I’m In. Are You?

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Bucket Lists.  Do you have one?  Those once-in-a-lifetime adventures that you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket.

I found myself coming up short a couple of weeks ago when friends were rattling off their lists.

My friend, Donna, really impressed me. It was as though she had thought about her list for a long time.  Donna wants to: visit New Zealand, photograph polar bears and write a song.

Terrific, don’t you think?  The perfect combination of escapade and creativity.

When the conversation came to me, I fumbled, and said something about wanting to bring back saddle shoes and eat more cinnamon raisin toast.

JEEZ!  My Bucket List sounds more like a side-bar in the AARP magazine.

I gotta get going.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking BIG and have come up with a few Bucket possibilities.

Number One: I would like to attend a White House reception.

I came close to this wish in 2003.  Back then, I received an engraved invitation from Laura Bush requesting my presence at a symposium on “Poetry and the American Voice.” The invitation came during protests over the run-up to the Iraq War.  When several former poet laureates such as Rita Dove and Stanley Kunitz declined invitations in protest and other invited guests planned to read antiwar poems, Laura cancelled the whole shebang.  I received a hilarious message from the White House Social Office on my home phone “disinviting” me.  I could kick myself for not keeping that message.  It was a beaut!

Number Two.  I’d like one of my books to be made into a movie.  Mercury 13 has been optioned twice by Hollywood, but like most optioned books, it never was made into a film. At least not yet.  One reader once described the motion picture potential of Mercury 13 as “A League of Their Own with booster rockets.”  I like that.

Cross your fingers because my new book, Curveball, is currently making the rounds in Tinseltown.

Whoopi?  Queen Latifah?  Are you listening?  I would love to spin around a movie back lot in a fancy golf cart. And I’d also like one of those movie boards that gets clapped after every take. I don’t ask for much.

Number Three.  I’d like to take a Polar Plunge.  I’m an Aquarius.  I love water. One of my favorite things to do is stroll around a boat dock and pretend I own a yacht.  I also admire the mania of people who run into ocean water on New Year’s Day and then come out wild-eyed and blue. To me, that looks like fun.

So, since I’m still waiting to hear from Michelle & Barack and Whoopi and Queen Latifah, I’ve decided to start my Bucket List with the Plunge.

At 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Morning, I will join hundreds of other crazies and plunge into Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts. I figure it’s a win-win situation.  I will cross off an item on my Bucket List and will help raise money for the Weezie Library for Children—part of the island’s wonderful public library, the Nantucket Atheneum.

It’s the Ninth Annual Cold Turkey Plunge on Nantucket and I’ve got to start work on my costume. Plungers often deck themselves out in all sorts of get-ups from hand-painted inner tubes to water-proof Pilgrim hats. I’ve appointed my four-year old godsons, Jackson and Henry, to head-up my wardrobe committee.  If you have ideas, for the committee–please post them here.

And say–if you’d like to support my Bucket List and/or the Weezie Library for Children, you can pledge a buck or two to the Nantucket Antheneum.

Here’s how.  Scroll down to Sponsor a Swimmer On Line.

I figure Bucket Lists give you something to strive for. They shake you out of routine more than saddle shoes and cinnamon raisin toast.  Every once in a while, a person just needs a shock to the system, right?

It might as well be Nantucket Sound at 51.1 degrees.


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I need your help.  This week I learned that the Women’s Sports Foundation, a national organization that promotes equal opportunities for girls and women in sports, may be ending one of its signature programs.  The Billie Awards--named for WSF’s founder, Billie Jean King—honors media that present positive images of women in sport.  Past winners include Christine Brennan, sports columnist of USA Today, the motion picture Bend It Like Beckham and Ross Greenburg’s HBO documentary Dare to Dream.  Sadly, the WSF has suspended its Billie Awards for 2010.

Founded in 1974, the Women’s Sports Foundation has led the way in raising public awareness of women and girls in sports.  It advocates for equality, educates the public, conducts research and offers grants to promote sports and physical activity for girls and women.

You may be familiar with the Women’s Sports Foundation’s successful program, GoGirlGo. The program has awarded over $3 million dollars in grants to communities and organizations that create sports and physical education activities to underserved girls.  GoGirlGo also offers educational programs that teach girls in grades 3-12 about healthy lifestyles and ways to combat eating disorders, teen pregnancy and domestic violence.  In addition, the program has teamed up with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender to conduct research on the medical impact of physical activity.  Researchers have discovered—not surprisingly—that sport and exercise have a profound influence on osteoporosis, heart disease and breast cancer.

Consider these statistics on breast cancer. One to three hours of exercise a week over a woman’s reproductive lifetime may bring a 20-30% reduction in the risk of breast cancer. Four or more hours of exercise a week can reduce the risk almost 60% (Bernstein et al, 1994). And those stats are just one positive benefit among many of physical activity for women.

