Beauty is…resilience

I feel the most beautiful when I watch myself in the mirror during physical therapy. I feel so much pride when I see myself mastering things I never thought I would be able to do again after my amputation like standing or walking. I see resilience in the mirror and I think resilience is beautiful.

 Being a mom is not easy.

Being a mom before you enter college is hard.

Being a mom and going to college is harder still.

Being a mom, going to college, spending the better part of a year in the hospital fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma, and losing your leg as a result? Impossible.

But this mama is doing it.

Irene

 

Who you are: Irene Blum

 

What you do: Mom, college student, childhood cancer and limb loss awareness advocate.

 

Where you do it: Stamford, CT

 

Tell us your story.Motivated

I was born and raised in Stamford, CT. I used to play softball, volunteer at my local hospital, and was very social. I got pregnant at 16 years old. I had my son Jason during my senior year in high school. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I wanted to be a good role model so I became very motivated. I worked in social services helping at-risk youth and went on to study at the University of Connecticut. When I was 20 years old I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of pediatric bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. I had to stop working and going to school because my treatment was a year of high-dose chemotherapy and countless surgeries. I had many complications along the way, the most significant one resulted in an above-the-knee amputation. I have been in remission for 10 months now and am very blessed to be alive.

You have had more than your fair share of challenges and trials. What do you consider your biggest challenge? What got you through it?  

Jason (1)My biggest challenge in life was my battle against cancer. The chemotherapy drugs I was given were so toxic that I became debilitatingly sick. I spent nearly 10 out of 12 months inpatient. I was working so hard to just stay alive that I couldn’t be the amazing mom that I wanted to be to Jason. I went from being his primary caregiver to being lucky if I could see him during weekend visits at the hospital.

Treatment became so brutal that the folks at the hospital called me “Murphy’s Law Girl” because everything that could go wrong, did. I wanted to quit so bad and just go home to be with my son. My doctors talked me out of quitting because they would remind me that if I did, the time spent with Jason would be short because Ewing’s Sarcoma is aggressive and would most certainly return with a vengeance if I did not finish my protocol. If I finished treatment, I could return home and live a fulfilling life with my son with little chance of relapse.

If Jason weren’t here, I would have quit treatment because it was torturous. I wouldn’t be here answering this interview if my son wasn’t born… Fun fact: The name Jason means “the healer.” I definitely feel like he popped into my life early and unexpectedly for a reason. Another reason why I am lucky to have him is because my cancer treatment ruined my reproductive system. I am technically infertile. I would love to have children in the future but will probably have to adopt.

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Image from Parade.com

 If you could have coffee with any woman, historical or living, who would it be and why?

Mayim Bialik because she’s brilliant, progressive, outspoken, and has a great sense of humor.

 

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Image from filmandtvnow.com

 Who is your favorite Disney Princess?

Mulan because she was one tough chick. Instead of being a damsel in distress, she protected her disabled father from going to war and saved her entire country.

 

What is the best song to sing to in the shower or when you are alone in the car?

“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

What was the best piece of advice you have received? What was the worst?

“You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first,” was the best piece of advice I have ever received. The worst would probably be, “don’t do chemo, just pray and eat papayas.”

Good advice, bad advice
Good advice vs bad advice

What books or TV shows do you think everyone needs to read/watch, like, right now?

Grey’s Anatomy is my all-time favorite show. Grey’s is the best part of every Thursday. Jodi Picoult is my favorite author and after going through treatment, I re-read “My Sister’s Keeper” with a newfound appreciation for it and was moved to tears multiple times throughout the book.

What is your definition of beauty? Or, when do you feel most beautiful?

Going through treatment taught me to find beauty in absolutely everything. I define Rainy daybeauty as anything or anyone that provokes positive emotions when you look at it/them. Before cancer, I would look at a rainy day and think “jeez, what an ugly day.” It was a rainy day in March when I got discharged from the hospital after being inpatient for nearly 5 months. I cried tears of joy as I felt raindrops on my bald head. A year later, I still look at rain and remind myself how much joy rain brought me. I can look at a rainy day today and think, “what a beautiful day.”

