Fiorina and Clinton book covers

Rising Toward the Last Glass Ceiling…

Will the 2016 election be historic? The odds are looking better and better…

Fiorina and Clinton book covers
According to their book covers, Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton have had to make tough & hard choices along the way.

While many women continue to bump up against the glass ceiling in their respective fields, the country watches as two women, one Democrat, one Republican, move toward the highest glass ceiling in the land; the Presidency of the United States.

Hillary Clinton came close eight years ago. One can only imagine how hard it was for her to see what many believe has been a long held goal, to be America’s first woman President, slip from her grasp.

She handled the loss with grace and team spirit, supporting her opponent in the general election and accepting the consolation prize of Secretary of State. And now she’s back, to try at age 67, for what is likely the last time.

Her decades of government and political experience leave little doubt of her ability to do the job. But she is once again in a tough fight, this time of her own making, due to her use of a private email server while at the State Department.

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina has had a near meteoric rise in the polls since her two outstanding debate performances. If and when Donald Trump is out of the race, (Private editorial comment inserted here: That time can not come soon enough.) Fiorina could emerge as a/the top candidate.

There has been no lifetime in politics for Fiorina: A college dropout who started at Hewlett Packard as a receptionist, she’s worked hard to have what should have been a fairy tale ending…becoming CEO of the company.

Instead the ending was a nightmare: Fiorina was unceremoniously let go by the board of HP who accused her of running the company in to the ground. She next surfaced publicly when she ran for the U.S. Senate in California, losing to incumbent Barbara Boxer, a race many had thought was winnable.

Like Hillary, Carly has proven her courage and toughness through numerous challenges including battling breast cancer, burying a stepdaughter who died of a drug overdose, and holding her own in a Republican field of sixteen men.

No matter what party or candidate you support, if you’re a woman, please get involved. The political process needs you! And you might even help make history!!

I Forgot to Remember…

I’m in the process of moving my office which I’ve occupied for twenty-two years. A typical “type A”, my work space looks crowded and cluttered, not in a hoarders sort of way, more like a piles of papers and stacks of notes way, but I know where everything is, or so I thought until I started to dismantle it.

Tumbling out from shelves and drawers came letters, memos, accolades, and souvenirs, and most of all memories I’ve collected, but hadn’t thought of in years.

The Paper Stackpace of my highly focused packing slowed to a leisurely journey down memory lane as I sifted through one project, one accomplishment, one challenge, after another.

When I finished, I had a small metal chest, a fireproof model I bought for important papers like insurance policies, filled with much more important papers that, when looked at as a whole, represent two decades of accomplishments about which I am very proud.

I taped a note to the lid of the chest that reads “Victory Box”

I used to tell my women’s leadership classes that they should keep a “brag file”…every time they do something above & beyond, write a note to themselves and put it in there. Each time someone sends an email or memo thanking them for their help, or when they receive a great performance review, put it in the brag file. Then on those days when it hasn’t gone so well, when you’ve screwed up, or been accused of doing so even if you didn’t, pour yourself a cool beverage and go through that file and let your past efforts speak for themselves.

Sometime we simply need to be reminded how smart, how competent, we really are. Starting now, I’m taking my own advice.

Proudly Presenting Perspectives Poetry Contest Winners…

When one begins something new, there’s no way to know how successful it might be or how it will end. In the case of the Perspectives Poetry Contest, “it” has exceeded my highest expectations and ended with a stunningly beautiful winning poem by Gwyndolyn Parker, and with inspiring second and third place poems by Lindsay Schaefer and Donna Fleetwood.

As a writer myself, I understand the courage it takes to open your innermost private thoughts to the scrutiny of others. Many thanks to all of you who submitted your work for consideration: (In the order they were received) Gloria Domina, Valerie Kovacs King, Cindy Schneider, Natasha Serrano, Carol Minski, David Drescher, Carrie Ward, Robin Zmoda.

My goal for the contest was to encourage people, especially those who do not write professionally, to tap in to their creativity, let their thoughts flow, and be willing to share the product of that process. The outcome was an amazing display of talent.

Special gratitude goes to our three judges, Bathsheba Monk, Kae Tienstra, and Carolyn Potser. So many wonderful poems were submitted that they really had their work cut out for them: The final round of voting, based on a points and grid system, found several of the top tier poems separated from each other by a margin of only a half percent.

