COC Book Club: March Book

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COC Book Club: March Book

Hello, Readers!

We hope that you've been enjoying the book club so far. Now that we're entering into our third month and we've conversed about two wonderful YA books we thought it was time to switch over to something a little different, while still getting at the heart of why self-love and representation of all body types matter.

For March we'll be exploring where body image meets feminism all with a welcome dose of comedy in Lindy West's collection of essays "Shrill".

We want to make sure that our book club readers know that the topics of rape culture and women's reproductive rights are explored in this book in conjunction with all the amazing stories of finding acceptance and enjoyment in one's body, no matter the size. 

 

Publisher's Description:
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible--like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you--writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but. 

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss--and walk away laughing. Shrillprovocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

 

A full list of discussion questions will be available on the first for you to include along side your reading or to hang on to for future discussions.
A Live Story chat will be hosted on the 15th and the Syracuse in-person book club will be meeting on March 22nd at Cafe at 407 at 5:30 PM. 

 

We also ask that if you have questions, concerns, suggestions about our book club thus far, or what you'd like to see added to our roster of books in the future, please email us at bookclub@circlesofchange.org. We genuinely want to hear from you!

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Circles of Change Book Club: February

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Circles of Change Book Club: February

Hello and welcome to our second month of the Circles of Change Book Club!

We hope you were able to get your hands on a copy of “Dumplin’” and that you’ll join us either online on Instagram for discussions, or if you live in the Syracuse area, that you’ll join us on February 15 at 5:30 PM at Cafe at 407 for the first meeting of our Liverpool Circles of Change Book Club. Please RSVP by emailing bookclub@circlesofchange.org.

There will be live evening discussions on Instagram on February 8 and 22, in addition to the comment-based discussions on those day's pics, as well as a pic on February 15. 

And let us know if you’re going to host your own in-person book club! We’ll send you some host swag for you and your club members. And don’t forget to use the hashtag #cocbookclub or #circlesofchange while you’re showing off your reading and book club pics on Instagram.

I also want to share the words of an author who has so eloquently, and coincidently captured the reasons why I think this book club is so important. In the 10th anniversary edition of “Thirteen Reasons Why”  Jay Asher includes a special introduction about why he wrote this book and the impact that it has continued to have over the course of a decade. I encourage you to reflect on these words this month and over the year to come as we join each other in these bookish adventures.

More than ever, we need to discuss the way we treat each other – and ourselves – and make those discussions routine. Books, as you know, are wonderful way to do that. People can use a piece of fiction to open a conversation that is otherwise hard to begin. Sometimes it's between friends, sometimes it's between a teen and their parent, or a teacher and the class of students, or a librarian and a book club. People involved in these discussions often tell me how wonderful it is to see everyone sharing their thoughts and experiences (which, of course, is the only way to better understand each other).

I guess it's sometimes easier to talk honestly about fiction than ourselves. I know it is for me! We may get angry at a character, and to justify that anger, we compare our reaction to something in the real world. Or we argue about what a character should've done, which just happens to be what we would do (at least what we tell ourselves we would do). So when we talk about fiction, we're revealing ourselves.

 

Now on to the questions!
These are just a few questions to start with, you can use all of them, none of them, and we, of course, encourage to come up with your own additional questions in our discussions online and in your own clubs. (There is a downloadable version available HERE)

1. How do you feel about how much Willowdean’s mother places her sense of worth in other people’s opinions?

2. Why do you think that once Willowdean began a romantic relationship with Bo that she felt less sure of her body and started to engage in the kind of judgement she was previously proud to shy away from?

3. Willowdean asks how she can have both days where she is self conscious and days when she genuinely doesn’t care about what her body looks like. What would your answer be?

4.What does it mean to you to “be your own role model”?

5. What would it look like to accept that sometimes we still think and feel cruel things, like when Willowdean feels inner-glee over the girls who come out shaken up by the interview, but that those moments don’t have to define us?

6. What would your ideal beauty pageant look like?

7. Again and again characters who are the happiest or the most satisfied are those who are comfortable in their own skin. Ellen, Dolly Parton, Millie- they are all proud of who they are. Would you say that confidence is one of the biggest aspects of beauty? If so, why?

