Friday, December 30, 2011

Where has the year gone?

Time seemed to pass so quickly, I feel like I lay down in January to take a nap and woke up in December. It’s not that I haven’t been aware of the passing of time, it’s just that it’s gone by so fast.
2011 was a good year for me; one filled with ups and downs. I began writing a weekly blog in January and have faithfully posted every week. I started writing a transformational daybook and just finished my last page yesterday. I finished a class on Freelance Writing and began a new one on Shaping and Writing a Novel. The part of my life that’s involved in writing has been full. I’ve noticed that when I’m not writing, I’m reading about writing and/or studying about how-to-write. I do not have an educational background to support my passion for the written word, so I have to apply myself and learn as I go.
My personal life has taken a few twists and turns, but I’ve survived them all. In fact, I have more than survived, I’ve grown in my understanding of who I am and what I want. I watched my mother turn 90, which was amazing, and at the same time suffered the rejection and harsh judgment of my family over a decision I made. I’ve felt the pain of losing my home to foreclosure, went through my husband’s seven weeks of unemployment with no income during that time, and found out my 16 year old cat has kidney disease and a growth in her abdomen. That’s been the rougher spots in my year.
On the up side, I regained my prior level of high physical energy that I’d lost after having open-heart surgery last year, got to spend Christmas day serving the homeless at our local rescue mission, made new heart friends, found a lovely home to rent and move into, found out what it feels like to have someone take up for me, learned the meaning of unconditional love from my husband, and have seen more of my loving, amazing soul.
I am walking into 2012 with joy and high spirits.  I can’t wait to see what the year will bring in my personal life, in my circle of friends and family, in my hometown and state, and In the world at large. I’m anticipating a lot of change and continued growth. Happy New Year to all!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Yoga Laughter and 'What it Does'

The impetus to develop Laughter Yoga as a business came from the impressive success of an improvised 5-minute Ice-Breaker Spot she used to turn around a Networking Session that initially had not got off the ground very well. Incentives for Laughter Yoga in Business are increased productivity, trust building, better communication, greater motivation, reduced stress, more goodwill, improved health, and a happier workforce - all leading to increased profitability.
Laughter Yoga is a group body exercise developed by Indian physician, Dr Madan Kataria. It combines eye contact, clapping and childlike playfulness with Yogic breathing - turning fake laughter into real, contagious, health-promoting laughter. As with conventional Yoga, repeated sessions reveal the true benefits.

While merely watching funnies tends to produce positive change by raising people’s mood, we can generate many more benefits by laughing actively. Even fake laughter triggers physiological and psychological benefits identical to real laughter, like stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System to help prevent the body from reacting to stressful thoughts. Therapeutic Laughter Yoga applications aim at
•          providing a positive experience with other people in the group thus reversing the tendency to isolation;
•          increasing self-confidence;
•          promoting emotional balance, recovery and maintenance of well-being;
•          alleviating stress, states of anxiety and depression;
•          raising individual pain threshold.

All you need for a Laughter Yoga session is a group of people willing to laugh, at least one enthusiastic person to lead the group, and a room indoors or, where and when the climate allows it, in the great outdoors.
General recommendations are to wear comfortable, loose clothing and bring water because continuous laughter for about 20 minutes dehydrates.
Mobility is not an issue when sessions are customized to specific requirements.
People experiencing severe health problems, e.g. hernias, high blood pressure, bladder problems [laughter loosens!], after recent surgery etc. are advised to check with their doctor.
Laughter Yoga is not recommended for people with epilepsy or current acute states of mania or schizophrenia. Someone experiencing a severe state of depression is unlikely to care for any joyful activity at the time and won’t feel like participating.
The time for a complete Laughter Yoga session is 40 minutes, including a relaxation period to seal in the good derived from the exercise and ground the person again in everyday routine life. Evaluation and Q&A may follow.

Look out for the opportunity to experience Laughter Yoga in a taster session; this first encounter with Laughter Yoga will help you decide whether it is ‘for you’ before booking a series of laughter sessions or joining one of the  thousands of Laughter Clubs evolving world-wide.

Laughter Yoga Expert Angie Lindenau’s background is in Education, Sales, Social Care Counseling and Psychotherapy. When Arthritis made Yoga practice increasingly more difficult, she discovered Laughter Yoga as an enjoyable alternative to stay fit, moving, and happy. Angie hasn’t looked back since she started facilitating Laughter Workshops to groups of people in community, health and business settings a number of years ago!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is anyone in my city serious about making lifestyle changes?

Making healthy lifestyle changes is a choice.
When do you decide? Is it after being diagnosed with a disease or when your waistline expands?
For me it was after being diagnosed a borderline diabetic.
Here in my city the young girls' bellies are fat, and they have no shame showing them off in their style of dress. The young boys are obese, and are constantly being teased. The women are stricken with some form of disease, walking on canes or unable to lift their legs up to ride a bus. The men look nine months pregnant, and are always encouraging their women not to lose weight, "I like my woman thick."
It's like living in a secret society, here's the rules.
"Stay within city limits, and you will go unnoticed. Eat no healthy foods whatsoever. Never exercise, drink very little water. "So what if your bellies are big and you are obese? Look around you - most of us here in our city look that way."
Here's what was on my mind as I rode into work today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Trumpeting for Joy

