motilium copii

Careful, Your Digital Age Is Showing

Today I received an anniversary notice:

ebay anniversary greetingThat’s right, 12 years of shopping on eBay (and no, I do not plan on buying anything lizard related… apparently my hunt for a “talking lizard” per JavaGirl’s Christmas request has skewed eBay’s perception of me).  When I first shopped on eBay it was to buy hard-to-find Depression Era glassware — I marveled at the ability to find pieces to add to my collection.  I used to only find one or two pieces a year by shopping in antiques stores, but on eBay, I had to restrain myself not to blow my entire paycheck monthly to build out my collection!  How I adored receiving those brown boxes so carefully delivering my coveted pink glassware.  Now, knowing that eBay is always available, my purchases are fewer and my range of purchases can be from the odd to the very mundane, but I hadn’t realized just how long our “relationship” had been until receiving this notice.

Earlier this year I received a letter from LinkedIn, thanking me for being  one of their “early adopters” — as I am apparently one of their first million members and they are now celebrating the milestone of 100 million members.  After learning how to decode people’s numbers, I gleefully went through and checked up on some of my friends, and was amazed at who was amongst the first 50,000 and then pointed out to my high-tech husband that he joined two million members later than I did.  (Want to see how geeky your friends are?  Go to their profile and look at the url:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=NUMBERHERE&trk=tab_pro.  Whatever number listed there is what order they joined LinkedIn. 

I joined AOL July 1995 and I still use my account today.  Sure, I have Yahoo and Gmail accounts as well, but there is something to be said for an account you’ve had for 16 years years.  I’ve had that email account longer than any snail mail address in my adult life.

It’s interesting to me, this recent rash of celebrations from online companies.  I’ve been with my bank since 1994 and haven’t received a similar note, in fact, I mostly receive hassles from them.  Like when they cancelled my debit card while I was out of town because they thought I should have given them prior notice that I had left the state.  (I’ve been with them 17 years and they haven’t learned that I travel frequently.)  Stores I’ve shopped at since I’ve earned my own paycheck have never sent me a note like this.  Organizations I have belonged to longer than I have been married haven’t sent this kind of acknowledgement.

Perhaps it is because organizations who are digital in nature realize both how “new” they were and how fickle customers can be that they seem to be showing so much appreciation lately.  On the one hand, it reminds me I’m getting a bit older; on the other, it’s a nice reminder that it didn’t take long to get onboard and there is a certain sense of satisfaction of being a digital vet while raising “digital natives.”  And to the bricks and mortar companies still in my life — maybe the old dogs could learn a few (not-so) new tricks… of customer appreciation.

Proud To Be a Junior Leaguer

AJLI glowstickTweeting from the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) 89th Annual Conference in Philadelphia brought two very important worlds colliding together.  My decade-long affiliation with a 110-year-old women’s volunteer organization, and my passionate immersion in the tech world including a circle of blogging friends whom I see more often online than in person, and yet feel almost a spiritual kinship to.

The Leaguers are starting to tweet, but aren’t obsessive about it like my blogging friends, and my tweeting friends are mostly not Leaguers, so tweeting about things like the parade of delegates seemed as bizarre as if I were trying to describe the Mad Hatter’s tea party in 140 characters or less.  And yet, because AJLI has made such a concerted effort to move into social media (even writing for the Huffington Post) and because I am a blogger, I felt it was my duty to take great advantage of that hash tag #jlac11to tweet about the conference — both to get the Leaguers tweeting and the tweeters to get an insider’s view of a Junior League Annual Conference.

I have spent the past year serving as President of my local Junior League, the year before that as President-Elect, and several years before that in various leadership positions in the League.  When I tell people that, I get a range of reactions from, “What’s the Junior League?” to “Oh, I’m too old to join the League” or “Where are your pearls and twinset?”  (It’s okay, I get similar reactions to “I’m a blogger.”  They don’t ask about pearls though.)

What better place to dispel some myths than on my blog?

What is the Junior League?

The short answer is that we are a women’s service organization — we are volunteers who make a difference in our local communities — 292 communities in four countries.  The long answer is that we were founded in New York City by a debutante with a social conscience named Mary Harriman.   She mobilized 80 of her friends (thus the name “Junior”) to work to improve child health, nutrition and literacy among immigrants living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Her work inspired her friend Eleanor Roosevelt who joined the Junior League and taught calisthenics and dancing to young girls at the College Settlement House.  Every League has the same mission:  Promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action of trained volunteers.  However, each League may choose its own community focus area, for example: homelessness, literacy, child health, childhood obesity, women’s issues and so on.  The Junior League of Northern Virginia focuses on preparing children in Northern Virginia for success — mentally, emotionally and physically.

Who may join?

