Book review – Silent Symphonies

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Many women have suffered much because of centuries-old societal brainwashing into a culture of male dominance and female submission. If, like me, you’re an American

Women's empowerment from a multicultural viewpoint

Women’s empowerment from a multicultural viewpoint

baby boomer female, you’ve very likely lived through some of that yourself, even if you didn’t recognize it at the time. Countless books have been written about the topic over the generations—not least of which are the brilliant novels of Jane Austen, who coolly chronicles the controlling rules, crushingly limited expectations and cruel ironies of being female in such a world.

Recently received a review copy of another, though far less nuanced, voice adding to the ongoing exposé. Nigerian-born, UK-based writer Sally Chiwuzie has created a novel in her unique voice that addresses the subjugation and eventual empowerment of a woman who starts in an abusive marriage and ends as a single mother. The subtext is that multicultural couples often face even more of the domestic violence and unrealistic expectations that are present in so many relationships.

Chiwuzie, trained in the law, writes from the heart; though fiction, the story is based on many of her own and her friends’ experiences. The way the characters think and act reveals them as multicultural—they don’t sound or behave quite like Americans or Brits, so if you should pick it up, be prepared for what felt like some surprises in the language and the thought processes. Chiwuzie has also started an online campaign, Together We Are Unshakable,” with the goal of helping women become empowered. Can’t say I found the story overly compelling, but her goal is certainly admirable. Check out the website for your own insights.

Women-in-history tidbits

From the National Women’s History Museum come these women-in-history tidbits on a little card headed, “Did you know that…”

…in the early 20th century, Madam C.J. Walker became the first American self-made female millionaire after creating a line of hair care products for African American women in her kitchen while trying to make ends meet as a single mother?

…17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, the second woman to play in the major leagues, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game in 1931, but her contract was voided the next day because the baseball commissioner deemed the sport “too strenuous” for women?

…in 1777 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles on horseback through the night (twice the distance of Paul Revere’s more famous ride) to successfully warn Revolutionary Army troops of an impending British attack?

…Underground Railroad operative Harriet Tubman planned and led a complex and stunningly successful raid on the Confederacy with 300 Union troops in 1863?

Cool stuff. Hopefully we’ve got more women writing history these days and we’ll start to see more credit given to women where it’s due.

 

 

 

Book reviews: Good books to celebrate Single Working Women’s Week

Last week was Single Working Women’s Week. In addition to helping out a favorite single mom, this SWWAN was tightly scheduled, what with birthdays and all. Including also reading a new book I agreed to review: Everyday Healing by Janette Hillis-Jaffe. The subtitle is Stand up, Take Charge, and Get Your Health Back…One Day at a Time.

If we substitute “Groove” for “Health,” that sounds like a good prescription for life, too. And one that fits single women to a T. Not everybody has to stand up and take charge quite as vigorously as single women do. But stand up, we do. And take charge, we must. This book chronicles the struggles the author went through to conquer a six-year-long mystery illness that had her severely debilitated and depressed. Despite valiant efforts, doctors weren’t helping her.

Nearly half of Americans struggle with illness—heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, arthritis, cancer and chronic pain, to name a few. One-third of our population is obese. In her book, Hillis-Jaffe provides daily action steps to help eliminate undesirable habits and substitute new paths to health. You get practical tips on a bunch of topics—from how to organize your kitchen to help you cook healthier meals, having tough conversations with an unsupportive friend or lover, to how to fire your doctor—and a plethora of encouraging words on building your confidence that you can recover your health…and your life’s direction if it’s not going where you want it to go.

She recommends doing as much research as you can about your condition, and make it an ongoing project. She talks a lot about getting support from other people—something many of us are not good at. Asking for help is a foreign concept for many single women especially (though most men have a rough time at that, too). She talks about why it’s important and how to do it. And she talks about ways in which these steps have proven their power to change lives. If you’re struggling with an illness or obesity or other persistent health challenge, this book offers food for thought—and ideas for action.

