A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Serena Williams

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Serena Williams

Local Inspiration: Julieanna Richardson

Local Inspiration: Julieanna Richardson

Women’s Health: Obamacare Decision Has Critical Effects On Women’s Health

Women’s Health: Obamacare Decision Has Critical Effects On Women’s Health

Inspiration Of Motherhood: Real Moms on the Realities of Losing the Baby Weight

Inspiration Of Motherhood: Real Moms on the Realities of Losing the Baby Weight

A Message From The Creator

 

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Serena Williams

Serena Williams, born September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan, began playing tennis early, enduring daily two-hour practices with her father at age three. In 1995, Serena turned pro, and, along with her sister Venus, enjoyed a run of high-profile victories. In 2009, Serena was fined and placed on probation for allegedly threatening a lineswoman, but is doing her best to move past the incident.

Early Life

American tennis player. Born Serena Jameka Williams on September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan. The youngest of Richard and Oracene Williams’ five daughters, Serena Williams, along with her sister Venus, has at various times throughout her career dominated the sport, capturing 11 Grand Slam singles titles and 10 doubles championships.

Serena’s father—a former sharecropper from Louisiana determined to see his two youngest girls succeed—used what he’d gleaned from tennis books and videos to instruct Serena and Venus on how to play the game. At the age of three, practicing on a court not far from the family’s new Compton, California, home, Serena withstood the rigors of daily two-hour practices from her father.

The fact that the family had relocated to Compton was no accident. With its high rate of gang activity, Richard Williams wanted to expose his daughters to the ugly possibilities of life “if they did not work hard and get an education.” In this setting, on courts that were riddled with potholes and sometimes missing nets, Serena and Venus cut their teeth on the game of tennis and the requirements for persevering in a tough climate.

By 1991, Serena was 46-3 on the junior United States Tennis Association tour, and ranked first in the 10-and-under division. Sensing his girls needed better instruction to become successful professionals, he moved his family again—this time to Florida. There, Richard let go of some of his coaching responsibilities, but not the management of Serena and Venus’ career. Wary of his daughters burning out too quickly, he scaled back their junior tournament schedule.

Tennis Star

In 1995, Serena turned pro. Two years later, she was already No. 99 in the world rankings—up from 304 just 12 months before. A year later, she graduated high school, and almost immediately inked a $12 million shoe deal with Puma. In 1999, she beat out her sister in their race to the family’s first Grand Slam win, when she captured the U.S. Open title.

It set the stage for a run of high-powered, high profile victories for both Williams sisters. Over the next decade, Serena alone would win 23 Grand Slam titles—including 10 doubles championships with her sister Venus.

With their signature style and play, Venus and Serena changed the look of their sport as well. Their sheer power and athletic ability overwhelmed opponents, and their sense of style and presence made them stand-out celebrities on the court.

Proving to have much more than just tennis clout, Serena expanded her brand into film, television, and fashion. She developed her own “Aneres” line of clothing, and in 2002 Peoplemagazine selected her as one of its 25 Most Intriguing People.Essence magazine later called her one of the country’s 50 Most Inspiring African-Americans. She’s also made television appearances, and lent her voice to shows such as The Simpsons.

In 2002, she won the French Open, the U.S. Open, and Wimbledon, defeating Venus in the finals of each tournament. She captured her first Australian Open in 2003, making her one of only five women players to have complete grand slam sets. The win also fulfilled her desire to finish off what she’d dubbed “The Serena Slam.” In 2008, she won the U.S. Open and teamed with Venus to capture a second women’s doubles Olympic gold medal at the Beijing Games.

Controversy

But Serena has had her scrapes and losses. In 2003, her sister Yetunde Price was murdered in Los Angeles, California. Three years later, Serena seemed burned out. Bitten by injuries, and just a general lack of motivation to stay fit or compete at the same level she once had, Serena saw her tennis ranking slump to 139.

Serena credits her faith as a Jehovah’s Witness, as well as a life-changing journey she made to West Africa for renewing her pride and competitive fire. By 2009, Williams had released a new autobiography, Queen of the Court, and won her place back atop the world’s rankings.

But not everything went smoothly. Williams made headlines in September of that year, when she blasted a lineswomen for a foot-fault called near the end of a semi-final loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open. The profanity-laced outburst included finger pointing and, according to the lineswoman, an alleged threat from Serena against her life.

Williams downplayed what happened, refuting the allegation that she’d threatened the woman. But the incident did not go over well with the tennis viewing public, nor the U.S. Tennis Association, which fined her $10,000 on the spot. Two months later, she was placed on two-year probation and ordered to pay another $82,500 to the Grand Slam committee for the episode&mdashthe largest punishment ever levied against a tennis player.

