Originally posted on Main Line Dads:

Verizon has a great new commercial, “Inspire Her Mind,” that reminds parents to consider how their commonplaces discourage girls from studying the science.

Verizon commercial warns parents about the impact of their words.

Verizon commercial warns parents about the impact of their words.

We see a girl at various moments exploring the natural world and hear parental voices stifling that exploration. The commercial concludes with Sam looking at a science fair poster, putting on lipgloss, and turning away with her two friends.[1] A voiceover reminds us:

Our words can have a huge impact. Isn’t it time we told her she’s pretty brilliant too? Encourage her love of science and technology, and inspire her to change the world.

Constant diligence is required to root out the many ways we discourage women from pursuing sciences.

But why do we only worry about inspiring girls (and children more broadly) to study science? Why don’t we also try to inspire them…

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©2014 JFries/RiseLikeAir

Autumn Senses

Autumn Senses

Green and gold beneath my feet

The sound of crunching leaves

Bright fall colours spin and dance

Upon the path and on the street

Bright warm sun, cool crisp air

Brisk walk along the road

Smiling face turned to the sky

Oblivious to every stare.

J.Fries ©2014

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Kat Kinsman is the managing Editor of CNN’s Eatocracy. She has been open about suffering from depression and anxiety.  In January I read a piece by Kat that delivered readers straight into the hell that anxiety is.  She did such an outstanding job of allowing others the experience of walking in her shoes I shared it in the  blog Anxiety – Joy – A Journey.

Obviously Kat struck a chord with many people and has continued the work of de-stygmatizing mental illness.  After the tragic suicide of Robin Williams in August, Kat wrote an op-ed piece called Going Public With Depression for CNNLiving.  Her descriptive style enables the reader to understand the insidiousness of depression.  This is crucial because it is something that is very difficult for sufferers to articulate, especially when they are thrown into the depths of of depression.

“I am 14 years old, it’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’m curled into a ball at the bottom of the stairs. I’ve intended to drag my uncooperative limbs upstairs to my dark disaster of a bedroom and sleep until everything hurts a little less, but my body and brain have simply drained down.” Kat Kinsman

She describes the physical pain, the utter exhaustion, the feeling of being in a well.  Along with the desperation and hopelessness that descend upon a depressed person, Kat still gives hope.

The pain and ferocity of the bouts have never eased, but I’ve lived in my body long enough to know that while I’ll never “snap out of it,” at some point the glass will crack and I’ll be free to walk about in the world again. It happens every time, and I have developed a few tricks to remind myself of that as best I can when I’m buried deepest.”  Kat Kinsman

The truth is, most people don’t recognize when someone is depressed.  Often the first words someone offers when depression ends in tragedy is “I never would have guessed.”  As Kat says,

Most people don’t see depression in others, and that’s by design. We depressives simply spirit ourselves away when we’ve dimmed so as not to stain those who live in the sun.” Kat Kinsman

Kat emphasizes the importance of sharing, of asking for help.  While some of us might be concerned that the internet, with online bullying and all the other potentially negative influences may contribute to more depression, Kat points to the benefit that depression sufferers experience from sharing and being with people who have similar stories, who share the same pain. She offers some of her favourite ways to make it to the other side of depression.

Her advice to others who know sufferers.

  • take care of yourself,
  • allow them to go through what they need to go through – you can’t fix them,
  • let them know you are there for them no matter what, you aren’t going anywhere

She doesn’t pull any punches.  Those of us who have experienced one bout of depression are likely to experience another.  There is no magic pill.  What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another and it takes time.  And it’s painful.

In her open and honest way Kat also shares some methods to remind herself that there will be an end to the hopeless feelings, the long range forecast really is for brilliant sunshine.    Author Stephen Fry’s much shared letter of advice is one of them.

“Here are some obvious things about the weather:
It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.
It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
One day.”

In the video also included in the article she is asked what one piece of advice, if she could choose one, would she give to someone suffering from depression.

“You’re not alone. Tell somebody.  Chances are they or someone they know are going through it too.”

And if they don’t listen tell someone else. Remember, the long range forecast is sunny, brilliantly sunny.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Originally posted on Go Forward ... www.MyPeacefulHeart.com:

A smile is the most beautiful curve on a woman's body

A smile is the most beautiful curve on a woman’s body

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Welcome to Part 2 of Playing With The Facts.  This time we’re looking at some facts about The Miss America Pageant which John Oliver recently commented upon.  If you received the draft outline of this blog last week by mistake, I apologize.  I Learned a valuable lesson, set to audience to private while drafting so that if you inadvertently hit the publish button life remains unchanged.  If you saw my draft you know what I mean.  If you didn’t ignore what you just read and continue on. images

If you missed Part 1 Playing With The Facts: Ads and What We Eat click here.

