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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Ode to Yoga - A Good Rant

Aw yoga, how I've missed you so! Even though my joints hurt and my back is creaking, I've been away from you far too long.

I've been a student of yoga on and off for 10 years. I've sung yoga's praises to anyone who'll listen, wrote articles about yoga, interviewed well-known yoga experts across the country and overall, just really love yoga. Yes, I'm one of THOSE yoga freaks but freaky in a good kind of karmic, bendy way.

I've always been lucky - I've had amazing teachers over the years (thanks Robert!) and learned a lot about yoga and also learned how to quiet my mind and meditate, which takes a lot for me since I have a manic mind.

Yoga has also taught me about how to simplify my life and that sometimes even the most crazy schedules and work stressors can be put on hold for an hour out of the day. I don't think I would have survived my insane non-profit jobs without yoga as part of my life.

I've recently returned to yoga and stumbled upon a great teacher here in Auburn. I've been searching for a good yoga teacher. Searching is an appropriate word because finding a yoga teacher is like finding those comfy pair of shoes that just fit. There needs to be that certain vibe and fit, and if I'm not feeling it then my yogi-ness won't be happening.

I've practiced all styles ranging from ashtanga (powerful yoga) to lovely hatha (lots of breathwork). This is my first experience with Yin yoga and it's a beautiful style (and one I'm learning more about as I continue with the class).

This poem was read to us in class and wanted to share an excerpt. It's fitting for my new yoga path - well, I'm continuing the yogic journey but with a new focus.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?"

Exactly. Who are you not to be?

"As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. We are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

So take a few minutes out of your day - even if yoga isn't your thing. Just take a few minutes to breathe and remember we're all in it together - this crazy little thing called Life.

Namaste.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Real Reason I Hang Out At a Local Coffeehouse - Unabomber Stories

My alma mater is Chico State (yes, THAT party school in northern California). I'm always drawn to fun, cozy coffeehouses and used to spend hours studying at a cute French cafe/coffeehouse in Chico (before Starbucks took over the world). My minor at Chico was American Studies and I wrote a research paper for a folklore class about America's coffee culture. I interviewed students who hung out at local coffeehouses in Chico. That's how I caught the coffeehouse bug and it's stayed with me ever since.

I hang out a cool coffeehouse called Courthouse Coffee in Old Town Auburn (there's your plug, Linda). I actually network and find a lot of business contacts here as a result of typing away/working on my laptop. Yesterday I realized why I really love the local coffeehouse culture. I always hear the most interesting stories and meet fascinating people. I guess that's the wannabe journalist in me. I love the inside scoop.

The best story I heard yesterday involved Ted Kaczynski- yes, THAT Kaczynski (Mr. Unabomber himself). According to this gentleman, Mr. Kaczynski was the worst mathematics professor at UC Davis and over 100 people dropped his class (hmmm, why isn't that shocking?) He also got into a heated argument with Mr. Kaczynski about his crappy teaching skills. This man could have been on Unabomber's "hit list," and I found the story both fascinating and scary. Everyone made jokes that he was lucky he didn't "receive a package in the mail" at a later date from good ole Ted.

That was one of the best/fascinating stories I've heard at the coffeehouse in a long time. I've started ignoring the people that want to tell me why they left their husband or why their boyfriend is a jerk (thanks but I already have enough baggage in my own life). I'd much rather hear about people pissing off the Unabmber.

If you ever want to hear colorful stories, hang out at a local coffeehouse.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Social Networkers Beware: Think Before You Tweet

Today I read a disturbing "tweet" from a man who was offered a job by Cisco and proceeded to badmouth his "potential" employer via Twitter. Unfortunately, because of this man's stupid mistake Cisco big whigs found his "tweet" on Twitter and responded to his negative comment about Cisco. Hmm, that man no longer has a job offer from Cisco. Talk about shooting yourself in the social networking foot. Especially in this crazy, turbulent economy, that was not a bright move on this guy's part. I guess he didn't want the job that much. However, some lucky AND grateful person now has that job.

A public relations professional from Ketchum PR made a rude comment about his clients' (FedEx) home city, Memphis, before he gave a presentation to 150 FedEx employees. That "tweet" caused bad repercussions and made its way to the head honchos at FedEx. This guy forgot the basics of PR 101 - "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." What an idiot.

Learn a lesson from these gentlemen who lacked very poor judgement with their lack of social networking "net"etiquette. People post some "interesting" pictures and comments on Facebook and Myspace. You really need to use common sense. Don't be like doofus Twitter-er who lost a potential job as a result of his negative comments.

Lesson of the day: "Think before you tweet." You never know who's reading your comments.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Doesn't the World Pay Attention to Our Teenagers?