8. Did you notice that Willowdean’s specific weight or clothing size was never mentioned? Why do you think that is?

9. "You don't deserve to win anything or be in any pageant until you make the effort and do the work. Maybe fat girls or girls with limbs or girls with big teeth don't usually win beauty pageants. Maybe that's the norm. But the only way to change that is to be present. We can't expect the same things these other girls do until we demand it."
This quote reminds us of Circles of Change. What kind of “norms” do you want to change?

 

Don't read on if you haven't read the book yet!

Quotes we love:

“But that’s me. I’m fat. It’s not a cuss word. It’s not an insult. At least it’s not when I say it.”

“I've wasted a lot of time in my life. I've thought too much about what people say or what they're gonna think...there of been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special. All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn't good enough. But you don't have to bother with that nonsense. I wasted all that time so you don't have to.”

"’… And who the hell was that twiggy bitch?’ As soon as it's out of my mouth I regret it. All my life I've had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it's that if it's not your body, it's not yours to comment on.”

“My body is the villain. That's how she sees it. It's a prison, keeping the better, thinner version of me locked away. But she's wrong. Lucy's body never stood in the way of her happiness. As much as I will always love Lucy, it was her own decision to stay locked up in this house.”

“Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we're all chasing.”

“Sometimes figuring out who you are means understanding that we are mosaic of experiences. I'm Dumplin. And will and Willow Dean. I'm fat. I'm happy. I'm insecure. I'm bold.”

 

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COC Book Club February Book

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COC Book Club February Book

Hello, Readers!

We hope you've been enjoying "Holding Up the Universe" and that you'll join us for the remaining discussions in January.

We're excited to be reading "Dumplin'" together for February! As always, we announce the book in advance to make sure that you have plenty of time to get yours hands on a copy before we all start talking about it.

About the book:

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Why we picked it:

This book is not without its flaws; you only have to look at the book description to see the offhand use of "twiggy" to know that Willowdean is guilty of her own kind of narrow thinking for time to time. But, overall, it's a book that demonstrates that no one should have to apologize for taking up space in the world, that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and that romance is for everyone.

Online discussions will start on February 8! Check back for information on local book club meetings. 

 

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COC Book Club: January 2017

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COC Book Club: January 2017

Welcome, Readers, into a bright and brilliant new year.

Things don’t magically improve with the flip of a calendar, as much as we might wish it so, but the start of a new year creates a kind of energy that invites us to be audacious in our desires, to dare to do more to make the world a better place. 

Literature and the conversations that come from what we read have the power to change the world. That’s why we’re so glad that you’re here, joining us in kicking off our Circles of Change Book Club in 2017.

I’m Casey Rose Frank, avid reader, writer, and ardent fan of Circles of Change, and your reading cheerleader for the month of January.

When I first received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Holding Up the Universe last summer I was absolutely blown away. Not only by the beautiful story, but by the fact that I was stepping into the shoes of a character who as a teenager had found a way to truly love herself and her body for all that it could do.

Included in the beginning of the ARC was a note from the author, Jennifer Niven, which I want to share with you for some greater context of the story:

Dear Reader,

You are wanted. You are necessary. You are loved. 

This is the message I've been writing to readers of All the Bright Places since the book’s release in January 2015. Since then, I've been contacted by thousands of teens who feel misunderstood or alone. During one particular day in the fall of last year, I wrote that message 141 times.

Holding Up the Universe is about seeing and being seen. Like All the Bright Places, this new novel is a personal story.  It comes from my own loss and fear and pain, and it comes from real people who are dear to me. It comes from my twelve- and thirteen-year-old self, who struggled with her weight and the bullying that came with it. From the loss of my dad, which happened on the months after the loss of my boyfriend, when I shut down completely and couldn't leave the house because the world is too scary. From having to go back out into that world again and figure out my place and it. And most recently, it comes from the loss of my mom, who was my sun, and from trying not to worry--every day-- that I will die unexpectedly,  without warning, the way she did.

Additionally, the book comes from my sixteen-year-old cousin, who has had to learn to recognize the people in his life, not by faces, but by the important things like "how nice they are and how many freckles they have."

But the story really began with that reader interaction. I wrote this book for Christine in the United States, for Jayvee in the Philippines, for Steysha in Ukraine, for Paulo and Brazil, for Steph in the U.K., for Shubham in India, and for all the others like them. These vibrant, smart, giant-hearted teens who need and deserve to be seen, and who need to know they are wanted. They are necessary. They are loved. 

