Thursday, November 8, 2012

i am grateful.


lately, i find myself quite literally surrounded
by reminders of how my life,
despite its difficult challenges of late,
is essentially good & wonderfully worthy of abundant gratitude.

kitty-corner from us, we've got a dear neighbor
whose husband was killed while jogging last summer
by a hit-&-run driver, at the entrance to our neighborhood.
she's now a single mom raising their two young children
while dealing with overwhelming grief, & driving past the spot
where her beloved husband was mowed down several times a day.

our dear next-door neighbor struggled mightily with her mortgage
until she had no choice but to let the bank take over her home.
she spent the past six weeks selling off all of her worldly goods
& letting her house go to hell. she's now living in an rv in the next town over.

i've got another friend whose husband was just laid off
along with several hundred of his colleagues. he was given minimal severance,
& both he & his wife are now in their mid-50s & in search of work.

so despite the fact that we're in rather deep debt,
that we're scrabbling for cash flow,
that i've been battling bronchitis for weeks &
little boy's got walking pneumonia,

i'm grateful. so, so grateful.

i am grateful . . .

:: we're all still here together.

:: we're living in our dream house in a great neighborhood.

:: we've got three healthy, hilarious dogs to entertain & comfort us.

:: my work is picking up just in time for the holidays.

:: i've been successfully freelancing for ten years.

:: my dad just turned 80yo, & both he & my mom are doing wonderfully.

:: my cousin is cancer-free.

:: we've got great health insurance.

:: i'm feeling good emotionally.

:: autumn has finally arrived.

:: the election is over.

:: obama is still our president.

:: i'm about to spend a weekend reconnecting with my oldest friend.

:: teen girl's revamped room is spectacular.

:: teen girl still tells me she loves me, cursorily but daily.

:: christmas is coming.

:: i'll be handmaking many gifts.

:: i lovelovelove my happy green honda element.

:: for the everyday moments i see that make me smile,
make me laugh, lift my spirit ever higher.

'tis the season for thankfulness, y'all.
so, what are you thankful for today? do share.


image source: wish i remembered; sorry!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

american woman proud.


oh, what a night . . .
what a ladies' night!!

last night, american women — voters & candidates alike —
kicked some serious patriotic ass, & yes, gentlemen — we took names.

on election day 2012:

:: women made up about 54% of the electorate.

:: 55% of women voted for barack obama. 44% of women voted for mitt romney.

:: the total gender gap added up to 18% in president obama's favor —
an expansion of over 30% since his 2008 election.

:: the 113th u.s. congress will include 20 women senators,
the most ever in u.s. history [we're currently at 17].

:: 5 new women senators were elected — 4 democrats + 1 republican —
while all 6 democratic women incumbents were re-elected.

:: a record number of women candidates ran for both
the u.s. senate & the u.s. house of representatives.

:: in massachusetts, democrat elizabeth warren became her state's
first woman u.s. senator, winning over incumbent republican scott brown
in the most expensive senate race nationwide — at more than $70 million.

:: in new hampshire, the first-ever all-women delegation was elected —
their 2 women u.s. senators [1 dem, 1 rep] will be joined by
2 democratic women congressional representatives, as well as
governor maggie hassan, who will be the only woman democratic governor in 2013.

:: in missouri, democratic senator claire mccaskill won re-election
against republican representative todd akin, who infamously said
pregnancy rarely results from a "legitimate" rape.

:: in indiana, democratic representative joe donnelly won a senate seat
against republican richard mourdock, who infamously called
pregnancy resulting from rape "something god intended to happen."

:: in nebraska, republican deb fischer became her state's
first full-term woman u.s senator, winning over democrat bob kerrey.

:: in wisconsin, democratic representative tammy baldwin became our country's
first openly gay senator & her state's first woman u.s. senator,
winning over republican former governor tommy thompson. her house seat goes to
assemblyman mark pocan, also an openly gay democrat.

:: in hawai'i, democrat mazie hirono became our country's
first asian-american woman u.s. senator, winning over
republican former governor linda lingle.

:: also in hawai'i, democrat tulsi gabbard became our country's
first practicing hindu ever elected to the u.s. house, winning over
republican kawika crowley. gabbard intends to take her oath of office next january over
a bhagavad gita, a sacred text for followers of the vaishnava branch of hindu.



image source: women for obama.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

see the miracles.


it is a miracle if you can find true friends,
& it is a miracle if you have enough food to eat,
& it is a miracle if you get to spend your days
& evenings doing whatever it is you like to do,
& the holiday season — like all the other seasons —
is a good time not only to tell stories of miracles,
but also to think about the miracles in your own life,
& to be grateful for them.

~ lemony snicket ~


image source: lisa leonard.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

she-cars & her-pens.


ok, just going to say this once:
um, product development people? just fyi, it's two-thousand-twelve.
& women don't need or want special "lady" versions of stuff.

aka i love my gillette mach 3 razor —
turns out it gives just as close a shave
on my "lady" pits as it does on a guy's face.

but maybe japanese women feel differently.
that's what honda japan is hoping,
as it has launched the honda fit she's
[she's what? she's got a heart used for her apostrophe, yo. for realz.],
a "lady" version of the fit subcompact.

the japanese designers say their intention was to make
the regular fit model "adult cute," i.e., pink pink pink.
pink color, natch, plus pink stitching in the
floormats, seats & steering wheel, pink metallic bezels
around the displays & shifter. but she's also available in
shades of grey brown & white, which a honda exec
told a japanese newspaper match the color of eyeshadow.

but the fit she's rosy-hued feminine beauty isn't just tone-deep.
the she's also comes with special windshield glass that
reduces 99% of wrinkle-inducing ultraviolet rays, &
a "plasmacluster" air-conditioning system that
honda claims can improve a driver's skin quality.

which is all good & well . . . but what about potential wrinkling effects of
being forced to deal with the day-to-day stresses of
maneuvering through all that aggressive man-traffic?
i'm beginning to think maybe women shouldn't be driving at all . . .
not if it's going to take such an ugly toll on our porcelain complexions.

oof.

the fit she's leaves this she fit to be gagged with a little pink driving glove.

but if a "lady" car revs your engine,
then you may want to be taking notes
with a pink or purple bic for her pen.

i'll leave it to the extraordinary ellen degeneres
to tell you more . . . beginning with,
it's about damn time! where have our pens been?
can you believe this? we've been using man pens all these years.

blech!





image source: www.car1.hk.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

gore for president.


with the election only — & finally — a week from today,
i just thought i'd share this video gem
from "it's my party" girl lesley gore.

gore, now 66yo, endorsed the use of her hit "you don't own me"
for the political psa, created by sarah sophie flicker, leader of
new york's the citizens band,
a cabaret collective that makes political statements.

i don't know about you, but this just makes me
want to pick up a hairbrush "microphone" & belt along:




image source: music stack music marketplace.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

third-time charm.


newsweek magazine, almost 80yo, recently announced its intention to
stop publishing a print edition & go all-digital beginning in 2013.

