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work & words by Jenny Badman

The W-L Club

March 5, 2014


I write about my childhood quite a bit. Perhaps because my memories are so vivid, I feel compelled to write them down. Perhaps if I understand who I was a child, I’ll better understand who I am now.

The other day, I got an email from a dear childhood friend. She was one of the original stomp girls about whom I’ve written. We who sang Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll at the top of our lungs at recess.

See, I had forgotten what started us in the first place. Until my friend Laura faxed me the gem below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 8.07.24 PMIt reads (with typos and misspellings included):

W-L Club

Women have rights. But how come their not equal? Some say that women are weak or to fragile to do a man’s job. For instance men think that women will never play football or baseball because we might break a fingernail. They don’t know about women inside. So I’ve started a club called W-L (Women’s Lib.) It will be at recess. You may ask questions and we’ll think about what to do to make a woman’s life better. We will work as a team. Why do some men act this way? Well they want to be A#1 of course they have to be better and stronger than women. Can we fight this for equal rights? I have know idea. Alot of women feel the same way we do. For more information, call Laura or Jenny.


P.S. Keep this club private.

When I stopped laughing at how totally awesome and hilarious this little manifesto is, I felt that old feeling. I remember when the boys stopped letting us play football with them. I remember how some friendships vanished because we had reached the age when differences started creating distance. And, I remember how mad we were about it. Because all of a sudden, we weren’t just uninvited, we were no longer equal. Holy junior feminists, Batman! I get it. Now I remember the source of the stomping. If we were no longer invited, we would make our own party. We would sing loud. We would raise our fists. We would stomp. We would raise our fists. And one day, we would be equal.


Aaron and His Dad

January 28, 2014


Aaron Draplin is an incredibly talented and prolific graphic designer, and I’m a huge fan. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak a few years back. Even got to shake his hand (solid, warm grip), get a signed South Cackalackee Draplin poster, and grab a photo with him. He was as great in person as I had imagined him to be. Who lives up to that? Awesome.

I follow Aaron’s blog and work, and like all of his friends and fans, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of his Dad’s sudden passing last October.

If you’ve been on this site before, you know I did a lot of writing about my Dad after he died in 2009. I did a lot of reading, too. All, I suppose, in an attempt to make sense of his death, his life, my feelings, and who in the world I was supposed to be without him. And, I suppose, to keep him “alive” even after he was gone.

Aaron wrote about his Dad, too. His 30 Day Sad For Dad series is full of heartbreaking, funny, warm, and honest moments of grief and memory. And I couldn’t be more grateful that he wrote his way through them. Some men speak kindly about their Fathers. Some men revere them.

Meet Aaron’s Dad:

And meet my Dad, if you haven’t already.

It’s strange. When Dad died, I learned that the fathers of two friends from high school had died around the same time. In those early days when my grief was at its most raw, I thought of my friends and imagined what they were going through. Sometimes they commented on posts I wrote about Dad, and I think somehow it all helped us feel a little less alone.

Reading Aaron’s posts about his Dad made me remember those feelings, even now, 4 1/2 years later, and again, I feel less alone.

Thanks to Aaron for writing down the things we’re often afraid to even say. And, for sharing his Dad with us. I wish I could’ve met him. And I wish he’d met mine.































Happy damn new year

January 15, 2014


Well, 2014, you sure did start off with a bang.

On the fourth day of the new year, I bid a teary farewell to my Mom who wrapped up an epic family holiday extravaganza that began on December 21. For those of you keeping track, that’s 14 consecutive days of relatives. I don’t care how often you meditate or how lovely your family is, that’s a f@cking LOT of togetherness. Merry new year!

On day three of the new year, perhaps in anticipation of the familial departure, my body went into full tilt meltdown: body aches, headache, and a throat so sore that I had to summon the courage to swallow. I was, in a word, pitiful. Assuming I had strep, or you know, a little touch of the plague, I took myself to the doc-in-a-box near my house. This particular doc-in-a-box has a little infusion of Jesus in it. Normally, I’d go for secular medicine, but let’s remember, I was in a pinch and also, pitiful. Not to suddenly get all non secular on you, but I’m of the notion that God is in us and all around us anyway, but on this day, some of his most loyal fans serenaded me as I waited to have my throat, ears and vitals checked. Let me get specific: Christian Rock piped into the exam rooms.

As I waited for the physician and pondered the current state of Christian Rock, I received a visit from a chipper male medical assistant who swabbed my throat to check for strep (Yes, I gagged. I always gag.) and used some new instrument that checks for fluid behind your ears (Yes, fluid. Ew.) Then I waited for 20 minutes.

