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A brief history of women on the small screen.

Liz Lemon is my modern day Gloria Steinem.

As a comedy nerd and unashamed TV consumer, the 30 Rock character portrayed by Tina Fey is my personal dashboard feminist: she consistently reminds me of the current social climate for women and just how far females as a whole have come. Sure, Liz herself hasn’t sacrificed for women’s rights and will likely be neglected in the next generation’s history books (only because, I must argue, she is not a real human) but I love her, not because she’s a symbol of women “having it all,”  but because she represents the very absurdity of this notion.  

The phrase “having it all” is thrown around in memoirs and mommy blogs as if true accomplishment were the same thing for every woman. It’s often expressed as the ability to balance a successful career with the roles of wife and mother, even though — god forbid — not every woman desires any or all of these roles; career, motherhood or otherwise. 

By way of Liz, Fey has exposed the male-dominated world of television and comedy while maintaining the entertainment factor, not completely unlike Steinem’s infiltration of the Playboy Club. OK, neither Fey nor her fictionalized self is a 21st century suffragette, but she provides a stellar example of strong women in television that aren’t completely unattainable or stereotypical — a trend that seems to be taking off in popular culture.

With the increasing prevalence of shows like 30 RockGirlsThe Mindy Project and countless other popular series with independent female leads, are we on the brink of a new age of women in television? Yes and no. Female badassery has been documented on television since the pre-DVR days of yore.  

Like the waves of feminism, women’s roles on television have changed over the years. When there weren’t diverse, significant career opportunities for real women in the 1940s and 1950s, the same went for the female characters of that era. When the women of America were expected to become wives and mothers and then plateau, so were women of TV. Years passed, climates changed and as women gained more of a valued voice in social and political realms, so did their on-screen counterparts. 

The first television shows with prominent female characters aren’t quite beacons of feminism, but they nevertheless paved the way for the Liz Lemons of today. 

Through the ‘50s and ‘60s, the television set was no place for women to speak out (poor Lucille Ball couldn’t even use the word “pregnant” to describe having a baby-filled womb on her show), but simply having a woman as the lead was a big step in entertainment.

Though it wasn’t the first television show to break social or feminist ground, I Love Lucy (1951-1957)is still adored by audiences today and thus the perfect starting point for a timeline of women on TV. 

Lucille Ball was not cast merely to fill a wife’s role or to cater to a female audience. She became a star purely because she was talented. While much of the Lucy shtick played off of her relationship with her on-set and real-life husband Desi Arnaz, Ball paved the way for humorous women on-screen. She was goofy and over-the-top while maintaining the nurturing, feminine and likable persona women were expected to have. Sure, we didn’t see Lucy and Ethel discuss political platforms around election time, but it was a big deal to see Lucy pursue a career out of the house when viewers expected to see a June Cleaver-type, always in a perpetual state of serving meals. 

Similarly, Bewitched (1964-1972) goes down as one of the earlier femme-centric shows. Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha did fall into the stereotypical “beautiful wife, doting mother” role, but the show was unique because it focused on a woman and her supernatural powers, which no mortal man possessed. Bewitched was so focused on the leading lady, producers were convinced no one would notice when they replaced the actor playing her husband, Dick York, with another actor, Dick Sargent, mid-season. Again, nothing earth-shattering here but, like first-wave feminists had to fight for women to even be considered viable adult humans with free will, these beloved, lighthearted programs helped open the proverbial door for the female television characters of the 1970s and beyond. 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) introduced a single woman in her thirties with a real career — not just some token women’s position: She was the associate producer of the “Six O’Clock” news. The plot was somewhat revolutionary for the time because it didn’t revolve around Mary’s romantic relationships or her quest to find a man. Ms. Moore being single was not a negative conflict in the series; instead, she and other characters faced real issues. Women’s rights, sexuality, divorce and addiction were all topics covered on the iconic program. 

From 1976-1983, Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney schlemieled and schlimazeled their way into the hearts of Americans. The stars of this Happy Days spin-off also maintained real jobs that men could — and did — perform. They worked in a beer factory for crying out loud! Several episodes focused on the ladies’ relationships with men, but more on the bond between these two female friends, coworkers and roommates. Laverne’s open sexuality (while mild by today’s terms) was considered taboo at the time, especially since the show was set around the early 1960s. 

Channel surfing through the ‘80s and ‘90s, women were seeing more recognizable and relatable characters on television who didn’t fall into stereotypical feminine roles. Murphy Brown (1988-1998) was a single, serious journalist who went on to raise a child sans-husband. Roseanne (1988-1997) could have likely been called Dan had it been created earlier, but Roseanne Barr flipped the script, focusing on a blue-collar woman and her less-than-glamorous role as a wife and mother. 

Even Golden Girls (1985-1992) was an important contribution to the canon of women’s television — rarely before had there been much focus on later-in-life ladies. The fiery femmes of Miami showed the world that women don’t just get married, pop out a few kids and then quietly disappear when some wrinkles and a few greys come in. There’s sex, laughter and cheesecake, even if you’re older than 60. 

Progressively over the last few decades of the 20th century, the importance of having prominent women in television evolved into a focus on strong, independent women filling roles that could equally be filled by a man — an ideology that fits in line with the goals of the second wave of feminism. 

“Women have options these days” is a phrase that’s almost obsolete. I mean, obviously. A show following an ER doctor could as easily star a man as it could a woman. Women can have, talk about and enjoy sex as Carrie and Co. made abundantly clear during their six-year reign on HBO’s Sex and the City. But, like the third wave of feminism, a woman shouldn’t feel pressure to fall into any role she doesn’t want to fill — traditional or otherwise. 

There was a point in time when female characters would never discuss “serious” topics on TV because real women weren’t expected to involve themselves in affairs outside of the home. But as we saw beginning in the ‘70s, it became important to show women on TV doing so — engaging in the political process, voicing independent beliefs, questioning social “givens.” So, today, it should be a given that women are just as likely to be successful in their careers and personal lives as men — meaning some women and men do not attain all of those ideals. It’s OK for a female character to express a certain ignorance or display physical weakness because we’re at a point in time when a fictional woman’s flaws are not applied to all females.  