I feel the most beautiful when I watch myself in the mirror during physical therapy. I feel so much pride when I see myself mastering things I never thought I would be able to do again after my amputation like standing or walking. I see resilience in the mirror and I think resilience is beautiful.

Beauty is...resilience

Beauty is…confidence

Beauty comes from within. It shines through when you are truly happy with who you are, confident and feeling good in your skin. This also reflects on the way you treat others and the way you see the world around you.

What is beauty? I asked some experts! 

Check out my conversation with the lovely Melissa and Deynece of Deux Bella ❤️

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Melissa + Deynece = Deux Bella

Let’s start with a little background: I understand you ladies are now living miles apart, but stay in touch via your blog, Deux Bella. How did you meet? How long have you been friends?

We met when we were both managing for different cosmetic lines at Nordstroms. It was basically love at first sight! We have been friends for 10 years- the funnest, craziest 10 years of our 20’s (and late teens for Dey). We have had the best times and the hard times together. Weddings, babies, moves, careers advancements, illness, deaths, breakups. All of it.

 What is the silliest thing you have done together?

Hmmm honestly there’s a lot to choose from- probably grocery cart races down the very steep hill from our state capital at ungodly hours. This wasn’t some random crazy night either, it happened pretty regularly and became kind of an epic event.

What are your “day jobs”? BobbyBrownLipstick

Deynece is an education and artistry coordinator for Bobbi Brown cosmetics, and an A- Team national featured artist.

Melissa is a semi-retired makeup artist, esthetician and psychotherapist, but mostly a momma right now.

What is the biggest challenge you have experienced in your professional life?

Melissa: I broke my hand when I was in medical school and had to really re-evaluate what my priorities were and the path I was taking and why.

Deynece: Learning to manage +50 employees all of different ages when I was only 22.

What is the best song to sing to in the shower?

Melissa: Punching In A Dream by The Naked and Famous or anything Britney Spears or Taylor Swift 🙂

Deynece: Don’t Stop Believe’n by Journey

What is the best piece of advice you have heard? What was the worst?

ADVICE from Melissa (1)Melissa:

Best: Never cook bacon naked. Ha But seriously, a bunch of old grandmas told me you can’t spoil a baby so I just snuggled and held my baby so much and I am so glad I did!

Worst: Don’t go to bed mad. This is the worst advice. People prolong fights and a lot of things could be avoided by stepping away and taking a break, eating and getting some sleep.

 

Deynece:advice from Deynece

Best: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Worst: When you’re not first you’re last.

 

 

How do you spend your down time? Favorite books, shows, movies?

Melissa: What down time? Ha jk. Binge watching Netflix late at night while I work. I love Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Law & Order SVU even though it’s not the same without Stabler.

Deynece: Netflix and chill- while working on a  million other things for the blog.

If you could have coffee with any woman, past or present, who would it be?

Melissa: Queen Hatsheput of ancient Egypt or Queen Raina of Jordan (current) she is the epitome of class and beauty and strength. She has done so much for women and children not only in the Middle East but on a global level- and she’s stunningly beautiful and classy. I would ask her how she does it all.

Deynece: My grandma because I didn’t really get to say goodbye. She went in for a routine clogged artery and then had complications and passed away during the surgery.

Who is your favorite Disney Princess? Why?

Both of us said Belle! Because she is intelligent, strong, kind and beautiful!

You are experts on beauty– what is your definition of beauty?

Short answer- it comes from within. It shines through when you are truly happy with who you are, confident and feeling good in your skin. This also reflects on the way you treat others and the way you see the world around you.  Long answer- we’ve been answering in our Exploring Beauty series!

Beauty shines

 


 

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Lessons I learned from Civil Rights SHEro Frankie Freeman

Frankie Muse Freeman will be celebrating her 100th birthday this November. She could be sitting at home, resting on the laurels of her innumerable accomplishments. But that’s not how she rolls. Instead, she is speaking out about the progress we have made as a nation in the area of civil rights, and what we can continue to do moving forward.

I read her book, A Song of Faith and Hope. I saw her speak at a local library event. And I was honored to speak with her over the phone. Here are just a few lessons I have learned from Mrs. Freeman.

