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/