Or at least they shouldn’t be. 

In an episode of 30 Rock seemingly specially packaged for this very conversation, Liz goes on one of her fairness tirades, stating that everyone should be treated equally, particularly regarding men versus women. She argues that the show’s biggest star, Tracy Jordan, gets away with erratic, unpredictable and unprofessional demeanor that would not fly if he were a woman. The rest of the crew sets out to prove her hypocrisy by searching for any evidence of Liz receiving unfair benefit (turns out she received a partial competitive jazz dance scholarship — which favored women — in addition to a few other hand-ups).  

In a scene that had everyone “lizzing” — laughing plus whizzing — the staff’s water cooler needed to be changed. When Liz asks one of the muscly crewmen to grab a new water jug, she is quickly reminded of her self-forged war on equality. The petite woman struggles with the gigantic receptacle for a few minutes as a majority of the water soaks her, all while Tracy yells, “Do not help her!” Time and time again, 30 Rock expertly mocks popular stances on social issues, often revealing exceptions to the rules. 

All Liz love aside, no amount of chunky glasses and Sabor de Soledad (the character’s health-hazardous snack food of choice) can take away from the fact that Fey is actually a very smart, beautiful, fit, overall appealing lady. She’s treated as this asexual grotesque thing at points in the show, but in reality no rational person would ever be repelled by her. And let’s not forget that fellow Saturday Night Live alum Rachel Dratch was supposed to play the role of Jenna Maroney, but got replaced by the arguably more attractive blonde Jane Krakowski. Sure, cast changes are common in television and highlighting attractive people in media is nothing new nor is it relegated to actresses. Audiences by and large love something nice to look at: hot women, chiseled men and adorable children. But for every “normal,” approachable-looking Lena Dunham (Girls) or Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), there are 50 programs that star average looking dudes with model-grade wives — another challenge yet to be overcome, as is the lack of non-token diversity of race, socio-economic class and sexuality. Sure, we’ve come a long way, but we still have more progress to make. 

One exceptional outcome from recent third-wave shows is that a positive female character does not have to correlate to a perfect woman.

I’d argue that it’s much more intriguing to see a woman on TV struggling, stumbling along and making it work her way than to watch a wealthy, skinny, over-sexed, adored female character floating through life, inexplicably able to pay for prime Manhattan real estate. (Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you, Ms. Bradshaw. I know how much journalists make.)

Sure, some people watch TV to escape — no one watches Keeping Up With The Kardashians because that krazy family is just so easy to relate to — but when it comes to decent programming and not the TV equivalent of junk food, women like to see a bit of themselves in a character. 

We’re at a point in which there are so many vastly different-yet-accurate portrayals of women in the media, it would be pointless to try and find “The Face of Women” on television. This is the point in time when Dunham can create a show very close to her personal experiences as a white, upper-middle-class female leaving the nest in NYC and, though we all can’t relate to every single scene, the overarching story is fresh and accessible. Shows like Girls represent the need for us women to laugh at ourselves, recognize our flaws and accept the fact that maybe we aren’t all Carries and Samanthas: Sex is sometimes really weird and most of the time life is pretty anticlimactic. 

Not every show is meant to be a study guide on the female population. This is 2013 America: We can go to school, learn about anything we choose and grow up to be whatever feels right. We don’t watch Gossip Girl to learn how to interact with each other; we watch it because it’s goofy and gratuitous. And that’s OK. We don’t have to ask for permission. 

This is just one girl’s take on a sliver of the history and trends women have made in media and pop culture. The women I welcome into my home via flatscreen range from Botoxed housewives and CIA agents to comedy writers and dragon princesses. And while watching Game of Thrones makes me really want to be a khaleesi, I take my TV with a nice grain of salt, quietly celebrating each badass female character along the way. But the sooner we stop trying to select one figure to represent all 3.4 billion of us, the sooner we can get back to whatever it is each of us truly enjoys, Sabor de Soledad and all.

Local craftsmen cleverly juxtapose the warmth of organic materials with the weight of glass and metal.

1960s Danish Selig Chair, $295, Mainly Art 20th Century Collectibles, 3711 Madison Road, OakleyPig mask, $36,HighStreet,1401 Reading Road, Downtown; Sheep hair pillow, $244, HighStreet, 1401 Reading Road, Downtown; Dog lamp by Future Retrieval, $1,200, HighStreet, 1401 Reading Road, Downtown;Frank table lamp by ampersand, coming soon, Losantiville, 1311 Main St., OTR; Bolgatanga market baskets, $35 each,Maumee World Traders, Findlay Market; Black Anode chair by Dixon, $540, Losantiville, 1311 Main St., OTR; Glass terrarium by Jessie Cundiff, $140; Gradient shelf by Brighton Exchange, $125, Brush Factory, 1102 Harrison Ave., Brighton; Wooden delta stool by ampersand, $389, Losantiville, 1311 Main St., OTR; Bundle side table by ampersand, $549, Losantiville, 1311 Main St., OTR; Cocktail table by Brighton Exchange, $399, Brush Factory, 1102 Harrison Ave., Brighton; Maple block clock by Such and Such, $219, Losantiville, 1311 Main St., OTR; Gas-fired ceramic bowls byDidem Mert, $15-$30; Salt-fired ceramic vase by Didem Mert, $35;Barrel-fired ceramic planters byDidem Mert, $25 each; Crane light by Andrew Neyer, $125, YES Gallery, 1417 Main St., OTR.

Trading happy hour for healthy hour in the New Year.

I am not a skinny woman. I was a skinny little girl, but I am not a thin adult. 

Like most American women, my weight has fluctuated over the years and I’ve fallen off the exercise wagon one too many times a wagon that’s hard to get on after sitting at my desk for eight hours a day. 

But I decided it was time to find the motivation to work out after work and get fit. 

I’m not going to write a trite story about resolutions because I’m not making a resolution. This isn’t about weight loss. It’s about making a promise to myself to get healthy, become active, and have fun, regardless of the New Year. 

