Monthly Archives: July 2015

A mom’s journey from denial to advocacy

When my beautiful daughter was diagnosed with severe anorexia in 2013, I was gobsmacked.  The first days were spent coming up with a hundred irrational rationalizations and alternative reasons for her severe weight loss.  Soon enough our new reality sank in: this was serious and this was not going away quickly or easily.

We embarked on a journey to a then foreign land of meal plans, therapies, and hospitalizations.  For me it was an immersion-like education program in EDs:  I camped out in her hospital room and talked to all the providers and therapists.  I read voraciously and trolled the internet for information during the wee hours of the night.  Little did I know that, for me, this journey would continue beyond my daughter’s eventual recovery.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to get involved in advocacy work.  Once again,  I came up with a hundred rationalizations and reasons for NOT getting involved:  I am too busy and don’t have time;  I’m ‘just’ a mom—there are others who are more qualified;   What if I make people uncomfortable; What if people judge me because MY daughter was sick; and what exactly CAN I do?

While I was stuck in waffle mode; I read Amy Poehler’s book:  “Yes, Please”.  When asked how she manages her own hectic schedule; her reply went right to the heart of my personal dilemma:

“You do it because the doing of the thing IS the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. “

The DOING is the thing.  That struck a chord.  I was (almost) ready to get off of the proverbial pot.  Then I went to the 2014 NEDA Conference in San Antonio.   The Conference was amazing.  I was able to meet and speak with other parents, with providers and with individuals in various stages of recovery.  We shared stories: Stories of loss; stories of unconditional love and support; stories of suffering; stories of hope; stories that would break your heart; and stories that would lift you up.

Once back home, I was pumped up, but was still wondering–what can I do?   I’m not a doc or a therapist, I’m an IT Project manager for heaven’s sakes.  I plan and organize stuff.  Then I heard it- that CLICK you hear in your own head when the penny drops and a solution to a puzzle appears:  I can coordinate a walk.

I learned that NEDA provides a HUGE amount of support for its walks; including an email blast to recruit members for a walk committee. I was fortunate enough to get awesome volunteers for my committee (really – they ARE the secret sauce).   NEDA provides step by step guidelines and support from a staff member; it’s been wonderful to know that whenever I have a question I can send an email or pick up the phone.

We formed our Walk committee early — in January and our walk is in September.  This gave us time to familiarize ourselves with the walk process, get to know each other, and to develop and share great ideas.   Have I mentioned that my committee is AWESOME?

Coordinating this walk has been a journey of discovery for all of us.  We’ve all had to step out of our comfort zone to pick up the phone to call a media contact, a potential speaker, or a donor. Despite an initial dry spell in our efforts, we doubled down, refined our pitch, and are now reaping the benefits in positive responses from in-kind donations, speakers and financial support.  Heck, we even got some caps and totes from the Packers to give away as prizes!

Every step of the journey we think of new ideas: some of which will bear fruit, and others that are filed away for ‘next time’.  As I write this, our walk is less than two months away, and I am really pumped up to see the walker registrations and donations climb as the event gets closer.  We’ve laid the groundwork for an AWESOME event.   Of course small things can (and probably will) go wrong—it might rain, a speaker might bomb; I might get so nervous that I pee myself; but we’ll cope with whatever happens.

If I can coordinate a walk – so can you!  My advice is to not limit yourself with self-doubts.  I had exactly zero prior experience with non-profit charity fund raisers.  If you have decent organizational and communication skills and a passionate commitment to preventing and treating eating disorders:  You already have what it takes.  NEDA can and will provide tools and guidance along the way.

That’s my story and my pitch.  If you are interested in tracking the progress of our walk – check it out at Madison NEDA Walk.  Madison is going to ROCK this Walk!



Shame on the Shamers!

Shortly after I posted about Serena’s accomplishments, I found this: Serena shaming examples.

At least there seems to be a discussion on the topic – as the author of the posted cited above states:    Fortunately, as online critics have also been quick to point out, the continued shock and awe that Williams’ body does not conform to some tiny little white girl paradigm is outrageously narrow minded and insulting.

Why is it that a woman’s body is considered an open target for judgement and criticism?   Serena has proven beyond a shadow of ANY doubt – that she is simply the best at what she does.   She is an athlete, and she (and we) should  be proud of her strong, muscular body.  She (and her body) deserve our respect and admiration; and I simply cannot fathom the depths of the judgmental self-righteous arrogance that seems to compel haters to jump in with their irrelevant and insulting criticisms of one of the greatest athletes of any generation.

