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 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.

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
:: 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:

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.

Monday, September 3, 2012

fierce five, olympic stars.

seven u.s. women's teams — gymnastics, basketball, soccer,
swimming relays, track relays, rowing & water polo —
won the gold at the summer olympics.

but the "fierce five" — the u.s. women's gymnastics team —
won the bulk of media attention. & i confess, it worked for me;
i found the 2012 gymnastics competition captivating.

the fierce five is comprised of 17yo jordyn wieber, 16yo gabrielle douglas,
16yo mckayla maroney, 18yo team captain alexandra raisman, & 15yo kyla ross.
& yes, "women's gymnastics" is rather an oxymoron.

but these young women won the team gold medal —
the first for the u.s. since 1996 & the second for the u.s. ever —
by 5.06 points over russia's silver & 7.82 points over romania's bronze.
gold defender china earned fourth place.

gabby douglas was the only team member to compete in all four events
[vault, uneven bars, balance beam, floor] during the team competition.
aly raisman was the final american to perform; she had tears in her eyes
as she completed an incredible floor routine, cinching the u.s. win.

gabby & aly also competed in the individual all-around —
jordyn, the reigning world champion, was denied, as only the top two team
members from each country are allowed into the all-around competition.

gabby douglas became the first african-american ever
to win the all-around gold; aly came in fourth place following
a tie-breaker for the bronze with russian superstar aliya mustafina.
but a tie-breaker broke the other way for aly at the individual balance-beam event.

aly's overall score originally came in beneath romania's catalina ponor,
but u.s. coach martha karolyi requested a review of aly's routine,
based upon its higher difficulty; the judges rescored, tying aly with ponor.
aly's higher execution score gave her the edge, & she took the bronze.

aly raisman also became the first american woman to win
the individual gold for floor exercise. aly, who is jewish, performed
her practically perfect routine to the hebrew folk song "hava nagila."
next spring, she'll be inducted into the national jewish sports hall of fame.

mckayla maroney, the reigning world champion in vault, aced her first
but fell on her second vault during the individual event.
the up-ender ended her 33-vault streak in competition, & earned her the silver.

during the medal ceremony, mckayla's expression briefly revealed
a scowl of disappointment; someone snapped the shot, & the image
quickly became associated with an internet meme called "mckayla is not impressed."

mckayla is not impressed with democrats' one-word slogans.

mckayla is not impressed with the republicans' ticket.

mckayla is not impressed with princess fascinators.

mckayla was surely unimpressed with the absurd social media kerfluffle
over gabby's hair. as gabby was making african-american olympic history,
african-americans were taking to twitter to kvetch about her "messy" 'do,
& its apparent overabundance of clips & gel. gabby's response?

"nothing is going to change. i'm going to wear my hair like this ...
you might as well just stop talking about it." done & done.

i still don't understand what the issue was with gabby's hair —
especially considering many of her teammates & competitors
were rocking almost the exact same style. additionally,
they're olympians — who cares what their hair looks like?

regardless of scrunchie usage, i was duly impressed with the fierce five.
way to represent, girls! & way to represent girls!