I have a decade of experience being a wellness professional as a coach, trainer, teacher and writer. I have created copy focused on all aspects of wellness including beauty and health.
I write content that is focused on promoting empowerment and the well-being of women and mothers. I also write a personal blog about my experience with motherhood.
I have contributed my writing to several political campaigns in the form of slogans and speech writing. I am looking to take on more political work and work involving Not For Profit organizations in the next year.
I became empowered to help others through being a coach, trainer, and teacher. I specialize in therapeutic, prenatal and corporate yoga.
Moving to Austin has been one of the most important chapters of my life. Here I have grown as a writer, wife, and mother.
Becoming a mother has been a beautiful journey that continues to inspire me daily. Being Andy's mother greatly influences my writing.
I am seeking work as a copywriter or blogger involving wellness, feminism and motherhood, and politics.
I specialize in therapeutic, prenatal and corporate yoga. Learn more about my yoga here, Sara Kleinsmith Yoga.
A day in the life of a boy, told through the words of his mother. See my blog here, Dear Andy.
As a Latina, I also seek to reach out with my writing to the Latinx community.
Whenever a Facebook friend has a baby, I send a direct message. I do this to welcome them into the journey of motherhood. A year ago, when my son was born, I received several messages from friends and acquaintances
near and far. The messages were welcoming, understanding, and inquisitive, and were vastly different from the all caps “CONGRATULATIONS!!” I received after posting pictures of my baby on my wall. But while laying
up in a hospital bed with a painful abdominal scar, blurry head, and confused breasts, this is exactly the kind of welcome I needed. I wanted to not be alone.
Each mother I heard from had a story about how their birth, breastfeeding, or postpartum experience had been different from their expectation and how painful it was. I had a traumatic birth and from this place of pain I felt like I was gaining an awareness of what really goes on in motherhood. Beyond the polished pictures of smiling mommies and perfect babies, is the underground belly of mommyhood that no one talks about. And here it was in my message box. “Let me know if you want to talk”, some mothers said. Others confided long stories of their journey with postpartum depression. Even a high school teacher reached out, to let me know his wife had gone through a rough time after their first was born and to offer support if I needed it.
At first I was surprised. Could motherhood really be this hard? I felt like I was waking up after surgery to find that I lived in a new world, one that would be a constant uphill climb, despite, or in addition to, the bliss and joy and fulfillment everyone had been raving about throughout my pregnancy. And it was a new world. It was an uphill climb. And because they knew this, those mothers were there. I was offered phone numbers, names of lactation consultants, and just the opportunity to be honest. It was a beautiful gesture and I couldn’t help but wonder why this part of motherhood seemed so hidden.
I had a cocktail of bad birth and postpartum activity. An unexpected C-Section, followed by problems breastfeeding, and postpartum depression nearly destroyed me. My experience with having a baby and becoming a mother was ugly, soul-crushing, and life changing. And in those early months of my baby’s life, I had lost much of the light I carried within me. The joy and hope I’d known all my life, but especially during pregnancy had vanished, and in its place, a never ending tape of shame and fear played in my head. And yet, I posted the smiley faces of my son and I. Us, picturesque as Madonna and child. And the Facebook community responded in kind with the happiest of emojis. But I was broken on the inside and so alone. Then, I’d get a message from and old friend from yoga school saying “I’ve been there. Call me if you want to talk.” and my world would expand. I’d see in it, those like me, who survived what I was certain I could not. The underground welcome wagon kept me tethered to humanity and guided me through the early months of motherhood.
Motherhood is supposed to look like something, particularly in the age of social media, when we all must keep up appearances. Women are taught to smile and be seen, and venting on social media about the reality of motherhood on one’s own wall is frowned upon. We wouldn’t want to bum people out, or have them feel concern for us when we are terrified of feeling vulnerable. The reality is that motherhood is hard, but we’ll do anything to not let that be known, lest we spoil the illusion that we are happy and capable and strong. I spent my whole life trying to perpetuate that illusion, but when motherhood hit, I could no longer sustain the ruse. My life and ego came crashing down with my hormones and the ability to hold it together became just out of my reach. As I became stronger, I became angrier. Why do we, as women, feel forced to conceal the truth of the pain that comes with varying stages of motherhood? These brave mothers and their messages were gentle nudges that I couldn’t have done without. And they made me want to nudge, no, to PUSH with great force, the love they had shown to me.
I spent the first year of my son’s life paying those mothers back for their grace. I was open about my struggle and wrote about it frequently. At times, it has felt bare and raw and filled with shame, but I have done it. I have done it for all of those mothers who wrote, and all the ones who feel alone. And when a friend has a baby, I write her a message. Because messages are safe, and private, and a new mommy deserves that space. I tell her I’m here if she needs to vent or has any questions in the early weeks of motherhood. If she’s joyful and experiencing the bliss that so many mommies feel, I’m so happy for her. I hope she never needs to text or call or say she’s about to lose it. But if she does, I want her to know I’m here. I’m here, and I’ve been there, and she’s not alone. Beyond the shiny Insta-glam shots of birthing and newborn bliss, is the reality of motherhood. Several of us are here, holding space for the possibility of pain and ugliness. There is nothing more beautiful than the realness of motherhood, and the sisterhood we may find there.
In the wake of the recent domestic terrorism attack in Charlottesville, many are wondering what can be done to fight oppression and hate. Oppression and systemic racism have long had a strong hold on our nation, but
with the circus that is the current presidency, blatant racism is on the rise. White supremacist groups are marching in the streets and threatening violence to all that oppose them. It can be difficult as a yoga
student or teacher to know what to do in these instances when you want to stay Zen but also want to punch Nazis. Here are 10 things you can do now to resist hate and fight oppression.
1) Teach or attend a yoga class for a cause. Host a class to benefit the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, or attend a class that is giving back to a cause you believe in. It will feel good to give your money and energy in support.
2) Call your senators and representatives at (202)-224-3121. Many of you may already do this. Great job! Don’t stop. If you’re not already doing so, so much of this battle is fought on the phones and through emails. Contact your representative and let them know what you think. Attend town halls if you’re able. Resistbot can make it that much easier if you feel too busy to call.
3) Champion yoga teachers of Color. The typical image of the yoga teacher is that of a slender white woman. Yoga Journal covers have perpetuated this for years and it’s well beyond time for change. People of Color need to know they have a place at the yoga table, as teachers AND as students. Attend classes taught by People of Color. Hold space. If nothing else…LISTEN.
4) Confront and correct. As yogis, we tend to be people pleasers and empaths because we are also peace-seekers. It’s time to have those hard holiday conversations with Aunt Mary or Grandpa Bob. It’s time to confront the offensive language and correct the ill-informed “alternative facts.” It’s not going to be easy. And this holiday season is going to be rough for a lot of Americans. But remember the words of Krishna to Arjuna as he cowered at the idea of fighting with his family. “Give up such petty weakness and arise.”
5) Read (or re-read) The Bhagavad Gita. Time to get back into the swing of knowing the Lord in all their greatness (if that’s your thing). The Bhagavad Gita gives us the courage to stand up to our foes, be they actual or proverbial, and to remind ourselves that all things are transient and small, compared to the oneness we all are, beneath illusion.
6) Attend marches and protests. If you feel safe doing so, go. Be out there with the people and speak your mind. Take up space. And most importantly, encourage peace. Yogis are supposed experts at this, after all. Go and be an example for peaceful protest.
7) Practice. If stress about the atrocities abounding in our world is getting you down, return to your practice. This can mean on your mat in a class, or simply breathing. Practice self-care. Get a massage. Talk to a friend or therapist. Rest to avoid burnout. We need you, friend.
8) Read about the history of yoga. There is a lot of talk about appropriation versus appreciation in the world of 21st-century Western yoga. Read about the origins of yoga. Read about India and yoga before it came to the west and was popularized by movie stars. Engage in conversations, if you’re able, with someone from India about what yoga means to them. Listen. Learn.
9) Avoid trolls and triggers. Y’all know what those comments sections are like. They are where benevolence goes to die a slow death, covered in fast food barbecue sauce. Choose your battles wisely. Also, avoid the pitfalls of being accused of being “non-yogic” or a member of the “intolerant left.” People use these words on you because they KNOW you want to be a good, tolerant person, and they will throw that super power in your face as kryptonite. Speak your mind with love and strength. Don’t back down.
10) Use inclusive language when teaching or promoting yoga. Not only when it comes to diversity, but also politics. Remember some people in your yoga classes may have voted differently than you did. They might hold completely opposing beliefs. Yoga class is the time to promote self-study and embodiment. Try to be authentic without singling out people of differing beliefs. Yoga is the place to include ALL, if you’re able. Save the strong convictions for your calls to representatives.
