Archive for August, 2008

Three favorites from the summer

It’s Labor Day which signals the end of summer to so many of us.  So, here’s a little tribute of some of my summer 2008 favorites…

Favorite Song:  Brett Dennen’s Ain’t No Reason

Favorite Television Show Moment: 

Favorite Book:  The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan


August 29, 2008 at 11:25 pm 2 comments

GoodSearch with us!


You already know that Circle de Luz is committed to supporting seven young women, starting this fall, on their road to high school graduation and further education by providing scholarships and support.  Now, you can support Circle de Luz, too, by doing something you probably do everyday: using a search engine on the internet or shopping on the internet. is a new Yahoo-powered search engine that donates half its advertising revenue, about a penny per search, to the charities its users designate. Use it just as you would any search engine, get quality search results from Yahoo, and watch the donations add up! is a new online shopping mall which donates up to 37 percent of each purchase to your favorite cause! Hundreds of great stores including Amazon, Target, Gap, Best Buy, ebay, Macy’s and Barnes & Noble have teamed up with GoodShop and every time you place an order, you can support Circle de Luz.

So how does it work?

  • Visit and enter Circle de Luz in the blank where it says Who do you GoodSearch for?  Then hit verify.  Now, you are set up to search (or shop) with credit going to Circle de Luz.    
  • Search the Internet just like you normally would.
  • If you want to see the money totaling up, head back to GoodSearch after your web-search, make sure Circle de Luz’s name is still in the box, and then hit Amount Raised.  You’ll see pennies begin to add up to dollars in no time. 

Do this and help us reach our first fundraising benchmark with GoodSearch!  The GoodSearch fiscal year runs from October 1 until September 30.  With only 33 days remaining in their fiscal year, Circle de Luz has a goal of raising $75 to pay for t-shirts for our seven Class of 2014 scholars.  Won’t you GoodSearch with us? 

Thanks so much! 

August 28, 2008 at 8:26 pm Leave a comment

Thanks, body.

in honor of day one of the body image course I am teaching this semester…

Why, I say, should I ever have bitterly blamed [my body]

 for such trifles as I have blamed it for:

for having too much flesh in this spot, too little muscle in that, for producing this wrinkle,

that sag, that gray hair, or this texture?  Dear body! My dear body!

It has gone about its incessant business with very little thanks.

-Janet Burroway 

This is the opening quote at the top of the syllabus for the body image seminar I am teaching this semester.  I love the reminder it gives to each of us to be grateful, thankful for our bodies- for all they endure and manage and provide.  It encourages us to think differently, to use a different lens when we are looking at our bodies.  There is a time that I would have looked at this photo and lamented my lack of muscle tone, my curvy figure, and the crazy hair that tops it all off (but would have also noticed that the lack of humidity that day helped out immensely).  But, now, I look at this picture and see a girl who was geniunely happy for her friends getting married that day.  Thanks, body.   

August 27, 2008 at 6:39 pm Leave a comment

Sabbatical Wrap-Up

Playing on my blog this weekend, I saw this list of things that I said I would do during my sabbatical.  Funny, I forgot that I had written that list.  But, as it turns out, I must have it embedded into my brain because much of it happened. 

What I wrote then:  Plant an English Ivy patch around a big ole oak tree we have on the right side of our house.  Our house has four enormous oak trees around it- one on each side- but this particular oak tree is a little island patch of soil that can’t grow much because the oak tree’s roots are massive and it’s fairly shaded.  I’m thinking ivy might work there so that it is not just a sad island of acorns, oak leaves, and ragweed.  I bought BF a little herd of recycled art yard animals and I think they’ll reside in this ivy patch to give it some whimsy. 

Reality:  Yep!  My brother came up one weekend and he helped me plant it on a hot, hot, and more hot (and humid) Saturday night.  Then we had pizza on the back porch.  It’s growing like gangbusters and the little recycled art yard animals (a pig, goat, and chicken) look right at home in the patch.  I also picked up an old iron bench for the patch– a great place to sit and take off my running shoes in the morning when I get back from my runs.   

