Life Essays - Home

With More to Come - I hope!

Motherhood
The Vacation
Braless
Hillary

Will I vote for Hillary?
by Janice Williams

I remember clearly feeling a sense of excitement when Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for President of the United States. At last the status of women had reached another level here in the United States. A glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe I might live to see women treated equally.

Female leaders of countries are not something new. The current female world leader count is 10 (http://www.filibustercartoons.com/charts_rest_female-leaders.php). The most female world leaders in history have been 13.

While parts of the world have accepted the competency of women as leaders, the United States lags behind with a long seated mentality of a women’s role in society and her capabilities. Take the case of Victoria Woodhull. Nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1872 for President of the United States, Woodhull’s name never appeared on the ballot because it was believed that women were not citizens ( women couldn't legally vote until August 1920) . In my research I was surprised at the number of women who have actually strived to be president or vice president of the United States (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_United_States_presidential_and_vice-presidential_candidates ) yet none of the names ever crossed my radar screen and none were nominated by the Democrat or Republican parties.

What excited me about the candidacy of Hillary (I tend to want to call her by her first name rather than her last because it asserts her female status) is that she is a strong candidate with a good possibility of winning. She is being taken seriously. But as an informed and concerned citizen and someone who thinks progressively, I must step back and ask, “Is Hillary a person who can be a leader for the United States”? What will she bring to the position and the future that the other candidates are not bringing? Clearly being a woman is not enough reason to vote for someone.

I want a President who is smart and can hit the ground running. I want a President who can see the big picture and multi task. I want a President who has an ego to withstand the inevitable criticism but can also show compassion on a human level. I want a President who is passionate about making the world a better place for all now and for future generations. I want a President who can rise above prejudice and be an example for the world. I want a President who can relate and work to relieve poverty, mental illness, hunger, disease and crime. I want a President who thinks globally but acts locally. And last but not least, I want a President who treats women equally and advocates for women’s rights.

I half listen to the rhetoric coming out of the candidates’ mouths as this long drawn out presidential campaign proceeds. I measure the words against my criteria and feel lightheaded and confused. Hillary appears to have many of the qualities I desire in a President but so does Giuliani. All of this fretting is rather premature as the complex process of electing a President beginning with the series of Presidential primary elections and caucuses has not even begun. And most likely my vote will amount to voting against a particular candidate as I have always done.

For fun check out the candidates MySpace accounts - The MySpace primary will be held on January 1 & 2, 2008, before any of the official state primaries. Every user will be asked to vote for their favorite candidate.

Most of the candidates already have MySpace pages. See, for example, Hillary Clinton (7,468 friends), John Edwards (16,921 friends), Rudy Guiliani (private profile), John McCain (3,596 friends) and Barack Obama (89,465 friends).

At the very least I will have to sign up as a friend of Hillary!

December 2007

A Braless Day is a Good Day
by Janice Williams

As I am writing this, I am wearing a bra and hating every moment of it. Some would ask – then why wear a bra? I am wearing a bra because I was brought up to be modest. Bras have been a necessary evil since the day my mother gave me my first training bra. Silly me I never stopped to ask what I was training for. I guess I graduated as I am still wearing a bra.

My first annoyance with bras came at the hands of young puberescent boys. Their mission in life was to find a willing girl so they could unsnap her bra (and subsequently feel the girl UP). I made my way through a number of these bumbling episodes before I declared it was a forerunner (not foreplay) to the computer game – how many, how quickly and so on.

In 1969 when I was 19 years old and newly married and newly mothered, I remember taking my bra off in a room full of people and declaring my feminine freedom. I felt overwhelmingly empowered. But those were the years of free love; beauty pageant bashing and all things natural were in vogue, even unshaved legs. The bra went back on my breasts the minute I had to leave the house. So much for empowerment!

