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ex i s t e n t i a l s c h e m e o f t h i n g s . Cover copy by Nikki Hardin, Art by Nuno Da Costa
“Can we talk?” Joan Rivers
EVERYONE TOGETHER. Make sure every TV in your home offers the magic of HD picture. The holidays take on beautiful new meaning in HD. With picture six times sharper than standard TV, all the best HD channels, and over 1,000 HD movies and shows with On Demand–‘tis the season to upgrade.
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the Conversation issue
Calendar Submissions Send information or mail to email@example.com, or mail to skirt! Greenville, 1708-C Augusta St. #335 Greenville, SC 29605.
Risa Nye............................................................................................ 10
Letters to the Editor All letters must include the writer’s name and city/state.
Writers & Artists Our guidelines are available online at skirt.com. Submit artwork or essays via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
skirt! is published monthly and distributed free throughout the greater Greenville area. skirt! reserves the right to refuse to sell space for any advertisement the staff deems inappropriate for the publication. Unsolicited manuscripts must be accompanied by a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Letters to the editor are welcome, but may be edited due to space limitations. Press releases must be received by the 1st of the month for the following month’s issue. All content of this magazine, including without limitation the design, advertisements, art, photos and editorial content, as well as the selection, coordination and arrangement thereof, is Copyright © 2011, Morris Publishing Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this magazine may be copied or reprinted without the express written permission of the publisher. SKIRT!® is a registered trademark of Morris Publishing Group, LLC.
Nikki Hardin email@example.com
Talking to Myself
Danita Berg..................................................................................... 13 Profile: Rhonda Rawling
Newsworthy.................................................................................. 20 Profile: Deb Sofield
Well Spoken................................................................................... 22 Women Women make make more more than than 80% 85% of of all all purchasing purchasing decisions. decisions.
Profile: Myra Ruiz
Tube Talk........................................................................................... 24 Mincing Words
Women spend Women almost 2 ofspend every 3 almost 2 ofdollars. every 3 healthcare healthcare dollars.
Stephanie Hunt .......................................................................... 28
Features Women control 2/3 of the nation’s disposable income.
From the Publisher and Editor............................................... 6 Calendar.............................................................................................. 7 Skirt of the Month........................................................................ 8
Women Women influence 80% 80% influence of of all all car car sales. sales.
F-Word................................................................................................. 9 skirt! loves..................................................................................... 14 Skirting Around Town............................................................... 17 SPOTLIGHT: A Shade of Red.......................................................18 He’s So Original with John Oliver......................................26 Seeing Spots................................................................................... 31 Meet... Caroline Robertson................................................... 32 Browse............................................................................................... 33 Planet Nikki..................................................................................... 34 November Survival Guide.................................................... 35
Nove m b e r 2 0 1 1
Conve e rs h
a ti on
the most important conversations we have in life are the ones we hold with ourselves.
The United Skirts of America
The United Skirts of America was founded on the blood, sweat and estrogen of our foremothers, who won us the freedom to choose...to break The Rules, to wear combat boots or high Cover Artist Nuno Da Costa Nuno Da Costa is a Londonbased, self-taught illustrator specializing in fashion and beauty imagery. Nuno’s illustrations fall
heels, to run for office or run a marathon, to form our own rock groups instead of being groupies, to
mainly in two categories, color
shatter Glass Ceilings
and black and white brush
and Glass Slippers, to
work but always retain their
shoot hoops instead
up-to-the-minute sense of style. His illustrations are hand-drawn and painted with water colors
of settling for hoop skirts. The ones who
and gouache and then scanned,
came before us made
retouched and painted in Pho-
it possible for our
toshop. Having worked with
daughters to dream
top fashion creatives, Nuno’s illustrations have been seen in Vogue, Wonderland and The
bigger, to have the chance to grow up to
Daily Telegraph. Nuno was also
be President and turn
appointed as exclusive fashion
the Oval Office into
illustrator to designer Melissa
the Ovary Office. In
Odabash on her first Ready to Wear collection.