What I wrote then:  Clean out and organize my office.  My files are busting at the seams.  I am a paper hoarder– no surprise, I guess, for a writer since what I am really hoarding are the words on the paper.  But I don’t want my office to be all file cabinets so I’ve got to prune and recycle.

Reality:  Yep!   

What I wrote then:  Clean out our attic.  BF and I are light on clutter.  Neither of us are really that into things and we aren’t all that sentimental about stuff (as opposed to relationships or people where we are sentimental).  Still, when we moved to the little cottage a couple years ago there were things we couldn’t bare to get rid of yet and they are up in the attic.  For example, I just couldn’t get rid of any of my lesson plans from teaching high school history— something I know I am not going to do again (and if I do, would I really need my overhead projection sheets?).  This summer, I am going up there and battling the boxes.  Here’s hoping that my lesson plans on the Stamp Act see their way to a recycling bin.  Now, my notes from high school (and by notes I mean the ones that you passed to one another in the hallway between classes) may have to live on for a few more years. 

Reality:  Mostly true.  We are actually having a yard sale this coming weekend for a bunch of the stuff we found up there that we just don’t need.  The attic cleaning ended with a hysterical moment (both in humor and in the emotion it elicited) when I opened a box this past Saturday and said, that’s so weird, there’s insulation in here . I start throwing handfuls of insulation out of the box when BF realizes that no, that wasn’t insulation.  It was stuffing from the teddy bear that was in the box which could only mean that a mouse had been there.  I jumped and ran and BF wasn’t much happier about it, either.  We had to get that big box out of the attic and into the yard where we gingerly emptied out the box, terrified of what we might find. Oh, the joys of owning an old, old house.  While we might have every possible way for a critter to get into the house itself sealed off, we haven’t mastered keeping them out of the attic.  Aye. 

Left to do: the teaching files.  It was taking way too long so BF agreed to bring down one box per Sunday football game so that should be completed by the time the Souper Bowl comes around.   

What I wrote then:  Book work.  Oh, I have all sorts of book work brewing (in my head).  I have a book proposal that I am beside myself to write and I’d like to find a home for it.  I also have a good portion of it already organized on notecards and then in chapter order, but I’d like to finish organizing those notes and get started writing.  I have another book idea filling up my mind and it needs to find its way into a book proposal so that’s another big To Do.  Finally, I started a novel with NaNoWriMo last year, and I’d like to play with it some more.  Even if it never sees the light of day, it will be satisfying to me and my creativity to write. 

Reality:  one book proposal out.  The notecard box done.  Another one started.  And another book proposal almost complete. 

What I wrote then:  Read a whole lot.  One of my birthday list goals is to read 34 books by my birthday in November.  I am on # 10.  I want this summer to be a power reading summer– both because I miss reading for pleasure and because it fills my creative well. 

Reality:  I’ve read 14 books this summer! 

What I wrote then:  Watch a whole lot of television that I’ve missed.  We didn’t have HBO at the height of the Sex and the City craze so I am planning on knocking out that box set as well as West Wing, The Office, Scrubs, and Seinfeld.

Reality:  I watched some Sex and the City, West Wing, and all of Weeds.  Holy cow, Weeds is a hysterical show. How lucky those writers are! 

What I wrote then:  I am teaching a class on body image in the Women’s Studies Department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this fall so my plan is to get my syllabus planned and all the readings read by the end of June.  It’s an exciting venture for me– it’ll be nice to be back in the classroom once a week for a seminar without being a full-time employee.  But I do wonder it will be like to be up and  at ‘em early to get to the office for 8 am office hours.  Up’s not a problem.  At ‘em is a whole different thing.  I imagine I’ll have lots to share here as I dive into the latest books and articles on body image. 

Reality:  Syllabus done and all but two chapters of the semester readings read.  Now, just have to pick out my first day of school outfit! 

What I wrote then:  Circle de Luz will really take off this summer.  We’ll be officially creating a partnership with a middle school to select our first group of scholars this fall. We’ll be enrolling women in the circle to support the girls, and we’ll be applying for grants.  I am most excited to see how many women join this effort.  For every ten women in the circle, we create at least one scholarship of at least $5000. 

