Why does Serena have to be sexy?

Earlier this week Sports Illustrated magazine announced that they had selected tennis star Serena Williams to be their Sportsperson of the Year. The SOY award is given to “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” As a dad with five daughters, I was really pleased to hear the news the SI had finally chosen another female athlete as this award has been dominated by men since the award’s inception in 1954. Serena Williams’s selection was only the third time that a woman had been selected for the prestigious award without sharing it with a man. Chris Evert won it alone in 1976 and Mary Decker in 1983, several have women “shared” it with a man, and the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won it as a team in 1999. The name of the award even changed this year to be more inclusive of women. All said, it’s a pretty big deal for her to win this award. It was a topic of conversation on sports talk radio shows and was all over the internet. As a sports fan myself I would be the first to admit that I don’t follow tennis much at all. Sure, I know who the Williams sister are and knew that Serena had nearly won the Grand Slam in 2015 but fell short in the U.S. Open in September. I also knew that Serena and her sister, Venus, have been surrounded by controversy over their long careers but that they have overcome so much adversity because they’re strong, athletic and outspoken individuals who happen to also be black in a very white sport. Yet, I didn’t really know that much about either of them because, quite frankly, I didn’t really care. I don’t really watch much tennis and it’s barely on my sports radar. After hearing the few minutes of talk on the radio I was actually looking forward to reading more about Serena Williams and sharing her story with my daughters once my copy of SI arrived. My copy arrived on Wednesday and I was beyond disappointed the moment I pulled it out of my mailbox and glanced at the cover.

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SI Cover

Serena Williams graces the cover of SI sitting on a throne-like chair, wearing a lacy bodysuit, sheer stockings and heels, while staring directly into the camera. It’s a look that one might expect on the cover of the annual SI Swimsuit magazine or Cosmo. I get it that she has strong and sexy legs. But what does that have to do with this award?  What hit me the moment that I saw the cover was how the cover was the ultimate disrespect to her as an individual and to women as a gender. Why does she have to be sexy? I want my daughters to be strong, smart, confident and compassionate people. Their value as women is not at all dependent on their sex appeal. And, just as much, I want my son to respect all women because of who they are as human beings not because of their looks. Yet, this photo pretty much reduces Serena to being a sex symbol, posing provocatively on the cover under the proclamation Sportsperson of the Year. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would have looked for any of the previous 61 years’ worth of winners to have had a similar cover photo? The thought of Brett Favre or Tom Brady or Tiger Woods sitting on a chair trying to  look all sexy like Serena makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. In all of the years of this award the cover has never ever been so disrespectful. Check out the screen captures of all of the previous covers from SI’s website.

Do you notice how nearly every single previous cover was of the athletes either in their sport’s uniform or a head shot? Again, I ask, Why does Serena have to be sexy? Why couldn’t the SI cover have been an action shot of Serena from one of her matches? Or a pose of her in one of her tennis outfits? Or a head shot? The article itself is a compelling because it goes into great detail to explain why Serena Williams is and was such a deserving recipient of this award. S.L. Price really educated me (and, I’m sure, countless others) about what a wonderful person Serena is and how much she has changed and matured over the course of her prolific career. I’m now a Serena Williams fan because of what she has done with her talents off the court more than here amazing success on it.

Indeed, in 2015 Williams hit this rare sweet spot, a pinch-me patch where the exotic became the norm. She danced with Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve. She spent a night telling bedtime stories to the children of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Growing up, Williams had devoured every Harry Potter book, marveled at the business empires of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart. Now J.K. Rowling was tweeting against a critic of Williams’s body, now Oprah was hustling to watch her at the U.S. Open, now Stewart was calling Williams “the most powerful woman I know.” President Barack Obama, the most scrutinized man alive, told her how great it was to watch her.

[In 2015]…Williams, 34, won three major titles, went 53–3 and provided at least one new measure of her tyrannical three-year reign at No. 1. For six weeks this summer—and for the first time in the 40-year history of the WTA rankings—Williams amassed twice as many ranking points as the world No. 2; at one point that gap grew larger than the one between No. 2 and No. 1,000. Williams’s 21 career Grand Slam singles titles are just one short of Steffi Graf’s Open-era record. Such numbers are reason enough for Sports Illustrated to name Serena Williams its 2015 Sportsperson of the Year.

excerpt from Sports Illustrated article

I would encourage you to follow the link above (or click here) to read the entire article about Serena Williams. It’s lengthy but worth the time to begin to understand and appreciate her as a person and as a celebrity who has truly embraced her power and celebrity status to help others in real and meaningful ways. Like all of us, she has her faults (tennis pun fully intended!), but in overcoming them, it also shows her determination to make herself better; to right some of the the wrongs of her past. She is a remarkable person and a role model for young women like my daughters. Serena Williams is such a worthy recipient of the 2015 SI Sportsman of the Year award because of her many accomplishments on and off the tennis court. I only wish I wasn’t left with one nagging question, though. Why does she have to be sexy?

