Tuesday, April 25, 2017

No still means NO but you have to ask the question to know that

I finished watching "13 Reasons Why" with my almost 13 year old son and it was one of the most powerful things we have ever seen together.    I know he is mature enough to handle the content but he is also still in a formative phase understanding who he is and his growing place in the world.   He is also navigating the world of middle school and soon high school, with it's puberty, posturing, bullying, popularity contests and all those other things we as adults can look back at and wonder why we let them take such an important role in our lives.

The main theme is about bullying and the consequences of that, of how lost some kids might feel but the underlying theme is about sexual assault and the way we as a society still treat our girls and women.   Think about it the names alone are only for women - slut, whore, skank, easy.   Boys and men don't get that they get a high five for getting sex, maybe their downside is the need to lie about how much sex they may have had.   We still hear the despised term "good girl" to imply it somehow makes a girl a better person if she doesn't have sex.   We vilify girls for wondering about how to embrace how they look, to show off a curve or two and then give them clothes choices that play into that objectification as a sexual being who really shouldn't like sex to begin with.

Who made up this shit???  Women, girl, boys, men should enjoy sex -- it doesn't make you a better person if you choose to not have it nor does it make you worse it makes you a person who decided to make a choice with your body.  It is about being old enough to handle the choice.

This bizarre ritual of making girls into "less than" because of sex, into objects to treated as parts and then mistreated based on what they do with or is done to those parts, paired with the use of power that men are given has continued to lead to the sexual abuse we see.

I know of no woman that I am friends or even casual friends with that has not experienced some form of sexual abuse in their life.   Let's do this again I KNOW OF NO WOMAN and I know hundreds of them who I have had discussions with that does not have at least one story.

They range from being touched in public places on our asses, rubbed against in public spaces while we try and move just enough to not make a scene,  to kissing a bit longer while we keep pushing away from a boy that didn't actually move away from us, to just not being asked.  There are the cases of course where it went much further than that - where the girls were raped.   No one forgets any of these, these moments are burned into your brain long after they have faded from the feeling on your body.   The too many times that we all can talk about the times that "No one even asked if it was ok to kiss you - to touch you".    It did not stop even when you said no.   It was someone you liked and you felt you had to because otherwise you may lose them and then you lost yourself when that person betrayed you by telling everyone that it was just a piece of pussy.  A piece - just a piece of ... that is all you are reduced to.  A piece of inconsequential nothingness that you take with you for the rest of your life.   As for the men who do this they do it because they can.  This is not about sex - this is about power, they have it, they can do what they want.

We need to watch "13 Reasons Why" and we need to watch it with our male children because we cannot allow the girls to be asked how much they had to drink, what they were wearing, how come they said yes at first and then no, how come they didn't fight back, how come????  We need to ask how come anyone thinks it is ok to have sex with someone who is passed out ?  How come you feel that you can touch a girl as you want but you wouldn't sit on the hood of your friend's brand new car for fear of damaging it?  How come we do not start with asking the girls if they know it is not their fault that someone took away their ability to say NO, with drugs, with drinks, with just not giving a shit if they said it.

I worked as a rape and domestic violence crisis counselor for 10 years, taught others to be volunteers, and the one thing we learned was that survivors just want to get some control back over their bodies and to have someone tell them it was not their fault.  It is never their fault - even if they are buck naked and drunk and begged for it, when they say no it is NO, when they are not in a state of mind to make a decision oh yeah it is NO.   Men are better than that excuse too many abusers use "I couldn't stop"  - they can stop they choose not to.

It is uncomfortable to watch the show - to have your son ask why would someone do that - to deal with sex questions but if we don't who do we think will?

Sexual assault lives with the survivor forever, I see this from the way the pain still flashes across the faces of anyone who tells their story.   I feel it in my voice when I share my own instances.

We cannot let powerful men get away with harassment and rape because they have money just like we cannot let powerful men get away with these things because they are poor or they rape a religion's core beliefs to say women are theirs for the taking.

No means NO always and we owe it to all to understand that but we have to teach our youngsters that they need to ask even if it seems obvious.  We also need to stop using labels on women that tell them they do not control their own sexuality - like slut, whore, easy - they are not ok to use because they enable the culture of woman having to appear reluctant to not be shamed about it which predators use.  It is time we all said NO to sexual assault.

Monday, April 17, 2017

13 and 1 Reasons Why

They, you know "they" who know everything and who are never wrong, say you should try and eat most meals with your kids as this is a good way to connect with them and to establish a way to have conversations about their day.  I grew up in a house where my family could not always eat together, as both my parents worked, but I always ate with at least one of my parents.  It was like that up and down the streets of my neighborhood - you went home to eat dinner.

Now sometimes these dinners could be horrible in my house, as in many others, where conversation could be at the whim of my father's mood.  I saw a few homes where it was silent.  I saw a few where everyone talked over everyone else and the mood was energetic.  I sat with my mom and dad and had some of the most interesting discussions on everything from geography to art to science.  My dad was an autodidact who either knew something about most things or loved to help me find out about it. Our dinners were never silent.    I do not know if these were the "conversations" they talk about but I do believe there is something to sharing a meal, with family, kids, friends that is bonding.  It is why I have never insisted on my kids eating things they do not like and have made many a two different meal dinners.  I want it to be our time and laughter not about a fight on the merits of eating asparagus.

Yet one meal a day is really not enough even if it is a good start.  I want to be part of my kids lives in a way that they know they can come to me with anything, and while I may not have a positive reaction I will have a fair one and help them.   I do this through texts, notes, calls and letting them talk.  I mean they talk a lot and sometimes the subject is one that makes me want to sort of run, I do not want to hear how to beat level x in any video game, I don't book I listen and try and ask questions that keep them talking.  It is the connection and frankly we expect kids to listen and absorb what we think is important shouldn't we model this by doing it for what they think is important to them ?