I needed to find a way to make an evening workout interesting, something to look forward to instead of dread. So I decided to look into different types of exercise classes. 

Classes provide you with a weekly schedule so deciding on a class is almost like making a workout appointment with yourself. Classes also give you an opportunity to socialize, which is infinitely more engaging than listening to your iPod on a treadmill.  

I found some interesting ways to spend a night out working out. Instead of drinking during happy hour, I’ll be sweating and hopefully loving it. 

Rhythm And Motion 

6:30-7:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays with daytime classes the rest of the week. Cincinnati Ballet, 1555 Central Parkway, OTR, cballet.org

Rhythm and Motion is a dance class that incorporates a serious cardiovascular workout set to a fist-pumping playlist, followed by toning exercises. Started by choreographer Heather Britt in California, R&M is intimidating. I can’t lie. I was terrified on my first day. Excited, but also terrified. Moving my arms and my feet at the same time is a feat I can’t claim to be proficient in. So on my first day, I snuck into the back of class as unobtrusively as possible. I met two lovely and welcoming women and felt more at ease. 

Every class starts with a mini-breakdown of a new dance, which everyone mimics. And then it progresses to a run-through of 10 songs. I mixed up and raised my hands in the opposite direction or jumped to the left instead of the right many, many times but it only fueled my desire to get better. I was sweating profusely but also felt uninhibited. I looked at R&M as a master class version of my weekend shimmying at bars, and it definitely helped me not feel so awkward for looking like, well, an uncoordinated dancer.  

At the end of the dancing (cardio) portion, I had caught on to some songs more than others. The ab and arm toning exercises absolutely killed me. My calves and abs hurt for the next four days, but in that this means you still have abs/this is a good thing kind of way. It felt great. 

Callback: I went the following week and the week after. I’m hooked. (Full disclosure,  I’m a marketing assistant at the ballet, so it made it easier to get to the class after work but didn’t affect my opinion of the workout.)

Core Yoga 

6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday (during December could change for January). You Do Yoga, 1319 Main St., OTR, youdoyoga.com. 

Yoga was next on my list. I arrived to class a few minutes early and chatted with the instructor, Kate, who was fantastic. There were only two of us in class on this day (myself and a guy) so the individual-focus aspect was nice. Kate moved us through a whole battery of yoga moves but broke down each one and reminded us to focus on our breathing. I found it to be really intense. I had previously thought of yoga as a pretty, non-sweaty exercise routine, but as Kate explained, there are two kinds of yoga: yin and yang (like the symbol). 

Yin is feminine and focuses on still positions and stretching. Yang is masculine and focuses on constant motion. I definitely took more to the yang yoga; it engaged my body more, I felt, and I was able to consistently feel what was supposed to be happening. Yin was a little harder to connect with probably because I’m a person constantly on the go, but there was one particular moment when everything clicked and I felt very lean and stretched. I definitely stood straighter for the next two days, despite my soreness again, the good, I was productive kind.

Callback: I haven’t gone back because of time constraints, but I can see myself working yoga into a monthly routine.  

Zumba 

7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday and 5:45-6:45 p.m. Friday with daytime classes during the rest of the week. LA Fitness, 119 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., lafitness.com. 

I’ve wanted to try Zumba for a while now. I finally signed up for a guest pass to LA Fitness (formerly Urban Active) and zipped down to Northern Kentucky to see what all the hype was about. I definitely felt out of place in the big-box fitness place atmosphere, but I took it all in stride and remembered my motivation: I wanted to get fit. And then I chided myself for feeling awkward because the main goal of everyone at these places is to get fit, and I commend that attitude, so I sucked it up and bottled my nerves and just threw myself into class.  

There were only women that night and definitely the largest variety of ages I’d seen yet. My instructor, Nora, was super energetic and class moved fast. We started with a simple dance and everything was set to zippy, Latinate dance tunes. I recognized the repetition again, which seems to be the calling card of dancing. (Who would’ve thought?) In any case, I didn’t prove to be any better here than at R&M, but I was doggedly determined again to get through it. I caught on a bit more about three-quarters of the way through and was absolutely dripping with sweat at the end. I enjoyed myself, but I didn’t feel the stretch and burn as much as I had in my other classes probably because I did a lot of it wrong, honestly.  

Callback: I haven’t gone back to this either, but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s a pumped-up cardio workout, for sure. 

Lesson learned? I like consistency and I lost approximately eight pounds in two weeks from exercise and better eating combined. I was dead tired from work every time but found a burst of energy (dopamine, anyone?) after each class, which fueled more productivity at home in the form of finishing tasks such as cleaning and laundry. So exercise is good for all parts of your life. I promise to keep it up!

A collection of our favorite recent releases.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

In a world over-saturated with post-apocalyptic narratives, The Dog Stars stands out for its ability to focus not only on pain and devastation, but also the simple beauty of life. A disease epidemic has killed 99 percent of the human population including everyone close to Hig, the novel’s narrator. Barricaded in an abandoned airport with his dog — his only living friend — and an angry old man, he spends his days fighting off violent gangs of other survivors and flying a 1956 Cessna into the mountains to fish and pretend life hasn’t changed. One day, during a flight, he hears a radio transmission — a random voice — and that voice ignites a hope for a better life beyond the airport, something like he used to have. Hig decides to risk everything to follow the voice, not sure what or who he’ll encounter along the way.  

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered by Trudi Kanter

This true story written by Viennese milliner Trudi Kanter was originally published in 1984 — and almost immediately forgotten. Recently rediscovered and rereleased by an English editor, Kanter’s story tells her personal tale of love, life and horror in Hitler’s Europe. Kanter, a chic, young Jewish girl, designs hats for Vienna’s upper echelon, flies to Paris for fashion shows and falls in love with a Jewish businessman. Then life changes when the Nazis invade Austria in 1938. Kanter and her beau, who is being hunted by the SS, flee to Prague and eventually to bombed-out London for safety, recounting the effects of the war along the way. Her story of survival and vivid description of the lost, lavish culture of pre-war Vienna are fascinating. 

