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Spring has sprung and everything is in bloom! Although the budding trees, plants and flowers are beautiful to see and smell, they can wreak havoc on the 40 million people who suffer from seasonal allergies. Basically what happens during an allergic reaction is that the body encounters an allergen and decides that this foreign substance needs to be attacked. Then our immune system produces antibodies that attach to cells and thus release histamines. This “overreaction” to the allergen results in the runny nose, sinus headaches, watery and itchy eyes and all of that miserable stuff.  It’s why most allergy products on the market contain anti-histamines.

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In addition to over-the-counter medications that undoubtedly provide relief from sneezing and wheezing, there are some natural alternatives to ease allergy suffering such as acupuncture or acupressure. One pretty delicious method is to eat local bee pollen. It might seem odd but the idea is to start a regimen of taking bee pollen before the spring is fully underway. It is recommended to start with a small bit each day and gradually work up to a daily teaspoon. It tastes really good too, like little pellets of honey! Getting bee pollen from a local source is important to ensure that you are building immunities to the local plants that are causing the allergies. However, anyone with a history of severe allergies should consult with a doctor first.

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There are also some nutritional things that we can do to help build our immune systems over time. Certainly these aren’t immediate solutions but certain foods act as histamine blockers and can help make our bodies more resistant to allergy symptoms. For example kale, one of the most popular “superfoods” right now, contains quercetin, an antioxidant that apparently blocks histamine production. Studies also show that carrots, or other foods high in carotenoids, help reduce hay fever symptoms. Also, according to Dr. Oz, limiting “long aged” cheeses such as cheddar is a good idea, since they naturally contain dietary histamine.

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Allergies don’t always just make us sneeze but sometimes manifest as a skin reaction. With more interest and education about natural and eco-friendly products there’s a bunch of excellent soaps and lotions to bring relief. MotherEarthsSoaps makes a vast collection of natural soaps, particularly an unscented goat’s milk bar that is perfect for sensitive skin. It is rich in vitamin E from the grapeseed oil and sunflower oil, so it’s soothing for even the most allergic. For post-bath comfort, luxuriate in Emily Jayne’s “Antilles Cimarron,” a healing body butter particularly good for those with psoriasis, eczema and other skin irritations. It’s also made with grapeseed oil, along with vitamin E, coconut oil and shea butter to soothe and moisturize thirsty skin.

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Even as many allergies are seasonal, there are some of us who have allergic reactions to products all year round, especially in our most delicate areas. Many soaps, lotions and especially feminine hygiene products often are made with or contain irritating chemicals and fragrances that make skin very unhappy. On the other hand, Maxim Hygiene organic and natural tampons and pads are hypoallergenic, a nice alternative to bleached and chlorinated products that dominate the market. At the same time, VulvaLoveLovely makes a wonderful hypoallergenic, vegan and all natural vaginal soap specifically for women who are sensitive to soap additives. We also love The VBAR Lady’s herbal based soaps specifically designed for vaginal health.

Many of us may have to live with allergies but fortunately we don’t have to suffer. By being an informed consumer and taking charge of our health, we can enjoy frolicking outside during one of the most beautiful times of the year.

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month to “celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.” Many people, established writers and novice poets, often do a “challenge” to write a poem a day for the entire month of April. Even though the month is well underway, jump in if you like to write! Even if you’re not off writing your own poetry, we can celebrate spirit of this month by learning about some legendary women poets who vividly express the timeless and varied truths of womanhood and what we like to call, being a Fierce Woman.

A classic poem that celebrates women and encourages self-love is Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.”

It brilliantly flips the script on the ways we often feel insecure about our physical appearance and instead celebrates our inner beauty, confidence and essence.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
It’s a reminder that we are most attractive when we are being ourselves, authentically and unapologetically!
Margaret Atwood is another powerful poet who wrote about bucking societal expectations of women’s roles. In her poem, Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing, she dismisses the limited career options that are available to women, and the narrow perception of how women should live their lives.
The world is full of women
who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
Atwood’s words are timeless especially since today many women are choosing a less traditional life path of the “steady 9 to 5″ to become entrepreneurs and follow their dreams.
Poetry doesn’t always look or sound like written prose on a page. There’s also spoken word which has gained popularity over the last few decades. One incredible spoken word artist is Staceyann Chin, who gained popularity after co-producing and performing in Def Poetry Jam on Broadway.
In the below clip, starting at 1:30, Chin states: “So I think one of the most radical things a girl can do is to own her body. And we learn so young not to own these bodies of ours.” Truth. Then she goes into a brilliant narrative of her first period, complete with anecdotes about the fear and shame of asking her auntie for help, learning about how to use pads, and the disgusting smell of scented pads. She nails one of the many reasons why we offer 100% natural products and exercises one of the many suggestions we offer in dealing with symptoms of PMS.

