Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wear the Swimsuit

The other day I was spending my lunch with my favorite ladies at my new place of work. We have shared all kinds of conversations in the past few months and we have become fast friends. The topic of swimming came up and one of the lovely women at our table said she wouldn't don a swimsuit so it was a non-topic for her. This made me sad.

My whole life I have spend swimming. I cannot remember a time I didn't know how to swim and I know I was always happiest in the water. My mother, too, loves to swim. She scoured the stores for beautiful swimsuits to wear in what is now considered a "plus-size". She has had hundreds in my lifetime. No matter what her size she'd find lovely suits, sexy suits, colorful suits to wear so she could swim.

As a child I always had a bigger frame than a lot of my peers. But I didn't care, I loved to swim and so I put on my swim suit and lived in the water. As a teen, when body image was most acute, I mindlessly put on swimsuits - some one piece, occasionally a two piece encouraged by my then boyfriend/now husband.

Candice and husband Ryan
when they were teens

As my body morphed and evolved through pregnancies, childbirth, and, yes, weight gain in middle age, I had different feelings about my form, but I have always, always, always put on the swimsuit.

I read once that mothers stopped being in the pictures taken of their children and with the family. They became the always-photographer so they could step out of the frame. Consequently, children grew up without their mothers in memories captured on film. It saddened me.

When I got my first flip phone with camera I started taking "Selfies", the word that has a terrible connotation. Once I got my first iPhone, the selfies became far more numerous.

It wasn't about being stuck up, vain, or crass, it was about seeing myself and forcing myself to accept and love me. Every time I do a "selfie" photo shoot I pour over the pictures and force myself to choose ones to post that make me happy. I post them to teach myself to accept the me of now, flaws and all. It's not easy, still.

A few summers ago I saw a news story about a woman who was plus-sized like me, but who wore a swimsuit, took pictures of herself, and posted them on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. She, in essence, was trying to love herself in the here and now so she could have fun and be present with her children. Boy, did that resonate with me.

So, since then, I, too, have taken pictures of myself in my swimsuit and posted on social media with the hashtag #WeartheSwimsuit. Like my other "selfies", it still takes me a while to find ones that I like and I can tolerate sharing with the world, but I do it. It's my gift to me and ultimately to my children that I accept me and I am a participant in my/our lives.

Hearing this beautiful, thinner, younger woman at  my lunch table lament that she wasn't ever going to wear a swimsuit makes me sad because I know the feeling. We are bombarded - women and men - in society with what we are supposed to look like. It's crap.

What I did was follow women on social media I want to emulate and who make me happy to see their form. Ashley Graham is a favorite of mine. She's the first plus-size model to win the coveted cover of the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a few years back. She's modeled for plus-size store Lane Bryant, and now has her own fashion line for full-figured women.

When you see images of smart, sexy people with a form similar to your own, you stop hating on yourself so much.

If posting my pictures on social media helps another woman, or man, feel better about themselves and gives them courage to be themselves, then I'm pleased, But I'm doing this for me and my family.

Life is happening now. We aren't born with termination dates so I have no idea how long I have. I'm going to continue to live in the moment, post my selfies, #WeartheSwimsuit, and continue to learn to love and accept myself because if I can't love me, no one can.

Cheers to us, no matter our size, our hair type, or our flaws. Let's simply embrace and celebrate our fabulous qualities!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

And Still We Remember By: Candice Smith

Time stood still.
No one moved or breathed.
No one believed that The Intimidator was mortal.
Certainly he’d walk away from what looked initially like an innocuous hit into the wall.
This was Daytona, the track that Earnhardt won consistently at and even had captured a 500 victory three years previously.
A collective gasp was heard.
Hearts sunk.
Mourning began.
A line was drawn – events that happened before February 18, 2001 and after.
The day Dale Earnhardt died.
Accidents happen, but he’d always walked away able to race the next time.
Lives forever changed that fateful day.
Healing began.
Dale Earnhardt will never be forgotten.
His indelible mark is as palpable today as it was then.
Perhaps more.
Then Earnhardt had as many detractors as fans. Fans would boo, jeer, and argue what a terrible competitor he was. A cheat, some would say, or a thug on the race track. Fans of Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, and many other drivers couldn’t stand Earnhardt.
But when he was gone the enormity of Earnhardt’s death reverberated across NASCAR Nation and beyond.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs2
Flags still fly proudly with the “No. 3” and Dale Earnhardt signature. His fans – ardent, loyal, passionate – still remember.
He was so much more than a NASCAR star.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs4
Earnhardt was a sports icon, a business entrepreneur, a  farmer, a sponsor’s dream, a winning driver, a champion who tied King Richard Petty’s seven championships.
Earnhardt was a jokester, a fierce competitor, and a loyal friend.
He was a husband, business partner, hunter, and a father.
His legacy has made him immortal.
The name Earnhardt will forever be associated with racing – NASCAR –  and a host of positive things in the world as his family’s reach is constantly expanding.
Seventeen years later and the landscape has changed immensely.
The one thing that has not changed is the allegiance shown by Earnhardt fans. There are endless stories of how Earnhardt touched their lives.
Others have entire rooms filled with Earnhardt memorabilia.
What every one of those fans has in common is their love, admiration, and adulation of Dale Earnhardt.
Seventeen years on, as much that has changed, the Earnhardt fans stay the same.
Dale Earnhardt 4 Cs5

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver adds another candle to his birthday cake today; he turns 43 years old.

