Feminists: What Were They Thinking (A Kickstarter Project)

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DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

Feminism seems to be the scariest word in the English language. But not for those of us who experienced the game-changing awakening that was the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. Growing up in the fifties and sixties meant not only second class citizenship legally, but 2nd class human being-ship: not invited to the party of medicine, art, law, education, science, religion, except maybe as the secretary. Our film, FEMINISTS: What were they thinking? digs deep into our personal experiences of sexism and of liberation, and follows this ever-challenging dialogue right into the 21st century. We are taking it personally.

ABOUT THE FILM

In the late ‘70s, Cynthia MacAdams, an actress turned photographer, was roaming the streets of Los Angeles and New York photographing women.  She did it, she said, because something new was happening in women and she wanted to see if it showed up in photographs.  Laurie Anderson, Anne Waldman, Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Kate Millett, Patti Smith, Michelle Phillips, Judy Chicago, Marisol Escobar, Meredith Monk stopped what they were doing and looked into her lens.  And many others, whose names and faces may not be so familiar but their struggle is--they stopped and looked too.  And out of it came a book called EMERGENCE. 

From this “moment” in history, each woman tells of her personal experiences as a little girl, a teenager and a grown woman--stories of frustration, of limitations and of separation that one never forgets. We intercut these personal stories with footage from commercials, movies, news, music, television, the culture of the 50s & 60s and the culture NOW. Some things have changed, some remain the same. Some are even worse. Then for each woman, there is the very personal moment of awakening to her own precious sense of identity. And at the same time, there is the exhilarating challenge of the women’s movement. As we go from the photos to the culture, scenes play off the women’s private moments with humor, devastating reality, and even joy, building to the present moment. What has changed? What remains the same? Where are we now? How can this dialogue with history help women around the world? Oh, and did I say it’s personal? 

WHY ARE WE MAKING THIS FILM? 

This film is a long time coming. The Women’s Movement isn’t just about changing laws or challenging customs.  It’s about awakening half the human race to full personhood andinspiring the other half to come to the dance.   That’s a lot of cultural habit to liberate ourselves from.  And we believe the most profound changes are the ones that come to us in personal ways. We want to bring those stories, into the 21st century, to explore the dialogue of today with young women who still face many of the most profound barriers we faced 40 years ago.

We need to raise $75,000 to finish shooting our interviews -- the personal stories that are the heart of the film. With those interviews, we can build the film around the cultural changes that are still happening today.

For more information, please visit the kickstarter page here.

WORDS

Words can be beautiful. Uplifting. Romantic. Kind. Sincere. Heartfelt. But they can also be devastating. And when they are, they can wreck havoc whether they are intentional or not. "Words never fade away but echo on for eternity. Let your echo ring sweet.” Reflecting on this quote by Richelle E. Goodrich called back a recent heartening moment. . . 

I was gallery sitting on a Friday night a few months ago, and a woman who knew art, lived it actually, came in and we started to chat. She was one of those gentle souls; you know, the kind of person you meet for the first time and have an instant connection with. We chatted for about an hour, everything from Michael Jackson to Jackson Pollack, life, kids, growing, changing. . . . Somewhere in our conversation she used the word elegant, to describe my work, and to describe me. A perfect stranger had given me a sincere compliment, which actually made me feel elegant for a few minutes. Her choice of that word was deliberate and thoughtful. I'm not saying I agree with her; I hardly consider myself elegant, since most often I am covered in dog hair from my 2 bulldogs, or have paint spattered on my face and hands which never seems to completely disappear, or I'm wearing my really raggy out-in-the-yard-doing-garden-chores clothing. That is my real world. But you know it was just a really nice thing for her to say. It made me feel good. Happy. I'd like to think that that is what words are most meant to do. 

