We hope you enjoy our blog as we reflect upon and capture the many amazing moments and experiences of our organization.
Emerging from the dark, cold days of winter into the longer, sunnier days motivates many of us to recharge and revitalize some part of our life. Many of us hit the pavement exercising, fire up the grill for healthier fare, buy a new wardrobe, or take a family trip. As a high school teacher, I’m blessed to have a week off during spring, but this year I am not heading out of town for spring break. Instead, I am focusing my energy here, at home, with spring cleaning.
I’m channeling the energy spring gives me to clean out my life. This spring cleaning will include the typical route of tackling the backs of kitchen cabinets, the backs of my clothes closet, and the back of my basement. But, more importantly, this spring I need to clean the back of my mind. This past winter was particularly dark for me, and it wasn’t just our short Midwestern days. I had a baby November 30 and I am okay admitting publicly that I went through some very sad days in her first two months of life. I did not deal with my problem alone, but many days I felt like I was.
With my time at home this week, I am embracing spring cleaning to melt winter’s icy claw and the grip it had on my mood. I’m choosing to focus on the strength I’ve found from becoming a mother and channel our better weather’s motivation into improving my outlook and house. I can throw out my negative self-talk while I toss worn clothing and furniture. I do not do this work grudgingly but with a happy heart. I am so grateful for the women around me who have been my guide as I’ve transitioned into my new role as mother. By the end of this week, my cleaner house and happier mindset will maybe inspire others to a fresh start.
My mother was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer last fall. Yes, the worst of the c-words (although I can think of another that may give cancer a run for it’s money!). Fortunately, after her initial diagnosis, her doctor was able to get her in immediately to perform an exploratory surgery and stage the cancer. Unfortunately, this meant that she had less than 48 hours to inform the family. Because I live away from my family, the news had to be broken to me over the phone. “Sarah, I’ve got some bad news… I’ve got ovarian cancer.” My heart sank, my eyes watered, and I felt this wave of sadness and fear completely wash over me. All I could say was, “What?!?”
The week after Thanksgiving, she started chemo. While this has been one of the most challenging things I’ve had to watch my mother confront, I have found myself in awe not only of her strength, tenacity, grit, determination, and resiliency, but most importantly her grace. I’ve always learned important life lessons from my mother, but this experience has highlighted this for me. As February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and also the month that my mother celebrates her birthday, I would like to share the top three lessons that I have learned with you all.
1. You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my mother’s continuing battle with cancer is that you absolutely cannot control anything. While you start with a plan of treatment, things can happen and wrenches will get thrown into even the best-set plans. Being a person who likes to be in control, and likes to know exactly what is going on, this has been, for me, one of the most frustrating parts of this entire process. While I, the person who is not directly fighting this battle, find this frustrating, my mother seems to take each change to the plan in stride.
Recent advancements in chemo, specifically the use of targeted therapy, have greatly limited the damage to healthy cells. While this is great news, this doesn’t make going through chemo any easier. You still experience days where you feel really bad. When the chemo really started to get tough, my mother said to my family, “Well, this just means that it is working, and we want it to work!” Instead of focusing on the pain and discomfort, and letting that get her down, she instead chose to focus on the positive side of the pain. She recognized the pain, but looked at how this was a necessary part of the process, using that to draw the strength and courage to get through it.
2. Don’t be afraid to laugh at the absurdity of it all.
When you think about it, chemo is bizarre. Essentially, you are taking drugs that are designed to attack and kill fast-growing cells, even those that are healthy. While the side effects are different for everyone, one of the most common side effects is hair loss. In some Native American cultures, hair is considered the physical manifestation of our thoughts and an extension of ourselves. Putting it in this context, chemo, and the potential for hair loss, becomes even more absurd.
Even before my mother started losing her hair, she had the ability to laugh about it. She wondered if hair loss included leg hair and underarm hair, and she joked about her excitement regarding the potential reprieve from shaving for several months, asking “what woman wouldn’t enjoy that?” She joked about how much faster she would be able to get ready and discussed all the things that she would be able to do with that extra time. She joked about how much money she was going to save because she wouldn’t be using nearly as much shampoo. When she finally decided that she wanted to shave her head (being a self-described neat freak, she was over seeing her hair throughout the house) she asked us to take a picture and send it to her brothers, telling us to poll them about which one she now most closely resembled.