As an outsider looking in who has observed Dale Earnhardt Jr. for many years, it is an exciting time for him.

Introduced to the public as a boy – Dale Earnhardt’s boy – Dale Jr. was living in the shadow of his famous father.

Growing into a young man with driving talent, we watched as Dale Jr. raced hard and well and carved a name for himself with two NASCAR Busch Series championships and then with wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

His father’s strong arms were never far away. His influence was ever-present.

And then the unthinkable happened and Dale Jr. was left to live life without his father.

There were ups and downs. Successes and failures. High hopes and dashed dreams. A parting of the ways between Dale Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Incorporated was the start of a new chapter in Dale Jr.’s life.

More time elapsed with still more failures on the track than successes.

Finally a turning point occurred.

Solid finishes, consistency, a driver with focus, determination, and optimism.

Personally, Dale Jr. seemed happier than ever before. His smile was genuine, his shoulders not slumped in despair.

And then the 2014 season dawned at Daytona. Dale Jr. won the Great American race for the second time in his career – a feat even his father could never claim.

The win took enormous pressure off of the driver and team under the brand new Chase format as they had secured a spot after the first race of the season.

But Dale Jr. and his No. 88 team continued to work hard.

Two more wins followed, both at Pocono Raceway. I was fortunate to be at both races.

My vantage point in Victory Lane allowed me to see up close and personally the complete and utter joy that flowed from Dale Jr.

In June Dale Jr. shook hands with every crew member, took endless pictures, and conducted countless television and radio interviews. He was then escorted into the media center at Pocono Raceway and sat patiently and unhurriedly answering every question hurled at him.

Dale Jr. answered thoughtfully, spoke eloquently, and was so in the moment.  At the same time he was calm, present, and so very happy.

In his return to Pocono Raceway in August there was a zest and confidence that Dale Jr. exuded. Perhaps it was bravado or simply a guy having fun, but it was different than I’d seen him in the past.

A sweep of Pocono capped Dale Jr.’s summer and showed the other drivers in the series and Dale Jr.’s fans and detractors that he was, indeed, a true competitor and, in fact, the real deal.

Of course, the unfailingly loyal fans of Dale Jr. – Junior Nation – have always known that to be true.

I asked Dale Jr. a question in August 2014 that made him reveal a bit about his personal life. I asked him what his Simple Joys were.

Dale Jr. mentioned Amy first.

Amy Reimann has been Dale Jr.’s companion for several years and seems to truly make him happy and content. On New Year's Eve 2016 they officially wed. 

He also mentioned beer and Redskin football.

For a week following Pocono and my question, any time Dale Jr. was interviewed the Simple Joy question was re-asked. He changed his answer slightly, but it was the response he gave me on the spot that shows how deeply happy – joyful – Dale Jr. is in life.

The 2015 season saw Dale Jr. take home three more wins. But luck hasn't been on the side of the No. 88 team. Winless in both 2016 and currently in 2017, Dale Jr. will have to be satisfied with whatever circumstances ends his 19 years in NASCAR's top series. He has a long list of accomplishments, wins, and Favorite Driver honors to bolster his ego.

Regardless, Dale Jr. is on top of the world. With personal life, career, family fulfilling him, Dale Jr. needn’t win a Cup to be successful.

Now Dale Jr. looks ahead to a new chapter in his ever-evolving life.

Dale Jr. will become a NASCAR broadcaster on NBC.
This is footage of Dale Jr. guest-broadcasting for Fox.

At 43 Dale Jr. seems to have figured out what's important in his life, how to re-invent himself, and continue to be the unparalleled ambassador for the sport in which he's lived his entire life.

Happy Birthday, Dale Jr. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Spyro Gyra

Spyro Gyra members 2017 (from l-r)
Julio Fernandez, guitar
Jay Beckenstein, saxophone
Lee Pearson, drums
Scott Ambush, bass guitar
Tom Schuman, piano (off camera)

Spyro Gyra made its way to my neck of the woods last night, again. It was the second time I’d seen them in concert and they were as good if not even better than the first time I was in their audience a few years ago.

from l-r
Scott Ambush, bass guitar
Tom Schuman, piano

When I listen to music I feel, see, hear, and emote. Words dance around my head. This time, equipped with a mini-notebook and pen, I wrote words while listening to the band play. I couldn’t stop; it flowed effortlessly from my hand. I was compelled, moved by their music and the intimacy of the venue.