The other thing that seems to work for me with a 10 and an almost 13 year old boys is finding time to watch tv shows with them.  Yes I said TV shows, yes screen time.   The way it works is that we find something we all like, or one child and I like. Each has shows we all 3 watch and each has shows that they watch only with me.  The balance of mothering 2 children is done with military precision - the perception of not getting same amount of anything from water in a glass to time with mom is monitored better than any drone by my two.  They do not begrudge the other's time they expect the equivalent.

So with my 2 we watch "Stranger Things" - I say it often but whoever started streaming services is a hero of mine.  I like it because it is well written and the kid actors are amazing, the storyline is spooky without being too crazed for me and I admit I like the whole time frame it is set in.  It has taken me back to my own teenage years lived in the early 80s, Le Sports Sac anyone??  It gets them talking about school, being a kid and of course the fascination of asking me "did you do that?" for some scenes.   No I did not have the adventure of finding an "upside down" world but I would have loved it.  

With my 2 I also watch "Death in Paradise" which is a strange show for kids their age to like - but it is a murder mystery Brit show that takes place on a gorgeous island and I think they like the detective solving skills of the main character who is just slightly goofy yet brilliant.   It transports us to a warm place and has us debating who done it.

My younger son and I tend to gravitate toward shows that are British detective shows - no clue why but they tend to be our genre of choice.

My older son and I watch "13 Reasons Why" together.   We decided to do this because it seemed really relevant to his almost teen self.   If you do not know what this is, the show is about a girl who commits suicide after a series of bullying incidents and bad choices with social media on the part of her peers that spiral out of control.  This has been a difficult watch because it happens, it happens more than we might think and it has increasingly dire consequences.  It has led to discussions with my son about his responsibility as a male to not demean girls.  It has led to disagreements on the main character's reaction to certain situations, he "oh it wasn't that bad this time and she gets so crazy" me "because it is constant and to her it was another big deal in a series of them".  It for sure has led us to discuss what he would do in certain situations.

The two of them also tend to like watch "Scorpion" with me - nothing like geeks who are sort of cool saving the world.

To me time with kids is fleeting and while at times it seems overwhelming and that they take up every moment of your time, the reality is that it goes as fast as the cliche states.   They watched little kids shows with me and asked those great questions about why, though for a while I thought the word "why" was my nemesis and non-stop, things were a color or a shape.  They watch different shows now and still ask why but the questions are harder sometimes to answer.  We do as a family still practice my father's curiosity seeking "look it up" with so much more information and easier to find via Google.  

I find the time we spend is not only about the shows but about the time they have to feel that we can talk about things that are on their mind, they still like a good snuggle and I alternate between laughing with them to a slightly wistful smile tied to my knowledge that they are getting taller, older and most of all heading toward the point where I will not be their first choice for snuggles and tv shows.




Monday, April 10, 2017

What would Jesus do ?

As an atheist many people think I am anti-religion but really it just means I do not believe in deity worship or organized religion.  I can easily see other life in other planets, other universes but the idea of a singular, or even multi, "higher being" and all the rules that man makes to justify how this, or these, deities need to be worshiped that just doesn't mean anything to me.    I find no comfort or need for that kind of being in my own life.  The other thing people think when they hear I am atheist, is that it means I do not believe in having scruples.  Actually it is my deep conviction that we should treat one another and our planet, and the other parts of space, with respect and kindness and worry about continuously improving life not only as we have it but for those long after we have been gone that was part of how I came to be an atheist.  I found no doctrine that did that even though they all claim to.   There are a few more clarifications that I feel as an atheist that I need to get out there as there seems to be lots of confusion.

First of all you do not have to whisper or ask me to whisper that I am an ATHEIST.   It is not an admission that I have ritual slayings in my house -- the irony of having ritual anything is not lost on me.  I am not a satanist either, I know but really I have gotten asked, I do believe people choose either through conscious decision or mental illness to do things we can all agree to call evil (genocide, anything to do with harming living children, serial killers, torture -- yeah we are on same page).  I do not hate religions, I just cannot agree with the many ways they are used to negatively judge others for things that some man at some point in time decreed he did not agree with or worse to justify those things I deemed evil before.   I understand their purpose and if you get comfort from them or find the need to connect with your heritage with them well then that is what you need - doesn't make it wrong or right it makes it your opinion.

Of the many historical religious figures,  after much research, I find that Jesus is my favorite. Oddly enough not because I believe he was the son of a god but because I believe he wasn't.   It is almost easier to be a better than the average person if you are a deity.   It is hard to be a leader and ask that all people are treated well if you are not.

Jesus who all religions acknowledge lived was a simple man who asked of all those who followed him to be kind to others, to give to those in need if you have more than you need.  He was able to treat Mary Magdalene with the same respect by all counts that he treated Judas, and we know who betrayed him.   Yet he did not judge Judas either.

I find myself wondering as many around the world celebrate the holiday that really defines them as Christians, the horrific torture and death of a man who until the end chose not give up his hopes for the better in humanity even when they displayed the worst, how do so many use his name as justification to be more like those who nailed him to a cross?  

Jesus - what would Jesus do when laws are made that disempower those who had very little to begin with ?  what would Jesus do when women are treated as there for the taking by men or told to cover up because they inherently are too sexually powerful and men cannot "help" themselves? what would Jesus do when the planet he thought a higher being created is not treated with the care and polluted at will?  what would Jesus do when people are discriminated against for just being themselves (note to all things like the fact that we look different, homosexuality all came before the whole religion thing)?

I do not know what he would do but based on all that is written about him, and there is loads, I would like to think that this atheist understands he would be more about forgiving and accepting than brandishing hate.   I would like to think that as I always cry seeing him and the others carrying their crosses, being whipped, being tortured that we learned from that not that it is acceptable to have others crucified but that in what appear to be his final words the word "forgiveness" is prominent with acceptance.

For all the religions out there one person seems to be woven into all of them, some who believe will see this as divine connection, for others like me it will reaffirm my belief in people.  That most of us are good and that is why the one man who spoke of this appears in all of them.

