Women Worth Knowing

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Profiles & Talking Points

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Stephanie

Posted by Lane on July 12, 2011 at 10:43 AM Comments comments (0)

Eamon was the best man at our wedding, and Eamon has one of the neatest families I've ever met.  All his siblings are interesting, lovely people, who are married to interesting, lovely people.   You really couldn't find a better group of people.   One of those wonderful people is Stephanie.


I met Stephanie a few years back, when Eamon threw a birthday party for his then-girlfriend, now wife Christina.  Stephanie was fresh from her home state of California, and just getting involved with teaching Pilates in the Fort Worth area.  We sat and talked for a good while, and I was impressed with her knowledge of physiology, as well as her understanding of the body philosophy behind Pilates.  In fact, I'd had no idea what it was until she started sharing the basics.  I just thought it was sweatier yoga.



Aside from her bubbly personality, I was also captivated by her clear passion for her work.  She was really excited about the benefits of proper spinal alignment and muscle tone, to the point that I snuck off to the only Pilates class that I could work into my schedule.  I'm not an easy sell, especially not when it means giving up time out of my day.  (Then that class got canceled, and that was the end of that!  But I did like it.)


Since then, I have watched Stephanie growing her classes and her client bookings, and have been very curious about a new method she is teaching called D Barre.  Even more interested because she has developed the workout through years of study, research, and rigorous training.  I'll let her tell you more about it.


Meet Stephanie.


Name:  Stephanie Daulton Perry

Age Range: 29

Preferred Job Title: Pilates Instructor and Creator of D barre

Industry:  Fitness Industry


Who are you?  Stephanie Daulton Perry grew up in Southern California and did her undergraduate work at Texas Christian University graduating with degrees in Psychology and English. A long life exercise enthusiast, her background is in competitive gymnastics and soccer. She has been teaching Pilates both in San Diego and Fort Worth for 10 years. Exercise is not only her career but also her hobby; spending her spare time power walking, trampolining, kickboxing, practicing yoga and in her own Pilates practice.

Stephanie was introduced to the teachings of Lotte Berk through a Pilates client and was instantly intrigued. She began traveling across the country seeking out studios that taught Lotte Berk inspired Barre classes. Loving how well the barre work integrated with her Pilates teaching, she’s spent the past year researching and developing D Barre.



Tell us about Dbarre:  D Barre is a dynamic high energy workout created by Stephanie Daulton Perry. It blends the teachings of the Joseph Pilates and Lotte Berk methods, with constant attention to proper spinal alignment. This unique approach combines Pilates core conditioning with ballet barre work to elongate, strengthen, and gracefully tone the entire body. Light weights are used to enhance the effectiveness of upper body work while mats, balls and the ballet barre are used to tone the thighs, abdominal, and seat muscles. This dynamic, high energy workout is fun, challenging, and therapeutic.


What do you think is the most important aspect of fitness as a way of life?  Movement is vital not only for physical health but for emotional and mental health. When clients begin to enjoy moving their body they begin to appreciate, respect and love it. Loving and respecting ourselves and our bodies affects so many other aspects of our lives.


I hear a lot of women saying they are afraid to go to a class or to the gym, because they don't want people staring at their "fat". What would you tell women who are too ashamed of their current bodies to go to a class?  You are your own worst critic. I can 100% promise that each time you step into the gym or to a fitness class that you will inspire at least one person. You are making the step to make yourself and your health a priority and I respect and support you for that. You are awesome!


Where do you see yourself as a fitness leader in 10 years? What's the big dream?  I am in the process of trademarking D barre. In 10 years I hope to have employees that are trained by me teaching D barre other places and have at least one D barre studio opened up. I want to constantly evolve my class as I learn more. It will always be fresh and knew and on the cutting edge of what is hot in the fitness industry.


Describe your family:  I will never forget the phone call I made to my parents nearing college graduation. I had been planning on applying to grad school to be a psychologist. All throughout college I taught mat Pilates and worked on my equipment certification and then taught part time. I called my parents and said "What would you think if I didn't go to grad school and I tried teaching Pilates full time. I know its a career most people do part time but I love it and I think I could make a great living doing it full time." There was a pause and then the reply, "Honey if anyone could do it YOU COULD!"

My parents have always been extremely supportive of me and they nurtured both my and my sister's interests, which are very different.

I have a loving husband of 6 years who's always supported me and my work. He was my number one cheerleader in the couple years that I spend developing D barre. We have 2 dogs Penny and Shelby who are like our children!!!


What does the first hour of your day look like?  My alarm goes off at 4:50am or 5am. I do a couple stretches and I pop up out of bed. I walk to the kitchen, let my dogs out and start the coffee! I am dressed, fed and caffeinated and out the door by 5:50am 5 days a week...7:30am on Saturday! I start teaching at 6am!


The last hour?  I try to turn the TV off at least 1 hour before bed. My routine is pretty simple...wash my face, cover in creams and serums (one of my loves), crawl into bed to read then lights out...I'm in bed most nights by 9:30pm.


What makes you feel successful?  I feel successful when I see my teaching changing people's lives. When I see clients begin to love their body, when I see physical changes in them like inches lost and pounds dropped, when I see them getting stronger physically, when I see them smile after class....then I feel successful. If I have made at least one person smile I feel like I have had a successful day.


What brings you joy?  Spending time with my husband, playing with my dogs, talking to my parents or good friends on the phone, jumping on my big trampoline in the backyard, shaking my hips to great music, teaching something that I can see the physical results in people. It brings me joy to have created something that is working for women and men...something that is giving them quick and serious results. I believe in working hard to play hard.


What women do you admire?  My mom. She inspires me to be a better person. She always looks on the positive side of everything! She changes people's lives everyday with her smile and her genuine interest in people. I admire my sister who gives selflessly to anyone around her.


What do you like best about your closest friend?  She always makes time to listen. There is an art to listening. She validates what I say, then thinks before she speaks. For that reason I always take her words very seriously. She gives without expecting anything in return. She smiles in the face of hardships. She is FUN!


What do you like best about yourself?  I can relate well to others. People open up to me and trust me with their thoughts, emotions and their bodies. I can make people feel comfortable and at home in a group. I love planning social gatherings and introducing people to each other!


What advice would you give boys about girls?  There is power is listening. Sometimes girls just want someone to listen and empathize instead of trying to fix the problem. Always treat women as ladies. The little things like opening a car door or complementing an outfit go a long way!


How do you overcome adversity?  I try to overcome adversity with a positive attitude. I don't believe in burning bridges. Professionally I have had some adversity and I've chosen not to get pulled in. I always trust that people know who I am. All I can do is do what I do the best that I can. When you are authentic people can tell.


How do you want to be remembered? As a loyal and loving friend, daughter, sister and wife. As a professional who cared about her clients personally, physically and mentally. As someone who lived life, laughter and making people smile.

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Casey

Posted by Lane on June 30, 2011 at 10:34 AM Comments comments (1)

I was having a really bad day.  Like, a crying at my desk bad day.  I don't remember how I got there, other than following links through various and sundry websites, like Alice going through doors, but suddenly I was there.  And it only took a few blinks and a scroll down before I was hopelessly and happily lost in Elegant Musings, and have been ever since.


It had to do with the soft, muted colors, and the vintage pictures, and the style of photography, and the sweetness that came through Casey's writing; I had found an oasis in the internet. 


I visit Casey's Elegant Musings a few times a week.  In a strangely lovely way, it's like walking into my grandparents home, and sitting down in the living room.  It was always a little chilly, but not cold, and quiet, but not silent.  I could relax in my grandfather's recliner and watch the Georgia summers blooming through their big, picture windows, and listen to the grandfather clock ticking down minutes until the family would return from the Farmer's Market to make dinner out of what they'd found, while I read romance novels and wondered if there were any Eskimo pies in the freezer?  I get that feeling every time I click on Casey's bookmark.