It is with great pleasure that I present to you the top three winning poems…

First Place: Shaping My Life by Gwyndolyn Parker of Douglasville, Georgia

Gwyndolyn Parker

Gwyndolyn Parker

Gwyndolyn is retired from Dun and Bradstreet where she served as Director, Supplier Diversity & Socio-Economic Business Solutions. Before moving to Georgia, Gwydolyn was very active in her Lehigh Valley, PA, community, serving on the City of Allentown, Human Relations Commissions, as well as the Board of Directors of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches and Hispanic American League of Artists.

Her passion for fairness, justice, and diversity has inspired her worldwide travels and her authorship of six self-published books.

Shaping My Life

 There are some women,

Who have shaped my life

 Nina Simone

With her songs

Maya Angelou

With her poetry

Faith Ringgold

With her art

Barbara Jordan

With her political stance

Shirley Chisholm

With her run for president

Oprah Winfrey’s

Climb to the top

Harriet Tubman’s

Fight for our freedom

Sojourner Truth’s

Ain’t I A woman?

These women

Have shaped my thoughts

Prepared my way

With their life

The way they lived it

The way they saw it

I want to change something

By being in it

I want to know

My thoughts also made a difference

My feet left prints

My stones made ripples in the ocean of life

I want to know that the world

Has been forever altered

Because I lived

I know the world

Will not remember

Me like a

Nina or a Maya

But if



Remembers something I said

Or something I wrote

It will be enough

For me to rest my head

Knowing I too made a difference

By being in it

                                     Gwyndolyn Parker


Second Place: Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer by Lindsay Schaefer of Bethlehem, PA

Lindsay Schaefer
Lindsay Schaefer

Lindsay Schaefer is the artistic director of Artists in Unity, a multi-disciplinary arts company, and creator of Movement for You, a way-of-life practice that is a fusion of Yoga, Pilates and dance. Lindsay’s career has taken her throughout the US as a performer, choreographer, and teacher in the world of dance and movement practices. Her creative spirit led her to form Artists in Unity five years ago after moving from NYC to the Lehigh Valley. In her “spare” time, she is a wife and a mother to two children ages nine and seven.



 Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer

The Dance-

It slips away

Then runs back

As if…..

It never left


Once a dancer

I say

Always a dancer


Our bodies may change

Our ability to do everything may change

But, our hearts and deep love

For the dance

Never changes

We are always one with the Dance


A beautiful image

I carry

Of dancers

At 60, 70, 80

Maybe 90

White loose fabric blowing in the breeze

With hair long and free as the neck releases

The body twirls

As if

I am

Visiting years past

But, present today


The maturity

Grounds the body

Places me in my pure reality

The confidence

Eases the body

Into lightness and flow

My movement


The body has aged

Beautifully, I may say


I still see the dance

I still feel the dance


For I am still the dance

I am Always a Dancer

                      Lindsay Schaefer


Third Place: Beloved Babies by Donna Fleetwood of Mechanicsburg, PA

Donna Fleetwood

Donna Fleetwood

Donna Fleetwood is a full time Real Estate agent in the greater Harrisburg market. She also coaches other Real Estate agents and writes a professional blog, “Sell with Meaning”. Donna enjoys the meditative quality of reading and writing poetry, and has attended writing workshops in New Mexico and Utah. She often incorporates her poetry into visual journaling, layering paint and words. In addition to her business and creative pursuits, Donna serves on the executive committee of an international non-profit and works diligently in behalf of their constituents in Rwanda and Central America.

                                                                 Beloved Babies

                                                                    Rwanda was a slaughterhouse.

                                                                     Woke up this morning thinking

                                                                    About that blood soaked school

                                                               Of death and torture

                                                                Graduating class, April 1994.

                                                              Anitha tells of her cousin,

                                                              Delicate heel sliced with machete.

                                                             She falls, no place to hide.

                                                             Tall tree lasts a week,

                                                                Chopped down piece by piece.

                                                             Turn your head now,

                                                             “Don’t tell me more!”

                                                               In the land of safety, these things don’t happen.

                                                               In the land of plenty, this is not our human experience.

                                                             Only savages do that.

                                                              Flash forward July 2012.

                                                             Bloody theater Aurora, Colorado.

                                                            Orange headed clown with gun and grin,

                                                             Once known as Beloved Baby, soft and pink,

                                                             Now he goes by darker names.