When I was younger I don’t really remember going through a princess phase.  I definitely went through a castle and knight phase (still am truth be told), but I don’t recall wanting to be dressed in flowing gowns or be the damsel in distress (not that I was above wanting to be rescued) but the victim thing never sat well with me.

I liked pretty things, but my favourite colour was never pink.  I liked to “look like a girl” but I was just as happy if not happier being in grubby pants and a t-shirt making mud pies or having some wonderful adventure in the pastures and woods.  My tastes, style and interests like my life in general are, shall we say, eclectic.

I watched beauty pageants and while I recognized the text book beauty and talents, I never dreamed of walking the runway – maybe because I knew that I’d probably end up tripping and falling off of it anyway.

I’m one of those quirky folks who actually believes we’re all beautiful in our own way.  I choose to allow the definition of beautiful to be broad and encompassing rather than narrow and small.  I believe in equality – I have no problem with breastfeeding in public, women being topless in public, skimpy clothes – that should all be a personal choice.  I could write tomes on that subject alone.  What bothers me is the objectification, the judging, the double standards by both men and women.  What bothers me is how a woman’s physical attributes and sexuality are so unapologetically tied so directly to her success, her perceived value and self worth.

Whether overtly or covertly the message girls receive from the start is that how they look matters.  They learn early on that how they look determines outcomes, provides opportunities.

I watched the John Oliver video on the Miss America Pageant and suddenly it struck me that in this case, we legitimize objectification by offering scholarships.  In other words, we’re proving that beauty and brains go together.   We can say that they are actually helping women who may be discriminated against because they are beautiful.  The assumption might that they aren’t smart enough to go to university and the pageant challenges that assumption.   Now, I have a hard time arguing that is a bad thing; these young women are so much more than pretty faces and beautiful bodies.  There is nothing wrong with text book beautiful people.  But I feel these events result in narrowing the definition of beauty further, refining rather than expanding; excluding rather than embracing.

I realized that I shouldn’t be surprised that young women so often bare all for even the smallest hope of advancement in modelling, acting, or really in any career path.  We all know of those who have used their female attributes to succeed.  From the first pageant a young girl watches, they see that they can use their looks and bodies and hopefully their minds to go fabulous places.  It’s not about feeling liberated, or free to do what you want, it’s pressure to do so because that’s what you need to do to get what you want.  There’s a big difference. Donald Trump, owner of the pageant is quoted as saying to a female reporter (it’s on the video),

“Well obviously it’s great outer beauty.  We could be politically correct and say that the look doesn’t matter but it obviously matters.  Like you wouldn’t have your job if you weren’t beautiful.”

Alrighty then.  To which John Oliver comments,

“Right, because you need to see them in bathing suits because as we all know the intelligence portion of the brain is located somewhere on the upper thigh.”

Ok, by now you’re probably wondering how this ties into “Playing with the Facts – Part 1″   I suggested we needed to be savvy, critical thinkers and discerning.  The same applies to the pageant and the claims it makes.

This brings us back to the topic of scholarships for secondary education.   The Miss USA pageant can’t say enough about how many scholarships they make available annually – a whopping $45 million.  I mean, ok, how can I argue with someone that while they’re beautiful, they shouldn’t use that attribute to win a very cool experience and get an education paid for that might otherwise take years to pay off.

Now math was never my best subject, but even I have to question the ethics of how the pageant calculates that $45 million, and how much really gets paid out.  However, why would I bother to say more when I’ve already said enough.   John Oliver says it much better and more humourously than I ever could.  Even bad news is better doled out with the ability to smile.  So for your viewing enjoyment, John Oliver’s take on The Miss America Pageant and what it stands for.

So there you have it, simply playing with the facts a little bit and what a different story it tells.  Just a little playing with the facts lulls us into a sense of not only trust, but gratitude.  However,  the bottom line is the Miss America Pageant really give out only a fraction of the $45 million, that no matter what, they could never actually give out the $45 million and maybe saddest of all, that even at their lowest figure given, they are still actually the biggest single provider of scholarships for women only.

Yep, thems the facts peeps at least for now.

Want to make a difference?  John Oliver provides a list of other women’s only scholarship funds you can donate to if you want to change the fact that currently the biggest scholarship provider for women only scholarships “requires you to be unmarried, have a mint condition uterus and also rewards working knowledge of buttock adhesive technology.”