to connect face to face, and yet I am as addicted to my iPhone as anyone I know. Particularly to texting, in which nothing very meaningful or lengthy can be said. It’s the quickie, the one-night stand of conversation. Short and sweet, easily erased from memory. Like the instant gratification of downloading books to my Kindle, texting provides instant communication, a way to stay in touch and yet be private and untouchable at the same time. Even better is being able to abbreviate interaction by tapping out messages in Future Speak, in which complete sentences, articles, capitalization and punctuation have been jettisoned in favor of 21st century hieroglyphics (u r 1NAM). As an introvert who tends to freeze up in difficult conversations or confrontations, texting is just 2G2BT. Face to face, I can’t tap out a shorthand for “I’m falling in love with you and it scares me,” or “You have hurt me so deeply I want to drive a nail in your head,” so I often swallow my words rather than reveal too much. But no matter how difficult it can be for me to get naked in a conversation, I know it’s better than retreating to a kind of impassive Morse Code to signal an emotional shootout at the O.K. Corral. I miss the whole-body vibration of involvement, the exhilaration of a back-and-forth volley that comes with in-person conversation. Without the possibility of intensity or emphasis, I find myself resorting to the dreaded multiple exclamation marks in email simply to signal my availability for a lunch date or schedule a meeting. I mourn the loss of tone of voice and the nagging feeling that email and texting are chipping away at my ability to write true sentences. But I’ll worry about all that L8R; in the meantime, I need to upgrade to the 4S iPhone that makes texting even easier.
America, every day is
I was the child who had to write 1,000 times on the blackboard, “I will not talk in class.” Not much has changed since I was a kid, except now I can talk as much as I want because I get paid to talk, plus I don’t have to write on a blackboard anymore. This month for The Conversation Issue, we feature some really talented talkers, those who also make a living speaking, bantering, chatting, conversing
and engaging in public tête-à-têtes. Some say conversation is a lost art, but as the author Robert C. Gallagher once said, “Anyone who thinks the art of conversation is dead ought to tell a child to go to
bed.” Enjoy the crisp November weather, Thanksgiving dinner, and this issue of skirt!.
Blah blah blah
I believe with all the fervor of a Luddite that technology has eroded our ability
From the Editor
the Conversation issue
the United Skirts of
From the Publisher
Come enjoy an old-fashioned, fun-filled weekend as 25 hot air balloons take to the air at Balloons over Anderson Hot Air Balloon Festival! balloonsoveranderson.org
Don’t miss the Big Brothers Big Sisters Annual Clemson/Carolina Pep Rally at the Embassy Suites in Greenville. Proceeds will benefit the one-to-one mentoring organization. bbbsupstate.com
Young Zoé is bored; her parents ignore her. Seeking to fill the void of her existence, she slides into an imaginary world—Quidam as told by Cirque du Soleil. bilocenter.com
Adventure 1-6. Tony Award nominee Cathy Rigby takes flight in an all-new production of Peter Pan! peacecenter.org
Classic 11. Don’t miss Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, with special guest Frankie Ballard. bilocenter.com
Y’all Come 3-12. Foxfire is the homespun story of an elderly couple in the Appalachian Mountains near Greenville and features live bluegrass music. greenville littletheatre.com
Fun Run 12. The Caine Halter Lungs4Life 5K features a Free 1/4 Mile Children’s Fun Run for children 6 and under, a 1 Mile Fun Walk and a 5K Run/Walk. lungs4life5k.com
For the Kids 5-13. Adapted from traditional folktale, Wiley takes a journey to outsmart the terrible Hairy Man and realizes his greatest potential in Wiley and the Hairy Man! scchildrenstheatre.org
A Must! 14-15. Part of The American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Series, The Secret Life of Bees by author Sue Monk Kidd is inspirational. peacecenter.org
Heartfelt 7-8. The Griffin Theatre Company Production’s Letters Home puts the war front and center by bringing to life actual letters written by soldiers currently serving. peacecenter.org
Relay Time 19. The HOPE Relay is a running and walking adventure created to support the programs of Project HOPE Foundation. projecthopesc.org/ hope-relay
Road Trip 10-13. Transport in time to an enchanting Victorian Holiday Marketplace at the 30th Annual Dickens Christmas Show & Festivals in Myrtle Beach. dickenschristma sshow.com
Tradition! 19-1/1. 100 acres magically decorated with millions of twinkling lights, plus herds of live animals and more at Hollywild Animal Park’s Annual Holiday Lights Safari Benefit. hollywild.com
Best of Broadway 11. An evening of Broadway, from Gershwin to Sondheim, with the winner of four Tony Awards and star of TV’s Private Practice, Audra McDonald. peacecenter.org
Ho,Ho,Ho 24-12/30. ‘Tis the season to enjoy a magical holiday experience as you drive through dozens of light displays and visit Winter Wonderland with Santa himself at Roper Mountain Holiday Lights. ropermountain holidaylights.com
International Calendar Awareness Month • National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month • National Write a Business Plan Month • National Tie Month
Winter Squash Month • Safe Toys and Gifts Month • Worldwide Food Service Safety Month • Hi Neighbor Month • National Stress Free Family Holiday Month skirt.com
Traci Daberko is an illustrator and graphic designer in Seattle, WA. See her work at daberkodesign.com. Ruiko Fair Isle Skirt Augusta Twenty 20 Augusta St. Greenville 864.233.2600
f-word [ Feminism Free-For-All ]
Rape Freedom Fighters The Nobel Peace Prize this year went to three women who are working for peace and women’s rights in Liberia and Yemen: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni protest leader Tawakkul Karman. Despite the dangers (authorities in male-dominated Yemeni society tried to silence Karman by sending threats and even vowed to kill her and kidnap her children and throw them from a mountain), these women kept their eyes on the prize and persevered.
