She Can Do Anything: International Girls Day

In celebration of International Girls Day, Phired Up Productions would like to take the opportunity to send messages of empowerment, perseverance, and courage to our female readers.  The women of Phired Up have each shared a personal story about being a girl.  We believe being girls is truly a gift and today, we are celebrating young girls and women everywhere!

Megan Moffett“Can I play?”

moffett_headshot_2010Growing up as the only girl in the family, “Can I play?” was the number one question I had to ask my three brothers on a regular basis. More often than not, they let me play, but when it came to football, I sometimes got the “no girls allowed” reply. No fair, right? I was a girl, but I was tough! I could do anything! And I LOVED football!

The years rolled on and I continually insisted on playing in the annual Thanksgiving Day family football game. This was a big deal! My two-hand-touch skills were decent and by the time I entered high school, my brothers had the “she’s pretty good for a girl” attitude.

Soon enough, my high school days and powder puff fun had passed and I had definitely entered my “girl” phase. Yes, I had discovered the love of a mani/pedi spa day and became addicted to lip gloss. Truthfully, it’s fun being a girl! But, I still wanted to play football. I wanted a challenge. I wanted the big leagues, baby.

In 2000, the WNFL (Women’s National Football League) was founded. The WNFL was a full-contact American football league for women. Although, due to pressure from the National Football League (the men), the WNFL changed their name to the NWFA (National Women’s Football Association) after their 2002 season. In early 2001, during my freshman year of college, I found out that there would be open tryouts in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural season of the WNFL. Now I wasn’t positive that I wanted to move to Nashville to play football, but I was positive that I wanted to prove that girls can do anything and that I could make the team! I had to try out! My Mom, who instilled and encouraged girl power to the fullest growing up, was on board and ready for a weekend trip to Nashville!

So, I did it. I tried out for the Nashville Dream, a professional women’s football team. I had a blast at tryouts, felt empowered, and I MADE THE TEAM!!! I even got a fancy looking contract in the mail. So was being on the Nashville Dream really MY dream? If there had been a team in Indiana at the time I would have played in a heartbeat, but I couldn’t see myself moving to another state when I was already at a good school in Indiana. No regrets. I had proven to myself that I could do anything and that girls could do anything! Even play a professional sport that had “MEN” written all over it. So remember, your gender doesn’t matter. If you are passionate about something, but feel you may not “fit in,” go for it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? Trying is the most important part of any challenge. You go girl!

Colleen CoffeyA Story of Survival: Dealing with mental health issues

colleen_headshot_510My name is Colleen Coffey and I am the Director of Research and Women’s Development Coach for Phired Up Productions. I have spent the last decade of my life with an interest in helping young women grow, develop, love themselves, and love each other. I am proud of the work I have done and still do to help others. There was a time in my life when I was the one who really needed help.

Growing up, I struggled to be happy. I often heard my parents fighting and was sometimes scared for my own safety. I was always tired at school and could not concentrate. I was lonely and sometimes stared out my bedroom window for hours on end just wondering why I could not stop crying. I was teased and taunted at school and sometimes ignored at home. This triggered in me a depression and sense of anxiety that would seem almost insurmountable throughout the rest of my life. As a teenager, I tried many methods to deal with these feelings- from running away to protesting food to fighting to withdrawing. I was diagnosed with moderate depression and anxiety as an adolescent.  I would spend extensive time in therapy, trying to cope with what was going on inside.

In high school, I learned how to pretend that everything was okay.  I was a cheerleader, a homecoming attendant, and a student of dramatic arts. I had friends and everyone around me thought everything was fine but inside sometimes I felt like dying, I wanted out of my house, and could not seem to shake the feeling that something is immensely wrong with the world.

In spite of my issues, I still attended college where I seemingly flourished. I was a popular sorority girl, became sweetheart of a fraternity, lead new student orientation and wound up using those experiences to drive my professional career.  While I showed incredible promise, I still struggled. I began to rely on food control an exercise to deal with that struggle. I never wanted anyone to know what was really going on inside, even I did not fully understand it. The obsession with food and exercise took the pain away for a little while. It was the only way I knew how to cope.

Something happened when I was a young adult that would shape the way I thought about life, love, emotions, challenges and faith. In 2004,  I was supposed to attend the birth of my niece. I was supposed to be right outside the door as she came into the world. The morning she was born, I was in the gym. I could not skip even one day because sadness and anxiety would take over and I would loose the ability to function. I missed the birth of my niece. That was a huge deal for me and everyone around me. I chose to get help that day. I chose to get the right help and it would change my life forever. For the next year, I went through extensive therapy and nutrition treatment. I learned how to cope with depression, anxiety, and every day life stuff like stress or lack of sleep or relationship issues. I got healthy because I sought help and I still seek help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts, feelings, or emotions know that you are not alone. In fact, about 25% of all people struggle with mental illness and most of us are impacted by emotional health issues at some point in our lives. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of – seeking help or supporting someone while they are seeking help takes an enormous amount of courage.  On National Girls day I want you to know that I think girls rule!  We are girls. We are successful and valuable. We should say what we feel when we feel it. We deserve to live our best lives. We can do anything!!