What would Jesus do ?  Probably just ask us to stop and think of that in terms of doing right by others.

Happy Spring

Monday, March 27, 2017

When you can finally exhale



As the end of March is upon us it seemed a good time for a blog about women as it is Women's History Month in the US.   

I try and look at the positive in life as a rule, look at the gains, learn from mistakes and hope we are all moving forward as a people.   However, when I start to look at the way that women have been treated and still continue to be so from pretty much the beginning of recorded history it takes a lot to hold on to the optimism and not let anger replace it. 

There are periods of time where women were not only equal to men but actually in charge, history rarely looks at their accomplishment without having to add some sort of terrible character flaw to them though.  Their strength described often negatively and do not get me started on the sexuality part. Women and sex - they should provide it but they should not enjoy it seems to be short version.  

Though even in this day and age women's rights are tentative still and we still discuss things like "when it is acceptable" to beat your wife -- short answer NEVER - in places far (Russia just passed a law that first offenders are not going to be harshly treated for beating their wives) and near (Mississippi on March 2017 voted down a measure to have domestic violence as one of the grounds for divorce - you read that right 2017, March Women's History month).  

Let's not even get started on the vile comments about rape and the fact that women have to debate what they can do with their own bodies.  

What can we do?  We can support other women, we can support men who see us as partners, we can collectively say a big get the hell out of here to anyone who doesn't, we can ask those who claim in the name of religion that women are inferior to look at how that is in direct conflict with the tenets of all religions to be good to your fellow people,.   We can raise women who understand their worth and we can raise men who appreciate those same women, who add to their self-confidence instead of trying to control it.  

In the spirit of supporting other women I wanted to use this blog to highlight someone who I am humbled to call a friend.

My friend Amy works with an organization called Exhale to Inhale.  They provide yoga and meditation services to survivors of partner and sexual abuse.   Yoga - the practice of respecting your body's limits and acknowledging your strength.  These survivors are taking back their bodies and their minds. The organization  "Exhale to Inhale was founded in 2013 by Zoë LePage, while a senior at Barnard College. Zoë named her initiative Exhale to Inhale, the idea being that sometimes we need to let go of that which is holding us back in order to open ourselves up to new possibilities. We need to exhale to inhale. Zoë’s vision: bring the healing power of yoga to survivors of intimate partner violence, especially those who would most benefit from the practice, yet might not otherwise have access to it. "

In an ideal world we would not need places like Exhale to Inhale because it should be as simple and instinctual as breathing - sexual assault and partner violence are not natural and should never be "normalized".   .   

We do not live in an ideal world but we do live by our ideals. We cannot stop it all but we can help in many ways heal those who experience this.  

I will not give you recognition by giving names or publicity to those who seek to harm us through laws or doctrine but instead I will hope to shine the light on those who do heal and selfishly do for others. 

If you want to get more information, donate time, donate money, donate your good will to share this information and just say it is NOT OK ever then you are already doing more than you give yourself credit for.  



How Can You Get Involved?
 Help Exhale to Inhale win $40,000 in the NO MORE Challenge!
Because of the money we were able to raise in 2016, we are now reaching more survivors than ever before. We are on track to more than double the number of people we were able to reach last year. Join us in bringing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault one step closer to experiencing the power of choice and possibility! http://www.crowdrise.com/exhale-to-inhale-nomorechallenge


Join the MOVEMENT for MEANING

Did you know that every 98 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and we are taking this opportunity to help draw national attention to this human rights issue, and to the Exhale to Inhale mission. Join the movement whether you Om, Spin, Box, Dance or Zumba! Ask your home studio to donate the proceeds from a regularly scheduled class, or schedule a special class to benefit Exhale to Inhale. Sign up on our website at http://exhaletoinhale.org/move-for-meaning-in-april

To learn more watch  5 minute documentary


Monday, March 20, 2017

Purple Bags

In the purple plastic bags that I could not see the contents of
Held by small hands with big bright smiles
Was the nourishment of the body that allowed the soul to not feel empty
Inside the purple plastic bags were the screams of hunger being silenced
The smiles on the children holding them made by possible by the
Hope that they held in those purple bags
That someone cared about them and the endless possibility of who they will be
When they are not hungry for food but only for knowledge

That is what went through my mind as I saw kids in my district, the district of Teslas and second hand cars in the parking lot of the school, who qualify for free lunch last week as they carried these plastic purple bags at the end of the day on a Friday.  I was to learn this is food for those kids because sometimes these are the only meals they get so they get it to take for the weekends ... so they DO NOT GO HUNGRY.

Yes in my, rated most expensive and highest taxed suburb in America, there are towns like mine which are a melting pot of native born citizens, immigrants, mixed parental lineage, heterosexual, homosexual parents.   Our kids play together, play sports on the same teams, they encourage each other at events and overall they do not always know who among their friends are anything other than well their friends.

We are a perfect example how this mix is successful in a school and in creating a community.  Yet as I watched those kids on Friday I cried before I returned to my son's class.  To the many parents who were there like me, taking time off from work or from taking care of their homes, to be there for our kids.  We may not speak the same language but we understood each other through smiles and our commitment to our children.  This on the same day that a cruel budget was put out by the current administration.  It is a not a deficit reduction, not a balanced budget it is just a series of cruel budget that cuts things like free lunches for many, after and before school programs, clean environment, the arts, PBS where many who cannot afford the fancy pre-school classes are getting their preparation and many other things.   Things that make us a great society.

We do not need more bombs, we need to treat our veterans well and make sure that our soldiers are well equipped.

So this is not going to be a long anti anything blog.   It is about what we as individuals define as important and what we want to show our kids as important.   To that end we can all change our world in small ways to make it better and in big ways through our activism with our elected officials.

I am going to do that with small actions.  I am not a wealthy woman but I will be helping those kids with small donations to cover the things in school like pizza parties that maybe their parents do not have $4 to give.

Those purple bags broke my heart but renewed my spirit.   We are not a budget or budget cuts as individuals we are who we choose to be and I choose to be kind.


