28 Days of Yoga

By TheVerve360.com
By TheVerve360.com

January is exciting because everyone feels empowered to do new things and change their health. I was excited to see many fitness and health challenges, but they all seemed to start so fast without giving much build up, or an opportunity to try something out before committing to a 30-day running challenge or month-long health food binge. What if you discover after you’ve started that you hate running or can’t stand the latest super food on sale at Whole Foods? Then, you’re destined for disappointment, or by February 1, you’re comfortably back in your old habits and have completely lost the energy and zeal for your new year’s project.

As many of my friends know (because I’m always sending them requests to join me), I think Groupon, Living Social and Daily Candy Deals are some of the greatest resources on the internet. They all allow you to try new products, facilities and activities inexpensively and with little risk. I can’t get enough of the 30-day memberships to gyms and yoga studios or class bundles for dance studios or rock wall climbing. In January a couple co-workers and I got a Daily Candy Deal for YogaWorks. It was 30 days of unlimited classes with access to any of their gyms. Plus, it came with a $25 gift card. What a deal. I went to class at least three times a week and couldn’t get enough. Not to mention the fun bonding time with friends since we all had the same pass and goal to try out the studios.

When the 30 days were up, I decided that not only did this deal help me manifest my new year’s resolution to take better care of myself, by exercising and finding a source for stress relief, it helped me rekindle a passion for yoga that I had in college. Over the course of the month I couldn’t believe how fast I made progress. I tried new styles and poses — elevating my yoga practice to a new level I’d always wanted. Midway through the month I started feeling stronger, more confident and less stressed and I realized, wow, this makes me truly happy. I also realized I wanted to do a hand stand.

By the time the month was over, I could do a modified hand stand on my forearms and I’d joined YogaWorks officially. They even gave me a discount. And, I thought of an interesting birthday gift for myself, 28 days of yoga for my 28th birthday. I’m hoping since I gave myself a test run I’ll be able to do it. I also thought it would be a fun way to set an attainable goal for myself to achieve.

My plan is to do 30 minutes of yoga each day at home or the studio. For the days I’m not motivated I’ll remember the awe I felt when I saw “Yoga By Equinox.” How I wish to be this good at yoga.

Yet, this is not just about committing to my fitness, it’s about investing time for myself that I know makes me feel strong, confident and at peace.

Today was day one.

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Make 28 Great

Image By ScenicReflections.com
Image By ScenicReflections.com

A gal’s birthday makes her think about a lot of things — the past (Where did my twenties go and why do I still feel 21?), the future (What does it mean to be in my “late twenties?”), and how I can make this my best year yet (Get back to writing, you dork.)?

You see, last week was my birthday and I was lucky to share it with my sweet co-workers and kind friends, and of course my generous husband who planned a surprise trip for me to San Francisco. I couldn’t ask for more. It was a fun weekend — delicious seafood, time with family, and lots of walking around one of my favorite cities… but there’s something about my birthday that always makes me reflect on what I’ve done with my life and where I’m going next.

I know I’m not the first person to feel this way, I bet we all go through it one time or another. Even rocker Sammy Hagar once said: “Every year on your birthday, you get to start new.” I think a guy with an album called “Livin’ It Up!” might know a thing or two needing a fresh outlook.

So, how do you start a new path and make the next year better than the last? I have a few ideas.

As a kid I believed I would be married by 25, with a baby by 28 and running my own magazine by my thirties. Yikes. Clearly, my young self was overly ambitious and completely unaware of the time and efforts required to cultivate relationships, a family and a career, while still pursuing an education, having a social life and maintaining an exercise regimen and doing laundry. Life takes time, especially when trendy delicates need to be hand-washed.

