Girlfriend Power

On The PBS Newshour last Thursday, the day after President Obama’s visit to Tucson, the top of the news was about his visit with Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other wounded victims in the hospital, and his remarkable speech that followed. Until that day, the specifics of Giffords’ physical abilities, responsiveness, or improvement were being carefully guarded by her surgeons, who wanted to wait until she was out of critical condition before making any statements to the public. This was based on the desire not to mislead or provoke the media with any information that was not yet absolute in its determination regarding her status or medical prognosis. Then, during his speech, Obama told us that Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time that very afternoon.

What prompted her to open her eyes that afternoon? In part: girlfriend power.

The Newshour’s Jeffrey Brown interviewed Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, a dear friend of Giffords who, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, was at Giffords’ bedside when the eye-opening incident occurred.  This is part of the transcript from that interview:

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, you described this as feeling like a—quote—“miracle.” Tell us what happened.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-Fla.): Well, I was—we all were so full of joy to be able to be by the bedside of our good friend Gabby, and never expected anything like what happened.

We were just talking to her like girlfriends talk to each other, and urging her on, and encouraging her recovery. And, at one point, Senator Gillibrand, Kirsten, was holding her hand, and rubbing her hand, and Gabby actually was rubbing back with her thumb.

And then Kirsten was talking about, “You know, Gabby, come on. You have got to get better quick, because we’re going to go back out for pizza like we did a couple weeks ago.”

Then I said—we have vacationed with them for the last couple summers. So, I said to her, “Gabby, you have got to get better as quick as you can, because we’re expecting you back in New Hampshire this summer.”

And then, right when I said that, she—her eyes started to open just a little bit with slits, but, definitely, you could see she was struggling to get them open. And Mark, her husband, said, “Oh, Gabby, you know, honey, if you can—if you can see me, give me the thumbs-up sign.”

And she didn’t—she didn’t respond with the thumbs-up sign. She—her eyes closed again. They opened. She kept trying a few more times, got them open a little bit more, a little bit more. Mark kept encouraging her on. We were talking, tears streaming down our face.

And Mark finally said, “Honey, if you can see me”—her eyes were open a little bit more—“then give me the thumbs-up.”

And, all of sudden, her arm flew up. She touched his arms. He said, “Honey, touch my ring if you can hear me.” She did.

We were just overcome with emotion. It was absolutely—the doctor—I’m sorry—the doctor got very animated, said this is incredible progress. He suddenly whips out his BlackBerry. He’s furiously typing on it. It was just an incredible moment. It really was.

JEFFREY BROWN: Yes, you said that the—yes, this took the doctors by surprise as well, right? I think you said last night that he—he referred…


JEFFREY BROWN: … to it as the power of friendship.


When we left the hospital room, when they kind of ushered us out and said, OK, enough excitement for—for one—for one period, we went out and talked to Dr. Lemole, the one who’s been so wonderful on TV explaining what’s going on.

And he said, “Look, I usually discount emotion and the impact of emotion or friendship, but,” he said, “we clearly witnessed the power of friendship here.”

And so we were very happy that our girlfriend power could make a little bit of a difference.

It warmed my heart to hear that story. Love can be so powerful.  It made sense to me that their voices, love, and collective and determined desire to connect with her, helped Giffords’ motivation and ability to open her eyes, and to respond.

I thought about my own dear girlfriends and about my Love, Henri.  How much I love them and how much love they’ve also given me. During difficult times, they’ve all been there, supporting me, cheering me on, and reminding me that everything will be okay. Staying patient through serious bouts of adversity was largely possible because of that love and support. And of course, they were right. I came through to the other side. As they knew I would.

All I can say is that I thank the Universe for the power of Girlfriends and the power of Love.


Let’s Keep it Going (Or: Ode to Gloria)

I worry that 20- and 30-somethings all believe that it was always like this. That all jobs were always open to women as well as men, that education was an equal opportunity for women, that women’s sports programs were always available in schools, that women could always choose whatever last name they wanted to go by after marriage – keeping their own, adopting their husband’s, or hyphenating. That they always had the choices we have now.

