Dancing on the Rooftop

Image: “Dauphine,” by Teresa Moore.

I danced on my roof tonight. Yes , I actually did.
I live in a nine-story building. A lovely generous person plants that roof each summer with a beautiful potted garden – it’s a place I always think when I am there, “why don’t I come up here more often?”
This afternoon it rained hard – thunder and lightening, diminishing to a soft sprinkle that left the evening air cool and fresh, and perfect for reading on the rooftop. My book, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, was striking cords in my psyche left and right. The view – a gorgeous panorama of all of Washington, D.C., its trees and monuments and houses and churches. The air was clean and fresh. I was sore but relaxed from an earlier intensive dance workout.
Then it hit me. The urge. To dance. On the rooftop.
“No, I can’t, someone might see.”
“It’s dusk. And no one is looking all the way up here.”
“Someone looking out the window in the next building might see.”
“Then they’ll be entertained. For free.”
“No, I can’t. I should read.”
“OK, go ahead then. Read.”
I kept reading. But my legs and body protested and yearned to move in that cool, fresh air, over that wide expanse of open, rain-puddled space, among the pots hibiscus and lantana, way up high over the city, over George Bush and Dick Cheney, and high gas prices cellulite and everything else.
I danced. Flamenco, modern, jazz. It didn’t last long, but I did it. I’d get all poetic and tell you how fabulous it felt – wind in hair, open arms, blah, blah, blah – but we both know that would be crap. Well, it was kind of fabulous, actually, but also silly and a little embarrassing. And fun. And it really did feel good. If I had been five years old I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. So why would I now? Exactly. We should just dance if we freaking feel like it. Damn it.
I’m going to do it again. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Three Cheers for Dara Torres!

What about 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres beating women half her age and qualifying for her fifth Olympic Games? Dara is the mother of a two-year-old girl. She’s undergone several surgeries in the past year; a rotator cuff surgery in November and several surgeries on her knee.  The last one was only five weeks ago. Yet, there she was this past weekend, not only winning the qualifying 50 and 100 meter freestyle finals, but beating her own times in the 100 freestyle from her Olympic swims in 1984 and 2000. She holds the world record for the 100 backstroke, too. Talk about an inspiration.

(The photo included here is from USA Today, taken two years ago.  That’s Dara with her daughter, Tessa.)

“A Swimmer of a Certain Age” appeared in the New York Times Magazine on June 29th, before she won her qualifying races this past weekend.

Of course, there are cynics who believe that she has to be doping in order to win like that, at her age. Undoubtedly, those claims will surface throughout the media in the months to come.  A feature in the Austin-American Statesman appeared on Monday, addressing these claims and her responses.  The article is entitled, “41-year-old Olympic swimmer: Too good to be true?”  It mentions that Dana categorically denies doping, continually offering to be tested anywhere, at anytime, for anything, in order to prove her point.  An excerpt:

“As part of the new USADA program, Project Believe, she’s one of about a dozen athletes who gets blood and urine taken at any time.  Sometimes she’s asked to go to the nearest lab.  ‘It’s a pain,’ she said.  ‘But I asked for this and I want to prove that I’m clean, so to me it’s worth it.”

We’ll keep watching Dara in Beijing and wish her fabulous success!


Female Afghan Sprinter in a race against hate

Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle featured a story about Mehboba Andyar, a female Afghan sprinter who, despite all cultural and personal threats to her pursuit of the Olympic dream, has continued to train for, and will now compete in, the Beijing Olympics. Andyar truly dares to be fabulous. Her courage and her conviction are an example for all.

The article is pasted, below. Please share your comments with us! Also, click on the link to the Chronicle and offer your comments there, too.

Female Afghan sprinter in a race against hate
Nick Meo, Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, April 4, 2008

(04-04) 04:00 PDT Kabul, Afghanistan —

Many athletes at the Olympic Games this summer will undoubtedly have overcome numerous obstacles to represent their country in Beijing. But only one has been forced to endure a hate campaign.

Sprinter Mehboba Andyar has received threatening midnight phone calls, been jeered at by hostile neighbors and harassed by police. The anger is directed at the 19-year-old runner for being Afghanistan’s sole female Olympic athlete. In a conservative Muslim society where few women have roles outside the home, many Afghan men believe females should not compete in sports.

