Toning your body versus losing body weight- You decide.

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Spring is here in Adelaide and the pressure is on to look good, again! Winter fashion is very forgiving for the less than ideal body type, which is about 95% of the world. By ideal I mean what the fashion industry defines as ideal, super slim or what the fitness industry defines as ideal, super muscled. For the less than super, myself included, spring and summer can dampen that yippee ya yee jingle  you feel like doing when you see the almond blossoms and smell the sweet jasmine scent in the air.

While I am all for a healthy lifestyle I am not buying that perfect body hype. As my hubby very vocally puts it, “A woman’s gotta have curves!” Yes ladies, I am blessed. As I wolf down my quinoa and roasted chicken salad and eye my yoga mat, I strive for a well-balanced outlook on physical beauty. Sparkling eyes, shinny hair, smooth skin, gorgeous smile and an infectious personality represent beauty for me. As opposed to a gaunt frame, hollowed cheeks, spindly arms and skinny legs.

I do yoga to tone myself, as I believe that a toned body is way sexier than a skinny one. You can be a size zero and still have jiggly arms, but a size 12 with a firm body is amazing! You need food to provide you with the nutrition for strong bones, healthy organs, muscles and stamina; you can’t get all of that with just iceberg lettuce. My fitness parameter? If I can run for an hour with my kids in the park before getting tired, I consider myself fit.

A positive body image is so important and not just for physical health. Your outlook on life needs to be positive and healthy, a negative self-image can destroy not just your mojo but also your life. An energetic outlook makes you want to accomplish more, achieve more and in turn makes you feel great, the opposite can lead to depression that can ruin marriages, friendships and even careers.

I consider myself lucky as I grew up with very positive role models and a very healthy affirmation of beautiful. Strong confidant women with fulfilling lives who made an impact on society were the hallmark of an ideal woman. Marie Curie, Bertha Von Suttner, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Martina Navratilova, Mother Teresa and the list goes on.

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Today most young women when asked whom they admire fervidly exclaim, ‘Kim Kardashian.’ While I can appreciate the business ingenuity and drive of Kim Kardashian and hold no grievance against her, a role model?

Perhaps my outlook on life is different because I grew up under the wings of a very intelligent and independent woman, my mother. She was the daughter of a wealthy businessman who was also an aspiring inventor and a village beauty who hailed from a prominent religious family. The untimely death of her father led to their fortunes being stolen by malicious relatives who took advantage of her mother’s illiteracy. She thumb printed away their home, land and business to her husband’s conniving nephew. Scared for life, granny made sure all her children, nine of them would be educated.

My mother grew up with an innate distrust of people and made it her life ambition to learn all that she could, after all knowledge was power. As children she forbade us from watching cartoons or movies, it was just documentaries and books for us. We never had cable and there were no magazine subscriptions, except for the odd National geographic and readers digest.

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For entertainment we would sit together in the living room and hear stories about my parent’s lives, funny anecdotes about our ancestors, family history and family legends. My father had books from his travels and I grew up in the company of Dale Carnegie, Napoleon hill, Edward De Bono, Ben Sweetland, and offcourse encyclopaedias.

Our childhood mentors determine not only our outlook on life but also our perception of self. As I hear the music from my children’s playroom I realise that soon my little girls will need more than fluffy unicorns to help them develop a sense of self. Their positive affirmations will need to come from real heroes, everyday men and women who live fulfilling lives with purpose.

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The Art of healing: Hoʻoponopono

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Hotmail delivered an email by a troubled soul I no longer consider as friend, refer to my emotional rant in the article ‘A can of worms’. Technology amazes me, how you can still receive emails from a ‘blocked’ person is one of the wonders of modern society. In this instance however, gratitude is the order of the day.

Her email, as always, was a forwarded email that goes by the subject line: “I’m sorry” and “I love you”.  I must be the only dyslexic in the world who just can’t resist reading a well-written email, even if it is from someone I have officially blocked from my life. What can I say? We all have our quirks; curiosity is mine.

This particular email was so intriguing it warranted a post, for those who are familiar with my musings you know that I rather stay silent than write for the sake of writing, yes all you social media marketers, I am guilty of the number one SMM no-no. I have never been one to conform and my viewpoints are different at best but never run-of-the-mill.

Hoʻoponopono is the ancient Hawaiian belief system that offers cures for a world steeped in pain and sickness. According to Wikipedia, “Hoʻoponopono” is defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary as “mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.”

