Blog Posts by Jessica Ashley, Senior Editor

  • Shine's Woman of the Year 2011: Here She Is!

    Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is honored as Shine's Woman of the Year 2011.Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is honored as Shine's Woman of the Year 2011.Michelle Obama, Sandra Bullock, Elizabeth Edwards, teen activist Constance McMillen, Chef April Bloomfield, and community member Brett Blumenthal are just a few of the amazing women who have worn a crown as one of Shine's women of the year. While our editors throw out many names and list off the accomplishments and awards that make celebrities, politicians, activists, and real, hard-working women stand out in their efforts to make all of our lives better, there's always one lady who...well, shines brightest.



    This year, that woman is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. At a time of great partisan divide and many controversial political issues that span abortion rights to wars, Giffords has shown the country how abiding and uniting patriotism can be.



    As 2011 opened, the representative from Arizona was shot in a brutal attack that left 14 people injured and six dead. Giffords was appearing in front of a grocery store for a "Congress on your Corner" meet-and-greet when a gunman stormed

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  • The 10 Very Worst Holiday Gifts We've Gotten

    It needs to be said one more time -- loudly and firmly -- nobody wants a vacuum as a gift. Ever. No matter how neat-freaky she is, no matter how much he covets the kind with the super-duper HEPA filter. Not a $600 sweeper, not even a Dust Buster. Never, ever wrap up a vacuum cleaner for someone you love.



    Every year when we ask what the very worst gifts you can give or get are, many of you tell us (shouting it out emphatically in all-caps or pathetically attaching sad-face emoticons) how awful you felt opening a vacuum cleaner. We hear you. Now it's time for your boyfriends, husbands, partners, wives, girlfriends, crushes, friends to hear you. So, are we good now?



    Let's move on to all the other wonderfully bizarre, totally kooky, just-plain terrible gifts that have been passed on to us in the spirit of the season. We asked you to share those crazy presents your partners have given you and you did not disappoint.



    Here are the best of the worst of holidays past and here's hoping

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  • What's the Worst Holiday Gift You've Ever Gotten?

    This elf sweater is an excellent example of a terrible gift for your man. Especially your big, burger-loving man.This elf sweater is an excellent example of a terrible gift for your man. Especially your big, burger-loving man.It's the season of patient anticipation, of thoughtful giving, of unrelenting hope. But all that can come crashing down in the instant the wrapping paper is pulled back and an unimaginably bad gift is sitting there on your lap. And if that awful present comes from a partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband -- anyone who should know you better than an aged aunt with a bad re-gifting habit or the next-door neighbor at a White Elephant exchange -- the pain can last for years.

    Whether you've forgiven and tried to forget, laughed it off, or come around to consider unfortunate gifts as just another chapter in your romantic fairy tale, we do know your significant others have wrapped up some pretty bad presents for you. You've shared crazier bequests than we could ever make up, from loaves of bread picked up last minute to way-oversized clothes to candy underthings to electronic flossers and nose-hair gadgets to Cosby sweaters and cleavers and vacuum cleaners (all recurring nightmares

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  • What's it like to be raised by two women?

    Do kids who grow up with gay parents have a different childhood than those who are raised by both a mother and a father? Not according to 19-year old Zach Wahls, a student who addressed Iowa's House of Representatives this year. Wahls, the son of a lesbian couple, gave testimony against the proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment that would repeal marriage equality in his home state.

    Families, whether centered around homosexual parents or heterosexual parents, Wahls says, derive their worth from the commitment they make to support each other, to work through tough times, and enjoy the good stuff together. The love that binds each person, the student asserts, is what defines a family, and state legislation won't change that. 

    When the topic of whether gay couples can even raise kids comes up in his college classes, which the student says happens frequently, Wahls adds his experience  to the conversation openly.

    Wahls recounted for the House what he shares with fellow students during

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  • The Very Best New Prevention for Flat Head Syndrome: More Cuddle Time with Your Baby

    Help avoid flat spots by nuzzling up to your baby.Help avoid flat spots by nuzzling up to your baby.We spend hours carefully placing our palms behind the sweet round heads of our newborns, carefully minding their soft spots, lovingly smoothing their hair with the softest of brushes. So it's no wonder we rarely talk about positional plagiocephaly, the flat head syndrome no parent wants their baby to develop.

    The incidence of this condition among American babies, at least in recent years, is both a blessing and a curse. The number of children who have some form of flat head syndrome -- about 13% to date -- is an indication that babies are spending more time sleeping on their backs in the first few months of life. And this is exactly what the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to happen. Since 1992, the AAP has recommended that caregivers place babies on their backs to sleep to help prevent SIDS. Their educational campaign, CNN reports, has worked well. According to the CDC, SIDS deaths have been reduced by 50% among children under the age of one.

