The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati

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    The first step to sprucing is to decide how big you want the project to be, what you want to accomplish and how much you want to spend.

    There's an abundance of resources to help you get through your project no matter how big or how small. Look through magazines like Veranda, Elle Décor, House Beautiful and Architectural Digest. Or check out the latest home décor products and trends in the online magazine Trendir at

    Plan A. The cheap quick fix. If that's your plan for fixing the place up, maybe all you need to do is rearrange the room and get rid of clutter. Get started by removing all the accessories from the room. Consider the function and focal point of the room.

    The focal point can be a piece of furniture, artwork or an architectural element in the room. Keeping in mind that you want to enhance the focal point, begin placing the essential pieces of furniture where they function best. Try to avoid the boxed in look with everything against the wall. Instead, create a softer look by placing furniture at an angle. Once you have the essential pieces in place, work with the complimentary pieces like end tables, ottomans and lamps.

    Now it's time to accessorize your new room. Group your accessories by theme, content, color and texture. Pick your favorites. Redistribute them in odd numbers. Before you put any accessory in the room, consider if it really compliments the room. If it doesn't, stop! Don't put it there. Clutter makes the room look smaller, unorganized and can detract from the focus of the room.

    Plan B involves more time and money, but you get to explore new options for your walls, windows, furniture and lighting.

    Paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to update a room. Faux finishes and a variety of techniques make paint a design tool with endless possibilities. Learn about the different techniques on For a simple but stylish coordinated look, Matt Knotts from High Street furniture and accessory store in Over-the-Rhine, suggests doing your walls in a flat paint finish and the woodwork the same color, but in a semi-gloss. By the way, your ceiling doesn't have to be white. Paint it a neutral color that matches the walls.

    Wallpaper, like paint, can be used in a variety of ways. It's not quite as easy to wallpaper a room as it is to paint, but either will quickly change the look and feel of the room. Use the two together. Paint three walls and paper the fourth with a bold large-scale pattern for a dramatic effect. Research the possibilities for wallpapering your walls at

    Decisions, decisions, decisions! There's a lot to consider with windows. Do you want to emphasize the view, hide what's outside the window or see out during the day, but cover the window at night? There's a plethora of treatments to accommodate your needs. Of course, there are blinds, shades, shutters and fabric. Be daring; don't just think of two fabric panels to cover the window. Use an item you don't usually see as a window treatment. My bathroom window topper is an old corset. It works great and it was easy. I loosened the ties until the corset fit the window. It's attached to a curtain rod with Velcro. A simple lace curtain hangs below it. Click here to check out window treatments from Home and Garden Television.


    Furniture and Accessories
    To me, this is the fun part. It's not as much work as painting or wallpapering. It's more shopping, mixing and matching. Key point…shop around! The next time you go to Home Depot, just buy screws. Check out unique stores for fabrics, lighting fixtures and accessories.

    Drop by your local furniture store chain (I really can't believe I said that). But this will work as long as you don't do one-stop-shopping there. Don't stick to one design. Visit High Street, Bova or Voltage for unique furniture with a modern look.

    Update your hardware. Change the knobs on your cabinets and doors. Shop Anthropologie at or drop in the store. It's a great place to do knob shopping.

    Stretch a tight budget. Shop the thrift store, garage sales, flea markets, or trade furniture with a friend. I once traded a ring for a dining room table and four chairs. Pull together an eclectic mix of furniture by painting all the pieces the same color. In my bedroom, I have an old four drawer metal Hallmark Card display unit that I use as my dresser, a bedside hospital stand I use as my nightstand and a tall metal laundry cabinet that holds my t-shirts. It's a fun mix of furniture that are totally functional all pulled together with paint in a lovely shade of butter crème.

    Don't be a chain store bore. Be creative! Add a little individuality to your home. Make it your style. Anyone can go to Pottery Barn and buy everything to match. Then you'll be just like the Joneses. You can visit the Joneses, but spruce your place up so you enjoy coming home.

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      Since childhood, girls are socialized to be cooperative and blend into a group. Girls who stand out in anyway are often ostracized and expressing strong opinions is usually frowned upon. Boys, on the other hand, are socialized to be competitive. Their individual strengths and strong opinions are valued. "This pattern persists into adulthood when men are generally viewed as autonomous leaders when they express strong opinions," explains Hillary Wishnick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the West Chester-based Bridgepoint Psychological and Counseling Services, "while women are often viewed negatively for expressing the same opinions, i.e. viewed as not being a team-player. So, in general, it is usually more challenging for women to be assertive."

      Assertive communication finds a balance between meeting your own needs as well as the needs of the listener. "The aggressive communicator meets her own needs at the expense of the listener while the passive communicator does not meet any of her own needs and often does not express much of what she thinks or feels at all," explains Laurie Little, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and owner of the Florence-based Little Psychological Services. "Learning how to become an assertive communicator takes time. It is a skill to be learned and practiced."

      Sharing your Opinion

      Sharing your opinion, whether it is the same or different from those around you, is often a difficult task. Knowing what to say and when to say it is important. "A good way to express an opinion is to own it as your own by using 'I' statements," explains Wishnick. "Timing and setting are also important considerations to determine if it is an appropriate time and place to speak up. Generally, it is best to avoid 'you' statements, which can make opinion-giving feel more confrontational."

