Gold Medal for USA in Olympics Ugly Uniform Competition

At Permission Slips we like to mix it up between hard-hitting essays and lighter topics. However, we have left a huge hole in our commentary repertoire – fashion. Fortunately the unveiling of the USA Sochi Winter Olympic uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren has provided the opportunity to fill that hole with a very big shovel.

After reviewing all country fashion entries the USA is the clear Ugly Uniform Competition winner for both style and substance.

Definitely a perfect “Ten.”

The opening ceremony uniforms can only be described politely as a fashion disaster. The  best comment I’ve seen is that the uniforms are the baby of an ugly Christmas sweater and a flag. I can only imagine our athletes response upon seeing the uniform, “Seriously?” us olympic sweater

The USA snowboarding uniform isn’t much better. It looks like it was made from the scraps of Grandma’s quilting project. It literally pales in comparison to Canada’s cool maple leaf snowboarding team vs. canada

However, the USA  wasn’t alone in making an Olympic fashion statement. Behold the uniform of Mexican alpine skier, Hubertus Hohenlohe. He will be sporting a mariachi race suit.Mexico bobsledder uniform

In addition, all hell must be breaking loose in Russia design circles. After Putin made it clear that displays of public support for gays during the Olympics was forbidden and punishable, the Russian team gloves were revealed to be rainbows. Not kidding.Former Russian ice-hockey player Bure shows a pair of gloves during a presentation of Russia's uniform for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in MoscowBlogHer convened a panel to assess the fashion sense of several countries uniforms. The panel’s sentiments about the uniforms are transparently disclosed in the group’s name: The Official BlogHer Olympic Team Uniform WTF Panel. Read their hilarious send-up here:

team usa

It looks like the team has permission to be loud and proud. Regardless of Team USA’s attire I will be rooting for the athletes. These young athletes demonstrate great effort and spirit. I support them for what they do, not what they wear.  For what it’s worth, I do like the team boots.

Carol Lewis Gullstad January 30, 2014

Would Deporting Justin Bieber Resolve the Issue?

According to TIME online, nearly 75,000 people have signed a petition urging Obama to deport Justin Bieber. (See the article here.)

While deportation is unlikely, we think our youth do need better role models. See our post No Longer a Bieber Believer.

No Longer a Bieber Believer

Many who watched last night’s Grammy Awards wondered where the Biebs was.

Although the twice-nominated pop star didn’t receive any nods this year, the 19-year-old sensation – who Forbes says earned $58 million in 2012 – could have spent the night cavorting with cronies in the Staples Center.

Instead, just days after his arrest for drag racing, driving under the influence (with an expired license) and resisting arrest, Justin Bieber was spotted in Panama.

Perhaps he was looking for a hat like Pharrell Williams’.

BieberMy 13-year-old daughter, for one, didn’t miss him.  According to a text Pea sent me between classes on Thursday morning – the day news of Bieber’s arrest circulated — she is “officially over the Biebs.”

Oh, how quickly they fall.

Less than a year and a half ago Pea and her friend Smiley were rocking out to JB at the Tacoma Dome. The two had, like thousands of other teenage girls, decorated T-shirts for the occasion, in hopes of being spotted and brought on stage for a serenade.

Now that Pea is no longer a Belieber, I hope she will understand the error in how we elevate, adore and ultimately enable young stars.

On Thursday evening, I was so proud that she noted how Seahawk Richard Sherman, an A student and Stanford graduate, had been vilified for his off-the-cuff, post-playoff-game comments, while Bieber – after all his recent shenanigans – is forgiven as a “misguided youth.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have sons close to JB’s age, so I am all for forgiving youthful transgressions.

The problem is more about boosting young singers, actors and athletes onto pedestals and holding them up as role models, watching – and even helping them – fall from grace, and then allowing them to easily wipe the slate clean and start over.

It seems a well-crafted public apology is all that is needed, and then these so-called heroes are back filling stadiums and making millions. What lessons are learned?