I also feel inspired to try new things.  Casey is always posting tutorials and instructions on how to accomplish vintage missions, be they sewing projects, hairstyles, even thrifty shopping.  I spend a lot of time watching her YouTube channel, and am subscribed to her FaceBook page so I don't miss anything.


When I approached Casey to be part of the WWK Project, I was delighted to find her just as...delightful as her blog.  Every little message she sent was kind and thoughtful, and made me smile.


Friends, meet Casey.



Name: Casey

Age Range: 26

Preferred Job Title: Wife and Freelance Writer

Industry: Homemaker and Creative Dabbler!



Who are you?  I’m a blogger, seamstress, vintage aficionado, history geek, proud Navy wife, a lover of old movies and pretty dresses.


What drives your passion for vintage styling?  I think the sense of elegance and unabashed femininity. I’m an unapologetic “girly girl” when it comes to dressing and many of my pursuits in life; I’ve always admired the way women of the 40s and 50s looked so glamorous. I think too that I have come to appreciate the thought and ingenuity that went into so many things—particularly the 1940s—and how it is still relevant in the 21st century.




What is you favorite piece of personal memorabilia?  Probably one of my most cherished pieces is a 40s cord crocheted handbag I inherited from my great grandmother. She passed away in the early 1990s, but I still have vivid memories of what a sweet woman she was. I didn’t even remember I had the handbag until I rediscovered it a couple years ago, and was delighted that I had a tiny piece of family history in my closet. Maybe one day I’ll give it to my granddaughter!

Casey's Grandmother's handbag.



Tell us your life philosophy:  In a nutshell: do unto others as I would have them do unto me; and never stop being creative!


Describe your family:  It’s just me and my husband at present (and a very spoiled house bunny)! Eventually though I dare say they’ll be a couple little ones added to the mix.


What does the first hour of your day look like?  I always start the day reading—usually some sort of thoughtful, devotional-type book. That usually doesn’t take a whole hour, so after fixing a cup of tea, I usually check my email and start working on catching up with replies that need to be dealt with.



The last hour?  Spending it with my husband, usually watching a movie. Sometimes I’ll be reading or doing handwork instead.



What makes you feel successful?  When I get an email from someone who was truly inspired and encouraged by what I write or post on my blog. It means so much to me that I have access to a medium like blogging—because I love to plant the seeds of inspiration in others and perhaps show them a new technique or idea they hadn’t seen before.



What brings you joy?My family. Being in the military means that we live quite a distance from both our families and only get to see them a couple times a year. I cherish those times!


What women do you admire?  First and foremost my own mother. She schooled both my sister and I at home and encouraged my creative pursuits. She rarely sees it in herself, but she’s an amazingly talented and capable woman. She’s always looked chic and put together, taken time to help me through a problem (even to this day when I call home!), and is my thrifting partner-in-crime. I also admire the many women I have met online who are actively pursuing their dreams and inspiring others.



What do you like best about your closest friend?  My closest friend has to be my sister. She’s incredibly intelligent and wise beyond her years, can make me laugh and the sort of person I can be a total nerd around. But she’s also honest and willing to tell me when I’ve been wrong.


What do you like best about yourself?  This will probably sound a bit funny, but my ability to be thrifty with my sewing and vintage collecting. It’s hard, and means learning a lot of patience, but some of the treasures and supplies I’ve sniffed out to fit my tiny budget are well worth it!



What advice would you give boys about girls?  Don’t be shy. Whether you just want to tell a girl you think her outfit is swell (I get the sweetest comments like this sometimes!) or ask her out on a date, don’t beat around the bush. Don’t think she’s “out of your league” as a friend or romantic partner either. I still laugh that my husband thought I’d never go out with him when he first met me (despite all the hints I was dropping left and right)—three weeks later we went on our first date! You never know until you step out on a limb and put yourself out there. It’s scary, but in any relationship—no matter what the nature of it—it’s what gets the ball rolling and shows initiative.


How do you overcome adversity?  I am a very religious person, and value prayer and my faith as a way to weather life’s storms. We seem to get batted around a lot, and it’s the one thing that keeps me going even on days I feel like I want to give up.


How do you want to be remembered?  As a creative, caring and kind person. I am not perfect, of course, but try to be nice to others around me and treat them with the same dignity and kindness that I want for myself. I also love inspiring others to tap into their creative side, and would be honored to be remembered for that!


WWK Presents: Renae Perry, Director of Programs at The Senior Source

Posted by Lane on June 21, 2011 at 12:38 PM Comments comments (0)

Last Saturday, Renae Perry joined us from The Senior Source to talk about the programs her group offers to Senior Citizens, and about why our seemingly silly sock drive is truly important for frail and elderly men and women in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.


The statistic that 60% of all nursing home residents go full calendar years without ever receiving a visitor is staggering, but we're going to make that year a little brighter!


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Women Worth Knowing: Meet Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan a/k/a The Fug Girls

Posted by Lane on June 14, 2011 at 8:11 PM Comments comments (34)

Years and years ago, I followed a friend's LiveJournal icon to a little website called Television Without Pity, and there I found my people.  Among those people were Pamela Ribon, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, who each recapped several shows for the site. Pamela went on to publish several excellent and hilarious books, and to write for television.  Heather and Jessica went on to create Go Fug Yourself, a site which is probably the most pop-culturally relevant blog of its kind, and to transform themselves into the internationally known Fug Girls--you know, the most popular table in the cafeteria.  People, Victoria Beckham has willingly and purposefully spoken with them.  Need I say more to establish their cred? 

They have also published their own side-splitting fare in the form of Go Fug Yourself: The Fug Awards and now, their first Young Adult novel, Spoiled.

In May of 2010, Pamela was promoting her book Going in Circles, and we considered it a coup when she agreed to be a part of the Women Worth Knowing Project.  Emboldened after a few friendly email exchanges with Heather and Jessica about my recent meeting with The Unsinkable Debbie Reynolds, I name dropped a little more (that's the way I roll), asking if they would join Pamela in the hallowed cyber halls of WWKdom.  And even though they are world famous and have George Clooney as their intern, they were gracious and magnanimous, and squealed right along with me when they said yes.

As part of this Women Worth Knowing profile, I will be giving away a copy of Spoiled and a bottle of ridiculously, fabulously pink OPI nail polish (in That's Hot Pink) to one lucky commenter.   (Read my review here.)

Leave a comment below telling us about your most memorable fashion moment in television (Cher at the Oscars?  Brenda Walsh's prom dress?  Bill Cosby's sweaters?) and we will pick a winner and announce it on Wednesday, June 22.

Until then, it is my great pleasure, delight, and extreme privilege to introduce you to Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

Heather and Jessica--Nothing fug at all about these girls!

Meet Heather

Name: Heather Cocks     

Age Range: Turning 34 in August     

Preferred Job Title: Author, blogger

Industry:  Entertainment



Who are you?  I'm a mutt, both professionally and personally. I'm a native Texan, actually -- born in Houston, as were my two sisters,  before we moved to England. I grew up all over the place -- the UK, where I also hold citizenship, and Florida and Canada -- before landing at Notre Dame for college, then back to Texas to work at Austin's daily newspaper. Career-wise, I was a journalist before I soured on it and switched gears.

Through freelance work, I got a job working in L.A. as a story producer for reality TV, and then once Jessica and I started GFY and it took off, we quit those jobs and now we do this full-time, and we've added author to our job description.  Otherwise, I'm a mother of twin boys, who turn two at the end of June, I'm a Leo, I am addicted to Diet Coke, I love crosswords, I can quote most of the Toy Story movies thanks to my kids' obsession with Buzz Lightyear, and I can cook a mean turkey chili.



