Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Just some random thoughts about life.

Menstruation Supplies Needed!

Menstruation Supplies Needed!

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women WorldwideMy book club just finished reading Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicolas D. Kristof (a New York Time columnist) and Sheryl WuDunn. The title Half The Sky refers to a quote by Chairman Mao that women hold up half the sky, meaning a country cannot succeed without including all of its citizens in their economy.

The book concentrates on how to raise the level of female economic participation in countries throughout the world while also ridding the world of such things as sexual slavery and female genital cutting that are still all too common place.

One of the areas that Kristof and WuDunn explored was how to increase the level of education for girls in third world countries and managing menstruation was one of the items discussed.  While drugstores in industrialized nations are stocked with an overwhelming choice of feminine hygiene products, women in third world countries are often still using and re-using rags and may only have one pair of underwear to their name.

Girls miss school during their periods as they do not have disposable supplies that will keep them going throughout the day.  Missing five to seven days a month of school only puts these girls further and further behind, which leaves a serious impact on overall education levels of girls.

To learn more about the Half The Sky movement and how you can support their mission visit the organization website. Other organizations that support providing menstruation supplies to disadvantaged girls throughout the world include the Sanitary Towel Project and Proctor and Gamble’s Protecting Futures campaign.   Consider how easy it is to walk into a local Walgreens or Target to purchase feminine hygiene supplies and then consider donating to one of these worthwhile organizations.



Study Abroad a Bonus for Kids

Study Abroad a Bonus for Kids

Kathy Pickus and son Dylan Pickus

Dylan and Mom

On Saturday, we sent our youngest son Dylan off to a summer study abroad program in Istanbul, Turkey.  His older siblings both studied abroad during their college years.  Older brother Aaron spent a school year at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  Older sister Hayley spent two quarters studying Spanish in Granada, Spain and one quarter studying public health in Ecuador.  Needless to say, our kids are not afraid of traveling and learning about new cultures and places.  More importantly though, my husband Glen and I fostered the idea of going abroad in our children.

Neither my husband nor I studied abroad, something I think we both regret.  When is a better time to travel and learn then when still foot loose and fancy free and more than likely still on the parents payroll? The world seems so much smaller today than it did 30 years ago.  Internet access allows an easy way to keep up with news events from around the world.  Many high schools (and even middle schools) sponsor overseas trips for various school programs.  And America being a nation of immigrants, our children are exposed to other children from different countries among their daily playmates.

The main key to all of this though that as parents we were willing to let go.  We took the risk of allowing our children to travel halfway around the world and be gone from home for weeks or months at a time.  Sure, it is easy to keep in touch with Skype, email and Facebook.  And yes, there are risks just walking down the street of any American city.  But to be in a foreign country means being out of reach in case of emergency as it is usually a one or two day trip to where they are.  It means trusting they will make the right decisions in unfamiliar surroundings where English is not the common language.

We have no regrets about this though.  Aaron and Hayley learned valuable lessons being on their own in a foreign country and we expect Dylan will too.  And we had the advantage of seasoned tour guides when we visited Aaron in Scotland and Hayley in Spain, a wonderful byproduct of children studying abroad.  Regretfully we will not be able to visit Dylan in Turkey. However, I think he will still have fun without us!


Title IX Celebrates 40 Year Anniversary

Title IX Celebrates 40 Year Anniversary

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of Title IX – the legislation requiring schools and colleges receiving federal money to provide the same opportunities for girls as they do for boys.  While the law does not specifically mention athletics, this is were the greatest impact has been seen.

I attended Catholic schools through 12th grade.  Not attending a public school meant not experiencing the early impacts of Title IX.  My all girls high school did not have a gym until after I graduated.   And while my brother participated in team sports like Little League, there was no comparable sports leagues in our town for girls.

And so when my daughter showed interest in playing basketball starting in the 3rd grade, I jumped right in to support her.  There were several teams in our town that she could participate in and she choose the one where her best friend played.  The team played in leagues at the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA.  She played on school teams while in middle school and high school.  At both schools there was equal access for boys and girls to play and practice in the school gyms.  It was wonderful to watch the boys and girls come out to support each other in their games against other schools.