Female Forces Marcia Anderson was promoted from brigadier
Brianna Amat was not only the first girl to make the Pinckney Community High School varsity football team at her high school in Michigan, but she was also voted homecoming queen within an hour of making a winning field goal against a rival team on the same night. Instead of wearing a dress like the other girls in the homecoming court, Brianna was wearing her No. 12 uniform when the tiara was placed on her head at halftime.
general to major general, becoming the first African-American woman given a second star as a general in the U.S. Army. Her most recent post was as deputy commanding general of the Human Resources Command at Fort Knox. At her promotion ceremony, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, Fort Knox Commander, told Anderson she is “a role model, not only to me and those that worked with you, but to countless soldiers.”
It’s been 91 years since women won the right to vote across the country, and yet after nearly a century, women still make up only 17% of Congress and 23% of state legislatures. And
Who says feminists don’t have a sense of humor? We can’t stop laughing at feministryangosling.tumblr.com and in the process, laughing at ourselves.
the numbers are falling— in 2011, the number of women in state legislatures fell to its lowest level since 2007. skirt.com
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
y parents had dragged me to a Bar Mitzvah in San Francisco—the kid was the son of a family friend and I was not given a choice about attending. As a sophisticate of 17, I had no interest whatsoever in being there. When the ceremony ended, I separated myself from my parents as soon as I could, dodging past the bejeweled and well-coiffed women, the balding middle-aged men, and the packs of 13-year-olds who jockeyed for position in front of the mounds of chopped liver and towering platters of cookies. I piled a few items on my plate and headed toward the far reaches of the room so I could sit alone and wallow in my adolescent angst. An elderly lady, balancing a cane and a plate of goodies, had the same idea, and sought a chair next to mine. Great, I thought; now I am stuck talking to a total stranger who is also older than God. Maybe she won’t bother me. But no, she struck up a conversation, beginning with all the usual questions about school and my interests. There is never a good answer to the “How’s school?” question when you are a teenager. Which day do you mean? Which hour? Whatever I said seemed to satisfy her, so I turned my attention to my plate, trying to decide whether to eat the little bagel first or start with the lemon bar. I stuffed the lemon bar in my mouth and braced myself for the next inevitable question from the old busybody. “Do you have a boyfriend?” she asked. Oh, boy, did I ever. And he was part of my misery. For some reason, I opened up to her about this guy who either made me swoon with desire or infuriated me, with not too much middle ground. So I told her about this boy I thought I was in love with. I told her about the movie dates where he would buy his ticket and then wait, avoiding eye contact, while I fished around in my purse for money to buy my own. I told her about the way he would pull up in his car and sit there in the street with the engine running and wait for me to come out. I told her about the other girls I knew he was seeing behind my back. I told her that he could be very romantic, but that he usually needed a couple of drinks first. I told her that he was tender and sweet in private, but totally ignored me in public, especially around his
friends. I told her how he called me a million times while I was babysitting once and the kids must have told their mother because she never asked me to babysit again. I felt bad about that. I told her that he made me laugh, when he wasn’t making me cry. And I also told her that there was this other guy, a friend. He was a good listener, laughed at my jokes, and he had good manners. He and I went to a movie together, just as friends, I pointed out, and he came to the door when he picked me up and he paid for my ticket even though he didn’t have to really, and he didn’t mind when I cried through the whole thing, including the credits. And then I talked about my boyfriend’s eyes and his hair and his life story, and maybe I tried to explain what was so irresistible about him, leaving out the part about how I loved the way he kissed but how he wouldn’t hold my hand. I didn’t talk to her about things