Love, 
Jennifer 

 

As you join us in our online discussions and host your own reading groups in person we hope that you discover how loved and necessary you are.

These are the four questions and the corresponding dates on which you can share your voice on our Instagram account by joining the discussion. On each day you can comment and exchange ideas all long on the question we post, and then for 2 hours that evening I will be on the COC account to join the fun as well and do my best to answer any questions you may have. We are happy to answer any and all questions about the book club itself at any time, any day, so please feel free to email us or reach out on Instagram.

You can download a PDF of the Instagram discussion questions HERE!

Here are some additional questions we think might be helpful in conducting your own local book club meetings

1. When you learned about prosopagnosia did you try to imagine what it would be like to not be able to recognize those closest to you?

2. Libby comes to understand through the experience of treatment that her body is just one facet of her identity, Jack is forced to learn that faces and bodies are just one facet of identity because of his prosopagnosia. When you think about your own identity, how much of it is based in the physical, and how much in things like who you are? After reading and assessing do you find a desire to change how you think of your own identity?

3. In order to see change in action we had to be introduced to the social acceptability of body-shaming/fat-shaming, meaning we saw that Libby was taunted as a child with a boy saying, “No one will ever love you because you’re fat!” How does the progression of the story from taunts that sting, to opportunities to challenge the social norms and to create teachable moments of inclusion make you feel as an overall arc?

4. Libby often puts herself inside the life of another person in order to better understand why they say and act how they do. Does understanding that someone is lashing out because they are afraid make you more sympathetic to their actions?

5. When Jack talks to Dusty about other people being afraid of someone who is proud of who they are, and boils down other people’s insecurities to being at the heart of bullying, Dusty accepts this answer but the boys don’t come up with anything else to combat this other than to not be cruel to other people. Is there something else you would have shared with Dusty?

6. Why do you think that dancing is such an important part of the story for both Libby and Jack?

7. Do you think Caroline was aware of what she was really saying when she asked Jack, “Why don’t you want me?”

Happy reading!

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Circles of Change Book Club

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Circles of Change Book Club

Circles of Change is proud to announce that we will be kicking off 2017 with our very own book club!

We want to come together and celebrate literature that offers characters who have, or discover the ability to have, a positive relationship with their body, health, and idea of beauty.

When we see ourselves or people we would like to aspire to be in the books that we read we’re looking at potential blueprint for how we can model our own actions.

In our book club we offer books that allow the reader to see that there are alternatives to self-hate and the unrealistic beauty standards most often presented in the media, while inviting them to discuss the content on a local and global scale. These conversations allow readers to reclaim their health, redefine beauty, and restore their relationships with their bodies.

The books selected may span a range of genres with a potential leaning toward YA books overall as the genre is inclusive for teen readers, but engaging and still appropriate for adult readers as well.

Each month there will be four questions about the book to be discussed on dates specified in advance.

On an international level readers will be invited to share their thoughts on the questions provided on the Circles of Change Instagram account

On a local level we encourage readers to get together in person to discuss not only the questions we have provided, but to discuss the questions and thoughts that you come up as your read the book. Those who sign up to lead an in-person COC book club will receive a welcome tote and items to hand out to their club members. Sign up on our website will be open starting January 1.

 

Our very first book club book is: Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
You may recognize the title as one of our selections for "Books We Love" in the Autumn issue of BLOOM.

Schedule:

-Book selection for the following month will be announced on the 21st of each month, allowing for ample time to request the book from the library or buy the book.

-On the first of each month the four book club questions will be made available on the blog.

-Questions will be posted individually on Instagram each Wednesday and one additional day TBD during the last three weeks of the month.

-On those Wednesdays the questions will be open for discussion all day long, but a COC moderator will be joining the discussion in a two hour-session, with time announced in the post’s caption.

The Instagram questions will be rolled out starting in the second week of each month, with two questions in the final week. The questions will take the chronological order of the book into consideration so that slower readers have time without spoiling content.

Without sharing our discussion questions prior to the first, here is a preview of what our sharing format will look like on January 1:

HUTU questions v1.png

 

 

If you have any questions let us know! Comment below or on our Instagram.

 

Sign up for CoC Book Club Updates and don't miss a thing!

