Talent Crush

There are women who light us up with all that they are and all that they have accomplished. This is where you get to crush out with us.

Elena Kagan Talent Crush

Elena Kagan, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Let us pause in our praise of Notorious RBG for just a moment and have a look down the bench at Elena Kagan. Forget she has to sit next to the new guy who, let’s face it, not everyone is particularly thrilled with, and get to know Justice Kagan. She worked for Bill Clinton so some people don’t like her for that. She’s never been a trial lawyer so some people have a problem with her for that. She was appointed by President Obama. She’s Jewish. She went to Princeton, Oxford and Harvard. Oh my God! She was born in Manhattan?

The strikes are piling up here. East coast elite, Ivory tower, out of touch with the common man…blah-bidity-blah-bidity-blah. Read more

Stephanie and Joan Talent Crush

Stephanie and Joan

For Mother’s Day, it seemed fitting to pay tribute to our first and most influential talent crushes, our moms.  We love you Stephanie and Joan!



My mom was ahead of her time.  If Pinterest and Instagram had been around in the 70s and 80s, she would have had a million followers.  We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but she would carefully put away a little bit of money each month to make sure she could throw us perfect birthday parties, with a delicious homemade cake, pretty decorations, tasty snacks and fun games.

She also sewed us clothes that were amazing.  My favorite thing that she ever made for me was a terry cloth romper with parrots printed all over it.  It was RAD! If I could replicate that outfit, I would rock it in a heartbeat. There was also a rainbow collared t-shirt that I wore with my Mork & Mindy rainbow suspenders and a sweet Laura Ingalls Wilder dress, that I would use to play Little House on the Prairie.  Both of my daughters wore that dress for costumes and school plays. Her profile would have been amazing.

I often come across articles about growing up in the 70s with stories of parents who barely paid attention to their kids.  My mom wasn’t like that at all.  She knew where my sister and I were and who we were with.  She got to know our friends and their parents.  She drove us all around town to activities and stood up to any teacher/coach/bully who didn’t treat us with the respect she deemed we deserved. 

Later, when my sister and I were older, my mom went back to work full time and instead of sewing us clothes, she worked her ass off to buy us the occasional pair of Guess jeans and dresses at the Gunne Sax outlet in San Francisco for proms and graduations.  We would drive into the city in her awesome hot pink Geo Metro. I am really dating myself here, but those were good times! She and my dad worked and commuted hours upon hours from the central valley of California to the Bay Area to be able to send us both to college, with no student loans.  I can’t express my gratitude enough for that lasting and meaningful gift.

When my kids were born, my parents moved from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara to be closer and my mom sewed quilts and curtains for the baby’s room.  My husband would arrive at their house, unannounced with cups of Starbucks and a baby in the early morning hours to let me sleep in and my parents let him in without complaint.

My mom set the bar high.  She taught me to throw myself into the mothering experience, to lavish love and attention and to express love fully.  I could go on and on singing her praises. I love you, Mom!



When I was 22 years old I was unmarried, pregnant and a junior college drop out. And I lived in a basement. When I told my mom I was pregnant, she clapped her hands and hugged me and cried tears of joy. This reaction made zero sense to me. My mom was staunchly pro-choice, an atheist and famously short tempered with every human being she ever met. She thought 98% of the world’s population was just taking up valuable space. She hated every single one of the many neighbors we had over the years. And yet she was genuinely thrilled at the news that her daughter was bringing a new human into the world. What? Why?

I was not a highly competent 22 year old. Remember, I lived in a basement. But my mom never once made me feel as if I couldn’t handle my choice to become a parent. To this day I don’t understand why my mom didn’t move in next door to me and make me let her help me raise the baby. I knew NOTHING about babies. But she never made me feel as if I couldn’t handle being a mom.

The truth was, my mom thought I was smart. She thought I was funny and intelligent and that there was nothing I couldn’t do. And she told me that a lot. She said things like, “What a good idea!” and “I never would have thought of that, you’re so smart.” And I knew she meant it because my mom had zero ability to flatter people. If she thought you were doing something idiotic, she would tell you. In detail.

It was not easy being my mother’s daughter. But being my mother’s daughter was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. She taught me that what I thought was more important than what I looked like. She was a terrible teacher so instead of teaching me to sew, she gave me all the tools and a book and said, “When you get stuck come and ask me and I’ll help you.” She taught me the value of solitude. She taught me basic math skills by teaching me to play 21. She taught me to prefer Gene Kelly over Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra over Bing Crosby because Astaire and Crosby were (in her mind) cold and too often perfect for her liking. She once quit a lucrative job because she realized she was miserable when she failed to laugh at a Bugs Bunny cartoon we were watching.

She read voraciously. She loved movies. She thought Bob Hope was the funniest person who ever lived and every time Ray Charles sang “Georgia on My Mind” she would cry and then pretended as if her allergies were acting up. Her mother’s name was Georgia and she died when my mom was 21. My mom missed her mom every day after that and it wasn’t until the day after my mom died that I understood.