we did in the dark, how his hands traced my body’s curves, exploring every inch. She wouldn’t have understood anything about it. Probably never felt that way herself, or was too old to remember if she had. “He wrote poetry for me,” I explained. I was helpless to resist him when he was around. Romantic, poetic, Irish, exuberant, quick with quips and snappy rejoinders. “Sounds like he’s got the gift of gab,” she said, like it wasn’t such a great thing. After listening as I chattered some more about the boy I thought I loved, she held up her hand, leaned over and looked right into my eyes. Her mouth was tight, and her lips formed a thin line. “You should never take a back seat to anyone,” she said. “You don’t let people treat you that way. Not a boy, not anyone.” Her index finger pointed at me. “You know what I mean?” she asked. “I think so,” I said. My family wasn’t too big on fostering self-esteem, and I had never thought about how I might deserve to be treated. She leaned back in her chair and took a thoughtful bite of rugeleh. “That other boy, the one who took you to the movie, he sounds like a better bet. Stick with him.” I broke up with my boyfriend soon after my conversation with the wise old woman. The breakup was painful, dramatic and final. We went our separate ways. There was one awkward encounter some years later. It just made me sad to see him. As for me, I got over feeling like chopped liver. And I decided to stick with that other boy.
Risa Nye lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California. That other boy has been her husband for 38 years. 10
The Conversation Issue
one thing I could change about my life today?
The Conversation Issue
the best thing that happened to me today?
The checkout rack offers magazines featuring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, and Halle Berry—all older than me, all better looking and far less in need of airbrushing— and I begin to see the appeal of Botox and fillers and plastic surgery. These women are my competition in some sort of race for which I don’t remember signing up
his is supposed to be relaxing. I’m allowing this woman to press her fingers into my face. She’s criticizing the parts of it I already overanalyzed in the bathroom mirror this morning before plastering my features with foundation and spackle and hoping for the best. “Your skin is dry,” she tells me. “You need to take care of yourself.” I squirm under her touch. Funny, I thought I was taking care of myself. Nevertheless, my facade seems to be cracking. “You have circles under your eyes. And spider veins in your eyelids. The sun has darkened areas on your forehead and cheekbones. You need …” She begins listing the various creams and lotions I should purchase from her to stave off the inevitable. A part of me scoffs; the other part wishes I had a suitcase of small bills. She’s right; I need. I am getting older. I am not old—39 is not old—but yes, my face teeters on the crevice of cave-in. I see little puckers on my jaw line where the skin is threatening to sag. I’ve grown two pronounced wrinkles above my nose, a devil’s horn crease that announces both that I’m nearsighted and have led a somewhat naughty life. A deep line runs up my right cheek because I’ve dared to sleep on it for almost four decades. I’m not vain; at least, I didn’t think I was. My face and I have an understanding: it remains pleasant enough to keep people from screaming as they encounter me on the sidewalk, and I continue to sport it. But now my face is betraying me, for no other reason than I have continued to wear it out. If I look at my face too closely, I pull my cheeks towards my temples and wonder if anyone would notice if I Scotch taped them there, into my hairline. When I catch my reflection in the rearview mirror, I slump down until I can only see my eyes. My eyes are young, reflective of who’s still inside. The woman is wiping something off my face that she slathered on just a minute before. “You know what extractions are, yes?” she asks. I do. The woman begins pushing and shoving at my skin again. God knows what is coming out, what she’s witnessing. I’m exposed to her, sans makeup, and now she’s probing deeper. If she pushes hard enough she might excavate my secrets: my regrets, my affairs, my divorce. I have problem areas. I have clogged pores. If only a good skin cream could cure them all. On the way home from the facialist I stop at the drugstore for milk and beer. In a clearance cart I spot an anti-aging cream on sale for 75 percent off.