On the other hand, we all know people who seem to think it’s their job to criticize another’s actions, to dismiss someone’s expressed feelings, and . . . this is the thing that drives me insane . . . comment on how people look. Their physical bodies. Whether it’s something negative about a person’s hair or lack thereof, nose, body type or skin or disability, for example, words can hurt. Deeply. And very often the verbal abuser just goes on their merry way never giving a second thought to how their words have been absorbed. How women look; how men look, how teens look, even how children look. No one seems to be immune to this constant barrage of what’s on the outside. Social media makes it even easier to hurl an insult and never be challenged. Now I know that there are times when used with love, a thoughtful response or answer to a question about how a person is looking, whether its health related or otherwise is appropriate. But it’s the unsolicited comments that seem to overflow without discretion so freely that drive me nuts. 

 Lifting Others -  oil on archival paper

Lifting Others -  oil on archival paper

Women are especially vulnerable to body image related remarks. Young or old, whether it’s an actress, a model, a political figure or just an average woman walking down a suburban or city street, some people, (and yes even some women btw), just can’t seem to put a lid on offensive commenting on appearance, using words that are often insensitive and downright rude. I wish this would stop. I wish those who do it would begin to come to understand that crude words can hurt. . . and not just only to highly sensitive people. 

We are all beautiful, and we are all sensitive. And we are all more than what we appear to be on the outside. I wish I could say that kindness, gentleness, and love alone can soften the hardest of hearts, but sometimes people need to be called out on their crudeness. . . sometimes an explanation of what words do when used inappropriately is the only thing that may change an attitude. Sticking up for each other. Building each other up. I'm going to do more of that. Like the woman who walked into the gallery one night and filled me with her kindness and beautiful words and literally made my night. Thank you kind stranger . . . 

By: Alicia Chimento

http://aliciachimentodesign.com

Follow Alicia on Facebook @ Alicia Chimento Art

A Thanksgiving to Remember

Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around it brings back the best memories of my childhood.  You see, Thanksgiving was my mother’s signature holiday.  She died when I was 15 so we didn’t have many Thanksgivings together, but I remember every bit… of every one.  

My mother was one of seven children and my father was one of seven as well.  So I had 28 aunts and uncles and 56 first cousins!  My mother adored her sisters and brothers and they were all invited.  There were usually about 35 for dinner. One year in particular, stands out in my mind as the most memorable.  It started the night before as my mother set the table with her best china, fine silver, and a beautiful floral centerpiece. Thanksgiving day arrived and the house was bursting with excitement and anticipation.  My mother and father were in the kitchen making all the fixings when all my aunts, uncles and cousins arrived. They immediately cracked open the beer and the booze started flowing.  The turkey was already in the oven.  All the women were busy chatting and catching up, the men were watching football and all the kids were running and playing everywhere.  The house was alive with joy and everybody was having a ball.  A perfect Thanksgiving, and before we knew it we were all starved.  The adults wouldn't let us snack during the day because we had to save ourselves for the big feast.  Now the men came out to the kitchen to tell the ladies to stop chattering and get the meal going.  My mother shooed the men out of the kitchen and then went over to the oven to check on the turkey.

It was then that she realized the oven was not on.  It had been on, so you could smell the turkey, but somehow it got turned off.  It was now 4:30 on Thanksgiving with a 25 pound mostly raw turkey in the oven, and 35 starving men, women and children. That might seem like a disaster in most families, but the beauty of this Irish clan is that when disaster strikes, odds are there will be another to follow that will make the first one look like  a blessing!

In this case it was my cousin Jimmy Kiernan who came to the rescue.  Some of the boys wanted to play basketball.  The hoop was attached to the garage and my father’s car was parked in the driveway obscuring the hoop.  So my brother Walter went inside and got my father’s keys then gave them to Jimmy.  Jimmy was now going to back the car out of the driveway so they would be able to play.  Too bad Jimmy didn’t know the difference between drive and reverse.