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  • Who Gets Your Vote for Shine's Woman of the Year?

    Who should be Shine's Woman of the Year?Who should be Shine's Woman of the Year?It has been a tumultuous news year, say the editors at TIME, and they're asking readers to look back on it with them as they decide the Person of the Year. As we perused the list, which includes both the 1% and the 99%, we loved seeing which candidates could earn the 2011 honor and considering who might be the "people's choice."

    While only eight of the 32 TIME candidates are individual women, the choices are certainly women many of us have strong opinions about -- whether it's based on politics (Michele Bachmann, Hillary Clinton), matrimony (Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian), or media frenzy (Casey Anthony).

    Because Shine is a place where we love strong opinions and because we are all about giving out awards at the end of each year, we're putting together our own list of noteworthy candidates. But our list is all ladies.

    Who do you think deserves to be Shine's Woman of the Year 2011? Tell us!

    Is it someone who made big news several times over like gun violence survivor Congresswoman

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  • Americans' Ideal Weight is on the Rise: What Would You like to Weigh?

    Our average weight is up. So is our ideal weight.Our average weight is up. So is our ideal weight.It's no surprise that the scales are tipping in an unhealthy direction for many Americans. That's already resulting in higher rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, cancers, osteoarthritis, gynecological issues, strokes, and other obesity-related conditions, as well as having a big economic impact in the workplace, in schools, and on the healthcare system. But it's also effecting our dreams of how much we'd like to weigh, according to Gallup's Health and Healthcare Survey.

    This annual poll by Gallup shows that the average American's weight is up, but so is the average American's ideal weight. There is an interesting twist to the findings, however. And yes, it has to do with what men would like to weigh compared to women's ideals.

    Among both genders, Gallup finds that the average American's weight is 20 pounds higher than it was twenty years ago. Today, the average male respondent weighs 196 pounds, the average female weighs 160.

    So what would would those

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  • What Are Your Tips for Keeping Christmas Small for Your Kids?

    How do you keep the holidays small and sweet?How do you keep the holidays small and sweet?No matter what winter holiday your family celebrates, many of us share the problem of sticking to a budget, particularly among parents. Choosing gifts for our kids suddenly becomes showering our children with more toys, books, clothes, and doo-dads than can possibly fit in their bins, rooms, and the out-of-control storage space in the basement.

    I am definitely one of those mothers who goes weak when I'm standing in the Lego aisle or reading through my boy's list while filling my shopping cart online. Any "rules" I may have about the number of gifts I'll be buying that year or how much money I'm willing to invest in piles of presents for the little one get bent, twisted, and then thrown out completely. I want to be stronger, I really do. I don't want to buy! buy! buy! just for the thrill of my son's squeals on Christmas Day.

    This is the year to buck up on my budget, for many reasons. We took a big trip this summer, traveling on the agreement to count that holiday in with the upcoming

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  • Do You Need to Be Pregnant to Wear Maternity Clothes?

    Cute maternity dress, Target.com, $32Cute maternity dress, Target.com, $32It has happened to all of us, right? We've all, at one time or another of combing through the clearance rack at Target, found the perfect sweater dress or an adorable skirt, only to discover next that it has room enough for a beach ball in the front or a six-inch elastic waistband.

    And if you are nodding your head, remembering one (or ten) of those moments, then I imagine you're with the rest of us who've then had the pause that follows. The one...two...three as we try to convince ourselves it's really OK to wear maternity clothes. Even if we're not pregnant.

    Just cut the tag out! Pretend you're buying it for a friend! Decide it was hiding in your closet from your real pregnancy days! No one will possibly know! Well, no one but you! Every single time you slip into those jeans with the heavenly cotton maternity panel!

    Stylist writer Anya Strzemien says, rather rebelliously perhaps, that embracing maternity fashions is more than just fine, it's likely a chic choice. She and her HuffPo

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  • Be Honest: Do You Let Your Kids Wear Winter Gear That's Too Small?

    snowsuitsnowsuitLet this day mark the beginning of winter. No, it's not December 21st, nor is it snowing yet. I know it is the start of the season because I spent a half-hour this morning convincing my kid into his winter coat.

    He was mad that the down makes it "too fluffy and big." He was not convinced the built-in fingerless gloves would make cold-weather monkey-bar tricks a breeze. He oppressed that I made him stick a knit hat in his pocket, just in case.

    While all this whining was going on, I was thanking the fickle gods of children's clothes that the spendy jacket I bought last year still fit. His wrists don't hang out of the sleeves naked, the back still covers his tiny hindquarters. It's a good coat, one fit for a Midwestern winter, and I don't mind investing in that kind of necessary snow-and-sleet gear. I just would really, really like it to last more than one season.

    He's an only child, so there aren't siblings to hand coats up and down to so our family can reduce waste and costs when it

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