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Mrs Freeman’s book. Don’t read it unless you want to be super inspired. (Image from Amazon.com)

 

 

1. Just do it.

Growing up, Frankie always heard people say they were “fixin'” to do this or that. Her parents didn’t love that. Instead, they encouraged Frankie and her siblings to get on with it– don’t “fix” to do it, just do it! (I think Yoda would have approved)

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Frankie carried this simple yet powerful message with her throughout her life. I can’t help but think that many of her accomplishments are largely due to this mantra– this drive to just keep DOing.

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Mrs Frankie Muse Freeman being escorted in to St Louis County Library Author Event featuring Mrs Freeman and Mr Koran Bolden.

 

At the last event at which she spoke (pictured above), Mrs Freeman was introduced as being the first African American woman to serve on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. When it was her turn to speak, she corrected the mistress of ceremonies: “I was not the first African American woman to serve on the Commission. I was the first woman period. Black, white, yellow, blue, or otherwise,” to which she received thunderous applause.

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Mrs Freeman with her colleagues from the US Commission on Civil Rights in 1966.

 

The list of Mrs. Freeman’s accomplishments is staggering. Not only was she a rock star of a  civil rights attorney, winning a landmark victory that ended racial segregation in public housing in St Louis, she went on to serve on the very housing commission she had just defeated in court, to help them implement the changes she demanded. As mentioned above, she was the first woman to serve on the Civil Rights Commission, and went on to become Inspector General for the Community Services Administration (these are positions appointed by the President of the United frickin States, y’all). The number of hats she has worn is staggering– from being the national president of her sorority to serving on just about every board known to man, including (but nowhere limited to): the League of Women Voters, the National Council on Aging, the YWCA, the Girl Scout Council of St Louis, the St Louis Urban League, the National Council of Negro Women, the World Affairs Council of St Louis, oh, and the African American Jewish Task Force (no, she’s not Jewish, she just thinks its cool to reach out across cultural and religious boundaries). Now, with a resume like this, you might be thinking, “Oh, she’s had a great life.” You might even call it ‘charmed.’ You would be wrong.

Loss has not been a stranger to Mrs. Freeman. She has buried her mother, her father, and her husband. But she has also buried her son– a grief no human should have to endure. And she has battled cancer–twice– and won.

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Mrs Freeman’s husband, Shelby, with their son.

 

She has also fought one hell of a battle professionally. In her book she recalls one particular instance in Alabama, where she and the Civil Rights Commission were conducting hearings focusing on economic rights in Montgomery. In her words:

One evening, after the Montgomery hearings, I returned to my motel room after dinner. It was a pretty evening in April and I had the curtains open; I could look out– and anyone who wanted to could look in. I was sitting at a table with a member of the Alabama State Advisory Committee, reviewing the day, when boom, something struck the window and broke it. I thought it was a bullet. It apparently was intended for me, but I was not hit.

She was also fired, at least twice, for speaking up and being a “trouble maker.” But you think a little death, cancer, and possibly a bullet is going to stop Frankie?! She could have given up and not one person would have blamed her or said she hadn’t done enough. But nope. She just. Kept. Moving. As she says in her book, you have to keep your hand on the plow.

Even today, Frankie is a do-er. At the aforementioned speaking event, she was joined by youth activist and motivational speaker Koran Bolden. When asked about entities working to keep people divided, Koran spoke powerfully about how and why today’s youth needs our support. Frankie was so moved she jumped in and said, “What you just said touched everybody here, so there is no reason they can’t start tonight.” She went on to encourage everyone in the room to support Mr Bolden’s mission, saying, “Don’t wait until tomorrow for something that can start tonight. It is an individual’s responsibility to bring about change. Let’s begin it and let’s get on with it.” I have a feeling that Mrs Freeman has rarely waited for tomorrow.

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Freeman and Bolden at St Louis County Library Headquarters

 

Is there anything more beautiful than a woman who doesn’t say she’s “going to” do this or that, but actually goes out there and does it?

2. You are powerful.

Mrs. Freeman grew up in Danville, Virginia,  the last capital of the Confederacy. She and her family lived on the 200 block of Ross Street, where all of her neighbors were black. The 100 block of Ross Street was a white neighborhood, and young Frankie and her siblings would walk through that neighborhood on their way into town. Mrs Freeman remembers that white children playing outside would often smile and say “nigger, nigger, nigger” and she and her siblings would smile back and say “cracker, cracker, cracker.” When the Freemans needed their shoes repaired, they would take them to a shop in the basement of Mr Wrigley, a white man. When the shoes were ready, Mr Wrigley’s children would return them to the Freeman family. These were normal occurrences.