      Be sure to identify your opinion as such before you start speaking. This sort of opener alerts others that what you are expressing is your own personal view and it allows room for others to share their opinions, whether the same or different. "People who are too forceful and blunt in giving their opinions are likely to turn people off, and the point they are trying to make may become lost due to the negative reactions they elicit from others," explains Sara M. Mills PsyD, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Mt. Lookout. "It is helpful for these types of people to gain understanding of how their approach is affecting other people and modify it so that others want to hear what they have to say." Mills states that this can be obtained by demonstrating respect for the views of others, modifying their tone of voice and also intensity of their delivery.

      When effectively sharing your opinion with others, you want to be sure that you are being clear without being rude or hurtful. "One must first have the underlying belief that everyone is equally entitled to their own opinions," explains Little. "Your own opinions, feelings and needs are just as worthy and important as everyone else's. Statements that imply that your opinion is 'the truth,' or that denigrate another's perspective, can alienate others or appear aggressive."

      Speaking up When Shy

      For a lot of women, it is easier to know what to say, or what you want to say, than it is to actually verbalize it. Overcoming shyness is an important part in learning to share your opinion. You have to realize that what you are saying is important and others will value you for speaking up. When listing ways that shy people can speak up for themselves Susan D. Gray, the regional director of education at Health Management Corporation, WellPoint Inc., says that, "they don't know that what they have to say is worthwhile. Know who you are speaking up to. What matters is speaking up in a way or manor that is perceived valuable. Find the hook, common language and go for it."

      Knowing that you may not be the only person with a particular opinion can help when sharing. There may be others who agree with you and that can help to build confidence. "Oftentimes, we don't speak up when we believe that our opinions are in the minority," explains Little. "Remind yourself that there may be others who are feeling the same way, but are also hesitant to speak up. Also, remind yourself that your opinions are equally as valid and worthy as everyone else's opinions."

      Along with the benefits of speaking up, you can also think about the costs of not doing so. "Are you being respected? Are your needs being met? Are you taken seriously?" asks Wishnick. "By evaluating this, one can determine whether the risk of speaking up outweighs the risk of not being respected at work and in interpersonal relationships."

      Defending your Cause

      When you are defending your cause, it is crucial to at least acknowledge the existence and possible validity of other points of view. "If a person comes on too strong by implying or stating that their view is the only ‘right’ way, others will get turned off," explains Mills. "On the other hand, it is good to be passionate about a cause and to express this passion. If you truly believe in something and are consistent in the way you demonstrate this, others are more likely to appreciate your sincerity, even if they disagree with your views."

      Stay focused and be sure not to be overly emotional about your cause. "It is important to stay calm," explains Little. "Although one can feel very passionately about a cause, if it is defended with too much emotion, the listener is less likely to take you seriously."

      If you listen to others, you can usually find out what is important to them and the business. "Once you identify this fact, then frame what you want to say in the context of what they see as valuable," explains Gray.

      If you are clear and to the point, there is a better chance that people will understand what you are saying and possibly agree with your cause. "Have a simple clear message, explains Wishnick, "own it with ‘I’ statements, and repeat the message numerous times without wavering or changing your opinion."

      Helpful Tips

      If you feel like you are being lost in silence and your opinion and cause aren't being heard, you should reassure yourself that your opinion does matter and believe that your feelings are worth discussing. If you want specific helpful ideas and tips, Mills, Wishnick, Gray and Little list ways in which you can speak up for yourself, defend your cause and not get lost in silence.

      "If you don't believe in yourself or that your thoughts or feelings are worth discussing, then it may be time to look at how your self esteem/self worth has gotten so low," explains Little. "You can address this issue through self help books, journaling and/or psychotherapy. If you know your opinion matters but you just don't know how to communicate it, then it is primarily a skills deficit which can be addressed with communication skills training classes, or therapy with an emphasis on teaching assertiveness skills."

      Little also suggests writing your statement on an index card and carrying it with you to remind yourself of it throughout each day. She also explains that defending your cause often takes preparation. Rehearsing what you want to say beforehand is essential when expressing your feelings.

      When it comes to overcoming shyness, Mills believes that people often have to practice and work up to being able to state their opinions assertively and openly. " If someone is shy, it might be enough for them just to be present while a group is discussing an issue," Mills states. "That person could increase their comfort level within the group, perhaps by first asking some clarifying questions, and working up to making a short comment about their own opinion. For people dealing with shyness, I think a good approach is for them to push themselves a little bit out of their comfort zone, but not so far out that they are unable to tolerate the anxiety. This is a process and it takes time, patience, and practice, and possibly, if the person is dealing with significant social anxiety, professional help from a trained mental health professional."

      Easier said than done? Maybe not. Push yourself in a way you may not normally and you may be surprised with the results. "Choose not to be silent," states Gray. "instead choose to be a contributor."

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        This city loves its runners, and it shows this love by providing some rockin' running events. This year will mark the 98th annual Thanksgiving Day race. And Runner's World ranks the Flying Pig Marathon in its "Top 10 Most Fun Marathons" list.

        043007FEATURE_intext1.jpg With the Flying Pig Marathon coming up this weekend, you might be getting the itch to go for a good run. But, before you do, you need a few key things. First and foremost, you will need good shoes.