Another book I highly recommend that might well change your life for the better is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. The author is a tidying consultant who has helped hundreds of people transform their homes and offices from places of hidden (or obvious) clutter to peaceful, clutter-free environments that promote calmness and clarity. She says that her clients always succeed in staying clutter-free if they follow her plan. She suggests doing it all in one time period, as short as possible, as the only way to make the new way of living stick. One of her most amazing tips is to store everything vertically—no piles of clothes, papers or stuff allowed anywhere. Even clothes and socks, she says, should be folded and stored standing up. I haven’t yet undertaken her whole program, but I used this simple trick to transform my sock drawer—a drawer that had been driving me crazy for months because it was so packed and I didn’t know what all was in there. Now it’s neatly organized, and I know exactly how many (don’t ask!) pairs of trouser socks and gym socks I actually have.

If you’re someone who buys more of a thing because you don’t really know how many you have, only to find you’ve duplicated your purchase (again), you will be amazed at Kondo’s simple plans. And remember her strong advice: don’t start storing until you’ve gone through every piece in a category and ruthlessly discarded anything that does not spark joy. Read the book. It’s fun and it’s enlightening.

If you thought your vote didn’t count…

A new source of in-depth data and analysis about unmarried women and what’s known as the “Rising American Electorate” is now available at Voter Participation Data Center. It’s interesting and puzzling to see from the graphic (below) that so many single women did not vote—even ones who were registered—in recent elections. What’s up with that?

 

There are 57 million unmarried women in America today—and by the time the 2016 election rolls around, they’ll be a majority of voting-eligible women. The Voter Participation Data Center aggregates research on the social, economic, and political lives of unmarried women, giving a complete picture of the ways in which they’ll shape our economy and our policies in the decades to come. It’s got demographic and economic profiles of unmarried women and analysis on the recent legal and electoral developments that most affect the lives of unmarried women—including paid sick leave, equal pay, workplace fairness, and the Affordable Care Act.

 

The Voter Participation Data Center puts out all this data in the form of shareable graphics that encapsulate it in a quickly-readable and easily-digestible form, making it easy for you to make your friends, family, and political leaders aware of how important unmarried women are going to be in the coming decades—and how important it’ll be for political leaders to speak to their needs and concerns.

 

Registration and Voting Rates in 2012
Voter Participation Data Center is intended to serve as a one-stop shop for anyone interested in understanding unmarried women—who, along with people of color and millennials, form the Rising American Electorate who may cast a majority of the votes in 2016.

 

Just in time for Single Working Women’s Week this August 2 through 8, 2015.

A long-single woman marries…

wedding dress try-on wedding family of 3 wedding Phia behind coupleAttended a wedding yesterday. Outside in the terrace garden of one of the country’s biggest and loveliest conservatories. The previously long-time single bride was gorgeous—of course she’s my daughter, but you be the judge—in her strapless wedding gown composed of layer upon layer of form-fitting ivory chiffon that slid down into a flare and a small train. I didn’t take many photos. Funny, how trying to be in the moment makes taking pictures too much of a diversion. But one I did take clearly shows the friend-professional-photographer doing his job. Good thing people can hire such services—so they can enjoy their own events.

When I look at the few photos I took myself, I’m glad to have caught some of the beauty and a little of the drama of what was going on.  It wasn’t without trepidation the bride had been pondering the loss of her official status as an independent single working woman. Fortunately, the groom has promised faithfully to let her keep her tool belt and fix the toilet and take the garbage out herself any time she wants. And for the almost-eight-year-old daughter of the bride, knowing that a third (male) person will now be part of the family inner circle is a sea change of unknowable immensity.
The bride’s friend performed the beautiful ceremony. Lovely, heartfelt sentiments, including a pledge between the new couple and the little girl. An emotional time for all.
The handsome couple are off to Cancun today. Yep. My daughter’s married. And guess what? Her birthday is August 4…the same day as the official holiday Single Working Women’s Day.