I hide it behind my milk carton, the way I might have hidden tampons or condoms twenty years ago, and just as guiltily put the cream on the counter. The checkout rack offers magazines featuring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, and Halle Berry—all older than me, all better looking and far less in need of airbrushing—and I begin to see the appeal of Botox and fillers and plastic surgery. These women are my competition in some sort of race for which I don’t remember signing up. But they are aging too and they are doing it better than me. They seem happier or at least less paunchy. Somehow they have managed to not only stop the clock but also to twist its hands firmly backwards. Why do they get to look better with age while my face clearly shows its fissures? I’m supposed to embrace my aging, Oprah tells me, wear Chico’s clothes, learn to love jazz music and stop going to rock concerts, where I’ll embarrass my students if we run into each other holding cheap beers in plastic cups. Obligingly I’ve begun to wear the fashions of a woman who would embarrass herself in low-slung jeans, but still my heart clings to the hard-thumping music, the concert T-shirts that my soul requires. It is not ready to be soothed with tasteful, ass-hiding pants and a more modest neckline. My friend Lisa, a six-foot-something thin blonde we should hate for being hotter than us at age 46 than we were in our 20s, points to her neck. She’s growing a wattle, she declares. I detect nothing. We should hate her more for that, but I get it. The skin under my own neck feels heavier, like a pendulum. It’s not so much that we mind our aging. It’s our fallibility. We are marching on, like it or not, and our skin hangs looser from wear and tear. Lisa, who teaches high school, marvels at how her students can wear their skins so tightly. How can they move, she asks, when they are so tightly bound? For me, time unwinds softly. I am almost halfway through my life. Perhaps I am further through it than I know. I have not found everlasting love. People I have loved have left me and there was not a thing I could do to stop them. I’ve lost homes to divorce and job loss, pets to age and diseases, friends and lovers to distance and misunderstandings. With every debacle my face shows a bit more deterioration for continuing to care, for wanting something secure despite a slow, increasing terror about giving someone or something else a chance. Surely an expensive cream from CVS will buy me a bit more time so I can continue to search. My happiness, my security, is out there somewhere, if I can just hold myself together tightly enough, long enough, for it to find me back. Until then, my friends and I wear our aging faces as we teach the generations younger than us—tauter, more hopeful, less burdened—and we hold each other and continue to hope.
Danita Berg is an assistant professor of writing at Oklahoma City University, where she also directs the Red Earth Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing program. Her work has been published in journals such as Redivider, Southern Women’s Review, Quay: A Journal of the Arts, Black Market Review, and The Houston Literary Review, among others, as well as the non-fiction collections Press Pause Moments: Essays about Life Transitions by Women Writers and Ain’t Nobody That Can Sing Like Me: An Oklahoma Writing Anthology. skirt.com
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Melded Poppies Double Hook Anthropologie anthropologie.com
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Denise Sales Executive
The Conversation Issue
has it been since Iâ€™ve learned something new?
start a 140-character conversation
quotes worth tweeting & re-tweeting
Take Your Life in Your Own Hands
WHAT HAPPENS? a terrible thing:
No One to blame. Erica Jong
Serviice Up S Professional Makke-U Or Do It Yourself…
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SPOTLIGHT: A SHADE OF RED, ALYSON FOX
“For many young girls lipstick is the first thing you try on in your mother’s make-up drawer. Sometimes wearing it
Rev l o n ’ s
# 7 4 0 C e Rta i n ly R e d li p s t i C k
became a way to fit in. Sometimes a way to stand out. Sometimes a uniform. Sometimes an armor. Sometimes a gash. Sometimes an incision. Sometimes an invitation. Sometimes a warning. Sometimes just something that goes with your dress. Whatever the reason, it is always transformative.”
Through a series of chance encounters and
The only thread
word of mouth,
that tied them
artist Alyson Fox
with and photo-
ness to wear
a single shade
than 100 women,
of red lipstick.
most of whom
One hundred of
before had their
can be found in
a hardback book published by Chronicle Books.