This particular email made references to Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, a therapist in Hawaii who cured a complete ward of criminally insane patients without ever seeing them, by improving himself. Total responsibility, the belief that everything in your life is your responsibility and not in a guilt tripping depressing way but in an uplifting empowering way.

I am not completely sold on the technique or the results, nor am I convinced of the authenticity of the claims, however what I am intrigued with is the underlying empowerment message. Yes, I am a sucker for inspirational, motivational and downright simple common sense. As a catholic, I can totally resonate with, ‘prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness’.

For the longest time however, I always thought that all the above were for your own mental health. As a proponent of, ‘You have the power to change your past’ I found it quite interesting that I, me and myself encompasses the universe.

The question, ‘what have you done?’ being posed to the parents when any child was ill, really struck a nerve. The fact that one out of my brood of three is perpetually ill might have something to do with it. My counsellor, as my son might have Asperger’s, is always drumming the circle of parenting principles, one of her favourite being, the solution to all behavioural issues with children is to spend more quality time with them. To rejoice in them and delight in them, kind but firm is what every parent should aim for. Screaming, yelling and generally loosing it is my modus operandi, but Libby and I are working on that.

Apart from the fact that if you are at peace with yourself, everyone around you will also absorb that calming presence (a kindy teacher who is confident and calm always has her class attentive to her), the ability to heal others by taking responsibility for them mentally, seems to make a lot of sense. In this world where everyone is harping on their freedom to curse, insult and abuse, a message of peace, harmony, forgiveness and most importantly responsibility might just be what we need in these troubled times.

To heal the world, our community, our families, by first healing ourselves, makes a lot of sense. Every troubled teenager, criminal and war monger needs to be taken responsibility for, we as a community need to step out of our shells, our private little perfect worlds and embrace the troubled, lonely and even the criminally insane with love, forgiveness and acknowledgment. Distancing ourselves form the problem doesn’t make it go away, doing something about it does.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we all make a beeline to the prisons and hospitals; that would be nice, however what we can do is stop this mental demarcation of them versus us. Total surrender and total responsibility, at least mentally for starters, who knows we might just change the world and save it while we heal and love ourselves.

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A can of Worms

Humans, the variety amazes me! It’s the varying levels of morality and honesty that amazes me. Having had close and often painful experiences with the worst kind has led to the penning of this article.

I was brought up with a very strict sense of right and wrong and like every human I have been less than faithful to that code. What raises my eyebrows and makes me gawk, is how some people have a very opinionated demure towards everyone but themselves. While they are vitriolic in their comments about the failings of others, they seem to think nothing of their own actions.

Even saints don’t measure up to their standards and yet they blatantly lie, manipulate, insult and hurt anyone in their orbit. Every action is justifiable to them when they are the perpetrators. Standard rules of etiquette, decency, and morality just don’t apply to them, and yet everyone else’s gesture, dialogue and sometimes-even timing is analyzed and ultimately condemned.

Hypocrisy to such a degree would not bother me, given that I believe in every human’s basic right of personality. What does get under my skin, so to speak, is when they act like suffering souls wronged by one and all and take advantage of another’s kindness.

Yes, I happen to be that gullible soul who chanced an encounter with such a morbid personality. A friend of seventeen years, whom I met during college, lived in the same hostel for three years and later kept in touch through emails and phone.

She entered my life and straight into my home as a torn, wounded and wronged woman trying to pick up the pieces of her life in a supportive and loving environment. I cajoled my husband into providing her employment in his business while I helped her heal and rediscover her strengths.

Within the first fifteen minutes of her arrival sparks of her personality began to “fly” straight into my eyes, frightening me. There were episodes of, “I do not appreciate anyone telling me what I can or cannot do. I know what I am capable of and I will not be told otherwise.” This was in retaliation to a negative response regarding her query of finding employment in her field.

I swallowed this outburst as a defensive mechanism of a woman suppressed for far too long by an overtly negative, faultfinding, and belittling mother. I placated her by rewording the negative response with lots of praises for her abilities and highlighting the zero demand for her profession.

What was mostly startling was that she had wormed into my home by portraying her self as jobless, broke, miserable, helpless, and almost suicidal. The person I met at the airport was arrogant, selfish and was constantly complaining of how she had to give away her precious belongings as she had excess baggage! Never mind that we paid for her ticket.

The next few days saw her snapping at me with caustic remarks whenever I tried to make her cease her wallowing in self-pity and constant complaining of people and incidents.  She was forever trying to impose on me how bad her life had been and how lucky I was. Even God was not spared from her list of wrongdoers. She had a firm belief that she was good, God and the rest of humanity was bad.