Over the years I have experimented with going braless and the reactions (or non reactions) have been interesting. I once went on a date to a bar braless with a lace see though blouse. My date was totally aggravated and the evening ended on a very nasty note. What a shame that the poor fellow couldn’t enjoy the treat because he was so worried that other men would be looking at my breasts, go figure. I have also gone braless to work and noticed that any man I encountered had a hard time looking me in the eye. So is this what proper is all about? Do women need to wear bras because it might excite a man and cause improper behavior?

Consider the rise of Victoria’s Secret to understand the role of men in the world of brassieres. A man, Roy Raymond, started this now $5 billion enterprise in 1977 . He was frustrated buying his wife intimate apparel and created an enterprise that made undergarments a fashion statement and shopping extravaganza. I never wanted a man to buy my intimate apparel as that indicated to me that he was fantasizing about being with someone else if he was unhappy with my personal choice of underwear.

To the point - recently my husband and I were having some financial challenges and I warned him that I didn’t want any useless gifts at Xmas. I foolishly blurted out that I needed bras, not pottery. This devoted man went to Sears and grabbed a bundle of bras in a variety of colors and dauntingly stood in line feeling both sheepish and empowered. Why he didn’t go to Victoria’s Secret I will never know. He purchased seven lovely and expensive bras that to this day I have not worn because they were padded, which brings me back to my earlier statement that men who buy intimate apparrel for women are in fantasizing mode.

Research on the bra brings many levels of conflicting information. Some say that bras are healthy and help to keep the breasts from sagging as a woman ages. Others say that the bra facilitates the muscles to atrophy thereby causing the sagging. I hold the theory that breast sagging is a natural part of the aging process and no amount of lycra or wires will change that. The irony of it all is that when I was younger, there was no real need for me to wear a bra. My breasts supported themselves naturally. Today in late middle age, a bra somewhat disguises the sag factor and continues to help me maintain my modesty.

Over the years I have tried all types of bras with the hope that somehow this uncomfortable contraption would cease to be my enemy. The worst experience was with the underwire bra, truly a torture device. The sports bra made me feel like I was in a suffocation chamber. Lacy, push up bras are sexy but again they challenge my comfort zone. I totally shunned the “18 Hour” bra as being too risky. I even tried the Victoria’s Secret’s “Miracle Bra” fashioned after the “Wonder Bra”. These bras promised cleavage and comfort but alas I found neither. So I have settled for a plain, no wire, no padding lycra bra that has some flexibility and merely covers me modestly. I cringe each morning as I put my bra on and give a sigh of relief at bedtime when the bra comes off. The only saving grace in this life saga of the bra is that I wasn’t born in the era of corsets– ouch!

August 2007

The Vacation - Photos
by Janice Williams

After a long stretch of care for multiple loved ones with intense medical needs, I yearned for a vacation. I had to get away from my day to day routine and rewind my body and soul. This is not an easy task for someone with a serious type A personality. An opportunity presented itself and I was off to Las Vegas for a week. Probably the last place this stretched human needed was a glitzy, chaotic universe filled with sights and sounds that reverberate twenty four seven. As I found myself moving along side the mass of people cramming themselves into the Las Vegas bound plane, I thought, I should have slinked off to a cabin in the Maine woods. Nevertheless, I think I made the most of it.

In the middle of the desert looms a densely populated Las Vegas, a city of extremes. Elaborately themed buildings of gigantic proportions are lushly landscaped blatantly defying the desert's natural state. Neon is the interior and exterior design element that constantly beckons and excites the human capacity to over indulge and party hardy. There are more ways in Las Vegas to spend money frivolously than anywhere else on earth. Gambling is the heart and soul of this city and it is accessible and consuming. According to Insider Viewpoint of Las Vegas, there is one operating slot machine in Las Vegas for every 8 residents and in Nevada it is mandatory that video slot machines must pay a minimum of 75% back to the player (not in my case though).

