Friday, October 30, 2009

Children In the US

A recent post by mother's rights activist & blogger Linda Juergens caught my attention.As a woman and/or mother, it should catch your attention too.

Read the recent post:
US Makes Poor Showing for its child welfare

Other favorite resources to empower mothers:
Your (Wo)man in Washington blog
Doing Better For Our Children
The Price of Motherhood & If You Can Raise Kids, You Can Do Anything
National Association of Mothers' Centers

*photo taken with my son, 5 weeks old.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We Cannot Wait For Peace

"If you want world peace,
go home and love your family."
~Mother Teresa

Today, the Washington Post has announced 8 more troops were killed in southern Afghanistan this morning. Some one's son or daughter has been lost forever to war, in the name of freedom. Laying down one's life for another is the ultimate sacrifice.

We cannot stop war by simply shouting "peace!" We have to do something. Just as each of the 8 troops gave their lives today - an individual can make a difference. Their deaths were not in vain. Those who would argue differently, try saying that to the parents of those who gave their life. Our thoughts and prayers should all go out to those parents and families, with words of comfort and support.

We can "be the change."
There is widespread violence against women throughout Afghanistan and other countries across the globe. Nurture peace by helping women who are standing in the crossfire of war and are many times over the victims of horrific crimes in the name of "war."

Ways to "be the change."
On September 21, the Peace X Peace (pronounced Peace By Peace) non profit organization launched a campaign. Here is what they pleaded for:

"Women around the world have been patient long enough. We have been nice and polite long enough. We need to start getting in the way, whenever and wherever violence rears its head. Each of us is stronger than we think, and together we are strong enough to do anything - even end this bad human habit of war. It starts with me and you, together, today. I have made up my mind and planted my feet, and I WON'T wait for peace."

  1. A simple act of solidarity for all women. Acting in peace for women everywhere by joining Peace X Peace today. It is free, only takes a minute, and is a way to stay connected with other women who are advocates for peace in our time.
  2. Follow Mother Teresa's advice. Let's all make sure we go home and love our family today. If the whole world did that, could war be an option?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Support Women's Rights

Below is a poem, newly penned by a young Afghan woman* and dear friend of mine. Her life and the life of her family is in constant danger because of her gender, nationality, and her family's support of her education. Yet this brave young woman fights fearlessly for the liberation of all fellow Afghan women.

As U2's Bono sings, "where you live should not determine whether your live or die." Please compassionately read her poem and support the fight for women's rights!

The Gradual Death of Vulnerable Afghan Women

The rights of women are high in the world, it is said,
but this privilege is mere words.
Women do not possess their own rights,
be it in the past or present, it is apparent.
To restore women's rights, they all talk,
but except to win status, they take no actions.

O Afghan woman, strive to win your own rights!
Seek knowledge and be aware of your rights.
If you do not win your rights, who will give them to you?
How long will you be vulnerable? Fight for your rights!
A gradual death has given you this day.
If you want to be rescued, then be a fighter and fear nothing.
The defender of the deprived Afghan women and their rights.
We share the pain of the women of the world.

*For safety, the author's name is not published.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stop Stress In Its Tracks, Day 3

Okay ladies, here are my last "real time" stress busters (for this week anyway).

1. Stress scenario: There is not enough time in the day to get everything done.
2. Solution: This is a tough one, but we must tackle it.

