, egg to bread crumbs, crumbs to pan. 

We mixed Greek yogurt, mustard and honey to make dressing; the students obliterated heads of green leaf lettuce to make a "torn salad" with grape tomatoes, baby spinach and shredded cheese. 

Even hand-washing was an event. They knew they were doing something other kids don't get a chance at; this was important. It was delicious.

And once our food was prepped and cooked, we cleaned up after ourselves and set the table beyond the kitchen doors to enjoy a meal together.

We said the Common Threads creed together before digging in:

Today we learned how people in another country live and what they eat!
Today we tasted healthy foods and practiced eating well to keep us strong.
People all over the world – and even in this room – are different!
But we all have things in common:
We can work together, share together, learn together, cook together, and then…
Together we can EAT!

The kids wolfed down the meal they'd prepared. Even the ones who gagged at the honey mustard dressing we'd made together devoured their salads and gobbled up the homemade chicken fingers. The pride on their faces as they talked about the meal they'd just prepared for themselves…it was everything.

I flew home on my bike, eager to prepare another meal for Mark and me to eat. I made orzo with salami, asparagus, spinach and farmer's cheese flavored with spring nettles; we ate freshly baked strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert.

Just shy of a million things have befallen me, completely by choice, since I last wrote here:

I began to doubt my love for marketing as a career.
I knew without a doubt I didn't love my job anymore.
So I quit.
I thought about where I was happiest, prompted by a life coach I ultimately couldn't afford to work with.
I imagined myself in a kitchen: forever and ever, Amen. 

I signed up to volunteer with every food-related organization I could think of in Chicago. I put my recipe-related insecurities aside and starting cooking from my heart.
I made bread.
I enrolled in culinary school. Few in my world have been surprised. (Just today, a LinkedIn connection told me culinary school seemed like "a very Paige thing to do.")

A bike ride to the 5700 block of Belmont — a 19-mile round trip, once my day was over — was a long journey just to realize I've made the right choice. But I'm already itching to go back. The thought of juggling a weekly westward journey with daily train treks to Englewood for my culinary classes is daunting, but the short-term long hauls are worth it for what I feel in my heart.

Today confirmed it: Kids and cooking are my calling. What that will ultimately mean for my career, I have no idea. But all signs point me to the kitchen, to cook, to connect. 

I'm a badass. (Seriously!)

My friend Shannon — the mad genius behind Badass Cross Stitch — is a multifaceted woman. 

Shannon is so cool. I've known her for years, but she is a master of reinvention. She has a master's in Leisure Science. (I didn't even know that was a thing.) She also teaches classes at DePaul.

In addition to her top-notch brain and penchant for nerd-forward handicrafts, she also runs a blog that celebrates women she admires. It's called Seriously Badass Women. (Sensing a pattern here?)

And somehow, when she ran into me a couple of months ago, teetering on the edge of drunk across the street from the movie theater where I would almost immediately fall asleep during Star Wars: The Force Awakens — a movie I'd only been waiting for the better part of two years to see — she decided that I was one of those women.

So it came to pass that I got to agonize over the answers to some tricky personal questions, and had my portrait taken by a fellow badass woman, Jamie Davis of Greenhouse Loft, to be featured on Shannon's site and join the ranks of women I barely feel worthy of occupying a room with.

The blog post went live a couple of weeks ago — here it is for your enjoyment.

Yes, I like fart jokes.