While my mother and her sisters tried to salvage the turkey debacle we suddenly heard a crash.  Jimmy had driven right through the garage door.   There was screaming and yelling and adults flying out the door.  After it was clear no one was hurt, it became the blame game.  If I described it you would think I stole a chapter from “Lord of the Flies”.  The boys were in big trouble, pointing their fingers and yelling at each other over whose fault it was, as the adults tried to figure out how to resolve the matter.  

In the meantime my mother blasted the oven up to 450 degrees as my father tried to distract the guests with booze, bringing out the big guns... the scotch and the gin!  The adults drank, the kids ran amok, and before we knew it the disasters of the day were a distant memory.  That night we ate at 9:00 p.m.  Most of us don’t remember what the food tasted like, or how pretty the table looked. What we remember is how the adults were laughing at the catastrophe they all survived.  It’s where I learned about the “magic” of alcohol, and what a “sense of humor” really was.  I marveled at how these adults rebounded so quickly and how easily they forgave and moved on.  They managed to turn a bad day into a great night.  That was when I knew I really loved being part of this family.  

Every Thanksgiving I think of my mother and how she loved that holiday.  My cousins and I are extraordinarily close.  I think that is because we have the same bond as soldiers do after they go through traumatic events together.  All these years later we email each other as we remember with such warm fun memories those Thanksgivings from a lifetime ago. Basketball is still forbidden on Thanksgiving, and we give thanks every year that Jimmy Kiernan lives 2,000 miles away!   

You see, with my mother at the helm, even at it’s worst, it was the best.  What happened to us may have ruined Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving, but it made ours.  My family learned early on, and knows all too well, the perfection in imperfection.  My sister-in-law Adrienne has taken on the role my mother had, and now it is her signature holiday.  For me it has always been a day that brings back old memories, and creating beautiful new ones.  Happy Thanksgiving… I hope yours is perfectly imperfect!

 

By Nancy Witter

nancywitter.com

Later in Life Dating

You know you’re getting old when stair lift advertisements start arriving in the mail and phone solicitations from hearing aid companies scream from your voicemail.  However, nothing brings home the “I am old” realization more than trying your luck at online dating.

Divorced for 17 years, I know from experience that dating is never an easy activity, but at 69 it's torture.

You begin the debacle by answering a series of questions about yourself which, if answered with discretion and demureness in order to attract that "perfect guy," automatically disqualify you from any responses, with the possible exception of an invitation from the local nerd, a homeless man, or an 85 year-old looking for a caretaker.  Such a profile would extol your gardening skills, intelligent reading lists, excellent aptitude in the kitchen, slim physique and lack of facial hair. This is because you have to paint yourself in such a beautiful light that this kind of illumination could only emanate from a halo. If you actually pen a true picture, you risk the attention of sex offenders because you mention "wanting" a man in your life, or gold diggers by declaring that you are financially independent, or aging, pony tailed hippies due to stating your love of rock & roll & vintage clothing.

Most women take the middle of the road approach by boasting of their sense of humor, love of sports, politics and travel.  They allude to an ability to converse with anyone about anything, their great listening skills, their desire to sit by a fire on a chilly fall evening while sipping wine with a caring man who likes to cuddle.

Right!  Just what "Mr. Athletic and Toned" wants to hear.  It seems that in this era of Baby Boomer boy/men, a woman is required to be Lynda Carter.  One would have to be Wonder Woman to fulfill his needs and alleged aptitudes. There would be extreme skiing, bungee jumping, mountain hiking, camping and motorcycling by day followed by non-stop dining, dancing and sex games by night. Who are they kidding? Even with backpacks full of Aleve, Ben Gay, Tums and Viagra, these balding, grey-bearded, second hipped lotharios are lucky to hobble into CVS. 

It's too bad we can't just tell the truth.  I thought I had done that leading up to a recent "connection."  In the requisite messaging banter that precedes every actual encounter I said I enjoyed watching football, appreciated a good wine, good sense of humor and a man who didn't dwell on the past.  I also made it clear that my politics were liberal as well as my social and cultural mores. 