        Roncker says you need to come to a shoe-buying experience prepared. "Bring your current shoes with you," he says. "They tell a story about your running patterns." Go to a specialty running store – like one of the many Running Spot stores or the Miles and Meters store in Newport – where they measure your feet, are knowledgeable about running and are concerned about getting you in the proper shoe with the correct fit. "Color and appearance is part of the equation, but don’t let it be the overriding principle that determines your shoe purchase," Roncker says.

        In addition to good shoes and socks, Roncker says, these things are specifically important for females:

        1. First and foremost, a good running bra. The Running Spot carries a large selection of running-specific bras by Moving Comfort that offer function and style, and are a full range of sizes. The Running Spot also has compression bras by other manufacturers, particularly Hind and Nike.
        2. BodyGlide, a lubricant that helps avoid chafing. "BodyGlide is a great preventative measure that many of my female friends find essential for long runs (over an hour)," says Roncker.
        3. Running clothes made with wicking fabric. Keeping the moisture away from your skin will keep you feeling cool and fresh, and it's better for your skin as well.
        4. Use your head, and wear something on it! "I never run in warm weather without a headband or hat of some kind to keep the sweat out of my eyes," says Roncker.
        5. Of course, sunscreen. You might have your mind on your run, but all the while, the sun has its rays on your skin. So, protect it with a good sweat-proof sunscreen.

        Okay, you have your gear, but where will you go to break it in? If you've run in Cincinnati before, you're probably familiar with the routes available at Lunken, Hyde Park and the bridges between Cincinnati, Covington and Newport. Paths along the Little Miami River, Winton and Sharon Woods and Miami Whitewater Park are all very popular, as well. But the park trails are where you'll find the hidden gems, according to Roncker. "The Park Board has done a very good job of maintaining and improving the paths in the parks," he says. "Ault, French and Mt. Airy parks have a nice network of trails that you use for extensive periods of time."

        Now, you're ready to hit the ground running, but will that run be more effective with a partner, group or just by yourself?

        Group Runs
        Roncker says the type of person that does well with running in a group is a "social" person. "It's fun to have friends to share the run with and to talk to," he says "However, I also find that the group atmosphere makes you almost feel like you're on a 'team.' If you need motivation or accountability to get your running shoes on, a group provides that, too." Groups also come in handy with the logistics of a run. "On longer runs, you can take turns putting out water or deciding on the course, and leading the run," ROncker says. "Many of my best training runs have been with a group." 043007FEATURE_initext2.jpg

        If you're interested in running with a group, there are a number of local running groups in the area that meet on a weekly basis. More details can be found by going to and clicking on "Greater Cincinnati Running and Walking." In addition, training groups leading up to some of the major local races are very popular. Stores like the Running Spot offer training programs most of the year.

        Partner Runs
        Partner runs offer the same benefits of sharing, talking and accountability that you get with a group run. However, partner runs offer a good chance to bond one-on-one with that other person. Roncker says safety is an issue for many female runners, so running with at least one more person is a smart idea for those of you with safety concerns.

        Individual Runs
        "If you have a very social job, work in a high stress field or have a house full of preschoolers, a run alone can provide good 'quiet time' and, of course, the run itself is a good stress-reliever," Roncker says. Other times, it's just a matter of convenience. Some women run alone because no one else will get up that early to run with them, or they run when they can find a window of free time in their sporadic schedules.

        Getting Started
        Roncker says it's essential to educate yourself when taking on a new activity, especially running. See your physician for a check-up to begin, and then learn from the good advice of other runners. There are some great books available on running, specifically for women runners. "Not long after I started running I purchased The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, which covered most of the basics for me, including stretching, injury prevention, training schedules and nutrition," says Martha Nash, a Running Spot employee. "Nowadays, it's easy to find links from running Web sites that offer loads of advice, too."

        In addition to reading about running, Ronckers says, one of the smartest things a novice runner can do is to join a training group. Becoming a part of a group – like the ones available through the Running Spot – puts you in contact with a coach and mentors who help you learn all you need to know to be successful. "If you do experience any problems, these folks can guide you," says Roncker. "I have had many opportunities to talk with new female runners who have come in the store for shoes and gear. Many of them come to a specialty running store to ask questions and find guidance on how to get started. Collectively, our staff holds a wealth of information and experience that we love to share."


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          Pink Ink Design Group
          (513) 772-0145

          At Pink Ink, they know design. Your invitation is one of the most important parts of your wedding. It sets the tone for your event and personally reflects your style. That's something you can't find in catalogs. The ladies of Pink Ink Design Group are graphic designers by trade and they believe in details. They'll use their expertise to create something specific to you with different papers, type styles and colors that you'll love. "Because we think you should get what you want!" Pink Ink says. Make sure you check our their Web site to view their unique designs or give them a call to schedule a time to check them out in person.



          Receptions Conference Centers

          Receptions Conference Centers are located in Northern Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Eastgate and Western Hills and host all types of events such as wedding receptions, anniversary and retirement parties, business meetings, expos and award ceremonies. Receptions’ four facilities are always clean and updated. Receptions’ chefs specialize in high quality food and extensive beverage choices are provided. There is 65,000 square feet of quality meeting and banquet space available from Receptions. Receptions' slogan is "Reliable People…Remarkable Events." That certainly is true, as it's reflected in their kind staff and affordable pricing. Visit them on the Web, give them a call or even stop by one of there facilities to see for yourself. With four locations, you're bound to find one that's near you.



