Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

yikes.

It’s been almost a year since my last post. Life has been absolutely crazy the past nine (?) months… and although that timing is ironically on par with baby-making, I assure you – I am by no means becoming a mommy any time soon.

Things that have been happening: Jeniece got married – I think that comes off the heels of the last post from September (and they are also building a house!). I spent a week in Haiti for a mission trip. My friend Gina from Columbus got married a month ago. SO many friends are getting married this year (Alyssa – Michaja – Annika – Kat – Katie J). My friend Sarah is having her first baby in August.

in my new place.

Oh – I bought a HOUSE. Well really, an 800 square foot condo. Welcome to Chicago real estate. But that was ridiculously exciting and my friend Cherith moved in with me to help with my mortgage! It’s been so great finally having my own, permanent place – considering I’ve moved 5 times the past 6 years. Finally the feeling of being able to settle (but also a little scary knowing I’m responsible for a MORTGAGE!!). And the location is awesome: a block from the lake and so much within walking distance. We’ve recently been abusing the sushi restaurant about 50 feet from our place…

So what I’m trying to say is, between weddings and babies and buying houses… my wallet is REALLY full of money right now.

Anyways, I think the reason for my break was simple – I’ve been feeling SO social media/internet drained lately. I stare at a computer screen for 8 hours a day, find myself staring at my phone screen on the commute to/from work and on nights I don’t have social engagements, find myself watching TV/staring at my phone. I just needed time away from it all. Unfortunately I can’t take a sabbatical from my job for nine months, but less time off blogging and Twitter – and a pseudo-break from Facebook and Instagram was really refreshing.

Here’s to being back to blogging (which I really do find enjoyable!) but still trying to maintain less of an internet-addicted lifestyle when I can.

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First off, I’m on my way to Dallas this weekend for my college girlfriend’s wedding. There’s supposed to be a huge storm front passing through but hoping it holds off until Sunday. Regardless, super excited to see her and a few other college friends – and who knows, maybe I’ll meet a nice southern Texas man! KIDDING.

Today’s post is a bit random I admit. Two news-related items caught my eye this week that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. But here goes.

supermThe first one was from earlier this week. It’s about the former president of Trader Joe’s. Inspired by all the wasted food America trashes every single day (1/3 of the world’s food goes to waste every year!), he’s decided to open a store called The Daily Table. This store, located in Boston, will be a grocery/restaurant hybrid that will sell expired food and produce that typical grocery stores would throw away. The goals are to a) reduce food waste from large grocery stores and b) to provide fresh options for those with lower incomes that normally don’t pay for and/or can’t afford fresh foods.

A report done by the National Resources Defense Council last year showed that Americans throw away approximately 40% of food every year, which equates to over $2,000 annually per family of four. THIS IS SO SHAMEFUL. There are so many different and EASY ways to reduce your family’s waste: plan your meals, freeze extra food, buy fresh produce once a week (and not in bulk!), eat your leftovers… the list goes on. Also- studies have also shown that we throw away food long before it goes bad, and that many are confused by dates on items. Just because it has passed the date, doesn’t necessarily mean it has gone bad. And many don’t realize the differences between “sell-by” versus “use-by” versus “best by” and the government hasn’t established any standards to regulate what these mean.

But this is not just consumers. I think restaurants are also a big part of the fault. I realize that restaurants need to abide by very stringent rules related to food safety. I also realize, especially at nice restaurants, that chefs have a high quality standard that they set for each plate that goes out to the dining room. But a couple things aren’t happening at most restaurants. One, I think that back of house staff needs better training on food waste. Not only will that education help our planet and reduce waste, but it saves the restaurant money and helps its bottom line! Two, portion sizes are straight up out of control these days in restaurants. Sometimes my entrée is enough for my actual dinner, and two lunches during the week. But I seem to be in the minority; so many people don’t take the rest of their meals to-go or let them sit in the fridge to be inevitably tossed in the trash.

So because of this, I’m in favor of his new concept. Who knows if it will be successful but at least there’s someone trying to make strides to reduce waste and educate consumers on how to reuse those random items in your fridge!