The physician was a kind-faced, soft spoken woman who offered the proper amount of sympathy and concern. I did not, to her surprise, have strep throat, just some nebulous, nameless infection. To speed my recovery she told me she was going to give me two shots: one antibiotic, one steroid. Oh, shots. Then she wrote me prescriptions for the antibiotic, steroid and Hydrocodone cough syrup. Finally, a break!

The chipper assistant came back in with the two shots and politely requested that I drop just enough trou for my hips to accept inoculation. Done and done.

After a thrilling, 45-minute visit to my local pharmacy during which I purchased juice, Lipton Noodle Soup and more tissues, I came home, and Mom made me soup. I took a couple of healthy slurps of cough syrup and went to bed.

On day six of the new year, I walked out of my house to find my car battery dead.

Really, 2014? It’s gonna be like that?

Truly, everything is fine. I’m feeling good. I have a new car battery, and no family visits are planned for the next four to six months. (Love you guys!)

As we all get to know this little hellcat called 2014, I thought it might be worth mentioning that attempting to find the humor in these little adventures life hands us is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

Though we’re only 14 days into 2014, (Guys, see the parallel! I didn’t even plan it!) there is already a lot of inspiring stuff out there.

Here are a few I’m digging thus far:

The Representation Project put together this incredible piece: The Mask You Live In. It’s all about what we as a culture do to boys to make them men. And it’s time for a change.

Meryl Streep presents Emma Thompson with the Best Actress honor at the National Board of Review Awards and talks feminism. These are a few of my favorite things!

NANA is a British comfort food and craft cafe hosted by lovely older ladies from their respective local areas. In a nutshell, NANA brings together ladies over 65 with little to do with the communities that need yummy homemade food. Genius Brits.

That’s it. Tame the hellcat!




Beer & Boots


As luck would have it, I love both beer and boots! The cherry on top is that I recently had the good fortune of helping two great brands tell their story.

Palmetto Brewery is a Charleston-based brewery hell bent on making good South Carolina beer for South Carolina. These guys are what you might call the teeniest bit obsessed with making beer, and I mean that in the best possible way. And before you ask, yes, they all have facial hair. As Founder/Owner/Brewer/Engineer Ed Falkenstein told me, “A beard is the badge of self employment.”

The first brewery in the state of South Carolina, Palmetto is also the only South Carolina brewery that also bottles its beer. It’s a bit like the brewery footage in the opening of Laverne & Shirley but with much more facial hair.

One of the best things about Palmetto is how dedicated they are to making good beer that people want to drink. And they never stop trying to do it better. As Ed so eloquently said, “Satisfaction suppresses improvement. You learn something new every day.”

My pals at Blue Ion built Palmetto Brewery a fantastic, responsive website that works in harmony with the incredible new identity Gil Shuler Graphic Design crafted. Special shout outs to Josh (interactive design), Mark (identity), and Brennan (photography).


I had a blast crafting copy that spoke both to the fun that is beer and to the no nonsense way Ed lives his life and makes beer. Below may just be one of my favorite lines of all time.

palmetto pants

La Mundial is a family-owned, fully custom equestrian boot company based in Quito, Ecuador. The time, care, and commitment that go into making these boots is awe-inspiring from start to finish. From the more than 40 distinct measurements that happen before a single piece of leather is touched to the 10-step process that ensures every boot is a work of high performance art.

My pals at Blue Ion did a fantastic job of helping La Mundial position itself for equestrian enthusiasts and fashionistas alike. Special shout outs to Sydney, Laura, and Ben on this one.

Here’s the manifesto I wrote:

Our roots date back to 1906 when boot maker Don Francisco Rivas opened a small shop in Quito, Ecuador and began handcrafting custom boots for horse riding enthusiasts. His son, Roberto, learned at his father’s side and joined the business, and later, his granddaughter, Sonia, became one of the first women in the shoe-manufacturing industry. Don Francisco’s grandson, also named Roberto, brought La Mundial to the United States in 2002, and to Canada in 2007. La Mundial now enjoys a strong following in both the US and Canada, as well as in our home country of Ecuador, and various countries around the world.

Today, our fourth generation family business remains true to Don Francisco Rivas’ commitment to crafting fully-custom equestrian boots of unparalleled performance, design and value. Ours is a tradition of hard work and pride in our craft. We believe that even the smallest details ensure exceptional boots that move and feel like a natural, beautiful extension of your body.