As the Fug Girls, you spend a lot of time looking at pictures of celebrities who are the media standard for the feminine ideal.  How do those images affect you as women?  How has it changed your perception of beauty?  Oh, I definitely have my moments where I stand in front of my bathroom mirror and wish my face was aging better, or I stare at an actress and think, "SHE doesn't have a brow furrow like I do. Why do I have to have one?!?" Because of course, it's easy to forget that we're seeing people carefully presented and made up and maybe even airbrushed, and packaged and presented. But in another weird way, it's so democratizing.

Part of the site was founded on the idea that these people have every advantage -- resources like trainers and stylists, and fantastic DNA -- and still make crazy mistakes, like ugly clothes or dresses that are too tight, too short, or otherwise completely unflattering to their enviable physiques. It makes you feel almost more of a kinship with them. Even the inhumanly beautiful have human problems, and you start rooting for them to pull it together the same way you would a friend. One thing it has definitely taught me is that confidence and self-assurance can be the most beautiful things about you.

Take Diane Kruger. Half of what she wears is nuts, but she seems so comfortable in her own skin that you start to think, "Well, actually, maybe that IS a good outfit." Ditto Beyonce or Rihanna -- we get comments all the time that are like, "Yeah, that's terrible, but she also looks completely awesome," and it's because they have that megastar glint in their eye that suggests a complete belief in themselves.

And I will never forget how gorgeous Jessica Simpson looked on her makeup-free cover of Marie Claire. They stripped away all the artifice, and she just grinned and seemed utterly herself and it's the best I've ever seen her. A belief in YOU is what makes you the most beautiful.

What is your favorite story from Fashion Week?  Oh, so many. My favorite personal story is, I think, interviewing Kanye -- he was just randomly standing there, no entourage, at a Rodarte show. I was like, "I am a terrible interviewer but I can't pass this up." Also, any time we've gotten to talk to Victoria Beckham, because she is so much more than she ever showed in public before. She's phenomenally charismatic and down-to-earth-seeming when she does her presentations. Talk about someone who finally stripped away the artifice and let her true self show -- when she does, she's unstoppable.

One of my other favorite moments was when we attended the Heart Truth Red Dress show, where celebrities walk the runway, and Liza Minnelli surprised us all by closing the show with "New York, New York," like, ten feet from our faces. Iconic.

What is it like to be part of the Pop Culture?  There is something really flattering in hearing that people routinely refer to George Clooney as Intern George, or to Tilda Swinton as SWINTON, or whatever. But I don't know if I've ever considered myself part of pop culture. In the scheme of things we're small fry. But it is exhilarating to have the kind of smart, supportive, endlessly loyal readers that we do -- seriously, the best part of all of this is them. 

If you could impart one pearl of wisdom into every mind, and have it understood completely, what would that be?  I don't think I could choose just one. Instead maybe I will turn to the esteemed Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock and say, "Live every week like it's Shark Week."


Describe your family:  Spirited and loving. My twin boys are hilarious and curious and sprightly, my sisters and I share my dad's dry English wit, but we love each other fiercely and we never have as much fun as when we're all together. 


What does the first hour of your day look like? The last hour?  If it's my turn to get up with the boys, then it looks like us cuddling on the couch watching Sesame Street, then having a little breakfast, or putting them in clothes so they can go outside and play basketball (they are obsessed). If it's not my morning, I get up and read something over breakfast and then sit down to my computer to check e-mail, check in with the site and our readers, and make sure Jess and I are on track for the day. Other than my kids and my husband and our nanny, she is the first person I talk to every day.

The last hour is usually me working on my laptop on the living room couch, trying to make sure the Web site is lined up decently for the next day so that I'm available to deal with any weirdness that crops up, like sick dudes or whatever, and then crawling into bed with my husband and just talking for a little while, making sure we have a chance to connect -- when he's working, he's often at work so late that our only time to really catch up is in those last minutes before we crash.

What makes you feel successful?  Looking at my kids. So cheesy, but so true. They're happy and healthy and the fact that we've been able to give them that kind of start to their life means the world to me.


What brings you joy?  My family, my friends, my work, and sometimes just that moment right after the kids pass out for the night and we've just tidied up all their toys and the house is silent. It's peace, and it's also a sense of, "Okay, we made it through another day. Woohoo."


What women do you admire?  My sister has an autistic daughter, who is almost eleven, and twin girls who are almost eight. And she has handled raising that family with the most extraordinary amount of patience and commitment and love, facing things that would've tested and broken lesser people, and always maintaining a sense of humor. If you ever want to think about things being predestined, then consider that she was chosen for her daughter because she is exactly the right person to raise her daughter - she has embraced autism research, she is active in autism groups, she is involved in her therapy and schooling, and she does it all without dropping the ball on her husband or her other kids. She is the mother I think we'd all like to think we would be in that situation, and certainly the mother I aspire to be.

And my mother right now is at the top of my list as well, for numerous reasons -- the kinds of things you never fully appreciate the wonders of until you, yourself, are an adult and/or a parent -- but doubly so because we just lost my father, her partner and best friend of almost 45 years. Mom doesn't live near any of us and so she's back into the grind of daily life without him, in the house where she lost him, also now moving from being a partner in the management of their affairs to the sole decision-maker, which is a huge mental and emotional leap. She's coping with all of this so brilliantly. She is so, so strong. I cannot say enough about how much I admire the way she has handled a situation I suspect I would not deal with as gracefully.


What do you like best about your closest friend?  I like that she is willing to let me ride her coattails and be her writing partner. :)



What do you like best about yourself?  I like that I am always driven to try and see the other side of things. I'm sure sometimes this is maddening to people, but I always feel like I am better prepared to defend my own stance on something if I have considered where the other side is coming from, whether it's an argument I'm having with someone or a business decision or a political matter. I think it's helped me slow down and chew on things instead of leaping to a decision or an action I might regret. Conversely, of course, this means sometimes I overthink things for am almost comedically long amount of time. And THAT is something I might like least about myself. Isn't it so often the case that bests and worsts are two sides of the same coin?



What advice would you give boys about girls?  You know, I always liked that line from "Singles" where Bridget Fonda says what she wants in a guy is someone who says "gesundheit" when she sneezes. Consideration goes a long way. It is not uncool to be nice, boys. Nice, and communicative.

Don't treat girls like they're guys. Girls, in my experience, like to know where they stand. So be straight with them. Call if you like them. If any of your dude friends tell you to play the game, string the girls along, don't act too interested... ignore them. Most girls don't want you to play the game. They want you to man up.

Pursuant to that, I think I would tell ANY teen that, when in doubt, act in a way that's not going to make you cringe later on in life. Because This Exact Moment might feel fleeting and like it's not a big deal, but if you're a teen then you have a good sixty or so years to look back on your life and you'd be surprised at what moments stick.

The best you can do is treat people in a way that won't make you ashamed of yourself down the line. You want to be proud of yourself, not walk into your high school reunion in 25 years wondering who you should apologize to, or hanging your head, or telling your spouse, "If so-and-so tells you I did such-and-such, um, well, just remember I was dumb when i was 16."

Well, I would definitely want to encourage them to be respectful, and all that jazz. Beyond that, communicate with them. Don't treat them like they're guys, who have the capability to leave all kinds of things unsaid between one another -- and often prefer to. Girls dissect the potential secret meanings to every word, or every silence, between them and a boy. 

How do you overcome adversity?  I take a deep breath and put my head down and work on getting through each day. I get advice and distractions from my friends and loved ones, but mostly, I just try and buck up and put one foot in front of the other, maybe find something else to focus on that's a positive.

That's basically what I'm doing now -- my dad passed away suddenly in mid-April and it's been a daily struggle to keep it together. But I have to -- having kids means I can't wallow; they deserve more than that from me -- so it's just, okay, power forward, get it done, give them quality time, and then at the end of the day I can decompress and feel what I need to feel, and then we move onto the next.