AMAArticle two. I get to my computer this morning at work and there’s this in my inbox: “Heroin-Like Drug That Rots Flesh, Bone Makes Appearance In US”. What the whattttt? My colleague must have read it at the same time I did cause we were both like, HOW HAVE WE NEVER HEARD ABOUT THIS? Apparently, it’s some cheap concoction of codeine-based headache pills mixed with iodine, gasoline, paint thinner or alcohol. It gives a high like heroin but only lasts 90 minutes. Oh, and IT TURNS YOUR SKIN INTO A CROCODILE. So there’s that. It’s street name is Krokodil, which makes sense, and sounds super cool. Anyways, this just baffled me that people want this so much that they will literally let it eat their body away for a 90 minute high. Ugh. There’s some really gross pictures that I’m not posting here, but if you don’t have a weak stomach, check them out here. And besides its skin-eating effects, it can also compromise your immune system, impair motor skills, damage your brain, burst your heart arteries and other really cool things.

Just something nice to leave you with on a sunny Friday. Have a great day!

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the truth about modeling.

So yea, it’s been a while. BUT…praise God that this weekend is my last travel destination for the next month and a half! Not that my travel has been boring: weddings, the beach, home to Pittsburgh… but I feel like I haven’t been able to be in Chicago all summer.

I have a pet peeve (among many as you’ve noticed). I shudder when I see those magazine headlines from People or Glamour or Cosmo highlighting “How ___ dropped twenty pounds for her new acting role” or “Only 3 weeks and she’s back in that post-baby bikini body: find out her secret!” These articles say that you too should have the ability to drop weight like said celebrity and your number one concern after birthing a child should be weight loss (who cares if your kid is healthy and happy – if you don’t fit into those skinny jeans then your life is over!).

All kidding aside, not only are these articles ignorant but they are quite often misleading or downright lies. My favorite is when these celebrities are describing the exact efforts they took to lose their weight. “I do pilates a couple times a week,” “Just eating healthy and exercising more,” “I only allow myself one cheat day a week” or the ever-popular “I just have a really fast metabolism.” All this does is creates false impressions in our youth that it’s easy and effortless to look like these celebrities.

Case and point… I came across this pretty poignant article a few weeks back and have been wanting to do a post on it since reading it. It’s written by ex-model Carre Otis. Throughout her career, she received the majority of her fan mail from younger girls, expressing their desires to be skinny, pretty, cool, have awesome hair, and eliciting her beauty secrets. But her goal with the article is to tell the truth, not what she was told to tell reporters or magazine editors, but the real-life struggles she went through to be successful in the modeling industry.

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carre otis.

Instead of the exercise touted in magazine articles, Carre had strenuous two-a-day workouts on her off days and worked out seven days a week. All this on zero energy because her true diet consisted of cigarettes and cups and cups of coffee each day. So she was constantly fatigued from starvation and over-exercise. And because she was always caffeinated to maintain her energy, she needed sleeping pills in order to fall asleep at night. Because of the coffee and nicotine, her teeth were yellow and nails brittle. But nothing a little post-shoot airbrushing and manicured nails couldn’t fix. Her hair fell out and was also thin and weak and oftentimes would have fake hair added or even be given a wig during shoots. Her skin was dry and blemished and pimply but would be Photoshopped later to be flawless.

Because she was constantly on the road, her romantic relationships suffered and most times did not ever develop into any deep connections. Living this lifestyle kept emotions at bay and left her so tired that she had no energy left to feel real feelings. Something bad happened in her life? She had to suppress it and act happy and sexy in front of a camera.

After about twenty years on this “diet regimen,” Carre was rushed to the hospital with heart palpitations – the doctors found holes in her heart and she needed emergency surgery to save her life.