Times have changed for girls. In 1971, the year before Title IX was enacted, approximately 310,000 girls and women participated in high school and college sports.  Today, there are more than 3,373,000.  Female athletes can look forward to professional careers in basketball and soccer, along with a handful of other sports.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girls who participate in sports are less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, have better grades in school, have lower risk of certain types of cancer and better long term bone health among many other health benefits.

If your daughter is not currently engaged in sports, consider encouraging her to join a team or take up an individual sport.  Need help figuring out which one may be right for her? Today ESPN launches the espnW Channel through July 31st.  Watch some shows and talk about what your daughter may or may not like about each sport.  The London Summer Olympics will also be a perfect TV watching opportunity to see female athletes from around the world participating in a wide range of events.

Now I’m off to walk in the Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon with my daughter.  This is our 4th year in a row and we enjoy it more and more each year.  And that is the best part of having a sports minded daughter – she gets me up off the couch too!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

National Chocolate Chip DayI could not let National Chocolate Chip Day go by without sharing our family’s favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  This recipe is courtesy of Hillary Clinton who, while her husband was running for president, said she focused on her career instead of staying home and baking cookies.  Including the oats makes the cookies seem healthier with less guilt while eating!

The original chocolate chip cookie was invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield in the 1930’s at her Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. Ruth was planning on baking chocolate cookies for her guests, but she ran out of baker’s chocolate.  She instead used chopped up semi-sweet chocolate bits in the cookies.  Ruth discovered that the bits did not melt into the dough as baker’s chocolate does.

No matter, her cookies became an instant hit with her guests and have since become a favorite cookie throughout America and the rest of the world! Approximately 25 percent of the cookies baked in the United States today are chocolate chip cookies, in my house it is about 95%.

Hillary Clinton Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 1/2 cup unsifted flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup Crisco
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda.  Beat together Crisco, sugars, and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled oats.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop batter by well rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are done.  Cool cookies on sheets for two minutes before placing them on wire rack for further cooling.  Yield: 7 1/2 dozen cookies.

If you have a favorite recipe using chocolate chips, please share with our readers and spread the guilty pleasure around!


What I Learned from My Mother

What I Learned from My Mother

Joan Cecilian and Kathy Pickus

Mother's Day 1979

My mom, Joan Cecilian, passed away in December 2005 from colon cancer.  She had been diagnosed just a short five months prior to her death, leaving us all shocked at the turn of events.  I miss her each and every day as does the rest of her children, grandchildren and my dad.  The first few Mother’s Day celebrations after her death were tough, but enough years have passed that I am now able to celebrate what she gave me, instead of how she died.

In honor of my mom and of all the wonderful women who are moms – biological or not – I thought today would be a good day to pass on lessons learned from my mom.

1.  Always buy your towels from Costco.  I’ve tested this lesson and it’s a good one, Costco towels are reasonably priced, of good quality and last a long time.

2.  When using a glass baking dish reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees from the recipe instructions.  Glass is a better conductor of heat than other pans.

3.  Never put wooden spoons in the dishwasher, or any wooden handled kitchen utensil or knife.  The handle will wear out faster.  My mom kept her wooden spoons for years, so she was right on this one.

4.  Fresh food is always the best.  Dad planted the vegetable garden and Mom did all the picking and cooking.  She would regularly make homemade applesauce and spaghetti sauce.  I never understood why she went through all the trouble until I went away to college and had to eat the store varieties.

5.  Know the family finances.  My mom handled the bookkeeping for my Dad’s dental practice.  If anything ever happened to him, she would know exactly where she stood in regards to money.

6.  Only one person can change at a time in a marriage.  Meaning there has to be some consistency to keep it going.  Since her four daughters are all still in their first marriages, this advice must have sunk in.

7.  And lastly, family is the most important thing, however, be sure to also have your own interests.  One of my mom’s favorites sayings was ‘If Mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’. I think most moms would agree, have something for yourself to balance out all that you give to others.