How do you want to be remembered?  As somebody who helped somebody, anybody, have a better day. And I certainly hope my kids will remember me as a loving and fun mother, rather than a tired old harridan who sucked the joy out of their lives, but who knows -- by the time they're in their teens maybe I WILL be a tired old harridan who sucks the joy out of their lives.


Meet Jessica

Name: Jessica Morgan   

Age Range:   36

Preferred Job Title:      Author, blogger

Industry:      Entertainment


Who are you?  I am a native Los Angeleno, a sports fan, a shoe junkie, a lover of terrible AND good TV, and reader of many, many books. I have a degree in English from UCLA, and once upon a time, I worked in television.



As the Fug Girls, you spend a lot of time looking at pictures of celebrities who are the media standard for the feminine ideal.  How do those images affect you as women?  How has it changed your perception of beauty?  As Heather said, in a way it makes me feel better -- if even these woman with all the resources in the world go outside looking a bit of a mess at times, then EVERYONE does it. I think examining celebrity foibles actually makes me feel more like they, too, are human -- which to me makes them more likeable, honestly. But of course, I don't think anyone who's ever picked up a magazine hasn't found herself thinking, "do I need hair extensions?" or "I am insufficiently moisturized."

It's easy to compare yourself to the genetically (and financially, and time-wise) blessed and think you look a bit bedraggled. But the older I get, the less I even think about it. Any of us could look amazing if we had six people on a team working on us for four hours before an event -- but that's not most of our jobs, the way it is for a celebrity. I just try and do the best I can at my own job, and hope I look decent in the process.


What is your favorite story from Fasion Week?  My favorite is the time, at our very first fashion week, when my heel got caught between the runway and the carpet, and I teetered over and I had this moment where it seemed as though I was about to land right in Anna Wintour's lap. I managed to catch myself -- I barely teetered at all, but it FELT very dramatic -- but in that moment before I knew whether or not I would be able to pull it together, it was all in slow motion and we sort of locked eyes and I thought, "DEAR GOD IF I LAND IN HER LAP, IT'S GOING TO BE ALL OVER THE INTERNET." And I feel as if I could read her mind, too, and she was thinking, "Oh my god, this girl is coming right at me. SECURITY!!"


What is it like to be part of the Pop Culture?  I truly never think of myself that way! I love, love, love meeting and talking to our readers, and my life would be poorer without them, but I never think of the blog as anything more than my entertaining job, where I get to talk to all the cool people in our little community.

If you could impart one pearl of wisdom into every mind, and have it understood completely, what would that be?  Mine comes from The Onion: "All Problems Could Be Solved By Just Stopping and Thinking For Two Seconds."


Describe your family:  My family is great -- very supportive and funny.  I'm single at the moment, no kids, so I always think of my family as being my Mom and Dad, who live fairly close by, and my sister Elizabeth, who's currently attending UC Santa Cruz, and my cozy network of friends.


What does the first hour of your day look like?  Coffee-filled. I am a night owl, so I almost always put in some work at night so I can sleep in a bit in the morning knowing the site is well under control. I usually wake up around 8:30am and loll around in bed for a little bit, waking up, then toss on a robe, put the coffee on, and answer emails and look over the GFY twitter and Facebook accounts, read the news, and basically try to start my day as gently as possible. There's a lot of staring out the window in my robe.


The last hour?  I try to read in bed for about an hour before I go to sleep. It is my favorite way to wind down from the day.


What makes you feel successful?  I always consider a day a success if I've made it through another one having gotten done everything that absolutely needed doing. But on a larger scale, I feel as if I have succeeded when people write to us and tell us that GFY made them laugh, or helped them through a difficult time.


What brings you joy?  A good book, a good meal, a good night's sleep, and a good evening with my friends or my family. Also, college football season.

What women do you admire?  Gosh, so many. Heather, for managing to juggle so much more in her life than I do -- I don't know how she manages to be such a great mom and wife, and still do such great creative work. My own mother, for just generally being a smart, awesome woman.  Tina Fey, for being hilarious and owning that she is bossy (as someone who is herself also slightly bossy). All the women in politics who have to do everything the men do, but ALSO have to get up at the crack of dawn to make sure their hair doesn't look totally insane.


What do you like best about your closest friend?  I like that she is willing to let me ride her coattails and be her writing partner. :)

What do you like best about yourself?  I think I am a pretty good friend. I have the capacity to endlessly listen to/discuss other people's problems. I legitimately find them interesting and am always willing to talk about them. I also have a great sense of direction, and I am an excellent parallel parker.

What advice would you give boys about girls?  We spend a lot of time over-analyzing whatever it is that you do; please understand this, and make it clear to us if you like us or not. Likewise, boys should know that girls WILL talk about them, and that girls are generally very loyal to their girlfriends, so if you are a jackass to one, you can kiss the idea of ever dating someone else in her particular circle of friends good-bye. And that circle of friends is much, much wider than you think it is. So be nice -- it will serve you better down the road.

How do you overcome adversity?  I guess I just try and power through it.  Every day, you've got to wake up and put one foot in front of the other, and I try and do that with as much good cheer as I can.

How do you want to be remembered?  Well, I would LIKE to be remembered as the greatest beauty of the 21st century, but THAT is definitely not going to happen. So I'll settle for being remembered as a good friend and an interesting person who will be missed.

Thank you so much to Heather and Jessica for being part of our Project!  Remember to leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of Spoiled and some really pink nail polish.

Also, thank you to our Premium Sponsors, Too Too Fabulous, Note Worthy, and The Outside Lane, who made the giveaway possible!  Please check out their work.

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Sarah

Posted by Lane on June 9, 2011 at 11:21 AM Comments comments (0)

I met Sarah in the summer of 2001, when we both worked for a small bank.  She was the graphic artist/marketing department/web designer, and the friendliest face in the place.  If I hadn't already thought she was awesome and wonderful, and hadn't already decided she was the kind of friend you keep forever, the events of September 11, 2001 would permanently ink her into my psyche.  We spent that day together, alternately huddled around a computer checking internet updates, and in the conference room watching news on the big screen.


We, along with a couple of coworkers, tried to go give blood on our lunch hour, but we were told it wasn't necessary, so we sat in a seafood place nibbling numbly at our food, watching the news as it unfolded.


BUT, I had already decided Sarah was awesome and wonderful, and the kind of friend you keep forever, so even though we haven't seen each other in person since Thor was an infant, we have stayed in touch via email, LiveJournal, and lately Facebook.  I've gotten to see Sarah's son growing up, watch her professional moves, and just been very pleased at having that window into her world at all.


She's a great lady.  She's a great friend.  She's a wonderful human being.


Meet Sarah.



Name: Sarah Touchon

Age Range: Freshly 30!

Preferred Job Title: Retouch Artist/Graphic Designer

Industry: Portrait Photography

Who are you?  I'm an off-beat little work in progress. A creative single mom, who now has TWO loves of her life (my One and my Son), and all together happy lady!


How has photo retouching changed your ideas about beauty, or has it?  Photoshop is a helluvah drug. It can enhance and perfect, but it can also greatly distort the truth as well. These women in catalogs and magazines DO NOT look that way fresh out of the camera! The print pieces we judge ourselves against have been nudged and tweaked to market an appealing product- the celebrity, bag, shoe, whathaveyou. We, as a collective, "know" that, but it's easily forgotten. Expert lighting and posing, proper fitting clothes and a skilled makeup hand can do AMAZING things!


You know the love glow you see your significant other or children in? That's my goal for your prints. I want you to see yourself in the best light possible. Literally hundreds of faces come through my desk every year to be freshened up to have their portrait hanging on the living room wall for the next decade. Most of these faces I never interact with, I just do a little color correction, check for renegade strays, remove that big zit on the otherwise great skin and move on. I have not had a single face in 4 years that didn't look better with a little minor tweaking. Admittedly, the first thing I zone in on in an image of myself are my circles- 5 seconds later they are gone ... and THEN I post it. What can I say?