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Community Warrior: Daryl Files

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Community Warrior: Daryl Files

Daryl Files, is the Volunteer and Donor Coordinator for InterFaith Works CNY and a Warrior for Change. Abby Case sat down with her recently for BLOOM: A Community Collective but there was so much to talk about, we couldn't fit it all in the issue. Here is the full interview. 

I think it so very important that we encourage women and girls to speak up and be heard, to move beyond the fear. So how did you move beyond it?

My past is history, my future is a mystery, and my present is a GIFT.   I was raised in fear of being less than, and as a Baby Boomer adult; I refuse to spend my time in fear, although guilt does get in the way at times.  I talk to myself and also answer myself to get through these moments of feeling defeated and helpless.  

I learned to surround myself with POSITIVE, smart, role models.  I learned that I am kind and can be a role model with others.  I learned words of positivity, such as always finding the good in others, always having a glass half FULL, always being a good listener, always living by the Golden Rule.  

My Dad was an amazing human being.  He didn’t care if you wanted to be a ditch digger, as long as you were happy.  My Mom was another story.  That would take a book to explain.  I have a favorite cousin who I always looked up to and wanted to be just like her, and I’m still working on that at the young age of 70.  Always remember we are each on a journey and each and every one of us is going on their each individual journey.  This is a fabulous way to live.  We are never clones of others, we are each a wonderful precious gift.  Together we can and will make a difference.

What advice do you have for women in situations of isolation due to their fear?

Join something.  I remember seeing Glee on TV and thinking there was nothing like that when I was growing up.  We did not have girls clubs (other than Girl Scouts). Ask yourself: what do I love to do.  Get off of social media and meet others, face to face, building relationships and friendships.  Look around your neighborhood, maybe the library has a book club, a youth reading group, maybe the grocery store has a bulletin board and you may see a flyer with an idea.  Ask your faith communities, schools, neighbors, what they have coming up.  Put your small toes in it at first.  You may find you like it or you may find that you need to look a little more.  

I always considered myself shy.  Very insecure and afraid of my own shadow.  One day I went to the Plowshares Crafts fair and Peace Festival, just walking around and saw a booth with women who had a display.  It was Women Transcending Boundaries.  They invited me to a dinner and I said thank you and walked away. The day before the dinner I called and asked if I may still attend. That one call had been a life changing experience.  I made all new friends. They invited me to be on a committee. WOW. What if I made a mistake, they might not like me, there was that inner voice talking to me.  I went to the meeting and one of the ladies said, I will do this WITH YOU. 

Read personal development books.  Always be a student of something.

As women we also must be intuitive to see the pain and fear in other women.  Reach out to someone you may not know and share a few positive words. I love the color of your outfit.  Your hair is so lovely. Each of us just wants to be noticed, I remember being in the elevator in the building where we live and someone said, am I invisible. I wanted to just hug her.

When and where are you most inspired?

Now I get inspired by being around others who want to make a difference.  Every time I hear an idea, I want to figure out a way to invite others to somehow collaborate.  I love being in a group, and remember a group starts with just 2 and then keep adding on. Start with an idea and then listen and see where others will take it. It is not about me, it is about WE.  

I love being with our 4 daughters and just listening to them have fun and interacting with each other. I love going to our grandsons and great-grandson sporting events. I love romance and Hallmark movies and reading books that are fluffy and feel good. I love friendships and girl time.  There is a group of women who meet once a month on a Friday that inspire me because of their generosity. I love being a mentor to each of our interns at InterFaith Works. Just this morning I had a private conversation with a young woman who is struggling with fitting in. Just now I received a thumbs up from my coworker who she is working with.

What are you most inspired by at the moment?

I work with refugees from many countries Dem. Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, Bhutan, Burma and others. These brave new friends inspire me. Can you imagine not having running water, a toilet or toilet paper, a bed to sleep in with a blanket to keep you warm. Volunteers inspire me.  I have the privilege and honor to work with the most amazing kind people. Our daughters inspire me. This week I had the joy to see Embrace the documentary. What a love story to women of all ages, and diversity. The Northside inspires me where I live. Our CNY community inspires me because we have thousands who care so deeply to make a difference.  

If you had the world stage for one moment, what would your message be?