                                                         From outside in

                                                           We blame object-

                                                            Gun, Parent, Media, Government.

                                                         We still can’t see inside

                                                           Where fetid madness starts.

                                                                The heart of darkness is not a place

                                                                 With borders and directions.

                                                            No geography really.

                                                              That map walks around on two legs.

Women of the World at the United Nations

That first view of Manhattan is always a thrill but never more so than knowing we were headed for the United Nations.

Every conceivable event, product, food, seems to have its own day or month: March alone runs the gamut from ridiculous to serious, from National Ear Muff Day to International Women’s Month. Although it was chilly enough for the former, it was in honor of the latter that I, along with friend and colleague, Attorney Eleanor Breslin of Easton, traveled to New York to attend the United Nation’s Conference on the Status of Women. 

Eleanor and I share a desire to have a positive impact on the struggles of women in the developing world, especially in post-conflict countries where war and violence have resulted in many women being subjected to brutality beyond the imagining of most westerners. Eleanor has traveled to Africa to work with victims of mass rape and I have been to Afghanistan as both an advocate and writer. We have found outlets for our passion on this side of the ocean through two NGO’s, The Business Council for Peace, Bpeace, an organization whose focus is creating women entrepreneurs who will then create jobs, and Open A Door Foundation, OAD, who believes in global transformation through women’s higher education.

Four of OAD’s students are currently in the Lehigh Valley, three at Lehigh University and one at Lafayette College. More will be coming in the fall of 2014, including the addition of a student at Muhlenberg College.  It was at the invitation of OAD that Eleanor and I boarded a bus bound for New York and the United Nations’ CSW Conference.

To call our experience “inspiring” would be an understatement. Sharing the energy of women from around the world all gathered in one place for one purpose, advocating for the welfare of their sisters, creates an atmosphere of “anything is possible”. Eleanor and I especially enjoyed two panel discussions where OAD co-founder, Barbara Bylenga, participated; “Empowering Women as Change-Agents through Global Networking” and “From Higher Education to Women’s Leadership”.

Panel discussion on “Empowering Women as Change-Agents” at the UN Conference on the Status of Women

After spending time in the company of hundreds of women committed to improving conditions for women within their countries, it’s almost easy to envision a future where every woman enjoys equal protection under the law and equal opportunity in their culture. Yet, certain voices remain with me, certain faces are imprinted on my mind days after returning home, like the woman representing a united federation of women’s organizations from the Ukraine, who stood to say that the young women of her country are demanding democracy. And the woman who spoke of the Syrian university students her organization is rescuing so they can continue their education. Through the euphoria of our common purpose, they are a stark reminder of the realities that still exist.

Why should this matter to those of us whose lives are safe and secure? Because where women are repressed, uneducated, brutalized, half of that country’s potential is lost. No economy can thrive without the input of its women. The result is poverty, war, turmoil, and terrorism.

In honor of International Women’s Month, and for the good of the planet, please consider doing your part to have a positive effect on the future of women around the world. Donate; Volunteer; Mentor. One person CAN make a difference.

Mary Barra

Barra Ascendency A Double Win…

Mary Barra
Mary Barra, GM’s new CEO.

Mary Barra’s rise to CEO at General Motors is a win not only for women who wonder if their gender will ever see parity in America’s corporate “C” Suites, it’s also a win for STEM proponents everywhere. Mary rose through the ranks not from sales or marketing but as an engineer. One of her first public statements after her appointment was to promote the importance of girls, and boys, becoming proficient in science and math.

According to an article on CNBC online, labeling Barra a “rock star”, her mere presence at this week’s Detroit auto show caused a near media riot. While this level of attention will undoubtedly be short-lived, let’s hope her influence on how women view their chances of making it to the top, are not. And if even one smart little girl decides it’s cool to study math, science, biology, & engineering, then Mary Barra will have something, beyond her own success, to be very proud of.

Do You Believe In Magic?

Well do you…do you believe in magic? I do, and sometimes it is what keeps me going during those times when you think you’re never going to be happy, or successful, or appreciated, again. I believe that out there, somewhere, is always the possibility that lightening will strike and offer us mere mortals one of those rare moments when all the stars align.

