Month: August 2011
THE UNITED STATES SUFFERS FROM OBESITY, WHILE SOMALIA STARVES. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
The African Famine Statistics : “More than 12.4 million people suffering from the famine, drought and lack of food in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti…Today, more than 400,000 refugees are in Dadaab, Kenya, where the world’s largest refugee camps are located. Up to 1,500 people arriving at the camps every day — 80 percent of them are women and children who are exhausted, weak and extremely hungry from their long trek. Almost half the children arriving to the camps from southern Somalia are malnourished, and increasing numbers of children are reported to be on the verge of death as they reach refugee camps….” http://www.care.com
The conditions are heartbreaking. The images soul grabbing. But in the end, we always manage to forget, change the channel, take a sigh of relief that this is not our circumstance . How long does the reality of a tragic situation thousands of miles away impact us?
Well, if you have not heard, the consumer industries in the US are on the rise again. Yes, people are buying again – cars, household goods and yes even food. In fact the US is fighting a disease on the other side of the spectrum- obesity. The CDC reports “During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.”
Obesity is also a problem we have created ourselves. What do I mean by that? Well simply put we agreed to buy fast food, we agreed to demand fast food, we agreed to demand sugary drinks and snacks for our kids, we agreed to the skittles and nerds over the strawberries and blueberries. we introduced our kids to convenient food- chicken nuggets, fish fingers and m&ms , instead of fish, baked chicken and grapes. AND we chose to sit on the couch, let our kids play video games instead of pushing them to run, jump, sweat, be a monkey on the monkey bars and climb trees. When did this happen? When did we as women and as mothers allow others to tell us what tastes good?
I remember ordering a small coke at a movie theater one night with my husband. When the girl behind the register gave me my coke. I asked her “Is this a small?” It was.I was so shocked. It was a huge big paper cup with free refills. I could not help myself so I muttered under my breath ” Are they trying to give kids diabetes?” Then I looked around and realized that nobody had a problem with it. Thousands of theaters across America in every town up to 50 shows a day, hundreds of people in a theater all buying this size of soda. So why am I upset with the young girl handing me this soda? WE are buying this. WE are the consumers setting the standard.
I have traveled a lot throughout my life. I have been fortunate enough to visit different cultures and see how people around the world live. I can say a lot about my observations, but just to remain consistent in not making my blog more academic….. I will sum it up in one sentence. Black, Brown, White, Poor, Rich but all around the world and outside the United States, you will not find FAT. In fact, all these countries have less than us, but on the whole they are happier and thinner. There is no science behind it besides common sense. They eat less, laugh more, walk more , move more, and fall sick less.
On a more serious note to still validate my observation. Is this not a tragedy? Is the tragedy really thousands of miles away? Our children are falling sick to childhood diabetes, our adults are dying of hypertension , heart disease and high blood pressure.
The contrast if one ponders, is sickening. Somalia has extreme poverty, their children are dying of hunger. The United States is abundant in natural resources and the capitalist giant of the world…and we are sick and in many cases dying of eating.
There is also a paradigm at play in our neighborhoods that is worthy of mention. How many of you have heard of Food Deserts? These are the areas in our inner cities that do not have access to grocery stores. There are actually people living in the United States who actually only eat twinkie bars, potato chips and soda because they do not have access to fruits and vegetables. In fact, this is one place where people are not choosing junk food, but are actually being supplied it. What is tragic that all the victims of food deserts are minorities living in low-income areas. They have less money, less opportunities, life threatening diseases and junk food.
Here is what sums up the reality that we live in. Every woman should read it. Alexandra Lopoukhin, CARE emergency media officer at the refugee camps, shares her observations: “Some families have walked two weeks. Two weeks. Sleeping where they could, pushing on to get to this camp. The children are much smaller than they should be. One story I heard was devastating: a mother walking, arrives at the clinic, takes her baby off her back and finds it has died without her knowing. I can’t even imagine the pain this causes her. ”
I know I have laid out a dismal image of where we are headed with our obsession with food, but I am still very hopeful. I wrote this to encourage you to have a personal rant about a serious subject. We can turn this around. Women always have taken dire situations and made them surprisingly pleasant. We do it every day when faced with toddlers throwing green veggies back at us while we respond with a hair sweep, kiss on the forehead and a manipulative bribe of extra play time.
So let’s do it again…lets stop eating more than we need and start feeding those who really need it in our world, even if its thousands of miles away.
Confessions of a Closet Oprah Fan – The Romance Of it All
I, as well as millions of women around the world watched Oprah bid farewell to daytime television. I have to admit that I never saw myself as an Oprah fan. I was of course proud to be a non-conformist. I had my own ideas and views that were well developed beyond your basic hype of tv talk show hysteria. I, like many who have great belief in their intellect felt that I was above anything that masses could fall in love with. As I graduated from college I was on my way to become who I planned to be. I was an activist for social justice, a soon to be lawyer, a lover of solutions and pragmatism and did not have time to tune in or credit a person who gives out free cars and trips to her staff when people were starving around the world.
HOW I TURN TO THIS ADORABLE PANDA FOR LIFE LESSONS
Now, I am indeed taking a chance here. I use this blog to deviate from the usual stiff intellectual discourse that I am blessed to be a part of in my law practice. Developing policy and mediating personal disputes is exciting but it gives me little time to have a light-hearted conversation. So here it is. My thoughts on Kung Fu Panda.
