The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Diana Nyad

DianaLong-distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, caught the public’s eye in 1975 when she broke a speed record by swimming the 28 miles around Manhattan in under 8 hours. In 1978, her dream was to swim from Cuba to Florida, but she failed on her first attempt. She continued to break world records and retired from swimming at age 30. Diana became a television and radio broadcaster, author, and motivational speaker.

After her mother’s death, Diana reached age 60 feeling “closer to the end than to the beginning.” So she recommitted to pursuing her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida and resumed long-distance training. In September 2013, on her fifth attempt, Diana reached her goal by swimming the 104 miles in 53 hours at age 64 (without a shark cage)! See the The Other Shore film trailer here

Diana Nyad Quotes:

• You never are too old to chase your dreams.
• You can’t start to get into negative spaces…telling yourself it hurts too much, maybe another day… because even people with an iron will [can] talk themselves out of stuff and quit when things get tough.
• All of us suffer heartaches and difficulties in our lives. If you say to yourself, ‘find a way,’ you’ll make it through.
• Life is not over at this age [64] by any means.
• I believe endurance grows and we can never discount the mental…the powers of concentration and perspective of what it all means. What you are capable of is infinitely higher at this age [64] than when you are a young twenty-something.
• So many people discuss the journey and the destination. The destination was always my vision. The journey that took me several years was thrilling. The discovery, the people, and the looking inside at what you’re made of made reaching the destination euphoric.
• Whenever you’re pushing through the tough moments, find a way. If something is important to you and it looks impossible and you’re up against it, step back for a minute and ask yourself if you have the resolve to think of every -nth degree to get through this. And most times, we do.
• I wanted to teach myself some life lessons at the age of 60 and one of them was that you don’t give up.
• I am willing to put myself through anything; temporary pain or discomfort means nothing to me as long as I can see that the experience will take me to a new level. I am interested in the unknown, and the only path to the unknown is through breaking barriers, an often painful process.

Diana Nyad’s website has links to her blog and to videos, including TED talks, so that you may enjoy the fuller experience of this Quotable Nerdy Chick. She is also a contributing writer to the Huffington Post.

Oprah, Carpe Diem, and Motherhood

Years ago, I was a self-employed graphic designer and feeling a bit unsettled about my work. So I tuned in to watch Oprah because her show that day was about finding fulfillment in life.

After discussing the idea of self-fulfillment, Oprah said to me, “Why did God put you on this Earth?”

I responded, “To be a mother.”

Wha??? Not the response I was expecting.

I was single and had given up the hope of marriage. My biological clock had a dead battery. I wanted to be a mother?

italypaintingI have always been a life-is-short-seize-the-day kinda chick. When a new job turned out to be not what I expected, I quit after 18 months and went to study art in Paris for the summer. When a dear college friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, I looked at my own life. Carpe Diem. I sold my condo to buy a little house with my own grass and trees. I spent a month in the medieval village of Urbino, Italy, painting landscapes in oil. I ticked those things off my Life List (I hate the label “Bucket List.”).

But I hadn’t realized that Motherhood was on that list. Not until Oprah. But once it was on my list, I took action.

I found an adoption agency that dealt with international adoptions. I wanted to adopt a toddler, thinking that would back up my age of motherhood a little. The agency advised that toddlers were most available from Russia, so that was where my search took me. After months and months of paperwork, a picture of my daughter arrived in a Fed Ex envelope. It was my last chance to say yes or no to motherhood. I took the photo to my own mother, who said (as I posted here ) “She just needs a mother to put a smile on her face.” I sent my acceptance paperwork back to the agency.


Our first Christmas as a family.

Two months later, I flew to Moscow and waited four days for my daughter to arrive from another city (it was a long, painful labor). After knowing my three-year-old daughter for only 36 hours, I flew home with her. I call it my Nine Hours of Hell. Anna was a constant ball of energy, racing up and down the aisles, not eating or sleeping, and going from laughter to tantrums in seconds, almost throwing my watch down the toilet as I tried to change her pull-up in that tiny restroom, and ripping out every page from her new picture book, One Hundred Words in Russian. At one point, she and I sat on the floor at the back of the plane as I cried to the attendants, “I’m too old for this!”

But I had Seized the Day. I was a mother and nothing would ever change that.