Legacy

By early 2010, however, Serena was doing her best to move past the incident, gearing up for the upcoming Australian Open and continuing on with a career that only a few have matched in terms of success. “I would like to leave a mark,” Serena once said about her standing in the tennis world. “I think obviously I will, due to the fact that I’m doing something different in tennis. But I don’t think I could ever reach something like a Martina Navratilova, I don’t think I’d ever play that long, but who knows? I think I’ll leave a mark regardless.”

Serena Williams lives in Palm Beach, Florida, with her sister Venus and their two dogs, a Jack Russell terrier and a Maltese.

Local Inspiration: Julieanna Richardson

By Geoffrey Johnson

Though she recalls no overt racism from her childhood, as one of only 1,000 blacks in an Ohio town of about 50,000 people, Julieanna Richardson did feel as one apart. She remembers the day her white grade-school classmates, asked to describe their ethnic heritage, proudly called out their European patrimonies. “I felt I had sort of been robbed,” she says. “Everyone wants to have a [history]. That’s the roots of my life’s passion.”

In 1999, that passion inspired Richardson to create The HistoryMakers, a video archive of interviews with hundreds of black Americans in business, the arts and sciences, sports, politics, and entertainment. “The African American community feels it doesn’t have a history,” she says. “We want to reawaken memories, to reconstruct the history of a people who didn’t have time to capture it themselves.”

Working out of their South Loop office, Richardson, 52, and her staff have recorded 1,400 interviews, each about three hours long. By 2011, she hopes to have recorded 5,000-a goal, she acknowledges, that is dependent on funding. “Thus far we’ve raised $8 million,” says Richardson, “but this is a $25-million project.” (For information about using the collection, go to http://www.thehistorymakers.com.)

After studying at Interlochen Arts Academy, Brandeis University, and Harvard Law School, Richardson took a job with Jenner & Block, which brought her to Chicago. In the 1980s, she served as the city’s cable administrator, created her own home-shopping channel, managed several local cable channels, and started a TV production company. Then, on a trip to Memphis, home to the National Civil Rights Museum, the name “HistoryMakers” came to her unprompted. “I went deep into myself,” says Richardson, “and out came this wonderful and marvelous project.”

n February 2000, she conducted her first interview, with the black radio executive Barry Mayo. Other subjects followed, some of them well known: Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Julian Bond. But an encounter with William Thompson, a veteran of World War II’s all-black Tuskegee Airmen, convinced Richardson that the HistoryMakers was about more than just celebrities. When they met, Thompson told Richardson about the Golden 13, the 13 black men commissioned as officers by the navy during World War II. What’s more, he told Richardson that one of those men-William Sylvester White, then a judge with the appellate court in Chicago-was waiting upstairs. Richardson ended up interviewing both men, who have since died.

“It was one of those moments when I knew I was on the right path,” says Richardson. “It wasn’t about names, but about finding history in places where people didn’t know history existed.”

Women’s Health: Obamacare Decision Has Critical Effects On Women’s Health

By Laura Bassett

lbassett@huffingtonpost.com

WASHINGTON — Although the requirement that contraception be covered by employers’ health care plans was not an issue addressed by the Supreme Court on Thursday, the measure has become one of the most controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act. But Thursday’s decision upholding the law will have a profound effect on millions of women that extends far beyond free birth control.

Beginning in August, woman of all income brackets will be able to obtain contraception, annual well-woman visits, screenings for sexually transmitted infections and gestational diabetes, breastfeeding support and supplies, and domestic violence screenings without any co-pays or deductibles. Currently, 62 percent of women buying health insurance in the individual market do not have maternity coverage, but under the health care law, 8.7 million more women will gain that coverage starting in 2014.

The Affordable Care Act also prohibits insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men for the same insurance coverage and from denying women health coverage for such “preexisting conditions” as breast cancer, pregnancy and domestic violence.

“Being a woman, i.e., being able to give birth, is one of the primary issues for gender rating, and that is no longer allowed under the Affordable Care Act,” said Dr. Paula Johnson, chief of the women’s health division at Brigham Women’s Hospital and a member of the Institute of Medicine panel that recommended preventative care coverage for women under the health care legislation. “The fact that insurers are no longer able to discriminate with regard to pre-existing illness is a major victory.”

One often-overlooked benefit of the law for senior women, who make up the majority of Medicare beneficiaries, is the fact that it closes the “donut hole” for prescription drugs. Medicare Part D covers prescription medicines up to a certain total amount; then seniors must pay for medicine out of their own pocket until their costs reach a much higher amount and the coverage kicks in again. The Affordable Care Act narrows this gap to help seniors afford their medications.