So often, pop stars and superstar athletes seem to gain success over night; make oodles of money; abuse drugs, alcohol and rules of the road; ignore marriage vows; get arrested and then rise again. Apparently the message for our youth is, “Go ahead and mess up. We may stomp on you when you fall, but if you have many millions or a high Q Score, we will help you rise again.”

This only perpetuates the hero-worship problem.

As Lauren James of recently pointed out, JB has been riding a “personal-image rollercoaster…and has narrowly avoided being severely reprimanded each time, which has boosted the young star’s ego and seemingly given him a sense of invincibility.”

In fact, The Independent reports this morning that the recent charges against Bieber have been dropped, as his lawyers claimed police had “exaggerated” allegations that JB ingested alcohol, pot and prescription drugs before speeding off in a  $260,000 Lamborghini.

When it comes to our sports stars and celebrities, we never tire of second chances.

Yankees slugger Derek Jeter will play again, and is still a rich man. Lance Armstrong fooled us for years, and I see people wearing Livestrong bracelets. As a society, we have contributed to the problems teen-show stars Amanda Bynes, Demi Levato, Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus have experienced. And, we always celebrate their resurrections.

The very talented young actress Lindsay Lohan has appeared in court nearly 20 times in the past six years, for offenses including resisting arrest, stealing jewelry and brawling in night clubs, and her jail sentences are always shortened due to “overcrowding.” I can’t even talk about Charlie Sheen, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods or Nicole Ritchie.

Life doesn’t work that way for most of us, and it isn’t helpful for our kids to believe that redemption is that simple.

While I’m all for forgiveness, I think accountability and penance are equally as important. I don’t want my kids to believe it’s that easy to eradicate past problems.

And I want them to idolize people who use their power in positive ways. I want them to gain inspiration from actors and singers who donate their millions to the needy, who spend their time working in soup kitchens instead of bar-hopping in Brazil or shopping on Rodeo Drive. I want my sons to revere athletes who volunteer at inner-city Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations, instead of spending their free time on pleasure yachts and their money on custom sports cars.

So, I’m giving permission for young bucks to look past their money-hungry handlers, and think hard about who they want to be and how they want to use their power. And, I’m urging the rest of us to model the right kind of idol worship.

 –       Linda Williams Rorem, 26 Jan. 2014
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Richard Sherman and Winning Well

Thank goodness no one ever stuck a microphone in my face after a big win or a tough loss on the tennis court or in the board room. The likelihood that I would have come up with a calm, witty reply is virtually zero. The probability that I would have uttered a statement that could be torn to shreds in social media is nearly one hundred percent.

The amount of effort, emotion and concentration it takes to be highly successful in any competitive arena on a big stage challenges the best-of the-best.

If you missed watching Sunday’s NFC championship football game you might not be in the know. The game was an epic battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers with some entertaining post-game player interviews. If you did not watch you are likely to hear about one of those interviews around the office cooler in the coming days because nearly 56 million people saw the game according to Nielsen Media Research.

For the record, the Seahawks won 23-17 on a decisive defensive play in the closing seconds and advanced to the Super Bowl.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman got a hand on a ball in the end-zone that denied a game-tying catch to San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. The ball was batted into the hands of Seahawks teammate Malcolm Smith for an interception. Game over. However, the post-game interviews have garnered more controversy than any referee call during the game.super bound

Three Seahawk star players of the game displayed a wide range of human emotions following the team victory. Quarterback Russell Wilson was jovial and loose and delivered his comments with his trademark humbleness and carefully crafted answers. Running back Marshawn Lynch was silent. He darted into the locker room and there is no record of him even talking to a reporter post-game. Lynch is known for his disdain of the interview process and typically gives one-word answers only when forced to engage. Appreciative fans showered Marshawn with Skittles in support of his outstanding touchdown run and that was probably plenty of social interaction for him.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was an entirely different matter. Moments after Sherman’s game-saving play reporter Erin Andrews interviewed him on the field and asked him about his play and interaction with Crabtree. Sherman looked straight into the camera and shouted, “I am the best corner in the game!” When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get!”sherminator

His few juicy words lit up the Twitter and Facebook world. He was criticized for his abrasive boasting and lack of humbleness. Realistically, who wouldn’t feel a little amped up and not at their interview-best in that moment?

