People are planting WWI-style victory gardens—even those of us without green thumbs
Annie Reneau

I've never been a gardener. I love the idea, but my history of killing plants isn't terribly inspiring. However, this year is different. I am doggedly determined to grow all the things because I will not allow 2020 to defeat me.

Is there a better symbol of hope than a garden? Planting a seed means you believe the future is imminent. Watching a sprout emerge from the soil and grow into a flourishing plant means life goes on. In addition, reaping the fruits and veggies of your efforts and giving thanks for the bounty that nature provides is perhaps the most basic, fundamental human act I can think of.


During World War I, Americans were encouraged to plant "victory gardens" to provide food during the war—and they undoubtedly came in handy during the pandemic that overlapped with the end of the war. (Side note: Holy cow, those people were tough.) While our food supply has held up so far in this pandemic, we don't know what will happen in the coming year or so before a vaccine becomes available. Growing some extra food seems as prudent as it is poetic.

Not only that, but gardening is good for you. Research from Princeton University has found that gardening at home had a powerful impact on a person's emotional well-being—just like biking, walking or dining out. The benefits crossed racial demographics as well as urban and rural locations. And vegetable gardening in particular had a stronger benefit than ornamental gardening, which provides mainly aesthetic value.

But what if you're not a natural gardener? What if you don't know where to start? What if you don't have any space to garden?

Even if you're short on land and experience, you can still plant your own little victory garden. If you have a patio or balcony, or any bit of outdoor space, you can use containers instead of outdoor garden beds. My family has space in our yard, but decided to use containers anyway because it's a lot easier than tilling the ground, preparing the soil, etc.

The previous owners of our house had left a few plastic planters, but to supplement them we bought a pack of these grow bags. They're basically fabric pots—they almost feel like felted wool—and they're more affordable than plastic or ceramic containers. They also designed for healthy aeration of the soil, which sounds like something fancy gardeners say. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds important.


Amazon

You can even choose different sizes of grow bags to accommodate your space and what you want to plant.

One nice thing about container gardening is that you don't have to have a lot of tools. A simple set of small shoveling tools and some gardening glove will suffice. I learned quickly that digging your hands in the dirt without gloves might sound rustic and romantic, but it dries your hands and nails out something fierce.

And yet another advantage of container gardening is that you don't have to figure out how to get your ground soil ready for planting. According to my gardener-by-nature friends, everyone's soil is different, so there's different things you have to add to it and mix into it to get the right balance of minerals— blah blah blah. No thank you. I want to be able to put my seeds or my plant into the dirt and go. With container gardening, you just buy a bag of potting soil (available at any garden center—we got ours at Walmart), dump it in the pot and voila! Ready-to-plant garden.

Lastly, you have to decide what to plant. If you've not gardened before, start with things that are easy and quick to grow, like peas and beans. Look at my beans and peas! I'm doing it! I'm doing it!

Annie Reneau

You also might consider starting with small plants instead of the seeds. They can take a while to germinate, depending on what you're growing and If you don't get an early start indoors, you might find growing from seed frustrating. That also depends on where you live. I live in the north, where we have a limited growing season.

Apparently, beginning gardening books are flying off the virtual shelves as more and more people are using social distancing time to plant a victory garden. But if video is more your speed, I highly recommend the YouTube channel Epic Gardening. Kevin Espiritu used to be like me—a know-nothing, wannabe gardener—and now he helps people learn how to grow stuff. He's delightful and so helpful:

Epic Gardening Channel Trailer www.youtube.com

If nothing else, a garden gives you a way to help life flourish (hopefully) and a place to see progress when it seems like the world is slipping backwards. Good luck, novice gardeners!

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Adelin Preda on Unsplash

A multinational study found that bystanders intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The recent news report of a woman on a Philadelphia train being raped while onlookers did nothing to stop it was shocking and horrible, without question. It also got people discussing the infamous "bystander effect," which has led people to believe—somewhat erroneously, as it turns out—that people aren't likely to intervene when they see someone being attacked in public. Stories like this uninterrupted train assault combined with a belief that bystanders rarely step in can easily lead people to feel like everything and everyone is horrible.

But according to the most recent research on the subject, the Philadelphia incident appears to be the exception, not the rule. A 2019 multinational study found that at least one bystander (but usually more) will actually intervene in 9 out of 10 public conflicts.

The idea that people in groups aren't likely to intervene stems largely from research on the 1964 story of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment in New York, while dozens of onlookers in surrounding apartment buildings allegedly did nothing. However, further research has called the number of witnesses into question, and it appears that several did, in fact, call the police. Someone reportedly shouted out their window and scared the attacker away for a few minutes, and someone did rush to Genovese's aid after the second attack.

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