BUT THIS SIDE OF THE STORY IS NEVER TALKED ABOUT. The young girls who have eating disorders and body image problems or even low self-esteem don’t hear these stories. What they do hear is Kim Kardashian’s 2-month 50 pound weight loss of doing nothing but “healthy eating and moderate exercise.” I mean, seriously?! That’s like a pound a day. I’m sorry, but I eat healthy and have an active exercise regimen and I don’t drop A POUND A DAY. I would venture to guess that Kim’s been working with a “nutritionist” that has her eating next to nothing, and a personal trainer that kicks her butt 2-3 times a day. So not only are we lying to our youth (and our naïve adults!) but it creates an unrealistic expectation for those that struggle with weight that having a salad for lunch instead of a burger and staying on the treadmill for 15 more minutes is all you need to do. And what happens when the weight doesn’t come falling off? We become disheartened and discouraged and for a lot of people, they quit altogether. And guess what? They gain more weight because they feel like constant failures.

I know this doesn’t sell magazines. It’s much more exciting to read about drastic weight loss than developing a healthy lifestyle and dropping 50 pounds over the course of a year. But what’s sustainable? Eating lettuce leaves and drinking coffee for every meal and training seven days a week for 5 hours a day? Or maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and developing a LIFESTYLE instead of a diet?

What we do need are a few more Carre Otis’s to tell the truth in order to create realistic expectations to the public in regards to weight loss. And to ultimately redefine these ridiculous body image stereotypes and show the younger generation that the way to weight loss isn’t not always what it may seem.

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So I’m making my way to the beautiful city of Plymouth, MI after work today to visit one of my besties and her husband and little one. Seeing my friend = super fun, but 5+ hour drive from Chicago in Friday rush hour traffic = super not-so-much fun. My other friend is coming with me and she promised tunes from the new Backstreet Boys CD so I mean, I guess we’ll be fine.

In other news: I came across an entirely disturbing, yet not surprising article this week. It’s from this new blog I found, which is awesome, and I’m so sad it took me so long to come across it! The blog is called Weighty Matters, and it’s written by an obesity doc out of Ottawa. Anywho, this article details how the American College of Cardiology is promoting a number of initiatives backed by Coca-Cola. Yep, the company responsible for a ridiculous amount of obesity in this country (the No. 4 source of calories in the standard American diet, in fact).

diabetes: it's a family affair.

diabetes: it’s a family affair.

One of these initiatives that they are pushing is a Coca-Cola family field day. Yay! Fun! Ha not quite. Essentially it’s a huge marketing gimmick designed to reach families and younger audiences by trying to associate Coke products to exercise, sports and family togetherness. Gross.

But what’s worse is the banner at the bottom of the page: “Balancing Calories with Physical Activity. What is Weighing Us Down? Calorie Imbalance Impacts Us All”. This links to an infographic that can only be deemed hilarious and ludicrous. The infographic was designed by the Coca-Cola Company, “from government data and third-party researchers to promote understanding of calorie (energy) balance and active, healthy living.” Aw, aren’t they sweet (pun intended), helping us understand calorie consumption and learning to live a healthier lifestyle?

In this incredibly enlightening and non-biased infographic, we learn things like:

1. The three most common calorie contributors are: grain-based desserts, chicken dishes and breads.

2. Weight management is simply calories in, calories out.

3. Sugar consumption is actually decreasing among Americans.

4. If you do a TON of physical activity, you can eat basically anything you want!

This infographic seriously makes me want to punch someone in the face. I mean, seriously?

Number one blames obesity on chicken dishes, grain-based desserts and breads. Okay, even if I don’t agree with the chicken dish part (probably because people are adding sugars and breads to the chicken dishes), why omit #4? Oh RIGHT, because that’s you. Convenient. And what food is responsible for one-third of calories from added sugars in adult diets? Yep – sugary drinks. (PS: the number is even higher with children and adolescents.)

Two, I’m pretty sure the idea of calories in, calories out went out of date around the same time my scrunchies and Jnco jeans did [read: 1990’s]. 300 calories in a large Coke = 300 calories of grilled chicken and veggies? I think not. Idiots.

And the icing on the cake, or should I say, HFCS in the Coke, is number 3. If you actually pull up the study they are referencing, this is the actual conclusion to the study: “Although the consumption of added sugars in the United States decreased between 1999–2000 and 2007–2008, primarily because of a reduction in soda consumption, mean intakes continue to exceed recommended limits.”