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Food blogger Deb Perelman’s cult culinary blog, Smitten Kitchen, makes the long-awaited move from online to print with a collection of almost entirely new recipes. From her teeny, 42-square-foot New York kitchen, Perelman creates accessible, stepped-up comfort food with familiar ingredients and takes mouth-watering photos of the finished product. Her just-released cookbook, illustrated with her own color photographs, features more than 100 recipes for every occasion from breakfast to main dishes to cocktails. Perelman’s out to prove that there are no bad cooks, only bad recipes, and since hers (or at least all the ones we’ve tried) are amazing, we know you’ll be as smitten with her as we are. 

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington

Vogue’s creative director Grace Coddington narrates her personal 40-some-odd-year journey from 1960s British model to fashion’s most influential image imagineer. Familiar almost exclusively to industry insiders until her appearance in the 2009 documentary, The September Issue, Coddington’s talent, wit and candid relationship with Vogue editor in chief/dragon lady Anna Wintour have thrust her into popular consciousness. In her memoir, she brings readers behind the scenes of her professional life and introduces them to the artists, photographers, models and celebrities who helped her create her signature photographic “fantasy travelogues.” She also sheds light on her private life, including her disfiguring car accident. Sometimes a dishy who’s who of the fashion world, the book captures the imagination with Coddington’s sketches, photo spreads of her more famous shoots and a punchy, coffee-table-worthy orange cover. 

Dear Life by Alice Munro

This new collection of 14 masterful short stories by octogenarian Alice Munro are at once nostalgic, complex and, as the New York Times reviewer Charles McGrath put it, cognizant of the fact that life is “precious but also costly and so unpredictable it’s all one can do to hang on.” Set in rural Canada after World War II, Munro explores chance pivotal events in her characters’ day-to-day lives such as a young teacher’s sweeping, brief romance in a tuberculosis sanatorium; a housewife’s plot to escape her life by writing a letter to a man she’s met only once; and a childhood misunderstanding that keeps a daughter from attending her mother’s funeral. Munro again proves that she is one of the best writers of our age with Dear Life’s timeless take on just how dangerous, strange and wonderful life can be. 

The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich

The title pretty much says it all. In the 1960s, Lynn Povich worked for Newsweek, known for its progressive coverage of civil rights and the decade’s “swinging” counterculture — and for the fact that it rarely, if ever, promoted females to writing, reporting or editing positions. In fact, the women of Newsweek were apparently told, “If you want to be a writer, go somewhere else.” But on March 16, 1970, the day the magazine published a cover story about the feminist movement titled, “Women in Revolt,” Povich and 45 other female employees filed a class action discrimination lawsuit against Newsweek. It was the first all-female class action lawsuit, and Povich tells the story of how this radical act affected the women of the fledging feminist movement as well as how it has and has not changed the workplace today. 

Emily Schoettmer and Christopher Sentman’s winter wedding gets an extra dose of white.

Emily Schoettmer and Christopher Sentman’s mid-December nuptials gave a new meaning to the phrase white wedding: There were several inches of snow on the ground when they exchanged vows at St. Monica-St. George Church in Clifton — Emily even wore snow boots. 

Growing up in Troy, Ohio, the couple went to the same high school, had the same family friends through extracurricular groups and both moved to Cincinnati to attend college at the University of Cincinnati — Emily to study to medicine with the goal of becoming a pediatrician and Christopher, who was a year ahead of her, to become a chemical engineer.  

Three years into their relationship, Christopher popped the question during an intimate dinner with just the two of them at their house in Oakley. “He proposed at home on our back deck after cooking a nice dinner for me,” says Emily.  

Emily, who wanted to be surprised, wasn’t expecting a ring at that moment. The duo had talked about getting married at some point and, during the holidays, Emily would wonder if there was a ring under the tree but, she says, “I think I sort of knew that he would do it his way when he was ready.” 

When deciding on a date for the big day, Emily and Christopher took a practical approach. Because Emily was so swamped with medical school and knew she would be interviewing for residency in the spring, the couple started toying with the idea of a December wedding. “I never really thought about a winter wedding before,” says Emily, “And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of a wintery kind of wedding.” 

With help from her mother and Brigid Horne-Nestor of i-do Weddings & Events in O’Bryonville, Emily started to plan, taking existing family holiday traditions into consideration. “We planned [the wedding] a week earlier than most of our family holiday get-togethers so it wouldn’t interfere with Christmas planning,” says Emily. And, despite concerns about travel and inclement weather, 100 close family and friends were able to witness Emily and Christopher’s special day — snow and all. 

“It was a really fun day,” says Emily. “It was hectic at times. I think that’s what made it all the more special — having everyone there.” 

When deciding on a theme for decorations, Emily wanted to preserve the integrity of the beautiful holiday ornamentation already going up at the church and her historic downtown reception venue, The Phoenix.  

St. Monica-St. George Church was already decorated for the advent season. “We just felt like it’s such a beautiful church on its own with the architecture and stained glass windows that any sort of decoration might’ve looked a little silly and out of place,” says Emily. And The Phoenix was also decked out for Christmas. “We really didn’t have to do a lot of decorating,” she says. “We tried to take advantage of a lot of [the existing decorations].” 

The rest of the theme and decor was chosen to create a sense of warmth. Her bridesmaids wore long, red satin dresses with a sweetheart neckline and an ivory ribbon at the waist. And Emily wore a beaded ivory Essense of Australia satin dress from Fabulous Bridal in Covington, Ky., with a wintery lace train, which her bridesmaids had to help her control in the snow. “They held [my dress] up and then very gently would drape it on the snow,” she says, “so my ridiculous snow boots were covered.” 

The bridesmaids carried bouquets from Blossoms Florist with red roses, light purple flowers and some dashes of white. And everyone in the bridal party, including the flower girls, wore fur shawls to keep warm — Emily and the girls wore white while the bridesmaids wore red. 

Before walking down the aisle, Emily and Christopher saw each other for the first time and took a moment to get their emotions together. “Seeing Christopher for the first time on our wedding day was an overwhelming moment,” says Emily. “The day just sort of flew from there.” 