Cut the crap and act like human being instead of spoiled brats. Remember where you came from. Only Native Americans started in the USA. We all have parents and grandparents and great grandparents who lived in other global places. Mine came from Eastern Europe with nothing, to make a better life for their children and grandchildren. Be humble and kind, I know this is a Tim McGraw song, but it’s true. We are all equal. I learned many years ago that you never know who you will meet going up or down the ladder. To be valued, respected. Grown men die for this and women cry for it. Ask yourself this question: How do I want to be remembered?

 

What do you embrace most about yourself?

My heart, my tears, my making a difference one human being at a time. We all want to leave our world a better place for the next generation. We all must pass the baton and Pay it Forward. I am Woman hear ME ROAR

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Are We Enough?

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Are We Enough?

“Are you enough?”

We hear this phrase all the time.
I am enough.
Is it true? Can I believe this? Are we ever enough? Does that mean it's time to stop growing, stop learning, stop healing?

If we say we are enough, does that mean we have achieved the highest quality of perfection and we can finally rest?
Um… No. Enough does not mean perfect. Enough does not mean done. So what does it mean?

The Webster Dictionary defines it like this:

e·nough

iˈnəf/

determiner & pronoun

determiner: enough; pronoun: enough

    1    1.
as much or as many as required.

adverb

adverb: enough

    1    1.
to the required degree or extent (used after an adjective, adverb, or verb); adequately."before he was old enough to shave”

    2    2.
to a moderate degree; fairly."he can get there easily enough”
Synonyms adequately, satisfactorily, sufficiently, suitably

 

This is my theory: If we can start to really grasp this concept of being enough then we can move through this world without having to work for our worth.
If we can believe “I am enough,” then when we do our jobs we can complete our work from a place of passion and not trying to prove something. We can be a parent, be a spouse, a friend, a neighbor, a sibling, and work from a place of love and compassion and worthiness, not from a place of frantic spinning.

 

My kids can tell if I am doing something with them because I truly love giving to them and spending time with them versus feeling obligated to do something because other moms do it, or good moms do that. In my own life this was tricky for me. For most of my life depression and an eating disorder ruled my life. The eating disorder obviously never let me believe I was enough. I had to prove my superiority by not eating. Every time I saw someone eat, or need to eat, or think about eating, I thought to myself: You are weak. You need food? Not me. I am better than you because I don't need what you need to live. I know how irrational that sounds. But my pride and my false ego kept me “safe” with that flawed thinking. It was a coping skill to make myself better than everyone around me. We do this with lots of things, like clean eating, paleo diet, counting macros, exercise, achieving goals at work, picture perfect parenting, shopping.

Now, none of these things in and of themselves is an unhealthy coping skill, but when we use them to prove to ourselves that we are worthy, they are dangerous. If we begin to eat from our worthiness we can choose foods that are best for our bodies (we decide what foods those are), or exercise from that place, we do it for our enjoyment, or our careers, we can work with passion and excitement, or in our relationships, everything we do can motivated from love and not from expectations.

This video says it all. Michael Phelps, the most decorated olympic athlete of our time, speaks about how he had no self esteem, and was suicidal. He wasn’t at peace so no matter how much he achieved it wasn’t enough to fulfill him, until he realized he was already enough. The gold medals were just an added bonus. You can watch his story here.

Trying to live life this way is exhausting, it's draining, and we are constantly pouring out what we don't even have. When we own our value, and believe it to be true, then everything we do adds to our existence. In addition to experiencing some freedom from the addiction of doing then we also free up some space within ourselves to extend grace to those around us, and who doesn’t need more of that!

Start to practice this in your own life. Start to breathe in those words.

Notice what comes up for you, how do you feel, and what are your thoughts.

If your thoughts are negative where did they come from?

How can you give yourself a break from those intrusive thoughts?

 

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Not Alone

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Not Alone

For the past seven months, I've been in recovery from a thirty six year struggle with an eating disorder. Circles of Change has been very influential in my recovery, helping me discover the courage to tell a couple friends this summer about my disorder. I'd never shared it with anyone before, not my husband of thirty years, my parents, my kids, no one. I felt like if I said anything others would think I was disgusting or think less of me.

One of the friends I shared my experience with has two daughters that had benefited greatly from Ophelia's Place for their eating disorders. This person had been a volunteer at Ophelia's Place for years. She is a nurse and often spoke at support group meetings. She suggested I go to one. It took me a few months into my recovery to get up the nerve to go. It was nice to speak to other people who could share similar experiences with me. I started participating in the online support group every Wednesday night and find Jill Catherine very informative, honest and passionate about helping others. "Chatting" with other people on the site has been very comforting as well. There's a lot to be said for not feeling alone.