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Baby Frankie

 

Peaceful though it was, little Frankie grew up knowing that people who looked like her were treated differently, and that was not ok. She also grew up knowing that she had the power to change it. Her parents taught her that if you stand for something, there will be times when you have to say, “Enough”– but that doesn’t always mean you make a scene right then and there. She was always encouraged to do something that would be effective.  Public transportation was segregated in Danville, so the Freeman family simply walked everywhere they went. If a friend of the family was mistreated in the local department store, the Freeman’s would no longer shop there. Frankie’s parents, Maude and William, were very active in Danville so Frankie grew up seeing her parents making a positive impact their community, and she knew she could too.

3. Make your own path

When the black community in Danville could not get a loan from the white owned banks, Frankie’s relatives started their own bank.

After graduating from law school, Frankie applied to law firms in St Louis. She was told they could use her in the office, perhaps to do research, but they would not hire her to try cases. Following her relatives’ lead, she started her own practice. She met with judges in St Louis and tried the cases no one wanted. The first few times she showed up to the courthouse and told the clerk which case she was there for, she was told to have a seat and her lawyer would be there shortly. But it wouldn’t be long before they learned who Frankie Freeman was. (By the way, Mrs Freeman practiced law until 2009. That’s 62 years!)

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Frankie with NAACP attorney Constance Baker on the steps of the St Louis Federal Courthouse. Frankie was arguing Davis et al v the St Louis Housing Authority, the case that ended segregation in housing in St Louis.

 

4. You do not acquiesce.

Throughout her book, this mantra “Later for you” pops up again and again. I loved seeing it every time because I knew it was a promise, and I knew whatever the situation was, Frankie was going to make it right. Like at a restaurant in Flat River, Missouri. Or a coffee shop in Louisville. Here is how she explains it:

Sometimes when you beat your head against a brick wall, you have to realize that you are damaging your head, not hurting the wall. Therefore, you do the best you can so long as you do not acquiesce and you do not give up. You say, “later for you,” and promise yourself that when you can do something about it, you will.

There were times when Mrs Freeman chose to give in to the law of the time, in lieu of being arrested. She knew she could do more in the courtroom than she could in the jailhouse, so she promised, “later for you” then got to work changing the world. (More on that below).

When I spoke to Mrs Freeman, I asked her what she sees today that makes her think, “Later for you” — what do we still need to work on? Living in St Louis, I was expecting a comment on the police violence that we have been hearing so much about. But she surprised me when she said that every state in America still has segregated schools. “Not by law, of course, but it is true.” She told me that there is still racial segregation, or isolation, in public schools today. And I don’t have to look farther than my own childrens’ school to see that she is right. We live in a suburb of St Louis, and the majority of the students are white. In fact, the few African American students we do have are those who are bussed in from the city. Frankie laments that diversity is not yet as valued as it should be. She is saddened to think that children don’t have the chance to really play and interact with kids who look different from them until they are adults. She encourages working with teachers and parents alike to figure out a solution. She told me that she called for more diversity and spoke about the value of it in 1969, and can say the exact same thing now. As she said in her book, “To move away from racism, I feel we need to get to know one another.” And getting to know each other should start happening at a young age.

5. Speak. Up.

Frankie didn’t always say “Later for you” to herself. As a matter of fact, she spoke right up when she found herself in a situation she knew was unfair, unethical, and unconstitutional. For instance, in February of 1961, Frankie was making her way via bus to Hayti, Missouri to be the keynote speaker at an event held by her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. On the way, the bus stopped at a restaurant in Flat Creek. She got off the bus with the other passengers and made her way to the restrooms. A waitress loudly informed her that “The colored use another entrance.” When Frakie proceeded towards the ladies room anyway, a white customer blocked her path and repeated what the waitress had just said, “Colored can’t come in here. You have to go to the other side.” Frankie froze. The bus driver got involved and defended the restaurant’s policy. Frankie thought about pushing the lady out of the way– but what would that solve? Frankie would have been arrested and her sisters in Hayti would have no speaker for their event. Instead, Frankie headed back to the bus and re-wrote her speech. (This might sound like Frankie gave up, but stay with me).