I so admire beauty bloggers. I spend my morning free time drinking coffee and perusing through Instagram looking for the latest trends, just before my son wakes up. Some are surprising. Some are inspiring. As a writer and resistor, I’ve noticed that makeup
trends of today say much more about the state of our world than some might realize. Fashion has always been a marker by which to make statements that reflect the inner workings of the mind. But I would argue that never
before in history has makeup been so eclectic and free. It speaks volumes of a generation trapped under the weight of looming fascism, and ready to smash the patriarchy.
Today, makeup isn’t just about beauty. It’s not about a sense of identity or belonging. It’s not even about covering up what parts of ourselves generations of consumerism told us were unacceptable. It’s about expression, and breaking free. Just look at any beauty brand featured on Instagram. The daring ones have always been there. MAC has led the way to newer companies like Glossier and Colourpop, who are laying out the contemporary face. And companies like Ipsy and Covergirl feature not only women of all races in their ads, but men to challenge our idea of who can wear makeup and how. The question of why is up to the individual. But more and more, we see looks that make statements. You can be wispy on Wednesday and savage on Saturday. And it doesn’t matter whether or not what you wear makes you look good. It’s about how it makes you feel. What does it allow you to say? What can a lipstick teach us about being politically active? Millennials are seizing control of the conversation about what beauty is, what a woman can be, and how showing up is all you need to be seen.
I asked my friend and beauty blogger, Cate Cozzens of @Catethegreatbeauty to help me out.
The BOLD BROW 2017 ushered in the era of the bold brow. And we’re not talking about your mother’s 1980’s feather look. We’ve skipped over Brooke Shields and straight into Lydia Deetz territory. It’s about a stern gaze, and unwavering confidence. The look says “I Bite.” It’s about fearlessness and challenging the onlooker to see past the perceived feminine and straight to the power. It says “No means No.” and “I’m here for me.” The Bold Brow is to 2017 what shoulder pads were to 1987.
The CLASSIC RED Women have worn red lipstick for decades. The 1940’s and 50’s led the way in projecting this as the one look women were allowed. Now, with the unlimited choice of colors, wearing red lipstick is a statement. It doesn’t need to be completed with a winged eye or false eyelashes. Today, a bold red lip and no other makeup projects choice, autonomy, and a dedication to a new ideal of feminine. It’s about simplicity and boldness in one primary color. It’s worn in 2017 not only on special occasions, but to the gym or coffee shop. Red lipstick denotes vivacity and life force, without being coy.
The BOLD LIP The bold lip is a staple of DGAF millennial makeup. When I was in high school, black and blue lips were taboo. Now, they represent the notion that you can literally wear whatever you want. You can have glam, understated eye makeup and rock a blue, gray, or deep purple lip. It’s not just for rock concerts or sullen teens anymore. It’s an expression of a demand for a more just society. The bold lip look signifies bravery and sense of self-possession.
The NUDE LIP It feels like everyone today is rocking a nude lip. The nude lip is a power move. It almost allows the mouth to blend in with the rest of the face. It’s a way for a woman to signify the mystery of her inner thoughts, and also to acknowledge the forced silence of women throughout history. Nude is sexy because it is barely there, but also because it says you’re wearing lipstick for you, and don’t care if anyone else sees it. It doesn’t enhance the color of the face, but keeps the onlooker wanting to know more. The nude lip is the way to embrace being sexy, without needing anyone’s approval. This defines millennial feminism. The Magic Unicorn The Unicorn Look is the peak thrive of DGAF makeup. This is the generation that grew up with Lisa Frank, My Little Pony, and The Labyrinth. There is no longer the need or desire to conform to “age appropriate” looks. Millennials want sparkles, iridescence, and unapologetic color that blends magically and seamlessly. When nuclear war could be a reality at any moment, the need for bomb shelters has given way to a YOLO sense of style. The Unicorn defines this. We seek the refuge of the innocence of youth, while knowing that the magic we create as adults is possible if we don’t allow anyone to stand in our way.
In a time in history when cultures are blending together and becoming awake to the collective and differing experience of others, makeup is something that can free us. Makeup allows us to pretend in a time when escape is what we crave, but our attention is a sense of moral duty. To all the people out there looking for their glam, know that you can be anything on any day and not lose a sense of who you are. The truth is in consciously choosing to see the beauty, daring, and power of yourself and others at all times.
1. Please describe, or tell a story, about your first yoga class or yoga experience.
My first experience with yoga was in high school. I went to a school for the arts to study theatre, and our teacher introduced us to sun salutations as a way to get into our body and breath. When I went to college to study theatre, again our acting teachers thought yoga was an important tool for actors. Both in high school and college, I hated it. It made me feel silly to do and I didn't understand the point. My first experiences with yoga have made me understanding of those who come to the practice with a lack of patience or skepticism. The practice is not easy, and can be challenging in its simplicity at first.
2. Describe or narrate your first time teaching yoga. What do you recall?
My first time teaching yoga I was very nervous, but I had the support of friends. I started an after-work yoga group for my coworkers. We were waiters in Manhattan so I called the karma project "Yoga for Waiters". My goal was to serve those who serve others (literally) all day, and to address sore and achy legs, back, and feet, as well as emotional fatigue. My friends were very supportive, as I recall. I'd pay to rent the space, and they'd donate whatever small change they had. I had between 10-15 people in every session, and we had a lot of fun practicing together. I remember going back to my notes and nervously checking to see if I was on track with my plan. After a few months of teaching with notes, I realized that approach did not work for me. It served me more to simply be in the room with my students and have them determine our course. I have taught without notes or a lesson plan ever since.
3. Last time you took a yoga class or workshop, what were your impressions?
The last time I took a yoga workshop was a "Heal Your Back" type of yoga therapy workshop. There was a good mix of teachers and yoga students looking to improve their health. What occurred me then is the desire for people to find a "specific" or "right" way to do yoga to "fix" their current situation. A friend and I have been recently discussing the idea that we are whole, despite the fact that we are often told otherwise, and that the idea that yoga or poses or alignment can "fix" you is a fallacy. My friend, Gigi, and I are now planning a workshop, wherein the emphasis will be on the experience of the body in movement, and not on healing or fixing. We believe that exploration can, in itself, be healing enough.
4. Describe the last time you taught a class or workshop.
The last workshop I taught was on the anatomy of the shoulder and yoga asana. The students that attended were very willing to explore and play, and I had the opportunity to guide them at a slow pace. I usually teach Hatha classes, and there is less time to dive head-first into this kind of work. It occurred to me while doing this workshop how much I love this kind of conscious, slow, exploration in asana. I look forward to continuing with more embodied anatomy workshops here in Austin, Texas.
My older brother John has always been a natural leader. Growing up, he always stood up for me and every other kid who was in need of support. I remember helping my mother make his campaign signs for student council president in grade school, so it was no surprise when he told me this year he was considering running for city council in San Antonio. It was before inauguration day, but tumult had already begun to sink its teeth into our collective consciousness. As I write, in large cities all over the country, immigrant communities are being targeted and in my city of Austin, people have been detained and await news of their future. It’s an unstable time for many, but specifically for brown Americans.
My brother and I were born in South Texas, during the time Henry Cisneros was mayor of our hometown, San Antonio. We grew up in a city with a large Mexican American community. We never felt the need to defend our American-ness, although my grandmother told us stories of how she’d been discriminated against because her last name was Acosta. Like me, she had light skin and therefore, the privilege of fitting in until her identity was fully revealed. She aimed to assimilate. Her husband, my grandfather, was dark skinned like my brother. And although we all are from the same family, our experience as white and brown Chicanos is markedly different. I have never been more cognizant of that fact as I am now.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president and declared on a national platform that Mexico was “not sending their best.” and asserted, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” It struck a nerve in the entire American Latino community. My family was no exception. As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who served in the army during the Vietnam War, I was offended to say the least. With every bit of hateful rhetoric and consternation that has ensued since this announcement, I have grown increasingly angry, even hopeless at times. But my brother has taken a different approach.
John was always more patient than I, always more hardworking, and a little more diligent when it came to listening and following directions. He was always slightly more cautious and thoughtful and deliberate. His decision to run for office is a result of that reasoned passion. It occurs to me now as I spend time spouting my views on Facebook and ranting my anger that although we are blood related, my privilege is greater than his. As a white hispanic woman, I can afford to be more vocal about my anger. I can be more contentious, outspoken, and unapologetic. My brother has always been brown, and I’ve begun to wonder if his caution is a result of having to always know how to win over those who underestimate you upon first glance. Whatever the reason, his measured strength and understanding of human psychology could make him one of the greatest leaders of our generation.