If anyone else know of scholarships for women only that can be donated to anywhere in the world please let me know.  I’d love to update the list. As you go about your day remember that it just might not hurt to be:

  • savvy
  • discerning
  • a critical thinker

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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I’ve always been a kind of black and white person, looking for yes or no answers.  When I was in school I was interested only in how to get the answer, I thought anything else was a waste of my time.  I took a statistics class in University because it was a requirement for my degree path.  Later on I was responsible for creating statistical reports.  The biggest thing I learned, is that facts and statistics aren’t as concrete as most of us take for granted.  It is imperative to take facts and statistics in context.  A ridiculous example might go something like this.

100% of expulsions from Mountainside Academy were male.

Now if I asked you to comment on what that meant, you might say it shows that males are far more likely to get in trouble than females. Now, what if I told you that Mountainside Academy was an all boys school.  You might say it’s a useless statistic then because it’s obvious that is the only possible outcome, but it makes the statement no less factual. Think surveys are great ways to gather information?  They can be.  However, I also know that I can get 2 different answers just by changing the phrasing. No, I am not bashing facts or surveys or the wonderful people who spend countless hours putting interesting and valuable information together.  What I am saying, is be savvy, descerning, a critical thinker. Using the example above if I said that,

“Last year at Mountainside, an all boys school.  25% of the expulsions were female while 75% were male.”

Your comments this time might immediately be that this shows there must be an error because we now have all the information.  It’s an all boys school so we know there is a problem.  Except, we don’t have all the information and the statistic is correct.  In this example there were 4 expulsions.  3 were boys, but one was a girl, who had disguised herself so she could attend the prestigious school.  Alas, she was found out and expelled. Where is this all leading?  Here’s the thing.  We spend a lot of our time smiling and nodding “yes” when we should be asking questions.  Don’t feel bad, I do it too. There is so much information around, so much to do, it’s information overload from the moment most of us wake up until we go to bed.  Who can blame us for wanting to trust what someone else tells us or what the television ad experts tell us over and over.  I mean, how can we keep up?  How can we dissect everything we hear or read to garner what’s really the facts? Truth is, I don’t have an answer for that.  If anyone does, well please share with all of the rest of us.  I’d really like to know.  All I do know is that I do the best I can, whenever I can.  I’m human.  That’s what I do.

Getting back to all the “experts” who “help” us make important decisions, like what to buy, what to eat, where to live, how and what to think; the advertisers who love to throw statistics and facts and jargon our way extolling either the virtues or detriment of something that ultimately furthers their ends even more than ours (if it even benefits us at all). I’m going to share an “expert” view with you.  This particular video is about advertising and making factory farming sound appealing.

Original video by Catsnake FilmFull disclosure: The speaker in this video is actually an actress named Kate Miles, but the facts about produce and its marketing are 100% real. The audience is also real, and thus the looks of disgust are totally real too. It’s all about playing with facts.

You may or may not agree with factory farming, but in this case that’s not really the point I’m driving at.  The advertising and playing with the facts principle can be applied anywhere to any topic. The very “fact” that the “expert” is an “actress” says a lot in my opinion.

After watching the video, you realize it just depends on how you say it doesn’t it?

So be savvy.

Be discerning.

Be a critical thinker.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of Playing With The Facts: Princesses and Beauty Queens

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries Thanks for stopping by, we always appreciate it.

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Companionship that keeps you afloat in the roughest seas.

Originally posted on Mad Man Knitting:

IMG_0492I’ve gotten quite a few emails about Mario. People want to know where she came from? Why is she so important to me? Why does she have a boy’s name?

When things started to collapse for me I was walking home from work one day. I found this little kitten stuck in a chain link fence. I could tell the poor thing had tried to move through it, gotten stuck, had been there long enough for a pile of poo to amass behind her. The cat had probably been eating whatever it could find crawling by its path to keep it fed. So, I knelt down, pulled a wine key out of my back pocket (I was a server, remember?) and twisted this way and that to loosen the chain link and let the cat free. I patted it on the head and said, “There you go, little one. Take…

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Opportunity:  Noun – a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.  – Google

This morning I posted a status to Facebook about a 17 year old Regina SK screaming talented drummer, Chris Dimas, who is having his dreams come true and going to school in Hollywood CA.  I prefaced the link with

The secret to making dreams come true – work, believe and open the door and say yes when opportunity knocks.”

And off I went about the business of my day.  Little did I know I would discover just how much I was really writing that to myself.  Funny how the universe works that way.

Rewind to a couple of summers ago out on a nature hike with family.  I was enthralled with all the beautiful mushrooms and other fungi along the path.  My imagination flitted between the mushrooms and the fairies that must obviously be quietly hiding there.  Immediately themes and children’s stories and poems floated aimlessly through my mind; a possible book in the making.  I remember sighing heavily because I had left my camera in the car.

