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Guest Blogger

Essay: Elizabeth Warren Believes All We Need is a Fighting Chance

Elizabeth Warren at Book Passage Event/Photo: Frankie Frost

Sen. Elizabeth Warren at Book Passage-Dominican University Event 5-10-14
Photo: Frankie Frost

UPDATE 1/6/19: Elizabeth Warren Announces Iowa Trip as She Starts Running for President in 2020

UPDATE 6/9/16: “I’m ready”: Elizabeth Warren explains to Rachel Maddow why she’s finally endorsing Hillary Clinton.

By Toni Piccinini/July 1, 2014
Photos Below: Courtesy Elizabeth Warren

 “I believe in us. I believe in what we can do together, in what we will do together. All we need is a fighting chance.”  Elizabeth Warren

Women of a certain age chatted and waited politely in the golden light of a late May afternoon. The line to enter Angelico Hall at Dominican University in San Rafael, California snaked down the wide steps and onto the lawn. I took an unscientific polling of the eager attendees and with certainty can report that the women outnumbered the men by at least a factor of four.

Elizaeth Warren book, A Fighting Chance

Senator Warren’s new book

Perhaps because it was the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend and tickets to hear Elizabeth Warren, the first female senator from Massachusetts, speak about her book, A Fighting Chance (Metropolitan Books), made for a lovely date with Mom. Or because we women like these kinds of things—sitting and listening to an author talk about her book.

But most likely the sold-out crowd came to hear Senator Warren because her reputation preceded her. In political speak she is surely a rising star.

I had a general, non-specific, idea of who she was. Something to do with the Obama administration, finances…I knew she had won a tight race in November 2012, and thus became the people’s unlikely outsider representative. But it’s not like she worked in a diner.

Prior to the Senate she was a Harvard Law School professor and the chief designer of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Still, the first elected office she ran for and was elected to was the senatorial seat from the storied Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She legitimately owns the “not a career politico” mantle.

I registered to vote—ferociously Democrat—in 1971, the year I turned eighteen. That was the year that the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, Sofia Coppola was born, and Coco Chanel died. It was, also, when the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was passed, which changed the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen.

Elizabeth Warren and daughter Amelia/ from "A Fighting Chance"/Courtesy: Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth and her daughter Amelia

It was a big deal to vote, a surprise gift given to me three years early. A gift that came with earnest responsibility. For forty plus years I voted in every election. That is until the last one. Fool me once, fool me twice, but fool me dozens of times? Nope. I’ve reached the age of acquired wisdom.

I know politicians say anything to get elected. Put on country clothes and practice some country talk to get that middle of the country vote. Well, I’m done with seduction. My disappointment has led me to a silent protest and a bumper sticker: Don’t Vote—It Just Encourages The ********.

But Lo and Behold, miracles do happen and here I am to testify. I am born again. Senator Warren (@SenWarren) had me at “Here’s the deal,” a get-to-the-bottom-line phrase that resonates with this country girl. She must have said it half a dozen times during her talk. This phrase—Here’s the deal—comes to her naturally because she knows what’s wrong and how to fix it. If FDR was the New Deal, Elizabeth Warren is the Real Deal.

Elizabeth Warren graduating with her daughter in tow/ from "A Fighting Chance"/Elizabeth Warren Photo

Graduating, pregnant and with daughter in tow

She strode onto the stage at 4:23 and promptly engaged the back balcony rows with “Don’t think you back there will get away with anything. There will be a quiz after the talk.” She told us about her teaching years and that she, a daughter of a maintenance man, grew up to become a United States Senator.

She grew up in an “America that was investing in its kids.” And her main concern is that she doubts the America of today can support the mobility she enjoyed because the America we love is broken.

She reminded us of our financial history particularly The Great Depression and how we (led by FDR and the Democrats) dug ourselves out of it. During those challenging years, “We didn’t know what the next great thing would be, but we figured it would need to plug in, so we improved the electrical grid.”

Elizabeth Warren hanging out her law shingle/from book "A Fighting Chance"/Photo: Elizabeth Warren

After Alex was born, hanging out her shingle and practicing law from her living room

In a conversational voice, that felt as if she were talking to us over a glass of lemonade on a covered porch, she continued to retell the facts of history. Even though Washington didn’t know where the next ingenious American invention would come from, the administration knew the product would need to go from Point A to Point B, so we improved the nation’s infrastructure.

We put people to work and we strengthened the country from the inside out. After the 1929 crash America did another important thing—got to work in Congress. Laws were passed to create and enforce strong financial rules, allocate funds for roads, bridges, and dams, and earmark monies for research. All of these pointed to securing our future and the future generations of Americans.