She slept late and woke when half the day had passed, a thyroid condition I was told. Makes her tired, sluggish and disrupts her sleep cycle. Forever on her laptop checking her mails and Facebook.  She spent her time earnestly watching and monitoring everyone’s activity and criticized him or her for every word and apostrophe.

Needless to say my husband had her packing after she decided to enlighten him of his faults with the rudest of dialogue. Especially after she cleared the air that she did not accept favors and we were not to think we did any by providing her free food, boarding and a job!

What really got me pondering was whether she did indeed have a mental condition as she so convincingly claimed or was she a case of an exceptionally well-read intelligent woman mimicking the symptoms? I would love to hear what her therapists had to say in the matter.

This incident really opened a can of worms for me. It got me questioning a whole set of notions that I had come to live by. I was brought up old school, spare the rod and spoil the child. My father had overdone the smacking to the point of abuse and this made me a fervent advocate of sparing the rod.

I believed, at least until I met her, that people with issues and difficulties were to be loved, appreciated and gently encouraged to aspire to overcome their obstacles. Now, I am beginning to question this lets be accepting and sensitive attitude.

It is obvious; she was a conniving, manipulative and downright selfish woman who was clearly taking advantage of this belief of mine. Who is to say there aren’t others doing the same and not to mention the scary fact that those with genuine issues using this as an excuse to live off the generosity of others?

I am not generalizing that every one claiming to be disadvantaged are crying wolf or taking advantage. Neither am I stating that we should revert to the old school method of discrimination. What I am trying to figure out is what is the best course of action, if any? How does one weed out the fakers?

I was born with severe dyslexia, I remember writing backwards, jumping sentences whilst reading, always getting my math’s sums wrong as the numbers danced! My mum believed a good smack would make me write, read and learn straight. Every day was a nightmare with my screams echoing down the corridors of our building with neighbors dropping in to tell my mum to ease off.

She didn’t and today I have a degree, double major in Chemistry-Biochemistry and my ambition is to become a writer, an impossible achievement and ambition for a dyslexic.  I still can’t catch a ball, or ride a cycle, or drive but then again my mum didn’t think these were important.

I have a wonderful relationship with my mum and dad; we just don’t talk about the past. My mum even took a year off to stay with me and help me raise my three kids. Of course I had to keep reminding her that I didn’t want them smacked, even though it’s good for them.

This incident with my friend has thrown all that into the bin. Her parents never laid a finger on her and always “droned” on as to the reasons for being good. If we could swap homes, I wonder how we would have turned out. Would I be able to get over my dyslexia? Would I have a degree? Or would I have turned into her, using my disability as an excuse to be lazy, and turn into a leech?

Would she have, given her intelligence, become a highly educated and successful professional, a woman of integrity and character? Would the roles have swapped, with me scrounging off her? Given my propensity towards the easy route, I mean I did never master the art of catching a ball or riding a bike and now driving. More troublingly am I the best parent for my kids? Is my pacifist, loving and nurturing attitude going to turn my kids, already brats, into lazy, unhappy and selfish adults?

Life is all about choices, whilst some are born with the desire to succeed no matter what disability, disadvantage or obstacle, the rest of us like sheep tend to lead passive lives. Some are motivated out of this lethargy, some like me are smacked out of it and some are angered (when discriminated) out of it.  Except for the ones who are motivated, we all have issues of hurt which when counterbalanced with success eases the sting.

I always wished that my parents had been gentler in their upbringing and secretly nursed a bruised heart but after this episode I don’t want to change a thing. If that is what it took to keep me from becoming her then I thank God and especially my parents for my past.

I enjoy walking with my head held high, being a woman of integrity, having a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. I am proud, not arrogant or boastful, of the fact that I have lived life as an equal and never used my dyslexia as an excuse in school, college or work. I must admit it is gratifying never having to mention it, because I am so much more than that. It doesn’t define me, hard working, helpful, God fearing, loving and sincere is what defines me.

What threw a wrench in the machinery of me is what kind of parent should I be?  I am grateful to my parents and I love them but do I want to become them? Even a toned down version makes me shirk in fear. Which highlights another question, is it about the kids or me? Do I choose my parenting style purely out of love and concern for my kids or is it for my own ego? After all a hard and strict parent rarely gets the love and admiration of a loving, anything goes type.  Raised by emotionally distant parents, makes me crave for love and I enjoy the cuddles and kisses I get from my kids. Am I using my kids to fulfill my needs instead of doing it the other way around?

Like I said, I have been pondering……………