For NEDA week this year, I shared my story on Facebook. I stated that I was sharing my story because I want to help others. I wanted it to start conversations about how we talk about our bodies, the culture of negative body talk and the media's "normalizing" the fact that women put ourselves down. I asked that we change that conversation. I've been surrounded by athletic, strong, healthy women that accepted body shaming/negative self talk as a way of speaking about themselves. Since my post, I've received an overwhelming show of support. Many friends have told me it makes them think twice before they put themselves down. A few have even shared their stories with me.

When I finally told my two kids about my disorder, my 23 year old son teared up and asked why women feel like they have to be thin. This led to an interesting conversation.

My 21 year old daughter went to Ophelia's Place the next day and bought each of us an "Every Body is Beautiful Shirt" and she also bought me a "Good Morning Beautiful" mug. We both wear our shirts proudly and often get comments and questions about them. I call it my power shirt. I drink tea from my special cup every morning when I journal.

I feel like the best way for me to continue in my recovery journey is to share my story and hopefully make a change in conversation or help someone open up about their issues with food.

...

 

I originally wrote this piece in the spring, my reflection now upon re-reading: I’ve now celebrated one year in recovery. The best advice I could give is don’t try to go it alone. If you had cancer would you hide it or seek support? Eating disorders are a disease. There is no shame in having one, but it’s almost impossible to recover without a support system.I tried many times to recover on my own, but it wasn’t until I opened up to others that I could rogress. Sharing your story makes you accountable and allows others to help you work through difficult times.


About the author: Lori Woodard works in the office at Mott Road Elementary School in Fayetteville.  She loves kayaking, running, hiking and playing with her granddaughter. She is working to change her own views of her body, so that she can help others do the same. “Every body is beautiful”.

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I See Me In The Media

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I See Me In The Media

For years I avoided comic books, practically my entire life to date in fact. I assumed that comic books were solely devoted to superheroes and action sequences, and that I would be unlikely to find any female characters that weren’t hyper sexualized. I got the sense that the world of comic book readers wouldn’t be a particularly welcoming one either. One only had to look at the world of gaming to feel that perhaps women wouldn’t be wanted. 

But then I was introduced to the work of the talented Noelle Stevenson, and while I initially I fell in love with her illustration style, I quickly realized this was also a writer who wasn’t okay with the status quo.

Her award winning comic “Nimona” is a joy, but in particular I want to recommend the comic series that has been a true game changer for me, and one that it rated for ages 8 and up, “Lumberjanes”. 

If you feel the urge to sigh and roll your eyes, asking “Really? A comic book?” I hear you. But for all of us who grew up not quite seeing ourselves as the girls we wanted to be allowed to be, let this be a special trip for your inner child. 

Better yet, know that if you want a young girl in your life to see a variety of girls have adventures without short shorts and lycra tops, who never talk about their weight or each other’s appearances, you can hand them these books.

The series takes place at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiquil Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types where the camp motto is “friendship to the max” Here the girls are not given activities limited by gender, no one is bullied, and if a set of lady campers start a romance it’s not commented on because it’s a non-event, non-issue, people are people regardless of sexual orientation. 

Admittedly, there is a lot of (super fun) weirdness and mythology happening throughout the camp and the series, but it’s the girls’ positive friendship and support that is the true backbone. This series also passes the Bechdel test to the max, another refreshing way to portray girls in the media. How often do we get a truly female-driven narrative?

Later in the series one of the characters helps another character from the boy’s camp feel comfortable when she shares that she is transgender and again it is no big deal within the context of the story. But seeing characters like this, girls who wear baseball tees and shave their heads along side girls who like pink hair bows, girls who like girls, girls who find their correct identity are a big deal for readers who need to see themselves in the media. 

As a white female I took for granted that I could easily see aspects of myself in TV, movies, books, and magazines. Maybe I chaffed under some of the beauty standards and the limits of “the fat best friend” or “sarcastic weirdo”, but I could see lives and identities very similar to my own everywhere I looked. 

