All posts by Antonia Blumberg

About Antonia Blumberg

Antonia Blumberg is the Channel Coordinator of The Chopra Well. This new premium YouTube channel, run by Deepak, Mallika and Gotham Chopra and friends, features exciting, relevant content that helps viewers expand their awareness and build a community based around wellness and spirituality. As Channel Coordinator, Antonia writes blogs, markets and facilitates the channel's operation within the larger Chopra world. An avid reader, writer and spiritual seeker, she loves exploring new topics and research in the health and wellness fields. Before joining the Chopra Well team, Antonia worked as Program Assistant with The University of Southern California's Office of Religious Life, where she organized interfaith events, trips and service projects. Antonia is also a trained birth doula and is passionate about reproductive health.

Ginger Masala Chai Worthy of a New York Winter

chai-tea-e-liquidI recently moved to New York City from California and am (ahem) “enjoying” my first real winter here. Let the wuss jokes begin!

It’s alright. I’m laughing at myself, too. Born and raised in California, used to being fairly tan, gets cold easily, loves sunshine so much she’s basically part lizard… Yep, that’s me. Now instead of donning a windbreaker for misty San Francisco mornings or wearing a hat for fun in the 60 degree Los Angeles winter sun, I’m learning the art of boots, down coats, ear muffs, long johns and mittens. Endless mittens. See you next April, world, because I am officially 75% clothing right now, and I can barely see over my scarf.

It’s going to be a long winter.

In all honesty, though, I love autumn and winter. I love the snow; I love the holidays; I love the feeling of warming up after being cold. It probably has something to do with a nesting instinct. One of the most beloved memories I have from childhood is making nests with my big sister on rainy days and sick days. When it was miserable, grey and raining outside, or when we were stuck in the house with colds and fevers, my sister would orchestrate a grand “nesting.” We’d pile tons of blankets and pillows on the ground, arranged in little cup-shaped seats like an egg carton. And then we’d hop inside the nest with a box of Nilla wafers and tea and watch a Disney movie to pass the time. Pure joy.

I still make nests of sorts, as does she, both literally and figuratively. Sans actual blankets and pillows, I just love making people feel warm, comfortable, and cared for. In any kind of weather, there’s little I love more than bringing people together around a table for delicious food and loving company. But this is a particularly important practice during the cold and dark months when our souls really need that extra swaddling. And many traditional winter recipes do the trick of warming us inside out.

Case in point, spice-infused recipes. This season you’re undoubtedly enjoying foods flavored with all kinds of spices, whether you know it or not. Butternut squash soup, gingerbread cookies, curries and stews, applesauce, etc. Winter recipes tend to incorporate many different spices, for several reasons. In Ayurveda, the winter season is associated with exacerbated Vata qualities, which are best assuaged through warming foods. This can be literally hot foods (like soup, hot cereal and warm drinks) and/or through warm-ing foods, made invigorating through the use of spice.

Even outside of Ayurveda, there’s a very practical reason to eat more spice during the winter. It’s cold, there’s a bug going around, you’re sniffly and sick…Voilà, spices curb cold and flu symptoms! Ginger, for instance, is an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial. It can help boost your immune system, loosen mucus, open your sinuses, and relieve sore throats. That’s a lot for one little root!

Keeping the health benefits in mind, as well as the essential need for warming and nesting that we all experience during this season, I offer you chai.

“Masala chai” is the Hindi term for a drink made with black tea, milk, and lots of spice. It is a drink that has been consumed in South Asia for centuries and is traditionally much less sweet and much more spicy than what you’d get at your local coffee shop. I can’t necessarily vouch for the total authenticity of my recipe, as I’ve never been to India, but I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ginger Masala Chai

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups of milk (I like organic whole milk, but soy, almond, or oat work as well)

2 cups of water

3 tablespoons of loose leaf, unflavored black tea (the stronger the better; I like Darjeeling)

1/4 teaspoon Wakaya Perfection ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of saffron

2 whole, crushed up cardamom cloves

3 teaspoons of Turbinado sugar (or Agave, honey, etc)

Instructions:

Get two saucepans going on the stove on medium heat. Pour the milk in one and the water in the other. You’ll need to work in both pots simultaneously. As the milk begins to warm, add the pinch of saffron, pressing it between your fingertips gently before dropping it in the saucepan.