While I managed to easily dispose of my money each day in the slot machines, I tried to fill my hours exploring and learning more about this world so different from the one I live in every day. My first adventure was to the Red Rock Canyon that lies on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Las Vegas is a bowl that is surrounded by mountains. It is interesting that Nevada has more mountain ranges than any other state. Within the outlying moutain range, I visited Bonnie Springs, a replica of an 1880's mining town. The most notable feature of this attraction were the peacocks who were everywhere.

My next adventure was to the Hoover Dam, the largest single public works project in the history of the United States. One cannot help being totally awed at this massive structure. It is 221 miles high and 379 miles long and contains 3.25+ million cubic yards of concrete. The real fascination with this world wonder is the story behind the construction of the dam in 1931. I declined to take the tour that brings you down into the dam and tells you about the construction but back in my hotel room I watched a documentary on it. If you don't know the story behind the Hoover Dam, visit http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/ and learn about it.

People watching is one thing you can do in Las Vegas that virtually costs nothing (except for the cost of a mandatory Starbucks coffee drink to keep you company). People flock to Las Vegas from every state and every country (40 million people a year). Young and old create a visual flow of entertainment. I cannot imagine myself living in Las Vegas but The United States Census Bureau 2006 estimates place the population for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Statistical Area at 1,777,539 people, and the region is one of the fastest growing in the United States.

The highlight of my visit was the Picasso Exhibit at the Bellagio hotel on the strip. This hotel is an art lovers oasis. The lobby sports a ceiling festooned with 2,000 hand blown glass flowers. While I missed the Botanical Garden at Bellagio, I did enjoy the spectacular Fountains of Bellagio, a water show set to music.

They say that seven days in Las Vegas is a long time but I barely scratched the surface of things to do. If I were to return to Las Vegas, I would plan my trip by visiting vegas.com. When you go to this web site click on "Insider Tips" and no matter what your status or vacation dream, Las Vegas will offer you something spectacular.

June 2007

Motherhood
by Janice Williams

I was 18 years old when I gave birth to my first child. It was the scariest time in my life. I remember clearly the extreme rush of conflicting emotions on that day when I brought my tiny baby daughter home from the hospital. I tenderly laid her on the bed and stared at her and wondered out loud – now what?

I wanted to run away and be free from what loomed as the biggest responsibility of my life. Instead that wonderful human characteristic, the maternal instinct, immediately kicked in and I started on a journey that has brought love, laughter and sheer joy.

The maternal journey is not without its mishaps and misgivings. Life itself creates all types of mysterious scenarios and twisted pathways. Some days are a desperate struggle while others bring a sense of innate peace and chest beating accomplishment. My children, though even on the worst of days are my elixir.

Now three children and 38 years later, I see my children grown and maneuvering their own mysterious scenarios and twisted pathways. I am proud of them and have a real sense of a job well done. I will always wonder how I managed to do it. I will always wonder if my children think I was a good mother. I hope they can forgive me for my ignorant foibles and sometimes-stupid miscalculations.

I certainly have a wonderful role model for motherhood. My own mom weathered a life that challenged her from the start. She never wavered from her role. To this day she is my best friend and eternal confidant. We couldn’t be more different my mother and I. She is a quiet, strong person who takes her time in doing and deciding. I on the other hand do everything at a rapid pace lest I not fit it all in. She is meticulous about her person and always looks perfect. I am always trying to catch up to my personal needs. As different as we are, we share a deep devotion to each other.

Now I find myself as the role model. My son, a single parent looks to me to help him decipher the daily challenges of child rearing. I marvel at his ability to face the challenge of nurturing as both mom and dad. I rejoice that my grandson has a parent who can understand the task and appreciate the benefits. I love how my son has a whole new appreciation of me.

So as I reflect on my own motherhood and relish the role of grandmother, I offer my best piece of advice to my loving children, Kirsten, Jason and Rebecca, a quote from Mother Theresa, “You can do no great things, just small things with great love.”

May 11, 2007