A Shade of Red, Alyson Fox
Rhonda Rawlings | Newsworthy Although this New York native and Temple University graduate had worked behind the scenes on a variety of movies and TV programs such as The Chris Rock Show, what Rhonda really longed for was a job front and center in news. Her wish was granted when she moved to South Carolina and was offered the position of News and Community Affairs Director for 107.3 Jamz and Hot 98.1. “I’m living proof that is never too late to start doing what you love!” says this talented gal who not only writes and reports the news for the Tom Joyner Morning Show and produces TJMS in the Upstate, but is the host of Pause For the Cause, an hour long Sunday morning show. “Someday I would love to host a television segment that spotlights South Carolina’s recreational hot spots, local celebrities and great restaurants!” Photo by John Fowler
IRT-1194B-A SEP 2011
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Y�u �re �nvited to our A Annuall Christmas Christ Open Op House H se Saturday November, 19, 2011 10:00 till 5.00
Free Design classes starting at 12:00 pm Classes being offered are: - Design techniques on how to " Wow Your Christmas Tree" - How to make your table look fabulous - Ribbon Designs featuring entry ways; wreaths; trees that you can incorporate into your christmas decor Reservations Required by: November 15th. Refreshments will be served Free Gift for each person who comes to our classes
VERDAE VILLAGE 101 Verdae Blvd @ Laurens Rd w/ SteinMart (864) 675-1155
PELHAM HILLS 3714 Pelham Rd @ I-85 w/ Chick Fil A (864) 288-1150
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your next step should be?
Are you struggling to achieve your dream of growing your family? 27 S. Pleasantburg Drive, Greenville, South Carolina 29607 (next to Fresh Market & Garners) Store Hours: M-F 10am - 6pm Sat. 10am - 5pm . www.jpcollection.net . 864-239-3999 AIM81051
Join us November 17th from 6:00-7:30PM for stella & dot night.
Tues-Fri 10am-6pm Sat 10am-4pm 627 Augusta Street, West End Greenville
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Deb Sofield | Well Spoken “I realized at a young age that if you could sway the masses you could do anything, from politics to preaching,” says Deb with a laugh. So this gal with the gift for gab turned her talent into a career, crafting Deb Sofield, Executive Speech Coaching Co. “I’m a great speech coach because I am a successful speaker. I make a living at what I teach and that’s unusual in my business.” As well as being a successful national speaker, Deb offers executive speech, media and interview coaching and is “mamma” to hundreds of pageant kids—training more winners in state and national pageants than any other coach in the Carolinas. “I believe all girls need to go to college. The pageant scholarship program is a great way to change their lives for the better with a college degree...and the girls are hilarious and keep me young at heart.” Photo by John Fowler
Myra Ruiz | Tube Talk You know her as the weekend anchor of WYFF News 4 Today, as well as for her spot-on reporting in the field. Blessed with camera-ready looks and major brainpower to boot, Myra once had her heart set on traveling the world in the Peace Corps, or becoming a diplomat with the United Nations, thereby putting her global studies and print journalism majors to use. Little did she know that a chance meeting with a TV photographer at a press conference in Iowa would lead to marriage, motherhood, and a fulfilling career in front of the camera in the Upstate. Still, the thought of combining her lifelong love of travel with her work appeals to Myra. “Someday I’d like to focus on other parts of the world and make people really care. I love immersing myself in other cultures, so I’d say social anthropology is something that really interests me.” Photo by John Fowler
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He’s So Original
John Oliver Exudes Eloquence. Next time you hear a sexy male voice coming from your radio or television, it could just well be Greenville’s own silver-tongued John Oliver, nationally known voice actor for such companies as PGA, Subway, NFL Films, and Snyder’s of Hanover. His honey-smooth deep voice has been his fortune since the age of 16 when he started behind the mic at an AM station in his hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, and has since been used for commercials, movie trailers, documentaries, video games and cartoons. He even personally created a CD of bedtime stories sure to help children—and frazzled parents—get to sleep call Sleep E Stories. Locally known as the host of The Upstate Show on WORD106.3 FM, which used to air on Saturday afternoons, John is currently looking forward to turning the radio show into a television show. What do you love about skirt!? “I love skirt! because they celebrate both the strength and beauty of women.” How do you feel wearing a skirt? “I finally get it now…I think this skirt does make my thighs look fat.” Photo by John Fowler
SKI RT! SAYS: Sugar highs defy gravity.
My mother’s trembly, slurred speech was the first clue of what was to come.