Fun with new glasses last month

19 years later, my Anna is a smart, funny, beautiful, dog-lovin’ photographer and certified pet sitter. Anna and I celebrate Adoption Day every November 11th, the day we arrived at JFK after those airborne Nine Hours. But this November 11th, instead of Hell, we’ll be enjoying a Heavenly platter of gnocchi Bolognese at our favorite restaurant.

We both continually seek self-fulfillment—Anna with her photography and me with my writing. Like motherhood, self-fulfillment is a job for life.

How do you seize the day?

mom01Cover_smAuthor’s note: In 2001, my picture book, The Best Single Mom in the World: How I was Adopted was published by Albert Whitman & Company, although it is no longer in print. If you’d like to read more about my adoption experience, read this article in Adoptive Families magazine, or an interview with me at

The His-Story of Art


Georgia O’Keeffe. Mary Cassatt. Frida Kahlo. You recognize these names, right?

These women and the images they created—the macro views of flowers and skulls, the tender moments between mother and child, the bold, revealing self-portraits—are very familiar to us, almost iconic.

Georgia O’Keefe is my favorite artist, especially her New Mexican landscapes. But I didn’t learn about her until I was an adult. When I was in college, H.W. Janson’s History of Art: A Survey of Major Visual Arts from the Dawn of History to the Present Day was the definitive art history textbook. With the book as our guide, we worked our way through Prehistoric, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Islamic, and Gothic art.

But just as we entered the early Renaissance in Europe, student unrest over the Vietnam War brought strikes and demonstrations to college campuses. On May 4, 1970, a confrontation between the National Guard and students at Kent State University resulted in four student deaths. My college closed at 2:30 a.m. the next morning and we packed up and went home for the year. It was a tumultuous time.

If the semester had continued, we still would not have learned about Georgia, nor Mary, or Frida. Janson’s History of Art, with 553 pages, 80 color plates, 848 black and white images, contained no female artists.

Not a one.

Apparently, since the Dawn of History, women hadn’t been a part of the History of Art.


In the late 60’s, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and her husband, architect Wallace F. Holladay, were surprised to find the same gaping omission. They had traveled abroad and admired a 17th century still life by Flemish painter Clara Peeters. When they returned to the U.S. and sought information about Peeters, they also discovered that History of Art made no reference to Peeters or any other woman. It was then that the Holladays began collecting works by women.

Clara Peeters, Still Life of Fish and Cat, National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Clara Peeters, Still Life of Fish and Cat, National Museum of Women in the Arts, D.C. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

As the collection grew, so did Mrs. Holliday’s vision of creating a museum of women’s art. Coincidentally, the modern women’s movement in the 70’s was picking up steam and demanded a revisionist look at art history that included women and multicultural contributors.

A_Museum_of_Their_Own_smallIn 1981, Mrs. Holladay incorporated the National Museum of Women in the Arts as a private, nonprofit museum, residing in her house. The NMWA eventually found a home in a renovated, former Masonic Temple and opened its doors in 1987 in Washington, D.C. The Holladay Collection became the core of the museum’s collection. As a charter member, I attended the members’ preview. I’ve never forgotten the grandeur of the Great Hall and the galleries that finally gave women’s art a home.

The NMWA Great Hall Photograph courtesy of Tom Field

The NMWA Great Hall
Photograph courtesy of Tom Field

Today, the NMWA has a collection of over 4,500 objects by women, which includes not only paintings starting in the 16th century, but works on paper, photography, sculpture, Native American pottery, and contemporary art books. Beyond the visual arts, the Museum also celebrates the performing arts and the written arts. The museum describes their mission this way: “By bringing to light remarkable women artists of the past while also promoting the best women artists working today, the museum directly addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art in the U.S. and abroad, thus assuring great women artists a place of honor now and into the future.”

And what about the absence of women in Janson’s History of Art? Oh, that was finally rectified in 1986—23 years after the first edition! See if you can find Frida now.

Thank you, Mrs. Holladay! Your vision assures that generations of girls will see talented female role models celebrated in museums. With that kind of inspiration, they will confidently follow their artistic dreams the way Georgia, Mary, and Frida did.

If you can’t visit the National Museum of Women in the Arts in person, learn more at

Teachers will find resources and outreach programs at

Who is your favorite female artist?