Once the water in the other pot begins to boil, add the loose tea leaves and reduce to a low simmer. Let steep 3-5 minutes. While you’re waiting, add the sugar to the milk and stir until it dissolves. Once the tea is ready, place a strainer over the milk and strain the tea water into the milk saucepan. Now you’re working in just one pot.

Start building the spice. Add the ginger, cinnamon and any other spices you want to the pot, saving the cardamon to the side for the end. You can try the chai to see if it has the right spice/sugar ratio, and adjust until it’s just right. Bring the pot to a boil, and as it begins to bubble up, throw the cardamon in and turn the heat off right away. The chai will stew for a second, cooling down slightly, and the cardamon will infuse the drink just enough without overpowering it.

Serve in two mugs and enjoy! Stay warm, everyone!

5 Ways to Celebrate the Fall Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon

Early this morning, if you were awake during the pre-sunrise hours, you may have noticed a brilliant full moon lighting up the sky. It’s called the Harvest Moon, and it signifies that autumn is just around the corner.

The autumnal equinox is officially this Sunday, September 22. This is when the sun shines straight on the equator, and the lengths of day and night are roughly equal. The days will begin to grow shorter after that, as we are all so familiar with. We are moving into the fall and winter seasons, now, gearing up for shorter, darker days, cooler weather, and many months of holidays and festivities to come.

But for now, we’re still experiencing the glow of the full moon, and it is a great time to honor the season we are moving into and celebrate the harvest!

I know, it might sound strange to celebrate harvest in this modern era when very few of us actually plant, grow and harvest food. Our separation from this agricultural process may be a critical factor in the environmental problems our world faces today – not to mention our growing obesity, eating disorders, and other food-related ailments.

We still, of course, benefit from the energies of the earth to produce sustenance for our bodies, but how often do we offer our gratitude? How often do we approach our food with the reverence it deserves? I promise you, if we were intimately involved in all stages of its production we’d feel much more awed by the miracle that food is.

Here are 5 ways to honor the earth and celebrate the Harvest Moon:

1. Break bread with friends and loved ones. Harvest is all about the bounty of the earth and stocking up for the more barren months ahead. Cover your table with rich, sustaining goodies, and invite your friends to bring dishes to share! Give thanks for your food in any way that seems appropriate, and enjoy watching your loved ones nourish their bodies with the food from your table.

2. Make a promise to yourself to end food shaming. Food is a gift from the earth. Vegetables, fruits, seeds, grains – meats and dairy, too, if you’re not vegan/vegetarian! Food is not poison. Food is not the enemy. We would not survive without sustenance, and there’s nothing wrong or unnatural about that. So enjoy the food you eat, and stop feeling guilty about it.

3. Plant some seeds! I know, harvest is about the reaping, not the sowing. But there are lots of delicious fall and winter foods you can plant now and enjoy in several months. Go for kale, beets, squash, and cauliflower! If you don’t have a garden, then get yourself a small pot for your porch or window sill. The joy of watching a seed sprout and eventually grow into full brilliance will only be beaten by the joy of eating food you grow!

4. Use this full moon as a great starting point to begin following the moon cycles. The Gregorian calendar certainly has it’s place, but it’s fun to also follow the “calendar” laid out by the moon’s cycles. Once attuned to its rhythm, you’ll start noticing the subtle difference between a waxing and waning moon; you’ll enjoy the dark night of a just-new moon; and a month from now, you’ll welcome the full moon once again!

5. Practice active gratitude. The bounty of harvest is a blessing, and abundance in all categories is a gift. Even if you don’t feel particularly blessed at the moment – if you feel poor or lacking in some regard – don’t start with the wishing. Start with the thanking. That is, instead of asking the Universe (or god/dess, or spirit) for what you desire, give thanks for what you already have. Express your gratitude wholeheartedly, and don’t leave anything out! You can write it out, say it in your head, or vocalize it to a friend. The practice is so gratifying and cleansing that by the end you will undoubtedly feel rich beyond measure. That is true abundance. That is the harvest.