Poetry also exists in songs. Lyrics are another form of poetry, it’s just set to music! One of the classic songs about how industrialization affects our environment is Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” which I first heard from the Counting Crowes and Vanessa Carlton remake. It’s a pretty prophetic work considering current conversations about climate change, deforestation, urbanization and organic foods.
They took all the trees
Put ‘em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ‘em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Hey farmer farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees Please!

The song has a lovely light and airy vibe but still serves as a cautionary tale to appreciate the beauty of our environment and to protect it fiercely because once it’s gone…it’s gone.

Share with us one of your favorite poems and even one you wrote yourself. Let’s celebrate poetry together!

pic-6Mesothelioma. Just what exactly is that, you ask? I didn’t know either until I learned about Heather Von St. James, our April “Fierce Woman.” I only knew of it from ads for cheap legal services on TV or at the bus stop. Well, mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer connected to asbestos exposure. It seems like a problem that only affected our parents’ generation but asbestos exposure is still an important public health issue.

This week is Asbestos Awareness Week so in the spirit of education and awareness, we were honored to interview mesothelioma survivor, advocate, blogger and mom, Heather Von St. James. She shared her incredible story with us so that she can continue to spread the word about this disease and how we can prevent it in ourselves and our loved ones.

1) What is mesothelioma? What has been your experience with it? 

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of organs, or mesothelium. The 3 main types, Pleural, which affects the lining of the lung, is the kind I had, there is also peritoneal, which affects the lining of the upper and lower abdomen, and pericardial, which is the heart. It is almost always caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma has a 10-50 year latency period, meaning once you are exposed it could take up to 50 years to develop.

I got my diagnosis on November 21st 2005, just 3 1/2 months after my only child was born. I was having many issues that could be attributed to post partum, but thankfully my doctor dug deeper to find out the reason.  I was losing weight at a rapid pace, had a low-grade fever that wouldn’t go away, and shortness of breath. I felt like a truck was parked on my chest.  After a chest x ray, they found fluid on my lung, which prompted a CT scan, and that is when they found the mass on my left lung. Our doctor told me I had five months to five years to live, but told us of a surgery that a doctor in Boston pioneered and that it might give me my best bet at survival. Without missing a beat, my husband said, “Get us to Boston.” Twelve days later I was there going through a biopsy and other procedures to confirm the diagnosis and to see if I was a candidate for the surgery. I was and returned to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston a month later to have my left lung removed in a procedure called and extra pleural pneumonectomy.  It entails the removal of the entire lung, the lining where the cancer was located, the left half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart, both of those were replaced with surgical gore-tex. They also removed my sixth rib. During the surgery they filled my chest with a heated chemo wash, it was let in for an hour then pumped back out..all in all, it was about an eight hour procedure. I spent 18 days in the hospital, and recovered for three more months before starting chemo, and then radiation after that. t was about a year from diagnosis, when I finished my last treatment. I just celebrated eight years cancer free.

2) What did you do to stay positive after the diagnosis? What helped you regain your health? 

All I had to do was look at my baby girl and knew she needed her mommy. That kept me positive, and my faith. Faith that I was brought through this for reason and I wanted to make a difference.  Time and self-care helped me regain my health.  I listen to my body, I keep busy and I love life. A positive outlook and can-do attitude does more than anything.

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3) What do you recommend to people to protect themselves from this disease? What do you want people to know about mesothelioma? 

Knowledge is power. Prevention to exposure is the only way. Know where asbestos exposure could happen, and avoiding it is key. Home renovation is probably the biggest exposure hazard there is. Before embarking on any renovation in homes built before 1978, familiarize yourself where asbestos could be located. Always call a certified professional to remove any asbestos containing products. If you know you’ve been exposed, communication with your doctor is vital and knowing the signs and symptoms can help.  Mesothelioma is rare, and it is so much more the a commercial on daytime TV. It affects real people, of all ages, not only people who worked with it back in the ’50′s -’70′s. Finding a medical team that specializes in mesothelioma treatment is so important. So many doctors don’t understand and have limited experience with it, and can actually do more harm than good.  The sooner you are diagnosed, the better the outcome will be. Only about 3000 people a year are diagnosed with it, so it is rare but finding support and others who have been there is so important. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation is an excellent resource for patients and their caregivers.