Although Latinos have always played a vital role in forming and sustaining the United States, they are the minority when it comes to leadership in American politics. There are currently only four Hispanics serving in the Senate, with a slightly more encouraging number of 34 currently serving in the House of Representatives. But this is still a massive underrepresentation of the population. There are now over 55 million Latinos living in the United States. Hispanics have served as governors, mayors, and have held presidential cabinet positions in the last century, but have never led a party ticket in the nomination for president. With views like those espoused by our current president, it’s not difficult to see how racism is limiting further pursuits by Latinos seeking positions of leadership.
While this nation is remembering its roots of bigotry, intolerance, and racism, it is also recalling its spirit of activism. As this generation is thrown from the nest of the belief that all people are for equality, we are called to engage by employing our truest gifts. For some, that will be creating art or teaching. For men and women like my brother, it will be leadership and civic engagement. I want to believe that all people who feel the need to represent an undervalued demographic or isolated group in our society will seek out these positions, as my brother has. Because the Donald Trumps of the world need to see what we are really capable of. The time for Latinos in America to be present has come, as we are called to speak, write, lead, and teach. The only way is forward, and thoughtful discourse in multiple languages is required. Latinos in the United States have contributed as soldiers, entrepreneurs, artists, and community builders for generations. But we need more Latinos in politics to contradict the dangerous narrative that brown skin or speaking Spanish is somehow less American. Before Barack Obama famously urged Americans to believe “Yes, We Can”, civil rights activist Cesar Chavez said it in Spanish. Latino Americans are needed in leadership now more than ever, and the answer to whether they will succeed is in our history. “Si, se puede.”
To touch, or not to touch? This is one of the dilemmas we experience as yoga teachers. In yoga, adjustments can be a matter of personal preference. Recently, I’ve had many discussions with teachers about adjustments and their opinions regarding the subject. If you are unaware of what an adjustment is, it’s what it sounds like – the yoga teacher puts his or her hands on you while you are in a yoga pose to help you deepen the pose or to help “correct” your alignment. For some yoga students, adjustments are a given, and they expect to have them in class. In fact, if you search Yelp reviews of your town’s local studios, you might find complaints about “hands-off” teachers. Some students become very used to this treatment, and some argue that it’s the only way they know they are doing something “correctly.” But is putting your hands on a yoga student the only way to ensure they are receiving the benefit of the practice?
One of the yoga studios where I teach recently implemented a new strategy wherein the students can let the teacher know if they prefer adjustments or not via “yes” or “no” cards. To me, this is a brilliant approach. A teacher at the studio recommended it, and she’s experienced enough to know that not everyone appreciates the hands-on approach. As yoga teachers, we must be aware of the different circumstances with which our students may be entering into our classes. For survivors of physical abuse, having a stranger touch you, even in a helpful way, is not relaxing. For some, touch is not appealing, and can even be damaging.
When I first started taking yoga, I received a damaging hands-on adjustment from a yoga teacher in fish pose. If you don’t know which one fish pose is, know it’s one you don’t want to be yanked into. But here I was, a novice student, trusting the professional with her hands on me. I believed she had only the best of intentions and enough experience to know how to guide my body.
My neck hurt for the following two weeks.
Now, this isn’t the teacher’s fault, necessarily. Teacher training programs often stress the importance of hands-on adjustments, as if they are a basic element of the practice. But with only 200 hours required to teach yoga, and with only a minimal percentage of those hours covering the topic of anatomy, how are we to know that the professional touching us has the proper training to do so? The answer is: we really don’t know. If your teacher has recently completed his or her first 200 hour training, they may not know what they are doing as they approach your body with their hands, their weight, their force. They may not be experienced or educated enough to make these adjustments on your body.
But what about the other teachers out there? The ones that have extensive anatomy training, or know the map of the human body from other manual therapy trainings they’ve had? If you have one of these teachers as your guide, you are literally in good hands…except for one thing. A teacher can know everything about the human body, and still not know ANYTHING about yours.
￼ When a student first comes into my class, I do as many teachers do and ask them about their injury history, and history with yoga. I base our practice around how the new student responds. I absolutely give no hands on adjustments without prior knowledge of the student’s body, or without a dialogue as I’m giving the adjustment. If I put my hands on you, I will first say “I’m going to put my hands ___ and guide your ___ to do ___.” I will not put my hands on you without speaking if we have no prior relationship. If you come into my class, you can expect a hands-on adjustment, but not without a conversation. If you are looking for someone to push you deeper into a pose in silence, I cannot give you that unless you and I have had many classes together and WE BOTH understand the abilities and limitations of your body. Now, this may make me sound like a stickler. And I’m okay with that. Because even though it’s magical to be in a silent meditative state and have a teacher push you further into a state of “bliss,” I’m not going to be the one that sends you away with a sore neck, or a torn hamstring, or causes you to feel vulnerable in a way you aren’t ready for. Even though we live in a litigious society, it isn’t the legal repercussions I’m most concerned with. I have insurance, as do the places I teach. My concern is for my integrity as a teacher and, if you want to call it this, my karma. When you enter into a class I’m teaching, it’s my job for the duration of that class to protect you from both of our egos. This means that I promise not to arbitrarily place my hands on you because I want you to “look” a certain way or do something “correctly.” I’m there to keep you safe, to help you have an experience of your own body, mind, and breath. I’m there to help you learn more about your body and how it works, and I will do my best to keep you from hurting yourself. Whatever pains you come with, I want to help you alleviate, and whatever bliss you find, I want you to take with you. As your yoga teacher, I’m not going to give you an adjustment unless it’s a necessary step on the path of that intention.
The power of human touch cannot be understated. It can be incredibly beneficial to have someone place their hands on you as a form of therapy. Studies have shown that touch can be healing, both mentally and physically. Conversely, however, the nervous system controls your muscles’ ability to stretch, so if you, as a teacher, approach someone who is tense, you may be doing more damage than good. It is important to always consider your intentions when adjusting a student. For students out there, don’t be afraid to start a dialogue with your teacher. Ask them why they are doing what they are doing and let them know how it feels when they touch you. Always ask for what you need and listen to your body. It is the greatest teacher.
When I became a mother, I became a feminist. I was always for equal rights, but becoming a mother gave me a front row seat to the struggle of women and the strength they must possess to endure and overcome all they are up against. Systemically speaking, sexism exists across a broad spectrum. But there is a place in the United States in the 21st century where sexism is especially deadly. Here misogyny dictates a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health and well-being and that of her family. This threat is so great that more women and newborns are being carelessly neglected to the point of death. This place is my home. This place is Texas.
More women die in childbirth in the state of Texas than anywhere else in the developed world. The mortality rate of mothers here has steadily risen to a rate close to 40 in every 100,000 live births, and shows no sign of slowing. That is staggering, and should give everyone who cares about “family values” pause and the inspiration to find a solution. But unfortunately for Texas women and families, the legislative bodies of our great state do not prioritize women’s health, much to the detriment of our communities. As we speak, the Texas governing bodies are seeking to pass bills that limit women’s access to affordable health care, affordable birth control, safe and affordable abortions, and access to education about contraception and family planning. One such example is HB214, which recently passed the house. Some are calling it the “rape insurance” bill. It would require that women pay higher insurance premiums to cover an abortion except in cases of emergency. If you get pregnant from rape or incest, you’re basically out of luck. And yet, our congressmen and state senators continue to enjoy employment and the opportunity to create dangerous legislation that jeopardizes the lives of Texas mothers and babies. The multi-tiered solution going forward must include better leadership in Texas.
As a mother, a wife, and a feminist, I have been livid at the state of the country and its blatant disregard for the health and prosperity of women. I actively research and seek out candidates who are champions of women in all regards. In Texas, that includes placing the health of women as a priority in a campaign platform. I have found such a candidate in Chris Perri, who is running against the Republican incumbent, Roger Williams, for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. When I met Chris, he made it clear to me that he felt strongly about the assault on women’s health. He feels passionately about many issues, including universal health coverage and criminal justice reform, all of which I agree are top priorities. But as a woman, to hear a man address the importance of choice, rights, and good health care for women in Texas is a refreshing change to say the least.
