Not a Pretty Picture #obesity #fashionfauxpas

Ah, July! The warmth of the season has stopped flirting and finally embraced Chicago. Actually with ninety plus temperatures it feels more like a bear hug, but we’re a city of extremes…and our weather is no exception. What those of you in “normal” climates take for granted, Chicagoans only dream of most of the dreary, damp, and frigid year. I should be grateful to shed my jackets, jeans, and boots, throw on sundresses and sandals, and take to the sun. However, in the midst of the summer glow, I find myself disturbed for another weather related reason – summer fashions and the women who shouldn’t be wearing them. What our winter successfully hides summer now exposes, and it’s not always attractive.

I’m not talking about the taut, toned bodies that serve as human billboards for the “less is more” clothing industry…bodies that cause men to turn and women to yearn. I’m talking about the other bodies that would be better served by owners practicing a “more is better” policy. While our federal government is busy trying to figure out how to control our healthcare and financial lives, perhaps it should legislate the fashion industry’s infringements on our visual rights.

Overexposure seems to be the goal with breasts and butts receiving most of the attention. It’s hard to imagine a woman going into a dressing room and emerging with some of the outrageous outfits I’ve seen, two of which are especially annoying. The first is the low, low cut top. While implants and scanty styles began this movement, TV stations like Fox News are partially responsible for women’s obsessive display of their bosoms. What began as a “fair and balanced” news program has evolved into “Conservatives Gone Wild.” Do we really need to watch pushed up cleavage spilling onto breaking news ticker tapes? Call me naïve, but I assume that people watching the news want to learn about the news. Apparently some women watching the news have learned to dress like hookers and taken this look to the streets of their neighborhoods. While frequenting my everyday haunts I now have to endure the sagging cleavage of women well into midlife or worse yet the crypt cleavage of women even older.

My second pet peeve is spandex pants. What started out as footless opaques now reveal the butts of women looking senile because they seem to have forgotten to finish dressing. Did I miss the newsflash that pantyhose are now acceptable outerwear? Bulges and fat stretch the limits of polyester and make it look more like Spanx than spandex. And…let’s be honest here. Most Americans are lifting more in the kitchen than they are in the gym.

Any woman not possessing the rock hard body for low cut tops and ass-hugging pants needs to take a long look in a full-length mirror before deciding what looks great on an air brushed model is acceptable for her…and for the rest of us.


Unconditional Love #dogs

What’s better than the unconditional love of a dog? Not too much. When you arrive home, your dog is always thrilled to see you, and unlike the people who love you, your dog is more than willing to spend all his time with you. Although your dog will be content to sit close by when you choose to chill, your furry friend is at his happiest when taken outdoors. Undoubtedly one of the best ways to say thank you to your trusted companion is by giving your dog the freedom to exercise and socialize with other dogs. A dog-friendly park is a great place for these pets to get their much needed and well-deserved exercise, and give your canine companion a truly special place to run and play with other dogs to his heart’s content. In the above video that was posted on YouTube by Bryan50Rogers, the pure joy of dogs at play is truly evident. Filmed at the dog beach in Del Mar, California, it’s well worth the few minutes to watch and realize it’s no wonder why dogs will forever be known as Man’s Best Friend.

Dealing With Our Dark Side: #Bullying

I suspect bullying has been around since the beginning of time when the first cavemen picked up their clubs and beat others into inferior and humiliating positions, for no apparent reasons other than they were more powerful and they could. Once relegated to that lowly position, a primitive community recognized the scapegoat and allowed no more from him or her than a peripheral relationship, following the group at a distance and occasionally being allowed to sidle up like a maimed animal. As mankind evolved, so has its need to establish a social hierarchy, layer upon layer, with the disenfranchised suppressed at the bottom of the social strata. Not much has changed through the thousands of years we’ve walked the earth. In the human social arena we are sometimes kind and compassionate, and at other times we’re mean and intimidating. Since there are those who bully, subsequently there are those who suffer from its effects.

The question is why, in a highly developed civilization that reaches out to less fortunate nations around the globe in compassion and generosity, does bullying still exist? Not only does it exist, but it seems to be an inherent social behavior. In every species there are those that come into this world less capable, more needy, a little off-kilter, or in a multitude of ways different from the norm. In other words, there are easy targets. Being different can create a feeling of inferiority and/or an inability to be assertive and to stand up for oneself. In others it may stir up a dark side of intolerance, hatred, and the need to dominate. Psychologists state that the bully feels as bad about himself as the victim, and although this may be the case, it is the victim who bears the brunt of both sets of self-loathing.