I think some birthdays, like the turn of the new year, bring pressure and anxiety, when they should actually be rewarding and liberating. Who wants to be analyzing their 12-year-old self’s life plan while feasting on a crab cake in North Beach? Not me. Ok, clearly it was me, but here’s me trying to be older and wiser. I’d like to plan some things that I could do before I turn 29. Sure, I’d like to say I’ll finally make that trip to Paris or learn to design and sew my own clothes, but let’s be realistic, here. That’s a lot of expectations to put on myself in a mere 365 days. I can think of one, realistic goal for the year, and I’ll be honest, it directly supports and relates to my new year’s resolution to take better care of myself: Make a commitment to doing things that make me happy.

Often I, like many others get distracted and bogged down by obligations, laziness, routines and work — when sometimes a better choice, even a small one, could make me happier. Leaving work when I promise myself I will. Taking a moment to relax without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else. These types of things impact how we enjoy our days and I need to make sure I make choices that benefit my happiness over everything else.

My trip to San Francisco for my birthday reminded me of this — things don’t have to be so planned or focused on specific goals. I may not run a magazine or learn how to sew, but that’s ok. My goals right now are simple. Be myself. Spend quality time with people I love. Make my home more beautiful and tranquil. Take time to relax. Cook healthy and delicious foods. Go to yoga. Write every day. I don’t need much more.

I, like many others, get so wrapped up in my daily routines and tasks. It’s easy to forget that happiness is something you can create yourself at anytime, anywhere. Why blow out the candles by making a wish, when you can actively choose to change your life.

Great things come to those who work and play hard. I’ve had 28 years to practice and I’ll keep going until I get it right. Starting now.

Any one else game to give it a go with me?

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Ode to Transitions

In order to tell you where I’ve been over the past few months, I have to share how I got here.

Most of the biggest transitions in my life over the past five years began and ended in a taxi cab. When I moved to New York City after graduating from college, I was filled with excitement and a young naivete about journalism as I stood in line at the airport waiting for a cab. I had never been to New York, but I was moving to Manhattan to become a writer — more specifically a journalist, and later, after hard work, I wanted to become the editor of a women’s magazine. I had it all planned out. I was going to conquer this foreign and unwelcoming city — even though I was just 21-year-old and had grown up in a rural Northern California town without a stoplight (or cabs, for that matter).

Big Apple? I was ready to take a big bite.

I wanted to learn from journalists who wrote for national newspapers and magazines, and gain experience at a magazine while studying for my Master’s at New York University. And, I was ready to take whatever the city was going to throw back at me, despite never having been there before. Ever.

What followed during my first two weeks in New York, were the agonies of finding an apartment during the height of the real estate market. (We’re talking pre-recession, people!) My boyfriend, Daniel (who later became my husband) and I needed to find a true one bedroom (that did not look out onto a brick wall and had a kitchen) for under $2,000 somewhere near the Village, where I would attend class for J-school.

However, we also needed to be near a subway stop so Daniel could commute to downtown Brooklyn easily. Boy, was that a lot to ask. We had only two weeks before my classes started, but the school wouldn’t give me any money to pay for a deposit on an apartment, let alone my books. I had graduation money, which was running a little low after experiencing my first summer without a job. I had worked all through school and decided to give myself one summer free from working minimum wage. Thankfully, my future in-laws helped make the work-free summer and new apartment a reality — without them, it would have been impossible.

We finally found a place amidst the sticker shock, humid heat and our aching feet. It took a pushy broker and $10,000 to move into our first apartment in the East Village on 3rd Street at 2nd Avenue, but it was ours! Who knew we’d need three months’ rent and a huge brokerage fee to get a place on such short notice? Yet, we were starting a new chapter in our lives. The apartment was tiny, but we loved it. We didn’t have air conditioning or much closet space. No matter, our little second floor walk-up was home. We even had a view of a park — well, ok it a quiet, squirrel-filled historic cemetery, but for $2,100 a month it was totally worth it.