& thankfully, it looks like it may be going out a little better than it's been lately.

following a year in which it twice featured atrociously sexist covers
[one in april, another in august], it's good to see newsweek


take a turn for the less-desperate with its current cover, which features
15yo malala yousafzai & the headline "malala: the bravest girl in the world."

women & girls are the focus of fewer than 1 in 4 news stories worldwide,
so a cover about a female's achievements rather than her appearance
is kind of a big deal.

here's hoping newsweek keeps up the right fight,
representing women accurately & well, as it takes its final 3D breaths.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

feminism primer. by dudes.


ok, i just discovered the factuary: comical education on cultural topics.

the factuary is a series of youtube webisodes,
hosted & written by comedian guy branum,
each addressing an issue of interest —
from scientology explained to why the rapper mia is always pissed off —
& presenting the facts of the matter, funnily.

check out the channel — but first, check out this episode:
"what do feminists have left?" {hint: plenty.}

this guy totally gets it, man.



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

i am malala.


two weeks ago, a masked gunman boarded a pakistani schoolbus full of children
& shot a 15yo girl twice
because she wants girls to be educated.

malala yousufzai was aptly named for a pashtun poetess & warrior woman.
she lives in mingora, a village in the swat valley of northwest pakistan,
with her parents, her two little brothers & two pet chickens.

in 2009, taliban militants forced the girls' schools
in swat valley to close, & blew up 100+ of the buildings.
malala, with the permission of her father, ziauddin —
a poet, educational activist & school owner himself —
began anonymously blogging her experience as a girl
under taliban rule for bbc urdu. she was 11yo.

eventually, malala's school reopened, but she continued to tell her story.
a new york times documentary was filmed about her life,
she became chairperson of the district child assembly swat,
& last year, she was nominated by desmond tutu for
the international children's peace prize &
won pakistan's first national youth peace prize.

but as she became more recognized, malala became more & more endangered.
death threats against her & her family have been
published in newspapers & slipped under their front door.

in a meeting this summer, taliban leaders unanimously agreed to kill malala.

a group of grown men, considered leaders by their peers, agreed to assassinate a child
because she promoted girls' education & criticized them for trying to eliminate it.

{wow.}

& so, on a tuesday afternoon, as malala was riding home from school,
a masked gunmen boarded her bus & shouted, "which one of you is malala?
speak up, or i will shoot you all."

once identified, malala was shot twice — in the head & in the neck — & left for dead.
the bullet causing the most damage entered above the back of her left eye,
traveled down through her jaw & into her left shoulder.

two of her schoolmates were wounded, too, but were stable enough
at the scene to provide details to the police & reporters.

the taliban readily claimed responsibility for the attack,
calling malala "the symbol of the infidels & obscenity,"
& reiterated its intent to kill malala & her dad.

malala was airlifted to a military hospital where neurosurgeons saved her life.
a week ago, she was flown to birmingham, england, to continue her treatment.
the pakistani government has offered to pay all of her medical expenses.

as of yesterday, malala is conscious, communicating freely
through written notes [she can't speak yet due to a tracheal tube],
has the motor control to stand, & seems to understand where she is & why.

she's still at high risk of infection, & likely has several more surgeries
to go through, in addition to extensive rehabilitation.
but 15yo malala yousufzai today is a survivor & an international hero.

former british prime minister gordon brown has launch a united nations petition
using the slogan "i am malala" & calling for:

:: pakistan to agree to a plan to deliver education for every child;

:: international organizations to ensure the world's 61-million
out-of-school children are in education by the end of 2015; and

:: all countries to outlaw discrimination against girls.

heal on, malala. this world needs your vision, your courage & your example.


image source: getty images.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

a reminder for moms.


i am a strong, confident woman.
usually.

& i have opinions that are equally as strong & confident.
usually.

but. i'm also a mom, navigating the rather stormy seas of
raising a teenage daughter for the first time.

& so, as waves of teen-girl issues rise around me,
i'm sometimes unsure of the best way to ride them out.

so i solicit advice from my fellow sailors —
girlfriend-moms of other teen girls.

& so it was that i recently found myself at a drinks-&-dinner gathering
of like-minded moms, & seized a conversational lull to bring up
an issue currently brewing with my 13yo daughter.

over the past couple of months, she has been "altering" her clothing
to show more skin — nothing inappropriate, just things like
rolling up her shorts-legs to make them shorter [but not daisy-dukes short],
rolling up her shirt-sleeves to make them look sleeveless, etc.

i've observed this behavior without comment,
wanting to "choose my battles," & understanding
what she's currently doing is completely harmless . . .
though clearly, this trend has captured my attention.

during the late summer months, i noticed her doing the same thing
with her tankini top — rolling & tucking up the bottom of it,
so that with every trip to the pool, it was looking more & more like a bikini top.

so at a friend's labor day family pool party,
i finally called her on it — noting this wasn't a proper venue for that
& requesting she untuck her top to its original length.

"ok, but next time, will you buy me a swimsuit appropriate for my age?"
she hissed.
"you're wearing a swimsuit appropriate for your age," i flatly responded.

so meanwhile, back at moms' night out, i tell this story & wonder aloud:
should i be concerned about this trend? & isn't a tankini a good choice for a 13yo?

well, i got dog-piled.

the other two moms with daughters the same age
had already bought their daughters bikinis,
essentially because that's what all their peers were wearing.

they lectured me about the difference between a "bikini" & a "two-piece."
they implied i may be damaging my daughter emotionally
by not letting her do what it takes to fit in socially.

another mom, with whom i had discussed this issue earlier,
brought up one of the ideas i had mentioned to her for dealing with it
as a point of ridicule, laughing to the table about how wrong-minded it was.

when i continued to express my worries about potentially perpetuating
the sexualization of my 13yo daughter, the mom sitting next to me
took my hand in hers & patted it, saying in a gently patronizing tone —
as if i were an 108yo granny, expecting my girl to wear a
turn-of-the-last-century "bathing costume," complete with bloomers —

"she's not a little girl anymore, kristen."

which i'm well aware of, thank you very much.
but while she may not be a little girl, she is still very much a girl —
not a woman, not a sexual being just yet, & still very much my child.