“There have been so many phone calls from people saying I shouldn’t be an athlete. There are often strange men hanging outside my home,” she said. “Sometimes stones are thrown at the windows at night, and we have had threatening letters. I don’t worry about these threats, but if my family didn’t want me to go (to Beijing), I wouldn’t.”

Neighbors scream abuse and threaten her with physical harm each time she leaves her small mud-brick home in a Kabul slum to run. Last month, police officers arrested her father after a neighbor complained that Andyar had been entertaining strange men. Even though she was merely giving an interview to a French journalist and his translator, she says the police hauled the three men to the station. They were soon released after the precinct police chief intervened and apologized, she says.

Since the announcement early this year that she would represent Afghanistan in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter races, the determined Andyar refuses to be intimidated.

“I knew that I would have to be strong to be a runner in Afghanistan,” she said. “At least my family and fellow athletes support me and want me to run for my country.”

To be sure, she does have some male supporters, especially among the young and educated.

“If a woman likes sports, she should do it,” said Naimullah, a 24-year-old university student who goes by just one name. “Afghanistan is changing. In a few years, people won’t think this is anything unusual.”

When Andyar arrives in Beijing to compete against the world’s top runners who have honed their skills at some of the world’s best facilities, she knows she has little chance of winning a gold, silver or bronze medal.

“We don’t expect her to win,” said Habibullah Niazi, a member of Afghanistan’s Olympic committee. “But participating in the Olympic Games and running as an Afghan woman athlete is an achievement. All sports people support her. Unfortunately, many of the people do not.”

Her interest in running began under the fundamentalist Taliban government in 1998, when she began jogging around the family’s enclosed yard in Kabul to avoid the patrols of the Taliban’s religious police. Aside from banning television, movies, music and kite flying, the Taliban prevented girls from going to school or work and participating in sports.

When the family fled to Pakistan, her father couldn’t afford to join an athletic club where she could train properly. Instead, she ran at a park in Islamabad.

Today, Andyar trains on a cracked concrete track in the same national stadium the Taliban used for public executions. The track, bordered by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire, circles a patch of dried yellow grass where boys play soccer. She dons a track suit and head scarf and plans to do the same in Beijing.

“I am an Afghan, so I have to dress modestly,” she said. “It is my culture.”

Her training regimen is often interrupted by dust storms that sweep through the city. And to avoid the neighbors’ wrath, she runs along potholed streets near her home at night while they are watching popular soap operas, maneuvering around trash piles and open drains.

Later this month, the Afghan and International Olympic committees plan to send Andyar and the only other member of Afghanistan’s Olympic squad – a 20-year-old male sprinter named Massoud Azizi – to Malaysia to train at adequate facilities. There, coach Shahpoor Amiri hopes Andyar will be able to focus on running.

“She is an inspiration,” Amiri said. “For us, it is enough that an Afghan girl is going to the Beijing games.”


This article appeared on page A – 15 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Observing Our Apologies

I read a Q&A column with Natalie Portman in this week’s Time Magazine. One reader asked her this question:

“What have you learned about yourself by portraying powerful women?”

To which she replied,

“It has encouraged me to say things authoritatively. Often women preface what they say with ‘I know this might sound stupid’ or ‘I don’t mean to be aggressive, but…’ I tend to do that, so it is great to have the opportunity to play a leader.”

I thought about how true that was and then continued with reading the magazine. Well, in the few days since I read that column, I have become startlingly aware of my own tendency to apologize. Apologize when unnecessary, I hasten to clarify. It has happened enough times for me to self-impose an internal alarm whenever that word comes out of my mouth, or as in most cases, when it came out in the text of an e-mail. I’m training myself to sound that alarm and simply ask myself, “is it truly warranted? Or am I making less of myself because I’m nervous about the response?”

Apologizing is often a way of playing ourselves down and letting the listener, or the reader, know that we put their opinions above ours. In essence, it relays that we are either slightly embarrassed or ashamed to be putting that person on the receiving side of our question or request. Unfortunately, Ms. Portman is correct in stating that this is something many women do. We don’t dare give ourselves the right to just state something, or simply ask.