          All Star Chiropractic
          (859) 727-6888

          Because your wedding is one of the most important events in your life, you should be able to relax and enjoy your special day. Call All Star Chiropractic about "The Ultimate Bridal Massage Package" that includes a free massage for the bride. Also, ask about their amazing (and unique to this area) Hot Stone service and pamper yourself for your wedding.

          Neysa Ruhl Photography
          (513) 353-FOTO

          Neysa Ruhl Photography prides itself on creating relationships with its couples. This allows the relaxed, natural, intimate images that we all love. Neysa Ruhl tells the story of your wedding day through her lens by creating the captivating and artistic images that are unique to each couple. She's not there to photograph "a" wedding, she's there to photograph "your" wedding. Check her out and let her photographic imagery illustrate the amazing details of your wedding day!

          Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa
          (513) 793-0900

          Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa has over 20 years experience with bridal services. They'll walk you through the different services and tell you how far ahead of your big day you should begin incorporating them. Their bridal coordinator will help you schedule all your appointments, send out confirmations and handle any change requests you may have. Take time to relax before the big day and schedule a relaxing bridal luncheon with your bridesmaids. Or be assured the day of your wedding will run on time with their experienced stylists and make-up artists. Visit their Web site or give them a call to learn more about their unique wedding packages.

          David's Bridal

          Get the total look with David's Bridal's new and exclusive online feature that allows you to virtually coordinate your entire wedding party. This is the first and only place where you can personalize and preview how everything will look together. Mix and match all the details that will make your wedding unique, from fashions and flowers to colors and backgrounds.

          Wedding Sneakers

          Wedding Sneakers are just what they sound like. Sneakers you wear on your wedding day. But they have several designs, colors and even Swarovski Crystals to choose from. They also customize sneakers to match your attire in a classy, comfortable way.

          Albertz & Associates, CPA, LLC
          (513) 891-8400

          Albertz & Associates, CPA, LLC can help brand new couples plan for the rest of their lives together. They like to stay current with all tax changes and strategies that may help clients save money on taxes now and in the future. Marriage is an exciting time for a couple and a lot to think about before the wedding. But what about after the wedding? There are a few things to think about, especially when it comes to tax planning. Life changes not only as a couple, but also to the IRS. You are no longer single, but “married filing jointly." Here are a few things to think about after the honeymoon and before “tax time":

          1. Make an appointment with a knowledgeable accountant to plan for tax time.
          2. You may need to change your W4 form where you work because of taxes that are withheld.
          3. The spouse (wife) needs to change her name with the Social Security Administration, if applicable, as soon as possible.
          4. Get life insurance to protect you and your spouse if something happens to either of you. This can be inexpensive to get but very important.
          5. Start planning for some kind of retirement that is “tax deferred” and “tax free” outside of your 401k at work.


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            Cincinnati loves their female rockstars and the proof is in the pudding. This year's seventh annual Chicks Rockfest, held April 5-8 at the Poison Room, expanded from two nights to four, and from 30 bands to nearly 50 acts. In fact, it's now the second largest indie-band fest for the area, quickly gaining on September's Midpoint Music Festival.

            The Chicks Rockfest promotes local and national artists. Cities such as Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., were represented with several bands from each. The artist that traveled the furthest distance was Freyja from London.

            That's cool and all, but we're kind of partial to the local ladies…

            Among the artists from the Greater Cincinnati area were: The Walker Project, The Whitney Barricklow Band, The Jellyhearts, Mercurochrome, Subliminal, Deadly Seven, Pike, Tracy Walker, Star Cherry Seven, Holly Spears, Twisted Wood, The Trojan Rabbit, Backseat Virtue and kelp.

            If you missed this year's Chicks Rockfest, several of these women will be featured in the Latitudes Cafe "She Jams" series held at both the Milford and Anderson locations. Check out our article on this series for more details.

            We got close and personal with Holly Spears, one of the talented women featured in both the Chicks Rockfest and the She Jams series. We asked her to explain the sounds of the major players on Cincinnati's female artist scene and where we can learn more. Here's what she said:

            Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups
            Kelly Thomas is a passionate singer with a Country-meets-Blues feel. Sit back and appreiciate good ol' country singing. She's a beautiful soul with a great back up band.

            Kristen Key
            If you like Avril Lavigne and high-energy pop music, Kristen is your girl. She's pretty much Cincinnati's Pop Princess and always shows the crowd a good time with her rockin' band! Be prepared to jump around and throw your arms up with this girl.

            The Walker Project
            Carole Walker's powerful voice will blow you away and leave you in awe. Her soulful folk rock is accompanied by her brother's amazing ability to make the bass guitar sing. Chris Walker was just named Cincinnati's Best Bassist by ITAL***City Beat***. He's also Holly Spears' bassist.

            Kim Taylor
            This alternative, folksy, adult contemporary singer is very clever with her lyrics and is extremely easy on the ears. Kim's soft voice is soothing and comforting to the soul. Wine would go well with a Kim Taylor CD.