Recently, Chris invited me to sit in on a round table with local experts in women’s health. This panel discussion was eye opening. It included an emergency room physician, a ObGyn, an educational activist for women’s rights, and a mom who is a compelling pro-choice advocate. Among the topics addressed was the limited access to health care for women in our nation. Both doctors, Dr. Ryan Allen and Dr. Nancy Binford, mentioned that low income women without insurance often went the duration of pregnancy without seeing a doctor, unless there was an emergency. This lack of access to care can lead to dangerous situations around pregnancy and delivery. Kearstyn Takemoto mentioned the misleading terminology regarding “safety” for women used by the legislature. We also saw this despicable use of the term used to push the hateful bathroom bill earlier this year. While claiming to champion women’s safety and the safety of newborns, ensuring limited access to healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood is actually making Texas moms less safe. In fact, a recent study found that after the state slashed spending to family planning and Planned Parenthood, the amount of abortions increased in Texas. This goes directly against every Anti-Choice advocate’s desired goal of limiting abortions in the United States. If they actually cared about less abortions in our state, they would advocate to keep clinics like Planned Parenthood open for the purposes of safe sex education and affordable access to contraception.
I want to highlight one person who was on the panel. As a mother, her story struck me as particularly important. Darla Barar is a fellow mother, Texan, and writer who is advocating for safe abortions by telling her story. Hers is that of a late term abortion, one that happened after 20 weeks with twins. When she received a troubling diagnosis for one of her baby girls, it meant that she was forced to make a choice no mother should have to make. She could have carried both babies to term, knowing that one would have a slim chance of survival and lead an incredibly painful and potentially short life. Continuing to carry her baby, Catherine, to term would also mean potentially endangering the life of her sister, Olivia. Darla and her husband made the excruciating and humane decision to terminate Catherine’s gestation, in order to give her sister a chance to live and be healthy. At the panel, Darla brought her beautiful 11 month old daughter Olivia. She has one living baby, but it’s evident that Darla carries both of her children in her heart and that she holds Catherine’s memory as a source of strength. It would be easy for Darla to not share her story. In a state like Texas, legislating against choice can lead to stigma and shame around abortion. But Darla doesn’t want any mothers to suffer the choice she had to make and have to deal with the asinine road blocks imposed by legislators who care more about limiting choice than the lives of moms and babies. Darla spoke at this panel because she believes in Chris Perri and knows that the path forward for safer pregnancies, deliveries, and choice will come when we elect people who care about women and moms.
It was never my intention to take an interest in politics as I have since the 2016 election. Desperate times call for active measures, and this is not the time in our history to sit on the sidelines. We all must ask ourselves what we can do by speaking out for what matters most to each of us. For me, as a mom and a woman, I refuse to see my choices and the choices of other women taken away because of a lack of separation between church and state. I refuse to let other moms who suffer complications from pregnancy and birth to go without access to proper health care. I refuse to hear the stories of mothers like Darla and to allow one more woman to be expected to carry shame for doing what’s best for her family. I refuse. It’s for this reason that I will continue to advocate and show up for candidates like Chris Perri, and anyone who is brave enough to enact change and fight for the rights of Texans. Men can’t relate to the plight of women in our society. It takes imagination and compassion to care about misogyny, sexism, and choices for women. And I appreciate Chris for using his sense of compassion to educate and fight for others. This is the way forward in Texas and our country. As we care for ourselves, we must care for others. As the aftermath of hurricane Harvey recently showed us, this is the true spirit of the people of Texas. And so we must now extend it to women and families.
12 diet cokes a day. It’s enough to make the average person wince with caffeine fatigue. Reports by the New York Times state that Donald Trump, among other somewhat alarming habits, consumes a wealth of junk food to go with 4-8 daily hours of television watching. Last week, Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury, went on sale amid avid anticipation of behind the scenes details of the White House. It’s become increasingly clear that the President has bad habits. Between this and early morning tweets, one can deduce that in addition to not eating well, he’s not able to fully rest and is frequently consumed with toxic thoughts that cause him to impulsively lash out on social media. It would be easy to sit in judgement of this man. His vices include everything from escapism, taking most weekends of his first year in office to play golf, to reported gluttony. We know from decades of being in the spotlight that the man has a penchant for flagrant spending and an appetite for women’s bodies and sex. Not to mention that he seems to rarely check in with himself before speaking, making much of what he says incredible, discreditable, and blatantly untrue. At times, his lack of impulse control has been dangerous, as has been proven by last week’s tweet exchange with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.
For the majority of Americans, these habits are easy to look down upon. As we other-ize our unworthy leader we feel disgust and scoff haughtily. He is so different from each of us, we tell ourselves. This racist, misogynist, easily distracted, narcissistic, fragile little man, is so different from each of us who’ve fallen victim to living in HIS version of America. It didn’t used to be like this, we tell ourselves. He’s made it different. He’s changed our country. Except that he hasn’t. And he isn’t different from any of us. That despicable thing we see in him sets off the revelatory repulsion we must accept when we come to terms with the fact that he IS us. Donald Trump is all of us..
The common self-deception that is at the core of our nation’s current plight involves thoughts like “I’m not racist” or “Not all men are Harvey Weinstein”. As liberals decide that racism is a characteristic of one party, they absolve themselves of the responsibility to look within, to come to terms with, and to ask forgiveness for collective wrong doing. It’s systemic, we’ve decided. But I didn’t do it, we conclude. If the “Me Too” movement has proven anything, it’s that if the majority of women feel that they’ve been oppressed by the majority of men, then there isn’t an innocent soul in existence. All who have benefited from a system of oppression, be it involving the degradation of women, people of color, or the environment, have a part in having created the greatest joke in the history of American leadership. But the joke’s on us..
We created a golden calf. We worshiped gains, went to school for business, denied the wrongdoings of generations before because it made us uncomfortable. We ridiculed women and took mothers for granted. We erected monuments and museums to remember the pain caused by our ancestors. But we forgot to be sorry. We instead buried the worst of our feelings under the rug, until the dust bunny became an insatiable and ridiculous monster. We’ve hoarded collective pain and fed ourselves fat on over-stimulation and instant gratification. It tastes like french fries and feels like sex. It’s the answer to the question that is prompted by each day’s surreal headlines- How did we get here?.
Jungian psychology teaches us that each person we encounter is a mirror, and that we are apt to project characteristics onto others we see in ourselves. The good news is, we aren’t all bad. We can reminisce about the era of Obama and recall that for a second we were where we wanted to be. But our feelings for him were a projection as well. We saw in Barack Obama the very best in ourselves. We witnessed grace and an articulate, attractive man with plenty of charm to spare. We worshiped the feminist family man, devoted to his daughters and a partner to his bold, intelligent wife. We admired his rise to power, from what are typically considered powerless conditions in a nation like ours. A black boy, without a father in his life, raised by a single mother who taught him the value of hard work went on to the ivy league and taught himself how to play a white man’s game- and make it look easy. He bore the lashes of a party that was hell bent on creating a rhetoric that embraced racism, but not enough to set off alarm bells. Until it was too late. He was a champion for peace who displayed enough war-hawk energy to make us feel safe. He had boundaries, but cried openly after the murder of 20 children by guns. He was our projection of the best in each of us, and at the end of the day, was just a man. And now we find ourselves dealing with what is required for our collective conscious evolution. It’s the other side of the coin that is each of us. And it’s ugly..
Psychologically and spiritually, Donald Trump represents the shadow in each of us. And the more we rant and rave about our anger towards him on social media, the closer we get to being completely enveloped by that shadow. As we judge and refuse to tolerate his lack of tolerance, we are living in the same darkness. Each side believes it’s right. Each person can find a scapegoat. Each of us can name ways we are lacking privilege, and therefore clean of wrongdoing. Each of us can name ways we’ve resisted or participated in the fight, and are therefore on the right side of history. But what if the answer is contained within each of us? The path to a more realized nation begins with each American acknowledging the light and shadow within themselves..
It’s not impossible. But it will take work. It will take each individual questioning their own contributions to upholding systems of oppression and degradation. It will take action and change, and the forgiveness of self for not being able to completely alter the base nature of being human. It will take conversations with our loved ones and with those we perceive to be wrong. It will take stepping away from social media, from being a spectator or a participant in a useless war of words in a comments section. It will take reckoning and apologizing, and yes, it will take learning to forgive..
Forgiveness is how marriages succeed, through years of trauma and turmoil and disagreement. Our nation is on the verge of an impending divorce. The shadow and light within all of us rage. We deny the existence of the darkest parts of ourselves and cast the blame on others. And when others are representing all that is reprehensible to us we find relief in knowing we are “other”. But in truth, we are one collective. We are evolving together. And to refuse to forgive a predator, a racist, a liar, is to deny that those things exist in each one of us. And that denial is the ultimate untruth. It is the blindness that leads us to violently bump into one another, until we are too bloody to do anything but wail in confusion..