4) At Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Who in your life is a Fierce Woman and why? 

My Mom. She is quite simply amazing. She is tough, independent, humble and wise.  She is beautiful and loving, and has a genuine passion for helping others. I aspire to be more like her.

5) How have you been involved with advocacy around this since the diagnosis and recovery?

It took about 2 years after recovery to really get involved. I had to recover not only my physical well being, but mental as well.  I attended a conference for mesothelioma when I was about 4 years out, and met the CEO of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, Linda Reinstein. She asked me to speak at her annual conference that next year, and it started a series of events that led to blogging, more speaking engagements and advocacy efforts. I always tell her she gave me my voice.

6) What advice would you give to women and families affected by this disease?

Don’t give up. Educate and arm yourself with knowledge. Knowledge is power. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Ask for help and accept help that is offered. We women tend to think we can do it all, whether as caregiver or patient, but there comes a time when you need to put pride aside and let others in. There is wisdom in knowing. There is an entire community to lean on. Most of all, have faith…no matter what.

How can one not feel inspired by Heather’s endurance, faith and dedication to advocacy? We encourage you to share this post and information with the people in your family and community, and to remember that “from awareness grows hope.”


spring1Happy Spring! It’s the beginning of a new year and in many places of the United States, it signifies the beginning of warm weather. Warmer weather means going out more and a change of seasons means a change of wardrobe. Adios knee high boots, hello peep toe sandals! Gone are the down coats and wool sweaters. Enter light jackets and flowing fabrics. As we adjust what we wear on our bodies, it’s also time to switch up our makeup! Since we are fierce green feminine hygiene queens, we want whatever we are putting on our skin to be natural and eco-friendly.

We also want to keep up with the trends. So we’ve gathered up a variety of makeup essentials that offer lots of color without all the chemicals, all in shades of the 2014 Pantone color of the year: radiant orchid.

This color is chosen annually by a secret group of international color experts to reflect what’s happening globally and to guide designers and product marketing throughout the year. Sounds like a fun job! Radiant orchid is a mix of purples, fuchsias, and pinks that represents uniqueness and beguiling charm, and enhances creativity. Below are some of our fav ways to incorporate this color and our values for natural living into your spring style!

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One thing we LOVE all year round is nail polish and nail art! Nail polish though is notorious for having all sorts of crazy cancer-causing crap in it. However, nowadays many companies have responded and are making nail products that are 3, 4, or 5 free. This means they have eliminated Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin and/or Camphor. Pure Beauty Shoppe is a company whose beautiful color palatte is 4-free. Our recommendation for your radiant orchid inspired mani/pedi is their “Loving Me,” a perfect spring pastel purple with a hint of pink. Honorable mention goes Pure’s “Loyal if you want to try deeper shade of purple.

As an added bonus, if you want to try out these colors or any of their other polishes, Danielle, the founder of Pure Beauty Shoppe is offering a discount to our readers. Enter the code “MAXIMQUEEN” at checkout for 20% off your entire order for the whole year. Pretty sweet, eh?!

amethyst eye shadow

Another fun way to add a splash of color to your look is with some eye-catching eyeshadow. Thanks to Etsy, we found Luxe Cosmetics which makes some fabulous colors across the spectrum. We recommend this amazing “Iridescent Purple” for the bold and their “Amethyst” for a more subtle look. According to their store, their mineral eye shadows which are loose powders that double as shadow when dry or eyeliner when wet. Playtime! Their products are:

“100% harsh chemical and preservative free, contain no fragrances, talc, or fillers, are oil free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and are safe for sensitive skin. We NEVER test our products on animals and never include any synthetic dyes, fragrances, parabens, or additives. All of our products are responsibly packaged to reduce waste that is harmful to our environment.”

Not only do they care about the planet but a portion of their proceeds go to charities that send medical personnel to developing countries to increase access to quality health care services.

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Last but not least, lipstick is one of the simplest tools to uplift your look. We’ve found a non-comedogenic version that also can be used as a blush stick! Not only is it more bang for your buck but it’s less to carry in your clutch! Erzulie Cosmetics makes an organic lip and cheek colorstick that’s made with beeswax, avocado butter and argan oil, to name a few ingredients. If you want to capture that radiant orchid look, try out Jenny or Lily for hints of fuchsia, or Albina for a deeper berry hue. 