Throughout this entire process, she has been able to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Apparently, laughter is the best medicine.
3. Keep on keepin’ on
The reality of life is that you are going to have good days and you are going to have bad days. With cancer, the bad days can be pretty awful. While each day has the potential to present a new struggle, it also gives you the opportunity to rise to overcome it. Overcoming this struggle doesn’t necessarily mean defeating it immediately. Sometimes it means being patient and sometimes it simply means accepting the struggle and refusing to let it defeat you. As cliché as it sounds, although it may be a bad day, it is another day—and another day, in and of itself, is something for which we should ALL be thankful. We may not know what is around the corner, and when we discover it, we may not know how to deal with it, but if we keep on keepin’ on, we will eventually get through it.
The takeaway from this, in addition to my mom being a warrior goddess, is that mothers are one of our greatest teachers. I’d love to hear about some of the lessons you’ve learned from your mother. If you have a child, or children, I would love to hear some of the lessons you’ve learned as a mother.
While writing this has been fairly difficult, it has also been incredibly cathartic. I appreciate the opportunity to share this, and I hope you all enjoyed it.
I AM…INFLUENCING! Advocating for Positive Change at Hill Day
On Tuesday, January 26th, I had the great privilege to represent Junior League of the Quad Cities at “Hill Day” at the state capital in Des Moines. I attended along with chair of the Advocacy Committee Cristy Tackett-Hunt and Vice President of Community Jennifer Vondracek. We were joined there by members of Junior League of Cedar Rapids and Junior League of Des Moines to promote policies related to our 3 advocacy platforms: Human Trafficking, Campus Sexual Assault and Women in the Workplace.
We only had two hours to meet with legislators and give our “elevator speeches” and hand out flyers with more information about our platforms. While it was only a short time, I believe that we were able reach a large number of legislators and make a positive impact for our positions. I think our collaborative effort with the other Leagues showed legislators that we are an organized and informed group with influence that reaches across the state and that will be a very powerful tool for us as we continue our efforts to affect positive change.
While each League around the state has varied positions and activities that support women in their local area, I was thrilled we all shared a passion and energy for our Mission and I felt the energy build as the day went along! I think we can build upon each other’s work and share ideas which, again, proves that “together we can achieve more”. It was a great example of collaboration of Junior League's across the state of Iowa!
“You can have it all. Just not all at once.”
I was lamenting recently to a friend and mentor that I have ambitions that I’m looking forward to but just can’t achieve right now because of family, time and other obligations. What he told me really made me stop and think. He said, “don’t be so focused on the future that you don’t stop and appreciate all the good you are doing now. Everything you are doing will help you achieve your goals in the future. Don’t under-estimate the power of now.”
It reminded me of a quote that I heard from Oprah Winfrey many years ago that gains meaning with every passing year: “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” My initial reaction to this was how unfair it seemed. Why CAN’T I have it all RIGHT NOW?!!!!
Over the course of our lives, we, as women, learn the true impact of these words. We juggle, we multi-task, we delay and we sacrifice in order to have the whole life that, over time, will become “it all”—and “having it all” means something different to each of us.
Amanda Deverich, a marriage and family therapist wrote, “Life's path often looks more like a maze than a straight line. In review, we see we have taken wrong turns, hit dead ends, lost time, meandered in wrong directions and twisted and turned at unexpected places. We thought we were going one way and had to head another. We are born into this maze and begin to move around, driven by need and want, sent out by parents, pressed upon by society, or sometimes, simply carried along with time.”
Exploring the maze and finding our purpose is a journey. Deverich continues, “A heightened awareness of the journey brings enlightenment, appreciation, and wisdom- tools for the forward motion time will force upon you. “
As I reflect over the past year, I’m proud of what I have accomplished, the impact I have made and the people I have met, and it inspires me to do more. When I think of what is possible, and I see other women breaking through and achieving great things, I’m not only proud as a woman, but I have a sense of obligation to inspire the next generation of young women and girls that follow me.