& her childhood, while naturally waning, isn't over just yet.
nor should it be. & i do see it as part of my job not to give it the bum's rush,
& to try to ensure nothing else does, either.

for the record, i listened to & considered their points,
& next spring, as swimsuit season approaches once again,
i will likely agree to shop for a two-piece my teen girl & i can agree upon.

but here's the reminder for moms part:

when another mom asks for your advice,
remember she is showing her most vulnerable self to you.

remember what she is saying beneath the question
is, "i'm feeling unsure about myself as a mom.
i'm afraid i may be screwing up & i don't want to fail my child."

remember she is asking not only for your opinion.
she is asking for your listening, your understanding,
your support & your encouragement.

she wants to know what your experience is,
& she needs to know whatever she chooses to do will be ok,
because she is the best mom for her child.

just like you are the best mother for your children.
just like we all are the best moms for our kids,
every one of us doing our very best, every minute of every day.

[though naturally, our best looks better at some points than at others.]

tell her she is a good mom.
tell her this mothering stuff is tough.
tell her you struggle with it, too.
tell her she is doing a fabulous job raising terrific kids.
tell her to make sure she listens to herself.
tell her she will make the best choice.

because it's all true. & she needs to hear it.

& because if she leaves the conversation feeling like
she is indeed screwing up & failing her child,
then we are failing each other as women.

breaking each other down rather than building each other up.

reply with your opinion, explain your experience, state your case.
then remember, my mamas-in-solidarity, to
encourage. encourage. encourage.

as a favorite fellow blogger recently wrote:
it's the grace element of motherhood.
we all need it. we all need to extend it.


Friday, October 5, 2012

cootchie cootchie coo.


all sorts of happy baby-licious news happening lately ...

team usa three-time gold-medalist kerri walsh jennings
was apparently going for another three-peat during the london games:

she was five weeks pregnant with her third child during this summer's olympics.
[yes, when the above photo was shot. damn, girl.]

the 33yo beach volleyball champion & her pro-v-ball-playing husband, casey jennings,
apparently began trying to get pregnant a month prior to the competition,
thinking it might take some time to get there from here.

but, no.

& though kerri noted feeling "moody" while in london,
she chalked it up to jet lag & the stress of the games.

her professional partner, misty may-treanor half-jokingly suggested
kerri may be pregnant, but she laughed it off.
now kerri says her nausea with baby #3 is no laughing matter.

the jennings' new baby will be welcomed by
big brothers joey, 3, & sundance, 2,
sometime around kerri's april 9, 2013 due date.


yahoo! ceo marissa mayer gave birth to a baby boy september 30th.

mayer's husband, investor/philanthropist zachary bogue,
tweeted the good news monday morning, &
this week, 37yo mayer has reportedly been
crowd-sourcing baby names for her firstborn.

mayer intends to return to work within a couple of weeks,
potentially bringing her newborn son along with her.
more power to her — as long as she doesn't force the same
sort of abbreviated family leave upon her underlings.


& finally, 37yo actress drew barrymore welcomed her first child,
a daughter born september 26th to her
& her husband since june, art consultant will kopelman.

the couple named their girl olive barrymore kopelman —
the olive branch is a symbol of peace or victory,
was historically worn by brides, & happens to be the namesake
of the animated puppy barrymore voiced in the christmas classic [at our house, anyway],
olive, the other reindeer.

mazeltov, y'all!!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

for other list-lovers.


oh, how i love a list.

so linear, so logical, so digestible, so doable.
& sometimes, such a delightful literary snapshot.

shaun usher's latest website, lists of note, is a celebration of such enumerations.

lists of note features, well, notable lists.
from johnny cash's to-do list
to ghandi's 1947 list of "the seven blunders
that human society commits, & that cause all the violence"
to a new zealand newspaper's 1891 guide to the art of eye flirtation,
this is fairly fascinating stuff.

a few further examples:

how to write,
from advertising legend david ogilvy to his agency staff,
a 1982 list of ten writing tips, such as:

4. never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. they are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

7. never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. read it aloud the next morning — & then edit it.

10. if you want action, don't write. go & tell the guy what you want.


new year's rulin's,
by folk singer/hero woody guthrie,
an illustrated list of 33 resolutions for 1942, including:

3. wash teeth if any

8. write a song a day

27. help win war — beat fascism

31. love everybody


the 47 dwarfs,
by the disney writing team for the 1932 animated classic "snow white,"
a list of potential names for the seven dwarfs,
who are unnamed in the original fairytale.

the names eventually selected were
bashful, doc, dopey, grumpy, happy, sleepy & sneezy.

in the 1912 broadway stage adaptation of the story,
playwright winthrop ames chose blick, flick, glick, plick, snick, whick & quee.

my personal picks from the list of 47 are
awful, deafy, hickey, jaunty, neurtsy, snappy & soulful.

so, what's your latest list look like? do share.
i'm off to check off "blog — list site" on my list of daily to-do's.


image source: interesting top ten lists.

Monday, October 1, 2012

hello, october.


hello, monday the first.

hello, full corn moon & cardigan mornings.

hello, warm comfort food + drink.

hello, candles that smell like warm comfort food + drink.

hello, squirrel + acorn + pumpkin decor.

hello, teen girl turning 14yo. [whoa.]

hello, dad turning 80yo. [wow.]

hello, hallowe'en — we've got to get cracking with some creative costume ideas!

hello, modpodging playroom art.

hello, painting bedrooms & bookcases.

hello, ikea.

hello, new work projects — bring 'em! i'm ready!

hello, everyday. you do not look like a pinterest board & it is okay.

hello, joy in mistakes, in trying, in accepting, in encouraging,
in gratitude, in surprise, in perspective,
in self-nurturing & remembering i matter.

hello, full month. full steam ahead!


image source: codingnews.inhealthcare.com.