"...for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plains.. America, America God shed his grace on thee and crown thy hood with brotherhood from sea to shining sea".... America The Beautiful

Monday, March 13, 2017

Adventures in exercising

Image result for dislike exercise I am totally inspired by a friend of mine who wrote of her experience doing yoga to write a blog to all of us who have tried different forms of exercise.  I was inspired to write mind you not to exercise like her .. just to clarify and set some expectations here. 

Now my friend who tried yoga is athletic - I mean like really good shape, runner, biker, cross fitter - yeah you get the picture.  She is fit.  She is tight.  She is really nice so I will not hold that against her.  She like most of my friends who do it regularly actually look forward to work outs that challenge them, I like them so I will not hold that against them either. 

I have never really liked exercise - or what I think of as organized exercise.  I can walk for miles, and I mean miles, particularly in cities at NYC pace which is of course where the whole "power walk" comes from, should just be known as plain old how to get from point A to point B walk for us NYC natives.

We don't just walk, we aggressively walk, we leave people who meander behind.  It took me like 10 blocks once to realize my boyfriend, now my husband, was no longer next to me.  I was talking to myself and of course it's NY no one noticed.  He missed some brilliant conversation during that time, he is not a fast walker.  Not like me who learned to walk at that pace at age 8 when I first got to the States.

Exercise - this is the girl who told her teachers in high school that she had asthma, could not afford a doctor (partially true my parents did not have the coveted Blue Cross Blue Shield that was the insurance at the time - I do not know if there were others), and bought a Primatene mist inhaler to get out of gym.  Worked well for a long time.  What don't judge??? They wanted me to change, do you know what changing is like from panty hose and then getting a possible run into sweaty legs.  Ewww.  Also they wanted me do things like learn the uneven bars and balance beam - listen my fellow Romanian Nadia did enough for that sport so that the rest of us do not need to.

I mean I really did not like it - maybe the square dancing was tolerable - the rest not so much.  This is also the girl that had friends, ok so they were not productive friends but they were fun, from another school miss said school and wait for her in a car to complete the President's Fitness Assessment which meant walking around the outside my high school (big hill -- this is not an exaggeration) timed, in this crappy gym uniform - no thanks.  Go to bottom of hill, get ride, wait a bit 'cause we all know I could not cross finish line in top 10%.   It was all strategic planning - my brain exercised.  Now multi mile walk to hang out with same friends - that I did with no complaint. 

I was not fat then - I thought I was and I look at pictures and realize not so much - but exercise and I were not on friendly terms.

As I got older I tried aerobics, home and in classes.  I am not meant for classes - the other participants always seem to know which side the instructor is referring to and I always seem to go the other way.   I do not want to sweat and get red faced with other people.  I also do not particularly feel anything other than an annoyance for the bouncy haired instructors who are yelling at me with a smile on their face.  Please if you want to be the drill sergeant from Platoon do it without the perky boobs, hair and with some sweat looking like you enjoy being the sadistic control freak you are.   I tried doing it at home - Tae Bo anyone ?  That lasted a whopping month at which point I realized I could leave the VHS tape in my VCR and get exercise when I had to switch it out to a Blockbuster movie rental.

I tried belly dancing - ok so you would think the aerobics directionally challenged experience would have taught me that this would not be a good idea, but hey I figured I had the belly for this.  Finally my less than bounce a quarter off my abs section was good for -- well not sure what it was good for but I looked a bit like I had a disorder or a muscle condition which released my arms in spasms and I tripped over the veiled skirt they gave me.  I lied to all and said I loved it -- I stopped going when they put bells on my waist and even those were out of sync w rest of class.

Yoga was next - I mean really yoga - every one freaking loves yoga right?  I liked it most of the time but I never took to it as much as my friends.  I wanted to but when my favorite part was the nap at the end and I realized that they were pointing out to me that I did not breathe correctly, seriously I am pretty sure I can breathe otherwise I would have not made it to write this blog so much for yoga not being judgmental.   I just never got past the point where I was not judging myself against the people in my classes who seemed to look like the positions were named - locust, downward dog -- they did not have wobbly woman as one of them, I would have rocked it.

I went back to walking and pretty soon I had this brilliant idea that I could run.  Like run in my 40s. My knees laughed, then groaned and then reminded me with their friend the heel spur that yeah if you did not run all of your life then chances are you are not a runner.   I also saw that I did not even like it, my favorite activity to do in the fresh air (ok not so fresh in NYC is really my favorite) walking was not pleasurable anymore when it turned to running and breathing after a while felt like stabbing and knees wanted you to bend them and just sit my ass down.  No -- not a runner, except when I am walking in the 'burbs or near woods.  I pick up speed because I am more likely to be afraid and freaked out there than anywhere in a city, I know how to navigate a city, woods and unpopulated areas - yeah those are in horror films for a reason.   I mean you never see Jason or Freddy chasing down subway riders now do you ?  If you do it is a shitty as sequel done by someone pissed off that it really only happens in the 'burbs or rural areas. 

I tried weights and I always like them for like a month, then I get some delusion that I am bulking up too much (I am not) and then I stop based on that reason, I stop because I do not enjoy it, but hey that sounds lame even to me.

I will not try spin - do I need to fall off a bike to know I will not do it well ?  -- or Crossfit, I am not jumping on box unless it is to get a glimpse of Idris Elba in his pool in the buff.  I will not Spartan race, mud on my face is for facials at best, or I can go back to Astoria to get in touch with my inner ancient civilization collective unconsciousness via a frappe or a good souvlaki. 

I know it is good for you and I battle weight so it is really not just good but needed for me.  However, I loved dancing in clubs when I was younger and that is not something I could replicate though it helped with weight (the limited funds that made me choose booze/cigarettes or real meal am sure were part of it).

About 2 1/2 years ago I decided I wanted to try tennis, a friend of mine told me he also started much older did not mention at the time that he was a natural athlete all his life. My family's reaction, polite smile and asking me if I was going to mention my relationship with them at the gym as it may not be a good idea for their reputation.  I liked the outfits.

