Monday, February 28, 2011

The Winner is All Tied Up

I'm very excited to announce the winner of the Second Annual Two Kinds of People Writing Challenge: Deborah Carroll for her essay Women Who Scarf, which is posted below. You can find more of Debby's writing at her Raising Amazing Daughters Blog. Thanks to all who entered and a special thanks to my panel of guest judges, Ed Padala, Judi Silverman and Molly Bearman for helping me make this difficult decision. Enjoy Debby's essay and start thinking about your entry for the Third Annual 2KoP Writing Challenge, January 2012.

In addition to this guest post, Debby has chosen as her prize the 2KoP logo baseball cap. A special thanks to Laura Munson, who generously promoted this contest and who will also be sending Debby a signed copy of her best-selling memoir, This is Not the Story You Think It Is.

Women Who Scarf
by Deborah Carroll

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can accessorize with a scarf, and those who are woefully unable to do so. Sadly, I am the latter.

You see them on the streets of any town or city, and you imagine that in their minds, they’re walking a runway or catwalk. They’re strutting their stuff, while my stuff … well, it’s moving down the sidewalk, but something is amok.

They may be wearing jeans, a sweater, boots, a jacket, and a scarf, but when you look at them, you see the total package, a well-put-together woman.

When I put on a scarf, it appears to be something I added to my outfit haphazardly. It rarely (read: never) pulls me together and makes me look as if I gave careful thought to my outfit. The women who “scarf” well (yes, they do it so well, it becomes a verb) look like a complete and detailed image. Somehow the scarf ties it all together and their stuff is ready to strut.

It lifts them from frumpy to fabulous.

I can’t get there. If I’m wearing jeans, a sweater, boots, jacket, and scarf, that’s what you see when you look at me– jeans, sweater, boots, jacket, scarf. Clearly, I lack the fashionista gene. I also don’t own any fashionista jeans, but I don’t think that’s the problem.

A study of these women reveals that the cost of what they wear isn’t the determining factor in how good they look. These excellent “scarfers” come from all walks of life, and all socio-economic levels. It’s not what they’re wearing; it’s how they combine the accessories with flair and flow.

Now, this fashion distinction may not be important in the larger scheme of things. We all know it’s what’s inside that matters. But, what if our exterior reflects our interior? What if my inability to look “put-together” bespeaks an internal scattered mess?

For that reason, I decided to tackle my fashion failings head on and from head to toe. I sought help online. Here’s what I found, “Remember accessories are tiny pointing arrows that draw the attention to the spot you wear them on.”

Tiny pointing arrows? Could that be my problem? Did I shun the spotlight of those tiny pointing arrows for some reason? Was I afraid to have people look at me? Nah, I once aspired to a career in theater, so that couldn’t be it.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it’s not about the clothes at all. Maybe it’s about the people wearing the clothes. Is there something in their posture or their demeanor that is lacking in mine?

I visited a physiatrist, a doctor who specializes in treating the whole person to restore full functionality. If I were lacking something physical, I needed to know. Plus, I had tendonitis, so I figured he could fix that too, while he was treating my “whole person.”

He did treat my tendonitis, and, amazingly, he did find something amok in my fashionista profile. Well, he didn’t put it that way, but he did say that I walk with my head jutting forward. While he didn’t venture an opinion about whether this would render me fashion faulty, he did say it’d likely cause me to have neck and back pain, as well as repeated bouts of tendonitis. He gave me exercises to do in order to check and correct my posture.

I left there thinking that if I just hold my head higher and straighter, maybe I could finally be one of those people. You know, the other kind.

I went home and put on jeans, sweater and, yes, a scarf. I held my head high and checked in with my body. Head directly over shoulders. Shoulders back, tummy in, hips over feet, all in a straight line. I looked in the mirror …

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can accessorize with a scarf, and those who are woefully unable to do so. Sadly, I am the latter. But I have really good posture.

Do you scarf? Let us know by leaving your comment here.
Thank you to the other entrants for their submissions. Check out their links. If they have posted their submissions, I have linked to them, as well:

Alicia  Widows and Those Who Don't Know What to Say
Melissa Adams — Traveling the World with No GPS
Christi Craig — A Chiropractor's Dream
Robin Dake — A.M. People and P.M. People
Nikki Di Virgilio What Two Kinds of People am I Talking About?
JennyRomper Room
Linda Gartz — Family History: Bold or Boring?
Julie Ellinger Hunt — Poem: A Demonstrative Tempest
Dana Leipold — Idol Worshipping at the Foot of the Pop Star Machine Generator
Mary Ryan Sigmond Before and After
Robert Sloan — Humans and Cats
Candace George Thompson — A Squirrel Was My Psychiatrist

Photo credit: NEW Summer scarves by The Greenery Nursery via a Creative Commons License.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fan vs. Fanatic

Ed. note: Results are in for the Second Annual Two Kinds of People Writing Challenge.

fan (noun) — an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc. (origin: 1885-90, Americanism; short for fanatic or, some say, fancy)

fanatic (noun) — a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics. (origin: 1515-25, "insane person" from L. fanaticus, "mad, enthusiastic, inspired by god", originally pertaining to a temple, from L. fanum. 