Fast forward through new restaurants, friends, classes and jobs — our East coast lives had rapidly changed our outlook on the world and each other. During our time in New York, I buzzed around the city reporting stories on a woman comic writer, a stabbing in Williamsburg, a young jewelry designer and then got the amazing opportunity to work as a web intern for my favorite magazine, Marie Claire. Each week was filled with new stories, books, lessons and adventures, as I learned the subway lines and fell in love with living in NYC.  And I wasn’t the only one to find a passion for my career path. Daniel worked his way up at an e-commerce start-up, got to know Brooklyn, found us cool concert venues and discovered trendy restaurants and hot spots before they were popular. It was as if the world continued to unfold before us through grid-like patterns of the city streets and the boom of internet businesses where we started to find our niche.

Los-angeles
Image via Wikipedia

Over the past few years, our lives in New York were not limited to the city. I spent part of a summer in Africa reporting stories from Ghana. Daniel moved to India for nine months to help manage a new office in Jaipur. He also traveled to Australia and New Zealand. After grad school I joined him in India for a couple months before we were married in the summer of 2008. Life continued to change.

For me, post-grad life in New York included freelancing and working as an Associate Online Content Editor for teen news network, Channel One News. For two years I worked for Alloy Media + Marketing, learning the inner workings and demands of a daily network news program and what it’s like to edit and maintain a website with a really small staff — it was the best opportunity a young journalist could attain. Writing, editing, publishing and working cross-functionally with teams in marketing, sales, broadcast, design and engineering.

I could go on and on with how much I will forever live in an “Empire State of Mind,” but living in the city that never sleeps can be tough. To be honest, some of those people aren’t sleeping because they are just out having fun — they are working second jobs, writing in the middle of the night and searching for their next big break. Mine came just before Christmas as the snow began to fall.

I was offered a job in Southern California. Daniel and I had started our careers in New York and then, on December 22, with only a few weeks to prepare, we left it all for my new job as an editor for Demand Media. So much has happened since moving to California: new jobs, friends, an apartment, two cars…. but I realized in the move I lost touch with my writing, some of my friends and great things that made my life special because I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of changes we’d made. Then I remembered that the things I love most don’t just disappear. We just have a to make a little effort and find new adventures in the City of Angels.

Glad to say things are back on track (just on another coast with significantly fewer cabs).

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Photo by Steven DiCasa

Raising the Bar in Dance

Originally Published By: InterviewHer.com on January 20, 2011

“I’ve danced my entire life,” began Lauren Pellettieri, as she described the co-founding of her dance company, Liberated Movement. “In college I was part of a student-runliberated-movement dance group for four years. I performed, rehearsed and taught classes.” After she graduated from Fordham University, she moved to Manhattan – the home to some of the most prestigious dance academies and companies – and discovered that advanced instruction cost at least $18 per class. “I was still dancing, but not nearly as much,” explained Pellettieri in an interview. “ I missed my regular routine.”

Pellettieri found herself attending more yoga classes than dance because a St. Mark’s Place Studio, called Yoga to the People, offered donation-based instruction, which worked better for her budget. Then, as her need to dance grew, and she heard how much her friends struggled to pay for dance classes as well, she had an idea. What if she could create, with the help of her friends and trusted teachers, a dance initiative with donation-based classes that would fund space at a dance studio?

After doing research she discovered that such a company didn’t exist…yet. “This is New York City,”
she said, “it should exist. This is the dance capital of the world!”

Next, Pellettieri brought her idea to her best friend, Elizabeth Fielder who later helped her start Liberated Movement, and asked, “How feasible is this?”

Now, over a year later, Liberated Movement, a dance initiative founded to teach anyone with a desire to have fun, learn new technique and exercise, has classes almost every day for a suggested donation of only $5. With a variety of classes throughout the week in a Battery Park studio in lower Manhattan, seasoned dancers and first-timers alike, gather to move freely together – in more ways than one.

liberated-movementPhoto by Steven DiCasa 

There’s no membership fee, just positive attitudes, passion and a desire to sweat. “Our goal was to make dance more accessible to experience, without the expense,” explained Pellettieri . “Everyone is free to give what they want. An envelope is passed around at the end of class – all donations are anonymous.”