Junior Leagues reach out to women of all races, religions and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to voluntarism.  Each League may set its own specific membership requirements, but many have done away with “sponsorship” requirements.  Many also have done away with a maximum age limit (i.e. there is no such thing as “too old”) although many require that you be a minimum age of 21 to apply.  The Junior League of Northern Virginia has no sponsorship requirement, a minimum age of 21, no maximum age requirement.  Because the two largest pools of volunteers are Baby Boomers and Millennials, we are actually seeing many mothers and daughters joining the League together!  (And no,  you do not have to wear pearls or twinsets, many Leagues dress very casually!)

People always ask me questions about whether League members are married or single, with kids or not, working or not, etc.  Take a look at these demographics.   Yeah, those numbers would make any advertiser, sponsor, or advocacy group drool and yet they often forget to look at this incredible resource of women! 

What do Junior Leagues do?

This is the part that makes me most proud.  We all have a limited number of volunteer hours to give and so many organizations asking for them — why give them to the Junior League?  I have spent a decade volunteering with the Junior League and I have received so much from my experience.  One of the very first benefits I received was that I joined the Junior League of Palo Alto Mid-Peninsula (California) and within six months found myself moving to Virginia.  Because we are an international organization, I was able to transfer my membership and had an instant community to help me settle into my new hometown.  What makes me most proud of the Junior League is that for over a century, as an organization, we have been at the forefront of identifying community need and creating a solution.  Time and time again, you see Junior Leagues identify the needs of our society long before other organizations do and swiftly put a plan in place – whether it is addressing the needs of immigrants, milk stations and birth control clinics in the Depression Era, war time efforts during World War II, or even childhood obesity through the Kids in the Kitchen initiative before it became popular to do so.  I tell prospective new members, “When you become a Junior League member, you not only become a member of an individual chapter, you become a part of this Junior League movement, and you help write the next chapter.”  Junior Leagues have built zoos, museums, homeless shelters, libraries and schools.  They have spoken on Capitol Hill as well as in front of state and local lawmakers.  They have advocated for change and have helped create or change laws.  They have raised millions and millions of dollars in their communities.  Junior Leaguers become local civic leaders and often local, state and sometimes national leaders.  Every Junior League committee is a training opportunity for members.  Most Leagues have leadership training series, some are open to the public.  Dollars raised and given to the community are enhanced by volunteer hours provided.  Members are given numerous opportunities to enhance leadership skills inside and outside of the League.  In my own League, I’ve watched women who weren’t being given certain opportunities in their workplace (i.e. to learn social media, to work on PR skills) spending their “spare” time developing those skills inside the League and then launching entirely new careers. 

So when I’m asked if an organization like the Junior League is still relevant today, when so many women, including the majority of our own members are in the workforce, I answer, “You bet!”

It may seem odd to hear about some of our antiquated traditions from the conference — lining up in a parade to represent each League in the order that we joined AJLI and then cracking open a glow stick to help light up the darkened room to demonstrate the spread of the Junior League movement.  Yes, it felt odd, tweeting it.  But sometimes, there is something to be said for traditions that have been around a while.  I’m pretty sure if Mary Harriman were alive today, she would’ve approved of the glow of the glow sticks, the tweeting cell phones, and the faces of the 800+ proud delegates representing their Leagues.

Better Than a BlogRoll…

I learned about Babble.com’s Top 50 Mommy Bloggers list when fellow Silicon Valley Moms Blog network member Jessica Gottlieb was named to it (she’s part of the LA Moms Blog, I’m part of the DC Metro Moms Blog).  In fact, the original Silicon Valley Moms Blog made the cut as well (congratulations, Jill!)  There are a lot of other familiar names on the list, blogs I have been reading and some of them are women I’ve met at BlogHer or traded tweets with on Twitter.  But there are also some I didn’t know — and that’s what I love about the blogosphere — when you accidentally bump into another kindred spirit out in cyberspace. 

Babble recognizes that although the Top 50 are certainly noteworthy, that there are a lot of terrific bloggers out there, and they are letting readers nominate them, and then give a “thumbs up” if someone has already nominated a favorite.  I think that’s pretty darned cool!   So often you see the same names rise to the top (with good reason), and this is a nice effort to broaden the horizons.

A lot of the names on that list are already some of my favorite blogs, and some are going to become new favorites.  Amongst some of my current favorites are Sarah and the Goon SquadToddler Planet, Jodifur, and Wife And Mommy all of whom I have the pleasure of having met in person as well as reading their blogs and they are terrific women as well as terrific writers.   As I scroll through the list, I see more that look intriguing and I’m going to find some time to check them out and you should, too!  (Not that I want you to stop reading here, of course!)