Dr. Kenneth Jackson, Head of the Counseling Department, at Purdue University-Calumet, specializes in bullying and explains that bullying is a result of two parties suffering from deficiencies. The victim does not have the power to stand up to the aggressor, and the aggressor does not have the social skills to relate in another way. Both are socially inept, and both suffer self-esteem issues. With the aid of the Internet and its social networks bullying has grown to epic proportions and become even more virulent. Cyberbullying enables the aggressor to go viral in tormenting a victim. Devastation to victims and their families is endless and overwhelming. Without an intervention bullying can eventually lead to even lower self-esteem, depression, substance abuse (self-medication), post-traumatic stress syndrome, and even suicide. Once the bullying cycle begins, it will escalate until there is an intervention.

Early intervention is important, and adults significant in the lives of children can make a difference. Parents of victims and bullies need to realize the problem as a serious one and seek help from others such as pediatricians, counselors, and teachers. Once started, this process can help raise self-esteem and develop better social skills for healthier social interactions. In other words, the children involved need to develop the skills to replace destructive behaviors with constructive ones.

What can we do about bullying? Become aware of its presence. Be intolerant of it…just because we’re not directly involved doesn’t make it okay to look the other way. Call it what it is and intervene, or report it to other adults who can intervene, such as parents and teachers. Each of us has the power to initiate a change, but that change has to start within ourselves.

A Poison Apple For The Teacher #education #testing #BillGates

Sometime ago software mogul Bill Gates decided he had something besides computer technology to offer American schools. When Gates speaks, America listens. After all he did build a Microsoft empire and become one of the richest people on the planet…every apple he touched turned to gold.

At the same time the American educational system began suffering a loss of identity. Following half a century of stellar performance, American children began to falter. Basically this was the result of two opposing forces fighting for possession of the classroom’s soul, one focused on intelligence, the other on happiness. The aftermath has been continuously plummeting test scores with US students falling behind their foreign counterparts in all areas, except one – confidence. When asked how they felt they had performed, American youth were surprisingly pleased with their performance EVEN WHEN THEIR TEST RESULTS WERE SCRAPING THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL!

Enter Bill Gates and his sidekick Michelle Rhee, the former and highly controversial Chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, proposing a solution: Run schools like corporations and pay teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores. To reinforce their message, they were both major players in the creation of the recent documentary “Waiting For Superman” that blames poor performance on the “Bad Teacher(s)” and the unions that protect them like Luca Brazi.

The success of a corporation like Microsoft that produces technology depends on two areas of performance: the idea generators and the final products (in this case the sum of metal and wire parts). Likewise, the success of a school depends on two areas of performance: the idea generators (educators) and the students. A strong teacher can generate excellent ideas, but a student may not have the right parts in place to become an excellent product and vice versa.

Merit pay is a constructive incentive except when the goal of making money trumps student learning. This past week in the Atlanta public schools 178 administrators and teachers were cited for participating in widespread cheating that involved 44 of their 56 schools. This included erasing and correcting mistakes on students’ answer sheets, silencing whistle-blowers, and rewarding subordinates who met score goals. When the focus is on the product and not the process, this is what can happen. Who gains? The adults. Who loses? The children. In this case they are mostly African Americans students in an economically disadvantaged district.

The quality of a computer is far easier to control than the quality of a student,
especially when human nature and ability are key components. Educators can’t remove the deficient parts of their students and replace them with perfect counterparts to ensure the quality of their products. Faced with this dilemma and now with money riding on it, desperate educators may do desperate things, like cheating on tests while simultaneously cheating their students out of an education.

The core of the situation is this: You can’t run a classroom like a boardroom.

“Treat” Your Children Well #nutrition #education

Sitting at an outdoor café watching people come and go, it’s nothing short of frightful as I notice the number of people who pass by carrying a sugary, creamy and chocolaty drink. Cell phone in one hand, and a mocha, caramel, whipped cream whatever in the other. Startling. Then I notice something even more shocking, some of these drinks are being consumed by children, and many of the kids drinking these designer milkshakes are overweight; hardly a necessary treat for the child.

When it comes to being fit, the bottom line is simple: input must not exceed output. According to statistics, one-third of all American children are overweight; and if you are inclined to be even remotely observant, it’s all too easy to see that these numbers are real.