Classes at Liberated Movement include a wide variety like Masala Bhangra (which is taught by Pellettieri), ballet, contemporary, modern, jazz, hip hop, theater dance and West African. Plus, she and her band of dedicated friends are always adding new courses like this month’s Glee themed class or their special Thriller event for Halloween in 2010.

For Lauren Pellettieri, Liberated Movement is not just about getting her dance fix. “Personally, I wanted to break barriers about dance,” she said. “Taking a dance class can be intimidating. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable. Sometimes you want to take class and just bust it out!”

To date the program has had two private donations, but runs solely on donations to pay for using space at the Battery Park Dance Studio, where Pellettieri was once an intern. Each class offers the same quality of instruction from some of the most sought after studios in the city because the instructors volunteer their time. In the future, Ms. Pellettieri hopes to expand Liberated Movement and build upon this notion of empowering women. A private space, more classes and eventually a way to incorporate a clinical practice for therapeutic movement are some of her big picture plans.

“I want to do dance and movement therapy. I would love to have classes that empower positive body image and confidence with moves that promote health.” This combination approach of physical and mental wellness will surely come – especially since Pellettieri is in the process of getting her Master’s in clinical social work. “It wasn’t something I originally saw under the umbrella of Liberated Movement, but then I realized it could encompass the entire thing.”

For anyone looking to embrace their inner dancer, get a little exercise, or simply feel liberated — check out the classes offered each week at LiberatedMovement.com. And, remember feeling good about your body is only a few steps away with a friendly group who simply love to dance.

Written by:  Christa Fletcher

LIBERATED MOVEMENT

www.LiberatedMovement.com

Image By ReadingTeen.net

Book-Banning Controversy

Originally Published By: Women’s eNews on December 13, 2010

A book-banning effort against “Speak,” a young-adult novel about date rape, is creating an uproar. A campus group is making a documentary, a Twitter feed is discussing censorship and a library group expects the controversy to attract teen readers.

(WOMENSENEWS)–A Missouri State University professor’s bid to ban a young-adult novel about date rape, among other “filthy books,” from the school district’s English courses is spurring young-adult authors and teachers to speak out against censorship in a country where more than 10,676 books have been challenged in libraries and schools since 1990.

“Teens don’t live in a vacuum,” Andrea Cremer, author of the young-adult novel “Nightshade,” wrote in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. “They inhabit the same brutal world as adults without the knowledge and tools of adulthood. For those teens whose lives have already been affected by drugs, violence, suicide or any number of traumatic experiences–what children as well as adults struggle with–books can provide comfort, healing or simply the realization that one isn’t alone.”

One in six women will be a victim of sexual assault during her life, according to data published by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, based in Washington, D.C. Young women between 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.

“Speak,” a young-adult novel by Laurie Halse Anderson about a teen who was raped at a party, is on the New York Times bestseller list, was a National Book Award finalist and has received many honors, including the Michael L. Printz and Golden Kite awards.

However, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of business management at Missouri State University in Springfield and a fundamentalist Christian, is demanding that “Speak” and two other books be banned from public high school English coursework in Republic, Mo.

Scroggins filed his complaint in June to the Missouri public school board and wrote an opinion piece on Sept. 18, arguing that the two rape scenes in the novel should be classified as “soft pornography.”

Call to Ban Two Other Books

One of the other books Scroggins wants struck from high school reading lists is “Slaughterhouse Five,” the 1969 antiwar novel by Kurt Vonnegut, which Scroggins complains has too much profane language and sex for high school students.

The other is “Twenty Boy Summer,” by Sarah Ockler, published in 2009. Scroggins said the book “glorifies drunken teen parties” and sex on the beach with condoms.

