Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Self Image, Body Image

Now that summer has been in full swing, many of us have been sporting swim suits, shorts and tank tops - much to the chagrin of most American women who are taken aback when they look at their reflection.  Many women are dissatisfied with their body image and this cuts into their self image.
"We do not develop our body image all on our own. The people around us and our culture strongly influence it. We get both positive and negative messages about our bodies from family and friends all the time — starting from when we’re very young.  We also get messages about body image from television, magazines, films, and other media. Many of the beliefs we have about the way women and men should look come from the models and celebrities we see in the media. But models and celebrities do not look like most people. For example, on average, women who are models have very different builds. They weigh 23 percent less than women who are not models," according to Planned Parenthood.

If we look around us, bodies in the real world are all unique and diverse.  Our life stages shape us from puberty to menopause.  Many factors such as stress, age and disabilities affect our appearance.

Here are twenty ways to love your body from the National Eating Disorders Association:

1.Think of your body as the vehicle to your dreams.  Honor it.  Respect it.  Fuel it.
2. Create a list of all the things your body lets you do.  Read it and add to it often.
3. Become aware of what your body can do each day.  Remember it is the instrument of your life, not just
an ornament.
4. Create a list of people you admire:  people who have contributed to your life, your community, or the
world.  Consider whether their appearance was important to their success and accomplishments.  
5. Walk with your head held high, supported by pride and confidence in yourself as a person.
6. Don’t let your weight or shape keep you from activities that you enjoy.
7. Wear comfortable clothes that you like, that express your personal style, and that feel good to your
8. Count your blessings, not your blemishes.
9. Think about all the things you could accomplish with the time and energy you currently spend
worrying about your body and appearance.  Try one!
10. Be your body’s friend and supporter, not its enemy.  
11. Consider this:  your skin replaces itself once a month, your stomach lining every five days, your liver
every six weeks, and your skeleton every three months.  Your body is extraordinary--begin to respect
and appreciate it.
12. Every morning when you wake up, thank your body for resting and rejuvenating itself so you can
enjoy the day.
13. Every evening when you go to bed, tell your body how much you appreciate what it has allowed you
to do throughout the day. 
14. Find a method of exercise that you enjoy and do it regularly.  Don’t exercise to lose weight or to fight
your body.  Do it to make your body healthy and strong and because it makes you feel good.  Exercise
for the Three F’s: Fun, Fitness, and Friendship.
15. Think back to a time in your life when you felt good about your body.  Tell yourself you can feel like
that again, even in this body at this age.
16. Keep a list of 10 positive things about yourself--without mentioning your appearance.  Add to it!
17. Put a sign on each of your mirrors saying, “I’m beautiful inside and out.”
18. Choose to find the beauty in the world and in yourself.
19. Start saying to yourself, “Life is too short to waste my time hating my body this way.”
20. Eat when you are hungry.  Rest when you are tired.  Surround yourself with people that remind you of
your inner strength and beauty. 
"Don't weigh your self esteem, it is what's inside that counts."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Yoga for Life

With its quiet, precise movements, Yoga draws your focus away from your busy, chaotic day and toward calm as you move your body through poses that require balance and concentration, according to the Mayo Clinic.

This works.  

I began my Yoga practice nearly two years ago when I met Pilar Redmond at the local farmers' market.  Newly certified as a Yoga instructor, she was looking for a place to offer classes.  I offered my home and gathered a few friends and neighbors to meet Friday afternoons to see what all this Yoga hoopla was all about. None of us had practiced Yoga.  

Our age ranged from mid 40s to mid 60s and we were mainly women.  We all varied in our fitness levels and we all attended with with our injuries and ailments. Pilar's manner was calming and accepting of our varied abilities. She was creative in weaving together poses or asanas into an artistic flow of movement.

We all began to look forward to our Friday afternoons with Yoga and Pilar.  We started noticing how calm and relaxed we felt after class.  A significant decrease in mind chatter was noted.  The breathing exercises along with the movement pulled us into the moment, bringing focus to the present.  This exercise opened space in our minds for just being.

Our shared Yoga experience has brought us through our own life experiences. Together in practice we live through cancer, divorce, death, injuries, losing a home, birth of children and grandchildren, unemployment, new employment, advanced degrees, authoring books and more.  

Today, with newly developed strength, we are holding poses we did not know our bodies could.  According to the Mayo Clinic, Yoga might help with a variety of health conditions, such as cancer, depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia, by helping with sleep problems, fatigue and mood. Yoga also can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure.  As you learn and refine new poses, you may enjoy improved balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. And this means you're less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities.

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured, says B.K.S. Iyengar.
See for yourself.  Yoga Journal offers a plethora of information such podcasts and videos for all levels.  

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day People

Memorial Day is a federal holiday for honoring soldiers who died in military service. This day is observed on the last Monday of May.  Over 4600 American military men and women have died so far in the War on Terrorism in these two operations: 2001 Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq).  Of these fatalities, 2.4% were women who make up 16% of the department of defense force.  Over 4500 deaths have been men who comprise 97.6% of the force.  

These stats represent real people whose departure from this world has a heart wrenching impact on those close.  Appreciation, gratitude and sadness is felt from people across the country for these men and women, on this day.

Memorial Day was initially known as Decoration Day to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the American Civil War.  After World War I, this day commemorated all our fallen soldiers who have died in all wars.  Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day in memory and honor of those who gave their lives fighting for a common cause.  This total so far is over 340,000 people.  Of this total is William Newman.  

Airman William Newman
12/8/1983 - 6/7/2007
In remembrance of our son, William Newman, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  He was only 23 years old when died serving as an Air Force EOD technician.  William was part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team stationed at Hickman Air Force Base in Hawaii.  He was killed while disarming an IED(improvised explosive device) in Balad, Iraq.  One year later the Hickman Air Force Base EOD facility was dedicated and named in his honor.  Thank you for your service and dedication to our great country.  We miss you and love you so much.

Thank you to all the Veterans, for all those currently serving in our military, and for those who have lost their lives.  Words cannot express our gratitude and appreciation. - Angela Newman, founder of Pink Ladders.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mother's Day - a feminist idea

When most of us think of celebrating Mother's Day, we think about reservations for brunch, bouquet of flowers, and cards.  Oh, and of course, our mothers and grandmothers.  We take stock of our relationship with them or lack thereof.  We think of ourselves as mothers or step mothers or other mothers like aunts, friends or sisters.  We tend to feel honored, sad or maybe indifferent on this day. In any case, this day is an opportunity to think bigger than ourselves, as mothers of our society.

Mother's Day in the United States was brought to discussion with the writing of the Mother's Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe, a feminist, in 1870.  Julia also wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Being a feminist meant that women had a "responsibility to shape their societies at a political level". The Mother's Day Proclamation was a response to the deaths and injuries of the sons as result of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War.

This Mother's Day amid our plans for food and company, maybe we think about and talk about our roles as mothers of our society. 

Mother's Day Proclamation

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:

"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April, Poetry, Women

"For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences."
                           —Rainer Maria Rilke
National Poetry Month is held every April to recognize poetry's imprint on American culture.  Publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets acknowledge and celebrate poetry along with thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations.

Many women poets have exposed vignettes of experience through their poetry bringing about connection in social struggle, joy, fear, strength and heartache.  Elizabeth Alexander is an American poet who was asked to read at President Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.

by Elizabeth Alexander
I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I 
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove 
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying 
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.