And yes, I’m thrilled that not only did someone include Caffeine And a Prayer, but people other than my husband and mother-in-law gave it a thumbs up!  Thank you!  It means a lot!  If you feel strongly enough about Caffeine and a Prayer to add a thumbs up, it may encourage others to check it out.

In the meantime, I recommend checking out both the Top 50 list and the reader-nominated list — there are a lot of fantastic writers out there worth reading!  One of these days I’ll get around to updating my blogroll…

Texting As Fundraising

KellyNow here’s a use of texting I can get behind.  Texting as a means of fundraising/donating.

Electrolux and celebrity Kelly Ripa have launched a “Text-A-Thon for a Cause” as a way to raise money and support for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF), an organization whose mission is to fund research to find a method of early detection and ultimately a cure for ovarian cancer.   I’m sorry to be late in the game to tell you about this, but since September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, this Text-a-Thon runs through September and by texting “KELLY” to 85944 from your cell phones (standard text messaging rates apply if your plan charges for text messages) you can donate $5 — it will show up on your cell phone bill. 

There are other ways to participate in the campaign.  You can go to www.kelly-confidential.com and donate via the web site, send a “virtual T-shirt to a friend”, or purchase a limited edition T-shirt designed by Kelly Ripa.  For every virtual T-Shirt sent, Electrolux will donate $1 to the OCRF.    For every limited edition T-shirt purchased, 100% of the proceeds will go to OCRF.  In addition to spreading awareness about ovarian cancer and helping raise funds for research, logging onto the web site gives you a chance to win a luxury front load washer and dryer from Electrolux in Turquoise Sky, the color inspired by the teal ribbon of ovarian cancer awareness.  Learn more about the campaign at www.kelly-confidential.com and through this video.

The campaign ends September 30.

Somehow this seems like a much higher purpose for my phone than: cu l8r

I’m Fat

They Shoot Fat Women, Don’t They?  was the title of a 1989 episode of a TV show called Designing Women. In the episode the character played by Delta Burke, Suzanne Sugarbaker, always proud of her beauty queen looks, realized that she was now seen as “the fat girl” by her friends at a high school reunion.  She was awarded the “Most Changed” trophy at her fifteen year reunion, as  a snark at her physical appearance, and she accepted the award with a lovely speech letting everyone know that she was going to take it as a testimony of how she has changed from shallow beauty to a woman of intellectual and emotional substance rather than the hurtful comment on her weight gain it was originally intended.

I remember reading an article about this particular episode a long time ago, because the episode was written specifically to address Burke’s real-life weight gain.  She was a gorgeous, sexy slender woman when hired, and her weight gain became a problem on set between Burke and the show’s producers/writers.  Burke’s weight gain was due to a combination of physical and psychological issues and the more she felt pressured about it, the worse it got.  Since then, her weight has see-sawed and she has launched a line of plus-sized clothing.  At some point she shifted from running from her weight to trying to help others who were heavy feel better about it.

I’m outing myself as a fat woman.  I have been terrified of old friends seeing photos of me online in the shape I am in currently and I have decided to end the terror now.  I’m not happy with my current appearance, but it is what it is.  I continue to struggle and work on it and I’m proud of myself for the things I don’t let it affect and pissed at myself for the things I do let it affect.  I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends online over the past year and I’ve decided if I’m going to be genuine, I’m going to have to have to stop hiding.  Yes, some are going to say/think unkind things.  There is a certain ex-boyfriend out there who will certainly do so and probably thank God he didn’t marry me after all.  There’s a reason why he’s an ex.

But as I’ve come to learn over the past year, most of us really don’t give a damn how any of us look these days, we’re just glad to reconnect about the common experiences we had growing up together and then the experiences we’ve had apart in geography but yet in common in experience as we’ve moved through those milestones in our careers and personal lives.   I am so much more than my outer shell, I always have been, and I always will be.  We all are.  No matter how thin I get again, I will never look at anyone’s physical appearance the same way again. 

The Journey

All my life I have struggled with body image.  Growing up in Miami surrounded by half-clothed people, how could I not?  When I was 105 pounds in high school, I was always self-conscious of my not-perfectly-flat stomach.  Heck, I guess it started even before that, it started when I was in ballet class at Martha Mahr studio, where we were required to wear a thin, black elastic around our waist so she could see if our stomach bulged at all beyond the elastic.  I did not win the genetic lottery when it came to stomach muscles, even at my thinnest, I never had that perfectly taut stomach.  I stopped wearing bikinis for the most part at age 11.  I wanted to go wind surfing with friends in high school on Hobie Beach, but I was constantly terrified of how I would look to others in my swimsuit.  Do you have any idea of how much I would kill to have that figure and weight again these days?  That weight would not be realistic for me as a grown woman now, but I wish I could shake that insecure girl by the shoulders and say “get out there and enjoy life!  Put on that bathing suit and have fun!” I still hate wearing a bathing suit now and have many more reasons to be self-conscious, but I refuse to let my insecurity get in the way of my kids having fun at the pool and the beach, so I boldly go forth in my swimdress in public where I would not have taken my 105-pound-self before 20 years ago.