            The Kelly Evans Trio
            Kelly's acoustic/classical guitar, Chris Walker on bass and her drummer are the perfect combination to back up Miss Evans' soulful and jazzy voice. Think jazz club and enjoy the groove.

            The Whitney Barricklow Band
            If you like Jewel and Lisa Loeb, you'll love the Whitney B Band. Whitney's voice is smooth and pretty, and at times, really big. Her songs are catchy and lyrically lovely. She's got her right hand man (her husband) on guitar, an awesome drummer and of course music man Christopher Walker on the bass. She's fun to chill and listen to, as well as sing along with.

            Pale Beneath The Blue
            This poppy, electronica band is led by a singer who some say sounds like Tori Amos and Bjork meets Ben Folds Five for coffee. You may even catch Rhonda on her piano as she sings the lyrics of which she has so artistically placed together in front of her synthesizer and beats.

            Tracy Walker
            This folk/rock singer/songwriter/musician could be compared to a mixture of Joni Mitchel and Tracy Chapman. Her adult contemporary music has filled the air of Cincinnati for over a decade. To hear Tracy is to give your ear a treat.

            And if that didn't quite fill your belly with enough female rock fodder, here's a few more morsels that might do the trick:

            Women Rock Radio. The name says it all. Women Rock Radio is the premier showcase for women who simply rock, and rock hard. From rock to grunge, from metal to punk, from mainstream to indie. Women Rock Radio is out to prove you don’t have to be a guy to play hardcore music, and ladylike isn’t always what it seems.

            Women Rock!: Girls and Guitars
            "Women Rock!: Girls and Guitars" is a compilation of songs by the big guns of female rockers. Legendary voices joined together for the 2000 Women Rock concert in an effort to heighten awareness and to help the fight against breast cancer. This CD by Sony Music Special Productions was inspired by the songs these legends performed at this very important event. There are nine tracks (about 38 minutes total time). Included are: Heart ("Barracuda", "Crazy On You"), Sheryl Crow ("If It Makes You Happy"), Wynonna ("Only Love"), Amy Grant ("Takes A Little Time"), Melissa Etheridge ("I'm The Only One"), Cyndi Lauper("Girls Just Want To Have Fun"),and "Destiny's Child (A beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace"). There is also a touching live track from the concert in which Lauper and Heart, sing Paul Mcartney's, "Maybe I'm Amazed" as a tribute to Linda McCartney.

            ROCKRGRL Magazine
            ROCKRGRL is the only national magazine to exclusively feature, encourage, provide resources for and inspire women. It is a resource for musicians and provides useful information on industry news, starting your own label, juggling music and motherhood, booking your own tour, publicity, getting on the radio, legal issues, gear, studio tips and more.

            Women in Music National Network
            The Women in Music National Network, accessible online at, is a non-profit organization that supports the efforts and achievements of women in music through media, education and networking.

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              It’s astounding how clutter affects our daily lives. Check out these stats from the National Association of Professional Organizers:

              • 80 percent of what we keep, we never use.
              • 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (resulting in late fees) because they lose them.
              • The average American kills 12 weeks a year looking for things they know they own, but can’t find.
              • Americans waste more than 9 million hours each day looking for lost and misplaced items.
              • About 80 percent of the clutter in your home is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.
              • Getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 percent of the housework in the average home.
              • A study conducted by IKEA reported that 31 percent of customers were more satisfied after clearing out their closets than they were after sex!

              It doesn’t end at home. Messes and clutter can put a real damper at the office.

              • Executives waste six weeks per year searching for lost documents.
              • 73 percent of workers say that impressions of colleagues were influenced by the way their desks are organized.
              • The average business loses one out of every 20 documents.

              The Learning Channel (TLC) brought us the first show to put organizing in the spot light with “Clean Sweep.” The show is captivating with mounds of clutter that put Mt. Rumpke to shame, and can leave you awe-struck with the final reveal of a neat, tidy place to live. For anyone that has seen this Emmy worthy show (excuse the personal bias), it never fails to ponder, “How on earth did it get that bad?”

              According to Janice Ash, professional declutterer, organizer, Feng Shui provider and owner of I Declutter, there are many reasons. If we don’t know it, how can we do it? With 17 years of decluttering under her belt, Ash should know. She says, “we’re not taught how to cohesively set up out living and working environments.” Keeping things organized might seem like common knowledge, but if people who are chronic clutterers aren’t shown how to keep things tidy, the mess can just accumulate. Also, in today’s day in age, people are rarely home to keep things organized, and we are there, most of our time is spent taking care of our families or catching up on other things around the house that have been neglected.

              Sales can also have the “Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde” effect. Yes, we save money during these low costs times, but we also tend to take the store’s complete stock without the real need for those items. Who doesn’t love the 10 for $10 deals at Kroger and Biggs? As much as we love to stock up, it just adds up to an overcrowded pantry. Speaking of buying power, Ash also says that we have lost sight of the “less is more” state of mind, and we have fallen into the “more is more” lifestyle, always wanting the newest, latest and greatest items.