Identify time wasters:
  • Cut out TV. Completely. Even get rid of your TV. We did in 2004. We only recently got a small one so our kids can watch their DVD's. Public television is the only channel my children watch now. My husband and I only watch State of the Union addresses, or in the case of an election year, we watch the political debates. Instead of wasting our time with TV, if we want to watch something important, we will order it via our Netflix account. In addition, there is no TV during any family time, such as dinners, and no more than 2 PBS shows or 1 movie (i.e. the time it takes to watch a movie) a day.
  • Cut back on Internet. We connect to the world via the Internet, so we get what we need and not what we don't (ads, silly pop culture, violence on the evening news, etc.). I use the Internet for reading news, work, shopping, and some social and professional media (once/week usually). However we can still have the tendency to surf the net too much. Now we observe the following: No Internet or computers during the dinner hour, between 5-8 pm. No Internet during any family time. This means no texting, no cell phones, no TV, no outside interruption. Same goes for email. As I mentioned previously, try to only check your email two times a day. Hovering over your email all day is not productive.
  • Get rid of your land line & then don't answer your cell phone. I stand by my Grandfather Garner's philosophy. "Say what you need to say, and get off the phone." Yes, even as a teenager, I stood firm on this philosophy. If you do not need a land line, then get rid of it. It will also save you some money each month. I only use my cell phone when I absolutely must. My whole family knows I do not like to use the phone. Now my cell phone rings only when the caller has something important to say.
  • Don't buy tabloids or fluff magazines. Yes, I have been known to read a copy of House Beautiful as intensely as I teach a yoga class. However, our society should know better than to fuel pop culture demand for gossip magazines. You know, the ones that discuss celebrity's private lives and make us feel either good or bad about our self image. It's easy. Just don't do it. Put that money you would spend into your children's' stock portfolios.
  • Don't overdo a task. This is similar to talking on the phone. Only do it if you must. Think about what you are going to do before you are going to do it. For example, making a grocery list. I have this nifty list that divides whole foods into categories, so you can check a box and then go straight to that section in the store. No time wasted and no impulse buys.
  • Get rid of the clutter. This applies at several levels.
  1. Don't bring junk mail into the house. Stand at your recycling bin and toss it as soon as you take it out of the mailbox. We all know physical clutter, this includes extra body weight, can create mental clutter. Better yet, take action to reduce or eliminate receipt of junk mail altogether.
  2. Get rid of one item for each new item you purchase. This especially applies to clothing and furnishings. Stop consumerism.
  3. Don't have a junk drawer. I don't. Every drawer in my house has a purpose. There is no need to waste a drawer, or any storage space, to hold junk. Either the junk can be re purposed, given away to someone who won't consider it junk, recycled, or trashed.
  • Make things hover. I know this one is strange, but it is my favorite. My husband can vouch for that. Carefully plan your rooms. The more things you have sitting on the floor, the more cluttered (and less usable) a room feels. For anything that remains in one spot more than a week, you need a designated place and storage method for it. Mail, laundry (dirty and clean and the stuff that is in the "holding" area to be put away, ironed, or taken to the cleaners), reusable grocery totes, hats, shoes, wine. I try to create proper storage so things can "hover" - that way, I can whisk around the room and tidy up in a flash. Shockingly, I have no problem with my family, including my husband, leaving things all over the house. If you create a practical, user friendly method for organization, then it will be easier for your family to use that that to leave it on the floor. Trust me. Making things hover really works.
1. Stress: Immediate overload. You need help now!
2. Solution:

  • 10 minutes of Yoga. I used to practice for 90 minutes a day on average. Now, I actually practice for no more than 30 minutes 4-6 times a week, and am in better shape. (yes, I know. less is more.) Some days though, especially when my children were infants, I only got 10 minutes. It still got my pre-baby body back, and I had instant stress relief. Follow me on You Tube to get fit.
  • Time away from kids, or your job, etc. This can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 days! I know it is obvious, but as women, we never have time away. Take it today. Recharge.
  • Pray. Return to your spiritual roots. Faith and hope are our greatest weapons against burnout and stress. Believe. Meditate. Begin your day with hope. You can do it anywhere.
  • Volunteer. The surest way to help yourself is to help others. I observe my boundaries (see day 1 and 2 blog), but because I have identified and eliminated time wasters, I still have time to give. And, I am teaching my children a valuable lesson about helping those in need.
  • Focus on relationship building. We are not created to be independent, solitary, isolated creatures. Human beings were created for relationship. Cultivate them.
  • Count your blessings. Recognize milestones. Look at what you have accomplished, rather than what you have not. You are amazing!
3. Overall Benefits: More time for You. More time for Others. A Greater Appreciation for the human race. A second (or third) chance to Live and Love Life. A great way to Live in Gratitude.