A person must embrace their shadow to fully act from their own light. And no one is blameless in the creation of our America. In 2018, the most radical act we can perform is the protest of self-love and self-inquiry. We can no more reject our most deplorable aspects than we can rid ourselves of our history. The time has come for boldness in the support of our fellow humans, but most importantly, in exploring the emotional misgivings of ourselves. As we investigate the self harm we’ve caused and forgive ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made, we can find healing among the tribe. But until that moment, the otherization of Trump, the right, the left, men, women, black, white, and the ignorant need to absolve ourselves of deeds of blindness perpetuates the cycle..
We are not dissimilar to a family, whose lineage of trauma is handed down from generation to generation. We gather at the dinner table and insist that nothing is wrong, all the while sitting on the suffering and turmoil that keeps us from being truly seen and truly loved. It prevents us from forgiving each other, and from finding healing in ourselves. This broken family, our America, is currently being led by our shadow. YOUR shadow. And to find the way back to the light, you’re going to have to see him in yourself. Are you not vile, base, disgusting, rash, overstimulated, self-centered, judgmental and impulsive? Say no. And watch the cycle perpetuate. Say yes and watch the healing begin.
I’ve got to take a minute to tell you why I’ve been so buried in my phone this week. This past weekend, there was a deadly terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia that killed 3 people. The perpetrators of the attack were white supremacists and nazis. They don’t feel that people like us belong in the United States, and feel so strongly about it, that they will use any means necessary to intimidate. This includes violence and hate speech against Jews, Muslims, People of Color, native Americans, the LGBT community, immigrants, and feminists. I have to tell you that your family falls under a few of these categories. When I was a kid, we laughed off these kinds of people and viewed them as anomalies. They appeared on daily talk shows like Sally Jesse Raphael and Donahue, and we all gawked and scoffed and how backwards their thinking was. Now, don’t get me wrong. There has ALWAYS been racism and antisemitism. It’s just that, since World War 2 and the Civil Rights Movement, most people in our country thought it was best to aim for better. There was covert racism, which has been perpetuated in the legal system. It was wrong. It has always been wrong. They were brought over as slaves and forced to endure unimaginable violence and horror. The legacy of slavery still looms like a shroud of shame over this nation. But until recently, many didn’t feel comfortable being as outwardly racist and hateful as they were before the 1960’s. But things are starting to change. President Trump ran a campaign on hatred and spewed rhetoric that has emboldened racists to speak their minds. They now have a legitimate political platform, known as what was once the Republican party. I want you to know that in this time in history, while watching you play everyday, I am scared. And my prayer is that as you read this letter, it is a thing of the past, and that my fear seems reactionary. I hope as you’re reading this, you are of the knowledge that hatred did not prevail.
I’d like to give you a run down of your family’s history, so you know where you come from. Your mother and father are classic millennial, liberal arts educated “white people” from Texas and Kentucky. But your mother is also the first generation of Americans from a Mexican immigrant family. Your father is a Jewish American grandson of a holocaust survivor. We have veterans on both sides of our family, hippies who’ve marched against war, and even a few aspiring politicians. You’re descended from Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Hungarian and Russian Jews. Some came through Ellis Island. Some suffered atrocities, the likes of which, I hope you never know.
We named you after your great-grandmother, Ann. Everyone called her “Anyu”, which means “mother” in Hungarian. Your great-grandmother Ann and great-grandfather Sandor were from Eger, Hungary. He came to the United States to study before the war broke out, But Ann was in Hungary when the Nazis seized it and she was forced into a ghetto, and then taken to Auschwitz, which was a concentration camp. Her family, including two brothers and her mother and father, were murdered there. She and Sandor’s sisters, Julie and Eva, survived. Your great-grandfather tracked them down after the war and brought them to the US to safety. Julie eventually moved to Argentina, where she started a family. Eva returned to Eger. Your great-grandparents settled in Kentucky, where they had 4 children. The oldest of which was their son, Andy.
Even though surviving the Holocaust is an extraordinary and tragic life event, it was not the sum of Anyu’s story. She had an effect on everyone she met. She was warm, and strong and straightforward. She was welcoming to all. She had a tiny little frame, but a very strong grip. She was loved and loving. She was everything I want you to be, including remarkably resilient. In her later years, she spoke out against hate and intolerance. She told her story and spoke to young people. She told school children, “If you had been alive back then, the Holocaust never would have happened.” She had that kind of faith in people. She believed that knowing better meant doing better. This week has tested my faith in her faith. And for that I am truly sorry.
I write you all this because I want to say that the sum of the story, regardless of the events that may unfold, is that love and resilience are ALWAYS possible. The day after our wedding, there was a brunch in honor of Anyu’s 90th birthday in New York City. Her kids rented a restaurant space, and the room was FILLED to the brim with adoring friends and family. She had children and grandchildren present, a whole legacy of love and family that seemed barely untouched by the tragedy she’d once lived. It struck me in this moment how many people had been affected by this amazing person, and that if she hadn’t survived, all those people would either not exist, or be without the love of a person like her. So what I want to say to you is that no matter the challenges, you can use your life to touch the lives of others. You can live through tragedy and injustice, and unimaginable grief, and still create love. You can overcome oppression and create legacy. You can have an impact on those you’ve never even met, and you can be a teacher of peace and a soldier of love.
You, my son, are truly American. Your blended heritage and storied family history make you thus. Your ancestors on both sides survived and thrived. Your life is a testament to their will and courage. I will always dedicate my life to teaching peace and examining my own responsibility in the madness of this life. I will also never stop fighting for what is best for you and your future. This country was made for you and me by people like us. May you live feeling accepted, strong, and free.
Yours in love and strength,
Staying aware and woke in a time of stress isn’t easy, but yoga helps.
This week was a particularly challenging week for many Americans, and yoga teachers were no exception. The 2016 Election brought no shortage of anxiety to the electorate and a divided nation remains in the wake of one of the most tumultuous campaign seasons of all time. Now, with the election of the new president-elect, many are feeling fear, anxiety, and anger amidst uncertainty. Racism, misogyny, and nationalism are now officially an electable political platform in a country that has fought ardently against these ideals since its creation, and people are feeling the blow. As a yoga teacher, my job is to encourage people to breathe, feel, and to accept where they are. In a time like this, that request is much easier said than done. And that’s what makes it more important than ever.
If you currently practice yoga, you are likely well aware of its many benefits. If you’ve never done yoga, you’ve likely heard its praises sung in many circles. Yoga is everywhere now, and a part of our mainstream culture. There is a yoga class suited to every niche to the point of gimmickry. As I write this, someone is surely posting a set, convenient number of tips or yoga poses to help deal with the fallout of this election and the fear that accompanies. But I’m not going to do that. Because the truth is that what we are doing now, this self-inquiry as a collective, broken nation, THIS IS YOGA.
If you don’t know what I mean, get yourself to a class, or learn those “5 easy poses that will eliminate stress” and come back to this when you’re ready to delve into the practice of feeling pulverizing defeat and breathing through it. This pain that is being uncovered in our nation is, itself, the process of enlightenment. The term “woke” is now circulating as a defining word of pride for those who are willing to witness, love, and breathe through unimaginable injustice. These are the 21st century American yogis who have the capacity to change the world, simply by being conscious in it.
The practice of yoga gives us the tools to become aware.
Through breathing, moving, focusing, and investigating, we become aware in our practice of our limitations and abilities. It also opens us to the idea that the present moment, regardless of how crap-covered it may seem, is all we have. In that knowledge, we become free to accept where we are. We may even find a sense of safety or contentment in our ability to cope and a renewed perspective on suffering.
I remember lamenting to a wise teacher about a particularly traumatic current event involving rape and kidnapping of young girls a few years ago. I said to my teacher, “The world is so dark and terrible. I don’t know what to do about it.” He took a deep breath and nodded his head. “Sometimes, when I am feeling powerless about situations that are particularly destructive but beyond my control, I ponder how I’m accountable for that action. If we are all one collective, what have I done to myself or others that has contributed to this? In what ways am I imprisoning myself, as this man has imprisoned others? How am I violating my own rights or the rights of others? What can I do to change this behavior and find freedom in myself?” This forever changed the way I view power. I think of this often, especially in times like now, when I feel so challenged to remain optimistic.