At the next stop, Frankie called home and asked her husband to contact a friend of theirs, attorney Charles Oldham. She wanted to file a complaint against Greyhound and against the restaurant, and file a complaint she did. Greyhound soon issued an apology and the restaurant agreed to change its policy. Two weeks later, when some folks visited the restaurant to make sure they had carried out their promise, they found that the separate facility for “colored” had been eliminated.

She had a similar incident at a coffee shop in an airport in Louisville. She was denied service, she spoke up, and changes were made. Mrs Freeman was confident enough to stand up because she knew she had the Constitution on her side.

6. Stay humble.

In her book, Frankie tells the story of when she was nominated as president of her Sorority. Now, let me point out that Frankie did not join while she was in college. She had known about Delta Sigma Theta when she was an undergrad at Hampton Institute, but they did not have sororities on campus then. And while studying law at Howard, she had no time to join. So it wasn’t until after she had received her law degree and was living in St Louis that Frankie became involved in the nationally known public service sorority. She worked hard for the sorority, and in 1967 she was on the ballot for national president. Now, the results of the election were to be announced at a banquet on the third day of a national convention. But word got out that Frankie had won, and she was receiving congratulatory phone calls while she was trying to get ready for the banquet. Consequently, she was late. In her own words:

I was late, honestly late; I am never late, but I truly was that time. However, some people thought I was coming in late on purpose–that I knew I was elected and was trying to make an appearance. Jeanne Nobel teased me later that I had “flaunted in,” but I replied that “I don’t flaunt.”

When you have lived the life Frankie Freeman has lived, you don’t have to flaunt.

While I was talking to Mrs Freeman on the phone I confessed that I had been holding onto her phone number for a couple of weeks, but I hadn’t had the courage to call her. I told her I was a bit intimidated because she is such a big deal. She just laughed and said, “Oh, I am not a big deal. I am a 99 year old woman!”

Well, that didn’t convince me. Frankie is most certainly a big deal, and she has every reason to flaunt. But she stays humble, and that is beautiful.

 

(See, I told you she was a big deal)

7. Do your homework.

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Frankie’s parents, Maude and William Muse

 

Frankie’s mother was a public school teacher, and though she gave up her career to stay home with her children, she never stopped teaching. The Muses were strong believers in the power of education, and told her children that once they got an education, no one could take it away from them. Maude knew her children would go to college, the only question was where. She and William paid for their own children’s education, but Maude went even further and raised scholarship funds so other children could pursue their education as well.

Frankie remembers that her parents– her mother especially–filled their home with books. When I spoke with her, Frankie recalled: “There were books all over the place– and we had to read them all!” But she didn’t mind. She loved reading anything she could get her hands on.

When I asked her what the best piece of advice she had received was, she paused for a long moment and really thought about it. She finally answered, “My teacher told me to do my homework. That was the best advice.” And I can see that throughout her life, Frankie did just that. She worked hard, both in school and in the courtroom, and brought about real change in her community and her nation. That’s pretty damn beautiful if you ask me.

 8. Take care of yourself.

Looking at Frankie’s life, it is easy to get the impression that she was all-business. How else could she have accomplished everything that she did? That is why I love this story of her just throwing caution to the wind and doing something unexpected: After being fired (the first time), Frankie went out and treated herself to something she had always wanted– a full length mink coat (don’t tell PETA). She put it on her husband’s credit card, but told him not to worry, she would pay it off as soon as she got back to work. Which, was like, the next day.

When I talked to her on the phone, I brought up some things she had mentioned in her book that had brought her joy. One of these things was cooking. I could hear her smile through the phone when she explained that, especially in the beginning, she was working so hard to get her career going, that she had to take time to relax, and cooking helped her do that. She told me her favorite thing to cook is her famous corn pudding, or her veggie salad with marinated green peppers, celery, tomatoes, and whatever other vegetables she can find. (My  mouth is watering).

There is no arguing that Mrs Freeman worked hard throughout her life, but she knew how to treat herself as well. And that is beautiful.