In college, I had my highs and lows, but I had to get my high down quickly as I was there to be a broadcast journalist and we know fatties were not allowed on TV — in the age of Oprah we’re a little more forgiving now. 

I was so afraid of the Freshman Fifteen that I actually lost weight my first semester. But I gained a little my sophomore year.  All it took was a comment from my steady boyfriend about his “mother being concerned about (my) weight” for me to go into a tailspin about it.  I lost the weight thanks to a very stringent diet and doctor-prescribed pills.  By my senior year I was anchoring the morning news and reporting for the evening news.

In my early twenties, I realize now that I managed to date a series of guys who wanted me to be their trophy girlfriend and who terrorized me about any incremental weight gain — a 5-10 pound weight gain was enough to threaten our relationship.  And I’m ashamed to admit that I allowed myself to buy into that.  I’m much too smart and always have been much too smart to fall victim to that.  But I did.  And I regret it.  Fortunately I never married any of those men and I was wise enough to always have a certain threshold which I would not cross — you can only step so far until I cry foul. 

In 1995 I was in a terrible hit and run accident that knocked both my knee caps out of place, cracked my ribs, nearly dislocated my neck, gave me very bad whiplash, and a prominent bruise from the seat belt that was looked like a purple beauty sash – Miss Car Accident 1995.  My car caught on fire and I was fortunate that one of the witnesses to the accident was a nurse who ran over and helped me.  I was taken to the hospital by ambulance and for the first 20 minutes or so my brain was so scrambled that I wasn’t sure what year it was, I was off by 10 years.   This accident ultimately led to three knee surgeries over a two-year period and chronic neck and back pain and the beginning of a history of migraine headaches.  This accident, naturally, derailed my walking program and did lead to weight gain.  I still have residual effects from the accident and can be perfectly fine and then one false move and can have knee pain for weeks.

One very positive thing about this accident — it in a way, led to JavaDad (still at this point, just a childhood friend) and I getting together as a couple — although it took a while.  When the pain meds would wear off in the middle of the night, 3am to be exact, and my chest would spasm with pain, he would let me call him in Miami to help keep myself calm until the next set of pain meds kicked in.  He had, already, by this point, told me he loved me, but we couldn’t quite get our act together to be in the same state yet, so we didn’t end up dating until three years after the fact.  But the act of devotion of talking to me on the phone at 6am his time while I was in pain, meant a lot to me Our wedding, 2002After the car accident, my weight went up and down, more health issues have come and gone, including two very difficult pregnancies and my son stretching my stomach muscles 5 inches apart (I need to get that surgically repaired) and my trigeminal neuralgiaBut the biggest struggle has been with my mind. I still hate thinking of myself as a fat woman.
 I tried to hide from it.  But then I had to accept it.  And I had to stop letting  it stop me from doing things. 

Which I have, except when it comes to dealing with people from my past. I never thought a fat woman could rise to the top of the Junior League, but these wonderful women saw that I am more than my weight and the League is not about appearances despite all jokes about cardigans and pearls — we are about developing the potential of WOMEN, not judging body types.  I have made many wonderful friends here in Virginia who have never made me feel conscious of my weight (although yes, I have met some women who did discriminate against me due to my weight).  But I have always been afraid of “what will people back home think” if they saw me now? Well, I don’t know.  I’m a woman whose had a successful career (two, in fact), married a childhood friend who has loved me at 105 pounds and has loved me at significantly more than that, has two fantastic kids, is involved in her community, edited a book, lauched a blog, and tries to be good to her friends and family.  And struggles with her weight.  What do the people back home think?  I’ve decided to let go of the terror and let it be.  I will no longer hold back on posting photos and sharing videos.  If you are my friend, you’ll now know that I struggle, but you’ll already know that I’m so much more than what the camera sees.  I suspect you struggle with something, too.  And you know what, I wouldn’t be any less of a friend to you for it — whether you are balding, divorced, never married, fat, too skinny, never had kids, unemployed or whatever other thing you might fear being judged for in this society where we can judge each other for so many things by the time you reach our age, take a deep breath and let it go.  Whatever it is, accept it and then move on and make the best of your situation and your life.  I’m refusing to let terror hold me back any more — I hate to think of the opportunities and joys I’ve squandered already and I refuse to anymore. 

And for everyone who is thin or athletic, I hope the next time you see a fat person riding a bike, going for a walk, working out at the gym, you’ll silently think, “Good for you for being out there and doing it!”

And JavaDad, I love you.  Thanks for loving me through thick and thin (or thin and thick).