              WHERE TO START
              You have the motivation, but it can deflate on a dime when you stop and really look at your mess. Perhaps you have one room that needs a little fixing up – that’s no so bad. But what about when multiple rooms and spaces are in dire need of help? Ash provides five places and areas to start with:

              1. The first place to organize is the space that bothers you the most. Is it your bedroom? Pantry? Basement? Wherever it is, it typically gets under your skin more than any other place, and will give you more satisfaction to see tidy.
              2. Think about the first think you see in the morning – the four walls of your bedroom, which also happens to be the last thing you see before you go to bed. How do you feel waking up to a closest spewing like Mt. St. Helen, or a dresser that hasn’t been seen since the day you got it? How does this make you feel? More than likely, it’s not exactly the best part of waking up.
              3. It is also known as your personal storage unit – your garage. Ash reminds us how important this area is, particularly when you can use it for its intended purpose. Similar to the bedroom, it is usually the last thing you see when you leave for work, and the first thing you see when coming home, assuming you can even park your car in there.
              4. The most common thing people tend to organize first is their closet. Have you ever felt like you needed a miner’s hat with the beam light on top just to see the back? Often times, it is crammed with old clothes that you haven’t worn in years, don’t fit into or won’t ever fit into. Ash says that “a cluttered closet makes us late more often than traffic.”
              5. Drawers and cabinets are just like closets. Aside from the “junk drawer”, searching through a cluttered drawer is time consuming and wasteful. Old products or food take up space, and can be very harmful is used past their expiration date.

              Here are 10 quick and easy tips to get a start when opting to “do it yourself” from HGTV and TLC:

              • Clean out that makeup drawer, or in some cases, the entire counter. Toss makeup that is over a year old. Some products have expiration dates, but are in different form. They appear on either the case or packaging as a container with a number on the inside, typically in months.
              • Can your garage double as another room with all the extra furniture in there? Load it all up on your truck (or a friend’s) and donate it. Most of the time, the furniture is old or out of date, and that is why it is in there in the first place. It’s amazing how much space a coffee table and an old couch takes up.
              • “Clean Sweep” says, “If you have shoes or accessories that go with a certain outfit, keep them in a bag and tie it to the hanger the outfit is on.”
              • Pick and purge before you start. It will make putting things back in place much easier when there isn’t so much junk.
              • Have a home office in an extra bedroom and a small space? Take off the doors and put the desk in the closet.
              • Use bed risers/lifts/blocks. They are an inexpensive way to give you a little extra storage, plus it gives your bed that “high and royal” look.
              • Kids’ toys can be a pain in the neck (and feet when you step on them). Attention mothers: if you have more than one child, assign them each a bin and label it with their name. Teach the children to put toys in their bin when finished.
              • You don’t need expensive plastic totes for storage. Ask a grocery store employee in receiving if you can have a couple of large boxes. They are free and great to store holiday or seasonal items.
              • Sharpie markers can be your friend. Label, label, label – it makes it much easier to find things later.
              • Use closet space vertically as well as horizontally. You can buy kits or “build-you-own” materials at home improvement stores to get extra hanging space. Use the extra depth and height space for a full “wall shelf” for the home office. Keep the doors on the closet to tuck it away, or take them off if accessed all the time.

              KEEP IT THAT WAY
              Your space is clean and organized. Now what? The first rule of thumb is to purge items in your trouble spots every six months. Sell or donate any items you don’t use anymore, and don’t be afraid to toss. Another rule is the buy/toss policy. This can be extremely hard for us females, but it helps to keep that closet clean, and it can actually help save money when you get the shopping itch. For every new item of clothing you get, toss or donate one. Hard – yes, but people swear by it. It works for kids toys too! Also, work together to keep you space organized, and teach your children to take care of things they have.

              If you feel that your clutter is out of your hands and you know something needs to be done, contact a professional, such as Ash. She not only helps with decluttering, but also uses Feng Shui to help create a more serene and calm space. The cost of hiring a pro is minimal and can take a ton of stress off of you. A professional is also great for the office because it doesn’t take away from the time that you need to spend on getting down to business.

              If you want more tips on how to do it yourself, here are a few online sources that offer addition help getting organized:

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                What do you do when you stay home? Well, that depends on your mood. You have lots of options. Make the most of your "in night" time. Relax, be creative or do something you’ve been meaning to get around to doing.

                Clean out your underwear drawer. Seriously! You’ll be surprised at what’s in there. Last time I cleaned out mine, I found a pair of those old big whites, a picture of an ex-ex-ex boyfriend and my 2004 New Year’s resolutions. Ironically, one of the resolutions was to get rid of stuff I don’t use, don’t want or don’t wear anymore. So, the big whites and the picture had to go. I’m still working on the other resolutions.

                But don’t stop at your underwear drawer, you’re on a mission. Clean out everything. Put on your favorite song, grab a drink and move from room to room.

                Tackle that "I really don’t have the time to do that" pile. Sew the missing button on your pink blouse, shine your shoes or lighten your load and clean out your purse.

                If you’re in a sentimental mood, put those pictures in the albums you bought a year ago. Looking at your pictures might inspire you to connect with an old friend.

                If you find yourself more in the creative mood, grab some paper, scissors, double-sided tape and those old magazines you’ve been meaning to go through. Check out the magazines for pictures or little blurbs you can use to make a card. Write a quick note to a friend on your masterpiece and make their day.

                Pick up the phone and connect with the brother you should have called weeks ago, the person that talks forever who you usually don’t have the time to listen to or your mom that’s been hoping you would just call to say, "Hi."