Reality:  The school is chosen, the girls will soon be selected and we’re just $200 away from offering 7 scholarships!

August 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

The First Day of School

So my first day teaching again after a few years is on Friday.  When I was teaching high school, my special treat to myself was a first day of school outfit.  Yep, just like when I was a kid.  I can clearly remember what I wore my first and second year teaching (year one:  Liz Claiborne navy blue knee-length dress, A-line, stopped at my knee, short sleeves, with white crisscross lines on it; year two: Old Navy ankle length straight shift dress, sleeveless, black with white crisscross lines on it– didn’t realize that coincidence until right now- with a white, short sleeve cotton blouse worn open over it).  No clue what I wore in the years after that.   Thinking about first day of school outfits reminds me of this little heartbreaking and hysterical story from my first day of high school (Jenny Wright and Ureka, if you are reading this, you might already be laughing):  my parents couldn’t afford to take me back to school shopping and so my sweet sister (thanks, So) volunteered to take me to the mall to buy me an outfit (from her earnings as a waitress at Applebee’s) for my first day of school.  She bought me these fabulous Esprit dark green, cream and brown plaid long pants (they really were fabulous.  We shared them between the two of us for the next eight years.) and a cream short sleeve shirt.  Anyway, my friend Jenny’s step mom volunteered to drive us to school on our first day and so off we went to high school.  In front of the high school, Jenny hopped out of the front seat and then collapsed the front seat so that I could climb out the back seat.  Except my foot caught on the seat belt and I went face first into the sidewalk in front of our high school– notebooks that had been in my hands flying in every direction.  Jenny, the good friend that she was, quickly helped me up and walked into the school with me, not the least bit embarrassed by me (Thanks, Jenny!).  Looking back, that moment is quintessentially my life– comedy and true friendship, good-humor and scrappiness, faith and hope all piled together. 

I start teaching again this Friday, and I have no idea what I will wear, but I do know that I will do something tragically comic or comically tragic, and it will be the very thing that makes everything go just the way it should for that day and the rest of the semester.  I am looking forward to being back in the classroom and discussing this incredibly important issue– body image in all of its many facets with wonderful young people who are already amazing and are on the cusp of doing so many more miraculous things.  I look forward to sharing what I learn in that classroom with you here just as much as I look forwad to sharing with them what I learn from you here.  Now, I gots to go dig around in my closet.  

** The picture is from my teaching years– chaperoning prom!

August 25, 2008 at 10:49 pm Leave a comment

34 Things Update


I decided to look at my 34 Things to do before turning 35 list (deadline for completion: November 17) today to see how things are coming with the list since I don’t often refer to it.  The cool thing is that the list has become pretty synergistic; even though I don’t look at it all that often, the things on the list are things I really want to happen and so I work towards them anyway.  This is a huge leap forward from 9 or 10 years ago when the list was things that I thought I should do (like learn how to drive stick shift which was on the list for about 3 years before I finally just gave it up) and so I did too many of them reluctantly, liking taking cod liver oil.

Some of the things that I have checked off so far include:  get an assignment in at least 2 magazines out of list of about 5 that I was targetting (I landed in 3, hopefully– their pub dates are October so we’ll see for sure then), take control of my calendar, research scholarship program options and do something with the information, swim with dolphins, learn how to sail, go snorkeling, make a Kiva loan, have at least twelve weeks of a spending freeze, clean out the attic, and reduce my carbon footprint

A few more that are well on their way: my earning goal for this year, read 34 books (24 done and 2 more should be completed this week),   

A few that are a stretch but possible:  remodel the guest bathroom, getting a second book contract (one proposal is out and another is soon on its way out and that’s the part I have control over), complete the novel I started (70 pages are done.  Only 200-250 to go), work up to running 6 miles at a stretch (although the bursitis is kicking my tail),   

A few that probably won’t happen and that’s okay: go to trapeze school, go hanggliding (these 2 crack me up given my fear of heights but it’s not my fear of heights keeping them from happening.  It’s location, location, location), cleaning out my parents’ attic (the spirit is willing; the flesh is weak).