Christmas past

I write two columns for Examiner.com: Chicago Lady Boomer Examiner and Chicago Restaurant Examiner. They changed their policy recently and decided we writers who keep their website pages full of fascinating, informative, newsy or simply interesting information must not write our material in the first person. In other words, no editorial stuff; write the way salaried reporters write.

I thought, oh, well, they changed their policy, and I started writing that way as much as possible. Today I discovered that not only did they change their policy but they actually went through and un-published posts that retroactively did not comply with the new directive. Wow.

Well, I hate to waste hard work. So I’ll be publishing here and writing in the first person. Hope you’ll find things interesting. Starting with a Christmas reflection I wrote several years ago that I just discovered has been un-published:

Life doesn’t look quite the same at 50 as it is does at 60 or 70. I personally didn’t start thinking differently about past and future until I was into my mid- to later 50s. And there just isn’t a better time to reflect on such things than the end of year. Another year of a down economy. Another year of significant physical challenges–had a hip replaced this year and let me tell you, the recovery is a bear. Another year of working at remaining centered while the media keep continually reporting bad news.

Having watched the endings of two different versions of the Charles Dickens story, Christmas Carol, I’m thinking of Scrooge’s lessons with the spirits of Christmas past, present and future. It’s wonderful how often we can experience the same thing (I also find it so with books and movies) at different times in our lives and get something completely different out of it.

I’m sitting here in my living room on Christmas eve morning with candles burning merrily on the coffee table, jazzy Christmas music flowing through my venerable (had them nearly 40 years), irreplaceable McIntosh stereo speakers, and life feels terribly precious in spite of it all.

To make it an even more poignant time for me, I’m moving in a few weeks. In preparation I’ve been sifting through my accumulated stuff. Interesting what I thought was essential when I downsized to move to my Chicago condo. Now I’m turning my heart and mind to starting a new, modified-minimalist approach to living–i.e., working to let go of so many “things.” Here’s what I wrote about living sparely and yet generously over at my single-woman blog SWWAN. [BP 2015: yes, that’s this blog]

No matter how much I love my “stuff,” there’s a freedom to letting it go out and bless others in the universe. In my current neighborhood, west Logan Square, I don’t even have to drive over to the thrift store. Just carry a box or a bag or a small piece of furniture out to the dumpster and it’s gone in minutes. Sometimes it gets into someone else’s car before you can put it on the ground.

Whatever you do to celebrate this time of year–whether you choose to celebrate with friends or family or you decide to have a peaceful time alone–I wish you the very warmest thoughts. Dismiss any haunting from the past. Refuse to let thoughts of the future ravage your peace today. When it comes down to it, this moment is all we are promised. And it’s all we need.

Have a Merry Christmas full of love–if you have grandkids, hold them as tight as you can for as long as they’ll let you. And may your new year begin well–and remain as prosperous and peaceful as you would ever wish.

Lest you think the battle is over…

Shocking? A 30-year-old Hollywood actress has been trying to rent/buy in New Delhi, India and is being told she can’t – because she’s a single woman. Of course it could also be in this case because she’s white, or because she’s an entertainer. Who knows where all the prejudices lie?

Beliefs from the old days live on. Single women used to be considered somehow dangerous and upsetting to the status quo. Many were made to live in convents to keep them out of the general population. Happily, the growing number of single women all over the world is making it increasingly acceptable for a woman to live single.

Things are changing. Just very slowly in some spots.

Celebrate Single Working Women’s Week and SWW Day August 4, 2014

One of the rare non-Apple laptops seen in an o...

(Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

Are you single? Do you have single friends? Well, congratulations! You have your very own holiday to celebrate.

Single Working Women’s Week, this year the week of August 3 to 9, 2014, became an international holiday in 2006 when Chase’s Calendar of Events – the official guide to holidays around the world – agreed it was a unique reason to celebrate.