Such a moment happened recently to Sarah Horn. Sitting in a Hollywood Bowl audience of 15,000 at a Kristin Chenoweth concert, Sarah had no idea that her lightening strike moment was coming. Chenoweth often chooses someone from her audience to come on stage to “sing” with her. Last Friday evening Chenoweth stopped in front of Sarah, who due to a ticket mix-up was in a different seat, to ask if she knew the words to the song “For Good” from the musical Wicked.  The result of this random audience selection is usually an endearing amateur effort followed by a quiet return to their seat.

Not this time: The video of Horn’s performance with Chenoweth has gone beyond viral with nearly two million hits. No wonder, it’s the kind of moment we all dream of having…of getting our shot. But this was so much more, Sarah Horn was ready; an unknown vocal instructor from Riverside, California, she had in her own way been preparing for this all her life. She had the goods and she delivered, knowing this would never come again. She got up on that stage in front of thousands, stood next to a Broadway star and held her own…it was magic.

The pay-off has come, too; Horn has been inundated with requests for interviews and she’s doing a little interviewing of her own…for an entertainment attorney and an agent. You go girl!! 

Sarah Horn’s inspiring performance provides a real life-lesson for the rest of us: Never give up your dreams; always believe in magic; and most importantly, be prepared to wow ’em when your moment comes. Oh yes, and when they make a mistake with your ticket, trust that your fairy god-mother is on duty and move post-haste to the new location.

Woman Warrior Wednesday: Jessica L. Wright, Acting Principle Dep. Asst. Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs

WrightPortrait Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then Brig. Gen. Jessica Wright, was summoned to Washington, D.C. At the end of a long day, which included learning that a good friend had died at the Pentagon, she and a few colleagues stopped at a little out-of-the-way Mexican restaurant. A group of men with cords in their ears arrived and Wright found herself face to face with her commander in chief.

Dressed in civilian clothes, Wright looked like any other citizen. One of her friends said, "Mr. President, this is Jessica Wright, and she’s a general in the Pennsylvania National Guard." When the President and Mrs. Bush were leaving, he walked to the table and said, "General, be ready." "Sir, we are ready," came the reply. Keeping one of the largest National Guard forces in the United States "ready," became the responsibility of Major General Jessica L Wright, the Adjutant General of Pennsylvania; the first woman ever to hold the position.

To those who know Wright, her history-making appointment was no surprise.

She grew up outside of Pittsburgh in a self-described blue-collar family, where "everyone worked." Her grandparents were coal miners, her mother worked full time, and her father held down two jobs, which may be why her parents insisted she get an education. Wright attended a small college in West Virginia where she graduated with a degree in social work.

Finding a job proved to be difficult, so she came home and enlisted in the National Guard, where, she says, “One opportunity led to another”.

One of those opportunities was flight school. "I was young and adventurous. There were people who didn’t think women belonged in flight school. They kept telling me I should be a nurse. Those people are still around. They’ve just gotten older, not wiser."

Upon graduating from flight school, in 1978, Jessica Wright became the first female Army aviator in the Army National Guard. Wright’s bio is filled with firsts, like being the Army’s first maneuver brigade commander; and it’s replete with honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and Senior Army Aviator badge.

In the fall of 2010, Wright retired with the rank of Major General from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. After such a career, many might rest on their laurels…or oak leaf cluster.

In November, 2010, Jessica Wright joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, where she currently serves as the acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, at the Pentagon. In that position Wright is a key advisor to and responsible for all matters of the Office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, as they relate to the men and women of the Guard and Reserve, with specific responsibility for all manpower, medical and personnel policy matters supporting 1.2 million members of the reserve components of the United States Armed Forces.

Jessica Wright continues to serve her country and her fellow soldiers, while providing an outstanding role model for women who want to build a successful military career.

Note: Portions of this post are from a previous interview I conducted with Major General Wright, and which appeared in my column in The Morning Call on January 2, 2004

Welcome to Friday…“Fashion & Finds”

Deal of the day What better time to think about our “To Do” list than on a Friday, with two whole days ahead of us to get things done around the house, update our wardrobe, browse the book store, or test drive that new car you’ve been lusting after.

It’s with that agenda in mind that Perspectives is kicking off a new Friday feature…“Fashion & Finds”. Whether it’s a great sale on shoes, a new cleaning product that removed all the cat hair from my house, or a fabulous restaurant with great service, you’ll read about here each Friday.

And don’t forget to send along tips about your favorite things. Just click “Contact” at the top of the blog.