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Oh, Crash-mas Tree!

There are a handful of sounds that will wake me up and get me out of bed almost instantaneously. Among them are a dog dry-heaving, a cat hacking up a hairball, my kid telling me she might be getting sick, and the thud of my kid falling out of bed. Maybe. That’s really about it. Or so I thought. I can now add crashing Christmas tree to that list. I was still asleep at 7:15 am (My kids sleep in, who am I to complain?) when all of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sound of glass shattering on a wood floor. As I jumped out of bed and into some clothes I knew that the tree had fallen over. We got our tree a couple of weeks ago and, despite my best efforts, it never really was perfectly vertical. It was our Christmas tree version of the leaning tower of Pisa. It leaned a little bit. But it was sturdy enough (or so it seemed) to stay upright and the kids had gleefully decorated it with their ornaments once I had finished stringing the lights. Sure, it was slightly quirky that, from one angle, the angel atop the tree seemed to be tilted. But after a few days I stopped noticing how it leaned and pretty much forgot about it. It was pretty and it was upright.

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Trees can’t hold their egg nog very well. 

Well, as I came down the steps to assess the damage, my wife was already standing next to it, trying to keep the water from flowing all over a cardboard puzzle that my two year old had left out near the tree the previous day. I promptly retrieved some towels from the kitchen and continued to clean up the water, silently wishing I hadn’t refilled the reservoir right before I had gone to bed that night. Oh, I should mention that I at least had the presence of mind to unplug the lights before I touched the tree or started cleaning up the mess. My wife gave one more look at the fallen tree and informed me that some people refer to this as a tree fainting. And, with that tidbit of knowledge imparted to me, she happily left for work, knowing that I would get it all taken care of before she returned home that evening.

 

Three towels later the water was all sopped up. A quick tour of the Christmas carnage revealed only three broken ornaments: two glass balls and the foot of a Cinderella ornament. She might need to be renamed The Unbreakable Cinderalla because that same ornament suffered the same injury on her other foot just last year. I gently removed all of the other fragile ornaments from the tree and set them on the window seat.

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Naughty tree, go stand in the corner!

Then I took the tree stand off of the tree so that I could try to get it on there again, only straighter this time. I think this tree secretly doesn’t like me or is just plain naughty, because, try as I might, I couldn’t get it to stand perfectly upright. So, being the resourceful guy that I am I carefully slid it over to the corner so that it tilted ever so slightly toward the corner walls. Mission accomplished, O Tannenbaum!. A few sweeps of the broom collected all of the needles that had fallen off the tree and that was it. Our Christmas tree was back in business, although there will be no rockin’ around the Christmas tree this year in our house. Just in front of it.

When my 14 year old daughter walked into the room a few minutes later she asked me why the tree was in the corner. Upon hearing my story about the crashing tree and its subsequent new placement in the corner, she tried to sneak a Dad-joke past me, asking, “Aren’t you concerned that it might catch fire there in the corner?” Dad-its-so-cold-in-here-Go-stand-in-the-corner-Why-The-corner-is-90-degreesDespite it being relatively early in the morning and still pre-coffee, I got her reference to this meme. Without missing a beat I told her that I wasn’t remotely concerned, because the kindling point or autoignition temperature of wood was much higher than 90 degrees. She rolled her eyes at me which  pretty much affirmed that my work there was done, even if, technically speaking, that corner was more obtuse than right. I may or may not have walked into the kitchen after her, searching on my iPhone the exact KP for wood (572* F). Hey, once a science teacher, always a science teacher! I actually taught this exact stuff years ago during the always-popular FIRE unit. I’m not sure who loved it more, my 7th grade students or me!

I shared this light-hearted story with you all so that you, too, can get a small taste of what my children have to endure get to enjoy every single day with me as their dad. I’m literally the gift that keeps on giving. Every. Single. Day. Merry Christmas from my cheesy corner of the interwebs.