There are two kinds of people in the world: those who listen to commercial radio and those who listen to public radio.

When I was a kid in the Detroit area, my parents listened to WJR, an AM radio station devoted to news, talk and sports. I hated it. I begged them to listen to music — any kind of music — rather than the blah, blah, blah of broadcasters like J.P. McCarthy. Now it isn't just because of the commercials that I tune out to commercial radio.

I first learned about public radio in college, via my friend Betsy Rippner, but I didn't become a fan until I moved to Chicago and found WBEZ; and I didn't become a fanatic until I became a mininvan mom and the information, news and intelligent conversation provided a potent antacid to a steady diet of Barney and other syrupy-sweet children's programming.

I started slowly, with the lovely works of Selected Shorts (where I finally came to appreciate the short story) and the unexpected FreshAir interviews by the always-curious Terry Gross (who still sounds like a very smart, young undergrad, even though she is now 60ish). My flirtation turned quickly to addiction and obsession, and I lapped it all up: Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Talk of the Nation; as well as great locally produced programs like Worldview and Eight-Forty-Eight. I love the silliness of Car Talk, the aural truffles of Re:Sound, and the digestible nature of Science Friday.

And the names. I love the names of public radio: Cokie Roberts, Ira Flatow, Marion McPartland, David Folkenflik, John Ydstie, Nina Totenberg, Heidi Goldfein (who always pronounces every syllable of the letter W), Ira Glass, and Garrison Keillor (whose real name is Gary Edward Keillor, which isn't nearly as good). I revel in sonorous tones of "This is Bob Edwards"; and the distinctive inflections of "I'm Neal Conan", just two of the great voices of this old, yet still relevant medium.

I love the quirky traditions, like Jerome McDonnell's professed love of pledge drives; or the way you know the daily economic outlook by which theme song MarketPlace plays while "doing the numbers" — "We're in the Money" or "Stormy Weather" tell us almost all we need to know. I even tried Susan Stamberg's mother-in-law's Pepto Bismol pink cranberry relish recipe this past Thanksgiving (pretty good, if you like horseradish).

One way you know you have crossed the line from fan to fanatic is when your 12-year-old son downloads 15 podcasts of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me for a family road trip. It turns out, though, that family inculcation is not that unusual for NPR listeners. In a great new volume chronicling public radio history called This is NPR: The First Forty Years, Cokie Roberts writes about why she keeps getting up at five a.m. every Monday for Morning Edition:
"Because of the listeners. If you want to be heard by young people, farmers, the chief executives of the Fortune 500, members of Congress, players in the media, and especially moms, NPR's the place for you. Those of us who have been around for a long time constantly have the experience of some young—or not so young—person coming up to us and saying, "I grew up listening to you." And we always joke: 'Your mother made you listen in the car, didn't she?' Somewhat to their embarrassment, they admit it's true."
It is true. My kids have grown up listening to NPR. It has sparked great discussions about everything from the history of mustard (heard on a Wisconsin public radio station in the middle of the night) to the second Iraq war, which started when my middle son was 6 (he is now 14). His question then: "How can we go to war with Iraq?" At least that's what I heard. I tried to explain, but failed miserably. "Mom, what are you talking about? How can we be at war? 'A rock' just sits there unless you throw it at someone." Which pretty much sums up my feelings about our invasion of that country.

Some people like their weather and traffic on the ones. Others prefer to tune in to polarizing pundits on the left or the right. Still others (my husband) go for Howard Stern or one of the other shock jocks. If my kids want music, they can always plug in their earbuds, but even when they complain, I know they really want me to win Carl Kassell's voice on our home answering machine.

Me, I'm an NPR fanatic. I learn something new every day. I laugh, I cry, I get mad at the people with whom I disagree, because NPR presents many sides of a story. My thirst for knowledge is both fed and stimulated—often simultaneously. I'm guilty of putting extra greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as I sit in my running car listening to the end of a story. And I'm embarrassed to say I haven't pledged as much as I should. But I swear, the minute my first book is published, I'm going to become a dollar-a-day member.

Do you have a favorite NPR program or personality? Or do you hang out more in the middle of the dial. Please feel free to comment here.