When I am asking for something and I sense that it may ruffle the other person’s feathers, I have a tendency to apologize. Even if I think it’s their job and my right and there really is nothing wrong with asking.

I heard my internal alarm when I was prone to another apology yesterday, and it occurred to me that the trigger comes from a deeper place. Perhaps it’s a place of connection; a place of compassion. That’s assuming the best, of course. We just don’t like to make others feel uncomfortable or unhappy. Right? Anyone who’s had any bit of self-therapy will admit that’s nonsense, though. Shouldn’t we assume for them the same privilege we grant ourselves? That is, allow them to be accountable for their own response, to deal with things their own way, and to let them handle their own issues without our automatic need to make it all OKAY?

Diplomacy is a delicate art form. Somewhere between directly or aggressively stating something on the one hand, and prefacing the request with an apology (or three or four) on the other…well, therein lies the charm. After all, tact and consideration should never be under-rated.

We each know our internal buttons. When we are acting consciously, I believe that each one of us has an intuitive sense of when we’re apologizing simply to appease a discomfort that we ourselves feel in the process of asking or suggesting something; not necessarily because we are truly SORRY to ask. (Otherwise, why ask?) Generally speaking, we don’t want others to dislike us or to say bad things about us later. We want to be liked at all costs. We mean well, after all. So we apologize as our way of showing that.

Auto-pilot apologizing holds us back in more ways than I think any of us realize. If we continue to introduce our requests with an apology, we’ll continue to back down and give someone else the go ahead, simply because their personalities seem stronger or more forceful, or more notably, because we’re concerned with making sure we’re liked at all costs, even if what we’re asking for is a completely professional or logical request and in no way inappropriate.

I encourage all of you who have this tendency to start observing yourselves more consciously. Ask yourselves if the apology is truly warranted, or whether it’s that auto-pilot trigger. I believe that the more you practice, the taller you’ll stand.


Again, Gloria Steinem Says it All

DTBF contributor Anne Singer alerted us to this outstanding New York Times op-ed that Johanna and I felt was too important to not reprint here. Gloria Steinem, besides being my personal hero since the ’70s, has graciously given DTBF permission to reprint an essay from one of her many books, which we plan to do soon. In the meantime, please read her wonderful words here and remember that we still have a long, long way to go. We can’t be complacent. We are women, and if we want to lead – we have to Dare!
~ Patti


January 8, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Women Are Never Front-Runners
Correction appended.

The woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father — in this race-conscious country, she is considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?

If you answered no to either question, you’re not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.

That’s why the Iowa primary was following our historical pattern of making change. Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter).

If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago. Indeed, neither she nor Hillary Clinton could have used Mr. Obama’s public style — or Bill Clinton’s either — without being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.

So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.

I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together. That’s why Senators Clinton and Obama have to be careful not to let a healthy debate turn into the kind of hostility that the news media love. Both will need a coalition of outsiders to win a general election. The abolition and suffrage movements progressed when united and were damaged by division; we should remember that.

I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

This country can no longer afford to choose our leaders from a talent pool limited by sex, race, money, powerful fathers and paper degrees. It’s time to take equal pride in breaking all the barriers. We have to be able to say: “I’m supporting her because she’ll be a great president and because she’s a woman.”

Correction: An earlier version of this Op-Ed stated that Senator Edward Kennedy had endorsed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. He has not made an endorsement in the 2008 presidential race.

Gloria Steinem is a co-founder of the Women’s Media Center.

It’s the Holidays Already! (How did that happen?)

I am always ambushed by December. It seems so far away, then there it is — right on top of you, another year almost over. That might actually mean something if I didn’t believe like Einstein that time is not actually linear. OK. I really do believe that, but the fact is that my human brain can really only comprehend time if I follow the linear convention and count weeks, months, and years to mark my progress.