As green feminine hygiene queens, we must make sure we are taking care of all of our parts. Besides our 100% natural and hypoallergenic pads and tampons, we also sell eco-friendly, 100% natural cotton balls, rounds and swabs for when you need to take off that makeup! There’s no point in being conscious with your cosmetics and then using irritating chemical-laden cotton on your face. We can still be beautiful and be green, right? We hope you have fun with these spring natural makeup finds and happy frolicking!

IMG_8624Last weekend, I checked something off my bucket list that I’ve been wanting to do for (at least) six years: visit La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s home, now museum. I was excited to be there particularly because it’s Women’s History Month and I am interested in the ways women tell their stories. Frida shared her truth with the world through visual art (painting and illustration) and also through her style. Frida Kahlo embodies the spirit of our definition of a fierce woman.

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Visiting her home gives you a greater understanding of the woman behind the myth. The museum is located in the actual house where she lived with her husband, comrade, mentor and fellow artist, Diego Rivera from 1929 to 1954. You can walk through the different rooms of their house including her bedroom, studio and kitchen and see her surroundings. Her paints and pastels, the butterfly collection above her bed, pots and pans, and pre-Hispanic art collection are all on full display, along with some rooms of her paintings, sketches and photographs.

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One of the most powerful parts of the museum for me was the temporary fashion exhibit, “Las apariencias engañan: los vestidos de Frida Kahlo” (“Appearances Deceive: The Clothes of Frida Kahlo”) which not only featured some of Frida Kahlo’s actual clothing and gorgeous accessories but also her braces, crutches and casts. ImageThe exhibit cited that she referred to her body as “less than perfect” because of the effects of polio on her body and near-fatal bus accident in her late teens. The feeling I got is that she wasn’t saying it to be entirely self-deprecating but more of an acknowledgement that her physical condition did not fit the ideal of what most people and society believes the “perfect” body looks like.

From what I see, hear and experience, most women today feel the same way about themselves regardless of their height, weight or physical ability: that we are less than perfect…or light years away from perfect. However, she chose to highlight parts of physical appearance that were deviations from the “norm,” from emphasizing her unibrow and mustache to painting several works about her physical challenges featuring rods in her body, casts and disembodied limbs.

Yet she celebrated herself by documenting all aspects of her life, especially her pain, tragedy and complex emotions. Her evocative painting, “Frida y la cesarea” (Frida and the Caesarean) processes her miscarriage and the caesarean procedure she would have had.

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Kahlo also used her art to express her political beliefs that were controversial at the time but were at the core of who she was. Whether you agree with her ideology or not, we can be inspired by her dedication to her political beliefs and commitment to expressing what she believes in.

Kahlo also expressed her love of nature in her art and in her home. Many of her works and photographs feature monkeys, cats, birds and other animals. There is a beautiful patio and garden in the center of her home with trees, plants and flowers in where she must have enjoyed painting, entertaining and playing with her pets.

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My favorite piece in the museum was “Viva La Vida”. It is a simple still life of watermelon where Frida painted the words “Viva la vida” in one of the slices. It is said to be her last painting, though there is debate that she painted it two years earlier and then added her signature, the year (1954) and the place (Coyoácan) eight days before her death. Whenever it was actually done, the work made me feel the levity of her spirit and appreciation for life’s sweetness. It was also a reminder to me that time goes really quickly so to live fully and to be present to each moment.

Frida Kahlo is our “Fierce Woman” for March, Women’s History Month, as her life and her work continue to gain more popularity as an essential part of art history, Mexican history and women’s global history. Everything about her expression from the themes of her work, her resilience, the way she dressed, and her creative vulnerability and honesty inspires me and many other women and men all of all ages around the world to “viva la vida.”

When it comes to options for dealing with our periods, the women of 2014 are generally pretty fortunate. Technology has advanced rapidly in a relatively short period of time offering more options for menstruating women on the move, particularly as a response to more women in the workforce.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to take a look back at the history of sanitary napkins and tampons. When and how did they become a readily available product? According to the book, Everything You Must Know About Tampons (1981), tampons have been around for centuries:

“The oldest printed medical document, papyrus ebers, refers to the use of soft papyrus tampons by Egyptian women in the fifteenth century B.C. Roman women used wool tampons. Women in ancient Japan fashioned tampons out of paper, held them in place with a bandage, and changed them 10 to 12 times a day. Traditional Hawaiian women used the furry part of a native fern called hapu’u; and grasses, mosses and other plants are still used by women in parts of Asia and Africa.”