Given the above I can only surmise that the man who met me at a wine bar, ordered a beer and immediately launched into an anti-Obama, anti-gay, anti-abortion tirade followed by a diatribe against his ex was either a sadist, a misogynist or simply an idiot.  

Following that disaster I agreed to meet a guy who vowed to make me laugh, take me to a romantic restaurant and wow me with his snappy repartee. He talked hockey incessantly, ordered well-done jalapeno burgers for both of us, and roared at his own dirty jokes.

I can’t even begin to document my encounters with the sex seekers who either employ one of two ploys, the age-old game of appealing to a woman’s sense of sympathy for his “needs” or the braggadocio approach wherein you would be a fool to turn down the vast in- bed expertise of this amazing package.     

 Let's be honest with each other oh ye wanna-be-later-in-life daters in this new world of cyber mating.  The unvarnished truth is that we all want the same thing, a partner who is honest, kind and can still have fun, whatever the agreed upon definition of that may be.  I may be the ultimate dreamer, but I’m still searching.

 

By: Nancy Joyce

"Where is the life we have lost in living?" - T.S. Eliot

The human mind is a powerful vessel that engulfs all our thoughts, ideas, opinions and concepts acquired throughout our life. Many of these thoughts are deep rooted and have been handed down by our parents, grandparents and others. Unfortunately they may not portray our authentic selves. How we feel about ourselves is directly related to who we become. Are your thoughts and behaviors fearful and anxious? Are they toxic and self-perpetuating negative talk? Are they critical and judgmental?  We have the power to choose how our thoughts frame our everyday lives. Insecurity and fear cause anxiety and stress which leads down a dangerous road.  Those thoughts tend to focus on self-criticism and negative thinking and can become deep seeded beliefs. On the contrary self confident and positive thinking empowers and motivates behavior. How do you want to live your life?

 

Throughout my life I have experienced many moments of doubt, insecurity, and fear. I married a man whose parents were not supportive of our union and felt I was not good enough. The unending birth of my first son was physically challenging and dangerous for both of us. Years later, his drug addiction became an infection that spread throughout our family. My marriage was severely affected, as was our family dynamic. These years were filled with fear and uncertainty; however, they forced me into seeking help and eventually it became my refuge. There were times throughout my therapy, I did not want to face nor acknowledge my behaviors. This journey of mine was exactly what I needed to move towards change.  I needed to be brave and look for the opportunity to grow.  I knew there were lessons to learn and hidden opportunities to find.  I began to trust the universe and a power greater than myself.  I took one day at a time and developed positive mantras, or affirmations to recite every morning.  Whenever I felt anxious, I would take deep breaths and practice the appropriate mantra, which inevitable lifted my spirit.  Six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and took on chemotherapy. What was the opportunity now, what were the lessons to learn? I learned how to let go of what I could not control; and believe I would become a breast cancer survivor. I took on the battle day by day with the support of my family, friends, and yoga practice. Fortunately, my passion for teaching yoga empowered my soul and alleviated my fear of the unknown.  As devastating as losing my hair was, little did I know, I would be embracing my natural silver color.  I continued with my personal yoga practice and as a result, it gave me the strength and courage needed during those difficult times.

 

Everyone has periods in life where insecurity, fear, and anxiety perpetuate our thoughts and take us away from the present moment. If we can work on living in the present, embracing positive thoughts, and accepting what is, we can move forward no matter what.  Living a life of awareness is necessary in creating change.  The next time you are faced with the impossible challenge, embrace your fear, move with confidence and choose thoughts that will empower you. There is meaning in challenge, struggle and pain, for it teaches us how to survive with grace and fortitude.

 

By: Janet Muller

www.yogabyjanet.com

                                                 

An Uprooted Life

I received my Colorado driver's license in the mail this week.  I stared at it not quite believing it was mine.  Having always been a Massachusetts girl, shipping myself and my boxed-up life so far west was not something I did on impulse.  Virgos are thoughtful, cautious planners.  Many things, including fate, had to converge in order to excavate my dug-in, Cape Cod heels.  I loved my house, my friends, my sense of inclusion there.  One strong pull however, had yanked me 2,000 miles. 