Five Authors Give Back-to-School Advice

As of today, almost every kid in the nation has gone back to school. In honor of this annual event, we thought it’d be fun to highlight some advice from some of the amazing authors we’ve interviewed in the past. We usually ask this question:

If you could give your high school or middle school self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Here are their answers:

amy reevesAmy Carol Reeves:

Don’t worry about so much!  I was very Type A and so much of what I worried about didn’t really matter in the long run.  (Oh, and to my middle school self—puffed bangs were REALLY not cool! What were you thinking?)

katie davis

Katie Davis:

Do not, I repeat, do not get that short haircut and subsequent perm in ninth grade, in the year 197(mumbles something incoherent).



Shannon W

Shannon Wiersbitzky:

Ditch the long hair sooner! (grin)

Actually, I’d sit my younger self down and say, “Never doubt your abilities. EVER.” I’ve spoken to lots of women, of all ages, and it seems we all have this annoying voice in our heads that says, “Maybe you’re not ______ enough.” Just fill in the blank….smart, thin, talented, driven, creative, loud, beautiful. We’ve all heard it, no matter where we are in our life or our career. When we don’t quiet that voice, it can cause us to miss the most wonderful opportunities. I try to remind myself that all the time, and then I remind other women as well. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way.


Barbara Johansen Newman:

I could pretend my seventh grade self would listen if I told her not to worry about what her peers were thinking, but I am sure she would roll her eyes and let me go in one ear and out the other. I certainly could not tell her that none of the people around her would matter much in ten years because I ended up marrying one of those seventh graders in my own section and here we still are almost fifty years later  

Kathryn ErskineKathy Erskine:

Who cares what the other kids say — be yourself and be proud of it.  Hey, that sounds like the advice Kara would give in THE BOY PROJECT!  She is one smart, nerdy chick! (Thanks Kathy!)

I can’t help but notice that this advice falls mostly into two camps. Camp One: Don’t worry. Camp Two: You will live to regret (and even laugh about) that bad hair style. So pass the wisdom of these ladies on to a student you love, and assure them that they are not alone. We’ll highlight more back-to-school advice soon. In the meantime, just click on the author’s name to see their original interviews and to learn about their books. Have a great weekend!

Women’s Equality Day

The object in this image is within the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The object in this image is within the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Today is Women’s Equality Day, a day where we commemorate the anniversary of the certification of the nineteenth Amendment. Ninety three years ago women were given the right to vote!

I didn’t realize this until I saw the Facebook post of Nerdy Chick Christy Agner.  Christy is an advocate for women in government. We interviewed her about a year ago, and you can check out that interview HERE. At the time of her interview, we asked her to share a favorite achievement. She discussed helping NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall win her first statewide election. Christy gave us such a great and thorough answer, that we decided to share it as it’s own separate post at another time. Now is that time.

NCR: What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

Christy Agner: My first ‘paid’ campaign job was for Elaine Marshall who was the first women to be nominated by a North Carolina Political Party as a statewide candidate and who went on to be the first female elected statewide in NC (1996.)  She and her husband ran the statewide campaign with 3-4 of us by her side.  Elaine was just a regular woman who worked hard and had a desire to better her community.  None of the political insiders thought she could win that race.  The team had little money, our opponent was WELL known and funded (Richard Petty, the former NASCAR driver), and folks really didn’t know what a ‘Secretary of State’ did.

On a shoestring, we traveled, connected with local newspapers, raised money $25 at a time and spent hours on the phone. To raise funds I had to look at lots of lists, target folks from professional, community and political circles who might be interested in making a donation.  I had to find phone numbers and addresses in the days when very little was ‘out there on the Internet.’  I remember our first big fundraiser, which was a hometown event and the local ladies really wanted to add the ‘special touch’ of hand-addresses all the invitations versus just running labels.  Problem was an approaching hurricane surprised us all and the invitations were spread across the city at these ladies’ homes.  I spent the last hours of that approaching hurricane gathering as many invitations as possible and packed up my car to drive 45 minutes home before Hurricane Fran hit (and yes that was a really dumb move as the trees were swaying all over the dern road.)  The next day, since we had no power, my roommate and I finished addressing and stamping nearly 500 invitations  and got them to the central post office which was still open.  Our friends were grilling out and having hurricane parties.  I was getting political fundraising invitations in the mail.  Now that’s nerdy!