I went to a beginner clinic - that is what it said Beginner Tennis Clinic.  My reading skills are fine, far outpace my exercise ability, but apparently the people who signed up with me took beginner to mean far advanced and need a cheaper option than individual lessons.

I did not know how to hold a racket, though in typical me fashion I had purchased a lovely tennis skirt and the little socks (so far BEST exercise outfit of anything I had ever tried - those skirts are soo awesome).   I borrowed a tennis racket and at the end the instructor politely took me aside and told me that he would find a class for my level.  That was code for holy cow you do not even know how to hold a racket level.

The club did just that and I spent a few months learning things like how to hold a racket (trust me there is way to do it so you do not get hurt), how to stand, how to return a ball and not hit it like a home run.  This sport looks much easier and like it requires less coordination on TV than it actually does.

I have not only stuck to it but have looked to play more and more.  I never thought I would say this but I actually miss it when I am not playing.   My family now is pretty happy to say I play and they ask me for pointers - they do not play - because they have seen me and they are more than mildly shocked that I am playing as well as I do. 

Exercising is not a competitive sport - yet it is treated as such.  It is meant to find whatever you like and do it and when you do, you will actually seek time to pursue it.   It is meant to challenge you not break you.

Now it is time to be off to play in my weekly league, my 2nd year, last year the ladies I played with told me I was the most improved player they had seen (nice way of saying we were not sure when we first saw you but guess you proved us wrong).   I want to get better and yes I still love the outfits.   I seek my friend's advice on technique and still take clinics.  I am pretty sure Venus nor Serena would ever play with me but if they did -- well I would lose but one return and this girl would be over the moon.

Here is my friend's blog on her yoga experience - trying things is not only about finding the fit it is also about eliminating the things you do not want to do.
http://hamptonpaperdesignsblog.com/BLOG/2017/03/12/yoga-simple-easy/


Monday, February 27, 2017

We are not a nation of OR we are a nation of AND - Uniting the United States

Related imageThese days in the US it is near impossible not to be aware of and have an opinion on the current political climate. 

It is actually difficult these days to find ways to not be angry or dismayed on both sides of the aisle when you see how divided the country is.  

There is no blame in that statement for there are ways we can all do better to reach across the aisle and then there are people we have to let go of because longevity does not make a friendship if there is no shared moral compass, no shared vision of any kind, no shared goals.   

What I will not give up on though is my belief that we are a country as the US that is not made of "or" but we are made of "and".

We are the wealthiest nation on the planet by many standards.  We are the nation who was created by  people who left someplace to seek a better future or were dragged here via vile means and still believed that there is a place here for them.  A nation whose contributions and innovative spirit is oddly optimistic and has driven our success.  A nation that can be breached by the very thing it invented, technology, and saved by the thing that makes all feel the greatest parts of our humanity.  A nation that needs to rebuild or damns and walls and roads - without needing to damn ourselves with walls on the road to hate.  We are nation that has the right to secure our borders and ask for immigrants to bring with them their culture while asking them to accept the one we have built.  We are nation that can be mighty and fair.   We can ask for great trade deals and offer them in return without forgetting that our success and the success of nations who work with us are not two separate things.  We are nation that should help our hungry and lead to end world hunger. 

We have money to help veterans AND refugees.  We can screen people who apply to come to our nation for a visit, for residence, for a new life AND still welcome them to add to the fabric of this nation.

We have money to have a good military AND still have a lot of money to help our civilian population - isn't that what we protect and fight for?  We can fund social programs, healthcare benefits, arts AND expect that funding to be handled effectively and not squandered through bureaucracy. 

We have the ability to allow people to worship whatever deity they choose AND we do not have to pick one as better.  We do not have to pick a religion at all AND we can still work toward humanitarian goals of charity, kindness, caring, lawfulness.  

We can love and love and love and make that love legal AND we can choose who that is for ourselves because the OR to love is hate.  

We can teach all of our children in public schools AND demand those schools are funded and brought up to the standards all of our children deserve not just those in a certain zip code.  We can have private schools AND still improve our public ones. 

We can establish laws and jails AND make sure that is not to create a business for those who run the prisons instead of a place to truly protect us from those who mean to do all harm. 

We can have religious instruction in religious institutions AND we can laws made in courts and government offices.   Our laws mean you can practice your religion without fear AND we can practice our personal beliefs without imposing them on one another. 

We can have rules and laws that keep industries in line to protect our environment AND those companies can still make A LOT of profit.  OR they can choose to make it seem not so AND we can choose to not believe their greed. 

We can have people who hunt or want to own guns AND have common sense regulations that at least match those we ask of people to get a driving license.

We can rely on science and it's results AND we can say it is hard for us to understand scientists without saying we don't believe because of that. 

We can use birth control AND we can opt not to.  We can have an abortion AND we can choose not to.  We can adopt children AND we can choose place children up for adoption.

We can have equal rights for all AND embrace the differences in people.  

We have enough money for conflicts AND we should have enough for rebuilding in a Marshall plan way because without an after plan we will just have more conflicts.

We can streamline government and regulations that are redundant AND still have government and regulations. 

We can dislike a person AND not be prejudiced against the ethnicity, race, religion, sex, orientation they identify with. 

We can have voted for someone AND acknowledge what they do poorly just as easily as the things they do well without having to become oddly cultish about it the people we vote for.  

We can pee next to one another in different stalls in the same bathroom AND still enforce laws if anyone breaks them and tries to harm someone in those places. 

We can protest AND be patriotic. 

We can believe in each other and not hold our politicians accountable AND we do not have to like the same politicians to do so. 

We are a nation of ANDs - not ORs.  We want a better future for ourselves AND our children, we want fair play for ourselves AND others, we are fallible and flawed AND we balance each other and make those flaws into opportunities. 