For those of you who kept up with the news this past week, Germany suffered a very tragic loss that we have seen played out far too many times here in the U.S. A Stuttgart high school student pulled a Columbine-type shooting and killed and injured 15 high school students. What is going on with Germany? Haven't they learned from the United States and Columbine and Virginia Tech?

The saddest part is this 17-year old boy bragged on an online chat room that he was going to shoot his fellow classmates and "watch for him in the news." Unfortunately, no one in the chat room believed him (until they saw it on the news the next day).

What were the therapists thinking who allowed this German student not to continue his therapy? Unfortunately, the story read a lot like the Virginia Tech's shooter (suffered from depression/mental health issues and therapy was discontinued when it shouldn't have been stopped).

The saddest part is, once again, this teen boy got lost in the system and no one helped him - or didn't help him enough. There were signs a long time ago. Other kids didn't like him and he was teased - he was anti-social and mean to other kids. He obviously had mental health issues. The educators (and his parents) should have taken more proactive steps to help him.

I felt like I was reading about Columbine and Virginia Tech all over again when I read about this German student. Hasn't the world learned anything? Why aren't adults paying attention to teenagers? What makes adults become so consumed with their own lives that they just ignore the realities of the mental health issues of teens?

The scary part is that there are MORE teens out there with similar thoughts, but they haven't acted upon their thoughts (not yet anyway). Just like Columbine and Virginia Tech and now this German teen- the shooters were on the fringe of their school. They were kids who felt ignored, shunned, unloved and battled serious mental health issues. In the end, they all took their own lives at very young ages.

What drives these teen boys to such heinous crimes? Obviously, all of them suffered severe mental health issues but why weren't any of them helped? What makes us, as a world, push aside our teenagers and not care? Teens have always gotten a bad rap. I was a teenager once and I remember all the angst and confusion that went along with my teen years. Those are years I wouldn't care to repeat, but I also had support and positive role models during my teen years. I feel very grateful for those good influences during my sometimes tumultuous years.

I wrote an editorial last year in response to a local business owner who responded in his column to a concerned teen citizen who voiced his opinion about his concerns about skateboard parks and not having a place for teens to ride their skateboards. This kid was asking for a legitimate answer and directing it to a local business person. He wanted some "real" answers.

The columnist didn't take his questions seriously and he commently flippantly - he told the teen boy to "hold his breath until he was blue in the face." This a-hole jerk business owner tried to play it off that he was only joking with the teen, but I pointed out his cruel comments and told him that a local business owner that his comment was both sarcastic and heartless.

This is a good example of an adult who basically doesn't care about a teenager's opinion and also represents the world's attitude towards teenagers. The world just doesn't care. They don't care UNTIL it's too late - until Columbine...and once again, they don't notice UNTIL another teen goes into a school and shoots and kills fellow students.

Teens are the future and voice of our world. They have a lot of hope in front of them and they also have a lot of turmoil as well - adults of the world, don't take that hope away from them and give them a place in this world. Pay attention and listen to them. Even if they drive you nuts and frustrate you and want to lock them away until they are 21, don't give up on them and don't wait until it's too late.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

American Idol - My Choices for "Theme" Weeks

I must admit I've been watching American Idol since the first season many moons ago. Thank you Trista for instilling my AI addiction back in the day. I haven't been a faithful follower but I've seen enough episodes to be a seasoned Americal Idol afficionado.

Tonight I didn't really understand WHY they would take legendary Michael Jackson songs and ask them to sing old school MJ (before he became a freak of nature). I'm thinking it was a publicity stunt on MJ's part since he's making a come back with his reunion tour.

I think there are some songs that the contestants shouldn't touch and Michael Jackson is one of them. I was a fan of MJ during his "Thriller" and "Bad" days. Even though he looks like a walking wax figurine and turned out to be a super freak (and not in a good way), I'll give him props for his talent.

AI has chosen some bizarre song choices for their "theme" weeks during the past AI seasons. Kenny Rogers, Paul Anka and Dolly Parton were some of the more odd "theme" weeks. If I had my choice these are the theme weeks I'd like to see:

  • Ozzy Osbourne (They only have to scream-sing and then they can make an annoying reality TV show later on down the road.)
  • The Cure (They just have to dress in black, wear dark kohl eyeliner and sing in whining, depressing monotones.)
  • Poison (Bret Michaels needs to pimp himself more because "Rock of Love" really sucks.)
  • Frank Sinatra (Oh wait, he's dead. Although, I think Frank would really dig AI. If he was still around, I could see him swigging some bourbon, swaggering drunk around the room saying, "Baby, you're the tops. You have a great set of pipes, dollface.")
  • Vanilla Ice (Has he done anything else since his one-hit wonder album? I heard he went the Christian rock route. Who knew?)
  • Tone Loc (I'd like to see that Adam dude attempt Funky Cold Medina.)
  • B-52s (The outfits and hair alone would be entertaining. Maybe Tatiana could sing back up?)
  • Grateful Dead (Dead Heads would probably revolt and storm the theatre in protest. Poor Jerry Garcia. He wouldn't be down with AI).
I also think I'd make a really great judge...but I'll save that for another post.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Celebrate International Women's Day this Sunday

Sunday is International Women's Day (IWD). So what exactly is IWD? I've been trying to find out more information about an event that will be held here locally which will benefit Women for Women International, a non-profit organization that supports women in war-torn regions of the world in the rebuilding of their lives www.womenforwomen.org. Sounds like a good cause that will help out women who are struggling across the world.

