#1123 Fashion for the one- and no-breasted woman

Monokini 2.0

Photography Pinja Valja, Model Katja Mäkilä, Design Mert Otsamo, Styling Tärähtäneet ämmät / Nutty Tarts; from Monokini 2.0 Facebook page

Whether sexualized or service oriented (think infant feeding), breasts are a significant part of a woman’s identity. When cancer takes one or two of them, we can feel diminished, adrift, identities as carved up as our bodies.

Enter Monokini 2.0, “a touring photographic exhibition that challenges what is considered beauty in a female body.” If this were an audience, I would be on my feet, cheering for a stage full of women challenging the idea that only a woman with intact breasts can be beautiful.

Some of us are old enough to remember the 1964 photograph of Peggy Moffitt, modelling a monokini for an issue of Women’s Wear Daily. The designer behind the eye-popping, breast-baring swimsuit was Rudi Gernreich. He was railing against what he viewed as a repressive society way back then.

Fifty years later a new design team is doing it again, only this time the target is women who have had mastectomies. Thanks to cultural focus on breasts, women who lose one, or both, can feel de-sexualized, unattractive, unwomanly.

Stuff and nonsense. After a frustrating decade trying to find a swimsuit that did not demand a prosthesis, Elina Halttunen approached artists Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metter. They enlisted Finnish fashion designers to create ten haute couture swimsuits that defy such stereotyping.

Although their Kickstarter campaign fell short of its goal, they are not giving up. Their traveling collection will bring attention to their vision and just might attract the financial support they need.

The world is awash with one- and no-breasted women. It gives me hope to think one day they will no longer have to undergo reconstruction surgery or weary prostheses. They are beautiful just the way they are.

You can follow Monokini 2.0 on Facebook.


#1099 Singing doctor greets every newborn as a Future Important Person

Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja

Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja, singing to newborn in Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC

Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja sings a welcome to every baby he delivers at Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. As an intern, he learned the practice from a doctor at Allegheny General. When that physician retired, he asked Dr. Andrew-Jaja to continue the tradition. He has been doing it ever since.

The singing starts when the baby enters the world. When the mood in the birthing room is right, Dr. Andrew-Jaja leads the staff in singing the birthday song to the newborn. Sometimes he adds a soothing lullaby, and he often comes into the hospital rooms of new mothers to sing “What a Wonderful World.”

After the Magee-Women’s Hospital posted a video of the singing doctor, Reddit picked it up, garnering nearly a million views. In the video Dr. Andrew-Jaja says:

When I’m singing to those babies I think that I’m singing to a future important person. That’s the credit I give to all of them. So, to me, it’s a wonderful thing in my hand, the miracle of life. And the rest of it is that it’s a beautiful world we live in. You forget about all the crisis going on everywhere for a moment, when you see that miracle of life in front of you.

It is easy to get sucked into the vortex of crisis and despair. We see plenty of reasons for hopelessness in the daily news. But every baby is a new spark of hope. We have a responsibility to welcome those new lives and to do our best to ensure they are loved and supported to reach their full potential. The future depends on that.

My thanks to Mike Lancaster for telling me about the good doctor.


#1095 Upsee miracles: children experience walking for the first time


Bethany and the inventor of the Upsee Debby Elnatan; photo from Firefly’s Facebook page

When Debby Elnaton’s second child was born with cerebral palsy, he cried through most of his first year. She figured Rotem was frustrated because he wanted to move the way any other child could. Her therapist galvanized her when he said, “Your child doesn’t know what his legs are. He doesn’t have consciousness of his legs.”

She began experimenting with special shoes and harnesses that would connect Rotem with her. After numerous tries she created the Upsee. With the child strapped to an adult, facing forward, he could experience what it was like to walk, to dance, to kick a ball.

Thanks to her partnership with Firefly, “a leading light in the research, design and development of postural care solutions for children”, youngsters with physical challenges will have a chance to experience more of the world.

Elnaton told the Belfast Telegraph:

I am crying when I see how parents use the Upsee to fill in a big void in their life and when I see the happiness that it brings to the parents and the children.

The mother who danced in her Upsee and said the hardest part was losing herself. I can relate to this sentence. We often forget what makes us happy. If the Upsee will help families be happier, then I have done my job.

A version of this post first appeared on Hope Habit.


#1083 When his buddy needed surgery, this 7-year-old swung into action

Brayden and Quinn

Good buddies, Brayden and Quinn; photo clip from the fundraising video

Quinn Callander of Maple Ridge, British Columbia is the sort of friend we all need. He’s there for the good times and the hard times. So when the 7-year-old’s buddy needed $20,000 for special surgery in New Jersey, Quinn did more than sympathize. He started raising money.

Quinn’s friend, Brayden Grozdanich, has cerebral palsy. The surgery might give him a chance to walk without braces. A CBC story says he could have surgery in Canada, but it might consign him to a wheelchair. New Jersey is the only place where a different kind of surgery is offered. It has a good chance of giving Brayden a future free of braces or wheelchairs.

You know what’s coming, or at least a version of it. Quinn decided to set up a lemonade stand. You also know it takes a lot of lemonade to earn $20,000 USD.

That is where the story takes on a bigger life. Brayden’s dad is a firefighter. So his buddies showed up to help out with the lemonade stand. Quinn’s mom took another step, starting a crowdfunding initiative to add to the kitty.

The result? The initial goal was met in the first few days, but money just kept pouring in.  Once again, social media showed its strength, and a lot of strangers showed their goodness. Come August, Brayden and his mom will be in New Jersey for the surgery. They will have enough money to cover the survery, travel expenses and the followup physiotherapy.

Chances are very high Brayden will be walking down that airport ramp and into the arms of his buddy when he flies back to Maple Ridge. That gives me hope.

Thanks to my friend Judith for the link to NBC’s story about Quinn and to CBC for covering the good news.


#1057 Play Station or smoke detectors? 9-year-old’s choice is inspiring

Hector Montoya

Grand Prairie Fire Department installing smoke detectors with Hector Montoya; photo from CBS video

Hector Montoya was saving his money for a Play Station 4. The 9-year-old video-game fan was edging closer to his goal when news of a deadly house fire broke his heart. Hearing the mother and daughter might have survived had they just had a smoke detector, he decided saving lives was a better use for the money he had saved.

Saying, “It hurts my heart,” Montoya responded to the deaths by contacting the Grand Prairie, Texas fire department and offering to buy smoke detectors with his money. They took him up on his offer and went one better, involving him in installing them in the homes of people most at risk.

The boy’s savings bought the first 100 smoke detectors. An online plea brought in more than $7000 for others. The local Walmart added another 500.

In fact, Walmart made sure Montoya’s original wish was granted. In a special celebration, they gave him not only a PS4 but also a flat-screen TV and some games besides.

They were not the only ones. A pair of siblings bought him a PS4 and drove 45 minutes each way to deliver it. They also gave him $150 to buy more smoke detectors.

Though Hector Montoya was thrilled with the new Play Station and seemed to enjoy the attention, he appeared even happier to be able to provide smoke detectors for elderly people and for families who reminded him of the mother and daughter who lost their lives.

With his values and priorities focused on helping his community, Hector Montoya is already making a difference. He gives me hope.