I would love to hear your favorite mom advice.  Leave it in the comments below and Happy Mother’s Day!


Celebrate Your Favorite Teacher!

Celebrate Your Favorite Teacher!

Today is National Teacher Day – a day to recognize the teachers in our life and those that teach our children.  Even though it has been years since I was in school, I still remember some of my favorite teachers.

Those was Sister Celine who taught my high school chemistry class.  She was well into her seventies during my junior year but was still imposing in her black and white habit.  She was very stern about doing things right and safely.  A good combination for a chemistry teacher.  Sister Celine would always remind us to use the right tools for every project.  To this day, I still remember that advice and have always used a hammer instead of my shoe to pound in nails.

In grade school, Miss Murphy was the favorite of all the kids.  In a small Catholic school full of strict nuns, she stood out for her fun loving ways and willingness to always play.  Miss Murphy was a classroom teacher, but also the P.E. teacher.  Athletic in her own right, she taught us the value of physical activity long before it was fashionable.  The kick ball games got very intense when she was involved.

We have lived in the same house for the past 21 years and our children attended the same schools and had the same teachers.  The kids were fortunate that they always had wonderful, caring teachers who year after year dedicated themselves to improving the skills of their students.  And as importantly, the parents were there to support the teachers and the schools.

With so much in the news about our failing schools, we have to remember that teachers are in the trenches every day with our kids.  And there are so many ways we can support them, from getting our kids to school on time and ready to learn, to helping with routine tasks in the classroom so the teacher can concentrate on actually teaching to supporting fundraising activities to purchase needed supplies.

We’ve all been touched by at least one great teacher, take a moment to remember him or her today and then take a minute to tell a teacher what a great job they are doing for our kids!

When should I use the good napkins?

When should I use the good napkins?

Kotex vintage ad for feminine napkins.Monday mornings need to start with laughter and so I thought I would share this story that my sister-in-law Leone passed on to me many years ago. Just imagine if this mother had handed her daughter The Dot Girl First Period Kit instead!

For those that had the joy of raising girls, or who were themselves girls in the old days, I know this will tickle your funny bone!

This is too good to not share. I think we are the last generation to know what ‘napkins’ are. THE GOOD NAPKINS … Ahhhh and the joys of having girls.

My mother taught me to read when I was four years old (her first mistake). One day, I was in the bathroom and noticed one of the cabinet doors was ajar. I read the box in the cabinet. I then asked my mother why she was keeping ‘napkins’ in the bathroom. Didn’t they belong in the kitchen?

Not wanting to burden me with unnecessary facts, she told me that those were for ‘special occasions’ (her second mistake).

Now fast forward a few months. It’s Thanksgiving Day, and my folks are leaving to pick up my uncle and his wife for dinner. Mom had assignments for all of us while they were gone. Mine was to set the table (her third mistake).

When they returned, my uncle came in first and immediately burst into laughter. Next came his wife, who gasped, then, began giggling. Next came my father, who roared with laughter. Then came Mom, who almost died of embarrassment when she saw each place setting on the table with a ‘special occasion Kotex napkin at each plate, with the fork carefully arranged on top. I had even tucked the little tail in so they didn’t hang off the edge!!

My mother asked me why I used these and, of course, my response sent the other adults into further fits of laughter. ‘But, Mom, you said they were for special occasions!!!’

Pass this on to your girlfriends and daughters who need a good laugh or anyone who has a daughter!

Life is too short for drama & petty things, so kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly, and for heaven’s sake, use the good napkins whenever you can.

Top 3 Beauty Tips for Your Daughter

Top 3 Beauty Tips for Your Daughter

We grew up in a family of four girls guided by very practical parents.  Our mom and dad required that we dress neatly and personal hygiene was emphasized.  We had a busy bathroom when it came to face washing and hair combing time.

Overall though we were raised to believe the important thing was how we cared for ourselves from the inside out.  Our parents wanted us to have a healthy self image and they managed to put just the right amount of emphasis on our inner and outer appearances.

In today’s world constant attention is placed on how girls look. Even 5 year old Suri Cruise can’t escape the spotlight.  Parents need to be ever more vigilant in finding teachable moments to talk to their daughters about what beauty means to you and your family.