Kicking off this week with my two favorite online sale shopping sites, "Gilt" and "HauteLook" where you’ll “find” the latest “fashion” at greatly reduced prices. Both sites work on the same principle: You sign up online (it’s free) after which you’ll receive their featured items each day at the same time. HauteLook goes live at 11:00 a.m. and Gilt at 12:00 noon, plus there are often special events during evenings and weekends. Heads up on timing…if it’s a hot item, it’s gone within minutes.

Many of the items featured are clothing for women, men & children, along with a selection of home furnishings and gourmet food. Both sites also offer special packages on travel to the most amazing places. A discount safari to Africa anyone?

Some of the merchandise is very high-end. Don’t let that put you off: There are lots of true bargains to be found if you look. I just bought my first real designer purse for a fraction and I mean a small fraction of what I would have paid for it in a department store. And even if you don’t buy anything, it’s so much fun to browse. There’s nothing better than fantasizing about how you’d look in that cocktail dress while sipping coffee in your PJ’s. Enjoy.

Woman Warrior Wednesday: LT COL Teri DelBalso

DELBALSO Teri Delbalso was just like any other little girl growing up in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. A childhood she describes as “very nice” included playing Barbie Dolls with her kid sister Nikki. Throughout her years at Hazelton High School and Penn State, where she graduated with a BS in Administration of Justice, Teri dreamed about her “perfect job”, but the dream was elusive. She thought about joining the military: Several dead-end jobs later, she took the plunge and joined the Army Reserves. Her training kept her away from home for nearly a year, first at Ft. Jackson, NC for basic training, then Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, GA, followed by a basic course for Quarter Masters at Ft. Lee, VA.

After five years posted at the Army Reserve Center in Williamsport, PA, that dream job started to come in to sharper focus. She applied for and was accepted to an advance course to become a Military Police Officer. “It was something I always wanted to do”, she says, “I just had to work my way up to it”. Upon successful completion of her training, Teri was transferred to the Military Police Unit in Ashton, PA, where she’s been serving, and moving up through the ranks, for 16 years. Today, Teri holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and is Commander of the 424 Military Police Detachment.

Those years of service have included two tours of duty in Iraq, in 2003-04 & 2008-09. Teri describes the first deployment as being “on the cusp of the invasion” and the conditions as “a harsh environment”. It was also extremely dangerous. Driving back to the base, after dark, through Baghdad, their convoy came under fire by RPG’s. “The guys firing at us were bad shots”, so between their return fire and defensive driving moves, Teri and her team stayed safe. Many others did not. “Our base was bombed every night; I mean every night there were incoming mortar rounds. People died around me.”

The second deployment was calmer; there was more security, better living conditions, and superior radar that detected anyone approaching the base.

Teri’s training and experience in the military led her toward that dream civilian job she’d thought about years before. For 7 years she held the distinction of being the first woman police officer in the history of McAdoo, Pennsylvania. In 1994, she joined the PA Department of Corrections, working out of the Hemlock Creek Medium Security Prison, where she is the State Prison Department Superintendent in charge of programming and treatment.

With four years to go till her goal of retiring from the military with 25 years of service, Teri says, “It’s been a great ride. I’ve been all over the world, all over the US; I’ve seen places I would have never otherwise seen”

She encourages other women to think about a military career. “Don’t run away from it. You can discover yourself, finding talents and strengths you didn’t know you had. The Army is what you make it…if you can carry your own weight and be a team player, it can be a good life”.

Welcome to Perspectives’ New Feature… Women Warrior Wednesdays

Female Soldiers Beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, July 27, Perspectives will begin a new feature focusing on the many women serving in the US military. Each week we’ll highlight a woman, from different branches of our Armed Services, who is proudly serving our country in these difficult times.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9-11, women have answered the call and proved time and again that, as our first featured Woman Warrior, LT COL Teri DelBalso, says, “Women have shown they can go above and beyond what is expected of them, shouldering many of the same burdens as their male counterparts. We’ve earned the respect we’re now being given by rising to every opportunity and proving we can do the job”.

I hope you will enjoy these weekly “profiles in courage”, and will share them with your friends and family. One of the best ways to thank those who help to keep us safe, is to let them know we appreciate their sacrifice.

If you know of a woman warrior who you think should be featured in a Woman Warrior Wednesday story, please post a comment or email me directly through the blog.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for reading.

Pamela Varkony

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