I got to know this adorable creature through the eyes of my two year old. Her eyes lit up when he was on the screen and she giggled with her hands covering her mouth when he would do a clumsy fall. It was her first television experience. She really had not watched TV before then. So indeed she would keep watching it again and again. She knew all the words, even though she could not really speak. We finally surprised her and took her to Kung Fu panda 2 in the theater. She was overwhelmed. She was only 2, and as soon as she saw Panda she focused on the screen and felt like she was right back in our living room. She yelled out “What you doing Pannnaaaa??” It was adorable.
Now I cannot deny, I loved watching the cartoon. The many times I was forced to watch it had me memorizing the lines as well. Slowly I started really appreciating the story, the characters and the lessons. In fact I started relating to Panda (POH) myself.
Now, who in their life has not ever felt that they were not good enough? Chubby Panda trying to do the splits and a karate chop while huffing and puffing reminded me of me on the Junior Varsity basketball team. I was put on only because I did track ( so I could run forever), but had no basketball skills. I tried and tried but even handling the ball made me so nervous. My lay ups looked something like a acrobat act somewhere in between a breakdance move and a ballet leap. The most hilarious was when I shared the bronze medal with the team at the local junior high tournament and my little sister came up to me in front of my coach and said “You suck!”. Comedy. How about when when everyone in Math class was understanding the equations on the chalkboard and all I saw were digits dancing low and high. I would pretend I knew what was happening, but even the teacher knew I was lost. Thats probably why I was never asked to do a problem on the board. Walking into that classroom made my stomach hurt. Needless to say, there were many times I have not felt good enough.
Ok here are a few of my favorite lessons in Kung Fu Panda :
1) Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery and Today is a gift, that is why it is called “present”.Wow.
How often do we waste time thinking about the “what if” and “if Ihad only done that”. Like Panda becoming a kung fu expert by concentrating, I have learned to sieze the day in front of me. I have slowed down, reflected, and tried to be grateful. In the end I have executed all of my tasks with so much more clarity.
Much like when the Turtle Master says in the movie:
” Your mind is like this water, when its troubled its hard to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.” All of a sudden my days are soo long. Every interaction is a gift of every single day. I am no longer bored with long conversations from strangers, or repeating myself to the operator …..its amazing. OF course, I cannot get enough of my daughter’s giggles.
2) There is no secret formula! My eyes widened much like Panda when his father told him that there is no secret ingredient in his secret ingredient soup. This bird who adopted a panda is completely right.
“To be special you have to believe something is special.” All the times that I felt or was told I was not good enough….I always went back to try my best, and most of the time have been blessed to prove others wrong. The truth is no matter what task you begin, everyone will tell you that certain prerequisites are required : looks, , money, name, intellect, degrees. But if you are a person who has struggled to achieve a goal and come out on the other side ; you realize the naysayers do not know what they are talking about. I have learned that there is no real secret formula for anything – except for maybe our mothers’ recipes. We all can achieve something if we put their own slant to it and believe in ourselves. Indeed success is truly hidden in the spaces where people have looked away or avoided due to fear. It is in these spaces that we create our own formulas and charter our own roadmaps. I have met a lot of smart people and I confidently say, I would take someone who reaches for the stars and is resilient over someone who simply followed the steps of life and achieved what they always new was attainable any day. Now that would be a person I would invite to Kung Fu Panda 3!
A SALUTE TO THE WOMEN OF POLITICAL MOVEMENTS
We as women have a lot on our plate. We are domestic engineers, household janitors, cooks, CEOs, physicians, lawyers every profession you can imagine and indeed political activists and news watchers. This has been an amazing year for the Middle east. Leaders fought for their rights to stay, they dramatically fell from their posts and the streets of the bustling Middle East have been crowded with revolutionaries.
We saw footage of Cairo, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia. All around the world viewers have been watching people fight for their own destinies. No matter what side you sit on : pro revolution, a cynic to revolution or a realist who knows political systems all suffer through a cycle of evolution, one thing is truly remarkable in these revolutions : The women.
The women in these countries are at the forefront of these political movements. They are holding flags, marching side by side with men and at many times leading the protests and carrying out politically sophisticated campaigns with the use of cutting edge social media. What a beauty to watch for women around the world. The stereotypical understanding of what a woman is in the middle east has been shattered by recent political events. She is a revolutionary in her own right. She is not only protesting a political system, but is defining for future generations of women what civic responsibility means.
I can also guess to lighten up the mood here ( that much like women all around the world), the same woman is putting food on the table, changing diapers, picking out the linens, taking her children to the dentist while protesting, blogging and marching. How does she do it all? Well, we women know the answer. We are natural multi-taskers.
The reason I chose to write a short piece saluting the women of revolutions is to salute a unifying theme for all women : freedom. Freedom to say what we need to say and live our life on our own terms. A woman in the United States, Australia, Senegal, or Malaysia may not have a personal stake on whether Libya has reached freedom but they sure do have a personal stake on how women in their countries would be treated if they took the front seat in bringing political change.
All women who have ever taken a stand that has been difficult, caused backlash or caused personal and financial damage : We salute you. We know the price of freedom is paid every day. As mothers making sure that our child gets the best healthcare, as a daughter who demands her elderly mother be cared for with love and responsibility , as a wife who cannot tolerate her husband’s unrelenting employer, as a professional who strives to make her professional contributions be appreciated for their substantive worth….we are fighting for what we want everyday. As we perform our mini revolutions every day, we thank the women of large political revolutions. We all garner our strength from the same place….the belief that we should be who we were made to be, without apologies. As Libyan women and others around the world reach freedom : we , the women of the world are watching.