Children need proper nutrition and must consume a considerable amount of food to properly grow so of course kids need to eat, but it’s what they are consuming that directly impacts their overall physical health. Let’s face it, fast food is unhealthy, so it should never be considered proper nutrition. However, should you decide to forego all the warnings of the dangers (fat, sodium, etc.) of fast food/junk food, then by all means make certain that your children are physically active for a considerable part of each day. If children sit in front of a television or computer screen for a fair amount of time each day with little or no physical activity, their health may be in jeopardy.

While on a long bike trek yesterday, I rode past several parents along the trail who included children in their workout. One mother was running with her infant in a jogger/stroller while alongside her biked two enthusiastic elementary school aged children; they were having fun. Although far from remarkable, it could not have been the easiest task to maneuver children along the trail. However, and more importantly, she was out there with her kids who were actively participating. As they navigated their way along, the children witnessed people biking, jogging and/or walking the trail. Although not all parents who include children in their workout are physically fit themselves, the point is they are out there and setting an excellent example.

In order to eradicate the obesity epidemic of American children each parent must take responsibility for not only what their children are consuming each day, but also how much physical activity they are engaging in. Whatever is being organized as physical education at school should not be counted as part of a child’s daily physical activity. Pairing proper nutrition and daily vigorous physical activity is a winning combination for all. Part of good parenting is making sure your child’s input does not exceed his/her output. If your child is truly physically active for much of the day, you know your child does not have a weight problem. That being said, if you need to ask, “Is my child overweight?” I’m going to assume your question is rhetorical.

I’ll conclude my rant with a few words of wisdom from Rah, a Chicago area master trainer, “Food is fuel for the body. Never take better care of your car than you would your body” or your child.

Hot Fun in the Summertime #JohnFugelsang

Summer has finally wafted its way through Chicago and with it the desire to reconnect with others who have been held hostage by hibernation. After exhausting traditional contacts, my thoughts extend to the Tweetersphere where not only can you reach out and touch someone; but you can do so in the most impersonal, truncated, and (if you so choose) banal of ways. Amazingly many of these ways provide a window into the thoughts of others. Occasionally razor-sharp comments appear reflecting the wit and literacy of the writer. Often, many of my favorite tweets come from political satirist John Fugelsang.

The same skills that make Fugelsang a brilliant comedian also make him an exceptional communicator. Knowingly or unknowingly John understands the most important rules of effective communication.

Rule #1: There are three levels of verbal interaction. Talk about things, and you lumber through base thoughts with fellow knuckle-draggers. Talk about people, and you share information with more erect primates. Talk about ideas, and you ponder with others whose thoughts soar through the clouds.

Rule #2: Engage your head and your heart before opening your mouth. Convictions stem from passion, and passion reflects genuineness.

Rule #3: Master your mother tongue and remember how to speak and write effectively. In other words be literate; and if you aren’t, work on it. It’s an attainable goal in a first world country.

Whether on stage, his blog,, or Twitter, Fugelsang dwells at a lofty level of communication and does so eloquently and with zest. Even when John’s ripping on those of opposing political viewpoints, he’s equally logical and thought provoking in his seriousness and in his humor.

Thanks, Kate, for the Thumbs Up! #fashion #KateMiddleton

For anyone who has ever struggled to “dress for success” on any given day, watching the princess show the world she has no qualms about, gasp, wearing the same dress twice, women can breathe a bit easier while heading to their closets. Kate’s style seems so effortless; she has great sex appeal, yet never showy. Imagine that.
Yesterday, to join in the celebration of Canada Day, Kate looked stunning in, ’tis true, the same white Reiss Nanette dress she wore for her official engagement photo. Capped off with a whimsical red hat adorned with maple leaves, she surely captured many Canadian hearts.
Shouldn’t Kate’s natural beauty be a cause for applause? Unquestionably, her brown hair shines beautifully, seemingly to have never succumbed to salon-enhanced highlights. We appreciate her willingness to wear the same dress, skirt, coat, etc. with confidence and style, giving women everywhere permission to do likewise without remorse and regret, and we thank her for this gift.
This young woman exudes confidence and style, and as she moves toward her reign as Queen Catherine VI, the world will be watching as she blossoms into an exquisite English rose. As for us commoners, we thank Kate for the thumbs up about wearing, yet again, our favorite dress.