Sarah's Before

Sarah's After


We all have little insecurities. Some of us more than others, and sometimes with zero rationality to anyone but ourselves. It has been my experience since working here, that the thinnest, most beautiful girls in my eyes, have the lowest self-image. When reviewing their images, it's a battery of "UGH! Look at my chins! My arms look HUGE! Can you erase that fat roll?" Me, "What roll??? You mean your shirt??" "NO! THAT! That huge lump right at my waist band! Disgusting." Granted, not every teenage girl that walks through here crucifies themselves, it just seems that the size 8+ crowd fawns over their images while the smaller crowd nit picks. Sometimes we can't see the over all beauty because we focus on that one square inch.


Some of Sarah's retouch work, from no enhancement, through skin correction, light enhancement, and heavy enhancement.


The flip side of this nano-focus is when an acned, shy-looking person comes across my desk. At first I sigh, I know I'm going to be here a while- but nobody has acne forever, so let's get rid of these and see what happens. When I zoom back out and reexamine, wow. This girl has AMAZING blue eyes, this guy's dimples are SO cute! Really, everyone has at least one great feature. Sometimes it's just not the first thing that gets noticed about them.


I realize this makes me come across a bit superficial, but I'm being honest. Prior to this career, I HATED being in pictures, I zeroed in on my double chin or crooked smile, doing that hyper critical thing women do when they aren't confident with themselves. For me, working in this industry has changed my own self image for the better. I am RIGHT in the middle of the road with my body, skin, and hair, and really, I'm beautiful. EVERYONE has something awesome about them, it's all in how you see things.


Tell us about a moment in time that was as close to perfect as possible:  The scene that has always stood out to me as a favorite memory of mine is Christmas, late 80s, at my grandparents. Before my parent's divorced, my grandmother passed away of cancer and we all grew up and drifted apart. My cousins came in from out of town and we had a big slumber party in the den on air mattresses. We woke up in the morning to the smell of eggs and bacon in the kitchen, all smooshed together (because that's how air mattresses roll). We were all together and blissfully unaware of what would transpire over the next 10 years.


If you could impart one pearl of wisdom into every mind, and have it understood completely, what would that be?  "This-will-work-for-now" will last far, far longer than intended if you let it. And while it can be easier to cope, than to take the leap of faith to make changes, things won't change on their own. Stop. Settling. Like Alice, I often give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.

Describe your family:  We were a close-knit group til high school, then spent most of my twenties quiet and tense. We're growing closer, and less tolerant of drama, with time. So now when we feel things aren't going well, we speak our minds ... which in turn leads to drama. But at least we get over it these days.


What does the first hour of your day look like?  I cut the alarm close so I can't be lazy. I'm showered and made up, my son and I are both out the door within 45 minutes of getting up. Then I sit in traffic for an hour listening to Russ Martin.


The last hour?  Dinner, bath, 3 books read to and with the boy, and really, by the time I have a silent moment, I usually pass out! Crazy (wonderful) life!


What makes you feel successful?  My mind operates in a very Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon sort of way, which makes me appear random and scattered (and I am). But I am also a really good problem solver and use this idea-bouncing to come up with out-of-the-box solutions when faced with a problem. I consider myself successful when I use things outside of their common purpose to reach a goal.


What brings you joy?  Little things like bright colors, quirky details, great meals, and the glow on my son's face when he is proud of himself! THAT is priceless!


What women do you admire?  I really admire the take-it-or-leave it attitude some women have. The ones that put their own spin on everything they do, damn the consequences or the looks of disapproval from the masses. Risk takers, male or female are my idea of sexiness. I have a major Girl Crush on Tina Fey! She's smart and witty, and can laugh at herself. Her brains, humor and beauty trifecta make her a strong female role model.


What do you like best about your closest friend?  My three closest friends each bring something unique to the table, but all share a common realistic expectation of our communication. No one gets bent out of shape if we go months with little more than a few texts. I LOVE that we just pick right back up where we left off with no awkward re-acclimation. We're no less friends because we don't talk regularly.


What do you like best about yourself?  My best feature I think is my hair. I love that I can sport many different colors and cuts and still feel like Me. My best attribute is my sense of humor. I really enjoy a good gut-busting laugh fest!


What advice would you give boys about girls?  The saying "Nice guys finish last" probably does hold true. I have this theory that it's not that women are attracted to men that are assholes for the sake of it, but for their confidence and non-chalant attitude. Confidence DOES go a long way! But listen, we will come around. You keep doing what you are doing, and your One will find you. Maybe not on YOUR timeline, but on the right one.


How do you overcome adversity?  My attack is find as many different ways of accomplishing the task at hand and just keep truckin along. I think a LOT, but I try not to lay down and wallow- it makes nothing better. Most of the hot water I've been in I only noticed was so deep once I looked back on it. "How in the WORLD did I make it through that??!" (that also makes me feel successful, come to think of it!)


How do you want to be remembered?  One in a million, not one OF a million.

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Tiffany

Posted by Lane on June 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM Comments comments (0)

Last week you met Erin Shepard of Lone Star Pin-Up.  It seemed only fitting that you meet Tiffany Hill this week.  Tiffany, who was equally as fabulous and gracious with her lightning fast response to our WWK Q&A, is a seamstress who specializes in vintage clothing reproduction--and don't for a second think I am not eyeballing her work with my own future Betty Draper dresses in mind.


I am posting some pictures of her work in the Q&A that follows, but you should Like her on Facebook, where you can see a whole other gallery of her work, and where she posts Freebies when they are available.  Also, check out her website Sew She Said for information about having your own vintage styles custom made.


One of the reasons I wanted to focus on Tiffany was the diversity in the sizing of her work.  When you flip through her gallery, you'll see a great range of women--all of them wearing outfits that FIT and look fabulous on them.  In a world where designers fuss and fume over having to work outside of a sample size, I think it is very important to support clothiers who craft to the woman, not to the sublimated ideal.  And, I love her rompers.  Any excuse to post pictures of adorable rompers!


Friends, Meet Tiffany.


Name: Tiffany Hill

Age Range: 30

Preferred Job Title: Seamstress of all things fabulous ;)

Industry: Vintage Clothing Reproduction



Who are you?  I am a seamstress who loves vintage dresses, my specialty is remaking dresses from photos. I adore tailor made clothing, and beautiful fabrics.

I have a website at www.sewshesaid.com that displays some of my work.


You are a designer and seamstress, so you work with a lot of different body types. What would you tell a little girl about beauty and body image?  I really do believe that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The thing that looks best on anyone is being confident and being an indivdual, even if nobody else seems to "get it". Little girls be yourself and all the pretty things you can imagine!



What has been your favorite creation?  I just made this black and yellow prom dress that was insane! There was reversible trains, spinal ruffles, skirt pinching, very involved. The colors were awesome! The young woman who I made it for was truly her own person, very artistic and I had not meet a teenager quite like her. It was an awesome experience, I hope to meet many more like her.




You have a lovely, niche business. What advice do you have for women who want to work for themselves?  Believe in yourself and in whatever it is you do, and never take a day off. Really. Work hard and then work harder, you will always see good results.


If you could impart one pearl of wisdom into every mind, and have it understood completely, what would that be?  Ask for what you want,whatever it is, and work hard once you get it.



Describe your family:  I'm married to a Mr. Joshua Hill who is really wonderful (I love you pookie), A one year old daughter Lily (we call her Lily bird), four year old son Gavin (we call him Gavin Newts), and a nine your old Daughter Marisol who is quite the designer herself ;) We also have two dogs, and lots of Koi fish.