He is opposed by those who argue rape is a violent act of assault–not porn–and that removing the book would infringe on students’ First Amendment rights.

“Teen readers lose their First Amendment rights as well as access to information that may help them grow intellectually or emotionally if a book is unjustly removed from their local school or public library, or if the library unjustly restricts access to it in some way,” Beth Yoke, executive director of the Chicago-based Young Adult Library Services Association, said in an interview with Women’s eNews.

Since 1990, the association has documented the removal of at least 10 books from the schools and public libraries in Missouri. However, the information provided to the group is voluntary, said Bryan Campbell, an administrative assistant for the Chicago-based Office for Intellectual Freedom, in an email interview.

He also said the group is working on a system for larger data collection that may provide a more reliable picture of book banning statistics in the future.

Each year the American Library Association, based in Chicago, recommends a variety of books to libraries, including “contemporary realistic fiction that reflects the diversity of the teen experience.”

Hundreds of books, including some recommended by the organization, are also challenged or banned from schools and libraries each year.

Between 1990 and 2009 the most common reason listed for challenging a book was “sexually explicit,” at 3,046 complaints. Complaints of “violence” numbered 1,258, according to data provided by the American Library Association.

Thousands Say Thanks

“When ‘Speak’ was published, there was some whispering that this was not an appropriate topic for teens,” Halse Anderson said in an interview with the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader four days after Scroggins attacked the book on the newspaper’s opinion page.

She added that thousands of readers had written to thank her for the book: “They said it made them feel less alone and gave them the strength to speak up about being sexually assaulted and other painful secrets.”

The highly popular young-adult author, Judy Blume, a frequent target of book banning herself, has written to the National Council Against Censorship, based in New York City, on behalf of Halse Anderson.

Ockler, author of “Twenty Boy Summer,” one of the three books condemned by Scroggins, blogged on her Web site in September and October about the dangers of censorship. She also emphasized the importance of healthy discussions among parents and their children: “Truly asking for parental involvement would mean encouraging parents to read the books in question, discuss issues and themes with their kids and come to their own decisions about what’s best for their own families.”

“I’m against book banning in schools,” Daisy Whitney, author of “The Mockingbirds,” a young-adult book published on Nov. 2 that also treats the subject of date rape, said in a phone interview. “‘Speak’ is a novel that has helped so many teenagers understand the emotions surrounding someone who has been through a traumatic experience. The reason some people have suggested banning ‘Speak’ also concerns me because in no way should rape ever be equated with sex.”

Teachers, Librarians, Parents Protest

Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, started a Twitter feed called SpeakLoudly in response to Scroggins’ complaints. A community of teachers, librarians, parents and publishers also founded SpeakLoudly.org with Hankins soon after, in September.

The controversy has also helped publicize the books under attack for censorship.

“Tell a teen that a book is banned or challenged and they will want to read it to find out why,” said Yoke, of the Young Adult Library Services Association. “So, in one way, book banning actually piques many teens’ interest in the controversial titles.”

Vern Minor, superintendant of the Republic school district where Scroggins’ complaint was received by the school board, told the News-Leader in September that “Slaughterhouse Five” was removed from the English course curriculum.

However, in a Dec. 6 e-mail with Women’s eNews, he said: “We have not made any decisions on the books in question. Our discussions are currently focused on board policy, not the three books per se. We are really trying to look at this matter from a much broader perspective than just three books.”

The school board hopes to set standards for book selection. They do not have a set time frame to implement the revised curriculum policies.

Candice Tucker and Brandon Bond, students at Missouri State, have started filming a documentary about the events, censorship and Scroggins’ “radical views.” Bond has also launched an advocacy group on Facebook called “No More Banned Books,” where he hopes to fight against “the enemies of reason and tolerance.”

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Christa Fletcher is an online writer and editor dedicated to promoting awareness about women’s issues. Her work has been featured by Channel One News, InterviewHer.com, Marie Claire and she keeps a blog at ChristaWrites.com.