I dug around the Internet to learn more about what other women are doing across the world to celebrate IWD. I love reading idiotic comments on forums. Here were some of the comments in response to the post about celebrating women on Sunday: "Get back in the bloody kitchen!" Others posted that women have the vote so they should just shut up and stop whining.

Why should we shut up? Why shouldn't we rally for other women who are suffering in war-torn countries? There are 60 countries celebrating IWD events across the world. Countries such as Russia and China have made IWD a national holiday. The first IWD event started in 1911 and has been going strong ever since.

Obviously, the morons who posted those comments are a) not married and/or aren't in a relationship b) pre-pubescent teens who were raised by wolves or c) clearly lacking brain cells and social graces.

After working with domestic violence victims and survivors, I have heard first hand from women about these heinous acts of abuse and violence. I heard a women tell me how her husband beat their face so badly with a frying pan and broke every bone in her face. When her kids walked into the hospital room, her face was so disfigured that they didn't even recognize her.

We've come a long way with domestic violence laws but I just have to look around Placer County to see the heinous crimes against women (like the Christy Wilson case whose body was never recovered). We have Scott Peterson serving a life sentence for murdering his wife and unborn child. What happens to these men to drive them to murder women? I don't know if I want to delve into the psyche of psychotic murderers but why is this still happening? In the United States, we pass the buck to other more barbaric countries who rape and kill women, yet crimes against women are still happening - right here in our own backyard.

If we look outside the U.S., the grotesque practice of female genital mutilation (FMG) is still practiced in Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), three million young females (ranging from the time of their birth up to 15 years old) are at risk for female genital mutilation each year in Africa. Not three hundred - three million. It's noted by WHO that FMG is clearly a worldwide violation of the human rights of girls and women and are working to stop this horrifying practice that often results in death for these young women.

So that comment "Go back to the bloody kitchen!" obviously strikes a chord with me. Yes, we got the vote and we still need to continue to vote and make our collective voices heard. I recently started a group here locally in Auburn - a group for women to make their voices heard within the local community. The group is a safe, comfortable place where women can share their dreams and passions (whether it's business or personal goals). I am working with fellow dynamic women who feel the same way- that women want and need to support each other. We need a space - a collective space in which we can create, dream, and plan without scrutiny or judgement.

I've dealt with men in business situations that pointedly told me that women didn't belong in business (and definitely not in fundraising). I've been treated like a secretary even though I was a director and my job was to lead and raise money. I felt this glass ceiling hit my head over the years. Although, women have made huge strides in business and achievements, there's more that needs to be done.

So yeah, I don't think I'll be heading back to the kitchen anytime soon and I definitely won't be shutting up anytime soon. I have too much work to do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Giving Back Despite the Economy

Today I received a post on my Facebook from a friend who works for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It's a great campaign that allows you to shop at local stores like Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic - 5% of the proceeds goes back to the organization while shoppers enjoy a 30% discount off purchases. http://www.gapgiveandget.com/np/lls.html

As a former fundraiser, I don't envy my friends and former colleagues who are trying to raise money for non-profit organizations. I saw the writing on the wall when I left the non-profit world. However, I still think it's important to dig deep into your pockets because there are still diseases out there and causes that need to be fought. If money is an issue and you just don't have an extra $5 to spare, your time is just as valuable (even if it's an hour or one day a week). Volunteering is crucial right now because non-profits just don't have the people power to make it all happen (especially on the fundraising end).

I guess you can take the girl out of the non-profit, but you can't take the non-profit out of the girl. Homeless shelters and food banks are in desperate need of donations. Also, this is a tough time for victims of domestic violence - tough economic times can bring more strife (and anger) within households and domestic violence escalates as a result. I worked briefly for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and I heard heartbreaking stories...they are stories you couldn't even comprehend in your worst nightmares. No person should have to deal with that kind of abuse and torment.

Along with the world, I stress about my financial situation. However, I had to stop and think about my situation and put it into perspective: there are people who have it worse than me and are desperately in need of the basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter.

Clear out your closets and make a donation to your local woman's shelter or Salvation Army. Despite the economy, we still need to give back to our local communities because there is someone else (maybe a next door neighbor) who really needs our help.