I am grateful that my journey has led me to the Junior League of the Quad Cities, an organization of strong, smart and empowered women whose mission is to develop the potential of women and improve the lives of women and children through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. I am proud to be a member and see what we, as women, can achieve together through encouragement, support and organization.
Mary Katherine Backstrom, a freelance writer and mother, wrote, “Happiness is not a cup that is empty or full; It is more like a puzzle. Everything you've ever wanted is right here in this world, scattered around you and waiting to be discovered.”
So take time to reflect on what you have achieved this year and appreciate where you are now. It’s all part of your journey, full of challenges and adventures, where you will gain the experience and knowledge that you need to eventually “have it all”.
- Chris Cournoyer, Social Media Chair
This fall, with the support of all League members, the Community Council of JLQC launched our Yours 4 A Year collaborative partnership with Triota, the Women and Gender Studies Honor Society of St. Ambrose University. Since the recent Social Justice Conference, which included an inspiring keynote address from Bryan Stevenson, it has been a humbling joy to reflect on our work and collective investment into such a meaningful initiative.
We as a League went through a high-quality and highly-impactful Trauma Informed Care Training, and without question this training will make our individual and collective civic leadership more authentic and right within and beyond League. We as a League have consistently valued the importance of influencing and mentoring young women, and we facilitated an expanded reach of responsible activism to countless young men and women through our involvement and conversations within this Conference.
Too often in life the inner critic can lead us toward questioning if we are doing enough or doing enough the right way, and my sincere hope is that we can all take a moment to appreciate how powerful this group of well-rounded, civic-minded leaders can be. Together, WE ARE…doing GOOD! It is an honor to serve with amazing women, and we are so incredibly lucky to do the work we do. It truly is a gift to serve.
Moving forward we gained profound insight that will illuminate our actions and
intentions moving forward, so in the spirit of Bryan Stevenson, let us set our sights on becoming MORE proximate. Let us stay hopeful…and grateful and ready to act. May we be a part of changing our community’s narrative, not because we are saving or helping anyone but because we are continuously becoming the change we wish to see so that our community story is one of justice, growth and promise. Let us allow uncomfortable things to inspire us to grow and evolve, not because we are always striving/never arriving, but because we value the dignity of every human we are blessed to share this community with.
VP of Community
It always amazes me how well women can connect with each other. Different cities, different backgrounds, different experiences, yet put 200 women into a room for 2 days and they will form bonds, connect and find commonality, learn and work.
That's exactly what happened two weekends ago in the beautiful city of Seattle. I was honored to go represent Junior League of the Quad Cities at a women's leadership conference, hosted by the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI).
On the very first day, in the very first session, I was approached by a woman from San Diego. Turns out she not only grew up in the Quad Cities, but I knew her parents and had recently been to their home.
My travel partner, another League member who I didn't know well before the trip, and I became fast friends as we ate our way through Seattle. Did you know that city has THE best seafood, chowder, cheese and ginger beer cocktails you've ever tasted.
Junior League has always worked to bring groups of women together to serve, empower and learn. Together we can do more. On our way home I reflected on my time, energized with ideas and new friends. We were waiting to deplane in Colorado and the woman next to me and I started talking. When she asked what I was doing in Seattle, I proudly said I was there for a Junior League conference - not expecting her to even know who our group was.
She smiled fondly and said, "I was a member of the Junior League in Texas. Those were some good times. I still have my cookbooks."
We laughed and then as she was grabbing her bags she left me with a simple message that made my weekend complete.
"Go do good work."
Last year the W.I.N.G.S. committee spent a lot of time attempting to streamline and lay a foundation for consistency to our monthly sessions. Our goal was to ensure we can make participating easy and accessible for League women, create a worthwhile experience for the girls who join and give longevity to the idea of W.I.N.G.S.. We are happy to say as of our October session Junior League has welcomed over 62 girls to W.I.N.G.S. for the 2015-2016 school year!
