Thursday, 8 December 2011

Salute to Women in Sport

This week the Women's Sports Foundation held it's 28th annual Salute to Women in Sports at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The mission of this excellent organization is to encourage women to be active in sport or any kind of physical activity. The group has far-reaching influence over the lives of young people. They support a number of community programs which give young girls the chance to play sports in their communities. Also, the foundation has assisted individual athletes in their training and competition at higher levels.

I attended the event with friends and mentors from my training years at Mayo. The evening is an inspiration to men and women alike, as it celebrates the female athlete.

This year, the Rutgers Women's Basketball team received the Wilma Rudolph Courage Award for their overcoming adversity to reach the NCAA finals. Even after their stunning Cinderella story, they were still judged not on their hard work and incredible achievement, but on their appearance during play. The now-famous comments by Don Imus (who, despite medial portrayal, is not an evil man; just misguided and insensitive) about their lack of grooming is certainly a wake-up call to all females in competitive jobs or sports. Imus' comments put a finger on something which is terribly wrpng with the way women are viewed in society. It sends the message that no matter what we as females achieve through our determination and effort, we will still be judged on our appearance.

So here's to you, Lady Scarlet Knights. Not only can you teachus all about teamwork, how to play basketball and overcome tremendous odds; you all look gorgeous. Too bad those evening dresses don't work on the court.


Thank goodness for nail salons and haircuts. If it was not for those two venues, I would never read Cosmopolitan magazine. Their tagline "fun fearless female" is one I live by, but in general their target audience is a bit younger than I am.

Imagine my surprise when on the subway last night my boyfriend and I are seated next to a pleasant, well-built man who asks me which stop will take him to SoHo. Turns out he is Chris Jones, one of the 2007 Cosmopolitan magazine's "50 Hottest Bachelors." He's from Montana and is here in New York for the magazine launch this month.

We only speak for a couple of minutes. He seems to be an intelligent, earnest guy. He tells us about the fun he's had here in New York, about how surprised he is that he made the top 50. Apparently, some co-workers of his nominated him for the honor.

At the Spring Street station, we get off of the subway and part ways, but not before I ask my boyfriend to snap a photograph of us in front of one of the omnipresent "iPod" billboards. The Cosmo website contains a link so that interested women can write to Chris. Sure, he's a great-looking man (the photos do not do him justice) but from our short interaction I can tell he is much more than that.

Congratulations, Chris. Happy you are enjoying your time in our great city.\
(click on image for full size photo)


My friend, Helen, is about three weeks into her "name tag" experiement. Every day, she wears a stick-on name tag that reads "Hello. My Name is Helen." She had the idea from a website where a man writes about his doing this for years.

Helen is an outgoing person to begin with. I met her more than 10 years ago when I lived and worked in Philadelphia. We were volleyball partners and became friends. She is an extremely positive, high energy person who brings a smile to practically every situation. The name tag element just adds spice to the pot.

At first, I thought she was nuts. Why would anyone want to look like a lost conventioneer? But she's found that folks are more likely to talk to her and to introduce themselves to her. Her experiences made me think about the first impressions we all make and create about others.

Folks who are on the far end of the spectrum on the quiet side might be viewed as "snobs." The most outgoing people could be seen as brash or overbearing. These behaviors are most likely manifestations of nervous energy; "How do I start a conversation? What do I talk about?" The name tag is a brilliant equalizer here. It creates a sense of comfort and approachability.

I'm eager to learn of Helen's adventures (and misadventures) with her name tag. What are your thoughts?

Burger Club.

The first rule of Burger Club is - you do not talk about Burger Club. The second rule of Burger Club is - you DO NOT talk about Burger Club..."
Well, maybe a little.
Burger Club came into being because of my brother, Mike. He and I thought it would be fun to get together for a burger about once a month. We choose places in New York which are thought to have the "best" hamburgers, according to some of the local press. We'd eat a hamburger and catch up on each other's lives.
A couple of months ago, my friend, Amy, joined us for a bite at Rare Bar and Grill on Lexington Avenue. We had the Murray's Cheeseburger. The recipe changes weekly. This week, we enjoyed a smoky concoction with aged cheese. The toppings were delicious, but the beef was a little grainy for my taste. The star of the evening was the basket of assorted fries. The trio of sweet potato, waffle and shoestring comes with chili ketchup and maple dipping sauces.
Conversation centered around work, mostly. Amy started a new job at ESPN. She's been working on the news magazine, E60 and loves her job. Her work as an associate producer is varied; she'll be a cameraman one day, an interviewer the next. But Amy's strength lies in her creativity and her meticulous attention to detail. I've been lucky enough to catch some episodes she's worked on and the stories are fascinating.