Playing two at once!

Until you experience Spyro Gyra LIVE, these words will have to suffice as a ticket to the journey of their dynamic performances.  I invite you into my words from last night’s concert.


Washes over you
Parts of a whole
“Morning Dance”
“Wiggle Room”

Racer and Chief 187™

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Thank You Hugh Hefner

What Hugh Hefner did for the Sexual Revolution was tantamount to what the Birth Control Pill did. His importance in creating modern-day sexual mores is unparalleled. Hefner’s passing is not the closing of a chapter, but an opportunity to reexamine his contributions to American society, America’s collective attitudes about sex, and his everlasting legacy.

With the first issue of Hefner’s Playboy magazine featuring Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in all of her alluring, naked glory, America was shown that sexy could be classy. As “Playmates” grew in numbers, sexiness left the Hollywood realm in many cases and grew to include the “girl next door”. A woman who you could see at the grocery store or the college campus could be ogled in the pages of Playboy magazine.

Sexy was redefined by Hefner, his editors, and the people on his team. Sexy was no longer one trait, one type. It transcended such labels and became undefinable in traditional standards.

And Puritanical Americans were hungry for sexy. They longed to fantasize about beautiful women. And women longed to want to be seen as sexy without losing respect and power. In addition, Americans enjoyed reading well-researched, fascinating articles that dealt with all topics facing them.

Unlike other “girly magazines” on the market that one might be ashamed to be caught, Playboy magazine had a higher quality and class to it than its peers.

Countless men had stacks of Playboy magazines in storage. Whether in boxes, on the bookshelves, in bathrooms, on bedside tables, or carefully “preserved under the bed”, no one wanted to discard such treasure.

And because the women were beautiful, the articles insightful, and the magazine tasteful, women were more apt to look and enjoy Playboy magazine either alone or with their partners.

Playboy Clubs that dotted the country were full, lucrative businesses that catered to the fantasy life of many in a ‘realistic’ setting. Of course, the club had its day in the sun and then, when times changed, AIDs became a part of the daily lexicon, and the morality of the country had a pendulum shift, they became relics of a past age.

Hefner’s image, legendary parties, and Playboy lifestyle was hotly envied and greatly admired by many men. Yet his respect for women – yes, respect – made his decision to put his daughter in power of his empire a logical step. A man need not be the only one to steer Playboy. Women had become equals in the business of sexual fantasy.

Even when reality television replaced scripted programming, Hefner took center stage with his three girlfriends. He had a supporting role at best, but the point was, he was still a virile, vital player in the Playboy lifestyle he’d created.

When Playboy magazine announced they’d stop featuring naked women, it probably troubled and hurt Hefner. With the Internet full of “free porn”, the magazine did what it felt was a responsible move. But, it stunk because it ended a beautiful era.

Losing Hugh Hefner at 91 isn’t a tragedy. He’d lived a long, lucrative, enviable life where he lived by his rules, not society’s.

Throughout my life I’ve seen Playboy magazines and liked them.

Yes, I did.

In fact, I used to dream about one day modeling for Playboy, but perhaps I was a bit too “girl next door” and not enough Marilyn. However, it allowed me to see myself in myriad ways.

Because, sexy isn’t one thing. Sexy isn’t just a look but an attitude, a confidence. Thanks to Playboy and Hugh Hefner, I feel sexy at “middle age” and know that I can stay sexy for decades to come because he gave me permission and showed me how.

Godspeed, Hef, and thank you. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Movies about Motorsports

While I no longer follow NASCAR or other forms of racing anymore, I still long to watch, learn about, and revel in the world of Motorsports.  Over the years Hollywood has flung out some interesting, serious, laughable, and forgettable movies set against the backdrop of Motorsports racing. Good or bad, realistic or far-fetched, racing movies are a fun part of fandom!

The Last American Hero – A film about NASCAR legend and Hall of Fame member Junior Johnson in his early years.  With the tagline, “It took him 20 years to find out who he was and 2 laps to let the world know,” this movie personified the American dream. Starring Jeff Bridges as Junior Johnson and with locations that lent authentication to the piece, The Last American Hero is a slice of NASCAR history brought to life in an artful and refreshing way.

 Grand Prix - This epic story is lush with state-of-the-art cinematography, jaw-dropping race scenes, interesting characters, several compelling storylines, and, if I haven't mentioned it enough, fantastic racing scenes! James Garner is bonus here as he is cool personified. The movie dates to 1966 but has topical and timeless subject matter in the world of racing.