I’m here to remind them that we didn’t. Having lived through the ‘60s and ‘70s, I can recall the blatant, unquestioned sex discrimination, the limited choices, and the contempt for women who wanted more. “More” meaning   to not have to deal with obstacles erected because of gender or custom.

I am grateful that my own transition into adulthood coincided with the rise of such brilliant and brave women as Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, and the numerous others who risked everything by not taking no for an answer. (Read Gloria’s DTBF story, “On Self Esteem.”)

Before I even heard their names, I and many other girls my age had already experienced the frustration of being shut out from opportunities that were readily available to the boys our age. I remember specifically applying for a summer internship with the government that would allow the successful candidate to spend time in each department, to include a week’s ride-along with the city police. Because I had planned to major in the political and social sciences and was an honor student, I knew the internship would be a perfect fit. At least something I could shoot for.

I was not even allowed to apply for the internship because, I was told, “you’re a girl.” Hard to believe now, but true. Ever the optimist, on the day the interviews were scheduled, I put on my best interview outfit and reported to the guidance counselor’s office, asking to be seen. Told no again “because I was a girl,” I asked him why that was the policy and why that precluded me, a perfect candidate for the position, from even having an interview. The guidance counselor then patiently and explained to me that the police ride-along was the issue.

Not comprehending, I asked the reason for that. He looked uncomfortable. It was because, he said, it would entail me, a 16-year-old girl, being alone in a squad car with a male police officer. What would his wife think? What if we were in a compromising position? OK, I was still lost. I had never even heard the phrase “compromising position” before.  But I knew it must be something unsavory that was somehow my fault for being female.

Looking back, I realized that I and every other female student was refused that opportunity because either : a) all men are too unprofessional and bent on attacking 16-year-old girls at the first opportunity; or b) we were all tempting little tartlets just waiting to seduce an older man in uniform with a paunch and a three-pack-a-day habit. Nice.  I wonder they didn’t make us wear burkhas.

Angry about this and other injustices I experienced against myself and other girls and women, I remember the wonderful epiphany of hearing women like Gloria and  the resonance of the wonderful new word “Feminist.” Like the suffragists before them, these women were reviled and ridiculed, subject to the cruelest and most debasing insults and criticisms. Not to mention torture, imprisonment, and commitment to insane asylums. All resonant of Medieval or Calvinistic witch burnings. And still they kept on. They kept speaking. They kept writing. They kept leading.

In college, in the male-dominated major of law enforcement, I was constantly having to justify my presence to the majority male students, but I was now lucky to have the support of a more enlightened faculty. I felt buoyed by Gloria – I almost wanted to be her. I wore aviator-framed glasses just like hers  with  jeans, turtlenecks and boots (Gloria’s uniform), and reveled in the kinship I felt.

Things progressed for women as the ‘70s progressed, but the going was still tough . After marrying, I kept my own name (I refuse to use the ridiculous, laughably archaic term “maiden name.”) Thus began my battle with the IRS. It seemed that a couple could not file a joint return if they had different last names. I continued to refuse to use my husband’s last name on our return until after months, they finally I think just got sick of me and just gave up. After all, they couldn’t make me change my name, even though that at first seemed like kind of a revelation to them.

I’m proud to have been at the forefront of change. I am just sad that younger women today have no idea how we even got here, and are so willing to even give some of it back.  They have no idea how much thanks are due women like Gloria Steinem and others who were willing to risk everything to bring the rest of us forward. I am grateful for their fearlessness and their fabulousness. I am grateful for their leadership and their strength.


Two important websites  I  recommend: Name It. Change It and   Vital Voices

While we’re making other plans

In his song, “Beautiful Boy,” written for his son Sean, John Lennon sings,“life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  I love that quote. It’s a great statement; simple and profoundly true.

The unexpected is part of the deal, whether we like it or not. We simply can’t control everything.  Shit happens and stupendous “good luck” happens, too. Most of the time, it’s something in-between.  Life is meant to be a little bit messy.  If nothing else, experience teaches us this.