 

Chabee Diaper Bag Review

I never thought I’d be writing a product review for a diaper bag. As a parent for over 20 years and as a Stay At Home Dad over the last 15 years I’ve used an wide variety of diaper bags and backpacks to get the job done for schlepping around diapers, wipes, spare outfits, snacks, toys, kleenex, Cheerios and an assortment of other necessary items when out and about with my kids. I was never really very particular about the style of the bag. Anyone that knows me understands that I can rock a purple or pink bag just as comfortably as a blue or brown one. I just need the bag to hold everything that I need and to be comfortable to wear. And easy to clean. And durable. When my five year old was born my wife thought it would be nice to get me a more manly diaper bag since most of the previous ones had been what would be considered more girly, for lack of a better term. She found one that had been created by dads and looked manly. Only problem was that one of the shoulder strap buckles (made of plastic) broke a week or so into my use of it. For the next few months that diaper bag worked pretty well, but it irritated me that I could only use one shoulder strap instead of being able to wear it like a backpack. I actually replaced it with a backpack a short while later. When my two year old was born I didn’t even bother with an actual diaper bag. I grabbed my favorite Jansport canvas backpack from the closet and filled it with the essentials. I suppose that’s what having my sixth kid meant. Forget the formality of it all and just go with my old reliable backpack.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this when the title indicated that this is a product review. Well, almost a year ago some guy I had never met in person but who was, like me, a member of a Facebook group for SAHDs, asked us dads for feedback regarding a diaper bag he was in the process of making. This guy, Jesse, seemed nice enough, so I responded and told him much of the same stuff that I shared in the paragraph above. I figured that was it. Well, a couple of months ago, he contacted me out of the blue to thank me for the help and encouragement from earlier in the year and to ask for my address so that he could send me a diaper bag to review. Two days after I responded with my information a box was delivered to my front door. My kids excitedly helped me open it up and were slightly disappointed to discover that it was “only a diaper bag”. I examined it for a few minutes before setting it aside to finish making dinner. The next day I decided to start using it so that I could get a good feel for how it would perform over the course of a few weeks. Well, that was about six weeks ago now and here’s what I found.

First, this bag is made of waxed canvas. Unlike the cheap plastic of many bags or even regular canvas like many backpacks, this bag feels different.

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Pouches designed to hold smart phones and tablets

Jesse told me over the phone that he’s passionate about honesty in his life and in his company. He said that there’s only one company in the U.S. that makes such high-quality waxed canvas and that’s the one he uses, even though it’s a little pricey. He didn’t want to get it from overseas where it’s the product of unethical labor practices, even if it would be cheaper. The quality of the material is obvious from the very first touch. It took a trip to the Tacoma Children’s Museum two weeks ago for me to realize how important the quality of the material is. You see, it was pouring rain (I live in the PNW after all) and once my girls and I got inside the museum I looked down to see how soaked the diaper bag would be only to discover that the water had beaded up on the outside of the bag. I gently shook the bag and the water fell off like when a duck ruffles its feathers. I was so relieved that the cloth diapers and clothes inside the bag were still nice and dry.

 

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Inside of the bag

Another nice aspect of this bag is the design. As I used it more and more I noticed that it wasn’t too big and bulky yet it still comfortably held 3-4 cloth diapers, wipes, wet bag, spare clothes, snacks and such. There are small pouches on the inside as well as ones on the outside that fit my iPhone. Jesse mentioned that during the course of his bag design (he went through five prototypes) he made sure to include spaces for smart phones. Yet, because the bag is made from canvas it’s flexible, which I appreciated greatly on that trip to the museum because, unlike my backpack, this bag fit easily in the locked cubby storage unit. There are small details that I noted about the bag that set it apart from others I’ve used. The buckles and snaps are brass, not cheap plastic.

 

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Changing mat (banana for scale)

There’s even a changing mat that’s attached on the back on the outside. I didn’t realize how convenient this would be until last week, when I had to make an impromptu diaper changing station at the Washington State History Museum. The bathroom had no changing table yet my two year old fit on it with room to spare, which is no small feat given that I’m 6’8″ and my kids are all tall.

 

The final thing I want to highlight about this bag is that it comes from the passion and experience of a real, live person. Jesse and his family recently relocated to northwest Wisconsin, just about an hour from the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He’s been a SAHD since his oldest daughter was born four years ago and he and his wife now have three kids. He started Chabee Outfitters on his own and has worked hard to get to this point.