We believe the true measure of things crafted with care and passion isn’t just found in the beauty of the finished product, but in the grace, time and tradition inherent in their making — and the journey that awaits those who wear them.

This is La Mundial. The true measure of performance.

So relax, you don’t need to ride a horse to wear these boots. You just have to appreciate incredible craftsmanship and a family tradition of doing exactly what you love.



We Are Family

October 23, 2013


Last week, a 14 year old girl and her Mom; a Southern-born, Indian-bred self proclaimed “fat, hairy, brown femme-trans-masculine queer bodied magic pony;” an engineer/activist transgender woman; and a critically acclaimed actress, African American transgender woman made me cry and made me proud all in one night.

Sera, the 14 year old, was born Seth. Every night, starting at age three, she asked her Mom, Amy, “When is God going to make me a girl?”

Over the course of several years, Seth began being Sera…at home. By the time Seth was in fourth grade, he began transitioning at school, growing out his hair, dressing more femininely. By sixth grade, Sera was fully transitioned at school.

That transition, as you might imagine, was not always readily accepted. Sera was and is bullied…by kids and even parents.

Her Mom always told her, “You are an individual.”

And she is. She’s a bubbly 14 year old girl, talking excitedly with her hands in front of 500 people. She and her Mom both seem nervous, and utterly brave.

At the end of their tag teamed speech, Sera addressed us as if we were all going through what she has been going through, as if our mere presence in that auditorium meant that we understood, as if we were all still 14. And I realized that we all do understand, because no matter how old we are, if we think back, we can tap into that feeling of insecurity and uncertainty that comes with being a teenager, that overwhelming desire to belong, that unbelievable angst and longing for something you cannot name.

Anne Lamott wrote, “This is a difficult country to look different in…and if you are too skinny or too tall or dark or weird or short or frizzy or homely or poor or nearsighted, you get crucified. I did.”

Whether you think back to your teenage years and acknowledge that you were the bully, the target, the popular kid, the fringe kid, or the invisible kid, you know now (at least I hope with all of my bleeding heart that you do) that we are all much more alike than we are different.

After the speeches and the candlelight vigil, there was an after party where the keynote speaker and Orange Is The New Black star, Laverne Cox graciously posed for photographs with party-goers. And when the music got started (courtesy of Megan Jean and The KFB), the kids from We Are Family started dancing. Laverne quickly joined them, and everything, the room, the air, the light, just got brighter and lighter and together and better. And I thought to myself, “God, we all need to dance more,” because remember what it feels like to be in your body and move and feel free? It was music and dancing and laughter and people being exactly who they are.


And it was miraculous.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 6.28.59 PM

Sera and her Mom weren’t at the after party, because after all, she’s only 14, but this is what she left us, her fellow, forever 14 year olds, with:

“People are going to say to you that ‘it gets better’ and you’re not going to believe them. And the truth is, it hasn’t gotten better for me yet, but I promise to come back and tell you guys when it does.”

Kettle Cuisine


Helping clients share what they care most about is one of the most gratifying parts of what I do. And the folks at Kettle Cuisine care a lot. These hardworking, passionate folks handcraft small batch, all natural soups from scratch for restaurants, foodservice operators and grocery retailers. Not only do they source the best ingredients from an incredible array of purveyors, they also make soup in a way that no one else is, unless we’re including your Grandma or Mom. Which is to say they make soup the way you’d make it…that is if you had hours to make stock, gathered the very best ingredients you could find, and treated each ingredient like it was your favorite child. Are we clear? These people mean it.

My Blue Ion pals, photographer Brennan Wesley, and I had the pleasure of venturing to Boston to watch this incredible team in action. In addition to eating some of the best soup we’ve ever had, we had the incredible opportunity to share all of their wonderful sights, smells, and stories through a new website, marketing materials and a tradeshow booth. Shout outs to Woody, Robert, Rich, Zach, Ben, Brian and Brennan for what is a truly stunning, high performance site and body of work.

The icing on the cake? I mean, the dollop of sour cream on the soup? The Kettle Cuisine team and the talented folks at Windy Films transformed the manifesto I’d written into a beautiful video piece, starring the people who make the delicious magic happen, every day.

kettle cuisine home

kettle cuisine our story


Charleston Gourmet Burger Co.


I love Jay Fletcher for many reasons. He’s one of the most talented and prolific designers with whom I’ve ever had the good fortune to work. He’s funny, kind and makes the world better through design. And, he’s introduced me to some of my favorite people and clients. Enter Team Wilsondebriano.