And then there is This NY Times Article about the body image issues in women’s tennis.  The article  gives credence and valuable editorial real estate to the view that many players prefer to be more ‘feminine’ (read: tiny, quiet and white)  in appearance.   The label ‘feminine’ is subjective at best, and racist and sexist at worst.  It has been (and appear to continue to be) used to defend the undefensible stereotype that women should be small, quiet and demure, versus being our true selves-selves that come in a wide range of sizes, colors, volumes, personalities, skills and strengths.

More power to Serena and other women who are unapologetically STRONG, Powerful, Smart, Fearless, and Outspoken vs. trying to conform to someone else’s stereotype of what a ‘real’ woman should be.

It reminds me of the words of Sojourner Truth regarding the condescending definition of femininity of her generation; a definition that was used as justification for denying women basic rights such as the vote and the ability to own property in their own names:

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”


The Serena Slam

Serena Williams just won her 22nd Grand Slam Title: She is now the current owner of ALL the grand slam singles titles:  The US Open, The Australian Open, The French Open, and  now: Wimbledon.   If she wins the US Open again this fall, she will also win the calendar slam — last accomplished by Steffi Graf 1988.

It is virtually impossible to overstate the magnitude of her accomplishments on the tennis court.  Roger Federer (the most dominant male player of the Open era) has won 17 titles to Serena’s 22.  Serena has only lost 3 times in a grand slam final.  The win today at age 33  is 17 years after her first Grand Slam win at age 17.   That is an entire generation in tennis years.   She has experienced a couple slumps, but she is back, stronger, more passionate than ever and playing a level of tennis that is well above any of her competitors.

Yet… why, oh why hasn’t the media adopted her as a US sports icon?  Why does a much less successful player make much more in endorsements?   Serena is the most successfully athlete (male or female) in any sport for the last 15 years.   In addition to being a world-class athlete, she is intelligent and engaging.   I suspect Serena WOULD be a predominant media darling if she were white, blond and willowy.

Serena has experienced racism, she has experienced sexism.  But what is even more disturbing to me (and believe me, the first two points are extremely disturbing):   she has experienced hostility and shaming due to her muscular build. She has curves (the woman has a veritable Rack) and amazing muscle definition.   In other words – she experiences hostility for looking like what she is:  A world class athlete.

Tennis players, like all human beings,  come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Some are very slender; others are very muscular, some are curvy, some are flat; and there are many permutations in-between.  I admire and respect both Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, but it hurts my heart and head to know that the Marias of the world will (seemingly) always get the lion’s share of our cultural attention and admiration due to their …. looks;  specifically the type of looks that we have defined as being exceptionally attractive.

If ever met Serena;  I would pick my jaw up from the floor, get her autograph and take a selfie with her; the natural next step would be for me to become her new best friend, and engage in long deep conversations about what has been most challenging to her in her illustrious career.  I would like to know her thoughts on the matter of body-shaming as it applies specifically to her and to women athletes in general.

Until then, Serena will continue to do her talking on the court; and she has a LOT still to say!


Gamma’s lament

The twin two-year-old grand girls are absolutely besotted with GAMPA!   He makes up silly games, makes faces, and tickles them just right – until they are giggling and snorting away.  He is a veritable Fun Machine.

Gampa Dan loves his little nietas; despite the look of terror that crossed his face when little X1 grabbed his finger and announced she had po-po in her pants.  Gamma is definitely the go-to-grandparent when there is po-po to deal with.

The girls are talking more and more.  Dan and I have both been anticipating the moment when they call us Gamma and Gampa.   During our many Facetime chats, X1 had started to enthusiastically call out “GAMPA” when we jointly appeared on her mom’s iphone.  I am TOLD she said GAMMA many times out of my hearing; but when I was listening…. it was GAMPA all the way.

It soon became a running joke… heightened by my frustration in not hearing them say ‘GAMMA’. We visited the lil darlins (and their parents) over the last couple of days; during which their mother, Kelly,  tried (largely in vain) to get them to say Gamma.  It went something like this:

  • Me:  Sitting in a chair with a dog in my lap
  • Kelly (pointing to me):  Who is that?  Who is sitting in the chair?
  • X1:  “Wow-Wow!”  (her word for a dog)
  • Kelly:  (pointing to me) Who is that – who is next to gampa?
  • X1:  (joyously)  GAMPA!!!!
  • Me:  Holding X2
  • Kelly:  (Pointing to me):  Who is that – who is holding your sister?
  • X1:  Silence… working on a puzzle.
  • As we were leaving:
  • Me:  (standing far apart from Gampa) Bye-Bye X1!!
  • X1:  Bye Bye Gampa!
  • Repeat about 12 times

As we sat down to lunch one day, Gampa was taking a work-related call and did not join us right away. X1 pointed at him and announced loudly:  “GAMPA – EAT!”

X1 did ultimately call me Gamma a few times: more than enough to melt  my heart and forgive her  excessive, but understandable,  enthusiasm for all things Gampa.