Polls weren’t as prevalent in those days.  Literally on election night the only thing I knew was that the opponent’s campaign had outraised my efforts 5 to 1.  Boy was I disappointed in myself that I didn’t put my candidate in the best possible opportunity to succeed.  I watched campaign returns for hours trying to understand where the votes were going to go.  At the end of election night, Elaine Marshall made history and did it with a wide margin.  Her presence changed everything once she got ‘to the table.’ I was honored to raise funds and grassroots support for her because I believed she would make a difference in my life and those women who came behind me.  She has made that difference.

What a great story to share on Women’s Equality Day! 

In thinking about Women’s Equality Day, and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we’ll be featuring some of Coretta Scott King’s quotes later this week. But I can’t resist sharing one of those with you now.

If American women would increase their voting turnout

by ten percent, I think we would see an end to all of the

budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children.

I agree. One organization that is working to increase women’s voter turnout is Lillian’s List, NC. They are currently running a special membership deal. You can read more about Lillian’s list in Christy’s original interview, or visit their website HERE.

By the way, there are still a few hours left to enter to win FREE CHOCOLATE. Think Happy!

Community and Candice

A lot of people claimed to stop watching American Idol this season because they didn’t like the judges. Maybe you didn’t like Nicki Minaj’s acerbic observations. Maybe you’ve heard one too many dogs walk out of Randy’s mouth. Maybe Mariah’s dahlings got on your nerves. Maybe you found Keith Urban irritating. Kidding. Keith Urban is perfect.But for whatever reason, a lot of TVs across the nation weren’t tuned in this season. This was not the case where I live, in Beaufort SC, where it seems every household in the county was tuned in to FOX on Wednesday and Thursday nights to watch our hometown girl, Candice Glover, perform. It has been an exciting few weeks for us here in our little town. If you missed Candice’s performances, take a look now. I  get chills every time I hear this one.

Candice, who tried out three times for AI and was reportedly once told by former judge Simon Cowell that she’d never amount to more than a lounge singer, is an inspiration to girls everywhere. Her journey shows us all the importance of believing in yourself, even in the face of discouragement, and fighting for your dreams. We here in Beaufort County love her for it.


Our community has thoroughly embraced Candice, who is from nearby St. Helena, which is part of Beaufort County, and located about  7 miles from downtown Beaufort. I’ve been touched by the far-

This month Beaufort was also voted America's Happiest Seaside Town. Who voted? The people who live here. More proof of what can happen when a community works together.

This month Beaufort was also voted America’s Happiest Seaside Town. Who voted? The people who live here. More proof of what can happen when a community works together.

reaching support shown for her. It makes me proud to live here. A local print shop, Murr’s printing, created signs that were free to the public and distributed widely. There are signs up on every storefront downtown. There are messages of hope and support  in front of schools, on bumper stickers, and on t-shirts. A fund was started by Shannon Erickson, a member of  the SC House of Representatives, to help send Candice’s parents to her performances. So much money was donated, that after the fund was started, Mr. and Mrs. Glover were able to fly out to LA  to make every performance to see their daughter sing.  There was even money left over to help fund the Hometown Concert, which cost the city around fifty thousand dollars.

Go CandiceWaste Management, where Candice’s father works, made special uniforms to show support, an effort which spread across their national company. There were many public viewings of Candice’s performances, offering opportunities for us to celebrate her progress together. The Highway 21 drive-in offered free showings, as did USCB, The Preserve, and other places around the county, including Hilton Head. The mayor sent out emails encouraging us to vote for Candice. The Chamber of Commerce encouraged voting through the newspaper. My Facebook feed was alive with Candice support. The list goes on and on.

I think Candice has an amazing voice, and I don’t think I’m biased in saying she was the best contestant! 😉 !  She could have won on talent alone, and she should have. But if community has anything to do with who wins, Beaufort County gave Candice an edge. A lot of people here know her, and she comes from a large tight-knit and wonderful family. The community loves them. My daughter met Candice’s cousin at the hometown concert. When she found out my daughter wanted an autograph, she arranged for my husband to deliver posters to Candice’s parents, who took them to LA, had them signed, and brought them back to us. We didn’t know Candice’s parents, but they were so gracious, and generous. I think this is how community works.

We are so proud of Candice Glover: The girl who never gave up, and who fought to keep believing!