Now I am going to settle into my own stress relief mode. Starting today, I am unplugging from technology for 1 whole week.
Yes, I am practicing what I preach.
"See" you in 1 week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stop Stress In Its Tracks, Day 2

Each day, I am guilty of multi-tasking. I've been known to brush my teeth while folding clothes and changing a diaper, for example. Today, the stress scenario is multi-tasking. What to do?
  1. Stress Scenario: Excessive multi-tasking. This is the most common stress inducer for working moms, I believe. In my case, I work a compressed schedule to try and maximize my family time. This means I will work intensive projects for a time, but then take time off in between. (i.e. weekend work followed by weekdays off OR waking up early to work before the kids get up and working after they go to bed at night OR working during their nap and then having my husband take over when he gets home so I can go to work for a few more hours. Many of you share this perpetual hamster wheel of a schedule. I used to work 7 days a week at all hours of the day and night, all year round. My family vacations were "neatly" packaged in business trips. When my first son was born, I went back to work when he was 5 days old. Even though I was working from home, business was still dictating my schedule. My newborn son should have had priority. On my first visit to my in laws after my husband and I were married, I brought work along - not just checking email, but addressing thousands of business mailers. My husband and I covered his mother's dining room table with promotional mail to send out for my business. At the time the work seemed urgent. But when I look back on it now, I realize I was unable to detach myself from work. Business could have waited. I still didn't learn my lesson when my second child was born. I answered work email through the entire first stage of labor. I timed my contractions while answering emails! I remember squatting next to the printer, working my way through a hard contraction (they were almost 2 minutes apart) on the birthing ball, while waiting on a document to print. The epitome of multi-tasking, I realize now it has caused me to LOSE more quality time than gain.
  2. Solution: Set boundaries. It took me some time before I "got" it. I would perpetually over schedule myself and even our family's schedule. Case in point: I used to run a local studio and a national business simultaneously. Burn out anyone? When children came, I realized even more - I could not be superhuman. (oh yea, and "supermom" - well she doesn't exist) Determine what you can pull back on and follow through. Just do it, as the famous Nike ad campaign exclaims. I cut back to part time hours for my local practice. I also work seasonally. In the month of July, I only work my national business so I can spend more time with my family. I also limit my number of national engagements to 12 or less. In other words, I won't travel for work more than once a month. Yes, I made a conscious choice to chose family time over financial gain. In addition, only check emails twice a day. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I do not care for phone conversations. However, in turn, I ended up chained to my email (my own fault). Recently, I made a sweeping announcement to family, friends, and colleagues that I would not be answering email as quickly as I used to. You know what, no one got mad. Actually, everyone totally understood and agreed that they should probably do that too!
  3. Benefit: Breathing space. More time with family. Down training. I can spend stress free time with my family. No, I don't miss the extra income. I am happily not a prisoner of cyberspace (aka email and Internet). And, I do not feel hyper-stimulated (deer in headlights, anyone?). So am I a master of "down training", that is, making a conscious decision not to multi-task? No, I am not.
I must continuously remind myself to follow my own advice on a daily basis. This is important. I always earnestly strive to practice what I preach, and live by example.

So don't berate yourself for falling off the "boundary wagon". Get up, dust yourself off, and reestablish your boundaries. That's what I do. That is why I am ending this blog now. My children call.

Tomorrow, another stress tip for time management woes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop Stress In Its Tracks

Sometimes it creeps up on you, sometimes it crashes into you, sometimes it consumes you, but frequently it seems, stress seems to be just around the next corner. My day is going smoothly, and then something ALWAYS happens to interrupt my "zen" flow.

Reality! You wake up late or you wake up too early. You forget your cell phone or you accidentally wash (and dry!) your cell phone (me with pregnant brain during my second pregnancy). You grocery shop and then leave the groceries at the store (my cousin and dear friend, right after the birth of her second child). You make up your child's bed neatly and, in the meantime, he or she is hard at work sabotaging your latest manuscript (kids love laptops, especially mine!). You go to work to provide family financial stability, but in the end you have no time to spend with the family you are working so hard for.

Mothers, the original gurus of multi-tasking,
can have a pretty long "stress" list. In fact, the more we multi-task, the more stressed and less efficient we become. (can I get an amen there?)

So this week, I will share "real time" stress relief secrets. This means I will offer up stress relief tips that work in real life - like the ones I use while I try to get my kids to nap so I can finish this blog or the ones I use when the kids spew their oatmeal at each other as I (try to) concentrate on answering work email - you know - that kind of "real time".

Even now, as I work, I am listening to my oldest sing his own nonstop rendition (by request) of happy birthday to his brother (it's not his birthday) while they "nap." So here it goes....