Greased Lightning – Loosely depicting the life of black NASCAR driver Wendell Scott, the film shows the history of post World War II atmosphere that led to Scott’s evolution from taxi cab driver to moonshine runner in Virginia to stock car champion. Richard Pryor stared in this serious film role that showcased his fine acting chops. Beau Bridges co-starred.

Stroker Ace- Fictitious Stroker Ace, played by the incomparable Burt Reynolds, has little respect for the business side of NASCAR preferring to leave it all out on the racetrack. When a string of events leads to Stroker losing his sponsor, he and his team need to hustle up a new one. A hilarious and raucous storyline continues. Most notable are the actual NASCAR cameos featured in the film as well as race tracks for location shots. If watched simply for mindless fun and for spotting NASCAR faces like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Tim Richmond and scores more, Stroker Ace is a good choice.

Six Pack – Kenny Rogers, pre-face lift and during his enormously popular singing career, took a turn as a struggling NASCAR driver who, due to circumstances, winds up with a van full of kids in his charge. Not a bright spot for NASCAR films, but to see Kenny Rogers and Diane Lane it’s worth a couple of mindless hours.

Days of Thunder – Tom Cruise starring as Tom Cruise, I mean starring as Cole Trickle. 1980s flash, Robert Duvall’s crustiness and Randy Quaid as the antithesis of the character he made famous in the Vacation movies, tried to make this one a winner, but the crazy schedule for NASCAR and the preposterous storyline are so bad it’s like watching drivel. Of course, it’s Tom Cruise and NASCAR so as bad as it is it is still so watchable!

Pixar’s Cars Movies – An animated story with heart, lush scenery, well-developed plot, and a host of stars makes this modern flick an instant classic. Not necessary to see just with the kids, this film, and its sequels, are the best of all. Don’t walk, run to put this on your “must own” list of NASCAR movies. I'm also a fan of Cars Movie 2 and 3. The second one brings in the open wheel crowd and the international scene tied in with a spy ring. The third movie that came out this summer takes Cars Movie back not only to its NASCAR roots, but also to its history. Look for heavy hitters in the Motorsports world in all three movies as cameos.

Turbo - What Cars Movie did for NASCAR, Turbo was supposed to do for IndyCar. Unfortunately, it fell short. But, it's a cute movie with some decent characters and an okay storyline. You have to suspend belief for this one a lot, but it's still worth seeing just so you can say, "I saw it." The bonus is a pre-Deadpool Ryan Reynolds.

Rush - A fascinating, fast-paced, sexy, and stressful look at a short period in Formula One's history when James Hunt battled Niki Lauda. If you watch Formula One  then you know how this one ends, but seeing it played out is worth your time! Great racing scenes, a look back on the tremendous risks racecar drivers took back in the day (and today), and an all-around terrific film. Ron Howard directed, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) starred as Hunt and Daniel Brühl starred as Lauda and was simply brilliant.

Hollywood hasn’t always done a bang up job on offering high caliber NASCAR-based and racing movies. But the fact that racing movies exist at all, are a part of film history, and even include real NASCAR and racing personalities from different eras is another reason to check out this slew of movies.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

50 (+2) Actual Ways to Leave Your Lover, Part II: The Women

Yesterday I published the 26 Ways to Leave Your Lover for the men. Today the ladies get their chance to leave their lover with as much flair.

Once again, thanks to Paul Simon for his fabulous song, the concept, and the title.

And now, without further ado, the 26 Ways to Leave Your Lover for the women.

 1. Abandon the palace, Alice
 2. Hit the parkway, Barbie
 3. Take the back alley, Callie
 4. Follow the sea, Donna Lea
 5. Go wherever the the highway will take ya, Estrella
 6. Hide his pantses, Frances
 7. Go with the wind, Gwendolyn
 8. Leave while he's huntin', Helen
 9. Act on your ideA, IdinA
10. Don't be tacky, just leave, Jackie
11. Just up and flee, Katy
12. Take everything but the cinder, Linder (Linda if you're not from NY)
13. Tell him it's for the best, Mavis
14. You can use the telly, Nellie
15. Who can blame ya, Olegna?
16. You'll find another laddy, Patty
17. For a moment, be a meanie, Queenie
18. Call him from the phone booth, Ruth
19. Let him know you're movin', Susan
20. If he gets mad, say, "to hell with ya," Tabitha
21. Tell him no more spoonie, Uni
22. Go off to Astoria, Victoria
23. It can be friendly, Wendy
24. He doesn't need ya, Xena
25. It will be good for you and him, Yasmin
26. In the end he'll thank ya, Zelda

And there you have it, not just 50, but 52 Ways to Leave Your Lover, for both men and women.

If you'd like to add your two cents, couplets, and/or names, please leave them as comments on today's or yesterday's post.

I always hope you STAY with your lover, but if you needed the boost, I hope these lists offered some keen advice. Good luck!