What does the first hour of your day look like?  Coffee, breakfast, kiddos get dressed.

I line up my projects a week before hand and follow that strictly to keep up, no matter what. I prepare and start working on garment orders by 8:00 every single day.


The last hour?  Thinking about what work needs to be done tomorrow lol!



What makes you feel successful?  I always love it when a client comes to try on a dress and jumps up and down doing the little excited girlie clap! I know she is in love when she does this, and it always makes me smile. I feel like "Yes! She's happy!"


What brings you joy? My family aaaaand fabric shopping!


What women do you admire?  Actually, one woman comes to mind, and she is gonna kill me for saying this lol. This woman is so very talented, and is truly a supporter of other female entrepreneurs. She has really made an impact on me and my business, Mrs Erin Shephard owner of Lone Star Pin-up. She works so very hard not only in the studio but outside constantly promoting and coming up with the most awesome set ideas.


What do you like best about yourself?  The ability to create pieces that women love.



What advice would you give boys about girls?  Be awesome to her and when YOU think your being awesome, try even harder :) Diamonds and pretty dresses don't hurt either!


How do you overcome adversity?  Do whatever it is I have to. Nothing good is ever easy.


How do you want to be remembered?  I want to be remembered as someone who was down to earth, funny, and someone who truley loved her work. Pretty much all around awesome :) just kidding lol.


Women Worth Knowing: Meet Erin

Posted by Lane on June 1, 2011 at 4:14 PM Comments comments (5)

My friend Sarah posted a link on Facebook, pointing to Lone Star Pin-Up, a photography studio located in Killeen, Texas.  I spent a good half hour oogling the website before getting so excited I couldn't pay attention to the photo gallery any longer, and had to contact owner/photographer/model Erin Shephard to see if she would come visit us at WWK. 


Erin responded almost immediately, and was so gracious and sweet I wanted to drive to Killeen to meet her in person.  Alas, I could not.  Instead, I will introduce all of you to her, and tell you that if you are into vintage, like feeling beautiful, live in Texas (or have the means of getting here) you should definitely visit her studio for a one-of-a-kind experience.  I am saving my pennies (and doing crunches) to make an appointment.


Meet Erin.



Name: Erin Shephard

Age Range: 26

Preferred Job Title: Owner/Photographer at Lone Star Pin-up

Industry: Photogaphy


Who are you? I am a pin-up photograher, photo retoucher, graphic designer, stage performer, sometimes model, wife and "mother" to two Great Danes.

Tell us how you struck upon the idea for Lone Star Pin-Up: I worked as a professional and freelance graphic deisgner and photo retoucher for several years before I decided I wanted to make a change. I have always loved the glamour and beauty of vintage pin-up paintings and portraits of women from the 40's and 50's. I wanted to try my hand at photography, and this is the only genre that interested me. The opportunity for creativity is endless!


What do you love most about your job? I love making women feel beautiful and more confident about themselves. I have gotten to know some amazing people since I started this business, from clients to fellow business women, and I hope to get the chance to meet many more.


What do you look for in a setting for your photography? I mostly shoot in my studio. With the help of others, I create themed sets, like a giant moon, retro living room, jungle, USO show and many more, just to keep it exciting and interesting. We occasionally shoot at special locations like a motorcycle shop or boutique hotel. Any location has to have a retro look and be able to inspire both model and photographer.

What advice do you have for women building their own businesses, like you did? Find something you love and build a business around it. I started Lone Star Pin-up as a creative outlet for myself and never imaged it would grow into something this big. It's easy to go to work everyday when you love what you do!

Describe your family: I am blessed to have an amazing family. My parents have always supported and looked out for me my entire life. You couldn't ask for a better set! My husband has been amazing through the entire Lone Star journey and continutes to help whenever need it. As a theatre directer, we share a love for the arts and often combine resources to help each other out. Chloe and Rowley, our Great Danes, are equally as supportive as long as treats are involved.

What does the first hour of your day look like? It usually involves walking the dogs, having some breakfast, then retouching client photos.

The last hour? Usually spent retouching photos or watching movies with my husband.

What makes you feel successful? The little things make me feel successful. Like when people have heard of Lone Star Pin-up or recognize me in public. Or when I see people using their pin-up photos as profile pics on social networking websites.

What brings you joy? I love when women tell me they feel more beautiful and self confident because of their shoot.

What women do you admire? I admire creative women in my industry for their innovative ideas, unique photos and high quality work. Some of my favorite photographers include Viva Van Story and Celeste Giuliano.

What do you like best about your closest friend? I have a few very close friends, and I am eterally grateful for their friendship. They are genuine, supportive and always there when you need them.


What do you like best about yourself? I like that I have an easy-going personality and get along with most people. Life's too short to waste your time arguing and being catty.


What advice would you give boys about girls? Tell them they are the most beautiful creature you have ever seen. And better yet, mean it!


How do you overcome adversity? I let the bad things roll off my back and focus on the good.

How do you want to be remembered? I hope people remember me as kind and genuine. And also hot! ;oD


Women Worth Knowing: Meet Patricia Brett

Posted by Lane on May 19, 2011 at 6:06 PM Comments comments (0)

Now and then I run across a woman whose work is so inspiring, I have to question what I've been doing with my life.  Patricia Brett is one of those women. 

I was cruising my Twitter feed and ran across @VeronicaBrett in a comment from @AlexandraGilt, of the Gilt Groupe.  Alexandra said that @VeronicaBrett's work looked very interesting, so of course I clicked around until I found the VeronicaBrett.com, the website I wish had existed ten years ago, so that when one of my best friend's mother lost her breasts to cancer, she could have benefitted from it.

Reading Patricia Brett's story, and how her vision for beautiful, sophisticated swimwear for women who have had radical mastectomies came to be, I scrambled for the Kleenex, then contacted her immediately.  I honestly didn't expect a response, but I knew I had to try.  I knew you had to meet Patricia, and you had to see her work, and you would want to share it with all your friends.

My family and friends have all suffered loss from breast cancer.  It thrills my soul to see someone who is helping give survivors back some of the beauty and ownership of their bodies that they might feel they have lost.

Meet Patricia.

Name: PatriciaBrett

Age Range: 47-47 !

Job Title: Designer & Founder, Veronica Brett

Industry: Fashion


Who are you? Mom, wife, sister, friend, entrepreneur, previvor(someone who has survived the increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer),breast cancer advocate, proponent of women’s rights.

Your company,Veronica Brett, a luxury, highly-engineered design brand for women who haveundergone mastectomies, was born out of love for your sister, who (along withseveral other women in your family) had undergone a mastectomy without reconstruction.  When you were buildingthat first swimsuit for your sister, what was your vision?  My vision was to create a sophisticated, beautiful swimsuit thatwould help her look and feel fabulous all over again.  A suit that was timeless, simple, and in abeautiful basic black or navy, with a style that was somewhat sexy, notmatronly.

Mission Accomplished!

You are nostranger to breast cancer, having survived it yourself.  What are the best things friends or familymembers can do to help keep spirits up during treatment and after?  I actually cheated cancer by having my breasts removed beforeany breast cancer was detected.  I thinkit is really important for friends & family to fully support women who makethe decision to have a risk-reducing mastectomy, it’s something a lot of peoplecan’t comprehend.  It’s equally importantfor friends and family to support whatever course of action or treatment awomen decides to have (or not have).  Asense of humor is really important, but it’s also important to understand whenthere is a time for humor, and when it is time to just listen and be there fora person.  You need to take cues from thepatient.  Most important is just to askwhat is needed and to be available.