7 Ways to Stop Mommy/Wife Stress In Its Tracks:
  1. Stressful Scenario: The kids are not listening to you (boy if I had a nickel for every time this happened).
  2. Solution: Whisper, don't shout. I use to shout, but after a year of chronically losing my voice I learned something neat. When I spoke in a tone closer to a whisper than a shout, my kids listened more. Also, stick around until you get the results you are looking for. In yoga speak, this means helping a student align their pose, then not moving on to the next student until they have achieved the safe alignment you want. The same is true with children. To get them to nap, I hung around outside their bedroom door. (I recently moved them into a shared room, so bed time has gotten very interesting.) Each time I would hear little feet on the floor, I would open the door and calmly remind them to stay in their beds. I also tossed in a carrot - I told them "we will have more time for fun after their nap if they go to sleep now." The results were profound.
  3. Benefit: You don't have to get anymore headaches from listening to your head roar. You can prevent wrinkles from not having to twist up your face in exasperation all the time. Your posture will improve because you can take the time to bend down on one knee and explain to them why they are in trouble, instead of hunching over or throwing your head back to get your voice to travel the furthest distance at the loudest volume possible. Lastly, your shouts become more effective when they are truly needed (like a dangerous situation of running into traffic, etc.), They will be less likely to think you are "crying wolf" and will be much more receptive to you. I get lots more "I wuv you's (I love you's) from my kids for shouting less and speaking gently more.
  1. Scenario: Your husband is not listening to you. (hmm, another nickel anyone?)
  2. Solution: One of my biggest pet peeves is repeating myself. And, there is nothing worse than repeating yourself when no one is listening. So when this scenario arises, I remind myself that no one is a perfect listener. In addition, not many people digest information after they've only heard it once. (can anyone pass that physics or biology test after only reading the information once?) Remind yourself that everyone is fragile and you are not the center of the universe. Your husband is likely as stressed as you are. Ask him what he may need to get off his chest as well. The fact is, how well can you pay attention to details if you are already overwhelmed with information (aka hyper stimulated)? If these reminders do not work, send your partner an email or write a short letter. Consider it a "love letter". A means for really slowing down to say what you mean. When is the last time you wrote one a love letter to your partner? Do it today. Lastly, try to avoid working out problems during chaotic times. I am not a procrastinator. In fact, I am the anti-thesis of a procrastinator. But for working on marital bliss with your partner, sometimes procrastination is a good thing. Instead of trying to work through a disagreement while the kids are also melting down, postpone it. The immediacy of what you disagreed over will subside. Let yourself mellow for a while (not steep!), and see if you can speak about it when the situation has calmed itself.
  3. Benefit: Improved communication, hands down. By far, the biggest troublemaker in a relationship is lack of or ineffective communication. Usually, it is because of anger or expectations. (i.e. You get angry because expectations were not met. For example, "I thought you were going to pick up the groceries. or I thought Friday was our date night? or I cannot believe you said that to me.") Explain what you mean, without animosity or hidden agenda. If you cannot do it out loud, do it in writing. Many times, you can explain things better if you write them out first, and you are less likely to let anger dictate your speech.
Stay tuned...5 More Stress Busters to come this week!

*photo taken in June of this year during a trip to Grandfather mountain. ...a typical day in the life of any mother....

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sleep Better Tonight: Part 5 of 5

Download the final "sleepytime" pose for this week.

Remember to download all the poses from this week. Also recall last week's deep abdominal breathing and sandbag breathing.

This entire practice will help you relax, renew, breathe better, and get you ready for a great night's rest.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sleep Better Tonight: Part 3 of 5

Yesterday and today's practices focus on increasing your hip mobility. There is a high correlation, supported by research, that hip tightness or restriction can contribute to or increase low back pain.

If you are dealing with any type of pain on an ongoing basis, especially low back pain, this pose can help ease pain and promote sleep simultaneously. I don't know about you, but I don't like wasting time. This pose is a way to treat your hip tightness, help with diminishing or preventing low back pain, AND get to sleep at the same time. No time wasted!

Note: You do not have to spend more than about 5 minutes in each pose this week. You can do them all at one time though. So if you wanted to and have the time, you could have an entire 30-45 minute restorative, sleep inducing yoga practice at one time! Click Here to Download Day 3

Don't forget to download Day 1 & 2 below.