Chevalo and Monique Wilsondebriano are incredibly warm, gracious people. They made me feel immediately at ease from the moment I met them. (Full disclosure: The fact that Chevalo is a Long Island native and Monique hails from my motherland, New Jersey, may add to my love for them.)

What you really need to know about this husband and wife team is that they turned their obsession into finding the perfect burger into making the perfect burger.

And they did it.

And it’s here in Charleston.

Their venture, Charleston Gourmet Burger Company, elevates the humble burger to legend status by keeping things simple and true. They use only locally-sourced, fresh-ground meat and their very own homemade marinade. Then they cook it to sizzling, juicy perfection and slip it into a tasty bun. Like so.

And it’s magic.

Delicious magic.

In addition to helping Monique and Chevalo tell their story (tagline and web copy), I had the pleasure of watching Jay Fletcher rock out the design and see Gregg at Limelight Custom Sign Co. whip up some incredibly original signage and be awed by Leapfrog PR as they shared the Charleston Burger Co. story with the world (I’m talking press and TV gigs, y’all!). Thanks to everyone for making this such a special project.


Check out the site for sure, and please, do yourself a solid and go get a burger, like now.




Of Moms, daughters and showtunes

May 13, 2013


58053_478240036596_4588631_nThankfully, my Mom was never one of those Moms who commented on weight or personal appearance, other than to say things like, “Stop slouching. Stand up straight.” Or, “Are you sure there’s enough room in the crotch?”

I count myself lucky for that.

Both my Mom and Dad taught us from an early age that the world was not fair, that it didn’t owe us anything: a job, a car, or even love. It was, after all, up to us to learn everything we could; to be good people, good friends, good citizens in order to secure these things. As a result, my childhood was often like an ongoing lecture series in self-sufficiency, entitled: Here’s How, starring my mother.

“Here’s how to hold the potato when you peel it…”

“This is how to make a hospital corner…”

“How on earth have you gotten through life this far without knowing how to ____?”

“Ask the doctor questions. It’s your body.”

“Look it up.”

When my sister and I were young, Mom kept our hair short.

famShe says she kept it short because we screamed whenever she touched our hair, although I have no recollection of this. I do, however, remember her scorching the tips of our ears with the curling iron as she curled our short, Dorothy Hamill hairdos under.

Me, screeching: “You’re burning me! You’re burning me!”

Mom, flatly: “Don’t be silly. That’s just my finger.”


Because I had short hair and dressed in jeans and t-shirts, I was often mistaken for a boy.

This pained Mom to no end.

One might think a nifty solution to this problem might be say…grow the child’s hair out. Put it in pigtails. With ribbons even.

But if you did that, you’d miss the magic that is my Mother.

Rather than let my hair grow out, she decided it was a better idea to sew white eyelet lace around the back panel of my jean jacket.

My jean jacket.

It looked as horrific as you are imagining.

Even at six, I knew it was awful.

I refused to wear the jacket.

I joke with her now and again that white eyelet lace is the reason I’m gay.

She laughs. Most of the time.

Actually, she and I were folding underwear in her bedroom when I came out to her.

I chose neither the venue nor the timing of this discussion, but when she specifically asks me if the bar where I’m going that evening is a gay bar, I say yes.

I wait.

She says nothing.

I fold and refold a pair of Dad’s underwear three times and realize this is the moment.

I say, “Is there anything else you want to ask me?”

She says no, and I am certain she means it.

Something inside me clenches with fear so fiercely that rather than come out, I tiptoe forward.

I say, “Well, I’m pretty sure that I’m gay.”

She stops folding and says, “I’ll go get your Father.”

Also not in the plan.

The other night I went to see a friend perform in a production of Oklahoma! She was amazing, and the bunch of us that attended were very proud. Also, we sat in the second row which is really not the best idea for a musical. The truth is, you need a little physical distance from people who burst into song every few moments.

At any rate, there’s a scene in which the “bad guy,” Jud, sings a song that turns into a monotone dirge about his own death. The line he sings is: “Poor Jud is dead. A candle lights his head.”

This is the very line my Mom would sing to us when she woke us when we were kids, or if she caught us dozing off somewhere, or if we were being overly dramatic teenagers who might “die” if we didn’t get to [insert the thing we wanted to do here]. So here I am at the play the other night, laughing uncontrollably at a scene which is decidedly not funny, all because my Mom sang that bit to me at least a thousand times.