You carry theBRCA1 gene that predisposes women to the risks of breast and ovariancancer.  What do you tell women aboutearly detection and prevention:  Early detection is key whether you are BRCA positive ornot.  All women should exam their breastmonthly and should have them examined by their ob-gyn at their yearlyexam.  It’s important to understand yourfamily history of breast cancer (and all cancers) and to communicate thatinformation to your primary care provider and ob-gyn.  Have mammograms as recommended by your doctorand if you feel even the slightest lump, make sure your doctors take itseriously.  No one is too young forbreast cancer.  If anyone says, “it’sprobably nothing” ask them “what tests can be done to proveit’s nothing?”

How different, howinteresting was it to use your degree in architecture to build fashion?  And, what was the biggest challenge inengineering the final structure of your gorgeous swimwear?  I had no idea what I was getting into when I started out withthe idea for a designer line of swimwear for survivors.  I assumed if I could design a building andget it built, I should be able to design a bra or a swimsuit; if only it wasthat easy!  I had to learn so much:finding pattern makers and sample sewers, sourcing fabrics and trim, marketing,etc.  It has been an incredible learningexperience but I have enjoyed it and met so many amazing people along theway.  A lot of my skills fromarchitecture did come in to play including how to manage a project and see anidea through to completion.

The biggestchallenge in the engineering of the swimwear was to design a suit that lookedlike a “regular” swimsuit but could conceal a breast form and hold it close tothe body; and how to make a supportive suit that was still a sexy silhouette.


Describe your family:  I have an amazing hubbo who is incredibly supportive ofthe work I am doing with Veronica Brett and I have a great son with anincredible sense of curiosity.  I learnsomething from them both every day.  Ihave five older sisters, 2 older brothers and three younger brothers.  I count some of my siblings and my nieceamongst my closest friends.

What does the first hour of your day look like? 15 minute snooze/snuggle until I absolutely have to getup.  Shower, and then sit down tobreakfast laid out by my husband; he makes the most amazing tea.  I have breakfast with my son (who usuallywants the front page of the NY Times!) and take him to school.  Then it’s at my desk and diving into mywork.  I usually read WWD with my secondcup of tea and second breakfast.

The last hour? I keep a “clarityjournal” (my sister Regina taught me that one). Everynight before bed, I write down the doors that opened that day, thethings that worked and the things that didn’t work.  It’s a way for me to acknowledge thesuccesses (and the stumbling blocks), give thanks and keep moving forward onthis journey.  After that I do a 10minute yoga wind-down routine.

What makes you feel successful? My 10-year old son wants to be an inventor and called me an“inventor” of swimsuits, I really liked that. I’ve received many emails from women telling me this is the first timein years that they felt sexy in a bathing suit, sexy and comfortable.  Those emails keep me going.

What brings you joy? My husband wakes up cheery every morning, that brings me greatjoy.  Seeing the trees in bloom on thewalk to school, playing boardgames after dinner.

What women do you admire?  Hillary Clinton, Anita Hill, Norma Kamali, Dr.Mary-Claire King, Zora Brown and my friend Muriel.

What do you like best about your closest friend?  She listens without ever judging, she has a good sense of herown personal style and she’s confident enough to wear her hair really short.

What do you like best about yourself? My sense of humor, my ability to analyze visually.  My blue eyes (my dad’s side) and high cheekbones (from my mom!).

What advice would you give boys about girls? Treat them with the utmost kindness and respect, the sameway you should be treated.

How do you overcome adversity? By living in the now and trying to accept allthings/situations.  By thinking up threepossible solutions to any problem and picking the best one (and not beingafraid to modify as I go!).

How do you want to be remembered? As a really loving mom, a great sister, and someone who was ableto let out a really good laugh without worrying what anyone thought!

Keep updated with news on the Veronica Brett Facebook fan page here: VeronicaBrettFans

And shop the swimwear here and the convertible bikini here


All photos used with permission.


Single Mother's Day

Posted by Lane on May 6, 2011 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (2)

By now you know that Gina is one of my favorite people.  She is also one of my favorite mothers, and her daughter Samantha is a recent Woman Worth Knowing profile--another favorite!  I asked her to write about her experience being single mother, and I am so glad I did.


Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there who fill the shoes of Moms and Mentors--we're all better off for having Women Worth Knowing in our lives


When Lane asked me to write an article on Single Parenting I thought "Piece of Cake." I have been blindly blathering on and on about raising Samantha for years. Interestingly enough, as soon I sat down to write on the subject my mind went blank. Typical writers block I assumed and put it off, until I recently realized it has been quite some time and my moment in the sun might have passed me by.


There is no real way to write about being a single parent. I know for me, it was a conscious choice since before her birth. I assumed (and assumed correctly) Samantha would be my last chance child, and really, how difficult could it be to raise a child alone I innocently challenged the Gods of Irony?


For any of you who have ever parented, even as an Aunt, Uncle, or friend for a weekend, you can guffaw at that last statement. I certainly have. Not before I cried, swore, and begged for mercy. The movies, the TV shows, they lie. They assume everyone has money for multiple nannies, a job with swing hours and understanding bosses, and a baby that never teeths, has colic, diarhhea in the middle of the night, or a case of night terrors that lasts for three months.


I had the best compliment landed on me some ten years ago when a friend of mine had her biological time clock ticking and was starting to look at the option of single handled raising a child. I choked back the coffee I had just swallowed as she presented me with this news and quickly screamed NO!! at her. She looked taken aback and said to me, "But you've made it look so easy all these years!" I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry, and in retrospect I realize a little of both.


I calmly explained to her all of those things that they don't tell you about in baby books, or handouts, or television shows. How being prepared and thinking ahead is never enough. There is never a quick run to the grocery store when you find you are down to your last diaper or wipe. It's a huge ordeal, and it consists of taking a sleeping baby out into the cold, while others bore holes into you with their eyes willing horrible things onto you for committing such a crime.


Simple things like showers and doing the laundry are taken for granted, because while you do these things you must ALWAYS have your eyes peeled for another. Naps are a thing of the past, unless you can cram them in while they nap, which every parent knows, never happens. Telephone calls, are a constant drill of "Can you hold on a sec?" until one or both parties gets frustrated and ends the call.


Consider movies in a theater a thing of the past for the next five years, and get awfully used to songs by Barney, and Elmo. A hot meal is something you will see others receive, unless you like yours at ten p.m. and alone. Going Out to Eat means a Happy Meal, for cost and chaos. Save up all of your sick time, not only to care for a sick baby or toddler that a sitter or daycare won't care for, but double up, because no sooner will the baby bypass their illness, then you will succumb to it. Vacation time can also be crossed off the list, for nearly the same reasons that sick times are. All of those holidays that the schools close down for, the daycares do as well. Do people really get paid to have Arbor Day off?


See most people trade those things off. You take one day sick and I'll take the next one. When you do this single handed the Chicken Pox can wipe out an entire years sick time AND start to gnaw on vacation at the same time.


New shoes, or clothes are something you don't even realize you've bypassed until you find a hole in the bottom of you three year old loafers you've worn to death. When you check the bank balance and realize you pay the electricity and the babysitter, or you wear those holey shoes for two more weeks, you learn humility.


Most of this sounds pretty cantankerous, and it was meant to be as I explained it to my friend. Being a Single Parent isn't something someone should slide into easily, or without warning. BUT - if you can handle the tasks; If you can brave the lack of trading off which nights your spouse wakes to feed the baby for your doing it 100% - then you might be lucky to slide into homebase with a winning smile, and tell yourself it was worth it the whole time.


I've always been pretty independent, but to be honest, this was terrifying even for me. I convinced myself to see the upside of things, to see past the terror, and it happened almost immediately. When I bounced baby names off the wall, there wasn't someone there to tell me they dated a Kera, or a that they hated the name Sean. When I said I wanted to used my mother's name for the middle name, there wasn't the compromise of using his mother Edith's name for the first. I had a girlfriend in with me in the delivery room, who understood that humour and compassion was needed much more than the play by play techniques learned in Lamaze.