Friday, September 28, 2012

a cackling comedienne worth remembering.


on the stage, phyllis diller was
the wicked witch of the west's clown-ified cousin:
blond fright-wig hair, long cigarette holder [never lit; she was a lifelong nonsmoker],
short, shapeless, psychedelically colored dresses,
bird legs punctuated by short, cuffed boots,
& a cackling laugh that could give you an involuntary eye twitch.

off the stage, phyllis diller was
a loving mother of five, an intellectual, a concert pianist,
an accomplished painter, a green-thumbed gardener & a gourmet cook.


but that persona didn't get laughs.

so, with her famous facade intact, phyllis led the way
for female comedians in the male-dominated world of stand-up,
using a fictionalized domestic life as fodder:
a good-for-nothing, drunken husband named "fang;"
an overweight & overbearing mother-in-law known as "moby dick;"
an unhappy sex life; lackluster homemaking skills; & naturally, her lousy looks.

diller believed attractive women wouldn't be taken seriously in comedy,
so she deliberately made herself as unattractive as possible.
the uglier, the funnier, she thought.
then she caustically mocked herself & the characters she created
with a series of slicing, staccato one-liners —
a comic style inspired by her mentor, bob hope.

phyllis ada driver was born in lima, ohio on july 7, 1917,
the only child of an insurance salesman in his 50s & a housewife in her 30s.
phyllis performed in high-school stage productions
& seriously studied classical piano; following graduation,
she went to chicago to study at the sherwood music conservatory,
but transferred to bluffton college in ohio to become a music teacher.

her senior year, phyllis eloped with navy man sherwood diller.
eventually, the dillers settled out in san francisco & had six children,
but one son died in infancy.

phyllis began accepting copywriting jobs for a department store & radio station
in order to provide her big family with a little financial help,
& it became clearer & clearer that she had a gift for making people laugh.

her husband encouraged phyllis to pursue comedy as a career,
but she lacked the confidence to do it — until she read a self-help book,
the magic of believing by claude bristol.
its message of empowerment spurred phyllis to begin writing routines,
to hire a drama coach to her develop more stage presence,
& to accept whatever performing opportunities arose, paid or not.

the former homemaker & copywriter officially launched her show-biz career
in 1955 at the age of 37. she began doing stand-up in nightclubs,
but was soon sought for tv show guest spots.
phyllis went on to star in a couple of tv sitcoms, a few tv specials,
a one-woman show @ carnegie hall, & several movies,
some of which were with her friend hope.

phyllis briefly played the lead role in hello, dolly! on broadway.
during the 1970s, she performed as a serious piano soloist with
about 100 different symphonies across the country.

in las vegas in 2002, phyllis did her last stand-up gig,
but she continued to do voiceover work & make tv appearances.
over the years, she also authored several books, including
her 2006 autobiography, like a lampshade in a whorehouse.

phyllis & sherwood were married 26 years. the same year they divorced,
she wed actor warde donovan; that marriage lasted 10 years.
phyllis never wed again, but was the companion of lawyer
robert hastings from the mid-80s until his 1996 death.

despite her belief that pretty isn't comedy, phyllis indulged in
over a dozen cosmetic operations, which she of course lambasted herself for:
three facelifts, two nose jobs, cheek implants, a chemical peel,
a breast reduction, tattooed eyeliner & bonded teeth.

she kept a plastic-surgery resume which she handed over to whoever might request it.
but she also kept a fit, trim physique beneath her gaudy costumes.
in fact, she once posed nude for a playboy photo spread, but the photos —
intended for laughs — looked too good to be funny, & so, were never published.

phyllis died august 20th at her los angeles home.
her youngest, perry, discovered her dead in her bed,
with a smile on her face. she was 95yo.

two of her five grown children went before her —
her eldest, peter, died in 1998 at 58yo of cancer, &
her youngest daughter, stephanie, died in 2002 at 54yo of stroke.

phyllis leaves behind her son perry,
her daughter sally [who suffers from schizophrenia],
another daughter, suzanne, four grandchildren & a great-granddaughter.

she also leaves a legacy of stand-up comedy for women
that will be followed by generations of funny ladies still to come.

cackle on, phyllis. heaven can use an edge.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

a cosmo girl worth remembering.


helen gurley brown was a complicated woman.

the editor-in-chief of cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years,
helen was a self-described feminist, & her messages of
empowerment for women supported that.
yet, in the words of women in media & news director jennifer pozner,
helen created "one of the most body-shaming, insecurity-provoking, long-lasting
sexist media product of the last hundred years."

the truth is, helen gurley brown was both progressive & retrogressive
when it came to the roles women play in our society.
as noted, she was a complicated woman — who made no excuses or apologies for it.

helen marie gurley was born in the ozarks on february 18, 1922.
the younger of two daughters of two schoolteachers,
helen described her life as "ordinary, hillbilly & poor."
she earned pocket money by offering dance lessons to other kids.

the family moved to little rock when her dad was elected to the state legislature,
but when helen was just 10yo, he was killed in an elevator accident.
five years of depression & poverty later, her mother moved them to los angeles.
helen's older sister mary contracted polio & became paralyzed from the waist down.

but helen carried on. she graduated as valedictorian of her high-school class,
& studied briefly at the texas state college for women [now texas woman's university].
but with no money to continue college,
helen returned to la to go to secretarial school.

following her graduation, helen held a string of 17 secretarial jobs,
until she was promoted at an advertising firm to copywriter.
helen was so good that another ad agency stole her with an exorbitant salary offer,
making helen the highest paid advertising writer on the west coast.

in 1959, at 37 yo, helen married for the first — & last — time,
to two-time divorcee david brown,
a former managing editor of cosmopolitan who had become a hollywood producer
[jaws, the sting, cocoon & driving miss daisy are some of his credits].

it was david who persuaded helen to write a book based upon some letters
she had written in her 20s to a married man who was smitten with her.
sex & the single girl was published in 1962, stayed on the bestseller list
for over a year, & helped usher in the sexual revolution.

[the book also inspired a movie of the same title in 1964,
starring natalie wood as a completely fictionalized helen gurley brown.]

in 1963, the browns moved to new york city.
two years later, the hearst corporation asked helen to take over cosmopolitan.

cosmopolitan was a post-war product whose target audience was married suburbanites,
& which addressed such pressing issues as how to get the perfect figure,
how to raise the perfect children & how to keep the perfect household.

the first revamped issue hit newsstands in july 1965,
with a cover featuring a voluptuous blonde model with a plunging neckline.
its target audience was the self-made, sexual & supremely ambitious young woman.

helen was a 43yo married woman, but she urged her readers
not to settle just to settle down, to discover pleasure in her sexuality,
& to enjoy the search for mr. right with rather wild abandon.

in the 1970s, the magazine featured a series of nude male centerfolds.
sales grew each year until peaking in 1983 at just over three million issues sold.

during her 32 years with cosmo, helen's husband david
was the mastermind behind all the magazine's titillating cover teases.

helen's final issue as editor-in-chief was february 1997, but she remained as
editor of cosmopolitan's 59 international editions until her death.

over the years, in-between her editing duties, helen authored five more books,
wrote a syndicated newspaper advice column called woman alone,
& hosted a 1967 tv talk show called outrageous opinions.

in 1995, helen was declared a living landmark by the ny landmarks conservancy,
which seemed appropriate considering how much of her had been constructed ...
at 5'4" & never more than 100lbs., helen was outspoken about her extensive
plastic surgery, which included a nose job, multiple facelifts, eye lifts,
fat & silicone injections, & a breast augmentation at the age of 73.
no excuses, no apologies.

david died in 2010 at 93yo, with no children but a 51-year marriage to helen,
who was clearly the love of his life.

helen died august 13th at 90yo of undisclosed causes —
ever the woman with a little mystery, she was the quintessential cosmo girl.