Sugar consumption went down because people STOPPED DRINKING AS MUCH SODA. And even more, intakes STILL continue to exceed recommended limits. Agh.

And four is just annoying: do a bunch of physical activity everyday. Here’s tons of examples. But here’s no help whatsoever for how to maintain healthy eating. Here is all that they say: Calories come from many sources and they all count. Start by focusing on the whole diet. Pay attention to everything you eat and drink. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!?! And how does that help anyone struggling with their weight?

Oh, okay, Coke. Thanks for all the help! You guys sure are great. And leadership at ACC? I hope that big paycheck from Coke helps you sleep better at night on your yacht in the Maldives.

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So it’s been a while. I feel like I’ve been starting off every post with this. I can definitely say this is my craziest summer yet. My weekends are packed to the brim and I’m traveling 9 out of 11 of them through the summer. My friends need to stop getting engaged and pregnant! But seriously, it is so easy for us to pack our calendars and be on the go – and I have seriously missed my blogging, my city, my friends, and I have not picked up my Bible for over a month now. I’ve made a conscious effort to tone things back and give myself at least one weeknight where I don’t schedule SOMETHING. We’ll see how THAT goes.

Anyways, during a minute of downtime at work today, I came across this article. Seems it was originally posted a month ago, but was a really great read. It’s definitely REAL and gives some extremely practical and simple advice for losing weight and getting healthier.

In a nutshell, this guy lost about 100 pounds over the course of about a year, and provides a few really useful (and surprisingly uncomplicated!) steps he took to shed that weight. And by “uncomplicated,” I’m not saying they are easy or stress-free to implement; as with any big lifestyle change comes some strong commitment. But what they are is simple in principle – no rocket science or crazy tricks. I think the biggest takeaway is that he has become more MINDFUL of what he’s putting in his mouth, how he’s treating his body and how he’s even thinking about food.

NoBigMacHe started with what he was eating. There is a statistic floating around that I always quote (not sure where I found it), but around 80% of your body comp is what you put in your mouth. A lot of times people justify their dinner of pizza and beer because they ran a mile, but really that dinner is VASTLY more important to how your body looks than the mile you ran. I love his quote, “You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet.” Essentially, if you are downing Big Mac’s all day, no amount of exercise is going to help make that not impact your body (and you’re also entirely missing the point!). So what did he do to lose the weight? He ate clean (protein/veggies), stayed away from wheat & gluten & sugar, and drank more water.

Also, he gave all this “health” stuff a chance and changed his mindset. After reading some books on quality nutrition (read: anti-sugar), he decided that it was worth trying. I think this is what holds up a lot of people – not giving an idea a chance or being immediately defensive towards it. What I always tell my friends when it comes to the way I eat (or who complain about migraines or bloating or other gluten-related effects on their bodies): GIVE IT TWO WEEKS. You can do anything for two weeks. But he also makes a good point that you have to WANT it. Even if your friends, your family and your spouse want you to do it, the desire for change has to come within yourself as well.

Then he added exercise. Small amounts at first and tried to find activities that were enjoyable that included exercise (think sports, games, etc). He also got enough sleep. This is something I think a lot of us pass over: sleep is so critical to staying healthy. Also – shut down the TVs and smart phones and electronics way before you crawl into bed. The blue lights messes with your melatonin levels and you seriously see such a difference if you say, READ A BOOK (I know, mind blown, right?), instead of Facebooking for an hour before bedtime.

Lastly: support from your friends and family is CRUCIAL! Give yourself a good support system and avoid those friends that chastise you or try to make you keep your unhealthy habits (PS: what kinds of friends are those anyways?!). I think it helps to think of your change as a lifestyle adjustment, not a diet. “Diet” is a word I think we associate with feelings of being temporary and this should be a permanent change (it’s a marathon, not a sprint!).

That’s all for now! Hopefully I’m back to blogging more regularly (although not holding my breath!).