I am certain that using that line to wake her slumbering babes was never part of her plan. I mean, at least I hope it wasn’t, because talk about dark…However, it is for just this reason and a thousand others that I love her, that I find her maddening and irreplaceable and funny and frustrating and perfectly mine. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, there’s simply no one quite like you.



Family Circle Cup & friends


One of the many amazing things about Charleston is that every year, we play host to the Family Circle Cup, the largest women’s tennis tournament in the world. Each April, more than 100,000 tennis fans make their way to Charleston to see 70+ of the world’s greatest athletes do what they do best: volley, rally and smash into our lives in the most exciting way.

My friends at Obviouslee Marketing invited the super-talented Jay Fletcher and I to brainstorm concepts that highlight the beautiful harmony between one of the world’s greatest tennis tournaments and the Holy City it calls home.

Courtesy of J. Fletcher Design

Courtesy of J. Fletcher Design

Courtesy of J. Fletcher Design

Courtesy of J. Fletcher Design

Courtesy of J. Fletcher Design

Courtesy of J. Fletcher Design

The Liebster Award & stuff about me

April 29, 2013


Imagine my surprise when a dear, old (We’re not old. We’ve just known each other a while.) friend paid it forward blog-style and nominated me for a Liebster Award. In a nutshell, the Liebster Award is a way for bloggers to share the blogs they read and love with others. I’m all about that. Many thanks to my pal, The Forgetful Genius!


The other part of this Liebster thing is answering a slew of random questions and sharing 11 things about yourself. Which is a bit daunting for me. See, when I blog, I write about when I want to write about. The answering of questions? Well, let’s just say this is a growing moment for me. Enough preamble, here it is.

What is your favorite book?

Just one? I’m a writer. There are too many amazing books. Too many books that rocked my world. A quick list off the top of my head: Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, An American Childhood and The Maytrees; Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird; Joan Didion’s The White Album and Magical Thinking; Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Blubber; Tina Fey’s Bossypants; David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day; Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird and Traveling Mercies. Phew.

What is your greatest fear?

Palmetto bugs on my face while I’m awake, unable to move and in a confined space. It’s very specific.

If you could have one superpower what would it be?

My gut response was Wonder Woman’s golden lasso, but I really don’t know what she used it for another than wrangling packs of bad guys. I’ll say flying.

What is the quality you are most proud of?

My ability to try and bring levity to otherwise icky moments, learned from my Mom.

Who is your idol?

When I was young: my brother, my sister and Pat Benatar. The order sometimes changed.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

We had a ridiculous “tradition” on my high school soccer team of de-pants-ing one another. Fortunately, this was era of wearing boxer shorts under our soccer shorts. I’m going to have a dig up photographic evidence of this, because I know it’s reading very ridiculous right now. Anyway, my friend Dana de-pants-ed me, right in front of our head coach. Not. Awesome.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I try very hard not to get bogged down in nitty little things like this, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cringe a little when people misuse the contraction for you are. I can’t even write it. ACK.

Where do you draw inspiration for how you live your life?

My friends, artists whose work I admire, and from things my Dad said to me over the years.

If you could have lunch with ANYONE – living or dead – who would you choose?

This is so hard. I feel like I’m buckling under the pressure. Bruce Springsteen. And I’d want us to have meatball parm sandwiches. What?

If you could live in any era, which era would you choose?

This one is pretty epic. Maybe the roaring part of the 1920s. With the champagne.

What is your ultimate life goal?

Oh dear. More pressure. To remind people that they are not alone. That we are all more alike than we are different. That there’s beauty inherent in everything.

11 random things about me:

  1. I’m left handed.
  2. When I’m stuck creatively, I shower or take a walk.
  3. My go-to karaoke song is Careless Whisper by Wham!
  4. As a child, I was accidentally run over by a riding lawnmower. It’s a very funny story…now.
  5. My favorite song when I was seven was Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall. Which might explain a lot.
  6. I journal. On real paper even.
  7. If you mess with my peeps, you will hear from me.
  8. I believe truth is always stranger than fiction.
  9. My New Jersey roots are best revealed in traffic.
  10. One of my many nicknames is Shelby, because I can do a pretty spot-on imitation of Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias.
  11. I once threw up while hanging out the side of a New Jersey transit train. It was food poisoning, I swear.

The final bit of this thing is to share the love with some other bloggers I love, so here you go. Please go check out my pals: Queen of the Food Age, Sugarleg and Hey, Nice Marmot!

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