 


 

At the end of my conversation with Mrs Freeman, I asked her what her definition of beauty is:

Beauty is Frankie
Image from HistoryHappensHere.com

 

I was honored and inspired to have to opportunity to not only see this beautiful woman in person, but speak with her personally. She is truly an inspiration, and an example of what one individual can accomplish if they would just get to it.



Unless otherwise noted, all information and images were taken from Mrs Freeman’s book, her speaking engagement at the St Louis County Library Headquarters, or from my personal interview with her.

Dear Reader

So my goal with OperationalizeBeauty is to encourage a dialogue whereby women and girls think about what being beautiful really means. If they can see truly beautiful traits in other women, maybe they can recognize them in themselves, too. And then maybe, just maybe, the mean old so-and-sos of the world won’t be so powerful after all. And that will be beautiful.

I have worked with kids for close to a decade. I have worked with them in classrooms, on playgrounds, and at a crisis nursery (yes, it was as heart-breaking as it sounds). One thing that always bothered me was when a kiddo would come up to me complaining about some terrible thing another kid called him– “Mrs. Blair!! So-and-so said I was bad at baseball!” (I know, terrible, right?)

Continue reading “Dear Reader”

Beauty is…a marriage of passion and reason

Mary Wollstonecraft is often lauded as a pioneer of Feminism. Her most popular book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was published in 1792 and is considered a groundbreaking work that laid the foundation for the argument for women’s rights.

Mary was a passionate woman who considered independence to be the utmost goal of every individual, but especially women. She was raised by an abusive father and emotionally absent mother. As the oldest sister, she was expected to care for her siblings. Mary struggled to balance this role of care-giver that was placed on her, with the role of independent human she desired for herself. If she was alive today, I would like to think she would be a supporter of OperationalizeBeauty, as she is remembered as a woman who most definitely questioned–and shunned– the labels put on her by others.  When she made her way to London to pursue a career as a writer, she took a sort of pride in eschewing the style of the time. She arrived on the scene in thick-soled sensible walking shoes and a beaver cap. She felt she did not need to fit into a world she loathed (the world of the rich and well-connected), and would not waste time making herself attractive for the benefit of others. She absolutely detested the ideal of femininity popular during her lifetime, and eschewed the behavioral norms women were expected to abide by as well. For example, she found it silly that women were expected to lay in bed for anywhere from a week to a month after giving birth, and insisted on being up and about the day after having her first child. She insisted that having a baby was a natural process, not an illness.

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She was quite the conundrum. She did provide for her sisters, finding them employment and sending them money; yet, she did not take their feelings about that employment into account. She was a woman of reason and learning, yet she was fiercely passionate and emotional about causes and people dear to her heart. She was a great supporter of the Revolution in France and held idealized images of America as a land of true freedom, yet she seems to have absolutely reveled in the domestic duties of wife and mother. She valued independence above all, yet became deeply attached to a few people. The attachment she would foster was often unhealthy, and the absence of the object of her affection would send her into depression that resulted in at least two suicide attempts.

  henry-fuseli-by-james-northcoteOne of her objects of affection was German-Swiss artist Henri Fuseli (left), to whom she grew quite close. Though details are not known for sure, it is said that at one point, Mary showed up at his doorstep and asked to move in with he and his wife. Allegedly, she claimed she sought no physical relationship with Fuseli and posed no threat to his marriage; she simply could not live without seeing and talking to him daily. She needed a spiritual connection with him. Fuseli’s wife threw Mary out and forbade Henri from ever speaking to her again. Later, Mary would propose a similar, and incredibly unorthodox, living arrangement with her estranged husband (and father of her first child) and his paramour.

Mary was a firecracker to say the least. Prone to swings of unbridled 170px-josephjohnsonenergy and focus, as well as boughts of depression and self-doubt. Those close to her, like friend and publisher Joseph Johnson (right), learned to maneuver these dark spaces of Mary’s personality. Once, when penning a rebuttal to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, she expressed to Johnson that she wasn’t sure if she should continue. Having already printed what she had written so far, he assured her that if she didn’t feel up to the task of completing the work, he would throw the printed pages into the fire and forget the piece altogether. With the perfect response, Johnson struck a cord with the proud and zealous Mary, who quickly got back to work and completed the piece.