Family.

I was never able to have children. One long, ugly word sums up why. Endometriosis.  It was everywhere, including my small intestine, a very rare site for this invasive creeper. That blockage cost me much pain.  It also cost me surgery, 10 days in the hospital and a long recovery.  It was after that experience that I decided on a hysterectomy to put myself out of the monthly misery of pain and the tears that came from no pregnancy.

Teaching English to 100 8th graders a day gave me some maternal feedback. Loving the role of being an aunt to my brother's daughter and son truly helped heal my heart. 

My brother Kevin and I were very close.  Irish twins.  I introduced him to the girl who loved him through his tour in Vietnam. She also married him upon his return, even though he was told he could never have children.  Kevin lost his legs in a land mine explosion leaving large amounts of embedded shrapnel. Defying the odds, these newlyweds had a daughter shortly after their first anniversary, and a son 7 years later.  Naturally, these 2 miracle babies were the loves of the family.

Flash forward to many years later.  Those two kids are now the parents of three kids each, and are all living in Colorado.  When my beloved niece called to say her husband of fourteen years had moved out, my heart shuddered.  I'd like to say I immediately jumped on a plane but I did not.

Remember that Virgo thing? 

I did however, think long and hard about not only how I could help, but about the chance of a new beginning at the age of 68 and the fulfillment of a long bucket list.  A far away state would provide the newness and selling my home would provide the means.  

I was able to sell for profit thanks to a fantastic realtor friend.  Other dear friends helped enormously with selling half of my accumulated life "stuff" and packing the other half.  My unbelievably supportive and generous sister helped with moving arrangements and now here I am, in a foreign land!  

Daily, I second guess my decision.  Daily, I get lost trying to find my way around.  Daily, I miss my old life and friends.  Daily, I am flooded with frustration from these gorgeous children who make me crazy with their loud and messy ways.  Yup, these wonderfully loving children who on my recent 69th birthday, gave me hugs and handmade cards and personally selected gifts just right for me. 

I'm helping with the day to day childcare, household chores, apartment searching, joining groups, enjoying a humid free zone and loving how kind it is to my once frizzy hair.  I'm also planning trips, attempting the arduous process of dating again, trying to love mountain views as opposed to ocean ones, and most significantly, trying to look forward while longingly looking back.

By: Nancy Joyce

The Good Old Days… Again!

Recently I was tagged on Facebook to join my 40th high school reunion page, I almost choked, but accepted the invite.  I love looking at the old pictures my classmates are posting and it inspired me to dust off my year book and take a trip down memory lane.  My quote in the year book was I want to stay right here because these are the good old days from Carly Simons song Anticipation.   We had so much anticipation in those days, about our future and how it would turn out, and how it would compare to high school.  Now, 40 years later, I would say that those days were indeed the good old days.  What made them great were not my grades, my father always said I graduated Summa Cum Lucky.  It wasnt sports, you could usually find me smoking under a shade tree, but rather for the carefree fun times we all shared.  Many of my high school friends are still my late life friends, weve kept in touch and several I consider my best friends to this day.  


My mother died while I was  junior in high school.  These friends and classmates of mine are the ones that helped me heal.  They knew my mother and my entire family, just as I knew theirs.  Their mothers all stepped in to take a little bit better care of me.  That is what made these bonds and friendships so strong and long lasting.  Even if we have nothing in common now, we did once. We know each others history, and that is what we remember.

When I run into some of my old classmates I am both proud and astonished that they have grandchildren, huge homes and successful careers.  Compared to most of my classmates I feel like Im still a kid that hasnt fully grown up, like Im cooking on an easy bake oven and hanging curtains instead of drapes. 