If you are not on board with wanting all of these things AND more for each of us who are Americans by choice or by birth then really you have to decide if you are just not willing to imagine such greatness OR that you have embraced your prejudices instead of your possibilities. 

We really a small blue dot of a planet AND across it we all hope for these things regardless of where we live or what language we say it in.   The people who want to do us harm, who choose to make us feel divided, who foster hate can only win if we allow them to OR we could just stop listening to them AND start listening to each other. 



Monday, February 13, 2017

Loving you is easy cause you're beautiful

Love, love, love .. every year I find myself defending the St Valentine's Day holiday when all I want to do is expand it to a monthly event.  

Let's get the commercial aspect out of the way - cute, over priced for the most part, seems bit of a push if you haven't been all that great to think a card better written than any feelings you have will fix it, did I mention over priced?  Yet there are the occasional musings on a card that say just what you are thinking, there is something in getting a small token that makes the recipient smile and really save the cash on the flowers for much better quality ones throughout the year.   

Now that that's over - a random gift means a lot to me, price not even a thought, but one that says hey I walked by a place and you were with me in my thoughts.  

Aside from the cynics need to push back why are there so many people so annoyed with this holiday? Could the world really not use a more than one day to just stop and say you matter to someone?  A day where you send a note telling people those things you may have not, "well they know how I feel" so what if they do, think anyone tires of being told they are important?

If I had to get rid of a holiday I would say I would get rid of groundhog day - I mean seriously let the rodent alone and let's use something slightly more scientific than his shadow to worry about winter. 

What is wrong with a day dedicated to listening to the ridiculous songs that make you roll your eyes but you know every lyric to, to being grabbed for an impromptu spin while your partner croons in their best voice to you and off key or not it makes you smile, a hand held while you cross a street or just maybe something done for you that you normally do for yourself. 

You know what's wrong with all of this ? NOTHING.  The people who want to complain am sure can find something to complain about on any day.  There is nothing wrong with this and no every kiss does not begin with Kay's (actually let's face it, takes more than kissing usually to get the bling but am pretty sure that's not gonna fly as a commercial - often sex ends with Kay ??) but good kissing is as good as any gem.  

So on this day go out, write that bad Roses are Red poem, get a little naughty in the card, tell someone they mean something to you, say the love word to anyone you do and haven't told enough.  They may know how you feel but they may not always understand their importance to you. 

It is good to add a special holiday to a short month but maybe you add some special to every month... love should also start with you, love yourself first and expect only the best for you much like you give to everyone else. 

Happy ❤️  -- happy loving - happy kissing and most of all smile and put it out there, the world could sure use it seems.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

And then some days you are just not sure

Image result for parenting confusionIf you have read any of the blogs I have written in the past, if you have not you can from this link, I often use this space to process my own parenting skills.

There are days when I get the "you are the greatest mom ever" from my boys and then there are moments where I just know, sigh, that I have no real definitive clue on what I am doing but I do know I could have done it better.

You have to add in, if you are trying to be self-aware like I am, those things you carry from your own childhood, the projections you place on your child and admit there will be times when you do something exactly like your parents.  Both good things and yes some things you cringe and think f^&k why did I just do that when I hated it ?!

I am a person who struggles with weight.  I do not know when this struggle started because as a young child, could be living in a Communist bloc country and the lack of variety of food had a lot to do with it, I was not an overweight kid.  Actually I was an underweight kid for a long time because I suffered with tonsils until 3 and could eat very little.

I do not remember noticing my weight in first grade in Romania and it is not because we did not notice, as I also distinctly remember the mean jibes the three kids in my class got from other kids and worse from the teacher for being slightly more padded.  I do not recall them being severely overweight and the horror of these memories revolve around the teacher in particular that we had calling them out on it.  I am glad times have changed because that sucked for them and I am sure had some impact on the rest of us, knowing that it was not something you wanted to get attention for.

There are numerous pictures of me when I first arrived in the States and while I would have described myself a chubby if you asked, when I look at them I wonder why did I think that.  I am not a skinny kid but I am not overweight.

By high school it was something I hated and again I found my graduation picture and where is that heavy girl I swore I would see?  I did have friends who were teeny, tiny sizes but there were plenty of girls my size (and hey these size D boobs did nothing to help with the "skinny" look) or bigger who were not fat either.  Yet I know it was a big deal to be thin, to be a certain size - but I have also always liked good food and diet food has yet to seem appealing.

By college I lost weight on the I have money for cigarettes and going out diet, not much left for actual food  - not recommending.   You are thin but your health and your lungs are giving you the finger.

I have struggled with body image, with how much I weigh, lose, look like.  I have gotten to a better place with it in the last year, where I am looking to lose some weight but not obsessing about it.  I cannot tell you how often I have changed before I left the house because something showed more of fat area than I was comfortable with.  I cringe at the image of me without my clothes, I am glad I do not have to date new people and have that added burden to contend with (you know is he going to make a face when I take it off, mood lighting is code for I do not want you to see me).  The only way you know the number on my pants would be if I told you and who cares, better to be my size and fit than the smaller size and I look like they are a torturous device.  I am working on my own cringe.  

I who do not like classes, tolerate the gym in small doses and miss walking through the city because walking through the 'burbs is snoozville have found one activity I love - tennis.  Of note this city girl also finds empty streets and wooded areas much more frightening than anything the city has to offer.  Tennis I love, I found a coordination I would have sworn did not exist, I look forward to it - I actually make plans to play and miss it.  It could be the outfits, it could be the people I play with, it could be the fun times I associate with the times I get to play with a friend who coaches me.  It is awesome and yes it took being in my 40s to find it. 

Is it any wonder that I do not know how to approach my son who is gaining weight in a way that concerns me ?  Who has no affinity for the gym or exercise for the most part ?

I mean how do I do it without all the negative stigma I associate with the comments my own parents had for me.  My mother thought she was helpful, my father thought he could point out the shame and difficulty it would bring me.  I heard none of that - I heard you are fat.