"i have always said my message is for
the woman who loves men, but
who doesn't want to live through them."



image source: daily life, australia.

Monday, September 24, 2012

madame moderator.


so, while i was all wrapped up in my own olympics aftermath,
the world continued turning, & stuff happened.

for example, on august 13th, cnn chief political correspondent candy crowley
was named as moderator of the second 2012 general election presidential debates,
making her the first woman in 20 years to be chosen for the prestigious role.

crowley will moderate the only townhall-style presidential debate between
president barack obama & republican presidential candidate mitt romney.
the debate is scheduled for tuesday, october 16th at new york's hofstra university.

candy crowley's selection may have been in large part due to
the efforts of three 16yo girls from new jersey.
emma axelrod, sammi siegel & elena tsemberis of montclair, nj,
launched a change.org petition calling for a female journalist to moderate
the presidential debates. their petition gathered more than 180,000 signatures,
& apparently, the commission on presidential debates noticed.

"having the support of [1992 moderator] carole simpson,
senator [kirsten] gillibrand & representative [carolyn] maloney — powerful women
who are heroes to many — underscored for us how important
this campaign was to wage,
" said tsemberis. "this campaign wasn't
about partisan politics, or liberal or conservative issues.
this was about equal representation, regardless of political party.
"

the other presidential debate moderators are
pbs newshour's jim lehrer & cbs face the nation's bob schieffer;
abc's martha raddatz will moderate the vice-presidential debate.


image source: vegetarian star.

Friday, September 21, 2012

dear finding joy.



dear mom who writes the blog finding joy,

you lift & inspire me.

at a time when joy seemed unattainable, a facebook friend of a fb friend posted
the link to your blog post "dear sweet mom who feels like she is failing."

since i was that mom at that moment, i clicked through to read it.

then i clicked through to read your other dear mom letters.

then i clicked through to read about you.
& i discovered we come at mothering from different angles.
you've got seven children. two is plenty for me.
you homeschool yours. i happily send mine off to public school.
you're religious & quote scripture. i'm spiritual & quote
people who lift or inspire me.

like you:

stop telling yourself you're failing. replace it with i can do this.
you can do this.

do one thing.
write your list of things you want to do, need to do & would love to do today
with your family. & then, do one thing from each list.
if you stumble, brush yourself off & start again.

this is your life — & you — you are the perfect mother for those children.
god knew when he blessed those kids to you.

remember that.

you are a good mom. you matter. you are making a difference.
you can do this. one step, one day, at a time.

from me, one mom in the midst of motherhood, to you.


well, from me, a fellow mom blogger in the midst of motherhood —
feeling so much better, yet continuing to seek joy in the everyday,
to see the beauty in the mess, to be ok with good enough —
from a mom who's not so very different from you after all,

i just wanted to say thanks.

thanks to you for being real, being vulnerable, being brave, being encouraging.
thanks to you for lifting & inspiring countless moms like me
with your wonderful words & amazing spirit.

you are a good mom. you matter. you are making a difference.

keep on blogging,
the mom who writes the blog skirting the issues :)


image source: pink of perfection.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

daily happiest moments.


july 22nd, oprah posted a video up on her website
in which she challenged folks to join her in
tweeting their happiest moment of the day
every day for 30 days.

well, i didn't see the celebrate 30 days of happiness challenge video
until two weeks later, & i gave up on tweeting about nine months ago.

but, if you read my last post, then you know
how desperately i was seeking a little happiness around the beginning of august,
& if you read my blog [which, apparently, you do], then you know
how much i love my oprah.

so i decided to post my happiest moment of the day
on facebook every day from august 6th through labor day
[which is 29 days, but who's counting??].

& now, i'm deciding to repost them all here as a collection,
for posterity & for the reminder of what sort of moments make me happy.
enjoy!!

1. monday 8.6
working out & catching up with my gal-pal jb, who's been traveling
much of the summer. yay for reunions!! :)

2. tuesday 8.7
watching team usa gymnast aly raisman kill her
floor routine for event gold - gave me goosebumps!! :)

3. wednesday 8.8
completing a pair of overdue blog posts. :)

4. thursday 8.9
seeing my big sister, cindy, who has come for a quick visit. ♥

5. friday 8.10
catastrophe-free report from my new doc, whom i like. :)

6. saturday 8.11
delivering pizza to my dear neighbor & her helpers
following her huge estate-like sale of her worldly goods. ♥

7. sunday 8.12
going to a lizards gig with two dear friends - great fun!! :)

8. monday 8.13
giving myself a mini-mani with sparkly new nail polish
while watching bachelor pad [don't judge!!] with my hubs.

9. tuesday 8.14
seeing my holistic chiropractor, k. ude ... i left her office feeling
inches taller & so relaxed that i went home & napped. :)

10. wednesday 8.15
basking in a/c, sipping ice water & being served good food with the fam
following a few hours in the searing texas heat. :)

11. thursday 8.16
lunching with the lovely & talented k. barry, talking over our
respective, prospective websites ... thrilling!! :)

12. friday 8.17
wrapping up two sizable projects [at last!] by issuing invoices! :D

13. saturday 8.18
sharing supper at the trailer park eatery with my little fam. ♥ ♥ ♥

14. sunday 8.19
playing @ the pool with my hubs + son. water = happiness. :)

15. monday 8.20
taking a pretzel break @ the mall with my kids during back2school shopping. :)

16. tuesday 8.21
beginning to catch up on my blog with a couple of new olympic posts. :)

17. wednesday 8.22
riding home with my family, all exhausted &
a little sunburnt from tubing the guadalupe. :)

18. thursday 8.23
making some good progress on a new client project. :)

19. friday 8.24
watching "bernie" with my hubs - jack black is awesome!! :)

20. saturday 8.25
talking birds+bees with my 13yo daughter ... &
discovering how little she really knew!! ;D

21. monday 8.26
bahama freeze snowcones, post-pool with the fam. :)

22. monday 8.27
sharing supper with my fam, listening to everyone's
fairly positive reports of their day. :)

23. tuesday 8.28
getting a clean bill of health following my cardio stress test! yay, ♥!! :)

24. wednesday 8.29
spending a few quiet hours doing housework - baking,
cleaning, etc. oddly, kind of a luxury for me!! :)

25. thursday 8.30
getting rave reviews - & a second project! -
from a new client on a brochure i wrote! :)

26. friday 8.31
getting our downstairs air conditioning up &
working again [ignoring the precious pricetag, of course!]. :}

27. saturday 9.1
catching up with a dear friend over a long, luxurious lunch! love! :)

28. sunday 9.2
having the appetizers i brought to a pool party
be a big hit! [thanks again, jb!] :)

29. monday 9.3
completing the tour of austin snocones 2012 with my fam ...
reviews coming soon via my blog!! :)

themes mentioned:
:: family: 11
mentions
:: food: 10 mentions ;)
:: work: 4 mentions
:: health, hubs, friends & blog: 3 mentions each
:: self-care, household & olympics: 2 mentions each


image source: saul loeb/afp/getty images.