Fast forward to later this summer.  Life has been very busy.  Did I mention like really very busy?  We’ve had strange weather this year, like most of the world it seems.  One of the anomalies was the immense number of beautiful fungi growing literally everywhere.  I enjoyed taking many pictures.  Early on I remembered my past missed opportunity and thought about pulling out my daughters fairy collection and using them to stage numerous shots that could be used to illustrate the stories and poems that still floated in my head but hadn’t made it to paper yet.  Opportunity was now knocking once more. I opened the door and welcomed Opportunity in.  “Hey, great to see you! Come in!  I’ll be right with you, introduce you around…. just hang on one minute.  Make yourself at home, I’ll be right back.”   That’s what I said.

Every walk I thought about it and reminded myself that yes, I must go do that, soon.   Pause: this morning.  I went for an early walk.

Part of my daily routine has been trying to ensure I work in some fitness activities.  So, this morning after a quick tea I went for my walk.  All my major responsibilities were done, I could afford to do “my” things today, at least for awhile.  I knew where the fairies were.  I was going to scope out where I’d take my shots, lock up my all too friendly and “helpful” canine companions and do it!  Finally, I mean it’s even still sunny and warm!

image from wallpaperbrands.net

So out I go.  “Hey, Opportunity!  Sorry I just had to… um… Opportunity?”

But Opportunity became tired of waiting, felt like a third wheel, unappreciated and unimportant; so Opportunity smiled a kind of sad smile, silently turned and left, softly closing the door.

I had a lovely walk, the leaves of beautiful yellows, golds, browns and reds interspersed with the last of green.  The light dappling beautifully on the path, and not one fungi left in its glory.  Hardly any are left at all.

I believed.  I had opened the door.

Then like a selfish hostess, I left Opportunity waiting in the porch with no consideration because the visit didn’t occur at a perfectly convenient time.

I didn’t do the work.  I didn’t say, “Yes.”

I can say how busy I was and am, but the truth is, Opportunity knocked and even with all the experience I have, I still didn’t say, “Yes.”  I said, “Wait a minute.”  And you know Opportunity did.  Opportunity patiently waited a few weeks in fact.  Opportunity does not have unlimited patience.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like Work.” – Thomas A. Edison

I’ll never know quite how neglecting Opportunity will change what might have been.  I believe it’s all good, things all happen for a reason.  I’m okay with it.  But I do wonder, if I’d taken the time to take those shots, what and where might they have lead to?

I’m grateful that Opportunity is forgiving and generous though.  While this door closed, I know Opportunity will visit again, maybe knocking at a different door, or arriving through a window.   Next time, I’ll remember how to treat a guest.

Our lives are defined by opportunities.  Even the ones we miss.  F. Scott Fitzgerald

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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I don’t think I could call someone who took the time to help me a bum but a gentleman. In this case it wasn’t gentlemen (or women) wearing the suits. We make plenty of assumptions about people… in this case I would guess most people would have assumed the suits would have been the caring ones. Challenge those assumptions, every single day.

Originally posted on Gotta Find a Home::




22 September 2014

“Good morning, Chuck. How was the wedding? Did you go?”

“Yes I went and I had a great time. Mind you, my sisters ex husband wasn’t treated so well. Everybody likes my sister, but nobody likes his new wife. She’s just one of those people who it’s hard to like. I don’t have anything against her. We all have shitty ass holes, and we all wipe them the same way. Nobody’s better than anybody else. I’ve tried to like her, She’s just an unlikable person.

“There were a lot of attractive women there. If I had been six years younger, before my heart attacks, I would have gotten some action. At one wedding – I can’t remember which one, we have such a big family – I’d gone out for a smoke. It was before they had the laws against smoking in public buildings, but…

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Eyes wide open. Lessons on the path of life. The choices we make from small to life changing. Life affirming to life destructing and back again.

Originally posted on Gotta Find a Home::




17 September 2014

While on my usual bus to work I noticed a woman with familiar face, walking with a cane. It took a few minutes to remember her name. Then I said, “Hi Chili!”

“Hi Dennis, I didn’t know you lived around here. I live with my boyfriend Spike, just a block from here. It’s handy to the methadone clinic and to school.”

I said, “You’re walking much better. The last time we met you were using a walker.”

“Yeah, I still use a walker sometimes. My surgery is coming up soon, so hopefully after that I’ll be able to walk on my own. I have osteomyelitis that caused a bone abscess. It needs to be opened, washed out, and drained. I may need a bone graft.

“This is my stop. It was nice seeing you, Dennis.”

“Bye, Chili.”

I arrived downtown and met Chuck. “Good morning, Dennis.”

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