And when it came time to go to the reception, Emily and Christopher were happy to let loose. “I think once we got past the wedding and on to the reception, we just wanted everyone to have a fun, good time,” she says. 

The reception featured oil lamp centerpieces from Emily’s grandfather on every table. “He had an oil lamp for every grandchild and he let me borrow all of them,” Emily says. “I think it made it really special. The oil lamps just have a really warm kind of feel to them. They were really more meaningful than I ever thought a centerpiece could be.”  

Each lamp was encircled with a wreath mimicking the bouquets — greenery peppered with red, white and purple flowers — and everyone was able to take one home as a favor.  

“It meant everything to start our lives together with our families there,” says Emily. “Family is really important to both of us so I think it’s a really great day to have both of our families there with us to celebrate.”Photos by Cindy Wagner of Wagner Photographics Additional reporting by Bethany Cianciolo

A mother’s attempt at implementing 1970s wisdom in the bathroom.

When I was pregnant with my first child, friends often asked if I wanted to know the sex of the baby before it was born. “Oh, yes,” I’d reply. “The labor will be surprise enough.” The labor, of course, was only the beginning of the surprises.  

To a new parent, each developmental phase is something of a shock. And now, my son, William, almost two and a half years old, has come to another, rather unpleasant milestone: potty training. 

I had heard potty training horror stories of boys running around naked, spraying pee all over the kitchen floor, so I knew I needed a proven plan. Online I found a book whose overabundant titular promise attracted my attention: Toilet Training in Less than a Day. 

Before you scoff at the idea that a child can be toilet trained in “less than a day,” check out the nearly 500 Amazon reviews. Parents are mostly raving — except for the few who are raging. This is one of those polarizing five-star-or-one-star-review kind of books.  

Essentially this little manual, which has not been edited or updated since its original publication in 1974, offers a step-by-step procedure for toilet training. Using a variety of behavioral training techniques — modeling, simple instruction, positive practice tests and rewards — parents communicate and validate proper potty behavior to their toddlers. The authors, both Harvard-educated psychologists, say the procedure is 99 percent effective. I bought two copies.  

I read up on the program. On the big day I was supposed to “phone” my son’s imaginary heroes — like Elmo and DJ Lance — in front of him to apprise them of his potty progress. This would communicate the social significance of proper toileting. I was supposed to buy a doll that could urinate on command, and the market provided “Potty Scotty,” a doll that pees when you squeeze one of his chubby, plastic legs. My son would work with me to “teach” this doll how to use the potty. By watching me teach Potty Scotty and testing to see if the doll had wet or dry pants, my son would have a miniature modeling experience and feel like an “expert” in the potty realm. Best of all, the rewards-based program encourages the use of sweets as incentives. Lots of sweets. I smiled as I stuck chocolate milk in my grocery cart. Will is going to love this, I thought.  

My husband and I decided to do the training on a quiet Saturday morning and cleared our schedules for a full day. The night before, we stayed up late reading our manual one last time. We quizzed each other using the 98 quick-fire questions in the back of the book. We set up our training room with the doll and the mini-potty and the treats. I drew up a final cheat sheet with all the crucial information, readable at a glance. 

Trying to prepare developmental milestones for your child is surprisingly profound. My vision for the potty-trained William became clearer. I wanted him to become a bigger and more mature little person, to give him independence. And I felt a bizarre mix of emotions — pride, excitement, nostalgia, hopefulness and a shade of worry. The promise of the book sounded too good to be true. Was I really ready for this? Was he? 

In the morning Will greeted us with smiles. He was delighted with his new training pants. He couldn’t believe the tastiness of chocolate milk. 

And then he had four successive accidents.  

We realized he couldn’t tell the difference between wet and dry pants. “Wet!” he’d say, beaming, waiting for his treat. “No William,” we’d reply. “Big boy pants should be dry.” And then things really started to go downhill.  

There are corrective measures following an accident. The child cleans up the spill, changes his pants and completes 10 “positive practice tests,” which involve racing to the toilet from various parts of the house, ripping down one’s pants and squatting. The book encourages firmness in these procedures, implying that they will be met with inevitable resistance. William quickly decided these “punishments” were his favorite part. Four hours into the training, sugar high from his chocolate milk, he started dancing uncontrollably around the room and laughing hysterically.  

When the inevitable crash came, my boy spent a long time on the potty chair waiting for something to happen. We waited, too, staring between his legs with the fervor of an oracle trying to discern a message in tea leaves. We got the doll again. “Look, William!” we cried, “Potty Scotty went in his toilet. Can’t you go in yours?” William watched us manipulate the doll very closely, observing that the “pee” came out when we squeezed the doll’s leg. He smiled. Then, with great solemnity, he began squeezing his own leg. We started to laugh, a bit hysterical ourselves. What had gone wrong? After nearly 15 hours of focused potty time over a two-day period, we decided to drop it. 

I suppose now I should tell you that I raced off to draft my own one-star review. After all, the book’s strategies didn’t work. All I can say about the supposed 99 percent success rate is this: “My name is Kelly Blewett, and I am the one percent.”  

But still, was it really a complete failure? Perhaps the person getting trained by all this was me, not my child. I am learning how to promote my son’s learning, to think forward positively to his success, to break down the meaning of success into attainable goals and to equip him to achieve those goals. Where I was once uncertain, I am now more in tune with things that will be meaningful to him — like ringing up Elmo. The posture of the cheerleader/teacher, as opposed to the hand-wringing mother, is empowering. And that’s a surprise. Despite the procedure’s failure, I might be getting the hang of something here. 

And, unlike my son’s toileting, hopefully my lessons will stick. When we try again, I’ll be here anticipating his success, recognizing it will be on his timetable, not mine, and certainly not on that of a manual. In the meantime, we can spend some quality time discussing the ineffable but oh-so-key difference between wet and dry. Maybe I’ll even break out the chocolate milk.

Illustration by Julie Hill

Compassionate Beginnings helps would-be parents realize the dream of having children.

Carey B. always wanted to carry a baby. She longed for the nine-month journey of growing a child inside her and wanted to experience the feeling of giving birth. So when she was told that a blocked fallopian tube would require more than her husband to get pregnant, she was devastated.