And enjoy this song “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young! One of my favorites…

Paula Deen’s Public Apology – Will Her Public Shaming Transform a Larger Racist Society?

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 5.04.48 PMIn a recent deposition for a lawsuit on charges of racial discrimination, celebrity chef Paula Deen shocked the public by admitting to using racist slurs. The ongoing controversy surrounding this revelation has starkly countered the welcoming, motherly persona she embodies on her show. Is it all a lie, one might ask? Can she really be so unconscious and insensitive as to believe her comments might be remotely acceptable?

First it’s important to understand exactly how this story unfolded, as many sensational headlines about the events might be misleading. According to CNN, Deen and her brother have been involved in a civil lawsuit in which a former employee of one of their restaurants has charged the pair with racial discrimination. In the deposition, recorded in May, Deen admits to using the “n-word,” as well as to planning for a “very southern-style plantation wedding” for her brother. You can see more of her statement in the video below:

A cascade of scandals have followed the distribution of the deposition last week, including Deen’s “no-show” on the ‘Today’ Show and the cancellation of her own Food Network show. Many of Deen’s other sponsors have also cancelled their contracts with her, and many others are bound to follow. With her life as she knows it falling apart, Deen released a public apology to account for her actions. Watch the video her and see what you think.

It’s remarkable to see one woman so publicly shamed and condemned – particularly interesting that racism is the cause of this uproar. It seems in some ways like a big step forward for so many to band together against discrimination. In another light, though, our collective anger toward Paula Deen might misdirect progressive energy that should be focused on the larger, systemic channels of racism present in our society. By joining forces to condemn Deen, we’re able to feel satisfied and confident in our own freedom from racist beliefs and in our own “goodness.” But is Deen the anomaly or rather a symptom of a larger racist system in place in our society? Deen’s lack of awareness might encourage us to examine our own beliefs and actions, and the ways we can promote thoughtfulness, love, and equality that don’t involve shame and destruction.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, though! Keep the conversation going in the comments section below.

Denied an Abortion – What Now? A Study on the Effects of Unwanted Motherhood

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 3.05.08 PMIt may have been one spontaneous night with an ex, never to be replicated; or perhaps a traumatic moment of violence and sexual abuse. She could be unemployed, ill, very young, or already a bit creaky in the joints. Maybe she has other kids at home and a partner in active duty, in prison, in the hospital, or deceased. And in the midst of working, paying bills, job hunting, taking care of children, doing homework, or whatever her daily responsibilities include, the tender belly and light periods get pushed to the back of her mind – until it’s too late.

Whatever their reasons, these are the women who discover their pregnancies late in the game, determine their best course of action is abortion, and upon medical inspection are turned away from the procedures they desperately want or need. How do these women, the ones forced into motherhood, fare and what are the effects of their denied abortions?

This question provides the foundation for an ongoing study, called “The Turnaway Study” run by Diana Greene Foster, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. Researching abortion clinics around the country, Foster’s study aims to determine the differing effects, if any, between women who seek late-term abortions and get them versus women who seek late-term abortions but are denied them, most often due to timing. (Individual states’ and clinic’s limits vary, but tend to fall sometime in the second trimester.) Such effects might range from the psychological and emotional, to socioeconomic factors, to long-term physical health. In essence, is there any statistical evidence to prove that women are any better or worse off for keeping a baby, even if they wholeheartedly wanted to terminate the pregnancy?

This study lands in public discourse at a time when pro-life advocates preach the many dangers to women’s mental and physical health resulting from abortion. It isn’t a hard line of reasoning to follow, especially given the hormones that are already being released in early pregnancy. But, as noted in a thorough article published in the New York Times, the psychological and health effects of carrying a pregnancy to term – and then, of course, raising a child – can be just as overwhelming, if not more so.

Based on Foster’s study, women in the turnaway group suffered greater health effects, including increased hypertension rates and chronic pelvic pain, as well as socioeconomic effects that left them below the poverty line three times more often than the women who received abortions. Both groups, however, Lang points out, began with similar life circumstances.