Her words were the first to go, the initial loss of many losses, and now, as I clean out her home of 23 years, I find them everywhere. Words, phrases, sentences sometimes, occasionally short paragraphs, but mostly non sequiturs. Often requests or questions—“crush pills” or “bring wallet,” followed by stray comments: “too funny,” “not sure,” “had it once,” “see what you think.” Strings of words scrawled by weak, uncooperative fingers—you could flip the notepad pages and see her pristine, tight cursive becoming more and more unraveled and hard to read. Snippets of conversation left hither and yon—on notepads in her bedroom, on the backs of envelopes by the kitchen sink. Scribbled, untethered utterances, dangling participles, dangling modifiers that now leave dangling memories. My mother’s trembly, slurred speech was the first clue of what was to come. Early on when she was becoming increasingly hard to understand during Sunday evening phone calls, we wondered if maybe she was having a second, or third, glass of wine in the evening. Her words on point and appropriate, only she could not articulate them, like Colin Firth with his mouth crammed full of marbles in The King’s Speech, ironically the last movie we ever went to see together. “Spasmodic dysphonia” was the otolaryngologist’s quick diagnosis. Think Katherine Hepburn’s gravelly warble. Nothing terribly serious, a little Botox (to the voice box) and things might get better and should not get much worse. If only he had been right. When she went for the workup and evaluation before the Botox treatment, a neurologist suggested further testing, then several doctor visits, tests and weeks later, the diagnosis shifted from dysphonia to something more dys-everything. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—hard to wrap your tongue around even if your tongue and mouth work fine. ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease—even harder to wrap your mind around. “What? ALS is when your legs fail, when you lose arm strength. That can’t be right—Mom’s fine, she’s strong, it’s just something with her voice.” Then we quickly learned the bleak statistics: ALS affects 30,000 Americans, about 5,000 diagnosed each year, 10 percent of whom present with loss of speech and swallowing. Ninety percent of them die within two to five years. Neither my two sisters nor I lived near my mother, who went to her followup doctor visit on her own the day he gave her the final diagnosis. “One of the hardest conversations I’ve had. I hated that she had to hear that by herself,” her gentle doctor told me later on the phone. But he also didn’t want to make her anxious for a week leading up to the appointment, which she would have been, had he suggested that she “bring someone with her.” That was the first of what would be many difficult conversations. I still ache with sadness when I imagine her at the bustling Baptist Medical Center, getting that news by herself, when I think of what her 25-minute drive home must have been like. And I can’t even remember now how she eventually relayed the diagnosis to us—I’ve blocked it out. But I clearly remember so many conversations that would follow in the next year and a half. Long phone calls to her doctor and Theresa, his perpetually reassuring nurse with her smiley Southern accent. A talk during Thanksgiving with all of us around my breakfast table, trying to get a sense of Mom’s end-of-life wishes—did she want to stay at home, move somewhere, if so where?—all the logistical whats/wheres/hows that we needed to know but didn’t want to talk about, but still were easier to broach than the emotional elephant in the room. And hilarious phone chats with Mom when she was still valiantly trying to speak but I could only decipher every second word. It was like a game of audio charades, in a foreign language. “You went where yesterday? To get film developed? To find mmm-what? To form magnets?? Oh…to the farmers market!” When she’d lost all speaking ability, email became a lifeline. We tried various other technological toys—the cumbersome, horrid DynaVox that cost a fortune and blurted out phrases in halting, monotone computereze, the sleek iPad with its 99 cent “SpeakIt!” app that we thought would be a godsend (she got a real kick out of typing in “Go to hell why don’t you?” and choosing to “say” it in a snappy British accent—Mom as Emma Thompson). But the lowtech pen on paper, in the end, proved to be her best communication device. Even so, there was always disconnect between what Mom clearly could hear herself say in her head and her inability to say it. She’d start to speak before realizing it was useless, that she had to write it down. Rarely did she ever grab pen and paper first. And so we are left with trails of words. Notepads and notebooks scattered throughout her house, in her purses and pockets, in crevices of her car. Minced words, mysterious words, always only one side of the conversation, words that baffle because I have no idea who was there visiting when she wrote them or in what context they fit, and words that bemuse—her sense of humor intact till the very end. As we clean out her home, I readily make Goodwill piles of raincoats, knickknacks, Tupperware, but the handwritten notes I cannot toss. They are scattered crumbs, and I am Gretel trying to follow them, to listen for my mother’s voice, to find my way home. Stephanie Hunt is a writer in Mount Pleasant, SC. Read more at alifestill.com or stephaniehuntwrites.com. skirt.com
Start a 140-character converSation
quoteS worth tweeting & re-tweeting
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High Heel Clog
Funky Chicken by Lisa Lane Christopher Park Gallery 608-A South Main St. Greenville 864.232.6744
The Pink Monogram 12 Sevier St. Greenville 864.271.3587
Jonathan Adler Tote Bag Barnes & Noble 735 Haywood Rd. Greenville 864.458.9113
Meet Favorite Restaurant: Café Rivera in Greer
Caroline Robertson, the feisty flame-haired Executive Director for Greer Relief & Resources Agency, whose passion is to help families help themselves.