Later Sherman appeared in front of reporters in the more controlled post-game interview area. By that time he had showered, changed into a suit and bow-tie and was an hour post-adrenaline rush. He was funny and more measured in his responses yet direct as always.

We expect a lot out of these guys. We want to scream and cheer them on as they bang up their bodies week after week and we want them to bounce back quickly from injuries. We want them to be stars in their position yet be “team players.” We want them to be clever and humble in post-game interviews and equally gracious whether they win or lose. It’s true that they are paid to do this job but as one of my friends who worked in sports marketing once told me, “Sport is unscripted drama.” These guys definitely delivered dramatic entertainment during the game and after.

Perhaps Russell Wilson summed it up best in his interview. Wilson said he tried to “stay in the moment” during each phase of the game. He remarked that to play at this level one has to have “amnesia” and take it “one play at a time.” All of these stars contributed to the winning end-result and each was outstanding in his own way. They each deserve permission to be themselves. Only two more weeks until the Super Bowl. I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

Carol Lewis Gullstad January 20, 2014

Take the Wheel and Drive

Last summer, during the phenomenal BlogHer’13 conference, Lean In‘s Sheryl Sandberg spoke at a breakfast, challenging attendees to think about what they would do if they weren’t afraid…and then do it.

While hundreds of bloggers filled out the large cards found at their tables and stepped into a photo booth to announce their new goals, many of us were too afraid to openly share our fears.

Since that time, though, I have contemplated what changes I would make, or how I would live my life differently, if I had no fear.

I think I’m fairly brave and I have taken some risks in my life, but I have to admit, I have let fear call the shots far too often.

For instance, decades ago I set out to write a novel, and was taking a fiction-writing class at New York University when I met my husband.

Bauer driving 4-10I have filled the past 20 years with reporting, public relations, editing and even technical-writing jobs, even though my husband said he would support my staying home to pen a non-fiction book.

In retrospect, I recognize I kept myself busy with paid work, because I was afraid to fail on my own time.

How about the rest of you?

Given the popularity of Sandberg’s book, as well as a new release from former Today show host Jane Pauley and a moving Bing commercial celebrating brave women, let’s call this the year of living fearlessly.

And, in that vein, I’m going to start my year’s soundtrack with a song by the alternative rock band Incubus.

Several years ago, a friend hosted a graduation party for her college-bound daughter, who I had grown close to through our summer swim and dive club.

Instead of presents, my friend urged party-goers to give her daughter a quote that held special meaning or might guide her through the coming years. After much thought, I decided to transcribe a few lines from the Incubus song “Drive” (1999): “Whatever tomorrow brings ill be there, with open arms and open eyes.”

Those words seemed very appropriate for Brenna, who has a beautiful, positive spirit and definitely greets each day with enthusiasm and an open heart.

However, I later realized the song resonated on another level; it’s about taking control of your own life, of not making choices based on others’ expectations: “Lately I’m beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found.”

But perhaps most important, lead singer/ songwriter Brandon Boyd is speaking of courage; of not letting fear dictate how we live our lives:
Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear,
And I can’t help but ask myself how much I’ll let the fear take the wheel and steer.”

So, this year my goal is to live more courageously, and to stay in the driver’s seat.

I think it’s a valid objective for all of us. Are any fears controlling you?