A few weeks ago I got together with four of my high school friends and they were horrified that we are having a 40th reunion.  They wondered where the time went, what to do now as empty nesters, and how life just isnt as much fun as it was back in high school because now were all grown up.  I was having none of it.  Are you all crazy? I screamed.  I see this as the best time of my life; for the first time in 40 years Im not living with my parents, Im not living with my kids, I cant get pregnant, and I have money!  I can do whatever I want.  I feel like Im Tom Hanks in the movie BIG.  My shopping list now looks like this:  Cheese Doodles, Haagen Dazs ice cream, beer, wine, and rolling papers!  I just double up on the Lipitor and take extra Omega 3s!

The trick to embracing getting older is to focus on all youve gained rather than the few things youve lost.  All Ive lost are some hormones, some of my mind, a bit of my dignity and my 16 year old metabolism.  What Ive gained are great friendships, confidence, wisdom, love and freedom.  At 57 I feel even more carefree than I did at 17 because I know who I am and where Im going.   Today my greatest, most valuable asset is my memory.  It never works when I need to remember a name or find my keys, but when I see an old high school chum on our Facebook reunion page  I remember in an instant those fun carefree days.  I think to myself  those were the good old days, AND . they aint over yet!

By Nancy Witter

nancywitter.com

Feeding The Soul

Every summer, off and on I re-read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea.  I don't know how many times this classic has been reprinted since published in 1955, but I do know that Anne's amazing ability to express her own life stages is still inspiring and restorative, no matter how many times I pick it up.

Fall, already underway, is a spectacular time for change that restores and invigorates. It has it’s own quiet harmony. But every once in awhile yet, before the harvest and the tints of autumn and the breath of winter begin, I still travel back there to summer; to the moments and the feelings that belong to that season alone. An hour of solitude here and there, a closer connection to the natural world, and a feeling of freedom from the stresses of daily life.

Something about walking the beach is so curative for me, as well.  Early morning when the only sound is the rhythmic lapping of the waves, the occasional call of the soaring gull, or the far off tone of the foghorn, is when peace begins to settle in and transportation to another world, far from the news and the cell, and yes, the computer, comes into focus.  I think I love it because it brings me back to childhood, when life was SO much simpler.

At first glance, a piece of washed over driftwood could be a beach scene in itself; water in the distance, froth as the tide rolls in, but it's a close up section of weathered wood.  A beautiful teal or cobalt or sap green pop of color reveals itself among the sun dried rocks on the beach; but it’s a jewel, a piece of beach glass, or what in our family is called a “mermaids tear”. A simple stone found at the water’s edge with its distinct marking or pattern in the colors of nature; on closer inspection is the most incredible abstract painting. I find it amazing how the sea itself sometimes replicates nature and beauty just by the process of churning things around.

What I LOVE . . . the simple joy of finding a treasure the sea has offered me at no cost.  Years and years of churning waves and sun have sanded, smoothed and bleached the roughest of all edges, until all that is left is a perfect, clean and different object than it was before.  Maybe this process is similar to the one we all go through as we live each day, each week, each year.  Peeling back the layers, discarding the superfluous in our lives, and finally coming to understand that the circle of life can lead us back to the simple pleasures of our childhood if we let it.  Some call this the process of aging, but I prefer to think of it as weathering.  Beautiful weathering. Caring for the soul. Internal sustenance. Here’s to braving out and getting through whatever life has in store for each one of us, whatever the season.

 

 

 

By: Alicia Chimento

http://aliciachimentodesign.com

Bloom

We ALL face adversity at some time or another and to varying degrees. Nonetheless, we have a choice each time as to how we will meet our challenges.  In some of my lowest moments, I have acted against my inclination to remain low and ventured out into a new environment…often the STREET, as you will see in many of my photos.