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So it’s been weeks. Well, actually months. BUT… I have some exciting news. I just started a new job! WOOT WOOT! This has been an almost year-long job search process and I am so happy and relieved to say that I am back at my former place of employment doing marketing. My previous job, although great experience with (mostly) great people, was not for me for a number of reasons. I was definitely unhappy and have been looking for a change since I pretty much started last April. And let me tell you: a year of unhappiness at a job can definitely take a toll on your mental health (which most likely contributed to my lack of motivation for blogging!). Fortunately, a position opened up under my old boss (who I love!) and I just started last week. Yay for change and yay for a job I don’t get feelings of dread about every Sunday night.

Which brings me to my post for today. My friend sent me this TED Talk last week and I finally got around to listening to it this morning. It’s a talk by a clinical psychologist named Meg Jay who specializes in counseling 20-somethings.

Her talk is about how your 20’s is not a time to trivialize your choices or feel like you don’t have to settle down or worry about anything important [read: career, husband, kids] until your 30’s. Meg’s stance is that those in their 20’s most certainly SHOULD be concerned about these things now; because once their 30’s hit, and when they find that none of these things are in place, many feel rushed and settle instead of finding what they actually WANT.

[Rachel sidebar]
I think, like many of my friends (especially my still-single friends like myself), we sometimes adopt the attitude of “I’ll worry about it later” or “I’m still having fun, what’s the rush?” when confronted about our careers, plans for marriage or having children. But we need to have caution against developing too strong an attitude toward putting things off; because our thirties will come and we need to have solidified as much of this as possible.

But this is a fine line; we also have to be careful not to settle with someone or rush into anything, just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Further, as single Christian women, I think sometimes this settling down/marriage/baby pressure is even greater. We need to start planning in our twenties but ALSO make careful, conscious decisions about those plans while we are making them.

[…back to the TED Talk]
thirtyA common feeling by many late 20-somethings that Meg comes in contact with: My 20s are almost over and I have nothing to show for myself.

One of her patients explained it like this. “Dating in my 20’s was like musical chairs; everybody was running around and having fun. But then sometime around 30 it was like the music turned off and everybody started sitting down.  I didn’t want to be the only one left standing up and so sometimes I think I married my husband because he was the closest chair to me at 30.”

Meg warns: DO NOT DO THAT.

When you push everything to your 30’s, there is so much more pressure and stress to get the job, husband, kids, etc. in order—and quickly. When a number of people think back to their 20’s, they wonder, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?”

Meg’s 3 Pieces of Advice

1. Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Make an investment in who you want to be next. Identity capital begets identity capital. Exploration not procrastination. Explore and make it count.

2. The urban tribe is overrated. 20-somethings who huddle together with like-minded peers limit who they know, how they think & speak and where they work. New people almost always come from an outer circle. New things come from our weak ties (friends of friends of friends).

3. The time to start picking your “family” is now.  Grabbing whoever you are dating (or worse: simply sleeping with) when everyone on Facebook starts walking down the aisle is not progress. The best time to work on your marriage is before you have one; be as intentional with love as you are with work. You need to consciously choose who & what you want instead of just making it work and/or killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you.

She continued that changing your life is so EASY in your twenties. “Twenty-somethings are like airplanes just leaving LAX bound for somewhere west. Right after takeoff, a slight change in course is the difference between landing in Alaska or Fiji.”

THE TAKEAWAY:

“Thirty is not the new 20. Claim your adulthood. Get some identity capital. Use your weak ties. Pick your family. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life RIGHT NOW.”

And that, my friends, is my post for today. Glad to be back!

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a place at the table.

place at table

If you haven’t seen this documentary yet, you need to. What a lot of Americans don’t know (and I didn’t know!) is how incredibly prevalent hunger is in our country. Also known as “food insecurity”, 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat. 1 of every 2 kids in America at some point will be on food assistance. And to round out these statistics, the US ranks WORST among the International Monetary Fund’s Advanced Economy countries on food insecurity. Fabulous, right?!

The documentary follows a number of families across the country, in very different areas, and illustrates how incredibly ineffective our government is at helping solve hunger in this country.

One family, in rural Colorado, receives donations every week from a food bank. Their shelves are filled with processed foods, breads, and pastas—they haven’t had vegetables in months.