I never had to compromise holiday traditions, religious teachings, scary relatives, or boring family vacations to visit an Aunt in Oklahoma we never even knew. There was no argument on how to handle the correct age to date, or whether or not she should be baptized.


Quite the opposite in fact. In a completely selfish sense, I traded sensibility for playing the almighty part of my daughters life. I was the last face she saw before she went to bed, and the first face she saw when she awoke. If we wanted pancakes for dinner, we could vote pancakes for dinner. I grumbled and agreed in a conspirator's whisper how math was a stupid but pivotal part of life, and helped her trudge thru it the best I could. We built California Missions together both aghast at the cheater parents who apparently built these same ones singlehandled for their children. I learned to play dad, and we whooped it up when I singlehandly could unclog the garbage disposal, or put a bike together for a birthday. I also got all the glory for two holidays; Mother's and Father's Day were BOTH mine.


I never had to really learn to balance a romantic relationship with my relationship with her for many many years, and this was the part I stressed most to my friend when explaining about single parenting:



She came first.




It was the deal I made with myself. If I were to do this, I would do it right. This wasn't buying into Time Life Books, and then changing my mind because I got bored half way thru. This wasn't me deciding that my needs were just as important. They weren't. Not during these formative years.


That doesn't mean I became a nun. That doesn't mean she didn't know I dated. But I dated around her schedule, and only the very VERY lucky were permitted into the Golden Ring. The Sanctum of Samantha I like to call it. They had to pass very vigourous testing, and even after that, most didn't get it. I DID make sure she had very loving, very positive male role models in her life. I knew from a history of my own, that without that, her ability to define and create her own relationships would be hindered. So close and trusted male friends, and family members were brought into this circle, to teach her that men are not evil, to be feared, or to be manipulated, but to be treated as equals with respect.


In the end, I have a girly-girl. She is afraid of spiders, and hates sports. She's never liked getting dirty, never went thru a tom-boy phase. She may have been different had she had a stronger male influence in her life from day one. She might have more confidence in throwing a ball. She might enjoy watching football with me, primarily more than once a year for the commercials and food only. She did recently build her first bookshelf, and I believe it was a huge point of pride for her. Sometimes I think it would have been nice to point her in the direction of someone who did understand algebraic equations, and not have to remind her that she missed out on the math gene. Having someone play referee for our estrogen laced catfights would have saved her some tears and me some vocal power.


I won't say I raised the perfect child, because I am far from the perfect parent. I took a chance on a road not highly travelled and I did it as a blind person. I made many mistakes and raised my voice where temperance would have been better sought. There were times of exhaustion that I used a television as a babysitter. There were half-naps taken begging the Gods of Sleep to allow me two minutes, while keeping her safe at the same time. She was served canned when she should have had fresh. Hamburger was stretched where Sirloin would have been better. Sadly there have been more than enough moments where my strong shoulders could not weather another tear. But I never skipped an apology or a hug good night. I learned that parent/teacher conferences were important, but that after grade 4, Open Houses weren't.


She has known that her family differs than most, and that not everyone agrees with the way we chose to raise our young. That society has names for children like her and mothers like me. I've taught her to hold her head high and to answer to what is right, not what is popular. I've raised, despite what society's standards tell me I should have raised; a highly moral, smart thinking, open minded, tolerant individual. She's never dabbled in drugs or alcohol, ended up promiscuous and I've never had to have the leash on her tighter than a respectful phone call and knowledge on where she was at. She understands the circumstances of her birth, and of her father, or lack thereof, without it branding or pigeon holing her.


So I have to ask, did I answer the questions? Were there challenges? Yes, more than I could amass in one blog. Was there fun? I think so. I think with it just being the two of us, and with us both being female perhaps, our system of reliance was deeper and stronger than most. I think the fun we have had and continue to have is something not everyone can relate to. We speak our own language, filled with sarcasm, and laughter. Would I do it differently? Yes. I wish as most every parent had, that I understood that time was so fleeting and I would have afforded myself more patience. I wish I had understood the time constraints on myself emotionally and had a better back-up system when she was an infant, instead of shouldering nearly the entire burden alone. I think these are a lot of things that even dual parental households would chose.


Lastly, do I consider myself a success?


Yes. I'm not completely certain how it happened, but last June I proudly stood there when she graduated high school and was amazed that we made it as far as we did, with as much success as we had. The odds were stacked against us. Politicians and pundits said our chances were slim, and yet today I am watching her complete her first year of college, gearing up for a possible law career. She holds down a good job, is responsible, and caring. She is actively vocal student in studies of life, and expands her knowledge, sometimes far from the corners of my own grasping mind.


No one who has met her, hasn't fallen in love with her. People tell me I should take a lot of the credit, but in my heart, I just know that all I did was rudder the ship correctly and ignore the icebergs.


Augh!  I love this woman!

Women Worth Knowing: Meet Alexia

Posted by Lane on April 27, 2011 at 2:58 PM Comments comments (1)

My friend, Mark, sent me a message a while back, saying he knew a woman I should meet and profile for this project.  He said she was smart, confident, and had an amazing story to tell.  Not long after, I found myself having lunch with Alexia, enjoying myself thoroughly.


Over fantastic Greek cuisine, I got to hear a little of this daughter of a Mississippi Delta dwelling, Greek restaurant family's history.  It was very interesting to listen to her talk about her book, Views from the 13th Floor, the story of the mentor relationship that has helped her craft her present and future, and we talked about her website, her blog, and her burgeoning career as a public speaker.


I know I'm looking forward to knowing more about her, so it is my pleasure to introduce you.  Meet Alexia.


Name:  Alexia Isaak

Profession:  Author, Public Speaker


What makes you feel successful?

I feel successful when I accomplish a task I put my mind to. It can be as simple as cooking a meal. I also feel successful when I’m a team player and ideas are shared and received. I also feel successful if I’m able to do something to bring another person joy.


What brings you joy?

The love in my life certainly brings me joy. I love sunshine and being in nature and really good, quality food. Being in the company of friends and sharing life together also brings me great joy.


What women do you admire?

I admire Rhonda Shasteen, Renee Fleming, Ann Curry, Julie Andrews, and the beautiful women around me every day that impact my life in a positive way.


What do you like best about your closest friend?

I like that we share the same interests. We can confide in each other without any guardrails. We share everything and continue to grow our love, trust and respect for each other.


What do you like best about yourself?

I like trying to be self-aware everyday and constantly striving to be a better person. I also like knowing I’ve persevered through tough times. It offers me great comfort to know where I am today vs. where I’ve been in the past. Having overcome trials reaffirms my sense of purpose on this earth.


What advice would you give boys about girls?

Girls are emotional. Girls take some time to figure out what they are thinking and feeling. It’s important for us share what we are thinking and feeling and have that be heard by another. If you listen to a woman and really hear her, it will be one of the best gifts you can give her.


How do you overcome adversity?

I overcome adversity by talking myself up with positive mantras, praying, and surrounding myself with positive people.


How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered for helping others through encouragement or connecting them or assisting in some way.


Tell us how you met your mentor:

I met Rhonda when she spoke for the DFW American Marketing Association. I was looking for a female professional to mentor me. I liked her presentation very much and decided to stand in line and ask her to mentor me. The rest is history! Thank goodness for a moment of courage and boldness.


What do you think is most beneficial about a mentor relationship?

Having a mentor has helped me learn so much in lieu of making mistakes to learn lessons myself. My mentor also helps me see things about myself that I might not otherwise have seen. She also gives me affirmation that I’m not the only one feeling the way I feel.


When you think about *being* the mentor, how do you see yourself?

I want to mentor someone who desires to grow and will be completely open with me. I am certain I will continue to share Rhonda’s advice and color it with stories of my own. I see myself mentoring with a completely open heart and mind because that’s the best way it would help someone else.