Where I Shop Locally: Trade Street in Greer
My Pet: Tillman, the Welch Corgi
Favorite Shoes: Malindi Crocs
My Watch: Clemson Fossil
My Secret Ambition: Politics Favorite TV Show: The Good Wife My Muse: My faith in God My Workout: Chasing my boys Right Now I’m Reading: A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne My Guilty Pleasure: DQ Cappuccino Heath Blizzard One Item Always In My Purse:
Photo by John Fowler
A scarf My Gadget: I love my iPad Where I Get My Coffee: Liquid Highway in Greenville, Starbucks in Greer I’d Like To Learn To: Fly a plane
November Reasons to get online Follow four fascinating New York women in the webseries Up & Up. The women are a new generation of icons and make being smart and powerful fun and cool. upandupnewyork.com
Is your Big Bank adding new fees? Input your needs and desires for an ideal banking experience and Find a Better Bank will match you up with a new bank or credit union. findabetterbank.com
Rediscover radio with comedy shows, news chats, music and even video. Break Thru Radio has all sorts of genres and listeners can even subscribe to favorite channels. breakthruradio.com
Books we are enjoying
Journal anytime, anywhere with Penzu. The secure site lets you create journal entries with pictures (and more, if you upgrade
Rules of Civility Amor Towles Nikki Hardin Publisher, skirt!
to Penzu Pro) and either keep private or share by email or link. penzu.com
Worth Dying For: A Reacher Novel Lee Child Sheril Bennett Turner Editor
Excusesto catch up on a few blogs “A minor sad irony in my life is that I love clothing, but I can’t put together an outfit for shit. It’s awful. Trying to layer is my idea of a nightmare.”
“In just three months, we were on our way to Ethiopia to meet our babies. It was surreal. A night, sleepless with preparations and anticipation, a plane flight, a crazy ride through a city like none we had ever seen, and then we were at the foster home.”
“Admittedly, dropping the how-to-please-a-man mumbo-jumbo would require a major overhaul of the magazine. But getting rid of the men-arefrom-Mars nonsense would be Cosmopolitan’s most fun, fearless act yet.”
planetnikki [ a visual journal ]
Driving downtown for an early Sunday spinning class, crossing the bridge, harbor and white sails below, blue sky white after-image of the moon above,
and the lingering singing along with Olivia newton-John
to “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” loudly and hopelessly off key. One of those moments of irrational happiness in which you actually realize and acknowledge how happy you are.
Making a promise to
myself to write it down as a reminder for
when life seems all gray tOneS.
A friend found this platter in the Anthropologie store in London and gave it to me for my birthday. Its Gauguin-y look is destined for the wall in my bedroom so I can dream of Tahiti this winter.
On constant replay: “Laura” by Julie London. Sad, haunting, noir-ish. It suits my mood right now.
My new favorite journal is Le Labo’s notebook handcrafted in France. With its smoky, leathery character, it only gets better looking with use. If you scratch the cover, a tiny whiff of their cult fragrance, Santal 26, is released.
Nikki Hardin is the founder and publisher of skirt! magazine. She blogs at fridaville.com. 34
November survival guide Irish Coffee Presidential Turkey Pardon Day of the Dead Macyâ€™s Thanksgiving Day Parade 15 Minutes of Sun Pomegranates at Whole Foods My Week with Marilyn, Michelle Williams
Don't buy cheap clothes, buy good clothes CHEAP!
McDaniel Village | 1922 Augusta St., Ste. 112 864.631.1919 | labelsonaugusta.com Monday through Friday 10-6 • Saturday 10-5 • Sunday 1-5 AIM81074
Published on Nov 1, 2011