Only 6.6 percent of near-limit patients in the study and 5.6 percent of turnaways finished college (nearly 30 percent of adult American women have a bachelor’s degree). One in 10 were on welfare, and approximately 80 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic living needs. A majority, in both groups, already had at least one child.

These are interesting statistics on several counts. First of all, women seeking abortions later in their terms share a baseline social disadvantage that includes less education, lower income, and, now, pregnancy on top of their other responsibilities. In being forced into motherhood by denial of an abortion, these women experience all the physical strains of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the often-overwhelming financial burden of another mouth to feed. No one sets out to someday get an abortion, but when it comes down to it, some women feel this is their best option – and the results of Foster’s study might give us cause to concur.

Both Foster and Lang are mindful of the politically-charged nature of this research, though. Foster does not consider herself a pro-choice pioneer, but rather a concerned ob-gyn, interested in determining what is best for women’s health.

The purpose of Foster’s study is not to set policy by suggesting new or uniform gestational limits. She notes, however, that there are ways to reduce the number of women seeking abortion at an advanced gestational age by improving access to reproductive health care. But Foster sees herself as a scientist, not an advocate. She did not set out, she says, to disprove that abortion is harmful. “If abortion hurts women,” she says, “I definitely want to know.”

Truth be told, there is no pro-abortion movement. Nobody “supports” abortion, of course, because ultimately we would hope to live in a world in which people who want to have children do, and those who don’t, don’t. The point is rather that women know what is best for them and their families, and childbearing may not factor into that at the moment.

It’s a delicate topic, though, and one that certainly warrants further discussion. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Health Benefits of the “Mildly Overweight”: Can We Handle Subtlety in Scientific Reporting?

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.34.57 AMIf researchers discovered that, contrary to popular belief, carrying a few extra pounds might not actually be that bad for our health – that it could in fact be better for long-term health than being a size zero – would you want to know? Our guess is: Yes, absolutely.

Now imagine a doctor who has worked all his life to combat obesity and promote healthy lifestyles, who has tirelessly preached the dangers of excess weight throughout his career. You can understand that a new report such as this would deeply trouble him – that he might even take steps to prevent its dispersal to the general public.

This is not a theoretical tale from some overly dramatic medical soap opera. The report is real: A review of 97 independent studies, including nearly 3 million people, headed by Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics. Published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Flegal’s study revealed the surprising news that what is medically classified as “overweight” is actually associated to lower mortality rates than both obesity and normal weight.

This of course challenges basically everything we thought we knew about weight and health (apart from the consensus that obesity unhealthy.) And this is where Walter Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department, enters the picture. A highly quoted nutrition expert, Willett’s research focuses on diet and lifestyle habits (namely alcohol, red meat, birth control pills, and artificial sweeteners, among others) and their correlations with different forms of cancer. Willett is now the subject of considerable public scrutiny for expressing some less-than-professional opinions on Flegal’s report. In an interview with NPR, Willett commented, “This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it.”

Unfortunately, dismissing such a comprehensive report as Flegal’s as “a pile of rubbish” might have been the worst move of Willett’s career. Science is, by definition, a critical and collaborative field. Its findings have power and influence in our society because we trust the scientific method; and we trust it because, presumably, the research is tested, challenged, and peer-reviewed. Willett’s comment reveals a fundamental disregard for this equilibrium, no matter how noble his intentions.

There is certainly something to be said for simplicity in scientific reporting. If the general public needs to hear that excess weight leads to heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illness in order to adopt healthy eating and lifestyle habits, then maybe we can believe that’s all researchers are responsible for reporting. If, on the other hand, we trust that the general public is thoughtful and discerning enough to consider shades of grey and make informed lifestyle decisions, then it would be dangerously irresponsible for scientists to censor their findings. The obsession with weight in our culture has undermined the promotion of healthy body image, self-esteem, and eating habits, particularly among teenagers and women. If Flegal’s report could introduce a bit of breathing room, then it is worth the effort that may need to go into explaining and elaborating on those pesky shades of grey.