“We were going to go through an adoption that actually fell through,” Carey says. “For me, it just never felt right. I believe that there are families out there that are destined to adopt children and help. But for me, I personally wanted to carry a baby.”  

After an emotional two-and-a-half-year process of failed surgeries, inseminations and in-vitro fertilizations, Carey’s doctor recommended looking into egg donation. In June 2010, she contacted Compassionate Beginnings, an egg donation and surrogacy agency based in Cincinnati. 

“We kind of act as the liaison to the fertility center providing the actual egg donor,” says Celia McNeil, founder of Compassionate Beginnings. “[Our mission is] to provide a donor that is highly qualified to intended parents to be able to further their dreams of having a baby and having a family.” 

Holly Ringer, co-owner of Compassionate Beginnings, says couples in need of egg donors are often on a waiting list for six to nine months because fertility centers have to recruit their own egg donors and frequently don’t have the staff to do so. Around 120 recipients seek egg donors each year in Ohio while more than 1,000 seek them across the country, according to McNeil.  

“We’re very service-oriented and dedicated to making their journey smooth and stress-free,” Ringer says. “We explain the whole process from start to finish, listen to any concerns or questions they may have and guide them through the process.” 

After deciding to move forward with the egg donation process, Carey was given a password into Compassionate Beginnings’ compilation of available egg donors, which displays information about each donor’s heritage, age, hair color, eye color, education history, family history and personal interests.  

“It’s kind of a weird experience at first — you just have to kind of get past that,” Carey says of the database. “I looked for someone who had a similar background as me.” 

It took about a month before she did, but Carey says she chose her donor because she was Irish and Italian, like Carey, and had the same body type. 

“I liked her answer on why she wanted to donate. She said she had a son and knew how much happiness it brought her and just wanted to help a family fulfill their dreams,” Carey says. “I just had a strong connection with her without really knowing her. It was really weird.” 

Founded in 2005, Compassionate Beginnings matches 50 intended parents and egg donors and three to four gestational carriers — women who carry and deliver children for others — each year throughout the Tristate. Once a match is made, the egg donor must go to doctor’s appointments every other day for two weeks, give blood at each doctor’s appointment and inject herself with a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) for 20 days. The hormone is produced naturally already, but the shot gives every egg in the follicles a chance to mature. The mature eggs are then removed from the ovaries, fertilized and the embryos are transferred into the uterus of the recipient.  

“It is amazing that these young women would be willing to do this to help someone else they don’t know,” McNeil says. “These egg donors are not doing this just for the money. It’s way more than that. It’s amazing how much time they have to give up out of their day.” 

In order to be considered as an egg donor, the women must pass an initial screening, which verifies they meet the egg-donor criteria — a healthy body mass index (19 to 28), age range of 21 to 34, no felony record, no STDs and they must be a non-smoker. If the potential donor passes the criteria, Compassionate Beginnings sends a longer application to fill out. The entire process is completely confidential — the agency doesn’t reveal any names and the egg donors and intended parents never meet — but that hasn’t stopped Carey from forming a lifelong bond with her donor. 

“I just have so much love for her,” Carey says. “The fact that she’s donated not once, but twice for us, is just the most selfless gift. It’s just really touching for me.” 

And for the donors, it’s just as touching. 

Kentucky-native A.J. D. has donated for five different families.  

“To help somebody have a baby — who wants it more than anything — it’s a selfless thing,” she says. “It’s kind of like the least that I can do.”

Each egg donor is slightly sedated during the egg retrieval process. The physician uses an ultrasound probe that goes through the vaginal wall straight into the ovary. The probe suctions out all of the fluid from the follicles and obtains the microscopic egg. Most egg donors have eight to 10 follicles on each ovary, and the entire process takes about 20 minutes. Since the egg-retrieval process requires some poking into the ovaries, the Food and Drug Administration sets a recommended limit of going through no more than six procedures, especially if the donor hasn’t started a family of her own yet, but donors only do five through Compassionate Beginnings. A.J. says she usually collects $4,500 by the end of the process, but isn’t driven by the money.  

“I think it’s a gift that I can give. I’m not at the point in my life that I’m ready to have children,” she says. “It’s not an easy thing, but it’s definitely a compliment for someone to think enough of you to want that from you. Why wouldn’t you want to help someone have a baby if it’s something that’s relatively easy to do for you?” 

And it’s because of these women who are willing to donate that Carey was blessed with her son and is now pregnant with her second child. Even though her husband was initially uncomfortable with the concept, Carey says he was incredibly supportive during the entire process.  

“He’s like ‘I can’t meet her, for me to get this done. I don’t want to know her or anything.’ It was just really weird for him,” she says.  

The children produced from the combination of the male’s sperm and the donated egg are genetically related to the donor, not the birth mother, a fact that couples have to overcome. But the birth mother, who carries the child to term, is its legal mother.  

“[Ben] is my baby,” says Carey. “He’s brought just so much happiness to our family. He’s just one of the happiest babies I’ve ever seen in my life. You just look at that and it was worth everything. It was worth everything I had to go through.” 

And egg donors aren’t the only women helping individuals and couples in need of assistance to have children: Gestational carriers, or surrogates, volunteer to carry and deliver babies for others.  

Gestational surrogates carry the couple’s fertilized eggs, genetically unrelated to themselves, to term. But if the couple is male or the woman has ovarian problems in addition to uterine problems, a “traditional” surrogate can be used. Traditional surrogates carry their biological egg to term, fertilized with the donated sperm, and deliver their own genetic child for another person. But traditional surrogacy is not really supported in Ohio because of a lack of clear surrogacy laws.  

While gestational carriers often cost the intended parents $80,000 to $100,000, complications can rack that price up to $150,000 or $200,000, McNeil says, which is why the agency is more egg-donor heavy.

“Unfortunately, it’s not 100 percent. You could put up all that money and still not walk home with a baby, and that’s heartbreaking,” she says. “There’s just very few people who can really afford that.” 

In order to be a gestational carrier, McNeil notes that even though there are usually just a couple of choices when choosing a potential carrier, they are all incredibly selfless.  