A single mother with two children in Philadelphia grew up eating Oodles of Noodles and Chef Boyardee and now has to feed the same things to her children because the food stamp program in America is so horribly underfunded. How underfunded, you ask? Well first, your income must be under $24,000/year. If that’s the case, your allotment is $3/day for groceries. A bunch of C-suite’ers interviewed in the movie tried going shopping for a week on this, and struggled immensely. They realized they couldn’t afford any high quality foods, but filled their carts with pop, chips, cookies and junk like so many Americans that are food insecure.

Mississippi claims the highest rate of food insecurity AND the highest rate of obesity of American states. A second grader they interviewed, Tremonica, already has diabetes and is grossly overweight for her age. Her mother knows she should be feeding her more balanced meals, but simply can’t afford them. In Tremonica’s school, their teacher teaches them what honeydew melons look and taste like—even letting them pass a pre-sliced melon around the class, in an effort to help them recognize this in the grocery store if given the opportunity.

Problem is—Tremonica and her classmates live in a food desert, which basically means an area so far off the beaten path that food distribution companies [read: the trucks that deliver fresh foods to grocery stores] just can’t justify the delivery costs to deliver to these places. That leaves areas with a few grocery stores that are more similar to convenience stores or gas stations than they are to grocery stores. They will maybe have an occasional banana but nothing in the way of fresh or nutritious foods.

onenation

How did we get here? In the 1930’s, the government subsidized farming as an emergency program to get the economy out of the Great Depression. BUT… we never let the market take over after the economy settled. Essentially, agribusiness took over family farms, and started cranking out a ridiculous amount of soy, corn, cotton, wheat and rice. These are also called commodity crops, and according to the documentary, comprise 84% of government subsidies. Dairy and livestock receive about 15%, leaving fruits and vegetables with less than 1% of total government subsidies. One reason? Most fruit and vegetable producers are small, and don’t have the political clout of the big guys producing the commodity crops.

So what does that mean for us as consumers? Government subsidies = cheaper product. Cheaper product = more profit for the food industry. More profit = the ability to invest in huge infrastructures to process these commodity crops into the packaged goods [read: crap food in the middle aisles] that we consume today. To summarize, more subsidies = more crap = us eating more crap. (I’ve said it before, people!)

The real processed icing on the processed cake? Since 1995, the USDA has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars ($250,000,000,000… lots of zeros.) on farm subsidies. And guess where that goes? Big Agra.

So what is the government doing about it? Every 5 years, Congress meets to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act.  A few years ago, schools spent an average of $0.90 – $1.00 per school lunch in America. THAT’S LESS THAN YOUR STARBUCKS COFFEE EACH MORNING. In 2010, in an effort to “help” fight child hunger, Congress passed “The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act”. Awesome, right? Ehhhh, not so much. Instead of accepting the proposed $10 billion in funding activists were asking for, they allotted a $4.5 billion increase over 10 years. That roughly equals a 6-freaking-cent increase per meal. What really was the knife in the back was that over half of the bill was paid for by cutting the food stamp program. In the words of one of those interviewed, it’s like pushing your mashed potatoes from one side of the plate to the other and saying you were fed. Nice, Congress. You sure solved that problem.

In case $4.5 billion sounds like a lot to you (which it did for me), let’s put it into perspective. For the bank bailout, the government gave $700 billion. When Bush passed the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2%, they ponied up $1.3 trillion over 10 years.

jeff

he’s really “the dude”.

Jeff Bridges, a child hunger advocate since the 80’s, said it perfectly, “If another country was doing this to our kids, we’d be at war.”

The cost of hunger and food insecurity to the US economy is $167 billion each year, and is getting worse. One example—1 in 3 children born in American in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes. ONE IN THREE.

What can we do? Food banks and charities are a start. But to most interviewed, they are a bandage on the bigger problem—the legislation surrounding nutrition and hunger in America. (And want to know a big proponent of legislative change? My boy Tom Colicchio.) If you are all about getting your voice heard, check out Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry website. You can also check out Feeding America to find charities and food banks near you and also find resources for advocating for change.

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