August 24, 2008 at 9:34 pm Leave a comment

Bigger Stronger Faster *

I am looking into media (documentaries, movies, etc) to share with my body image class this fall and came across Bigger Stronger Faster* in my research.  This documentary is directed by Chris Bell who, along with his two brothers, has been a longtime powerlifter and bodybuilder.  They started out at boys who idolized Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger and did everything they could in the weight room to be like their heroes.  Except their heroes were getting juiced— what you see is not always what you get (much like the airbrushed images we see of female models in ads). 

At a crossroads, Bell– who has taken steroids but is conflicted– talks to controversial athletes, physicians, parents, pro-steroid folks, magazine editors, students.  Then he looks into the politics and psychology of steroids.  All along, the question is about what we do to gain the competitive edge– and the “norm” we create with our behaviors.

August 21, 2008 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment


Thanks, Fighting Windmills, for this post idea:

I am: satisfied with how I spent my “sabbatical.” 
I think: that I would like to finish the fiction novel that I started more than a year ago. 
I know: what the next couple books I want to write are… now I just need to write. 
I have: the most wonderful neighbors who make my house feel even more like a home. 
I wish: that the little cottage that could was already just the way we wanted it and not in need of a little renovation. 
I hate: flying.     
I miss: the beach.  Sitting in the surf with a book in my hands is my place of perfect peace.  Any chance someone has a gig to offer where I can just do that everyday? 
I fear: heights.    
I hear: What Not to Wear in the background. 
I smell: Lola (who, thankfully, just had a bath). 
I crave: a Rice Krispie Treat.  How random. 
I search: for the answers to my questions. 
I wonder: if teaching is like riding a bike.  Will I walk into my classroom on August 29th and just be able to do it again? 
I regret: not studying abroad while I was in college. 
I love: football season.  Every Sunday between noon and 1 pm, BF and I sit down with a Subway sandwich and watch the Panthers.  Lola hovers, hopeful that we will drop something.  It is such a peaceful, still moment in our lives (although BF would say that the way that I grumble at the television keeps it from being peaceful).      
I ache: from bursitis in my hip.  Who knew being a writer came with job hazards like carpel tunnel and bursitis from sitting around and typing too much?    
I am not: technologically savvy.  My camera and computer aren’t talking to each other right now.  Rather than mediate, I just stuffed my camera in a drawer.   
I believe: that we must give the world our best. 
I dance: with abandon. 
I sing:  with equal but more painful abandon. 
I cry: when I see vulnerability expressed.  It both breaks and builds my heart. 
I fight: for what I think is right.   
I win: very little.  Once, I won a Holly Hobbie cake from a raffle at my sister’s school.  I was sick, though, when it was delivered to our house and so my family ate it without me.  Hmmm… perhaps this incident has led to my inability to share cupcakes.   
I lose: stuff all of the time.  I lost my glasses (I had back-up lenses) last year, and BF just found them on Friday (while looking for the remote control) hanging between the bedframe and the mattress on my side of the bed.  Let’s not talk about the many times I have said to BF, “The only place my glasses can be is around this bed somewhere” and then made him lift the mattress so I could look around.  Guess without my glasses on, I just couldn’t see ‘em. 
I never: eat grits.  The texture absolutely freaks me out.   
I always: faint at the doctor’s office when they have to take blood.  I am not scared of needles or blood– my blood pressure is just low.   
I confuse: April and August.   
I listen: to music in the car and sing like I’m a rockstar (by that I mean that I impersonate a rockstar.  I, unfortunately, do not sound like one). 
I can usually be found: in front of my laptop. 
I am scared: of sharks which is such a shame because I love surfing.   
I need: time to myself to process and reenergize. 
I am happy about: my new bangs. 
I imagine: a more loving, gentle, and inclusive world. 
I tag: whoever is so inspired. 