What he was talking about was the power that comes with personal and spiritual accountability. This comes from the practice of self awareness. When we sense our own bodies, investigate our own feelings, and challenge our own thoughts, we become aware of what is guiding our actions day to day. Yoga teaches us that we are one collective and that our thoughts and actions impact others. When I make a decision to love myself—to breathe, or slow down, or move through my emotions—I am accountable for what I’m bringing to the collective. This is where my power resides. When I can step into my own power, I can move from a place of guided, conscious intention, and not reactionary anger or despair. Yoga has helped me learn to do this, and when I can’t, I have a practice to follow and a community to consult.
I’m not completely of mind that yoga can save the world. But I can say with certainty that it has saved my world.
My life, as well as the lives of many students, friends, and peers, have been positively affected by learning the tools of yoga. It has made me aware in good ways and in bad, and I now suffer the consequences of occasional illumination, or “woke”-ness.
It’s not easy, and it won’t be for a while. But while we are out here, fearing, we might as well be breathing together. And whether or not this adds to the peace in the world, it’s purely experiential. We’ll each have to see for ourselves. If it works for you, practice until it becomes habit. For the tools we discover in our practice are transmittable and teachable, to the point of being contagious. When we breathe, feel, and know, we are forever changed. Yoga isn’t about being calm, it’s about being woke. So allow yourself your feelings, and don’t forget to breathe. Because when we cannot become our own ideal of serenity, we can become the change.
What do you do best?
I love teaching and I believe it's my life's work. I teach as a speaker and as a writer. I enjoy creating new ways to frame concepts, mostly related to the anatomy of the body or how we perceive and process our own emotions. I love the use of metaphor, simile, imagery, and humor in my teaching and writing.
What makes you the best version of yourself?
I believe that a combination of grit and the relentless need to believe in the power of universal love is what drives me. Even as a child, I had the need to make sense of tragedy and danger and turn all events into life lessons. I've always been very spiritual. I believe in a higher power and a collective consciousness between all living beings. I believe that people are inherently good and blinded by their own egos. I believe all people if given love and the opportunity to open themselves can do incredible things. The most of which is to love and heal others. This is what I work to do every day. I work on healing myself. I give myself space and time and forgiveness. And I believe that this work will carry forward. If every person is accountable for their own self-love, universal love will inevitably follow. The grit I have is most likely inherited from both of my parents who were two ambitious balls of fire. But also from the tumultuous childhood I had, and from the fact that I had to grow up a little early. I've been in the work force since the week I turned 16. It was need based. That experience gave me the confidence that many my age didn't have. I learned the value of hard work, discipline, time management, and what it means to provide for your family and yourself. I also learned grit. Grit is not the willingness to get up again. It's losing your will completely and finding it buried deep within you, in places you didn't know existed. That has been the saving grace of my life, along with supportive relationships and my faith.
What are your aspirations?
Personally, I want to raise a quality human being. My son is 18 months old. I have a vision of the man I hope he becomes. I hope that he is open hearted and loving, but strong and courageous. I hope to raise him with the ability to set boundaries for himself, but also to be kind and serve others. I hope he has the ability to question himself and find what he needs within and in his relationships. My ultimate hope is that he be loved and that he loves. For myself, my personal goal is to be able to get calmer and stronger over time and to travel with my husband. Professionally, I plan to write. I blog and write copy but I want to write books. I'd love to write a book about the experience of motherhood, depression, and the lineage of healing. I also would love to be a speech writer for a politician whose work I truly believe in. I also think it would be cool to teach yoga on a campaign trail. I've taught yoga at software companies and on Wall Street. I'd like to extend that to even more people who think yoga is not for them. I love working with thinkers, problem solvers, and policy makers. People who are yoga skeptics can find a home with me. I resonate with that skepticism and welcome the questioning and feedback. I'd love to teach yoga at Amazon or Google one day.
What has been your biggest success and greatest challenge?
Living through and learning the lessons of postpartum depression while parenting an infant and teaching yoga was not easy. I remember one day in a particularly dark moment, I called my husband on my way to teach. I was terrified and depressed and life didn't seem worth living. I told my husband I just wanted to lay down and quit. He talked me through it. I made it to class. I remember sitting down as I arrived and reminding my students to breathe. This was my proudest moment. That I could make it through my darkness and remind others what we can do to help ourselves made me feel proud. I'm proud of what I do. I'm proud of my students. I'm proud of my relationship with myself and that I bring my own experiences with me as teaching tools. I now teach BREATHE Yoga for Moms, and work with mothers to teach simple techniques on how to combat rage, anxiety, and depression through yoga. This is my biggest success to date, as well as my greatest challenge.
What is your motto?
I adore many things Carrie Fisher said, but I'm most guided by her words, "It creates community when you talk about private things." and I believe authenticity and sharing are a path to healing.
Who are your role models?
In addition to Carrie Fisher, I'm always channeling The Unsinkable Molly Brown (both the person and the character as portrayed by the incomparable Debbie Reynolds), Amy Poehler, Peggy Olsen, Jeannette Walls, and David Edelstein. I also look up to my mother a great deal. As a yoga teacher, I'm inspired by my teachers Amy Matthews and Lauren Wigo. They are both unstoppable geniuses.
What is your favorite destination?
I will never stop loving New York City. It was my dream to live there for as long as I can remember. I lived there for 8 years and moved away to start a family. I believe in my heart I may end up back there someday. Hopefully, they will have perfected the art of the gluten free bagel by then. What are your favorite products and tools? I love my Toyota Prius, which dependably gets me from class to class and makes me feel safe with my child in tow, and my Google Chromebook, which is perfect for writing and inexpensive. I also love my Aurorae yoga mat, and Pinky balls from Amazon, for massaging out sore muscles. Ipsy glam bags are also on my current love list. Makeup makes me happy.
What are your current passions?
Right now, my greatest passions are writing, my son Andy, political activism, Sunday mornings, feminism, self-care in all forms, advocating for the support of mothers in order to heal the world, and learning how to do a pull up.
On the day you become a mother, everything changes. Ask any mom and she will agree with this fact. In addition to the huge lifestyle changes and hormonal shifts that happen, a new woman emerges. She is both you, and not you. She is the most loving and caring creature on the planet. But her love is so fierce she would not think twice about fighting 10 men 10 times her size to save her child. She would give her own life, and sacrifice all for the child’s well being and happiness. Her strength knows no bounds. Ask any mother what the worst part of motherhood is and she will tell you. It isn’t the excruciating pains of birth or postpartum depression. It isn’t the sacrifice of the old, carefree life or fulfilling career. It isn’t the sleep deprivation or the toll childbearing and rearing takes on a woman’s body and mind. It is, hands down, without a doubt, one singular thing: seeing your child in pain.
As a parent, you know this is an unavoidable part of life. All children get sick, some worse than others, all children suffer heartbreak and rejection and are at times confused about who they are. Some children are bullied. And though we wish this weren’t true, many of us are dreading this day, when our child comes home with shame-filled eyes from being picked on and made to feel less than or different. But for many of us, we know this will be a phase, and that come middle school, or high school, or college, this bullying will have passed, and a strong adult will emerge from where our child once faltered. But if your child is born “different” in a system that makes them feel less than, how do you deal?
What if your child’s bully isn’t another child, but the school administrator, your state’s governor, your nation’s president? What if the elected, governing bodies of your country are telling your child they aren’t allowed the same basic rights as other Americans? Yesterday Donald Trump announced that 15,000 active duty service men and women would no longer be ALLOWED to serve. It was a disgusting display of abuse of power, not unlike other ways this man has chosen to cause controversy by openly discriminating against groups of Americans. When I heard the news, I was seething and sad. The first person I thought of was Amber Briggle.
I’ve been following Amber recently, as she invaded my hometown of Austin. She’s taken her voice to the capitol to speak out against SB3, the ridiculous “bathroom bill” that many prominent republican lawmakers are fighting for. It’s an embarrassing time to be a Texan. It’s hard to not give up the good fight. But not for Amber Briggle. Recently, an image of her and son, Max, went viral. It’s after a long day of testimony. Max appears sad and tired. I don’t know what he is feeling is this picture, but I do feel Amber. I see a mother touching her son lovingly on the face, demanding his eyes meet her own. She’s trying to remind him of how loved he is, and she knows that fact is found in her stern gaze. She’s intent on telling him the message of hope and letting him know that he is strong, as she kneels in heels and a skirt on the cold floor of the state capitol. She’s stopping everything for that child. Her love surrounds them both like a force field. I feel sad looking at this picture, and I also feel rage. Rage for my fellow mother in the trenches, doing her best to see that her child feels accepted and safe. And rage that the people trying to take away this child’s rights are the exact people who purport to be for “family values” and children’s safety.