And, now that my older son is the same age I was when I had him, I try to treat him with the same respect that my mom treated me. When he tells me he’s going to do something that maybe I think is a stupid idea, I keep it to myself. I listen to my son, I encourage him to think through his ideas and I tell him he is smart and competent and I remind him not to fool himself into thinking that life is easy. I try to keep the unsolicited advice to a minimum and mostly I remember my mom’s reaction when I told her I was pregnant. Her joy was a sign that deep down, my mom believed in me. And so I try to greet my children in that same spirit.

I am my mother’s daughter and that has made all the difference.

Amy Poehler Talent Crush

Amy Poehler

Aileen is funner, more clever and a better writer than I am.  I’m good at lots of other things and that makes us a great team.  But when it comes to blog content, she’s the boss. We work together to come up with ideas and I’m happy to step back and play a supporting role.  This week, Aileen took on most of the meaty content and I asked how I could be helpful. She asked, “Do you think you could manage to do our Talent Crush blog on Amy Poehler?” Read more

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I tried writing 3 different versions of this talent crush but there are just people who speak better for themselves. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of those people. Author and thinker, Adichie gave a TED talk in 2012 that has been viewed over 1.6 million times on YouTube. The talk was turned into a book, We Should All Be Feminists, which is our reading challenge for the week.

Adichie speaks with humorous precision about feminism, a topic many of us flounder our way through. Read more

Madeleine Albright Talent Crush

Madeleine Albright

If ever I needed someone to tell me what to do about North Korea, I would choose Madeleine Albright. Few people know as much about fascist regimes as Albright. Like millions of people, Albright’s life was shaped by the violence of fascist regimes in the early half of the 20th century. Albright was the first female Secretary of State. She also oversaw some of the more controversial decisions the Clinton administration made, both at the U.N. and as Secretary of State.

Albright’s latest book, Fascism: A Warning, examines the growth of authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe, North Korea, Turkey and Russia. The book also takes on what she sees as the growing threat of fascism in America. When Madeleine Albright says you might be looking at a possible fascist problem in your country, you might want to pay attention. Remember, her specialty has been following the development of fascist regimes around the world.

Here is Albright’s take on President Trump, “I think that he is the most anti-democratic president that we have had in modern history and that his instincts are really in that direction.” And what direction would that be? The direction of an authoritarian leader.

So don’t read her latest book before bed, you won’t get much sleep. Albright’s memoir, Madam Secretary, is a wonderfully written book so take that one to bed with you. Albright is not without her detractors and she would be the first person to say she is not perfect. That being said, Albright is a figure worth getting to know, not only for her thoughts on the dangers of authoritarian rulers but also as a witness to the horrors those leaders have unleashed on the world.

Lindy West

Lindy West

For those of you not familiar with Lindy West, she is a very, very funny comedian and an excellent writer. What’s even more impressive, is that she has taken those skills and uses them as tools for political activism. Lindy isn’t afraid to speak up on notoriously difficult subjects like abortion, rape jokes and fat shaming. Well, maybe she is afraid, but she does it anyway and we’ve all agreed that means she’s brave.

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Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is ambitious. And we, as consumers of media, are the direct beneficiaries of her ambition. I have enjoyed every project she involves herself in. She’s going to be in the Ocean’s 8 film coming out this summer. She was in A Wrinkle in Time. The Mindy Project remains one of my all time favorite TV shows. I laughed all the way through her first book and I haven’t read her second one but I just ordered it from the library so I have that to look forward to.

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Tammy Duckworth

US Senator Tammy Duckworth

Senator Tammy Duckworth is the consummate American hero. Her resume is so impressive it brings tears to my eyes. Duckworth served in the US Army in Iraq as a helicopter pilot. It was one of the few combat positions available to women. She suffered severe combat wounds and became a double amputee in 2004. After recovery, she went BACK into military service for another decade. She retired from the Illinois Army National Guard in 2014 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Read more

The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls

My mom used to watch The Golden Girls when it was on prime time in the late 80’s. My mom and my older son used to love watching  reruns. Older son is 22 and still watches The Golden Girls.  He loves it. Many people his age love it. There is a Golden Girls coloring book. What is happening?

When was this thing on the air? I’m going to go check, I’ll be right back. It ran from 1985 to 1992. There’s no way I saw any episode past 1989. At least I hope I wasn’t at home watching The Golden Girls with my mom when I was a senior in high school, but you never know. Oh man, it aired on Saturday night! I really, really, really hope I wasn’t home on Saturday nights watching Golden Girls with my mom.

I probably was. Read more

Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates

Everytime I hear Melinda Gates speak, or read something she’s written, I learn something new.   It was while listening to a short interview with Gates on Call Your Girlfriend, that I became passionately inspired to explore the concept of unpaid labor and the socioeconomic impact it has on women across the globe.

Gates was responding to questions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 2016 annual letter in which they each discuss an area of foundation focus for the following year.  In this letter, Melinda Gates discusses the topic of unpaid labor in an incredibly engaging way.  If you’re confused about what we mean when we’re talking about unpaid labor, Gates does a terrific job of describing it, Read more