The Billie Awards are part of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s public awareness campaign to bring attention to the depiction of women in sport. The media shape our perception of women’s bodies and female athletes.  Positive media portrayals create an environment where young girls are encouraged to be active, take part in healthy competition and act boldly. Documentaries such as Mary Mazzio’s A Hero for Daisy show girls that strength is a quality that should be encouraged in everyone. Here’s a column I wrote for the New York Times some years ago on that remarkable film.

“Women deserve to be strong,” said Jane Gottesman, co-curator of a 2006 Billie for her photographic exhibit, Game Face: What Does a Female Athlete Look Like. Gottesman’s work helps young girls imagine a world where they are applauded for their grit, endurance and skill as well as their grace and intelligence.

Former WSF chief Donna Lopiano and Billie Jean King celebrate the 2006 Billies.

What began in 2006 with a gala celebration in Los Angeles that attracted media attention and business support from the likes of the Disney Corporation, Gatorade, Merrill Lynch, and Anheuser Busch is now on the chopping block. Staff at the Women’s Sports Foundation said they currently lack the resources “to do the awards right.”  While the Billies still are a priority of the WSF, they now are “re-evaluating the awards and the event itself,” a foundation spokeswoman said.

Here’s where you come in.

Help me encourage the Women’s Sports Foundation to continue the Billie Awards.

There are four things you can do.

Get on the Horn

Call, write or email Kathryn Olson, the chief executive officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation, and let her know you want to see the Billie Awards continue.

  • 800.227.3988
  • [email protected]
  • Women’s Sports Foundation
    National Office
    Eisenhower Park
    1899 Hempstead Turnpike, Suite 400
    East Meadow, NY 11554

Go Local

Get in touch with your local YWCA, Girl Scouts, elementary, high school, college or university and tell them they can support the positive portrayal of  women and girls in sports.  Urge them to get involved and petition the Women’s Sports Foundation to keep the Billie Awards.

Call Your Sports Guy or Gal

Let your local sportscasters and sports writers know that the Billies may be scrubbed and ask them to stand with women and girls in sports.

Spread the Word

Forward this blog to friends and family and anyone who is interested in creating healthy media images of women and girls in sports. Give them a push to get involved.

As a former girl, I remember the bad old pre-Title IX days when girls stood on the sidelines and rarely participated in sports.  Thank goodness those days are gone and girls now line up for a chance to play community soccer and are eager to try out for their high schools’ cross country team.  To me it’s fairly simple: sports teach girls the same valuable lessons they teach boys. Teamwork matters, a healthy body makes for a healthy mind, and pushing yourself to the limit increases your self-esteem.

The Billies are the only media awards to spotlight the positive portrayal of women and girls in sports. Let’s help keep the awards alive. Tell the Women’s Sports Foundation the Billies matter.

Release Your Inner Goofball

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For the most part, it’s great living in a college town.  Or to be more precise, it’s great living in a five college town.  Even though I live in the woods, I’m just down the road from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke College.  From September to May, I’m surrounded by college kids.

I say living in a college town is great “for the most part” because there are, of course, some downsides:  raucous fraternity parties and traffic congestion when Pfish comes to town as they did last weekend.  And then there’s my favorite nuisance—group households shopping for their favorite breakfast cereal. I always seem to run into six-packs of students dawdling in the cereal aisle at Stop-n-Shop debating the merits of Cap’n Crunch versus Count Chocula. Their cogitation takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r and I’m stuck somewhere around granola impatiently waiting to get around their road block of shopping carts.

But, there are many unexpected pleasures of living around kids on the cusp of adulthood.

One is their goofiness.

I remember teaching a class at Mount Holyoke once when a young woman decided the classroom was too warm and she took off her tights one leg at a time.  Simply slipped out of them.  I’d never seen such a maneuver.

Then there are exuberant outbursts of youth. Around final exams, students gather on the college green and howl at the moon.  Not a bad stress reliever, it seems to me.

Or pranks.  One time I entered a stall in a women’s restroom near my department office and found all the interior doors removed.  Just one long row of toilets.  Pretty funny.

And graffiti.  There’s a particular light switch in the library that has an official warning posted above it.  “Do Not Turn On.” Someone has scrawled beneath it “I try.  Lord knows, I try.”

One afternoon last week I was driving down a fairly busy road near a cluster of student apartments.  The road had one of those portable radar signs set up that display how fast you’re going.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a group of students gathered on the shoulder of the road. Then I watched as one young woman tore out, running as fast as she could in the grass by the road.  The other students were wildly cheering her on and pumping their fists in the air.

“What in the world?!” I thought.

Then, another kid set out dashing and another.

Suddenly it dawned on me.

They were trying to “beat the clock” and see if the radar sign would register how fast they were running.

You gotta love it.

What better way to spend a sunny autumn afternoon than to release your inner goofball?