As Amber points out in her Tedx Talk, 41% of transgender people attempt suicide in their lifetime. Imagine if someone told you your child had a 59% chance of surviving the teenage years into adulthood, and not because of an illness, but because the system in place isolated, judged, and mistreated them. Would this not make you enraged? Would this not make you want to change the system? For Amber, who is a brilliant writer and public speaker, it seems to bring out the best in her. She speaks with clarity and has a genius way of being able to convert anger into civil discourse and timely statistics. Not unlike many female leaders who’ve been trained to not seem irrational at the risk of losing credibility, she leads with patience. But behind the patience, with great force, like a giant pushing from behind, is her strength. The strength she has from wanting to protect her child, and make sure her baby feels accepted, safe, and loved. What mother, liberal or conservative, would not want the same for her child?
The current climate in our nation’s politics has hit home for many. It seems this president has no boundaries when it comes to people he seeks to marginalize. He’s threatened by strong women and has said slanderous and derogatory things about immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, Jews, the physically disabled, the black community, AND still has managed to become president. For many mothers and maternal figures in this country, an identity crisis is taking place. How are we supposed to teach our children about basic morality and decency when our highest elected leader exemplifies nothing but the opposite? We, as mothers are up against systemic racism that goes unrecognized, systemic sexism that is labeled false, and a systemic love of the availability of weapons that kill children everyday. Not to mention that mothers of children with special needs stand to lose healthcare and access to valuable therapies and resources under this administration. Even the future of our planet is seemingly perilous. How, then, are we to save this country for the safety of our children?
The strongest part of the resistance will be lead by mothers like Amber Briggle. And we can count on women like her whose stories aren’t just personal or familial, but straight up maternal. With the lion rage within each of us to make this country what we know it MUST be, and for our children to be afforded the best life we can provide, we must all do our part, as she is doing. She isn’t in this fight because she wants to be, she’s in it because she has to be, for her son. And so must we all follow her example. It’s our job now to write, call, testify and rally for the rights of our kids and their future. As Amber says in her most recent article on Refinery29, “I will fight with everything I’ve got until the threat is gone, and my son is safe.” You go, mama. We’ll be right there with you.
She never spoke badly about the appearance of other women
When I was in high school, I’d go to the water park with girlfriends. I’d hear them say things like “Ick! Can you believe she’s wearing a 2 piece?!” in regards to stranger in public. I remember thinking, how is it ok for her to talk that way? Perhaps some girls are brought up learning it’s ok to criticize the appearance of other women. This wouldn’t fly in my home. My mother spoke positively about women on their appearance. If I could change one thing for my own kids and do one better than she did, I’d also to try and not speak badly about my own appearance. This is another way we teach our daughters that they are beautiful- by believing that WE are.
She was a champion for other women
I remember growing up, my mother was quick to point out celebrities that had other admirable attributes than beauty. It was the dawn of the “Super Model” era and I remember her saying, “That Cindy Crawford is very smart. She studied chemical engineering.” This made me think that women could and should strive to be more than just physically appealing. I remember when Madonna was at the height of her own controversial Sex book hype, instead of slut shaming or showing signs of disapproval, my mother remarked, “Madonna is a very clever business woman. She is always reinventing herself.” This made me see that there was value in being a business woman AND expressing myself, even when it may be unappealing to some.
She got out of a bad situation
My mother saved herself and her kids from a situation that was destructive and unhealthy. Many women face this challenge everyday. Unfortunately, some don’t have the resources to emerge from such situations. Abuse, neglect, addiction, and dysfunction in relationships and marriages are common and many last longer than they should because women feel that they have no option but to stay. My mother left her bad situation and rose from being a housewife, to an independent, successful woman in the workplace. For that, she gained not only the utmost respect from me, but also taught me that I always have that option myself.
She climbed the corporate ladder
She went back to work when I was a kid. She started off as a temp and gradually worked her way up the ranks to the position she’s in now. I remember there were hard times in a few of those years. She had a tough job and at times dreaded going to work. But she stuck with it, because she’s tough. She also stuck with it because as a mother, and as a woman, sacrifice for your family is part of the job. She never gave up and she worked hard. This taught me the value of hard work, and the glory of achieved success.
She was passionate about her work
Here is a feminist trait I love about my mother- she LOVES her job. Like I said, she worked hard to get there, and now she does an excellent job and is happy doing it. She’s appreciated by others and lives and breathes her work. This is something I really admire. She worked hard and didn’t settle for doing something dispassionately just to earn money, she found her niche. Women started to find their place in the work force in the mid-twentieth century. I believe this is the era that women should not only secure work, but secure work they LOVE.
She raised three kids
Like all mothers worthy of celebrating on this day, she slaved and sacrificed the way all moms do. Single mothers are the strongest humans on earth. Raising kids is not easy, as any mom will tell you, my single moms have it really tough. There should be a Single Mother’s Day.
She took care of herself
It was the 80’s/90’s, and I definitely recall a leotard and some Jazzercise evenings when my mom would take “me” time. I also remember her making an attempt to eat well, and cook meals for us when she could. I believe as a woman, taking care of yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do. If you start with taking care of one woman, you have the ability to connect with and empower other women. As a mother, self-care is extremely important. I appreciate her efforts to stay healthy, and this planted the seed in me to do the same.
My mother always had opinions on politics, and she wasn’t shy about voicing them. No matter what your opinions, I think it’s great to discuss openly (and appropriately) around your kids. She was part of the informed electorate. She watched news, knew her world and U.S. history, and voted at every election. I grew up thinking I should do the same. Teaching our daughters that being informed and active in the political process is one way to continue the growth and strength of this nation. Voting moms are a feminist win.
She taught me to take no S%!T
My mama didn’t raise no fool. She always taught me to value myself and to not take abuse from others. When I was in kindergarten, I was picked on at the playground. I remember her teaching me to yell “NO!” anytime I was picked on. She always insisted “NEVER put up with a man hitting you.” and “NEVER let a man talk down to you.” She taught me the meaning of self worth. This has served me even in regards to my own inner bully. In college, I struggled with disordered eating. I remember looking in the mirror once I had dropped below the 100 pound mark and thinking “You’re still not good enough.” Then I heard my mother’s voice in my head. And I remembered the lesson she had taught me. Something inside roared against the oppression, “NO!”. I went to therapy and healed myself. When we teach our daughters to value themselves, their bodies, and their thoughts, we win the war on female oppression. Every girl who conquers an eating disorder, who speaks out against an abuser, who fights for what she believes in, is embodying the feminist spirit. We must always teach our girls to do no harm, but take no S$%T.
She was kind
As I’ve stated, my mother was a busy lady. She found a way to donate her time and money (when she could) to charity. Beyond being the best Sunday school teacher God ever made, she was charitable to strangers. I remember after a Boy Scouts picnic, she carefully wrapped up leftovers and we drove them to a homeless man in our neighborhood. When I was in first grade, there was a boy who was less fortunate. I guess she gathered from my tales of him that he was in need around Christmas time. So, we made a box of fresh school supplies and socks for him and signed from “Santa Claus”. That was the kind of woman my mother was. She was kind and caring of others without cause to be. If we are to raise generations of women who will change the world, they must be kind and compassionate.
As you can see, many of the ways my mother taught was through example. Our actions, words, and deeds speak volumes to our children. As Stephen Sondheim wrote, “Careful the things you do, children will listen.” How we act around our kids will be how they learn to act. If I’m at all kind, brave, active, passionate, strong, or loving (to myself and others), it is because of my Mother’s example. This Mother’s Day, I’m grateful to the greatest feminist leader I know, my Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Moms!
This is for you, father figures. I would say “You know who you are.” but you probably don’t. You probably aren’t aware of the impact you had. You have no idea how much you shaped us. On this Father’s Day, here’s a little reminder of the good you did.
Here’s to you, uncles, and grandpas, and godfathers, for teaching us how to catch, tell time, or tie a shoe. Thanks for being patient with grandma and showing us what love looked like when she yelled at you for your slow driving. Thanks for the guidance and the wisdom, for the war stories, and all the birthday gifts. We knew how much we were loved because you rarely laughed so much, as when we were around.
Here’s to you, brothers, and cousins, and older, wiser friends. Thanks for not letting that kid bully us on the playground, for going to get mom when we fell and cut ourselves, for letting us tag along, and for all the great advice you gave us on, well, just about everything. You were our guides, one step ahead, and we got tougher knowing you were leading the way.
Here’s to you, teachers and mentors. You, who took the time to put the smiley face on the math test, or gave the high five after the school play. You, who challenged us and refused to accept anything less than our best effort. For helping us form our thoughts, for giving us knowledge, and for your time, you can’t be thanked enough. You’ll never know how much your approval meant.