Monday, September 17, 2012

on feeling like an #epicfail.


so. normally, i try to post — both on my blog & on my facebook page —
mostly uplifting, positive stuff. because i believe the energy
you put out into the universe is the energy the universe sends back at you.

so i try to be a tigger rather than an eyeore.
i try to illustrate the half-fullness of the glass.
i try to put on a happy face.

because i want to be a happy, energetic person who sees the bright side of life
& brings a smile to others' faces wherever she goes, on- or offline.

& much of the time, i am that person.

but this summer, that person disappeared. i lost her, & it scared me.

she had been gradually fading for a while.

the past year or so has been really challenging for us as a family.
changes with my husband's career have meant tougher times re: money.
changes with our daughter — who is 13yo, need i say more? —
have meant tougher times re: parenting.
changes with my physiology — i am 45yo, need i say more? —
have meant tougher times all-around.

by this summer, i felt like i was failing.
failing as a mother. failing as a wife.
failing as a money-maker. failing as a money-manager.
failing as the glue that holds our family together.
failing at my to-do list. failing at my self-care.
failing at making anybody happy, especially myself.

& i felt like it was all on me & only me.
i felt loaded up with unfulfilled responsibilities
& weighed down by unmet expectations — many of them my own.

i was furiously treading water, but i. was. sinking.

but rather than shouting out for help, i isolated myself.
i didn't pick up phone calls or initiate get-togethers or
offer an explanation of why i was sobbing in the closet,
because i didn't want anyone to know i was going under.
i didn't reach out to my sweet husband, my first family or my dear friends,
because if i admitted needing help, then i was failing yet again. failing, squared.

my midsummer birthday, which i typically tout the whole month of july,
i downplayed, forbidding my husband from following through with his intent
to buy me a bicycle; too much money, i insisted.
my promise of a girls' night karaoke party to celebrate my 45th went unkept.

i grew crabbier & weepier with every daily task i couldn't complete,
with every work project i couldn't move forward,
with every cup left on the counter, every sock not in the hamper,
every traffic infraction committed anywhere close to me,
every ringing phone or buzzing text, every question, every meh answer,
every whine from anyone, including dogs.

by the beginning of august,
i was having occasional nighttime heart palpitations
& whole days where i literally could not stop crying.

& thank god for those days, for it was on one of them that i finally realized
i wasn't treading anymore. i was under.
i was fully submerged, with saltwater filling my lungs.
& it wasn't because i didn't try hard enough or stopped struggling;
it was because i had stones tied to my ankles — stones of
midlife stressors & midlife hormones & midlife, period.

stones i couldn't possibly untie on my own while i was still trying to keep swimming.

i sobbed uncontrollably as i wrote a lengthy email to my friend & obgyn,
confessing my suspicions that i was suffering from some fairly serious
depression/anxiety, outlining my symptoms & what i had tried on my own,
& rather urgently requesting her recommendation for what i should do ...

it's taken a whole lot for me to come to this conclusion —
that i need some sort of interventional help — being the
type A control freak superwoman with a plan of action
to fix just about anything sort of girl i am.
but i am miserable on the inside, & i am miserable to live with on the outside.
i'm just not myself, no matter how i try to get back to her.


i wrote that to my doctor friend. i cc'd my husband.

& i felt better. not all better, of course, but noticeably better, just typing the words.
just typing "i need help" & hitting the send button released a stone or two,
& buoyed me up, lifted me a little closer to the light & the air i'd been lacking.

which immediately & clearly revealed the ugly reality that
some of the stones were definitely my own, tied by me around my own ankles.
stones like superwoman & have it all & do it all & be it all,
& the biggest, heaviest stone of all, less than perfect = failure.

the ugly truth of the matter is that while i talk the talk of good is good enough,
& i'm happy to encourage & support other women in walking that walk,
down deep, underneath, i hold myself to a very different standard.
a standard so high that it has the ironic effect of dragging me way down. under.

so my doctor friend recommended an antidepressant & referred me to a cardiologist.
& six weeks later, the cardiologist has judged my heart to be perfectly healthy
[palpitations likely caused by a cocktail of stress & hormones],
& i'm pleased to report my heart feels happy again, with the rediscovery of me.

thanks to a winning combination of my vulnerability + bravery,
my friend's responsiveness + comfort, & a low daily dose of zoloft,
i'm once again swimming forward — with gratitude for grace & a deliberately slower pace,
so i can soak up the warmth of the sunshine & smell of the seabreeze with every stroke.


image source: marleymoo.tumblr.com.

Friday, September 14, 2012

more medaling moms.


ok, folks. my final post honoring the women of the xxx olympiad.
it's been over for 34 days, so i guess it's about time.
i just had to offer appropros props to a sampling of these
amazing women athletes. & i'm just about ready to turn the corner.

but first — & last — the remaining american moms who medaled
[aside from kerri walsh jennings & kristin armstrong] @ the 2012 london summer games:


danielle scott-arruda.
event: women's indoor volleyball.
won: silver — her second; she also won silver in 2008 in beijing.
age: 39yo.
olympics: five. scott-arruda was the team's youngest member in atlanta in 1996 @ 23yo, & is the first u.s. volleyball player — woman or man — to play in five olympics.
mom of: 2yo daughter julianne.
other tidbits: scott-arruda plays professionally for the brazilian league sao bernardo.


tayyiba haneef-park.
event: women's indoor volleyball.
won: silver — her second; she also won silver in 2008 in beijing.
age: 33yo.
olympics: three.
mom of: 2yo son ajani.
other tidbits: haneef-park is 6ft, 7in & the tallest member of the u.s. women's team. she plays professionally for igtisadchi baku in azerbaijan, but intends to retire in 2013. her name, tayyiba, is arabic, & she's married to a u.s. air force pilot.