Here are our top 3 tips for talking to your daughter about beauty:

1.  Leaf through a current issue of your daughter’s favorite magazine and talk about the models.  Are all body types represented?  Are the clothes they are wearing appropriate to their figures?  Which model has the prettiest smile regardless of the rest of her features?

2.  Ask your daughter who she thinks is beautiful – whether it be a celebrity or a family friend.  And then ask her to explain why.  Then you take a turn and find out why.  Make sure to include Dad or brothers or other male family friends to get a ‘guy’ perspective.

3.  While watching TV, movies or even YouTube videos, talk about the women on the screen.  Ask your daughter how the women portrayed compare to what she sees in the ‘real’ world remembering that media plays a large role in people’s opinions of  beauty.

Remember that praising your daughter’s qualities – academic, athletic, personality – or whatever she excels in will go a long way in building her self-esteem.   Focusing on the whole person and not just the outside appearance will provide your daughter with a well rounded opinion of herself.

Parenting is like Spring Gardening

Parenting is like Spring Gardening

Happy First Day of SpringToday is the first day of spring, although in the Pacific Northwest, we still seem to be struggling with winter.  There are daffodils sprouting in the garden and so we will celebrate spring anyway.  March 20th is also my oldest son’s birthday.  Aaron is now 26 years old, hard to believe that time has gone by so quickly.  I still remember being beyond nervous bringing him home as his Dad and I took on becoming parents of this precious little boy.

Now that I’m a wise mom of three adult children I thought I would take some time to reflect on what I have learned as a parent.

The #1 thing I have learned is that parenting changes as your children grow up.  The start of parenting is the grudge work of diaper changing and midnight feedings.  And it’s also the wait for the first smile, the first roll over, and the first step.

It continues to the first day of school, helping with homework, attending concerts in the school gym and before you know it, the first high school formal dance.  How different kids look in dress up clothes, you realize they are speeding towards adulthood.

Now that the kids are adults, parenting turns to advising on money management, health insurance, and sharing in the joys of their relationships.  Through it all, I feel blessed that my kids still turn to me for advice.  I hope that never changes.

The 2nd thing I have learned is to let go.  This was particularly hard with Aaron, the oldest.  I am also the oldest of my siblings and Aaron and I have similar temperaments.  I had to learn to trust his judgment over mine and then happily watch as his self-confidence rose when he made the right decisions.  Now he has the tools to be successful as he moves forward in life.

The 3rd thing I have learned is to enjoy the moment.  Kids grow up so fast, it’s hard to remember day to day happenings, so enjoy the day as it happens.  Now that the kids have left home, we don’t see the day to day happenings as much so we rely on phone and email.  No matter how you do it, staying in touch is important.

Parenting is like spring gardening, the most important thing is to enjoy your children as they grow!

Congratulations on 100 Years of Girl Scouting!

Congratulations on 100 Years of Girl Scouting!

Cookies Anyone?

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA and we would like to add our congratulations to the chorus honoring the anniversary.  Dot Girl had the honor of exhibiting at the 2011 National Girl Scout Convention in Houston, Texas this past November.  All told, approximately 12,000 Scouts, Troop Leaders and volunteer board members walked through the doors of the Houston Convention Center.  We have never seen such a sight.  Every girl was having fun, and every leader was looking for tools and information to improve the scouting experience for their troops.

Most of us come into contact with Girl Scouts during their annual cookie sales.  Some of us are lucky to have Scouts who sell to us every year while many more of us will see Troops standing in front of local grocery stores.  But Girl Scouts is much more than cookie sales.  Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA believed ‘that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually’.

Today Girl Scouts offers ‘Journeys’ in everything from science, performing arts, to issues involving the planet’s resources, the list goes on allowing every girl to find the Journey that fits her.  The goal is simple, to develop young women who will know how to work with others, have strong confidence in their own skills and be ready to lead whether in business, politics or their own communities.  We applaud this goal and wish the Girl Scouts of the USA another 100 years of growth and success.