 I like happy stories anytime of the year, but particularly during holiday times.  And so I rejoiced along with the elephants upon learning of TEAPA, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act, that was introduced in Congress in November.  We are not the first country to consider it.  In fact, we are at the end of a long list after Bolivia, Austria, India, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Slovakia that already have passed measures that ban wild animals in circus acts.
     I share Jay Kirk's feelings, "If you're like me, you find the spectacle of animals at a circus not only disturbing but weirdly embarrassing.  It has to do with knowing that the only reason these animals have suffered is in order to learn, let's admit it, a fairly lame set of tricks, especially when we are truly eager to see the acrobats and trapeze artists.  The paid entertainers."  Jay Kirk is the author of the just-published "Kingdom Under Glass:  a Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals."
     The documentation of what amounts to torture for these animals is sickening.  The massive elephants, who can walk 15 miles a day in their natural habitat, are confined in overheated trucks for long periods of time over what can be 50 weeks of the year going from circus location to circus location.  The ways they are "trained" to do stupid tricks involve other tools of torture -- bullhooks, whips, metal pipes, and kicks.  The spirits of these majestic animals are broken to make them more compliant.
     This bill will not ban circuses, but is being fought by spokespeople for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus on the basis of taking away jobs provided by the 141-year old family business.  However, Kirk points out that circus animal trainers often hold a variety of jobs within a circus and will still be needed.  And, the circus did survive phasing out the cruel freak shows.  Besides, what about all those other countries ahead of the U.S. who have banned it?
     I learned about TEAPA at the same time as I read that elephant rides at our local zoo have been stopped.  The reality of an elephant going on a rampage loaded with children was all too scary and possible.  Personally, I believe it's better for the children to see the giant elephants as intelligent animals that should be respected rather than as a huge toy to play with.
     I lost my admiration for Walt Disney many years ago when I had neighbors who had worked for Disney.  They told me of the horrible ways that live animals (before computer characters were possible) were forced to do what a script required.  Some even met untimely ugly deaths if they didn't comply.  Years later, when I was at a zoo in Israel, I remember watching a camel cry -- at least that is what it looked and felt like to me.  In China, I watched in horror as bears dressed in frilly clothes stood on their hind legs with a large chain around their neck as people snapped photos.  A lion was paraded on a float as a supposedly dangerous animal, but it was easy to see the animal was paralyzed and close to death.
     I was never a big fan of the circus, and I particularly hated zoos after I went on a safari in Kenya where we had to search for the animals in their natural environment.  TEAPA won't change all the cruelty to animals, but it's a worthwhile start.  Hooray!

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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Second Day of Christmas

For some it's not over.
Germany and many other European countries like France, Italy, Hungary, even the UK have a second Day of Christmas, with 'Boxing Day' being the better known name. In Serbia, Sweden, Croatia and Poland they celebrate it as St. Stephen's Day, the day of the first Christian martyr. In Ireland it's pronounced btw St.Stephense's Day). In the Republic of Ireland, the day is one of nine official public holidays. In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín — the latter translates literally as another English name used, the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day. When used in this context, "wren" is often pronounced "ran". This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Ireland, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. Although now mostly a discontinued tradition, in certain parts of Ireland persons carrying either an effigy of a wren or an actual caged wren (live or dead), travel from house to house playing music, singing and dancing. Depending on which region of the country, they are called Wrenboys.
My son was born that day. I spent Christmas in labor and he was born on Christmas Day, if the second. We moved to Ireland when he was still very small. It was impossible to have a birthday party for the little boy. First of all, the Irish have big families and they all had to visit their relatives on that day. Second, Tipperary where we lived had the customary Wren boys doing the rounds on St.Stephene's day. Originally staging a fake wren shooting, tradition has it that a group of boys and young man dressed up and went from farm to farm singing and collecting goodies- sweets or pennies.
I once tried to give my son  summer birthday celebration in lieu of his real birthday he missed out on every year. Unfortunately, that didn't work out better because on 26 June the summer holidays and with it haymaking and other farmer activities where in full swing.
Everybody whose birthday is close to Christmas can sympathize.
Boxing Day was featured on the news here today as Mega Monday and in jeopardy because of a Tube strike in London. In Germany at least (as in some other countries) all shops are closed and the holiday is preserved. The word 'worker-friendly holiday' refers to the day of the week Christmas falls on and how many days a an employe has off. This year clearly was not.
Happy 2nd Day of Christmas!
The Ex Farmer's Wife

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Joining a Festive Tradition

Jefferson Tree viewed from the stairs MMSikes

For well over 100 years, people have celebrated Christmas in style at the Jefferson Hotel. I joined the Richmond Branch National League of American Pen Women at the historic hotel for lunch and enjoyed seeing the women I've known for many years. We used to have a much larger group and we met every month except in the summer. Now the group has grown older in age, and we only meet four times a year. In recent years, we have gathered during the Christmas season to celebrate together.

The Jefferson was beautiful and very, very crowded.  On one side of the tall, lavishly decorated tree sat three temporary tables filled with young children. As I watched, three of the little girls, each wearing a red and green velvet holiday dress, escaped from their seats and danced about near the giant sparkling tree. The quaint scene made me wonder how many other little children have danced and played in the Jefferson lobby over the years.

I noticed that the elegant Lemaire Dining room was closed for a private party. The largest gingerbread house I've ever seen sat by the restaurant entrance, cordoned off for protection from the crowds by thick velvet cords.

While I waited to go into TJs, I watched a large group of ladies dressed in their finest line up. For many of them, this must be a yearly tradition that has gone on for decades.
Alligators Remembered MMSikes

As I observed everything happening all around, I was glad that our group has become part of the Jefferson tradition. We enjoyed our little piece of Christmas history. Even as we departed, we found decorations everywhere, including in the mouth of one of the alligator bronze statues that greets visitors at the valet parking entrance.