*If you have any discomfort, make sure you back out of the pose far enough to make it comfortable. In addition, always make sure to obtain permission from your physician or therapist before participating in any exercise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sleep Better Tonight: Part 2

This week I will offer you a complete yoga program to help you sleep better. Each day will be dedicated to 1 resotorative posture.

Performing each posture on a daily basis will improve hip mobility, which is well supported in research to decrease low back pain. In addition, each posture will help diminish low back pain through gradual stretch and gentle movement.

Restorative yoga is unlike typical yoga you see, where students are moving from pose to pose, actively strengthening their bodies. Restorative yoga is a passive approach to increasing flexibility, preventing injury, and improving well being.

Get started today. Download Pose 1 in a 5 part series on Sleeping Better Tonight!

An alternate view from my website.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sleep Better Tonight!

Sleep is one of the biggest risk factors in loss of health. When you do not get enough sleep, every facet of your body suffers. Harvard University's Division of Sleep Medicine is leading the way in both researching and promoting awareness of the crucial importance of sleep.

Just because we get ready for bed, climb under the covers, switch off the lights and close our eyes does not mean we will actually go to sleep, or even relax. Our minds often continue to run 80 miles an hour and are unable to slow down. Our bodies, when given a chance to stop moving, often revolt in pain and discomfort. Quite often, low back and neck pain are worse at night when you stop moving.

This week's blog aims to help you get a good night's rest.

Each day I will be posting a restorative yoga pose in the method which I teach, called Professional Yoga Therapy. It is a combining of physical therapy and specialized yoga. This week's blog is dedicated to the students in my restorative classes. Here is your homework ladies! Stay in tune and on task with this week's practice. I will post a pose a day starting tomorrow.

To get started sleeping better tonight, try this:

1. "Re"establish your normal circadian rhythm. Some of us mistakenly think we are "night owls", able to stay up late and still get up early and have a productive day. However, as we age & as more research on sleep is completed, we realize the folly in this statement.

Sleep is the only time our body has to "grow and repair" itself. If we are not sleeping, we cannot heal. To maximize sleep quality, go to bed no later than 10 pm and rise no later than 7 am. Both western and eastern medicine recognize the importance of sleep and recommend similar practices.

So tonight, reset your clock. Go to bed before 10 pm and rise no later than 7 am.
2. Create a "sacred space." Your bedroom should be a sanctuary. However, most of us have turned them into hi tech busy body stations. With flat screen tv's, home offices tucked into corners, laptop computers, blackberry's, and the list goes on - it is hard to get a good night's sleep. Add to that the light and noise pollution of our world - street lights, 24 hour gas station/quick stops, super highways running through neighborhoods - and it's amazing that any of us function normally (ahem, if there is even a "normal" function that remains in our world).

So tonight, create a sacred space.
  • Expel. Turn off the tv & expel all technology from your bedroom (except a good sleep inducing book). Invest in dimmer switches to create mood lighting.
  • Paint. For future plans, go to your local paint store and pick out a low VOC paint color. Repaint your bedroom a darker, enveloping, sleep inducing shade (mine is a chocolaty eggplant color, for example).
  • Black Out. Consider investing in blinds or shades. I put up darkening blinds and heavy drapes lined in black out fabric when my children were born. I quickly learned that although I did not mind rising with the sun in the morning, my children were cranky and sleep deprived if they had to sleep in a bright room. I was once averse to drapery, considering them an allergy inducing mess; however, I have found my family had no issues with allergies and we have had them in our home for over 5 years now.
  • Conductivity. Place objects in your bedroom that are meaningful to you and your partner ONLY. This means no other family photos, no photos of your children (even!), no photos or art (or heaven forbid, loads of "knick knacks") of activity or bright, sunny colors. Everything in your bedroom should help induce sleep (or be conducive to that one and only "other" activity that should be taking place!) Add wedding photographs, candles, incense, and meaningful (but sparse!) objects which represent love and unity.
  • Feng shui (Chinese design) and vastu (Indian design) have plenty to say about what should and should be in a bedroom. This is an entirely other blog, and I'll be blogging about this in week's to come. Stay tuned for Future Blogs on Bedroom Interior "Re"Design
Here's to your good sleep! Stay tuned for the "Sleep Inducing Pose of the Day" starting October 6!
*photo is my second son, growing fast in his first week of life. 2007