Have a Healthy & Happy Halloween!
Many parents, like myself, dread all the Halloween candy that is about to enter our homes for a couple reasons. First, we try to teach our kids to eat sweets in moderation and that is difficult when they return home from trick-or-treating with a gigantic bag of candy. Second, let’s face it, we (parents) are just as tempted as the kids to eat the candy!
What happens in New Orleans... AJLI Fall Leadership Training
I am sitting in the airport on my way home from the AJLI Fall Leadership training in New Orleans. This trip involved a couple of "firsts" for me: 1) first time visiting New Orleans 2) first AJLI training. I am a bit more excited to repeat one of those experiences than the other...Fall Leadership 2015 was AWESOME! (If you have not applied to attend a training, DO IT!).
I’m not sure where the time has gone, but this year is kicking off my 9th year as a member of the Junior League of the Quad Cities. Although we are only a couple months into it, I can already tell it’s going to be the best year yet! The Community Council decided to revisit a program called “Yours for a Year” this summer. We asked local nonprofits to submit an application for a twelve month community partnership which would allow JLQC to provide a monetary donation and receive quality volunteer opportunities in return. I was amazed how many organizations reached out to us and more importantly excited about how many local programs align with JLQC’s “I AM” initiative.
For Junior League of the Quad Cities, our new year begins each September with a membership meeting. Of course, we’re busy all summer making plans for the coming months and, especially, hosting our successful I AM Strong Mudventure Race. However, the beginning of our League year is always exciting and full of promise.
Thank you for all of the support and the great turn out at New Member Night on Tuesday, August 18th. We had over 70 women express interest in joining JLQC including approximately 60 who attended the event.
Thank you to everyone that participated in the 2015 I Am Strong Mudventure Race! We had a great turn out with a total of 343 runners and 100 volunteers. The course, provided by Case Creek Obstacles, included 24 total obstacles. We had volunteers on every obstacle to cheer on the runners. The weather cooperated and we had a wonderful day. All of the waves started on time and everything went smoothly. There was some intense competition in the competitive league. Our 1st place and 2nd place winners were only 6 seconds apart! Way to go, ladies!
Just last week we had our 2015 Annual Dinner. It was a night to celebrate, reflect on our accomplishments and to look ahead to the next league year. Awards were given, boards were transitioned and a lot of great moments in JLQC history were shared through Past Presidents that have laid our organization’s foundation.
When I joined the Junior League of the Quad Cities seven years ago, I knew little of the organization or what it and its women would someday mean to me.
Thank you for leaving your mark at Taste of the Vine 2015!
Dear Taste of the Vine attendees:
Thank you all for the incredible level of support you showed at our annual fundraiser on April 9, 2015. We had hoped that following the start of spring, we would have had decent weather, but instead kicked off the night with a nearby tornado and heavy rains that would ordinarily make most reluctant to venture out for the evening.
This League year, JLQC added a new role entitled the “Community Impact Chair” which involves tracking and quantifying our impact on the community through our volunteer hours, donations and projects. It’s pretty impressive – in fact, it is very impressive – what League is doing in our community. If you’d like to read our community impact statement, check out this page.
As new members for JLQC, we started a journey into understanding the legacy of Junior League. We began to learn of the importance this organization has on the community as well as to the development of women who engage in such a wonderful opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed my experiences with Junior League since joining nearly four years ago. However, several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an Organizational Development Institute (ODI) training weekend in Grapevine, Texas with two of my fellow Quad Cities league members. Over 400 other Junior League members spanning all across the country and even into Canada were also in attendance!
Happy Valentine’s Day to all the women of JLQC! Valentine’s Day is a time to remember all those loved ones in your life including spouses, children, parents, pets, and friends! For me this includes the women I’ve met through League. I love being a part of League and the women who make it such a success.
Maybe it’s just me, but many of the Super Bowl ads seemed to tug on my heartstrings this year - the puppy and his Clydesdale, and don’t even get me started on the Cats and the Cradle father-son emotional roller coaster.