“You have to be very ‘go with the flow’ and laid back,” she says.  

Heidi A. of Hamilton, Ohio, was planning to be a surrogate mother for her friend but contacted Compassionate Beginnings in 2009 when that friend got pregnant on her own and no longer needed Heidi’s help to have a baby. When she was accepted as a potential gestational carrier, a couple requested to meet with her to make sure she was a good match for them. She ended up carrying twins for the couple, who used their own eggs, and they went to every doctor’s appointment and were in the delivery room the day she had them. Heidi frequently visits the children today.  

“It’s absolutely an amazing experience,” she says. “I can’t imagine wanting children so badly and not being able to have them.” 

Heidi says she felt a strong connection with the twins during her pregnancy, but was able to put herself in the right mindset and remember that they were not her babies. She often misses them when she hasn’t seen them for a couple of weeks, but being able to visit them makes the transition easier.  

“In the end, I can’t even put into words the experience of seeing those babies and seeing those parents just overjoyed and overwhelmed,” she says. 

“Aside from having my own children, it was probably the most wonderful experience that I’ve ever had.” The Compassionate Beginnings women believe the agency is so unique because of the strong commitment and interaction they have with every participant. 

“We are truly compassionate. I think a lot of people do this as a business,” McNeil says. “We really put the intended parents first and we put our egg donors first. Our egg donors are high quality. They want to do this. They really want to make a couple have their dream.” 

From the “Mono” collection by designer Nancy Todd.

The “Mono” collection was developed as a study of the principle of mass conservation. The principle states that the entire mass of an isolated system cannot be created or destroyed over time, but it also implies that the mass may be rearranged into different states of matter. “Mono” seeks to demonstrate this concept through the analysis of one fiber: wool. This collection is an exploration of form and texture and embodies a variety of techniques and applications representative of the many properties one fiber may possess. 

Klimt top, tailored wool sateen, price and more information for all  upon request.

Schiele dress, hand-knit baby Merino wool, price and more information upon request.

Duchamp shawl, 100 percent wool roving, hand-knit with designer-carved knitting needles; Kandinsky side pleat pant, tailored 100 percent wool caddy, price and more information for all upon request.

Drop needle tank, hand-knit baby Merino wool; Toulouse Cigarette Pant, two-ply 100 percent wool gauze; price and more information for all  upon request.

Dalí sheath dress, 100 percent wool double face caddy column dress; price and more information for all  upon request.

Photos by Annette Navarro 

“MONO” collection by Nancy Todd 

Styling by Kelsey Wing 

Origami Accessories by Kelsey Wing 

Hair and makeup by Phil Saunders

Those who have stared death in the face remind us that every day is precious.

The bleak truth is that everyone dies. We know this. In fact, one of the defining components of all living things is that our existence, as living creatures, is finite. It begins and it ends with the meat of the matter happening in between.   

Another bleak truth is that 41 percent of Americans born today will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Five year survival rates currently hover around 65 percent, so a bit less than half us will get cancer, while much more than half of us will survive it. So between yourself or a loved one, cancer will most likely touch your life.   

And, should cancer strike you directly, one way or another, it will change your life.  

I didn’t have cancer, but I thought I did. A whole year went by after having self-discovered a strange mass in my abdomen before I had the nerve to get it checked out by professionals. The day I finally decided to get checked out was a scary day. 

Those 12 hours of doctor visits and a rushed CT scan had me planning my funeral, among other post-mortem concerns. I devised dating rules for my husband for after my demise: He had to wait a year before he was allowed to so much as glance at another lady under threat of haunting. I was devastated that my daughter would grow up with no memories of me. I would miss out on her first day of school, guiding her through the insanity of puberty. There would be grandchildren I would never know. I felt desolate, sick, lost, terrified and something much stronger than sad.  

Turns out, it was just a mutant organ that happened to be residing in an unusual location — two kidneys fused into one, to be exact. Like a rank fog burned off by good test results, my terror was gone; I was fine. The world around me was aching with life and beauty, second chances and a new perspective. This time I lucked out, but what about next time?  

My grandfather died of lung cancer. My grandmother was cured of breast cancer. Other relatives of mine have been diagnosed as well. What was it like for them, those who got different test results?  

I found myself wondering what my friends and family members felt after their cancer treatments were finished. What is it like when you finally come out the other side of that ordeal? Or is that the wrong way of thinking about it all together? Maybe it’s not like a pipe that you go through and come out on the other side. Maybe it’s more like a metamorphosis that changes you forever. 

My friend Tamina was diagnosed with breast cancer on her husband’s birthday. The two of them had gone in for her biopsy results expecting good news, then planned on a celebratory Indian buffet lunch date. But by the look on the doctor’s face upon entering the office, it became clear that was not to be the case.   

Having your doctor describe the cancer in your breast as “a mess” will make the bottom of even the most iron stomachs drop. She was told that a lumpectomy was not even an option.   

Her very first thought was how unfair it was to her husband that he got this news on his birthday. 

Then came the waiting. There was surgery to schedule, doctors to interview, time off from work to be arranged, family to be told and her life to save. What a heavy burden.  

Tamina compared the weight of her cancer to that of Frodo carrying the ring in Lord of the Rings. Imagine it. There, strung around your neck, is something that only you can carry as it tries to destroy you. And while a terrific support system may surround you, it’s still around your neck — not theirs.   

In light of her diagnosis, Tamina’s story ends well. After a friend of hers pointed out the fact that she could forgo reconstructive surgery, she was able to schedule a double mastectomy within a week rather than waiting three months for the plastic surgeon’s schedule to align with those of her other doctors. After having both breasts removed, she underwent radiation and has had nothing but reassuring test results since. But surviving a life-threatening illness is so much more than test results and scar tissue.   

Tamina felt depressed when she returned to work. The buzz of friends checking in on her had ebbed. She was no longer buoyed by the adrenaline and daily trips to Christ Hospital where she was peppered with friendly professionals and little gifts that get donated to cancer patients undergoing treatment. After all that she had gone through, she was just back to the grind. 