Talk about green feminine hygiene! Ancient women also used similar materials for pads such as cloth, animal skins, grass and sponges. Our ancestors had no choice but to use what nature provided. (Updated: We also must acknowledge that many women in less-industrialized or remote parts of the world are still using these types of materials.)

So how did we go from papyrus and moss to pads with wings and tampons with applicators?

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Pads have only been sold in the United States since 1896 and tampons subsequently since 1936. The first sanitary napkins were called “Lister’s Towels” after pioneering scientist Joseph Lister. Yup the Listerine guy. However, these weren’t widely used because it was taboo to advertise and publicly address menstruation. Also, many women could not afford to buy them, so instead they made their own from materials like cotton and cheesecloth because they were readily available and cost-effective.

At the same time, for women who could afford these products, it was illegal to mail disposable sanitary napkins and tampons in the United States. Because the Comstack Laws, passed in 1873 but lasting for decades, banned the mailing of any “pornography or contraception-related” materials, sanitary products and contraceptives had to be re-branded as “feminine hygiene.” This really only affected well-to-do women who could afford luxuries such as disposable sanitary products and the postage to have them mailed.

World War I bandages actually paved the way for commercial selling of pads. Kimberly-Clark created Cellocotton, a synthetic cotton, to treat and bandage soldier’s wounds. However, it was so absorbent that nurses in France started to use them for during their cycle. Because of this discovery, six years later the “feminine hygiene” industry took off.

Even though pads were now readily available, there weren’t the most comfortable to wear. Women used to have to wear sanitary belts to hold their pads in place. These were not fashionable at all but instead were contraptions that kept pads secure.

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Commercial tampons were available in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s but did not become mainstream until the invention of the tampon applicator. During World War I, a young employee of Kimberly-Clark stuffed a condom with the Cellocotton and poked holes in it, as a prototype for tampons. But it wasn’t until 1931 when Dr. Earle Hass patented the tampon applicator, that tampons became marketable. It was innovative for that time because American women generally were uncomfortable manually inserting a tampon. It was taboo to be so intimate with their vaginas and menstrual blood. Some Catholics and devout Christians gave tampon use a sexual context and feared it would break the hymen. Nowadays I think it’s pretty clear that most of us aren’t getting off from our tampons.

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Throughout the 1930’s and through the 1950’s, advertising of women’s hygiene products remained discreet. Johnson & Johnson created silent coupons where women could hand them to a cashier and get her pads in an unmarked box. Or there would be a nondescript money box on the counter specifically where women could pay, and the cashier would give them their pads. In the 1960′s, magazine ads used glamourous images as taboos changed and they wanted to broader reach.

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The next major achievement was when then first adhesive sanitary pad became available in the early 1970’s. Pretty recently, right?! That meant no more belts or sanitary underwear. Around the same time, scented pads and tampons were being introduced into the market, using dangerous chemicals to again capitalize on women’s shame.

Today many women still use cups, sea sponges and other materials to avoid absorbing chemicals through our coochies. However, it is more convenient for many women to use disposable sanitary pads and tampons because they are comfortable, relatively dependable and portable. We are taking a cue from our foremothers by using only natural and eco-friendly materials for our products. Not only are they 100% certified organic and natural cotton and chlorine/dioxin free which is healthier for our lady parts, they are synthetic free and thus irritation free even for those with the most sensitive skin.

What a journey it’s been as now American women can speak more candidly about our bodies, our periods and our sexual health. We look forward to keep pushing these conversations and contributing more natural and eco-friendly products for all of you green queens!

On my first trip to Los Angeles, I remember taking a leisurely stroll through downtown to explore the flower and fabric districts. I turned the corner and all of a sudden I was in the middle of “Skid Row,” an area of downtown LA known for its enormous homeless population. Intellectually, we understand that homeless people exist and that it is a real problem in the United States. Whether you live in a big city or small town, chances are you have encountered someone who is homeless, or at the very least you’ve seen it on the news. However, physically seeing the hundreds of homeless people living on top of each other in one small city block was overwhelming, mind-blowing and saddening.

Women and families are especially vulnerable to being homeless, and make up the majority of homeless people in the United States. That’s why this month, in line with our social justice values, we are saluting “Fierce Woman” Judy Vaughan, Executive Director of the Alexandria House. Alexandria House is a transitional residence and house of hospitality in Los Angeles providing safe and supportive housing for women and children in the process of moving from homelessness to permanent housing. Alexandria House is also a Neighborhood Center, providing educational, cultural and enrichment opportunities for families in the Mid-Wilshire area, many of whom are a paycheck, illness or accident away from being homeless.