christie rampone.
event: women's soccer.
won: gold — her third; she also won gold in 2004 in athens & in 2008 in beijing, & silver in 2000 in sydney.
age: 37yo.
olympics: four.
mom of: 6yo daughter rylie & 2yo daughter reece.
other tidbits: this was rampone's second olympics as the u.s. team captain; america won all six matches it played at the games, finally winning over japan for the gold. rampone has never finished lower than third place in any of the olympics or world cup competitions she's played in.


candace parker.
event: women's basketball.
won: gold — her second; she also won gold in 2008 in beijing.
age: 26yo.
olympics: two.
mom of: 3yo daughter lailaa.
other tidbits: parker plays professionally for the wnba's los angeles sparks & the ummc ekaterinburg of russia. she was the first woman to dunk in an ncaa tournament game & the first wnba player to dunk in consecutive games. she's the younger sister of nba player tony parker, & the wife of brooklyn nets player shelden williams.


lashinda demus.
event: women's 400m hurdles.
won: silver — her first.
age: 29yo.
olympics: two — she competed in 2004 in athens, but didn't advance to the final. she failed to qualify for the 2008 games in beijing, but went on to win the 2009 & 2011 u.s. championships.
mom of: 5yo twin sons dontay & duaine.
other tidbits: demus is the american record-holder in the 400m hurdles, & trains with her mom, yolanda rich. she comes from a family rich with twins: her grandfather was one of twenty kids, eight of whom were twins.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

other olympic sister acts.


besides serena & venus williams, five other pairs of siblings
competed at the london games for team usa —
three of them were sisters, & two of them earned olympic medals.

jessica & maggie steffens, 25yo & 19yo respectively,
both helped the u.s. women's water polo team
win gold over silver-earning spain,
with maggie scoring 21 goals of 27 shots during the final.

the steffens' dad, carlos, played water polo
for the university of california, was a member of the
1977 ncaa championship team, & was a three-time all-american.

steffens sister #3, teresa, also plays water polo,
& their brother, charlie, made the usa youth team.


swimming sisters alyssa & haley anderson, 21yo & 20yo respectively,
both medaled separately — alyssa as a member of the women's 4x200m freestyle relay team,
& haley on her own in the 10km [6.2-mile] open water marathon.

alyssa swam along with missy franklin, allison schmitt & dana vollmer
in the preliminary round, qualifying the u.s for the final.
shannon vreeland replaced alyssa for the third leg of the final,
helping the americans win the gold with a new olympic record.

haley narrowly missed competing in the pool with her big sister,
finishing third in the 800m freestyle at the olympic trials.
but she finished first at an olympic marathon swim qualifier,
& earned silver behind hungary's eva risztov & ahead of italy's martina grimaldi.

the andersons' mom, colette, swam for the university of hawai'i,
& their younger sister, jordan, also swims competitively.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

pay it forward.

the president & first lady observe a moment of silence at the white house
on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of 9.11.

well, i'm almost done with my XXX olympiad posts,
as i imagine many of you must be.
but there were so, so many fascinating stories
of strength & courage & gumption & passion & beauty & heart . . .

& i've got just a handful more i intend to add.
but today, i'm taking a break to write about pay it forward 9/11.

i've blogged about this movement before —
begun by my a colleague from college, kevin tuerff,
it's about honoring this occasion by doing unexpected kindnesses for strangers.

it's about remembering the lives sacrificed in a positive way, &
proving good can & will flourish in the face of evil.

at kevin's agency, enviromedia, here in austin,
the staff splits into small teams, & the company gives each team
$100 & the morning of 9.11 off to go out into the community
& use their benjamin to do good for unsuspecting others.

i got to be part of this meaningful tradition once
while i was working part-time at enviromedia, & found it to be
such an all-around lifting day-brightener that i try to participate
as a solo team of one each year.

so this morning, i did five good deeds. i spent only about $25,
& while some of my good deeds were for strangers, some were for friends & neighbors.
all were definitely unexpected.

my favorite thing was baking about four dozen chocolate-chip cookies,
& offering them to almost everyone i encountered for the rest of the day.

i gave cookies to the people working the drive-thru, a street sweeper
guy parked at the gas station, a school bus driver, many of our neighbor
kids & their grownups walking home from school, the middle-school nurse,
a homeless gentleman on the corner, several elderly people in an elevator,
my chiropractor's officemate & my therapist, among others.

whenever someone asked me why i was giving away free homemade cookies today,
i simply answered, "i'm just trying to make 9.11 a happier day for everyone."
& it worked — i was gifted with smile upon smile all day long.

it's wonderful what a little cookie & connection can do.


image source: jason reed for reuters.

Monday, September 10, 2012

serena & venus williams, olympic sisters.


serena & venus williams — the strong-arming sisters of tennis —
swung through the 2012 summer olympics & shimmered like gold.
exactly like gold.

the powerhouse pair won the women's doubles in a three-peat performance,
becoming the first pair ever to win women's doubles three times —
having won in 2000 in sydney & again in 2008 in beijing.
[serena was injured during the 2004 athens games;
venus played with another partner, but didn't medal.]

playing against the czechs on a rainy afternoon,
the williams women also became the first tennis players
to win gold indoors since 1912.

a day earlier, little sister serena had matched her big sister's three gold medals
by winning the women's singles against russia's maria sharapova.
venus won the women's singles in 2000 in sydney.
with the singles win, serena joined steffi graf as the only women
to complete the career golden slam — olympic gold plus wins at the four majors:
australian open, french open, wimbledon & u.s. open.

only three women tennis players ever have won two gold medals at the same games —
serena, venus & fellow american helen wills moody in 1924 in paris.

with the doubles win, the sisters each reached
a record four olympic tennis gold medals.


both of the williams women have been playing tennis since the age of four.
at 30yo [serena] & 32yo [venus], while still in spectacular shape,
the pair is feeling their quarter-century+ of on-court wear & tear:

venus has suffered strained abdominal muscles, knee tendonitis,
a separate knee injury, wrist injuries in both arms, & last year,
was diagnosed last year with incurable autoimmune disease —
sjogren's syndrome — which causes fatigue & swollen joints.

serena has suffered a lower back injury, a shoulder strain, a leg injury,
a knee injury, an ankle injury, & two years ago, underwent emergency treatment
for blood clots in her lungs due to a pulmonary embolism.

nevertheless, this dynamic duo of tennis titans is nowhere close to done,
both asserting they're ready for rio 2016, & a fourth gold medal together.