When I was seven, I had spent my entire life in Madrid. I considered myself a Spaniard, despite my American father and Canadian mother, because I spoke only Spanish and attended Spanish schools. To my dismay, my parents announced that we would be leaving my beloved España and moving to India. It was time for me to learn English, they told me, because we would soon be attending an international school. I was shocked.  How could this be? I vowed not to make any effort to learn English that summer.  I had a terrible attitude in class and purposely failed my tests in protest. Did it help? Naah. We moved anyway.

It was a harsh and quick lesson. My life was going to be influenced by a lot more than any of my construed desires. Flowing with change, particularly when there was no control, and choosing assimilation, was the best way to go. Of course, I was a child, so I wasn’t capable of planning a damn thing; I was just along for the ride. But I immediately learned the value of accepting change, if not even trying to embrace it a little. In a matter of months, I became pliant. No longer the solid Oak, but the flexible Maple, as it were. In fact, what I had struggled so hard against happening actually became an unexpectedly exciting journey.

My family moved to new countries several more times after that, and each new country, each new school, each new culture and home, reinforced the value of pliancy. Lots of things didn’t go as planned or hoped, but what I learned with experience, was that the more flexible I was, the more in the moment I could be. I enjoyed honing  my improvisational and personal skills that arose in response to doses of the unplanned or unforeseen. The stimulus of change also began to make me feel alive and renewed. I even felt constrained by a certain degree of self-definition that arose after too much time in one place, and too much routine. Each time we moved, I discovered new aspects of myself.  I wasn’t just Johanna to new friends. I was Yojana, Yoyo, Jo, Yoey, or Yo, depending on the country.

Malleability to new surroundings has been a key ingredient to finding serenity in my own life. Tragedies have also struck, as they do with all of us.  My dad passed away unexpectedly when he was only 54 years old. I had just turned 21 when that happened.  A few years later, my mother’s home burned down in the Oakland hills fire and all the physical remnants of our family history turned to ash. A Korean chest filled with over 30 photo albums from all of our years abroad was gone. Our furniture, art, and all of our collected memorabilia and history disappeared in a great flash. We were left with absolutamente nada to reflect our previous existence in a physical way.

Any sense of permanency in life remained absent. I never counted on anything, but I didn’t see that as being cynical. I chose to focus on what was in front of me and tried to fully appreciate it in the here and now. Everything was ephemeral and I treated it as such.

Though I have come to a different place in life, with many years of stability and routine, I still keep in mind that nothing is permanent and I continue to go with the flow as best I can. Shit certainly happens. Unfortunately, there ain’t no getting away from that, unless you’re a true Yogi.  But it’s equally important to note that unexpected good things happen, too  All the time. It’s important to remember that, especially if fear gets the best of us or if we start to feel rigid about wanting things to happen exactly the way we planned.

I figure the best we can do is try to go with the flow as best we can, pay attention to the here and the now and value that as the ‘present’ that it is, and to remain open to the new and unexpected.  We might as well, right?


Granny D was a walking example

On March 9, longtime political activist and fabulous DTBF story contributor Doris “Granny D” Haddock passed away. She was 100 years old. “Granny D” started generating media attention at the tender young age of 89. That was in 1999, when this amazing woman decided that she would walk across America to raise awareness of campaign finance reform. During this cross-continental walk, Haddock slept in tents, scaled mountain peaks, walked through deserts, and gave passionate speeches on the need for reform.  Just after turning 90, and 3,200 miles later, she reached her ultimate destination of Washington, D.C., greeting thousands of supporters upon her arrival. (Granny D’s DTBF story is an excerpt from her book, “Walking Across America in My Ninetieth Year.”)

A few years later, after turning 94, Haddock ran as a Democratic nominee for a newly opened Senate seat in New Hampshire. Film-maker Marlo Poras documented her campaign for this seat in the film “Run Granny Run.” Poras was in her early ’20’s and says “filming her was the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done – and the most inspiring.”

May Haddock’s courage, conviction, and message continue to be an inspiration to people everywhere.


Bigelow for the Oscar

As the 2010 Academy Awards approach on Sunday and we round the corner to “International Women’s Day” on Monday, March 8, I thought I’d take this opportunity to champion the few fabulous female film directors who have received a Best Director nomination for the Oscars in its 61-year history. May this year mark a first WIN.