I attended one of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panels with Cecilia Tan, Sona Charaipotra, and Dhonielle Clayton this past May. Much of the panel was illuminating, but in particular I walked away with the feeling that even when we talk about body positivity and inclusiveness of representation in the media we were still looking at mostly celebrating bodies of all sizes, and too often forgetting about bodies of all colors and abilities. 

Image Comics who publishes Lumberjanes also publishes a relatively new series called "Goldie Vance" which centers around a young detective who feels a bit like Nancy Drew meets Eloise and happens to be a person of color with a supporting cast of people who are also POC. 

Changing the culture around beauty can come in a variety of formats, including comic books that show that a girls value doesn’t rest in her appearance alone. 

I invite you to share, either here in the comments, or on our social media, how you are celebrating diversity in your own media consumption. How can we get more attention for content like this so that instead of the exception it can become the norm?

 

 

 

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In This Together

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In This Together

Earlier this summer I spent three weeks at my favorite place in the world: a girls’ home in Guatemala. When people ask me why I go, my response is always the same: I go because I want to make sure that these girls, who have come from abusive and heartbreaking pasts, are told how loved and important they are.

I adore the time that I have to talk to each girl about her future; hearing her hopes, dreams, and even fears are about what is to come. I watch girls copy my every move and attempt to speak English, taking in as much of each experience as they can.

But there are also girls who have been told their entire lives that they will not succeed or amount to anything. I will never forget looking into the eyes of a twelve year old girl as I asked her if she new how important she was. She just looked back at me with hopeless eyes and shook her head, absolutely unaware of the worth she possessed.

It sets my heart on fire when I get to tell someone how much he or she matters. Nobody hears those words enough. And yet, I don’t need to travel to Guatemala to find people I could have the exact same conversation with as that little girl. How many people do you know personally that have no idea of their worth? I’m not talking about worth from one’s job or hobby, but their value that stems solely from being a human being?

One night in Guatemala, after dinner, as I was walking back to my room I could hear someone crying around the corner. Before I could even get to her, several other girls were already there offering their shoulders to cry on and words of validation. I just slowly backed away and listened, as I heard the girls work through their brokenness together, sharing their stories and encouraging each other through what feels like an impossible situation.

Now that is the kind of friendship I desire in my life. These girls did not ask to be in each other’s lives, and yet here they are choosing to be vulnerable with one another and heal together. Here they are offering all that they have: their stories and their hearts.

So I challenge you today to think of those in your lives who need encouragement and validation verbally, and give them a call or send them a note. It doesn’t take much to let someone know that they are loved and important, but it certainly plants beautiful roots that are not easily forgotten.

And if it’s you who could use encouragement, I challenge you to be vulnerable with someone and share your story because we often get through our brokenness best when we are together.

About the author: Abby Case studies nutrition at Syracuse University and has recently joined the Circles of Change community. She is passionate about food justice and encouraging everyone to discover a beautiful relationship with food and their body. Abby loves good documentaries, climbing high peaks, and really sharp cheddar cheese.

 

 

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How To Make A Change

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How To Make A Change

Let things be different.

If you don’t read any further than here, that is all you really need to know is the last and key ingredient to truly make a change, according to Dr. Reiziss.

Letting it be different.

Whatever it is you’re looking to change, your self-image, your work, your health, your relationship, your life, the culture, the conversation-the last step in making a change (and to me, the most important one) is:  Are you letting it be different?

Or, are you like me and have believed that change is the path of uncomfortable, hard, filled with resistance, traps, feeling stuck, and sometimes causing yourself more pain and suffering? Similar to the no pain, no gain philosophy?

Over the past 20 years, there have been many things in my life and within myself that I have changed. But just a week ago, I felt as if I’ve received one of the greatest teachings, and tools, of my life, when it comes to making a change. I owe it all to Dr. Stan Reiziss.

Dr. Reiziss literally blew my mind and has fundamentally helped me to shift my perceptions in a way that feels as if the axis inside of me is no longer dialed into an old belief system in my subconscious, but now oriented to the coordinates of my true nature. I am no longer in conflict with myself.

I went to see Dr. Reiziss because I am so tired of being my own worst enemy. No matter how much effort I put into focusing my conscious mind on thoughts, beliefs, and content that lift me up (and I spend a lot of effort doing this), there is inevitably a moment where I get triggered, overwhelmed, and swept up into patterns of thought that aren’t just negative, but border on complete self-sabotage.