Last month, my brother was working late and did not attend Burger Club. But our little group has now expanded to include friends from work and from life. In November, Joyce, Trey and Rob join me at J.G. Melon on Third Avenue. I'm biased since these are my favourite burgers in the city. Smaller than those found in many other places, these little gems make up for their size with their incredible taste and texture. The beef is juicy but not greasy, perfectly seasoned and meant to be savored. The J.G. Melon burger is served simply, with pickle and onion. Their chip-style fries are crispy and have just enough potato for a great mouth feel.
Conversation on this day ranges from the lighthearted and fun to somber. We choose a middle name for Rob, who does not have one. We talk about relationships and family. Trey just lost his younger brother in a horrible motorcycle accident in Texas. We discuss loss and grief and how this season magnifies all of these feelings.
This December 21 marks the third anniversary of my mother's death from pancreatic cancer. It's no coincidence that she died on the darkest day of the year. Even now I find myself reaching to call her on the phone to ask her advice or to share good news. She loved hamburgers and I'm sure would have made a fine addition to our Burger Club.

The Fabric Between

"For these beings, fall is the only normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond." - Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury

There is something special and unusual about this time of year. I've always loved the Fall; Halloween in particular. The child in me relishes in any opportunity for dressup and mischief. However, lately I've thought more deeply about these feelings and want to share.

The Halloween we know in the USA means costumes, candy, toilet paper and shaving cream to most. In other cultures the holiday is tempered and is a prelude to the celebration of All Saints' Day. However, the fact that other, non-Christian cultures and religions have many sacred days during this time speaks to the distinction of this transition from Summer to Winter.

Something else I've noted about the Fall relates to my work. I am an Orthopedic Surgeon and take ER call at some community hospitals. Beginning in late September, I see a spike in the number of older folks who break their bones. Most of the fractures are hip fractures which occur with very little trauma. It's well-known in my field that a hip fracture is "the harbinger of death," meaning that about 30% of older people who have a low-energy hip fracture will die within the year afterwards. Before people like me were around to fix hip fractures, mortality would be closer to 100% for this population.

Makes sense: in the Fall the weaker animals in any society will pass on as they might not survive the tough Winter months. Humans are animals, after all. Why shouldn't this rule apply to us?

But I believe there is something more to this. Our weather right now is not brutal. There's little difference inside the home of the 90 year-old woman between late August and early October. So why does her hip break now? What force has called this woman to her death sentence? And does she want to go?

In my yoga studio we have a "focus of the month." For October we discuss Halloween and it's implications. The Yogic philosophies, too, bring forward the increased spiritual presence of this time. We are taught that there are forces larger than us who work with us through our practice and allow us to do things we did not think we could not in our conscious mind. There are things we cannot see which support and help us. And, in turn, we as spiritual beings support and help others through the energy we create in our practice.

This season electrifies me. I feel a vibration in the air that does not exist at other times.

Are all of these separate things linked? Yes. Does the tilt of the Earth during the Autumnal Equinox do something to us that creates this energy? Do things happen here on Earth for reasons we cannot explain? I believe so.

The fabric between our tangible, touchable existence and the strong spiritual world becomes thinned during this time. The spirits that hover around us can touch us and move us to do things we might not be able to do at other times. These same spirits might be calling to my older fracture patients, telling them to come up and join them. And some of these ghosts tell us to dress up and eat candy.

Perhaps they are the lucky and blessed ones who are called away from our world at this time. I know that my Aunt Odette, who died today, is a pure soul whose life was lived in simplicity and innocence. And she is called to be with her mother and the other nurturing spirits just on the other side of that fabric. And in my heart I know she is at peace.

Namaste and Happy Halloween.