Socializing and Trying New Things
My first official blog post, how exciting! I am no Ann M. Martin (Babysitter’s Club, anyone?), but will do my best to keep your attention. :)
Sticking to New Year Resolutions
On January 1st, I made quite a few resolutions for 2015. While I have high hopes and good intentions of maintaining them, usually by the end of February I almost always give up… or more accurately, forget. I’ve made the executive decision to stick to my guns and make my New Year’s resolutions last. And when I say last, I mean right up until midnight on December 31st 2015!
It’s that time of year again – the time we say good-bye to the old year and hello to the new, the time when many people resolve to be better versions of themselves by stating a New Year’s resolution. According to the Huffington Post, the top five resolutions last year were to lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, and stay fit and healthy.
'Tis the season...for celebrations, for gathering, for hunting & gathering, and for both forced and authentic cheer. It seems many of us, and especially the people around us, get caught up in this 'meme' of holiday stress. When the brain and the body experience stress, taking effective action is one of the most empowering ways to replace the stress with motivation, will, and productivity.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
Truth be told, I haven’t met a holiday song that I don’t love. While my significant other enforces a strict after-Thanksgiving rule for holiday jams at home, they play in October (let’s be honest – all year round) in my office.
Thankful: adjective; glad that something has happened, that something or someone exists. When looking forward to this week we take the time to be thankful. I think Merriam Webster has this all figured out.
Busy Women Make Time for What's Important
It was 7:30 am on Friday October 24, 2014, and my fellow leaguer Natalie Johansen Murray and I were on the road with five and a half hours of driving ahead of us. Needless to say, our enthusiasm at that hour of the morning was minimal, but not for long. By 12:30 p.m., we had reached our destination - Kansas City.
How To Become a Morning Person and Maybe, Even Enjoy It
I am not a blog writer and struggled with trying to figure out what to write on. While I am VP of Community, and I could give you a recap on our amazing Braking Traffik Film Premier or our awesome upcoming Done-In-A-Day with the Girl Scouts, I thought I would turn it into something that might be a challenge for many of us JLQC women.
2014/2015 League Year– a time of continued growth and opportunity!
It’s hard to believe November is right around the corner! So many JLQC women have been busy working away this summer promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving our communities! The list of positive impacts made internally to our members and externally to the community could go on and on already this year!
Mother’s Day - a celebration of female connections
As Mother’s Day nears, I am reminded by the many ways my mother has significantly influenced my life by supporting my dreams and readily (and I do mean readily) sharing her guidance and wise counsel. She has been my role-model, life coach, and biggest cheerleader, and I couldn’t be more grateful for having her in my life.
A recent JLQC experience has made me realize how many things in the world are intricately bound without us being aware. There are so many little connections in life that we really should take the time to think about the impact every decision makes.
Spring is finally here! Well, kind of. The trees have not yet begun to bloom, and the grass isn’t exactly green, but the feeling is here in the way that there are definitely more smiling and enthused faces out and about.
The ice has melted, the birds are chirping, and the trees are starting to bud. Could the spring finally be here?!? There are many ways to get out and enjoy this warmer weather. One of those ways is to get out and volunteer!
A Unique Membership Benefit of Training
Outlined clearly in the mission statement of Junior League is to promote volunteerism and improve communities through the “leadership of trained volunteers.” This training, which happens in a variety of ways, is what sets Junior League apart from just another volunteer opportunity.
Dinner Table Dilemma: A New Perspective
"I'm hungry!" "I don’t want that." "Gross, meatloaf... I want something else." Mealtime has become a battle at our house. With a two year old who prefers to eat only fruit, yogurt, and the occasional crunchy carb, and a one year old who thinks milk cups are for throwing and purees for impressionistic finger painting, I often dread the dinner hour.
Community Show Support at Taste of the Vine Event
I can’t believe the Taste of the Vine has already come and gone! After months of planning for our annual signature fundraiser, the evening was a huge success. Over 175 guests gathered in downtown Davenport at the River Music Experience (RME) on Thursday, March 6 to help celebrate the Junior League of the Quad Cities.