For more information:

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:
http://www.rainn.org/

National Council Against Censorship:
http://www.ncac.org/

SpeakLoudly:
http://speakloudly.org/

Speak
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9780142407325?p_ti

InterviewHer.com

New Site for Women in Business

I recently contributed to a new publication dedicated to women entrepreneurs, called InterviewHer.com. The website features women who own their own businesses and provides tips to other ambitious women who want to pursue their own enterprise.

Many of the women featured run successful companies in publishing, beauty and health trades, while others launched fashion lines, run design firms and opened bakeries.

My first piece covers media expert and author Daisy Whitney who owns her own company and published her first book in a series titled, The Mockingbirds. The feature explains how Whitney started her business in media and includes a review of her debut novel. The author also donated a copy of her book, which readers can enter to win in a sweepstakes. In fact, every woman featured is offered the opportunity to share her products or services with readers as giveaways to readers.

InterviewHer.com covers business owners in major cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and New York, among others. And, they are looking for new women to interview.

“We’re always interested in learning about exciting ventures and ideas but we can’t do it all on our own. If you are a fellow female business owner, or if you know of any trendy companies in your city that may not be on our radar, let us know!”

If you know a woman who founded and runs her own company, please help us support women in business and include your suggestion in the comments below, or contact InterviewHer.com directly.

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A Novel Debut

A Remedy in Writing

Originally Published by InterviewHer.com on November 1, 2010

Author and Media Expert Daisy Whitney

“Talking about things is what helps us heal and recover from challenging times in life,” explains Daisy Whitney, host of New Media Minute and author of The Mockingbirds. Yet, many women feel silenced about sexual abuse – especially teens who have been date raped. Daisy Whitney just might change that with her new book. She knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to speak out.

Daisy Whitney is a talented writer and media expert with a thriving personal business and family. She’s also releasing her debut novel, The Mockingbirds, on November 2, 2010, which has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Yet, her journey to success and “masterfully” written novel began with a hardship — one that changed her life and inspired her to write about date rape, vigilantism and academic politics.

Daisy Whitney was date raped when she was 19-years-old and she understands firsthand what it means to find her voice and the strength to press charges against her attacker. “I was a freshman in college at the time and am definitely a big believer in the power of speaking up.”

With the support of her friends Whitney pressed charges in her school’s justice system at Brown University. “In the early nineties we were starting to understand date rape,” said Whitney in an interview. “Institutions now have disciplinary systems that recognize sexual assault as a violation of the

code.”

Thankfully, her school handled Whitney’s case and she healed from the incident by being able to talk about it and find closure for herself. After receiving her degree, Whitney started her career in journalism as a reporter and later founded her own business as a reporter and media expert.

The Mockingbirds is the first in a series about a secret society in a private high school called Themis Academy. The protagonist,Alex, is sexually assaulted after a night of drinking. She struggles to remember what happened that night as she copes with her fear of the classmate who raped her. Her friends provide guidance when she realizes that she has been violated and abused. In her quest to heal, she encounters the Mockingbirds, a student-run justice system and she decides to press charges against her attacker.

The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney

In this exciting and evocative book, Whitney captures the complexity of date rape with her narrative about Alex, an exceptional concert pianist who wants to pursue music at Juilliard. Whitney creates a powerful scenario, filled with realistic characters that show teens the trials of coping and the importance of finding empowerment after assault.

The novel comes at a crucial time. One in six women will become victims of sexual assault during their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Many of them are girls, ages 16-19. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates nearly half of reported cases of sexual assault and attempted rape are teens. “According to a study conducted by The Northern Westchester Shelter, with Pace Women’s Justice Center, about 83% of 10th graders said they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult,” said Whitney in an email.

For Daisy Whitney, speaking up and increasing awareness are not only key elements of her novel, they are also part of her business plan, turning her tragedy to triumph, while helping teens on the way.

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