                If the kitchen is your favorite space, bake cookies for a friend, make chili for dinner tomorrow or stir up a simple meal for you to enjoy out on the deck under the stars.

                Of course, there is the "treat yourself right while you have the time" option, too. Check out those toes. Could they use a pedicure? Have you been meaning to condition your hair, pluck your eyebrows or bleach your teeth? Go girl!

                Would you rather just relax? Put on your favorite music. Corinne Bailey Rae is one of my favorite CDs to unwind to. Throw a damp towel in the microwave to warm it up. Wrap the towel around your neck, close your eyes and daydream.

                Enjoy the outdoors. Walk around your backyard or sit on your deck and read a book. Wish on star. Let your mind wonder. Enjoy the smell, sights and sounds of spring. It's a a beautiful time to live in Cincinnati!

                Make the most of staying in. You have lots of options. Take a few minutes, while you stand there in your comfy at home attire and decide what makes you happy.

                Tomorrow when you’re out with a friend, you’ll have a new attitude. You’ll be relaxed as you step out in the sandals you just found in your closet that show off your freshly painted pink toes. Oh, and don’t those toes coordinate nicely with the pink blouse you sewed the button on yesterday?

                "In night" time gets you ready to enjoy the outside world.

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                  Lisa Hogeland, associate professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Cincinnati puts it perfectly, “I am a feminist. Anyone who participates in a robust critique of social norms, policies and practices… can be expected to be ridiculed on a good day. That is the American way.”

                  With that said, isn’t every woman today a feminist at some point? The short answer is yes, but no one can deny, women have changed and society has changed with them. It’s a breaking point. Not only do women have more rights today in a broad sense, but it’s about access. Access to things like credit, loans, education, leadership and the belief that women can and will do whatever they want; buy a home, start a business, make more money than their male counterparts, even have children without a husband and through a fertility center. Sound radical? Not in the least, these are the women of today.

                  The Housing Market “Boom”

                  Why rent, when you can buy? Sounds like an ad for a condo or housing subdivision, but women across the country are hearing it – and living it – loud and clear. They’re taking on home ownership at a feverish pace. Many of them are young, just starting out, financially secure and ready for the challenges that come with owning a home. Studies from as early as 2000, show single women spending billions in real estate across the country. The National Association of Realtors says in 2002, twice as many women bought their first homes as single men.

                  In Cincinnati, condos like “The Edge” downtown and “Southshore” in Newport have an appeal to successful women who want to live in an urban setting. Visit a model; you’ll notice large bathrooms, made with dual sinks, vanities, balconies, large kitchens and lots of light. Not to say that men don’t like these same designs, but there’s an appeal women can’t deny.

                  So how are women doing it? Unfortunately, there’s still a disparity between earnings for women and men; but the difference is access. Enter the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Basically, it says no lender can deny your application, discourage you from applying for a loan or give you less favorable terms than another applicant because you’re a woman or minority. Seems simple today, but it gave women the legal means to purchase a home. This act, coupled with society’s changing view about what women “should and shouldn’t do” opened the door for home ownership. It’s no longer necessary to be a "Mrs" to have a home, bank account, credit report and so on. Still, Hogeland says, “Women navigate what’s legally, socially and psychologically permissible in all kinds of ways.” And we’ve always been pushing the envelope.

                  Business Moguls?

                  Take a walk around Cincinnati. Think about your favorite restaurant, hair salon, boutique, even where you buy treats for your pet. Not only are these businesses privately owned, but some by women entrepreneurs. In cities across the country, women are taking stock of their lives, and following their professional dreams; a luxury once reserved largely just for men. Loans for women, small businesses and that all-important line of credit are opening doors and creating successful places, to shop, relax and treat oneself like a lady. On the Web, sites like and the “Women’s Business Initiative” from OPEN by American Express help women understand what it takes to run their own business. From teams of investors that will help get your ideas off the ground, to scores of women offering advice, the World Wide Web is a great place to start and continue your business.

                  If women aren’t opening their own businesses in Cincinnati, they’re working hard to reach the top. A recent study by the Women’s Fund, called “Pulse: Women in the C-Suite” suggests women are working hard, and climbing the ladder one rung at a time, but the top is still dominated by men. There’s good news though, women hold more than a third of the top jobs in hospitals and hospital systems in Cincinnati, up from 28 percent two years earlier. And the percentage of women directors at the top 25 largest public companies is steadily inching up. To name a few, take a look at Procter and Gamble, Omnicare and hospitals in the area. Women are holding their own, and it's a trend that's here to stay.

                  The Next Generation

                  No one can deny there’s still a stigma attached to single mothers. It’s a situation that brings up so many questions about a woman’s personal life. People talk, other women whisper and soon there’s a rumor mill churning. While the US Census Bureau points to a jump in the number of babies born to unmarried women, it’s hard to examine the statistics because of race, income and socioeconomic status. Single Mothers by Choice , an Internet support group for single women who are, or want to become mothers, has many more members than 10 years ago. On their Web site, moms to be can read up on adoption, find a clinic in their area, chat with other women who have become single mothers and learn what its like to raise a child on their own.