So as 2007 draws to a close, we are excited to look back over the DTBF year. We have been lucky enough to have had the most wonderful contributors during the year – Annie in Washington, DC, Molly in Mexico and Chicago, Katie in Napa, California, Corrie in North Carolina, Diana in New York City, Karen in New Zealand, Renel in San Francisco, Kelly in Santa Clara, and Ginny in Sonoma. We also had a lovely reprint from Doris “Granny D” Haddock. And we had a wonderful contribution from the incredible Gretchen Wyler, published just two months before we lost her to cancer. What an amazing sisterhood of women are represented in the Dare To Be Fabulous guest column. If you haven’t yet read some of their stories, we would encourage you to do so, as well as catch up with past years’ columns. (You can find them archived on the Guest Column page.) Johanna and I are so proud of all of these fabulous women, and so honored they have shared their stories with us.

We are continually encouraged and inspired by the intelligence, courage, imagination, humor, and sheer fabulousness of the women we have come in contact with through DTBF. We have noticed a trend in the use of the word “fabulous” – a trend that equates fabulous with physical beauty and diva-like behavior (not that that isn’t fun! ) but our definition of “fabulous” is in the stories submitted by our readers. Be yourself. Be kind. Be brave. Be generous. Be funny. Be imaginative. Be real. Be fabulous. And don’t let anyone stop you!

Tell your friends about us – submit stories and add your comments to the columns. We look forward to what 2008 will bring, and you are all part of that! Happy holidays to all of you!

Peace and DTBF!

Image: “Persephone” by Teresa Moore (Teresamoore.com)
Because I think pomegranates are just so Christmasy!

Walking up a trail

Walking up a trail, the crisp cold air on my cheeks, watching each rock as I navigate my way, step by step, and around the bend, I notice that I am smiling. A broad, happy, easy, natural smile that matches the beating of my heart and tells me I am one again. Deep breath in, hop onto a rock, step over some boulders, and out again. Birds singing. A breeze. THIS, I remember, is where I am happiest. Moving through Nature. Joining it. Beholding it. Immersing myself in such a way that I not only commune, I honor.

For some people, it is a Church where they find solace and spiritual connectedness, a path and an answer to the whys and hows that inhabit their thoughts. For me, it is a walk upon soil and granite, distant from the tether of humanity. There, I find bliss in the simplicity of my breath and the cadence of my stride. My thoughts inevitably whirr in the first mile, my ego baiting for resolutions on things of the past and future. On and on it goes, in circles and around again, thinking of choices I’ve made, pondering their merit and possible changes in plan. I think of people I know, how I am and how they are, and what that all means, and what do I do with it. After a while, as my heart beat starts to lure my thoughts toward my body, I start to notice my surroundings more. The colors. The temperature. The topography. And then, at some point, I realize, it’s been many miles and I forgot all about myself. I forgot that I had a self-identity. I was simply in the moment, breath in, breath out, engaged with my surroundings, taking one step at a time.

Today, I was in the Sunol Wilderness. I craved hot weather and sun, after a week of heavy bay area fog. I longed to feel the reality of summer. Under the hot sun, I walked along trails that meandered up and around the many rolling hills of mustard colored grass. Cows crossed my path, watching me ever so carefully to ensure that I was no threat. I whispered to them that I was not. I thought of Franz Kafka’s quote, “Now I can look at you in peace. I do not eat you any more.” Nevertheless, a calf was nearby and I knew the sentiment wouldn’t hold much value to a defensive mama. I veered to the left when I saw the little one, black and white, and averted my gaze from his mother’s intent glare. All is well here, I relayed to her in thought. I am your friend. I will do you no harm.

Hiking in wilderness is my meditation. My re-connection. My way of disengaging from the I, and all of my ego’s desires to make things work, make things fit, make things right with society. Questions of how do I fit in dissipate as a true outer connection is borne.

I came upon no other people on my hike today. Just me, the vast sky above, the sloping hills all around me, and the cows.

Seven miles and I was centered again.


July’s All-Star Renel

This month, our Guest Column features a story by Renel Brooks-Moon, a woman whose name is widely recognized throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Renel is the host and morning dee-jay of “Renel in the Morning” on KISS-FM, while also being the public address announcer for the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park. Renel is a trailblazer as a woman in the sport announcing profession. This month is no exception, as Renel prepares to announce Major League Baseball’s All Star Game on July 10. (Watch the game on TV and you’ll hear her voice in the background!)