What do you think? Can we handle subtlety in scientific reporting? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Why Disney Princesses Are Too Sexy for My Daughters, and 5 Heroines to Admire Instead

If you watched the movie Brave and then saw the recent corporate rendering of the willful protagonist, Merida, you may have been taken aback. The film’s Merida was modeled after the 13-year-old daughter of director Brenda Chapman – she’s wild, sweet, and pretty but in an unglamorous, un-womanly way (as would be expected of a girl her age.) The makeover, all in the name of princess branding, portrays her with an hourglass figure, waist as tiny as a Barbie doll’s, “vapid,” “unrealistic,” and “vacant looking.” Take a look for yourself:

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When these are the images our children receive as messages of what to aspire to – and Merida’s strength and courage are conflated with her tiny waist and heavily made up face – it’s no wonder advertising and media have perpetuated a culture of body-shaming. I don’t have kids yet, but I can imagine the turmoil I may face if my future daughters (or sons!) ever ask to dress up as a Disney princess… Ariel’s sea shell bra, Jasmine’s sultry eye make-up, and all of them with long, flowing straight hair, slender figures, and perfectly proportioned features. There’s nothing wrong with being “beautiful” in a mainstream, heteronormative, Western aesthetic, except when that kind of beauty is elevated above all other forms, and when that alone is what’s associated to success, strength, and heroism.

So what are we to do?

Mom and photographer Jaime Moore provides us with an excellent example. Instead of gifting Belle gowns and Cinderella crowns, Moore decided to commemorate her daughter’s fifth birthday by dressing her as five real-life heroines for a photo series entitled “Not Just a Girl…” The series pays tribute to Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Susan B Anthony, Helen Keller and Jane Goodall – powerful women and influencers in their respective fields. Moore explains her motives on her website:

My daughter wasn’t born into royalty, but she was born into a country where she can now vote, become a doctor, a pilot, an astronaut, or even President if she wants and that’s what REALLY matters.

Here are two of the five photo juxtapositions, both of which portray just the kind of confidence, sass, and radiating inner beauty that I hope my daughters and sons someday feel in themselves. And it just goes to show that we really have no need for Disney princesses with so many incredible real women out there to inspire us.

Coco Chanel:

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Amelia Earhart:

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What real-life role models would you encourage your kids to look up to?

Why I’m Not Setting New Year’s Resolutions

After all the fuss and celebration surrounding New Year’s, how much has actually changed? What have those resolutions amounted to? Once the festivities die down, there’s little left to remind us of our resolve. And it seems the new year often masks a continuation of old habits and routines, despite how loudly we hail its transformative powers.

I’m a fan of shaking things up – traveling, trying new things, pushing my boundaries. But come New Year’s, I’m as complacent as anyone else. There is just too much built into the changing of the year, too many expectations. I often feel utterly defeated before we even make it to December 31.

This year was no different, and I sat with the familiar feelings of reluctance and disappointment as the day approached. Just need to make it through the next few days, I thought, and life can go back to normal. It was that prospect, though, that filled me with dread. Life will go back to normal, unless I do something about it…

I didn’t paint any gaudy signs or post any dramatic declarations on Facebook. Rather, I let the new year sneak into my life like a little draft of wind and followed it around for a bit to see wherecanal it would go. I followed it from my favorite Venice Beach cafe into an unfamiliar neighborhood. I turned a corner and dove into a serene, sunlit series of canals. Down the flowery lanes I walked, over decorated bridges, past ducks and children playing. So close to home yet heretofore unexplored!

The next day, the wind led me from my Silverlake spot over to Griffith Park. Yeah, okay, I’ve been here before. Not too exciting. But the new year had something else in mind. I started down my usual route, with about fifty other New Year’s Day hikers. Somewhere along the way, caught up in the beauty of glowing green hills, my feet took a turn, then another, and another. I soon found myself alone in a clearing of brush, standing in front of a lone and overflowing sage bush. All of a sudden this place I thought I knew so well had revealed itself anew, like a little treasure. I took a sprig of sage home as a souvenir.