August 4, Single Working Women’s Day, became official just a few years ago And today single women all over the world have their own day to celebrate the courage and creativity it takes to live – and thrive! – in a society still mostly geared for couples.

Even though 51% of women in the U.S. are single – and the proportion continues to grow as the percentage of marriages declines both here and in countries all over the globe – couples generally still get the most benefits: lower taxes, cheaper prices, better seats in restaurants, etc. Though, thank goodness, things have been shifting in the eight years since SWWAN (Single Working Women’s Affiliate Network) was founded.

The online magazine Psychology Today publishes a column called “Living Single” written by professor Bella dePaulo, herself an ever-single woman. She specializes in studying societal trends and conducting research related to the phenomena surrounding the state of being single. Good stuff.

Single Working Women’s Week and Day gives you an official day and week in which to show your single women friends how much you appreciate them. Send a card, give a gift, buy a drink, write a blog post, or do something nice for her. And don’t forget yourself!

Whether you and your single friends are ever-single or divorced, singleton or single mom, be good to yourselves during Single Working Women’s Week. Celebrate all that you do and all that you give to the world, just as you do for others on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day, and so on. You deserve it, too!

Cool – Brazil celebrates Women’s Orgasms during Single Working Women’s Week!

It’s hard to say whether Brazil’s International Women’s Orgasm Day (August 8), which falls right in the middle of Single Working Women’s Week (August 4 – 10 this year) is more about encouraging women to acknowledge and celebrate their sexuality, or more about guys wanting to have an excuse to talk about women’s orgasms.

Ecstasy.

Ecstasy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Either way, it’s funny and nice that it coincides with Single Working Women’s Week. Hope everybody’s having a very gratifying week.

And if that includes having an orgasm, go for it. Women who have orgasms more frequently are said to have happier dispositions, better health, and less pain. Check out these top 10 surprising facts about orgasm at Women’s Day online. 

And don’t forget to do something nice for the single women in your life!

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Happy Single Working Women’s Week – August 4-11 – AND Single Working Women’s Day August 4, 2013

Our special holiday is upon us once again. Single Working Women’s Week is August 4 to 11 this year. And now we have a Single Working Women’s Day on August 4 every year!

We urge everyone everywhere to  honor your single working women friends. Send her a card. Offer to take her garbage out. Or babysit her kid(s). Or cook dinner for her, or surprise her with a meal at her favorite restaurant. Sometimes just even spending a few hours together can feel special – even just going to the store together.

My life as a single semi-retired working woman has been mighty busy these last couple of years. Between health challenges and helping raise my lovely granddaughter (now 6), I haven’t had much time to reflect on living single. But this coming holiday week is a good time to do it. Rosie the Riveter is the image that caught on to represent all the women who went to work while the men fought WWII. Today women are everywhere in the work world. And nearly half of  women in the U.S. today are single (including divorced, widowed and never married).

A real-life

A real-life “Rosie the Riveter” operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee, working on an A-31 Vengeance dive bomber. Downsampled from original and sharpened slightly and resaved to increase managability of file. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like many single women today who find the elusive “right” guy simply isn’t coming on the scene, my daughter decided almost seven years ago to have a baby on her own. Her greatest passion in life has always been for children – she even spent her pre-teen and teen years working in a home daycare setting across the street from our house.  She is great with kids. I cheered her choice; I was sure she’d do a wonderful job despite all the challenges I knew she’d face being a single mom.

And she is.

I love being able to watch the future taking shape in the mind of a bright and happy little girl. Whether she ends up finding her soulmate one day and chooses to marry or she chooses the single life, she will never forget the passion, the energy, the devotion and the commitment of her single mom – and her single grandmom!

So here’s to all of us SWWANs: Happy Single Working Women’s Week and Single Working Women’s Day! Kudos to you for the passion and energy and creativity you  put into making your single life a celebration every day.

 

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