                  It might sound like social suicide to some, but these women don’t feel like they need a man, or a husband to be a mother. They have overwhelming support on the Internet, from friends, family and community. Reading their online testimonials, you can’t help but understand their position. Many of them are working women in their 30s or 40s, successful, driven and for a variety of reasons, never married. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have support, the Web, friends, family or clinics across the country helping them achieve the goal of motherhood.

                  There’s an old saying out there, somewhat trite, but bears mentioning: “you might have lost the battle, but you haven’t lost the war.” In some ways, feminism is a war of silent means. It’s not fought on grand battle fields where good and evil are clearly defined. You could say boardrooms, offices, clinics, doctor’s offices, even homes have become the new battlefields. Whether or not you want to call yourself a feminist, at some point, more than likely, you’ve become one. That’s the thing, you can try to define a woman’s role in society, but like the creatures women are, it’s really indefinable.

                  If owning homes, climbing the corporate ladder, and starting businesses are the strides we’ve made, things like using sperm donors, female breadwinners, decorated CEOs and gaining greater equality appears to be the next step. We might not burn bras anymore, but we can’t forget about the women that did. We might not march with our voices held high, but every woman that pushes the envelope adds her thoughts to a silent majority that rises above what society thinks is normal. We’d like to think it’s not a man’s world anymore, but in some ways it always will be. What women have found are ways around some of the detours, and they're full speed ahead.

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                    According to Julie Nolan, science teacher and ecology club director at Harrison High School in Harrison, what being environmentally friendly does mean is making a conscious effort to understand how the Earth is affected by consumer choices and how tweaking a few of those detrimental habits can have a huge impact on the environment.

                    “Everyone thinks that you have to do everything right to be an environmentally friendly person,” Nolan says. “I disagree, because even one small step to help the environment matters. You do not have to be a vegetarian, drive a [Toyota] Prius and join PETA to be environmentally friendly.”

                    Nolan says she tries to communicate to her students the importance of understanding their actions and how even one small green change can affect the environment, but it’s hard to get her environmental message through to them for one simple reason: state-mandated testing.

                    “Teachers are forced to focus on the material that is on the State Proficiency and Ohio Graduation Tests, and as a result the practical, useful information is getting left by the wayside,” Nolan says. “Ohio has put so much emphasis on these tests that they are creating a generation of students who are disconnected from nature and the environment.”

                    Connie Brockman, education and visitor services director of the Cincinnati Nature Center agrees that communicating about the environment is harder in today’s society.

                    “A few years ago, a Roper study indicated that while people seem to be increasingly concerned about the environment, they are not well informed about environmental issues,” Brockman says. “One of the reasons might be that environmental education is not mandatory in most schools and people are getting their information from informal sources that might not be accurate.”

                    Brockman says that even though it is increasingly difficult to communicate to the community about the environment, people need to be aware of the environment for their own benefit.

                    “People must learn about the environment for their own survival,” Brockman says. “We can’t trust that that someone else is looking out for our wellbeing. Each of us must take personal responsibility to learn about and make the right choices to move us toward a greener, healthier society.”

                    After the choice is made to begin living a more eco-friendly life, switching, according to Nolan and Brockman, can begin with a few easy steps:

                    The Organics Have It
                    Purchasing organic food, produce grown three years without the application of synthetic pesticides or chemicals or livestock raised on organic feedstuffs for at least a year, is a step in the right direction.

                    “I buy almost all organic food, with the exception of some favorite junk food items,” Nolan says. “It (organic food) is better for you – the soil and water – and with regards to agriculture, the person working in the fields.”

                    Nolan recommends taking the time to look at the local grocery store to see what organic foods are available.

                    The Green House Effect
                    Maintaining an environmentally friendly environment around the house can start with avoiding pesticides in the home and yard, making the house as energy efficient as possible and recycling.

                    And according to Brockman bringing the green feeling into the home, can also leave a person with a sense of pride in her efforts.

                    “I am fortunate to have almost four acres of land, and I’ve worked hard to create (in her yard) a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation,” Brockman says. “I feel a great deal of responsibility and compassion for the plants and animals with whom I share the land. Stewardship is a deeply moving experience, and I’m grateful for a little piece of land to protect and cherish.

                    Become an Advocate
                    Working to spread the word about the environment can fall under a broad spectrum of actions from voting for candidates with environmental platforms, purchasing from companies that are making environmental choices, supporting environmentally friendly non-profits and communicating environmental issues with children.

                    Nolan, who has two nieces, understands the importance of providing a message to children outside of school. “Kids will live what they’re taught. If they are taught to respect the environment, it will simply become a part of who they are and they won’t consider doing things any other way,” she says.

                    All Talk Leads to All Play
                    Brockman encourages people who are trying to become more environmentally friendly to get out and experience the fruits of their labor.

                    “All people, especially children, benefit physically, emotionally and intellectually from frequent contact with nature,” Brockman says. She added that at the Cincinnati Nature Center guests can benefit, all year round, from the 20 miles of trails on 1,600 acres for hiking and viewing wildlife.

                    Stay Motivated
                    While Nolan understands that changing to an environmentally friendly lifestyle can be intimidating, she continues to encourage people to at least try. “Give yourself credit for the changes you make,” she says. “You don’t have to try to do everything overnight.”

                    And as Kermit the Frog says, “Being green isn’t easy.” But, according to Nolan and Brockman, it doesn’t have to be difficult.