Elizabeth Warren with 2 small children from her book, A Fighting Chance--Photo: Elizabeth Warren from publisher

Still in braces, taking care of Amelia and baby Alex and eventually getting a job teaching law school

I know the America she comes from. I am the first of my family to go to college. I couldn’t have done that without a scholarship. My parents (my Dad an Italian immigrant) could not have built and owned their home—the quintessential American dream—without the help from a local bank and a loan that made sense.

How could this MacBook (the instrument I use to write and share my stories) exist without the inherent American opportunities and innate optimism afforded to a poor young visionary named Steve?

Senator Warren spoke for only thirty-one minutes. Her talk was focused, concise, and no-nonsense. A Fighting Chance is part memoir, part history, and part economic thesis. Her greatest fear is that as the economic divide grows in our country America will fundamentally change and that shift will fundamentally change what it means to be an American. She doesn’t believe that has to happen.

Elizabeth Warren with husband after her Senate victory

Elizabeth makes history and becomes Senator with hugs from husband Bruce.

From the last page of her book: “I believe in us. I believe in what we can do together, in what we will do together. All we need is a fighting chance.”  I believe in Senator Warren. And now I, too, have some work to do. I have some bumper stickers to recycle and a voter registration to update.

Senator Warren’s Talk at Dominican University/Courtesy Book Passage


*** About the Author: Toni Piccinini, writer, author "The Goodbye Year"Toni Piccinini’s writing path has meandered from the scholarly examination (or scary horror story) of antibiotic use in The Journal of Clinical Pathology to her personal essay “House Affair” which was a Narrative magazine Story of the Week.

Along the way she opened a San Francisco “Top 100” restaurant and published recipes and cookbook reviews in local and national newspapers, magazines and cookbooks. The Goodbye Year (Seal Press 2013) is her first book.


GUEST BLOG — Is This Honor? By Pakistani Journalist Farzana Ali

Farzana Ali, Pakistani journalist: photo from Farzana Ali

This blog is from Farzana Ali, a contributor to The Women’s Eye and Bureau Chief for Aaj TV in Peshawar, Pakistan. The following is her editorial about the ‘honor’ killings that are escalating in her country.

Videographers and reporters Habiba Noseen and Hilke Schellman have given us permission to use the photos of the women’s shelter in Lahore, Pakistan. They were published at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

By Farzana Ali, March 29, 2012

More than 900 Pakistani women and girls were killed in the name of ‘honor’ in 2011 …Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Report, March /2012

During my usual work, I was editing my report, but all of a sudden I received a call from my Kohistan ( a district of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa in northwest Pakistan) correspondent informing me that a girl and her alleged lover were shot dead in a village in Palas Kohistan Tehsil.

However, he shared that no FIR (First Information Report) was registered in the police station by the families of either victim as tribal culture does not allow them to seek justice through the authorities. Rather, he said, they opt to take revenge on their own. This was the second incident of honor killing in the same week in the same area.

Twenty-five-year-old Kamalur Rehman, alias Kama, from the Jadoon Khel tribe, allegedly developed a romantic relationship with 21-year-old Bano Bibi from the Badar Sher tribe. According to a report in The Express Tribune, Bibi’s father, Habibur Rehman, a medical technician from the Kohistan Health Department, had fixed her marriage with a relative.

After learning of Bibi’s relationship with Kama, her father is reported to have shot and killed him. Later he went home and allegedly killed his daughter Bibi. He was on the run until last reports came in. According to police, no party has lodged an FIR so far. However the police have started their own investigation.

Woman in Lahore, Pakistan Shelter

Woman in the shelter where Hina Jilani works in Lahore, Pakistan (2011). She was afraid that her family was still hunting her down. Her husband had been killed./Credit: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

This was not a ‘new’ story for me but these types of stories always bring me back to my previous job when I was working as a magazine editor. There I wrote a feature on the honor killing of 29-year-old Saima Sarwar’s cold-blooded murder in April 1999.

This article aroused a great deal of publicity and outrage both at home and internationally. Before Saima’s case, it was believed that honor killings only occurred among rural or uneducated groups. Her mother was a doctor and father, a wealthy businessman.

Saima was the mother of two boys who lived with her parents for four years after leaving her husband. She fled to Lahore after her family threatened to kill her if she tried to divorce her husband. She was given shelter by Dastak, an organization run by the legal aid team headed by Hina Jilani and her sister Asma Jahangir, also a leading Pakistani human rights lawyer. Jilani was representing her in her divorce procedure.

She agreed to see her mother in the Dastak office but before the meeting began, she was shot there by her uncle and died instantly. After the terrible incident, Jilani went to court to prosecute the case. When the FIR was lodged, Saima’s uncle was prosecuted and fined, and the case was sent for trial.