Mary lived and loved fiercely. She is a shining example of a woman who fought for the right to CHOSE her own life path, which is what most feminist leaders have called for from the beginning. She wanted to be the one who decided what her life would look like. She enjoyed living and writing as a single woman in London and Paris. She likewise enjoyed living in a small cottage with a simple garden outside the city and raising her child (very much parallel to the happy suburban housewife).  What stayed constant in Mary’s life was her passion to carve her own path, the high value she placed on reason and education, and the overall driving desire for independence that informed much of her life’s trajectory.

If Mary could send in a definition of beauty, it might look something like this:

Mary Wollstonecraft Definition

Beauty is…little hands doing big things.

Daniela and her family make beautiful birthday cakes for kids who are dealing with hardships. She hand delivers them to the birthday boy or girl and sings them “Happy Birthday.” All while fighting her own battle.

Daniela Delgado is just like any other 8 year old girl. She goes to school, loves reading and participating in running club, and spending time with her family.

But Daniel is also extraordinary. She and her family make beautiful birthday cakes for kids who are dealing with hardships. She hand delivers them to the birthday boy or girl and sings them “Happy Birthday.” All while fighting her own battle.

Daniela took some time out of baking and running and reading to answer a few questions for OperationalizeBeauty.

(Warning: you may experience renewed feelings of hope for our future after reading this interview.)


Who she is: Daniela Delgado from Daniela’s Little Wish

What she does: Bake birthday cakes at no cost  for kids with life threatening illnesses or disabilities and kids suffering a sad situation in their lives.

Where she does it: Stamford, Connecticut, but I travel all around Connecticut to deliver my cakes and now I am starting a project to deliver cake toppers to other states (sadly not the cakes, I cannot send them).

Meet Daniela

I am 8 years old and  I am  from Stamford, CT.  I do not have siblings. I live with my parents, both are immigrants from Colombia (my mom) and Mexico (my dad) and I am so proud to call myself Colombian-Mexican-American. Like a normal girl I play with my dolls, I love reading books (it is my passion, too) and do exercise (I am in a running club to be healthy). I have a beautiful 3 pound of “hair” yorkie and I love to camp. I love nature and animals.

My mom always said that I am very mature for my age and I agree! I help my parents not to worry about me. I am never mean to anybody and I am very respectful to others and especially adults (I love to talk with them).  My parents are raising me well, teaching me good values and morals.

I love to help others. I am so happy with myself!!

P.S I am a little disorganized but I am working on that!!

What is Von Willebrand and how does it affect you?

I have a health condition called Severe von Willebrand Disease Type 1. It is a condition that can cause extended or excessive bleeding. The condition is most often inherited (my mom has it too) and it is a deficiency in our impairment of a protein called von Willebrand factor, an important component in your blood-clotting process. In general, it takes longer for people with von Willebrand disease to form clots and stop bleeding when they’re cut.

I live a normal life. I just have to be very careful not to hit my head, my stomach, or my inner arms. I have to avoid contact sports and stay away from heights of more than 8 feet. I always carry with me special medication that could save my life in case of minor and big accidents. My school and my classmates have to know about my condition and avoid rough play with me. I feel special because I have a nurse in school that takes care of me and the secretary of my school, Patti, always takes care of my minor boo-boos and calls my mom about the incident. I am having nose bleeding episodes without a reason and my mom taught me how calm I have to be, lay down, pinch my nose in a special place, take my medicine and rest for a while.  I always wear a medical  bracelet with my condition and it is good because in case of accidents doctors and paramedics know what to do. My body is changing, so I can expect any effect related with my condition. I do not feel shy or different to anybody, I just have to be careful with myself.

Tell me a little about Daniela’s Little Wish. When did you start DLW? What inspired you to start? What exactly do you do?

Well, I started this community group when I was just 4 years old. My mom and dad were making a cake and I raised my magic wand (spatula) and wished that I could make cakes for kids suffering in this world with sickness, disabilities, domestic violence and any situation that makes them feel sad or different.

Continue reading “Beauty is…little hands doing big things.”

Beauty is…celebrating role models

Beauty is completely trend driven and changes from region to region and we are all chasing unattainable goals.