The Swiss born Lina Wertmuller was the first of the female Best Director Oscar nominees, when she was nominated for the 1976 Italian film, “Seven Beauties.” Her film was up for four Oscars and won for Best Screenplay, which she also wrote. New Zealand-born Jane Campion came next, as the director of the 1993 award winning film, “The Piano,” which received a total of eight Academy Award nominations and won three (Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay, also written by Campion.) The next nominee was America’s Sofia Coppola, nominated for “Lost in Translation” in 2003. This film garnered four nominations and like the others, also won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, written by Coppola . This year, Kathryn Bigelow, an American, has been nominated for the film, “The Hurt Locker” which has a total of nine Oscar nominations.

There’s been a lot of discussion about Bigelow being a novelty of sorts, due to the fact that she directed a movie about war and has a track record of choosing films that are fast paced and action centered. She takes a little umbrage at this “novelty” angle and simply describes herself as a film maker, gender aside, who happens to have an interest and a knack for this genre of film. She’s fielding journalistic queries by talking simply about her personal style. Her gender, she says, should be irrelevant.

I believe Bigelow deserves to win the Oscar for Best Director this year. Her film idea came about after she read a series of articles by journalist Mark Boal, who was embedded with a bomb squad unit in Iraq. She found the subject compelling and Boal came on board as her screenwriter. In making the film, Bigelow’s mission was to make everything as realistic as possible- to viscerally bring the audience into the bomb squad’s experience, instead of granting them a safe sense of detachment. To this end, she cast relatively unknown actors in principal roles, with better known actors playing the smaller characters. In addition, she shot the film almost entirely in Jordan, under extreme 110-150 degree heat, with the actors seeking cover inside Bedouin tents when they weren’t working.

I have watched several interviews with Bigelow and she references her background as a painter and multi-media artist as a big influence in her style as a film director. It’s definitely notable here. In “The Hurt Locker” she uses hand-held cameras to bring the audience into the story and to give it a documentary feel. This is not a film shot with beautiful, velvety cinematography. It is gritty, jumpy and rough. The soundtrack, too, is well considered. It draws you in. It’s pulsating, like your heart beat and it stokes that feeling in the pit of your stomach that something dangerous is looming. You feel like you’re among the soldiers, facing the situation equally.

“The Hurt Locker” is not a shoot-’em-up, bang, bang kind of film. This is a film that depicts what being at war is like in Iraq (and now, for that matter, in Afghanistan,) where the extreme heat and rugged topography challenge you daily; where your enemy is often hidden among civilians; and where every step you take can result in tripping an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D.) and causing a massive explosion. Bigelow captures it all and has your heart racing with suspense and fear from the very beginning of the film.

If you haven’t seen this film, do so. If you don’t like war films in general, then this might be the argument for why her gender makes a difference. It’s not like other war films. Yes, it’s gritty and it’s suspenseful and it has all the makings of the genre in this way, but Bigelow’s directorial touches and the film’s central focus on the characteristics of individuals who actually choose to be on an Army bomb squad…moving toward the danger every day…makes it riveting in a whole new way.



Brave in Ribbons by Patti Howard

This post is from Patti Howard.

“Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out
but poorly in a twice-turned gown, but brave in ribbons,
which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and
she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of
her daughters, also brave in ribbons … .”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

This is my favorite Dickens quote. I’ve always wanted to write about it because, to my knowledge, it has been inexplicably overlooked. Yet the very first time I read it, it struck me deeply. In its simplicity and seemingly throwaway description of a hardworking and stoic woman waiting cheerfully for her beleaguered husband to come home so they can begin their meager, heartfelt Christmas celebration, volumes are said about the resilience of women in general.