Here’s to you, husbands, boyfriends, lovers. You caused us to find ourselves thinking, “So this is what it’s like to be held.”
And thank you, also, artists, storytellers, public figures, heroes, fictional and real. You gave us encouragement when we were lost, and gave us reasons to dream.
Thank you so much, healers, therapists, and doctors, for the reassuring smile before the shot, the lollipop for the tears kept in, and for showing us that healing is possible. Your confidence, skill, and patient manner take us through our fear even today.
Thank you fathers-in-law and fathers of friends. Whether it was the pat on the back for a burger well grilled on the Fourth of July, or just the fact that you signed the Christmas card, “Love you both, Papa.” You have no idea what it means to be accepted by you.
Shout out to the step dads, friends of Mom, and “friends” of Mom, for the time you were in our lives, we appreciate the support you gave the woman in our lives.
Thank you to all of you: the pastors, the neighbors, the bosses, the tutors, the volunteers, the troop leaders, the driving instructors, and all-around good men. You have no idea what it meant to have you in our corner. You didn’t think we saw that thing you did. We saw. You didn’t think we heard that thing you said. We heard. You didn’t think we felt the love you gave. We did. It made us.
For ALL the father figures, for being there when others weren’t or couldn’t, we can’t thank you enough. You showed us what a good man is, and taught us about what we could be. Happy Father’s Day. This one’s for you. TC mark
May is Postpartum Depression Awareness month. It’s reported that 1 in 5 women will experience postpartum depression after giving birth. This is a painful and very real affliction for many women and can affect not only the mothers but also loved ones close to them. It can be hard to know what to say if someone you love is experiencing postpartum depression (PPD). The following are things to say and ways to help your friend or loved one suffering from PPD:
1. This will pass.
The lie that depression tells us is that the pain will last a lifetime. Postpartum depression is particularly painful in that it comes with guilt and fear of being a bad mother to a new baby. Every mom experiencing PPD feels worried that she is not giving her best to her child and feels trapped in a prison of sadness and fear. Let her know that this is temporary and not her personality, destiny, or curse. Tell her she will overcome this and be stronger on the other side. It’s only a matter of time before she feels like herself again. Tell her often: This too shall pass.
2. You’re a good mother.
This will be hard for her to believe. She’s in a space where she feels totally disconnected from herself, her life, her body, her loved ones, and most especially and painfully, her baby. Point out to her the ways that she is succeeding as a mother. Her baby is healthy, smiling, chubby, beautiful, safe, whatever the case may be. Let her know she is doing a good job mothering even if it means she needs time away from her baby. She is doing what is best and healthiest for both of them despite the incredible pain, and that takes courage and a great mommy instinct.
3. You’ve got this.
The story the mind tells mothers with postpartum depression is “You can’t do this.” This will be the inner monologue of many PPD moms. “I can’t do this” will play over and over in her head during tasks which normally seem attainable. Waking up, feeding her baby, and clothing and feeding herself will seem overwhelming and at times impossible. If you hear her say “I can’t do this,” remind her that she already is. She’s doing it. Despite how painful or hard or impossible it becomes, she’s doing it. Tell her she’s got this, she’s strong, and you’re proud of her.
4. Fear is love.
Many mothers with postpartum depression and anxiety experience debilitating fear and dread. The overwhelming new job of being a mommy with PPD makes many women feel that there’s something wrong with them. They believe that other women are stronger than they are, or braver, or just have the mommy gene that they lack. Let them know that their fear is a good sign. It means they care enough for the baby that they are feeling fear; it’s just a disproportionate amount fear because of the hormonal imbalance. It’s not their fault; it’s a hormonal exaggeration of healthy fear. Tell them when they feel fear, to embrace and breathe into it. It will pass, and it’s a sign that they love and care for the wellbeing of their child.
5. You’re not alone.
As stated above, 1 in 5 women will experience postpartum depression after a birth. It is completely normal, and PPD moms are not alone in this experience. There are support groups and other moms ready to talk with her or through it, as well as professionals who are well-acquainted with her symptoms. If you are a mom, let her know about some of your trials early on in motherhood and point to how they worked out for the best. She needs examples of how she is like everyone else, and that she, too, will see a happier, easier side to being a mommy soon.
6. I’ll be right there.
If and when you can, be prepared to drop everything to help a mom with postpartum depression. If you can visit with her, walk with her, get her out of the house, buy groceries for her, or care for her child for a period of time, this will make all the difference in her sense of hope and optimism. She feels as if she’s buried under the pressure of being a mom, while failing and suffering. Help relieve this pressure by showing up.
7. I’m right here.
If you can’t be there physically, remind her also that she’s not alone because you’re there. Postpartum depression can make moms feel disconnected from love and support because of the effects of depression. It feels isolating and alone, and even though she may consciously know she has friends and loved ones, she can’t feel it in the darkest moments. Remind her. Call her. Text her. Write or post on her Facebook wall. Tell her you’re there for her and she’s not alone.
8. What can I do?
Moms with postpartum depression can feel helpless and hopeless. Ask what you can do, whether it’s something small like make them laugh, buy them flowers, or even something large like babysitting or helping her set a routine or ritual for coping. Help her with whatever it seems may be too much for her to handle. Ask what you can do and be prepared to deliver. It will mean more than you know.
9. What does it feel like?
Sometimes it just feels good to talk. A person in pain wants to be heard, even if it is difficult to articulate. Ask her what it feels like and don’t judge or offer suggestions of how she can feel better. Try to avoid advice like, “Be positive” or “Look on the bright side.” She’s in pain and needs to get her pain out in the open so she isn’t dealing with it alone. Hear her, see her, and be with her and her pain. This will make her realize she’s not alone in her suffering and that she has the genuine support of loved ones holding a space for her.
10. Take this one moment at a time.
Depression is painful, but it can also teach us to live in the present. It is said that if you are depressed, you are living in the past, and if you are anxious, you are living in the future. In the case of postpartum depression, moms are mourning for the life they had before their baby and worried for the life they fear they can’t provide in the future for their baby.
Sometimes the only way we can get through intense moments of suffering is to just take it one moment at a time, one second at a time, one breath at a time, one episode of Modern Family at a time. Tell her she’s doing it, it’s passing with every breath, and to embrace and hold on to the present moment. Every moment that passes is a moment she is healing, even if it doesn’t feel like it. One step at a time and she will be past it, stronger and more courageous than ever before.
Recently, there has been a lot of conversation in the yoga community about whether or not pictures of people doing Asana poses is inspiring or discouraging. While yoga selfies are great advertising tools for yoga teachers and new practitioners alike, here are the top 10 reasons to avoid capturing yoga Selfies:
1. Because "Quick, quick, take the picture!" is not a powerful mantra.
2. Because doing inversions on a railroad track can be dangerous! Haven't you seen Stand by Me or Fried Green Tomatoes?
3. Because we do not practice yoga to entertain or impress.
4. Because you could rip a hole or get dirt on your $108 Yoga pants.
5. Because that trash can lid is not as strong as it looks.
6. Because Asana practice is dynamic, fluid, movement and a picture is a still image that only captures hints of a brief moment in time.
7. Because potential students may see them and think "I can never do this."
8. Because yoga is not about how you look.
9. Because being a living example is more powerful than a picture (even one in front of a sunset).
10. Because you do not need to prove anything to anyone.
If taking yoga selfies is important to you because you feel that it is a summation of the success of your practice and you hope to share this with others, by all means, keep clicking and posting. But if you'd prefer to explore a deeper practice, try using a new filter. Pictures can be beautiful, inspiring and fun. But no matter how great they are, they will never fully capture the uncapturable experience of the practice of Yoga. Keep on inspiring in your own way, and remember to practice safe selfies (no train tracks).
See copy I created for OutboundEngine, a automated email and social media marketing company.
See copy I created for OutboundEngine, a automated email and social media marketing company.
See copy I created for OutboundEngine, a automated email and social media marketing company.
See my work on a recent political campaign.
I was honored to help with my brother's recent campaign for city council in San Antonio. In addition to helping with social media outreach and writing copy and articles, he asked me to create a slogan. I based slogan ideas off of what he said was missing from today's political landscape. He told me many people he'd talked to said they didn't feel heard, and that their opinions were lost in the noise of media hype, special interests, and gerrymandered districts. My brother said he was committed to helping people in politics in the same way he has helped people as a counselor, which is to allow them to be heard. So I came up with this slogan to encapsulate, simply and whimsically, the tone of his campaign.