Renel’s story, “Finding my Voice”, was borne from an interview with Johanna on June 25.
Read her story by clicking here

We welcome your comments, below!

Johanna & Patti

Granny DTBF!

It’s May and we are very excited to feature a story from Doris “Granny D” Haddock as our Guest Column this month.

If you haven’t heard of her, this is a great time to become acquainted with this fabulous woman. She walked across America at the age of 89. No easy feat for anyone, far less an 89-year old woman. Why, you may ask? To raise awareness and support for campaign finance reform. Her story is one-of-a-kind and her example is beautiful.

We celebrate her passion and her work by sharing an excerpt from her book about the walk, entitled “Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year,” written with Dennis Burke.

Link to our Guest Column (top right of this page) to read her story!

We welcome your comments!

Johanna & Patti

No Secrets in New Delhi

I just came upon my cd of Carly Simon’s “No Secrets.” Talk about a soundtrack from your past. This one is on the top three. For me, it’s New Delhi, India. 1973. I’m nine years old. We play this album so often, it’s like the McCloy family album of 1973.

It brings me back to early evenings in the living room, parents sipping cocktails. Then, to my room. Playing our old piano along with one of the songs, “Embrace Me.” Playing the song over and over and over, trying to learn how to play the piano by hitting the keys along in tune, singing the words, “then one night daddy died, and went to Heaven and God came down to Earth and slipped away.” How I would imagine what that would be like. My daddy dying. The emotions. The loss. Little did I know my dad would die when I was still relatively young; 21 years old.

Every song had its own world of meaning. The particular context of the time in our lives when it became imprinted. The correlation of its tone and lyrics to the mood it created. Carly was with us there. Our little bubble of life at 12 Friends Colony West, New Delhi.

My brother and his wife named their daughter Carly. My family fondly thinks it has to do with the influence that Ms. Simon had on us. The love she brought. The family bonds she created. It sounds corny, but we all have music that sticks with us like that. We may not always remember about certain artists or songs, but when we hear an impactful song from the past, boy, do those floodgates of sense memory open up and remind us!

We might have intellectual disconnects in the present and poo-poo an artist that once brought us joy, because they are no longer hip or heard or popular or understood. But ya can’t take that memory away and the happiness that it brought you. The impact it has at a pivotal time in your life will never go away.

KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s the way I Like it.” For me, that’s Ithaca, New York, 1975; my one year of living in the U.S between birth and college. Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall”? That’s Tokyo. 1979. Dancing in the crowded discos of Roppongi on Saturday nights, sipping silly drinks like blue Hawaiians or violet fizzes. Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House”? Durham, North Carolina, 1983. Definitely the soundtrack of the house I lived in off of Duke’s east campus with my sister and our housemates from all over the world. (All of our friends joked that this album was playing every single time they came over, and I think they were probably right.) And one more, while I’m on a roll here. Fine Young Cannibals’ “The Raw and the Cooked.” That’s Bequia, West Indies, July, 1989. I was in this oasis of a place with 20 other actors, studying acting with Sandy Meisner. This happened to be the album that often played on the boombox when we took breaks or danced at night. I always go back to Bequia when I hear that album, and undoubtedly, so will all the other actors that were there with me that month.

My friend Ilse is a musician who describes her need for music as a drug. I think music is a drug. Just because you don’t drink or smoke it, doesn’t mean it isn’t mood altering to a huge degree. It influences our mood. We use it to bring us up, or to bring us down. We use it to party. We use it to ponder. We use it to exercise. We use it to escape. When you turn on your ipod, how do you choose what song you will listen to? Well, the question often is; how do you want to feel?

Ilse is one of those music-driven people who slips away in consciousness whenever music is playing. You know how that goes. Trying to maintain a conversation flow becomes an arduous task with people who get lost in music. They’re gonners. You just have to sit out the tune and hope for the best, Maybe it’s just this one song. My brother’s the same way.  They’re in another world and you have to be patient to get their attention. But we all do it. Hey, I did it tonight when Henri was trying to talk to me. I got lost in New Delhi with “No Secrets”. The past was back, alive and well. New Delhi in Berkeley. 1973 in 2007. Music can do that.