A twice-turned gown – meaning it the skirt, sleeves, and neckline have been rehemmed more than once to hide fraying and wear – is a testament to Mrs. Cratchit’s pride, and sense of pride in herself, that she is not defeated by the poverty and appalling working conditions that typified not only her husband Bob Cratchit’s at the hands of Ebenezer Scrooge, but the conditions of workers and families in newly industrialized England itself. And, further, she adorns the gown with ribbons – cheap and pretty – that undoubtedly lifted her spirits for the celebration of the holiday that she was determined to make memorable for her family. She was indeed brave. And brave in ribbons.

I love Mrs. Cratchit. She is a minor character in A Christmas Carol, yet she epitomizes the best in women – the strength, the ability to take care of as many as need caring for in whatever situation, the ability to take charge, and the depth of the commitment they are able to show loved ones. And to occasionally look pretty while doing it all. (Which, let’s face it, makes everyone feel better.)

The year is ending. She has endured the trials and tribulations of yet another one. She is ready to celebrate. And the nicest part for me is that she has clearly even passed this on to her daughter, Belinda, “ … also brave in ribbons.”

Whatever we have been through during the year, it’s nearly at an end. We’re still here. We’ve survived it in some fashion or other, at least for now. We tended to those we care about, and maybe even made someone happy, whether we knew it or not. We can fly our flags – our pretty ribbons of endurance. At least we should. I urge you all to just say “I did it”! It might not have been much in your eyes or the eyes of others, but I’ll bet it really was. And then put on the clothes that make you feel special, however old and worn or new and sparkly they might be.

You are brave. Now be brave in ribbons. And tell your daughters.


Photo: Hermione Baddeley, A Christmas Carol, 1951.

Fab Celeb Updates

Check out our Celebrated Contributors page for an updated roster of notable women who have shared (or plan to share) their own DTBF stories. Below are some of their latest updates. (Click on their names to link to their DTBF stories!)

Ginny Lambrix

“I am now the Director of Winemaking and Viticulture at Truett Hurst. We have launched a new brand- VML- named after me and dedicated to Pinot. Very cool… And I have a nice little flock of goats and sheep… Perhaps the biggest news is that Jon and I are expecting a baby boy in February…. So lots of changes, all good. My first company picture was wearing my DTBF tee shirt!”

Renel Brooks Moon

Renel on the mike during her last show on Kiss FM

After 25 years of hosting 98.1 KISS FM’s “Renel in the Morning,” Renel Brooks-Moon has decided to step down. The radio station hosted a party in her honor and pictures and message boards are linked on their website, linked above, for her fans to visit. Meanwhile, Renel continues to be the public announcer for the San Francisco Giants. It’s been 10 years and she’s enjoying every minute! Read a recent interview with Renel, “Off radio but still at microphone,” published in the San Francisco Chronicle on August 27th.

Jill Robinson

Jill addressing the audience at the Second China International Animal and Nature Film Festival


Jill was in Chengdu for workshop meetings and events on site, then in Southern China as an invited participant for the Second China International Animal and Nature Film Festival in Sichuan province. Her China team was invited to join the event, which recognizes local and international filmmakers. The following quote is an excerpt from Jill’s blog:

“On the last night, it was like a scene out of Hollywood, with thousands of people crowded together in a huge auditorium, together with film crews shooting for live transmission on TV. “ While on stage to hand out a documentary award, Jill used the opportunity to discuss the endangerment of sharks and pandas along with re-iterating the need for China to stop the cruel practices inflected on her beautiful moon bears. She continues in her blog, “Now, since the festival, we’ve had several fairly high-profile people in both local and international film and media asking if they can come along and visit the bears – and so the message widens and perhaps our little piece of heaven in Chengdu will convince them to do more.”

Never resting, Jill then headed to Europe where she will be for another 3 weeks.

Terri Lyne Carrington


“My new CD “More To Say” is finally out after nearly 2 years in the making! I am real proud of it and hope that other folks like it too! Most of my time these days is spent chasing my 3 year old around or teaching at Berklee, as well as gigs and session, so I am busier than a one armed paper hanger! All good – I am not complaining…. Until next time….” Terri Lyne

Check out Tavis Smiley’s recent interview with Terri Lyne regarding her new CD.

Rory Freedman

Rory in her kitchen, as seen in the New York Times

Rory just returned from a two-month backpacking jaunt around Europe and has never been so inspired creatively. She’s ready to get crackin’ on another book—maybe even one that’s fiction.