Continuing to Learn – Friends, Service, and Wine
I joined the Junior League of the Quad Cities this year in hopes of learning some new things. And I can honestly say that I’ve learned a lot about the community in which I live and this motivated group of women who strive to make it a better place.
“I AM” Committed to Meeting Goals
With New Year’s Day a dim memory, I hope your goals for 2014 aren’t also fading away. According to national statistics for previous years, they probably are.
Show Some Love on Valentine's Day
As a love-struck bride-to-be with a mere thirty days left until my big day, I am especially excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.
Although it’s difficult to see beyond the polar vortex at this point, spring is ahead with so many opportunities with JLQC!
On the morning of The Invisible War film viewing, I spoke to Erin Leifker. She asked me how I was feeling and, honestly, I felt great. Our amazing class of new members had taken care of all of the details, we had lots of RSVPs and the weather was shaping up in our favor.
A Heritage of Excellence and Empowerment
When I joined Junior League of the Quad Cities, I knew I would be teaming up with an amazing group of women whose example would serve as an ideal that I could strive for in my own personal and professional life.
Already half way through the League year, it is important to take time to reflect upon the work we accomplished. Since June 2013, JLQC members have reported over 1,000 volunteer hours! This is a tremendous accomplishment for JLQC and we all can’t wait to see how many hours we contribute during 2014.
JLQC had an amazing 2013 year and, with 2014 underway, our future is looking bright with our new members reaching active status, the Taste of the Vine fundraiser in March, The Invisible War film viewing event in January, and volunteer opportunities at the Bridge House and Wings peer mentoring program.
The Gift of Generosity and Commitment
With the fast pace of life during the holidays, I find it easy to get wrapped up in my seemingly never ending to-do list. Attempting to do it all, at times, leads me to feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
JLQC Presents "The Invisible War"
As a new member class of JLQC, we are excited for the opportunity to present the film The Invisible War to the Quad City community.
Inspiration Through a Little Paint
Last Saturday, I had the chance to join with a few other JLQC members and girls from Family Resources’ Bridge House at the cozy studio of artist Emily Christenson.
New Year Brings Largest JLQC New Member Class
At the start of every league year, JLQC begins recruiting prospective members for our new member training program in October. Along with high expectations for our incoming new member class, we introduce JLQC to women in the Quad Cities and explain our mission, goals and personality.
Rediscovering the Quad Cities through JLQC
I joined JLQC for 2 main reasons: 1) to meet other women who are “do-ers”, and 2) to get to know my community and become more involved.
Women are Sparkling – Inside and Out!
What woman doesn’t love sparkling? Those sparkles could come from the feeling that you know you’re proud of something or someone, or the sparkles could dazzle a piece of jewelry you wear with pride. Whether you prefer dazzling from the inside, the outside, or both, this opportunity is for you!
School is well underway and so is our WINGs program. W.I.N.G.s stands for Women Inspiring the Next Generation; it serves as a mentorship program to develop the leadership potential of young women.
I AM Strong. I AM Smart. I AM Powerful. I AM…Spooky?
It’s the end of October, and all of us at Junior League of the Quad Cities want to encourage you to have a fun and safe Halloween night.
I am proud to be a part of one of the oldest, largest, and most effective women’s volunteer organizations.
As Junior League members, we experience the fresh momentum that comes with a new League year. A full calendar presents the excitement and challenge of opportunity, and we rely on our membership to support our mission of promoting volunteerism, developing women and improving our community.
The Path to Success: AJLI Training
I just returned fresh and energized from the AJLI Fall Training Conference held in Detroit, MI.
As we start the League year, I can’t help but think about my first days joining the Junior League back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2006. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but decided to give it a try after meeting so many great women at the new member events.
Welcome to the Junior League of the Quad Cities “I AM” blog!
Welcome to the Junior League of the Quad Cities “I AM” blog. We are starting this blog so we can reflect upon and capture the many amazing moments and experiences of our organization.
Posted: 9/13/2013 2