Hina Jilani, runs women's shelter in Lahore, Pakistan

Hina Jilani

But even before the hearings could begin, Saima’s parents used the Qisas and Diyat Law where the victim or heir has the right to determine whether to exact retribution or compensation or to pardon the accused. Another option is to thrash out a compromise amongst the parties and escape prosecution.

After that brutal incident, certain sections of society and several religious organizations sided with Saima’s parents and accused Jilani and her sister of misleading women in Pakistan and contributing to the country’s bad image abroad.

Fatwas were issued against the sisters declaring them “kafirs” and instigating the “believers” to kill the two women. I was the first journalist who wrote a feature on that incident. After publishing that story, I was also strongly criticized by certain sections of society including my colleagues for writing against their traditions and cultural values.

I also remember the conversation in the Senate ( Upper House) when a senator tabled a resolution condemning the killing. In response to the resolution, the morals of Jilani and Jahangir were questioned: “We have fought for human rights and civil liberties all our lives but wonder what sort of human rights are being claimed by these girls in jeans.”

Hina Jilani Dastak Shelter being guarded

The staff and women receive death threats at the Lahore shelter which is protected by armed guards at all times./Photo: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

Out of 87 Senators, only four supported the resolution, and I believe Saima did not get justice because of the flaws in the laws. In 2004, the Criminal Law (Amendment)Act, otherwise known as the ‘Honor Killing Act,’ was put into force to criminalize all murders committed under the name of honor.

However justice is still not provided to Saima and others as many women are still being brutally murdered in the name of honor. Although the government has passed several bills to prosecute discriminatory practices, violence against women continues to rise with each passing day.

According to information in the recent annual report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), at least 943 Pakistani women and girls were callously murdered in the name of honor in 2011. Hundreds were killed by their fathers, husbands, or brothers for damaging their family name. There were 791 such killings in 2010.

Aurat Foundation, the women rights organization, launched a study in January on honor killings in Pakistan, which focused on legislation to counter the trend. Conducted by advocate Maleeha Zia, it showed that many cases featured in the media were not reported to police.

The study also said that if other cases were reported, they had not been classified as honor killing. The study claimed that the courts usually issued verdicts in favor of the killers by using the provision of ‘grave and sudden provocation.’ Zia added that responsible institutions lack the commitment to implement the law.

Woman signing into Hina Jilani center

This woman is signing out and leaving her fingerprints at the shelter before going to

Many lawmakers have the opinion that major shortcomings in the ‘Honor Killing Act’ have rendered the law useless. It did not remove the option of Qisas and Diyat leaving one of the biggest loopholes in the law. It fails to provide protection to victims and punishment for the perpetrators and supporters of this heinous crime.

There are also many flaws in recording data. Another factor is that most of the honor crimes are committed by family members who are “unwilling” to lose another family member. Almost 77% of cases end in acquittal of the perpetrators. As a result, most of the cases end without justice.

Field officer for Human Rights Commission in Pakistan who says incidences of "honor killings" are much higher than reported./Photo: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

Field officer for Human Rights Commission in Pakistan who says incidences of “honor killings” are much higher than reported./Photo: Hilke Schellman/H2H Films

While writing this article, I received news from Nowshera, a District of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, that a mother and her two children were killed. In this case, the cause of murder was that the woman defied her family by marrying a man of her choosing. After five years, her uncle allegedly took revenge and killed three innocent people.

Saima died and so have other women in the name of honor, but justice is still being denied to them through customary practices and discriminatory laws which should be repealed.


About the author:

Farzana Ali has just completed a documentary about the River Indus, which flows through Pakistan, and the life of the people who live along it. It calls attention to the devastation caused by the 2010 floods. She says the film tries to deepen the understanding and consciousness around such large scale destruction and to show the challenges of the rehabilitation process. It will be screened in Islamabad in early April.

Guest Blog: Sandy Foster’s Star of Wonder, Star of Night

Sandy Foster's Star

December 15, 2011

We asked Sandy Foster, the curator of a simply wonderful design website, My Shabby Streamside Studio, to do a blog this year as she had done last December to share with us what the holidays mean to her.

Her articles here on TWE are very popular, and we thought our audience would be interested in hearing from her again. As always, times change, things happen, and life can gobsmack you. Here’s her story this year… [Read more…]


“Getting the Hang of It”

(see Phyllis’ interview on EYE)

From the Ladies Home Journal, 1974


By Phyllis Theroux

Phyllis Theroux | The Journal Keeper | Photo by Duane Berger

Rocking slowly back and forth, pressing the worms in my chest against my hunched-up knees. One little daughter banging for all she’s worth against the front door. The baby, needing to be changed, crying in the backyard. A husband fixing the brakes on his bicycle on the patio. And I am rocking back and forth, not knowing where to place my hands, fix my gaze, or rest my soul.