This year I’m not setting any resolutions. It’s not that I don’t believe in them, but the practice just isn’t going to serve me this time. The freshness of 2013 has come through in unexpected turns and hidden revelations. This year will hold much to surprise and delight, and there is clearly plenty of the “familiar” that remains to be explored. I intend, therefore, to find the new around every corner, let my feet ramble, and trust the wind that guides me along the way.

The Pregnancy Scare – How I Found My Voice to Demand Respect

There is nothing quite like a trip to the laundry room at 2 AM. Especially if you are tripping barefoot through dewy grass, under guava trees, past a tire swing. Especially if you are burning between the legs and carrying reeking sheets in a massive, infuriating bundle. You will never forget this one, sister.

For two months I thought I was pregnant. “Thought” is too subtle. I dreamt in horrifying wakefulness, every passing minute a sharp reminder. I’m too young. I have no idea how to be a mom. Have a child with that brute? Dear God, no. The days tore through me as I wandered around, disembodied. My belly, my legs, my beating heart – they became possessed, first in my mind and later in the heavy discomfort that literally weighed me down. It was a long, bloodless summer.

I have never been raped. But they say one in four women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life. This fear has called on me. First when my beloved clutched my neck and showed me just how strong those muscles were. I forced his arm away and held my tongue until…a more appropriate moment. “I’m sorry,” he later said, sheepishly. “I thought you wanted that.” I was left to comfort and assure him all was well. Next time I want to be surprise-strangled in the midst of tender love, I’ll make my desires known loud and clear. Asshole.

Excuses come to mind…. I’m not a prude. It was an honest mistake. He felt really, really bad. And then I marvel at my eagerness to explain his behavior away. It must, after all, be my fault. Part of me still believes this. What wretched girlfriend would so mindlessly mislead her man and cause him the pain of embarrassment? My neck aside, curse the woman who would ever wound a man’s pride. And, to be honest, I’ve kept my mouth shut through worse.

Fear came knocking next on the indigo latch door of a hut in rural New Zealand where was I staying during a 3-month solo backpacking trip. The pillow from which I awoke daily to falling guava pits now accommodated two heads. Months had passed in the span of days, and I reluctantly welcomed an unlikely companion into my fairy house. I had vacillated between disgust and intrigue. His eager, forward advances, flowers on my door, accentuated brushes past one another in the kitchen. The whole seduction at once nauseated and thrilled me.

In truth, I saw it coming. The festive air of night, the dancing, the liquor, my own brilliant and sensual self-awareness. When I finally closed the door of my little hut, I knew it wouldn’t stay shut for long. He came to me like a fugitive, calling gently at first, then stealing in eagerly.

Events spiraled in a wild, painful frenzy. I lost my footing on some astral ledge and slipped through the next minutes in terrifying confusion, trying to keep up. He didn’t notice. He did exactly what he had come to the fairy hut to do. For a sliver of time I existed only as an enveloping cosmic hole. A vessel into which the frantic lover might dump all his longing, his rage, his memories, his guilt, his sensitivity, his insecurity and his hunger. And it was my responsibility to let him do so.

I lay still for a moment, used up. In the past I might have turned to my side and fallen numbly asleep. But rage slowly devoured me. I sat up and faced him, as I had never done a sweetheart before. Words fell like poison from my dry mouth: How dare you? You miserable, pathetic excuse of a man. How dare you abuse me in this way. His shame sickened me. The panic in his eyes, the clammy palms, the hasty retreat.

The crisp night was a welcome relief from my hut, once so lovely and solitary and girlish. My arms laden with sheets, at least I was free. Back to sweet solitude. Back to the night and me. Who knew what the morning would bring? But for the next few dark hours I was free in my fiery, impassioned rage. Free and fierce and licking my own wounds.

In the end, I wasn’t pregnant. But there also wasn’t any blood for the rest of the summer. And my body didn’t feel like my own for nearly a year after the fact.  At least it would never be his again. We agreed to forget the night. As though I could forget, as though I would want to forget. How, after all, could I then raise my future daughters to know the power they hold within their bodies, and the great and terrible responsibility it is to be a woman?