So here we are, the long road to this blog topic, how do I parent a child who needs it in a way that it is at 80% well received?  I want him not to be the one laughing at his weight when others tease him because that is the way he can control the hurtful situation.  I want him to want to lose the excess weight because it is better for him.  I want to help him understand before his teens that changes that he makes do not mean deprivations.

He was not blessed with those metabolism genes, you know the ones that some people have where they eat and eat and oh yeah eat and I listen to them tell that story and gain weight.  

Some days I am the "greatest mom" but many others I am the I am trying my best mom.   I decided to approach it as a health and lifestyle choice.   I am hoping those who read this who know him understand that he would not want to hear "advice" on the subject unless he approached them for it.

I am going to work with him as I work with this for my own issues,  with getting into better shape.  He knows I started weight watchers and I love that he said he has no idea why I need it.  

The struggle with body image is real for boys and girls.  The struggle with parenting to make it better is real for all of us who want to do this parenting thing as well as possible.   I do not know if others have kids in this predicament but any ideas are welcome.  I have these amazingly confident kids who just seem to want to keep being great - I just want to give them the tools to do that.  I wish for my son not to have this be such a big part of his life, the way it was for mine, while never losing the fact that it is important to manage it well.  I guess I want him to manage his weight not have his weight manage him. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The pink coat

About 17 years ago I had a job at the Hospital for Special Surgery helping a new physician set up his practice.   He was a really nice guy and he understood that his expertise was in surgery and helping patients and the other "stuff", and there is lots of it, was mine.  

I had been there just setting up his insurance participation and starting a schedule for office visits when he came in and told me, on a Friday, that in a week a physician from Pakistan would be using the desk behind mine and he would be there during his time in the States.  

This is full confession time I was not thrilled, ok I was eye rolling.  Really it was a small space, the extra desk was perfect for all the insurance forms and xrays I needed to spread out and did I mention it was a small space?  I just pictured this middle aged guy, who would think I worked for him (which I was not asked to do), from a country not exactly known for it's women as equal stance sitting behind me.  My space on the desk was gone and so was my personal space.   I got over myself by the afternoon and cleaned up the area.  Maybe he would be cute, maybe I was wrong about him by the end of the day he was Omar Shariff to my Lara .. ok minus the part were Lara was a woman who slept with gross men to get things.   If you have no idea of the reference Google "Dr. Zhivago"... ahh now you get it.  

Monday I walked in and settled myself, it was cold as in New York cold.  That is the kind of cold that seeps through your jacket, that makes your face freeze as you run from subway to office.  We New Yorkers pretty much complain about the weather but the seriously cold and the seriously hot and humid bring out the New York angst that you picture from every bad movie about us that you have ever seen.  

There I was when a young man, glasses, smile plastered on walked in and I thought maybe he was a patient, it was the Pediatric surgical section which saw people in college even, but what struck me the most was his coat,   It was a pink woman's coat.   Now many places this may have raised an eyebrow but in New York hey one more gay guy in a pink coat gets no attention.   

He introduced himself - my Omar Shariff not so much maybe his grandson at best  - and with his smile I knew I liked this guy.   He is handsome don't get me wrong.  Though why he stood there in said pink coat was a bit baffling.  I asked him to hang it and I may have made him a little nervous since he could not master hanging it up on the hook.  Maybe a blonde woman, in a new culture was not exactly all he expected.  I was no Lara either. 

Everything I had thought was WRONG!!!  I had the pleasure of knowing him and then some of his friends.   He made me laugh and wanted to be a great office mate and even more than that he wanted to bring his intelligence and medical skills while getting what the US promised - opportunity.   I can think of many times when we laughed together, when he left me in the middle of sentence on a street while he followed a pretty girl never approaching her, when he and I chatted about what a Muslim was, where he shared his family's devotion to education ( PhDs for both parents - ehem not doctor doctors - yeah I gave him grief for that).   He and his friend Nabil taught me to appreciate their culture while being open to experiencing the many NY had to offer.   

No one who met Nabil and Saf could do anything but like them, my friends wanted to be their friends.   

I introduced them to the beach and was impressed that considering they had come from a culture that demands modesty in dress they never once said we should be like them.  I tried to teach Saf how to swim, I still am apologetic for almost drowning him.  We learned from each other because there is much to Pakistani culture to admire as well as I had to pepper them with Romanian drops.  After all we New Yorkers the tossed salad of the world, flavor in each individual ingredient but really best when tossed together. 

Saf and I have kept in touch all these years, via email, text, FaceBook and his multiple stops on his way to his current head of orthopedic surgery gig.  He is not in NY.  Along the way he found a great woman to marry and they have 4 amazingly cute boys.  

I am often tempted to send him a pink coat because it symbolizes not only his beginning here, or our meeting but rather who he is.   A young man who came a little ill prepared for the weather here whose landlady gave him a coat and he took it gratefully despite the fact that it was obviously a mismatch.  

I turn to Saf without any hesitation for medical advice in his field of expertise and I am humbled by how he will be there for anything I have ever needed.  He is my Pakistani brother and I would open a can of whoop ass on anyone who ever treated him with anything less than the respect he deserves. 

On 9/11 as the world fell apart for those of us in NY I worried for my friends' safety, for my city's future and I worried that maybe someone would look at Saf and Nabil and not see them but instead see a place to hurt someone who they connect with the terrorists.    I worried for them as New Yorkers who were experiencing the same pain.  I worried for them as doctors who express such compassion for human beings and to see this was devastating.  We all fell apart that day, some never came back and we mourn them, and others were the spirit and goodness that always are bigger than the hate in those planes. 

As immigrants we share a special gratitude for this new beginning we found in the US, where we worked hard to add to the country, where we had our children who we trust will do great things.   You cannot ban immigrants based on random, discriminatory criteria you should only ban those who want to spread their hate both native born and from other places.  A nation has to secure it's borders but it should never close it's heart.  



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

With a rebel yell...

Image result for women moving mountainsAs I learned history, which I love, or saw it on the big screen or maybe read it in a book I know I had often found myself wondering "what would I have done?".