Friday, September 7, 2012

heather stanning, olympic military.


captain heather stanning of the 32nd regiment royal artillery,
along with her rowing partner, helen glover, won the host country's
first gold medal of the london games &
team gb's first-ever gold medal in women's rowing.

five days into competition, brits were growing rather anxious
about their lack of golden olympic awards.

but then along came stanning & glover, with a time of 7.27:13 in the coxless pairs,
besting not only the silvering aussies [great band name, yes?],
but also the bronze-earning new zealanders, who had beat them
out of the gold at the world championships in 2010 & 2011.

stanning began rowing in 2004 at the university of bath,
where she was attending as part of the university officer training corps.
she went on to the royal military academy sandhurst &
was commissioned into the royal artillery in 2008.


in 2009, she was paired with 26yo former pe teacher glover,
who had never rowed until 2008, when she entered the
national lottery-funded sporting giants talent identification program.
sporting giants identified glover's talent as rowing. they were spot-on.

with stanning temporarily released from her army duties
in order to train full-time for the olympics,
the two won silver medals [behind new zealand, remember]
at the 2010 & 2011 world championships, & have been unbeaten this season,
gaining gold at all three world cup races &
setting an olympic record with their winning heat time.

the captain's army colleagues were permitted to take a break from training
exercises to watch her & her rowing mate win the gold 3,000 miles away.

stanning, whose parents were royal navy officers &
whose brothers are both in the british military,
returns this month to begin training for a future post in afghanistan,
a source of national pride, twice over.

the royal mail has issued a stamp in tribute to the golden twosome.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

dana vollmer, olympic comeback.


dana vollmer spent the 2008 summer olympics in fiji,
thinking about why she wasn't in beijing.

the native texan — who had competed in her first meet at age 4,
who at 12yo was the youngest swimmer ever to compete in the u.s. olympic trials,
who in 2004, at 16yo, helped set the world record &
won gold in the 800m freestyle relay at the athens games —
hadn't even made the team for the 2008 games.

vollmer had a history of health issues — supra ventricular tachycardia,
a racing-heartbeat arrhythmia she'd had surgery to correct,
followed by back, shoulder & knee injuries.
but her biggest challenge was her mindset: she was just too focused in
on other people's expectations, & she had buckled under the pressure.

over the next four years, vollmer graduated from college,
changed up her training, changed her diet upon discovering
she was suffering from an allergy to gluten & eggs,
& got married.

& she came to the 2012 olympic trials lifted up with energy & excitement,
rather than weighed down by others' expectations.

& she went on to win a gold trifecta.

the 24yo set the world record & won gold with a time of 55.98
in the 100m butterfly, despite losing her outer swimcap during the race
[the inner cap covers hair; the outer cap holds goggles & smoothes bumpiness].
lu ying of china was almost a full second behind vollmer for the silver,
while australia's alicia coutts earned the bronze.

vollmer proceeded to win gold medals in the other two events in which she swam —
the 4x200m freestyle relay, where she swam the second leg, with
missy franklin, allison schmitt & shannon vreeland, &
the 4x100m medley relay, where she swam the butterfly leg, & helped set
a new world record with missy franklin, allison schmitt & rebecca soni.

dana vollmer, with her spectacular butterfly stroke, soared in london —
thanks to a little necessary cocoon time in fiji.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

yi siling, olympic opener.


yi siling, the 23yo chinese woman known as "shooting beauty,"
was the first athlete to qualify for &
to win gold at the games of the xxx olympiad.

eleven hours after queen elizabeth officially opened the london games,
yi got her gold in her first-ever olympic competition, with a 10+ score
on all 10 shots of the women's 10m air rifle shooting event.
poland's sylwia bogacka earned the silver, &
yi's chinese teammate dan yu earned bronze.

yi tried track + field & dancing before she began shooting in 2007.
she debuted internationally in 2009, & in 2010,
won the world championship in the 10m event, setting a new world record &
becoming the first person worldwide to qualify for the 2012 olympics.

known for her unflappability as well as her good looks,
yi wept with relief in her coach's arms following the final.
she intends to defend her gold medal at the next summer games, she says,
but first, will spend some well-deserved time with her family —
her father has been ailing while she's been training for the past year.
time with his champion daughter is sure to be a shot of joy for a proud dad.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

wojdan shaherkani, olympic beginner.


wojdan ali seraj abdulrahim shaherkani, a 16yo judoka,
has been termed both a progressive & a prostitute by her fellow saudis.

but regardless of what they might have called her via twitter,
one title for wojdan is irrefutable: she is the first female athlete ever
to compete at the olympics for saudi arabia.
& it's for this distinction that she's been both damned & praised.

wojdan was one of two women selected to represent the kingdom of saudi arabia
at the london games — following intense pressure from the
international olympic committee upon the saudi arabian olympic committee,
& months of negotiations between the two entities, to include women on the the team.

saudi arabia has a sort of "gender apartheid" of sports,
effectively banning women from athletic activity.
girls do not participate in sports at state schools, &
women athletes must fund themselves & arrange their own training elsewhere.

of course, sports is just the tip of saudi arabia's laws for women —
women are required by law to wear a black abaya [cloak] &
a hijab [headscarf] whenever they're out in public.
saudi women may not drive, run a business or enter main government buildings.
women may not travel abroad without official permission
from their guardians & authorization from their government.

a product of her culture, wojdan shaherkani had never left her home country
until she came to london. & she was woefully underqualified for
olympic competition, having practiced judo for only two years
at home with coaching from her father, a judo referee.

while at the olympics, both wojdan & her fellow saudi female —
19yo runner sarah attar — had to agree to dress "modestly" [hijab,
long sleeves, long pants], always be accompanied by a male guardian,
& never mix with men.

competition clothing had to comply with islamic law, too —
but no headwear is permitted in judo. scandal erupted.
wojdan threatened to withdraw from the event
if she wasn't permitted to wear her hijab during bouts.

the ioc, saoc & the international judo federation went to work,
& together, came up with a special design for wojdan:
a tight-fitting cap-style head covering, rather than the typical
draping headscarf, which might prove a strangulation hazard.


so wojdan competed in the over-78kg judo event,
the lone blue-belt judoka against a sea of black belts.
she lost her first match — against puerto rico's
melissa mojica — in 82 seconds.

but wojdan's spirit & perspective were undefeated:
"i am happy to be at the olympics," she said following the match.
"unfortunately, we did not win a medal. but in the future, we will,
& i will be a star for women's participation."

her saudi teammate, sarah attar, fared similarly.
though sarah has spent much of her life in the u.s.
& is currently studying at california's pepperdine university,
she hadn't raced competitively since high school

wearing a white hijab & black leggings,
sarah finished a distant last in the final heat
of the women's 800m. yet she smiled & waved to the cheering crowd
as though she'd won the gold.

because for the women olympians of saudi arabia,
it's really not whether you win or lose,
or even how you play the game —
it's just getting a chance to play the game at all.