In February 2014, ad exec turned fashion designer Carrie Hammer made waves when she paraded Role Models Not Fashion Models down her runway at New York’s fashion week.

Carrie Hammer and Karen Crespo at Hammer's New York Fashion Week show Friday.
Designer Carrie Hammer and model Karen Crespo on the runway in September 2014 (photo via today.com)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 06: A model walks the runway at the CARRIE HAMMER 2014 New York Fashion Week Show on February 6, 2014 in New York City. (Pho...
Danielle Sheypuk on the runway at Hammer’s debut show in February 2014 (photo via today.com)

After graduating from UCLA, Carrie began working as an advertising sales executive. Carrie found herself surrounded by men, and well-dressed men at that. She learned that her male colleagues all had their suits custom made, and given the lack of well-fitting contemporary work wear available to her, she decided to give their tailor a visit and have some dresses made for herself. The tailor informed her that they did not do women’s clothes and in fact, no one did. So she sought out smaller, independent tailors and started designing her own pieces. After turning more than a few heads in her custom ensembles, she decided she could meet the need for custom contemporary work wear for all women. And Carrie Hammer (the label) was born.

When it came time to look for models for her debut show in February 2014, she was less than thrilled. She couldn’t stand the thought of hiring underage models to show off her designs. “Usually people watch fashion week and they’re reminded of how they need to go on a cleanse. It’s crazy,” she said. It just didn’t seem right. After all, the clients that she made clothes for were role models. And then it hit her– she would use role models, not runway models in her show. She reached out to friends and clients that she thought would be perfect. Model casting? Done.

Her debut show was groundbreaking. The designs were beautiful, but they were outshone by the breathtaking models. The most talked about model of that first show was Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, a psychologist, activist, beauty queen, and first ever Fashion Week model who happens to be in a wheel chair.

Danielle Headshot
Dr. Danielle Sheypuk (photo via daniellesheypuk.com)

   Seeing Dr. Sheypuk on the runway inspired Karen Crespo to accept her own body in a new way. The 30 year old nurse had contracted bacterial meningitis a few years prior. She lived through two heart attacks, a 15 day coma, and the amputation of all of her limbs. After the surgery that saved her life but took her arms and legs, Crespo was in a dark place. She had unanswered questions and was having trouble accepting her new self as beautiful. But after seeing Dr. Sheypuk on the runway, she turned a corner. She reached out to Carrie Hammer, telling the designer her story and expressing her gratitude for Hammer’s inclusion of Sheypuk in her show. Hammer was impressed with Crespo and her story, the two bonded, and it wasn’t long before Crespo herself was working the runway at Hammer’s September show.

“I want people to know we can still be beautiful regardless of whether we’re an amputee or in a wheelchair,” Crespo said. “We can still rock the runway.”

Continue reading “Beauty is…celebrating role models”

Beauty is…believing that you can do it.

She believed she could. So she did. And that is beautiful.

Meet Heather: blogger, entrepreneur/fan of alliterations, mother of four. And all around rock star.

She recently embarked on a journey to get healthy. Since starting her journey nearly 3 months ago, she has lost nearly 40 pounds and a whopping 70 inches! And she is only half way to her goal!


Beauty is...believing that you can do it.
“A flashback to me last June, hiding behind my kid in a photo so hating to take family photos. Me today, because Zak said “Cute outfit mom! Lemme take a picture!””

Now, obviously, she is looking great. But that is not the point.

Heather’s youngest kiddo is a toddler. In the not-so-distant past, he took off running down the street. And she. Couldn’t. Catch. Him.

Obviously, that was unacceptable to her. The thought that her son could be hurt because she physically couldn’t get to him was just not ok. So, she got to work. She made her health a priority. And it isn’t just her body that has changed, her whole outlook has shifted. Were as before, a trip to Disneyland might have seemed like more work than it was worth, she now looks forward to such trips. “I just started being more up for doing everything we like to do. Like going to the beach, Disney, whatever. It doens’t feel like such a schlep everywhere. I’m boosted with energy. The nutrition is amazing.”

Oh, and her little one? He can’t get away so easily anymore.

She believed she could. So she did. And that is beautiful.