While support groups work for some, when Tamina tried one, it just gave her new ideas to worry about. Then dragon boat racing came into her life.  

She had been adamant about doing her post-surgical exercises, but this took it to a whole new level. She was now a part of a team of other breast cancer survivors who raced these long boats with coordinated paddling. In addition to acting as a support group, it provided a superior upper body workout which aided in the healing process. Also, as Tamina said, it made her feel “badass.” 

Then came the bucket list filled with things like skydiving, exciting places to visit, kayak adventures and other amazing things. Tamina also retired early, a decision she credits to her cancer. And now her life is one big adventure spread out before her.

As Tamina says, “I’ve already looked death in the face. All this is a bonus.” 

Another good friend of mine, Barbara, was diagnosed with melanoma as she was packing her youngest child off to college. Within 24 hours of a routine visit to her general practitioner, she was diagnosed with a deadly cancer and had an appointment with a surgeon. Bam. No warning, no feelings of foreboding, just a nagging urge to get a few skin spots checked out that day.   

After a series of tests, Barbara found out that she would have two slabs of flesh (her words) excised from her body to remove the cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. She was scared. She knew she had melanoma but still couldn’t believe she had the C-word.  

To know, intellectually, that you are going to die someday is one thing, but to face death and feel it standing on your shoulder is completely different. It wasn’t until after the surgery, where they’d actually been successful removing the affected tissue, that she felt certain she was looking point blank at the end of her life.  

As Barbara says, she thought, “Oh, my God. I’m going to die from this. And even though I’d gone back to work and everything, and everything seemed normal, that’s always in the back of your head — I have cancer, I have cancer, I have cancer — even though they got it all.”   

It wasn’t just fear that the big C brought into Barbara’s life, though. She was able to let go of hurtful slings from the past. Difficult relationships were no longer worthy of stress whereas gathering those she loved close gained a new importance. Gone were the days of paper plates at Christmas, replaced instead by the good China at every opportunity and a lovely glass for every drink. No more beer or soda cans at the table, and Barb doesn’t have a dishwasher. Now, that is love.   

She and her husband took their dream vacation, driving across the U.S. on Route 66 because the time for adventure is now. That is part of the wisdom that comes from flirting with death. While it seems wrapped up in heavy cliches, our lives are but a series of days, and we need to make them count. One of them will be the last.   

So what is the meat of the matter? I think Tamina put it beautifully when she said to me, “Nobody cares if your house is a mess; I’ve learned that from this. Nobody cares if the baseboards have been wiped down. It’s the communion of people and the sharing of love and just knowing that someone cares.” 

Carriage House Farm embraces a simpler way of life.

Every single day I wake to the sound of an alarm emanating from the iPad on my nightstand. My mornings continue with a barrage of technology: digital calendar reminders, apps to update, emails to peruse and return — a significant amount of human contact has been replaced by Facebook and texting. 

I’m not really complaining. For the most part, modern technology truly is a blessing. It allows me to accomplish huge amounts of work professionally, as well as keep in touch with my family and friends scattered all over the globe. But there is a part of me that, on occasion, longs for simpler times and a slower pace — and I know I’m not alone.

Among my own family and friends, I’ve seen a huge resurgence in the so-called “heirloom crafts” of knitting and sewing, and when it comes to food, our country’s dire economic situation has resurrected the practices of home canning and preserving. Even the health care crisis has caused many to question the connection between what we put in our bodies and how it affects our health. 

There are a lot of buzzwords and phrases flying around in the world of food: organic, farm-to-table, all-natural, cage-free, etc., and many of them aren’t even technically defined. What amuses me is that these are often seen and touted as “new” and “novel” when actually this is the way our food was produced for generations before modern technology saw fit to butt its head in.  

I’d actually prefer that these terms cease to exist, especially farm-to-table, because that simply is the way we should eat. As far as I’m concerned, it’s our responsibility to strive to make sure that the food we consume comes directly from farms and producers using sustainable practices, where humans are respected and paid a fair wage, animals are treated humanely and our food is safe to eat. 

Carriage House Farm in North Bend is one of those places where, to borrow a phrase, “Everything old is new again.” Since 1855 six generations of Richard Stewart’s family have been farming what were once 90 and what is now more than 300 acres in the Miami River Valley. The farm has not only grown in size over the centuries, it has evolved as well — livestock has been replaced by stables and a pasture for boarded horses and the original crops have been swapped for some things that Stewart’s forefathers might not be so familiar with, such as ginger.  

But something Stewart’s ancestors probably would recognize are the foraged, native foods like sumac and elderberries harvested from the land by Carriage House’s Native Plant Specialist Abby Artemisia, and honey from the dozens of hives located on and around the property. The important things haven’t changed. Stewart’s passion for the land and his desire to do things organically, in a sustainable way, is the foundation of the farm. 

Stewart chooses not to grow bulk produce, which would make more money, opting instead for the unique such as heritage strains of corn and the ginger, which he planted for the first time last year.  

“There’s always a quest to do what other people aren’t doing,” he says.

Local chefs are especially fond of Stewart’s high-quality produce, freshly milled grains and honey. Some receive deliveries to their restaurants, while others prefer to visit Stewart or his garden manager Kate Cook directly at the farm or at the Northside Farmers Market, where consumers can purchase these products as well. Stewart is especially proud of his relationship with local chefs and relishes a visit into their kitchens while on deliveries. “I get to see what they’re doing with my food,” he says. “It makes this job fun.”

Chefs Utilizing Carriage House Farm’s Produce

Chef Jose Salazar

The Cincinnatian Hotel & Palace Restaurant  

Chef Salazar can often be found out in the Carriage House fields. “When I come out here I walk away with a new appreciation for my food,” he says. He’s actually working on a program to bring his cooks as well.

Chef Julie Francis 

Nectar

Chef Francis’ super popular Dinner Club Series is an entire dinner (from appetizer to dessert!) focused on a local, seasonal ingredient, like sweet potatoes or tomatoes.

Chef Ryan Santos

Please 

Santos is actually teaming up with Stewart to host his Please dinner club out on the farm. One caveat: everything is cooked over an open fire!