Chabee is a mash up of the words “change” and “be”. The name was formed to encompass the beautiful Gandhi quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While many attach this quote to grand changes in the world, we at Chabee are obsessed with how it applies to the intimate details of life. Our greatest goal is to create a company we would want to do business with. We carry this concept in our name because we want to carry it with us in all our business relationships and decisions. -from ChabeeOutfitters website

I appreciated talking to him on the phone for about 30 minutes because it was good to hear him describe all the joys and frustrations that he has experienced in designing and making this bag. Interestingly enough, it’s made in Tacoma, Washington (such a small world because I live nearby) with all American-made materials.  As is the case with many things in life, you often get what you pay for. The same is true with this diaper bag. Because of Jesse’s attention to detail and desire to deliver a high-quality diaper bag this bag is currently listed at $225. But, if you’re looking for a bag with a 100% lifetime guarantee that will be durable enough to be used for multiple kids and then as a pretty nice messenger-type bag after that, this might be the bag you’re looking for. If I could go back 20 years to when my eldest child was born (and if we had the money then!), I would’ve gotten this bag in a heartbeat. As a special promotion for readers of my blog, Jesse has graciously agreed to a 15% discount if you enter the coupon code “BCD” at checkout. The website is www.chabeeoutfitters.com. Find them on Facebook here.

Disclosure: I was given the diaper bag (pictured) to review. I received no other compensation. The words and opinions above are mine.

Whatyadoing, Dad?

Whatyadoing, Dad?

It was a simple and polite question from my 14 year old daughter that both broke the silence of the room and announced her arrival. My youngest daughters had been asleep for a while already and the older kids were in their rooms and I had the sofa, a laptop, and a quiet house at the same time, which meant that I might, finally, get to write a blog post that had been stirring around in my brain and my heart for a few weeks. Yet, here was my daughter, sitting on the sofa next to me, asking me what I was doing. IMG_3066So, I told her that I was (finally) going to write this blog post that would explain my disgust with the conservative governors, U.S. Presidential candidates and the House of Representatives about their response to Syrian refugees. I would neatly correlate that to how so many of them (conservatives) were the same people who responded with #AllLivesMatter whenever they saw #BlackLivesMatter, yet, here they were not acting like ALL lives mattered when given the opportunity to help out those in need. There was a definite NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) tenor to their nationalistic responses and calls for tighter border controls in the face of such an “imminent terrorist threat”. I had all sorts of links saved from articles that I’ve read over the last month or so. I was so ready for this blog.

I was really on a roll as I shared my thoughts with my daughter. This blog post was going to be really amazing if her reaction was any indication. She actually seemed interested in what I was saying and a pretty lively discussion ensued.

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Suspected Terrorist in Planned Parenthood shooting

We talked about the awful and tragic events in Colorado with the Planned Parenthood shooting and how, once again, the conservative Presidential candidates had trouble showing compassion for the situation and the people involved. We talked about America’s obsession with guns and the Second Amendment and how neither of us could imagine that the Founding Fathers could have possibly envisioned protecting the rights of average citizens to have high capacity automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons so that they could engage in terrorism against one another. Then our conversation came back to the Syrian refugees and the notion that ISIS or DAESCH (or whatever they’re called now) would be sneaking operatives into the United States among the refugees.

IMG_3065I mentioned that we should be far more afraid of angry white men going on shooting rampages in public places (schools, malls, hospitals/clinics) than terrorists. I also mentioned, again, how disappointed and disgusted I was at the number of people that I know personally who call themselves Christians yet are unwilling to extend a helping hand to these foreigners in their greatest times of need because they might be terrorists. I may or may not have gone on a small rant about the hypocrisy involved in that line of thinking.

 

As the conversation paused for a moment I noticed that we had been talking for about 45 minutes at that point. Then my daughter said something that was completely unexpected yet filled me with such immense joy. I’ll have to paraphrase it as I don’t recall her exact words.

Dad, I want to do something to help the refugees. I read that there’s an organization that is helping out kids and families that are fleeing Syria. I want to donate to them. Could you please take some of the money out of my savings account and do that?

Yes. So much YES! Here’s my 14 year old daughter, who had saved her hard-earned babysitting and allowance money, asking me to donate to help out others. As a parent, this is how I hope all of my kids will respond to the plight of others: compassion, love and action.

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Terrified child refugee

As we finished our conversation I realized that my long-winded blog post was going to have a much different ending than I had imagined in my brain 45 minutes earlier. So, here’s my new ending. Would you consider joining my amazing daughter by making a donation to help the Syrian refugees? If that doesn’t do it for you, then how about making a donation to a charity that helps veterans or homeless people right here in the United States? Please, just make sure that you actually do something. Make a difference.

Here’s a link to donate to the United Nations Refugee Agency efforts.