“A greater proportion of seniors are women, and of those seniors, women tend to be more at risk financially and have more chronic illnesses and out-of-pocket costs,” Johnson said. “We have to look at these policies through the lens of women’s health to understand that many of these issues are critically important to women and why that is.”

Some religious organizations, anti-abortion advocates and conservative women’s groups remain opposed to the health care reform, arguing that it politicizes women’s health by forcing religious employers to provide contraception coverage to their employees and allows certain state health insurance exchanges to charge members for abortion coverage (albeit through a separate fee). Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, has called the Affordable Care Act “the largest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade,” and Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said Thursday’s decision would “especially hurt” women.

“As we have seen with the contraception mandate, the politicization of so-called women issues by the left leaves the majority of women extremely vulnerable to the exploitation of a few radical groups that exert much political influence in Congress and the White House,” Nance said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, released a statement Thursday calling the Affordable Care Act “the greatest advance in women’s health in a generation.”

 

Inspiration Of Motherhood: Real Moms on the Realities of Losing the Baby Weight

Earlier this month, a group of moms gave birth to a radical idea. Instead of focusing on the perhaps unrealistic pressures celebrities set to lose the baby weight, they decided to embrace their bodies to try to change the face of post-baby body expectations.

Heidi Klum hit the Victoria’s Secret runway in next to nothing just six weeks after giving birth. Fellow angel, Alessandra Ambrosio, basically bared it all a mere 12 weeks after delivering her bundle of joy. And who could forget Kourtney Kardashian posing for covers of magazines rocking a red-hot bikini just three months after becoming mother to baby boy, Mason.

“I think it’s great that they can get their body back, because they have the time,” mother Katie Schunk said. “They’re being paid to look good, but we’re all working mommies. Jessica Alba was back to her pre-baby weight in like four weeks. At four weeks I was up every three hours and not able to function.”

Marie Schweitzer agreed, “We love them all.  We’re all celebrity worshipers.  But at the same time, that’s them maybe two months after having a baby, and this,” she said while pointing to herself up and down, “a year and four months after having a baby.”

So instead of scrutinizing photos of themselves, the women of CTWorkingMoms.com decided to embrace their bodies and bare it all, showing the world what “real women’s” bodies look like post-baby.

“We have this amazing moment of having a child, and then right after, most women hate their bodies,” said Schunk.

Michelle Noehren, mother and creator of CTWorkingMoms.com, affirmed, “You do an amazing thing by carrying a human being in your bodies and giving birth. We should be proud of our bodies.”

But what they didn’t realize was that while they were fearlessly flaunting their figures for the camera, these moms were really on an even bigger mission with a message for all women.

“If we could reach one woman and get her to maybe not feel so bad about herself, I think that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” Schunk said.

Even the photographer of the shoot, Jean Molodetz of I View Photography, was tearing up watching the mothers frolick in the backyard.

“Watching them embrace the spirit of the message, it was great,” Molodetz explained.

They thought they were just taking pictures for fun, but the reaction they felt when they started shooting wasn’t anything any of them were expecting.

Another mother on the shoot, Mary Grace Peak, said, “It was such a release, because trying to balance work and family and home– To actually run around someone’s yard half naked was very liberating and fun. It was great to kind of forget that I was a mom just for a minute and just remember who I am as a woman.”

Dena Fleno also posed for the camera. She explained, “It was the togetherness, and that’s what we want to get across to women. Get together with your girlfriends and do something like this because you will be changed after you do it. It is so important.”

Noehren’s husband tells her every day that she’s beautiful. But still, “it’s hard to believe it yourself even though you hear it, and doing something like this really does help,” she explained.

Schunk’s husband thought it was an amazing idea for the women to do the shoot, also. “He’s the first person to say that women are our own worst critic. Men don’t judge us as much as we judge ourselves, and it was nice to see us embrace ourselves and feel beautiful for a while,” she said.

Fleno has a daughter and hopes she’ll learn from this experience to embrace and accept whatever body she has at any given moment. “She might have a different one than she had in high school when she’s a mom. But that’s who she is now and she’s got to embrace it and accept it and just love yourself.  And this helped.  It really did.  I’ve never felt more beautiful than I did that night. I have this joy inside now from that night that’s never going to go away now,” she explained.

These women really want all moms to feel good about themselves. They’re encouraging everyone who has carried a child to head to CTWorkingMoms.com to upload your own fearless photos to the website.

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