Nalini Nadkarni

Nalini speaking at the TED Conference.


I gave a talk at the TED Conference in Long Beach this spring. It is a high-profile conference with many “idea people” who talk about their work, dreams, and accomplishments. Each talk is only 18 minutes, and it is hard to cram all the things one wants to say into that time. It has been seen by many people around the world, and nearly all of the feedback has been about people who are excited about trees and forests and trying to save them. That is very hopeful to me.

There were some good developments in terms of science outreach beyond science. Several of my projects were featured on the splash page of the National Science Foundation website. One of them was the “canopy rap” project I created, in which I hired a rap singer to accompany me and two other scientists with 40 urban youth (middle school aged) into the forest to learn about the plants and animals. The rap singer made up songs about the forest, and the kids did, too! They ended up making a CD of their songs in the sound studios of my college, and each student took home a copy of it for their friends and family.

In addition to these, I was really happy to be in the forest this summer. My family (husband and two teenage kids, Gus and Erika) took a six day backpacking trip to a remote area of the North Cascades National Park. We saw only 4 people in the six days we were there. And just last week, I took my annual solo backpacking trip to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness for six days. It was great to be out there on my own, just hiking, watching marmots, eating simple food, watching the starts, and letting my thoughts quiet and settle away from the everyday hubbub of life. But I’m glad to be back with my family and garden and work!



Ingrid Newkirk


“I’ve been on tour with a book lately. I’m asking people to consider loaning a copy to that person at work who loves dogs but who doesn’t think about other animals, that neighbor with the fur coat in the back of the closet – too embarrassed to wear it again; and that relative who insists you have “just a little” of the turkey at Thanksgiving, as well as to that wonderful kid on your block who rescues the birds fallen out of trees or who won’t cut up the frog in class. I’ve used real life stories to bring the individual animals alive and give them a voice and the book is packed with great resources, simple options, and compassionate solutions to rid our lives of the casual cruelty that wheedles its way into what we buy, eat, do and wear. I hope you take a peek and enjoy it a lot!



Dianne Reeves


Dianne Reeves can be seen on tour throughout the rest of this year . She is also recording a new album which will be out next year. We’ll announce it as soon as it’s out!

Kamala Lopez

Kamala at the New York Latino International Film Festival.


“The good news is that A Single Woman won the Exceptional Merit in Media Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus in DC!

Also, I am developing a TV series about girls and gangs and I wrote a related article on Huff Po about what’s going on with that.




Kelly Dobbins


Kelly is currently training to compete in the NPC National Bodybuilding and Figure Championships this November.



Julia Butterfly Hill

Julia’s recent photo in the SF Chronicle.


Julia continues to inspire people to speak up, take action and make a difference in this world. Check out “Catching up with…Julia Butterfly Hill,” an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle last April. Julia also continues to update on her own blog.

“We did it!”

When I was in high school, my friend Cara and I would share our dreams and enthusiastically coach each other into believing them into truth. We concurred that thinking of our dreams as having already happened and speaking of them in the past tense, telling each other stories about what had already occurred, was one way to take them further into manifestation. Thus was borne our mutual and enthusiastic cheer, “We did it!” We would say this to each other whenever we parted. When my family moved away at the end of my junior year, we gave each other silver bracelets with this phrase engraved on top, and our names on the back.

Sometimes, I wondered if telling each other stories and using the past tense might not be such a positive exercise. I wondered if perhaps it was simply a case of two girls descending further into the Lala land of our imaginations … and further away from a focus on ‘reality.’ Now, however, I realize there was something to it. There’s a lot to be said for moving into belief. (Mind you, I’m also an actress and Lala Land was exactly where I ended up. So hey, maybe it worked!)

There are many ways to affirm the vision of one’s future. Affirmations, in general, tend to get a little ridiculed, though there’s certainly nothing wrong with the idea of feeding yourself positive statements throughout the course of the day. (Frankly, the negative ones seem to come all too naturally for most people.)