Considering the constant funding cuts for these critical community services, Judy and her team have helped more than 260 women and children move through the transitional residence program. They remain in touch with approximately 78% of their past residents and 82% of those women remain in permanent housing. Additionally, Alexandria House has a community youth center and an apartment complex providing permanent housing to families who are homeless and/or survivors of domestic violence.

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Judy took some time out of her busy schedule to share with us how she stays grounded, her desires for the Alexandria House community and who are the fierce women in her life.

1.  At Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Who in your life is a Fierce Woman and why? 

I have been blessed to have an amazing number of “Fierce Women” in my Life. Certainly the women I live with at Alexandria House could be defined as such. Each woman is committed to creating a life that is safe and loving for themselves and for their children. I have witnessed incredible courage and determination in striving for this goal.

I also have had the privilege of spending time with the Communities of Population in Resistance in Guatemala in the 1980s. These communities, primarily indigenous people, were living in hiding because of the genocidal practices of the government, and at the same time were creating a new community based on justice and respect. Women were the primary leaders of these communities and created a model of society that was revolutionary.

My sisters—one an educator and another an artist—along with my mom are all Fierce Women who make their choices with a consciousness that what we do on a daily basis can slowly create change. My daughter who is 15 ½ is also a Fierce Woman coming into an awareness of her own power and sensitivity and dealing with more challenges than I ever had to do.

And this would just be the beginning of my list…

2.  If there’s only one thing you would want to make sure each woman exiting the Alexandria House would get, what would it be? 

I would have to say there are at least two things that I would want to make sure each woman exiting Alexandria House would get: 1) an affordable, safe permanent home, and 2) an ever deepening sense of being a “glorious female creature” who is deeply loved and worthy of all respect. Along with these two things is the hope that women will never have to experience the crisis of homelessness again.

3.  What are the Alexandria House’s biggest challenges right now?

The biggest challenges right now are the lack of affordable housing in the Los Angeles area and the difficulty of finding jobs that pay a living wage. With the sequestration of Section 8 housing and the lack of truly affordable housing for those working for minimum wage or slightly above, it has been impossible for families to move and then stay out of homelessness. Of course the other major challenge is being able to pay Alexandria House bills. Of major concern is being able to continue major programs that enable women to heal from past trauma and to create a new life—especially such programs as counseling and child care.

4.  Being that you live in the Alexandria House, you truly are living each choice, moment and breath of your life to changing the world for women in need. Does it ever get overwhelming? If so, what do you do to get yourself back on track?

Living at Alexandria House has been one of the greatest gifts in my life. Each day I witness how difficult and challenging it is for women to survive; observe in very concrete ways the reality that those who have get more, and those who don’t have struggle to maintain any small gains they are able to make; learn of the many “catch 22s” that impact women’s lives who are living on the margins; and most significantly, experience the daily acts of heroic kindness, compassion and generosity that the women whom I live demonstrate.

What gets overwhelming is how great the needs are and especially now, the limited resources to meet these needs. In any one month we receive more than 400 calls from women seeking shelter, far beyond our capacity.  On any one night there are 91,000 homeless people and less than 13,000 shelter beds.  These realities are definitely sobering. Besides trying to” ride out” the recession that has impacted funding, over the last two years we have lost almost $300,000 because of the emphasis on funding programs that serve the chronically homeless and veterans. While definitely needed, these priorities have dramatically hurt programs that serve families. To get back on track I pray, and trust a lot in miracle. Dorothy Day, a fierce woman and one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement, always said that God has divine timing and what is needed will come in God’s time. In the meantime I try not to stress, and I am grateful every day for all the help we are receiving from so many people, organizations, and corporations.

If you want to support Judy and the amazing work of Alexandria House, they accept donations and are looking for volunteers. All donations are designated for program needs, and they count on many different in-kind donations including laundry soap, diapers, school supplies and paper goods. These are things that are essential to a healthy daily life but often get overlooked, just like pads and tampons. Food cards and gas cards are also very helpful since many of the past residents often have to make choices between paying the rent and putting gas in the car.

Judy and her dedication to serving women in her community is a prime example that truly fierce women support one another. We hope you will play it forward and share this with other fierce women you know.

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