This choice to get up and go out has been transformative for me, and has brought me many unexpected blessings.  I have found love, friendship, beauty, joy, heartbreak, community and opportunity in the process.  The stories and gifts that have been shared with me are treasured.  The street continually surprises as an ever changing and chaotic gallery of artwork, including the legal, illegal, sprayed, stenciled, pasted, painted, installed and more.   I do not take lightly that it is a privilege to cross paths with so many wonderful people, and that I have the freedom to move about, observe, capture and share the experiences.  The sharing of my experience through photography and artwork has been a joy beyond my expectations.

This particular photo was taken on an afternoon when I was moved to go out and explore the murals and graffiti of East Los Angeles. Of all the walls I saw on this day, it was this one, at the edge of an empty alley, which spoke to me most loudly and stopped me in my tracks.  The message was simple and strong.  BLOOM no matter your condition.  BLOOM no matter your environment.  BLOOM in spite of adversity…and keep your dearest ones close by to BLOOM with you. 

When I think of some of the people whose lives truly inspire me, I see a common quality.  They are people who “bloom” in spite of adversity.  Malala, Ai Wei Wei, Patricia Lindberg, the student protestors in Hong Kong, Frida Kahlo, Kay Lindberg, Andrea LaHue, Ajax Garcia, Sheryl Stein, Kelly Falzalore, Eva Mozes Kor, Anita Devlin…their lives illuminate the value of right action in the face of challenge.

Karin Lindberg Freda

www.karinfredaphoto.com

Twitter @klfree

Follow Karin on Instagram @klfree

A Month Of Gratitude

October is the month dedicated to breast cancer awareness and fundraising events to support its research.  Regardless of whether or not breast cancer has affected one’s life personally, October is the time of year people truly come together to celebrate those who won their battle, those who lost their battle and are remembered for their courage, and for those who are battling cancer presently.


It has been a little more than 6 years since I became a breast cancer survivor; and I was living a healthy lifestyle!  Certainly not me! Its impact significantly affected my life.  October is the time I reflect upon my fight, courage, determination, and positive attitude; all of which enabled me to fight the battle.  In the process, I have learned a lot about myself, my family and friends, yoga pals, and even my dogs! Yes, my dogs, which innately have the power to recognize when their loved ones are struggling and instantaneously and unconditionally provide the comfort needed. Those who have pets know what I mean. My parent’s greatest effort was to take away my pain, and they were there every step of the way.  Being a parent is like nothing else, and the desire to shield our children from life's struggles and challenges is paramount.  Unfortunately, our children must experience pain and suffering, failure and disappointment, in order for them to develop into the individuals they become.  These difficult struggles become opportunities for them to learn, grow and empower themselves.  

My daughter Morgan who at first did not know what to expect but once reassured, I was a fighter and would win this battle; she quickly stepped up the plate.  My two sons, Bryan and Jack boosted my morale on my new look of caps and bandanas and who hide their fear well. My husband, Scott stood by my side and provided undeniable support through our journey together and separately. 

The outpouring of my yoga students and friends organized and prepared dinner after dinner.  I was blessed with their endless support and positive influence with every class I taught. They became my motivation to get moving every day because I knew they were waiting for me with open arms. To this day, I am forever grateful for their love and kindness that lives in my heart and continues to inspire me. These memories bring tears of joy and appreciation as I reflect upon this empowering month.  I have learned through the most challenging times of life; it is here we have the opportunity to dig deep into our souls and discover the power that lives in each of us. Although it is difficult to uncover the “opportunity", it is truly an amazing feeling once clarity is found and allowed to empower the soul and guide you.  If we can strive towards presence, acknowledge gratitude, and appreciate every day; we don't have to be the victim of our demise but a hero in our own right. 

Years later, I found the opportunity to play this journey forward.  I am a volunteer of the SoleRyder’s organization in Rye, New York; and participate in The Wig Exchange program whose mission is to provide women undergoing chemotherapy with high quality wigs, many donated by cancer survivors. 

We all are survivors in one way or another. We are stronger than we think, braver than we expect and twice as hopeful than we can imagine.

By: Janet Muller

www.yogabyjanet.com