That night will always exist in my archives. And the fear I have tasted, the rage and shame, too. Sixteen and twenty are fond memories, but I would shrink from visiting those eras again. That girl has mountains and friends and new ideas to comfort her now. She knows that her mind and her beauty and her soul are nothing short of holy, and should be treated as such.

By sharing our memories with the intent to inspire and not to frighten, the girls of our past selves and of the future heal and reclaim their power. After all, there is so much to look forward to. The air is still sweet and fresh after dark, and I still welcome the hope of new love. Somewhere beyond the moss and vines, true freedom awaits. And it will find a fierce, warm, and intoxicating home in my arms.

Todd Akin Refuses to Back Down After Rape Comments

It looks like Senate Republican candidate Todd Akin is still in it to win. For now, at least.

Tuesday would have been the final day for Akin to withdraw from the race without a court order, according to BBC. And despite ample pressure from across the political spectrum, he has chosen to hold his ground.

As Akin told ABC on today’s Good Morning America:

The people of Missouri chose me, and I don’t believe it’s right for party bosses to decide to over-ride those voters. It makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs, as opposed to the election process.

Let’s review the facts… Todd Akin has served as a Republican Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001. He is the Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, which falls under the Committee on Armed Forces. In addition to armed security, Akin is passionate about abortion issues. He and Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan co-sponsored a strict anti-abortion bill that would legally grant zygotes “personhood” and dramatically reduce women’s reproductive rights.

Akin caused a storm on Sunday when he explained his abortion stance in an interview with a St. Louis television station:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.

The “that whole thing” part refers to pregnancy. Republicans, Democrats, men, women, Americans, and people all around the world were appalled by Akin’s remarks. He displayed not only great disrespect and insensitivity to rape victims, but also an utter and inexcusable ignorance about the reproductive system. It is frightening to think that, a) Akin, who has served as representative for 10+ years, doesn’t understand how reproduction works, and b) he would then rely on shoddy, pseudo science in formulating a major political decision that could affect thousands of women. And what, pray tell, is a “legitimate rape”?

According to the BBC, the Centers for Disease Control report that more that 32,000 pregnancies result from rape every year. And between 10,000 to 15,000 abortions take place every year as a result of incest or rape. Even after Akin’s swift attempts to save face, his apologies, and his acknowledgement that there is no such thing as “legitimate rape,” it seems a disgrace to our political system to have one so misinformed, negligent, and graceless anywhere near our Senate.

What do you think? Should Akin withdraw from the race?

Confronting the Bullies on the Bus

Can you remember a bully from your school years? Did you ever confront him or her? I remember our elementary school bully. He teased me mercilessly for having a weird name and a tendency to blush. I slapped him in the face once and got sent to the principal’s office. So unfair, I thought.

Stormy Rich, an 18-year-old Florida high school student, recently experienced the same injustice when she stood up to a group of her peers for bullying a girl with special needs. The teenagers all ride the same bus to school, meaning the bullies have the rest of the students captive for torment during the morning rides. It sounds dramatic, I know, but as a former bus rider, myself, I remember how these things go.

As Rich said, according to Take Part News:

They would be mean to her, tell her she couldn’t sit on certain spots on the bus…just because she doesn’t understand doesn’t mean that should be happening to her.

Apparently Rich reported the bullying to her school’s officials but saw no action taken. It was then she decided to step in and confront the bullies, herself. It’s unclear what Rich actually said and did, but whatever it was caused her to be labeled as a bully and her bus-riding privileges revoked.

Regardless of what actually happened, the fact remains that bus drivers, school officials, parents, and all other adults involved in student life need to seriously examine how quickly and effectively they respond to reports of bullying. How long will it take us to step in to prevent emotional and physical violence?

From Take Part:

The bottom line is something more needs to be done to combat bullying in our schools. Three million students will be absent from school this month because of the emotional and physical toll of bullying, and according to the organization Ability Path, children with disabilities are significantly more likely than their peers to be the victims of this mistreatment.

As long as adults let bullying go unchecked and, as in Stormy’s case, punish those who rebel against it, then they are little more than bullies, themselves, in my book.

Were you or your children ever bullied? How did your school respond? Keep the conversation going in the comments section below.

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