Meghan Ward-Bopp: “You’re up, Girlie.”

ward-bopp_headshot_2010I remember standing on the beach, watching the waves come crashing in, nervously looking at the scuba gear next to me.  I was strapped into a 8mm semi-dry wet suit, booties and a scuba gear hood and I was still freezing.  All I could think of as I looked into the murky water was, “How on EARTH did I let Nick (my youngest brother) talk me into this?”

We were on a family vacation on the west coast of Ireland and I was having the time of my life.  It was the first time in years that my brothers and I were together, combine that with my adorable nephews, my amazing sister-in-law and her family and I was in heaven.

We’d arrived at the scuba dive shop first thing that morning, I’d tagged along after being harassed by my brothers.  “You’re seriously not going to do this?” “Come on Meghan – even MARK (my older brother) is doing it!”  Being the only girl with four brothers, I knew I’d never live it down if I didn’t go.  I sat there looking at the waiver…

Check all that apply:

Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)?, Nope.
Other chest disease or chest surgery? Nope.
Claustrophobia (fear of small places)?  Jackpot.

Meghan Ward-Bopp + feeling like I couldn’t escape/tiny spaces = a bad situation.  I was already zipped up into a tiny wetsuit and there was certainly no escaping that (or breathing deeply) anytime soon.  The idea of strapping on that oxygen tank, weights, and only breathing out of a mouthpiece underwater?  I was terrified.

My older brother yelled for me, we were supposed to be getting on the boat to head out for our open water dive.  I begrudgingly joined them and practically took notes as the dive master gave instructions.  Off we went.  I watched with eyes as big as saucers as my sister-in-law and youngest brother effortlessly flipped over the side of the boat with all of their gear on.  Down they went.  The instructor turned to me and said: “you’re up girlie.”   I was terrified and he knew it.  He went on to explain that I didn’t have to if I “couldn’t” or “didn’t want to.”   I’m not sure if it was adrenaline or my stubborn side that took over, but I gave him a look and held on to my mask and regulator– over I went.

I will share with you that the following hours were filled with the most terrifying moments in my life.  I kneeled on the ocean floor clenching my brothers hand and listening to myself breath all the while trying to keep myself from ripping out my regulator and surfacing.   And then I looked up… the surface was only about twenty feet above my head.  I’d swam my whole life and knew I could hold my breath for well over a minute.  I’d had “tea parties” on the bottom of the deep end of swimming pools since I was six and here I was, allowing this irrational fear to RUIN the experience.  I could basically stand up and I’d be at the surface!

The dive master came around and began the drills of taking us through losing our regulator, masks and a few other tasks you had to complete to have this dive “count” towards your certification process.  I hadn’t let go of my brothers hand yet, let alone mentally prepared myself to have my regulator and mask ripped off.   I made eye contact with my brother and he squeezed my hand, silently telling me he knew I could do this.  And you know what?  I nailed it.

Eleanor Roosevelt was right, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which  I looked fear in the face and said “forget you, I’m doing this” and it was the best feeling of my life.

Life was meant to be scary.  It’s full of things we’ve never experienced, but if you let those fears hold you back you’ll miss the good things in life.  Including the sheer exhilaration of knowing you really can do anything you put your mind to.

Jessica Gendron Williams: “Tough as Nails.”

jessica_gendronI love proving people wrong.  I love doing things that people think I can’t do.  Most of all, I love being called “tough as nails” -  not because I like being intimidating, but because I love breaking down the stereotypes that women have to be “girly” or “dainty” or can’t do what is perceived as “manly” things.  That is why I love telling this story to you on International Girls Day.

My husband and I own an old home – built in 1929.  I love it.  It’s beautiful.  It has tons of character.  It constantly needs work.  We have a small, fenced in yard with a gate that goes across our driveway.  It’s your basic picket fence and about 4-foot-tall.  It was rotting.  It was rickety.  It was falling apart – particularly the gate.  Our dogs, Maximus and Brutus, would sneak out through a loose board or two, or a large gap on a regular basis – which would then prompt an all-neighborhood search and capture operation.  At the end of every escape and rescue mission, I would curse the fence and promise, one-day to have someone fix it.

One Saturday morning, I woke up early to let the dogs out.  It was cold.  It was early.  Maximus and Brutus snuck out.  It was too early to call the neighborhood troops in for reinforcement, so there I was in shorts and a t-shirt, at 6 a.m., in 40 degree weather, running barefoot through the neighborhood.  I caught the dogs, went inside, and I had had enough.  I marched into the bedroom where my husband was sleeping and shouted, “I’m going to Lowe’s.”

I got in the SUV, marched into Lowe’s, bought some 2X4’s, screws, stain, hinges, a wheel, and some precut fence pickets.  I then called my dad and said, “I need to borrow your compound sliding miter saw.  I’m building a new gate.”

That day, I built a new gate for our fence – by myself.  I drew the plans, I cut the wood, I assembled it, I stained it, I hung it – myself.  Building a fence gate seems like a “manly” task.  In fact, I would wager to guess, that any man reading this is either thinking “She’s lying.” or “I need to inspect her work.”  I did it – a girl – built a fence gate, all by herself.

I tell you this story because you can do anything you make up your mind to do.  You can build a fence or even become the President of the United States if you set your mind to it.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you “can’t” or say to you, “But you’re a girl.”  Girls can do anything that boys can – we can prove it!  You can do anything, better than anyone if you believe you can and work hard to do it.