Some life coaches will tell you this: when you want to realize something in your life, get very specific on how you want that to look. See it in your head. Affirm it constantly. Personally, I don’t tend to set my sights on results. For me, it’s the journey that I want to affirm. (That probably comes from how I grew up, moving from country to country and never knowing how long I’d be in one place.) My feeling is we’re always in the journey. Right? We may experience temporary bliss upon having achieved a particular goal, but then, we’re back into the journey almost instantly. There is no there there.

So given this, I want to affirm a joyous and fulfilling journey. A journey that leads to many wonderful surprises and discoveries. A journey filled with love and laughter. A journey where my inner being feels whole and at peace. I actually like not knowing exactly where I’m going. I steer myself as best I can, but I like to stay open and to let the rest reveal itself. I even do this when I go on a long hike. I don’t like to look at the destined peak ahead and factor in the distance between us. I know it’s there and I know that’s where I’ll be eventually, but unless I need to look at a map or track my path, I like to be in the moment to experience the unfolding of the journey. I’ll look back and see the course behind me later. I’m better at that. Then, that course is a known and experienced entity.

Positive thinking is something we all could use. I made an affirmation tape for myself years ago, when I was living in L.A. I would listen to it in the car as I drove to and from auditions. The affirmations I chose for myself were based on the general themes of creative fulfillment, health, happiness and love. I recorded them in my own voice. I used the first person and the present tense and affirmed all the qualities of a life that I wanted to fully realize. I listened to that tape when I went to meet with a top commercial agent in L.A. and I felt really upbeat during our meeting. She signed me on. I listened to that tape on the way to an audition for Star Trek, and I remember feeling really grounded, really connected, when I waited in the hallway to go in and read. Later that day, they called to tell me I got the role.

Mind you, there were many more days and many more car trips to audition after audition after audition that I didn’t land too; and there were days when I couldn’t bring myself to listen to that damn tape again. It bored me. It was repetitive and it felt ridiculous and I told myself that it didn’t work. But I forced myself to listen anyway, thinking of it like I would if I was going to the gym; it was my daily mental and emotional exercise. By exercising my brain this way, I allowed myself to default to a more positive place on a more frequent basis. And that could only help me in the long run.

Affirmations can be created in a number of ways. From the positive statements we repeat to ourselves each day, to the visualizations of something we want in our future, or even to using the present tense to talk about these things as if they’ve already happened. Positive thinking is always a good idea. It beats telling ourselves we’re not good enough, we aren’t liked and problems are all that await us. I say bring ’em on.
Dare to be fabulous every day.



Goodbye to Simon Chaitowitz

Almost a month and a half ago, we lost one of our great contributors and supporters to complications stemming from treatments for breast cancer.

Simon Chaitowitz was a dear friend to both Johanna and me and someone who continually kept the wind under the sails for many. Rather than writing about her on this site immediately after her passing, Johanna and I both felt the need to sit with this one for a bit and just absorb what the loss of Simon meant to both of us.

Simon was an enabler in the very best sense of the word. Though a brilliant thinker and writer herself, she was forever excited about what others were doing to make the world a better place – especially for animals, women, and the environment. She provided encouragement for any and all projects of her friends and colleagues. She was completely nonjudgmental and saw only the best in everyone. Simon was a great cheerleader for Dare To Be Fabulous as well. It meant a lot to us that such an incredible person and writing talent would take the time for us, especially at such a challenging point in her life.

Johanna and I have both known Simon for years. I first met her when I was organizing a fundraising event for a sanctuary in Cameroon that took in orphaned chimpanzees – victims of that country’s brutal bush meat trade which butchered their mothers for food right in front of their infants. Desperate for volunteer help, I put out an APB and Simon answered – enthusiastic, capable, and inspired no job too small for her, including finding a babysitter for the sanctuary founder’s baby daughter. She again came through for me when I was later organizing and animal advocacy conference in Washington, D.C., a short time later. Simon and I have been both friends and colleagues since that time.