  • Are you afraid to get out of a difficult relationship, or to give up a dysfunctional friendship? Do you worry about being alone, or about the repercussions of casting out a negative influence?
  • Have you refrained from confronting a friend or relative about something that truly bothers you, for fear of their reaction?
  • Have you stayed in a job too long? Have you stopped growing through your work? Do you dread going to the office each day, or watch the hours tick by slowly?
  • Is it difficult to ask for the promotion or raise you believe you deserve?
  • Are you letting the lack of funds keep you from traveling? Are you waiting for that “perfect time” to see the world?
  • Do you need a push to start over in a new city?
  • Are you afraid to take the necessary steps to give up drinking or smoking, wondering how you’ll live without those crutches?
  • If you need to lose weight or want to get into shape, are you afraid to take that first step with a gym membership?
  • Do you worry that if you are honest with your friends about your struggles, concerns or worries, they will think less of you?

If any of those worries resonate in your life, consider the amazing women who have overcome their own fears to attain goals and reach new heights, several of whom are celebrated in the new Microsoft Bing commercial:

This ode to some of 2013’s bravest women — including Malala Yousafzai, Gabrielle Giffords and Deb Cohen (who danced with her surgical team prior to a double mastectomy) — celebrates “a courageous group of women who have changed the world and shown us all what the human spirit can achieve.”

If they can overcome obstacles and live without fear, what’s stopping you?

Even Jane Pauley has jumped on the “fearless” bandwagon, with a new book that was mentioned in Sunday’s Parade magazine. In Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life (Simon & Schuster) Pauley shares advice for baby boomers – the youngest of which will turn 50 this year. She advises women to “remain engaged and take risks,” stressing that “Life is scary wonderful. It’s great to learn how resilient you can be.”

Okay, if you haven’t reached mid-life and have no idea who Jane Pauley is, perhaps actress Amy Adams might inspire you. In accepting her Best Actress Golden Globe award last night, Adams thanked her young daughter for “teaching me to accept joy and to let go of fear.”

That’s a great goal for all of us, don’t you think? Here’s to a joyful, fearless 2014.

–       Linda Williams Rorem, 13 Jan. 2014
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New Year: Fresh Start

Who doesn’t like a new year? It represents an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and the possibilities seem endless.

Social scientists say that our affinity for New Year’s resolutions actually has a name, “fresh start effect.”  In their paper, The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior, researchers Hengchen Dai  and Katherine Milkman from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Jason Riis from Harvard Business School quantify the case for this phenomena.

The study abstract suggests that Google searches for terms such as  “diet,” and  “gym visits” all increase following temporal landmarks (e.g., the outset of a new week, month, year, or semester; a birthday; a holiday).”

The researchers proposed “that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.”

At last, validation that “past imperfections” belong in the past. Catholics have longed used confession to regulate less than desirable behavior to the rear-view mirror,  Jews  use Yom Kippur as a day of atonement and school-yard kids call a new start in a game a “do-over.” They all work for me.

Inspired by the New  Year, I am reluctantly taking on “neatness” as a priority in 2014. In late December a 7-year-old relative visited our house. While peering into each room she uttered with disdain, “messy, messy, messy.” Although I have long maintained my household piles are indicative of my “creative-idea mind” at work, I must admit that there is quite a bit of upside to modifying this past imperfection.  The goal certainly qualifies as “aspirational.”

If my household tidying goes awry there is always my computer screen to fall back on. What a great device. It offers the very human options of sleep, hibernate, log off or shut down just in case the year starts rough. However, since  the “fresh start effect,” restart,  is always available, I am good to go for 2014.

If you are wondering what others aspire to this year, the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology sites the following as the top resolutions for 2014: jan calendar

  1. Lose Weight
  2. Getting Organized
  3. Spend Less, Save More
  4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
  5. Staying Fit and Healthy
  6. Learn Something Exciting
  7. Quite Smoking
  8. Help Others in Their Dreams
  9. Fall in Love
  10. Spend More Time with Family

If you are among the 45% of the population who makes New Year’s resolutions, we wish you good luck in meeting your goals. For everyone else, may 2014 bring what you seek regardless of your “mental accounting period.”

Carol Lewis Gullstad January 6, 2014

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