Want a blank sheet to do it yourself?  Here you go… (more…)

August 20, 2008 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Mirror, mirror on the wall

the forehead (pre-expression lines) I was beginning to worry about…

the haircut (circa 1992) I have returned to…

I caught a few minutes of What Not to Wear today and was struck by an exchange between Carmindy, the make-up artist, and the woman who was the focus of the episode.  Carmindy walked in and said, “what do you see in the mirror?”  And the woman answered, “my nose.”  “What about it,” Carmindy gently pressed.  “It’s huge.”  “You are looking at yourself the wrong way,” Carmindy insisted.  “When I look at you, I see your bright blue eyes and your beautiful smile.” 

It’s funny how we fixate on things over time. One of my deliberate moves as an adult is to step away from the mirror.  Stay there too long and you can become consummed by what you see.  And I have no desire to be consumed by me.  So when I noticed about a month ago that I was spending time looking at my forehead wrinkles in the mirror, I decided that there had to be an intervention.  An intervention that started with a B.  Nope, not botox.  Bangs.  I was a little nervous sitting in my girl Laura’s chair.  Afterall, how are bangs going to work on a curly girl?  Would I have to wear my hair straight every day and lose a lot of time just because I am taming my forehead obsession?  Turns out, the answer is no.  I can wear my hair curly or straight– I just need to make sure that I blow dry my bangs.  When I wear my hair curly now, I have the exact same hairstyle that I had in high school.  Actually, when I wear it straight, I have the exact same hairstyle as high school, too.  Which is fine.  And I can’t recall the last time I caught sight of any forehead wrinkles in the mirror. 

But I brought up the idea of fixating to talk about the idea of self-objectification and not my bangs.  Self-objectification is when a person takes a third person perspective of the self, viewing one’s body as an object.  If we are self-objectifying, we see ourselves as we PERCEIVE others see us or we create an image of ourselves to please someone else’s gaze (of course, we are interpretting what we believe will be pleasing to another’s gaze).  Stepping outside this gaze of ourselves is critical.  But it isn’t easy to retrain our eye because first we must retrain our mind. 

I just read a fascinating piece by Caroline Heldman from the spring 2008 issue of Ms. Magazine on the notion of this out-of-body image and wanted to share it with you.  What are your thoughts?

August 19, 2008 at 5:54 pm 2 comments

Say it’s not so…

Aye.  Two news stories have me reeling (well, more than 2 news stories have me reeling but these 2 are pertinent to what I deal with here.  And, I reckon, they’re probably not really news in the grand scheme of things but still…)

#1  I can’t believe that the little girl who sang Ode to the Motherland for the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics wasn’t allowed to actually perform during the Opening Ceremonies.  A casting decision?  Say it isn’t so China that on your evolution in the past decade, you adopted our sad, sad Western value of promoting pretty and perfect looking at all costs.  Guess that value isn’t so Western anymore.  Here’s the backstory on the Opening Ceremonies issue and here’s a great article by a Charlotte Observer columnist on the issue. 

#2  J. Love?  I hardly knew you.  Seriously, you just can’t rip TMZ a new one in November for inappropriately critiquing your body (and it was inappropriate) and then grant US Magazine a cover story in August on how you lost 18 pounds in 10 weeks.  Work out if you want to- have at it.  I love a good workout.  Heck, you might even lose weight during those workouts.  Fine.  But voluntarily becoming a cover model with your weight loss?  You can’t have it both ways.  It sends two very different messages in less than a year’s time and contributes to the confusion and mixed messages that are way too common in the body wars.

August 18, 2008 at 6:37 pm Leave a comment

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In a Bookstore Near You

What does it mean to be beautiful in America? For years, pop culture has insisted that beautiful women are tall, thin, and blonde. So what do you do if your mirror reflects olive skin, raven hair, and a short build? Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina offers a provocative account of the struggles and triumphs of Latina forced to reconcile these conflicting realities. Rosie Molinary combines her own experience with the voices of hundreds of Latinas who grew up in the US navigating issues of gender, image, and sexuality. This empathetic ethnography exemplifies the ways in which our experiences are both profoundly individualistic and comfortingly universal.
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