I know Johanna has similar feelings, if I may speak for her. Simon was a great champion of Johanna’s advocacy work in getting vegetarian options into professional sports arenas across the country, And in spite of her own precarious health, she was a wealth of knowledge, encouragement, and support for both of us with our own health issues a – a side of Simon I saw manifest with many other women who were also diagnosed with cancer.

Our greatest gift from Simon was her example of living fully each day, as well as she could, no matter what. Until she could absolutely no longer manage it, she kept up her wonderful blog with stories about her treatment, her hiking and kayaking, her getaways, and beautiful photos that she took herself of the nature around her that she loved so much. She continued to publish op-eds and letters to the editor, and had a column featured in the Huffington Post a month before her death.

Simon lived more fully than many of us ever will. Her time was too short and her value to all of us great. People often say the loss of someone is untimely, but in Simon’s case it is especially true.

Simon is the second member of the DTBF family we have lost since our inception. The other is the incomparable Gretchen Wyler whom we also lost to complications from breast cancer. Both of these amazing women believed in the power of encouraging other women to be who they are and do what they were put on the planet to do, without letting the opinions of others get in their way. They were both clear in their focus, clear in their dreams, and clear in their world view. They were both immeasurably fabulous.

We miss you, Simon. Say hello to Gretchen for us.


Click here to read Simon’s obituary in the Washington Post.

The Upper Hand

I read a column in Time Magazine about a month ago that has since been resonating with me. The column was about how the current economic crisis has given many employers the upper hand. With unemployment numbers increasing daily, and job opportunities shrinking, individuals who still hold jobs and benefits are feeling more grateful than ever. They know that their options are limited at best, and that simply keeping a job in this market has provided them with a very fortunate circumstance. Feeling beholden to their employers, they are aiming to please at all costs.

Many employers have tightened their budgets to compensate for the economic downturn. To this end, some have had to let go of employees and/or have implemented a hiring freeze. If the business is still keeping pace, this means that existing employees are carrying more of the load than they did before the economy turned sour. They are working harder and longer hours than ever expected and they are being asked to do more than their original job description ever outlined. All this without an increase in pay, I might add. And here’s the thing: they don’t dare quit or speak up, because they don’t want to lose their jobs. They have families to feed and bills to pay.

It’s become easy to take advantage of workers, so it’s important to keep this in check. People who have jobs are willing to take on extra duties or to work extra hard because they are focused solely on the gratitude of having a paying gig in the first place. That’s how things get unbalanced. The stress level alone takes a huge toll on them. And the fact that they aren’t being assertive in a way they might’ve been before, takes a further toll on their self esteem. They may have work and they may be able to pay the bills when their neighbors can’t, but that doesn’t make it okay.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame business owners for cutting back on their budgets right now. Many businesses are simply trying to stay afloat and, for the most part, they’re just trying to be pragmatic around the current circumstances. It makes absolute sense. There’s no arguing with limited funds and the prospect of a possible or likely decrease in business. However, there are temporary solutions that can be implemented to keep hard working employees fulfilled, if not at least, truly grateful.

An office I know has approached it this way. Though the staff may work long hours on some days, they’ve been granted the opportunity to come late or leave early on the days when it’s less busy. This has helped pick up their spirits significantly. They get to recoup and recharge, and their appreciation is palpable. They smile more often. They come into the office looking rejuvenated. They joyfully talk about what they were able to do with that extra time. There are other options that can be considered, too. What about extending them a few more days of vacation for this fiscal year? Or, if that isn’t viable, what about getting them gift certificates for an hour massage? After all, employers can easily write that off for next year’s taxes. And their staff will appreciate being given the opportunity to truly relax during this stressful time.

At the very least, employers should remember to give thanks. Employees are doing most of the thanking these days because they’re grateful to have a job and be spared the experience of standing in long unemployment lines. However, it’s just as vital for employers to realize when their workers are putting in that extra mile for them. Pats on the back and warm words of appreciation go a long way. Acknowledgement of the situation on both sides is key.

One thing we’re all learning as we watch the fall out of banks and auto manufacturers and investment groups is not to take anything for granted. Nothing comes with an absolute guarantee. So let’s take the time to express gratitude for what we do have, and to extend a helping hand in both directions. We’re all in this together.