When the time finally came, I was quite glad to be done with blue jeans and undershirts. One September afternoon my friend Patsy’s mother came to the front door and said that Patsy “wouldn’t be coming out to play today.” I cocked my head toward the second floor and heard radio tunes straining through an open window. I realized Patsy’s time had come. She had dropped out of neighborhood games in favor of curling her hair and pushing back her cuticles with an orange stick. My own participation in ‘Kick the Can grew more desultory. And when my breasts began to hurt from catching hard foot balls, I dropped out, too.

I remember vividly the romance of girlhood when it finally arrived: Merry Widow waist cinchers, crinolines, knowing that I was a rather good dancer. To be perfectly truthful, I didn’t date a lot of boys who measured up to the Big Prize, but they did serve as hooks on which to hang own private visions of marriage.

My tastes lay with the earnest young men who suffered, which brought me into much contact with the short, the acned and the shy. We confessed to thoughts of suicide, fear of breakdowns and worries about Cod. After an evening spent turning over our notions of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness for each other’s inspection, we both felt terribly meaningful. I assumed that this kind of conversation would go on with whomever I married. The little wife would serve up those uniquely feminine insights. I could hardly wait. I had so many stored up.

Always I am trying to communicate. Always he is trying to avoid it. When my soul writhes, I am annoyingly ready to talk about it. Only if I were to take away his children would there be consternation. That is the evil, smelly, never-to-be-played trump card.

In various ways, my family taught me to pity those hot-blooded girls who lent themselves around. It was strongly implied that whereas those thoughtless creatures would marry truck drivers, or worse, I would have my pick of the Ivy League. And so it was that I spent my adolescent passion on the volleyball court, while my peers were getting drunk under their parents’ pianos. I might have been tempted to go astray had I been sought after by the studs of the neighborhood, but they were much more interested in what was going on under the neighborhood pianos.

Here we all are at breakfast. “Starts a man off happy,” mother said. So we get with the orange juice, the frying pan, the buttered toast, the bacon. “Hi, sweetie, here’s the paper.”

Here we all are again at dinner.

Off with the denim skirt, on with a little eyebrow pencil, Simon and Garfunkel. “Hi, sweetie, did you have a good day?” Dinner on the table, fresh corn tonight, clean faces, family together. My bones are singing with fatigue.

“So why aren’t we eating in the kitchen,” he demands. “Look at the crap the kids have dropped on the carpet!

Damn, there it goes—one day’s worth of scenes ruined by the last take, I can’t take another suffocating minute of it.

My parents were very disciplined about keeping their grievances against each other away from us, which made me very good at not taking them into account at all. I graduated from flats to heels, took planes, spent weekends away, and drank steadily of the Hi-C of life.

Once my mother said, with a sigh, that she wished there was a boarding school for grown-ups that she could check into and live the life that I lived every day. But who would gather anything sinister from that?

I am nowhere. Old sources have been blown away. Still there’s that old lust for tenderness, waiting for an arm to gather me in and bury me against a warm chest. Not tonight. With a half-dozen leg twitches, he kicks himself asleep.

Fear freezes anger. Anger apologizes to fear, I am ready to take the pledge again tomorrow. With the orange juice and bacon the Simon and Garfunkel, the positive approach, and time on my side—all in the hopes that there won’t be crap on the carpet or whatever it is that will roll the day back on top of me. One of these days, I’ll get the hang of the slot machine and it’ll come up three cherries. I release the handle and search for sleep.

Guest Blog: Sandy Foster’s Special Holiday Message

Sandy Foster  || Christmas at her Tiny House

I asked Sandy Foster if she’d like to be the first EYE guest blogger. The interview about her tiny retreat earlier this year triggered a warm response from readers who admired her creative spirit. Her website is a must visit.

Sandy starts decorating her 9×14 foot studio in the Catskills in late October and leaves everything up until February, dismantling it as weather permits. The slope to the cabin is steep and snowy so she says she has to ford the stream in her “pink wellies” to get there.

Her dream is to publish a book featuring romantic holiday decor from bloggers worldwide. Creating Vintage Charm Magazine currently features Sandy’s little sanctuary with her beautiful tree on the cover.

Sandy Foster's Vintage Charm Magazine

Here is Sandy’s message along with photos of her enchanting Christmas cottage and upcycled ornaments… [Read more…]