My two favorite movies since I was a kid have revolutionary female characters and story lines. The first one is "Grease".  We think of the 50s as this time where everyone was all happy, going to the HS rally and virginity for women was a prize for a man's taking.   The "good girls" and the ones who followed the rules were the popular ones right?  "Grease" kicks that on it's ass - the girl gets the guy by being in control, by embracing her own sexuality. The side stories include premartial sex, talk of not keeping a possible pregnancy and healthy disregard for being the same as everyone else.  The movie ends with her singing "you better shape up .." to him so he could meet her needs.

The second is Dirty Dancing.  Besides the fact that we all learned nobody puts Baby in the corner, it is about the dangers of illegal abortions, about men not taking responsibility for getting someone pregnant, for the hypocrisy of judging by class instead of by character.

I mean really what are the chances that I could be a conformist?

Would I have marched and risked my life to ask for the right to vote that men had ?  Would I have succumbed to fascism or been a resistance fighter ?  

We all like to think that we would have been on the side of right but that is always looking at it from the comfort of learning about something rather than being in it.  All of the above required massive sacrifice.  Many of us think we would have fought against those obvious wrong things because of the progress those movements brought us to, it meant often going against everything and everyone that you held dear.  

So here we are at a time when for many, like millions many, of us the actions of a few scream that they want to drag us back, to infringe upon rights that we have taken for granted because we did not imagine they would still be an issue.  

How could I not be part of speaking up when one of my favorite quotes is a sad reminder of what could happen if we sit silent.

It is my mother's fault that I am such a rebel.   It is actually the fault of most of the women in my family and the mothers of my close friends as I grew up.  They are incredibly subversive.   They are the resistance.   My father also was a rebel he tried to leave Romania at 9 because he was against the government so seriously it's in my genes.

I think of the stories my friends tell of their mothers and they, just like me, may not always appreciate the small acts of rebellion and the underlying subversive nature of the impact these acts had on their children.   These women changed us so we could change the world in big and little ways.

Women have done small acts of revolt against the status quo for a long time, setting examples in their own homes to those impressionable children they raised.  I see this in the friends I have.

It is my friend the compassionate physician who treated all his patients with the same level of respect and care regardless of their gender, orientation, or race who was raised by woman who believed in the best in him so he lived as such.   Imagine at the time when "I Love Lucy" debuted, his mother decided for herself that she wanted red hair too and she did it.  Seems so small to so many of us but picture it then , this was money her husband earned and she did not go back when asked to change it. She showed her husband and her son that women do not have to shout to be heard.  That her opinion mattered in a time when too often the opinion of women was the echo of their husbands.  Her granddaughters are leaders who inspire because she inspired them.

I think of my other friend who took charge of her body and became a personal trainer in her 40s.  In the process getting into better shape than she was when we met in high school.   Her mother was always in charge at home, on the outside a traditional woman who is an amazing cook.  A Catholic woman.   She never let her older daughter feel alone, not when she got divorced, not when she changed her life, not ever.  She empowered her daughters to be who they want to be, to speak their minds and to know they cannot compete with her pizza making skills.   Their own children now are truly exceptional.

There is my own mother who left her life to go on journey with my father and start a new one.  She was often told no, discouraged, her kindness taken for granted.  My mom believes in people, is pro-choice and pretty much sees no reason a woman cannot do something a man already is.  She may not always like my opinion but she has never told me not to have one, though she is my mother and is known to give me the opinion I should have.  She is a revolutionary for saying hell no to a government that was a brutal dictatorship.  Her grandsons are often told they are kind and compassionate, they for sure got that from her.

There are my two friends, siblings, who are incredibly vocal and unrelenting in their pursuit of their passions which include law school, human rights, business careers, arts and most of all open hearts.   Their mother defied the odds and went back to school, got her dental degree, all while raising two girls as a single parent.  Role model whose grand-kids are being raised by those two daughters to think nothing is impossible.

My best friend's mother was always smiling when I saw her but boy if you ever got on her wrong side you better duck and roll.  She was someone who married a man many years her junior, something that is still given too much stank eye, back in the 60s.   She demanded a lot of her daughter but because she knew her daughter was meant for greater things.   She smiled and laughed a lot but was there for sure if you were about to have a good cry.  She called it like she saw it and she was a role model for what authentic looks like.  Her daughter is the one you want in your corner because she takes to causes and does not let go until an injustice has been corrected.

There is of course my tri-Athlon racing, help the kids of this town, go back to school after 40 to get a degree from Columbia University friend.   Her mother decided to follow her heart and leave her marriage for another woman back before these things were not news and get her law degree.  Her daughter learned from her that if you follow your heart you will be successful.

These seem small or maybe insignificant but they are not.  They are the glue of women who say we are worthy of our own opinions.  There are the big acts like Rosa Parks refusing to move her seat. These are the everyday struggles that still plague women globally.

It is not elitist to understand that those of us who have more of a voice have to speak up for those who do not.  That we appreciate the rights we have fought so hard for and won and are using them to do things like vote, protest, organize, donate and advocate.

I want to honor the women like my mother who got a divorce when enough was enough because she understood her self-worth.   These women who may have not always raised their voices raised children who are caring about themselves and others.   Who may not always agree but can align on the need for better things for the world not just themselves.

There are so many examples that I could go to but that would be a book not a blog.  You did not need to march, no one called anyone out for having a different belief because your choice not to march, not to have or to have children, to work or not, to marry who you love, to be able to be the CEO of a company or the CEO of your home is exactly what we marched for.

Even in our silence women have often moved mountains and at some point in every one of our lives we find we cannot be silent any longer.  Some of us love men, some women and we do not want to have more than the opportunity to show you what wondrous things we too can do.   We will not look back when we know the future is forward so if you cannot support us, encourage us, empower us to help others and add to the fabric of this world well then please just sit down and let us walk by. Remember we raise children and as you can see above we leave a lasting impression,