My truth is that I believe we are our only source of limitation. Not society. Not our culture. No our parents. Not even systems of oppression. These all exist, but they are not what limit us. We are what limit us, and we limit ourselves with what we believe in all aspects of our mind.

Here’s the thing though: our minds are complex and layered. There are many ways to talk about these layers, but for me and my experience, I’ll speak directly to my subconscious and conscious minds.

On a daily basis, I play an active (not perfect, but active) role in evolving my conscious mind. I tune into thoughts, beliefs, and content that support a life built upon love, compassion, peace, forgiveness, purpose, and gratitude. This conscious effort provides me with a life that feels right to me most of the time; that brings me joy most of the time; that feels in harmony most of the time.

The key phrase here is: most of the time.

When I’m having an experience that is not most of the time, it’s as if suddenly my body and soul have been high-jacked by this hurtful, painful, destructive, limiting, and critical gremlin that lives within my subconscious mind. It’s like I fall asleep, blackout, and the subconscious takes over.

What lives in my subconscious are all these oppressive beliefs bestowed upon me from the world, from society, from people of influence, that do nothing but belittle my existence, minimize my experience, and devalue all that is of value to me. And then all I want to do is die, run away, or hide.

It’s crazy how this happens in my mind!

I went to see Dr. Reiziss because he provides people with tools on how to reprint, rewire, and rescript the subconscious mind by accessing it through self-hypnosis, so our subconscious is no longer our greatest enemy, but our best asset. He works with people from all walks of life, including professional athletes, sports teams, world leaders, speakers—you name it. 

The experience of hypnosis and self-hypnosis feels very similar to sitting in meditation, though the pathway and process is a little different.

There is so much I learned from him about myself and the mind-body-spirit connection in just four sessions, which I plan to reflect upon and share in the coming months. But for now, I just had to share one of the most profound changes in perception I had when he shared with me his five steps to making a change. They are as follows:

  1. Awareness: You have to become aware that a change is needed.

  2. Desire: You need to have a pure desire to make a change.

  3. Clarity: You need to get clear on what the change is and what it looks like.

  4. Attention: You need to pay attention (with your conscious mind) to how you’re acting, behaving, and thinking.

  5. Different: You need to let things be different.

Dr. Reiziss said to me I had steps one through three complete before I walked into this office. Step four is a moment-to-moment practice as I use the tools he has given me. But step five, to me, feels like the biggest shift. He explained it to me like this:

“Change is not the path of feeling uncomfortable. It’s the path of letting things/it/you/life be different. Don’t get focused on the thought and then take the path of feeling uncomfortable. That will keep you stuck. Uncomfortable is not the correct path or word merely by the sheer definition of it, which means to feel pain, physical discomfort, unease, and awkwardness. Different is the word, the thought, the path. Different allows for change. Different allows for ease, non-resistance. Different inherently lets things not be the same. It doesn’t fight against anything. Different doesn’t resist. Different is exactly what it is – it’s different.”

Just sit with this for a second.

It changes everything for me. It frees me from clinging to the past because I’m letting things be different, now.

It frees me from my thoughts about the future because I’m letting things be different now.

It frees me feeling like I need to please, perfect, or perform because I’m letting things be different.

I’m letting me be different.

Think about your own process when trying to make a change. Do you let things be different? Do you let life be different? Do you let yourself be different?

Mahalo, Dr. Reiziss. I am forever grateful to you, and the tools and teachings you’ve given me.


All my love and aloha.

 

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Were Do You Bloom?

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Were Do You Bloom?

Long summer weekends are a great opportunity to travel, enjoy great meals, and for lounging around, catching up on your reading.

Wherever you plan on hanging out this weekend we'd love to meet our BLOOM community!

Share a picture of where you're blooming (where you're enjoying the first issue of BLOOM magazine) on social media and tag it with #COCbloom and you'll be entered to win one of our beautiful tote bags. 

 

Rules and Info:
- A winner will be selected on Tuesday July 5
-Only the tote bag, and none of the items of any promotional image, is the prize
-Must be 18 or older, or have a parent or guardian's permission to share your address in the event that you win
-This giveaway is in no way affiliated with Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
-Void where prohibited
-Tagged pictures may be shared by Circles of Change, Ophelia's Place, and/or Cafe at 407- proper attribution will be given

 

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