Girls on the Wall: The Power of a Girl’s Story

Written by Tabby Biddle

Meet Whitney. She is 17 years old, intimidating, tough, and infamous among her peers at Warrenville Correctional Facility in Illinois for a crime she won’t talk about. Whitney is one of Warrenville’s longest-term inmates and the secret she holds not only keeps her locked up in prison, but also locked up and unable to heal on the inside.

Whitney is one of a group of incarcerated teenage girls whose journey is documented in “Girls on the Wall,” a film directed and produced by Heather Ross & Sincerely Films. The documentary captures an 8-month journey of the girls of Warrenville as they participate in a theatre workshop.

The workshop is led by Meade Palidofsky, known as “Ms. P.” to the girls. Meade is the artistic director of Storycatchers Theatre. She is a playwright and lyricist who has been working for more than 30 years helping young people find their voice and tell their stories through performance art. “It’s a real gift to be able to use what you love to do to get other people to not only learn playwriting and songwriting, but to actually use that process to heal themselves,” she told me in a recent interview.

Healing is exactly what takes place. As the girls of Warrenville go through the process of creating a musical based on their lives — journaling about their past, sharing with their peers what feel like shameful secrets, re-living and dramatizing their crimes – a transformation takes place. As these young women begin to open up about their stories, they begin to release their wounds and restore their self-dignity. Furthermore, when they hit the stage in front of their families and prison staff, a profound healing happens for everyone.

Watching the documentary at a recent screening in Los Angeles, what affected me the most was experiencing the immense talent and sheer beauty within each one of these young women. That’s not the usual perception of prison inmates.  “I think when people think of kids that are locked up they think of them as bad kids, evil kids, or dysfunctional kids. They think that for anyone who is locked up, there is something wrong with them.” Even though I might not have wanted to admit it, before I saw “Girls on the Wall” I was carrying around some of those misperceptions.

From the film, I quickly learned that these girls are smart, talented, kind, compassionate, funny and incredible young women – all that locked inside the toughness of prison life. Each one of them in their own way was hurt badly through early experiences (usually related to family) and never received the appropriate support to recover. Drug-addicted parents, sexually abusive family members, physical and emotional assault were all common themes for these young women. One young woman’s only crime was running away from foster placements because she wanted to be with her mom who was a crack addict.

“When the girls tell their stories it becomes so clear why they are locked up. It usually starts from a trauma they have experienced causing them to be angry and depressed, which causes them to drop out of school, do drugs, join gangs, and eventually become incarcerated. It’s a pretty clear cycle,” says Meade.

“I think what people learn when they come in to work with the girls is that what’s dysfunctional is our system. What’s dysfunctional is that we don’t have a lot of systems that work for kids on the outside,” she adds.

I decided to ask Heather, the director and producer of the film, why she thought a girl telling her story was so healing. She told me: “I think a lot of the time girls may feel on some level that their story has been deemed unimportant, especially to the outside world. All kids, and I think especially girls, get used to adults ignoring them. And for these girls in particular, I think the situation is magnified because their marginalized for other reasons — they’re in trouble with the law, most come from families that are barely making it (if at all), and I don’t think stories like theirs make it into the media much.  I think just realizing that they have a unique story, and that other people might want to hear it, is enough to turn their heads.”

“Once you tell the story, then you let it go.” – Meade P.

“Girls on the Wall” illustrates that storytelling can help each one of us make sense of our past – and heal even the darkest parts.

For Girls on the Wall screenings and air dates, click here. To learn more about Storycatchers Theatre, click here.

Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a writer/editor dedicated to amplifying the voices of women making a positive difference in the world. Her work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and other national media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.

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Meade Palidofsky is Goddess of the Week!

My Interview with Meade Palidofsky

By Tabby Biddle

“These are kids who have enjoyed risk-taking – the thrill of drugs, the thrill of being in a street gang. One of the things we are trying to teach them is that there are healthy ways to take risk. A lot of the kids are scared before they go on stage, and then it’s thrilling to hear other people applaud you, particularly for kids who have never really been applauded before. So you are trying to transfer the feeling of thrill into something that’s healthy.”

— Meade Palidofsky,
Artistic Director of Storycatchers Theatre

Meade Palidofsky, artistic director of Storycatchers Theatre

For more than 30 years, Meade Palidofsky has been helping young people find their voice and tell their stories through performance art. In 1990, she started working in prisons. She says that was a real turning point because she felt like she met the population that she was meant to work with. Since that time, she has helped hundreds of incarcerated youth heal from past traumas and pave the way for a brighter future. I learned about her incredible work through the powerful documentary, “Girls on the Wall.”

Tabby: I was so moved by your work when I saw Girls on the Wall. What inspires you to do this work?

Meade: I have always been interested in working with teens, especially teens from challenging backgrounds. Many people want to write this age group off: which is why you can be tried as an adult in some states as early as 12 or 13! I think it’s an amazing age to work with. They are still capable of so much insight and change and mature enough to be able to process their lives.

The first time I walked into a detention center and saw the teens incarcerated there, it struck me that it was a tremendous opportunity to reach kids who are not easily reached otherwise. You will not find this population in schools or park programs. Locked up, they have plenty of time on their hands and a desire to fill that time, often volunteering to do things they wouldn’t on the outside — like writing and performing in a show about themselves.

Tabby: This is intense work. There must be some challenges. What are they?

Meade: Prisons and the justice system are political. Some places can be hard to work in. They are full of corruption or just believe more in punishment than rehabilitation. I have been fortunate to work in a state [Illinois] that has established a Juvenile Justice Department — and recently, the Governor took this department completely out of Corrections and put it in the Department of Children and Family Services. Hopefully, this will be a good move and the system will become evermore child centered.

The Aftercare system (or lack thereof) is the biggest challenge. We work with these kids to make better, healthier decisions and then they are released to the same dysfunctional families and neighborhoods — but with no services to mentor them.

Tabby: How have you overcome some of these challenges?

Meade: The biggest thing I have learned is to only work in institutions where there is a champion — someone in administration within the institution. It’s important when we leave — and on the days we aren’t there to have people support the teens. My staff and I go early to program in order to spend time with the institutional staff. It’s important to know everyone from security, dietary, and on up so that everyone supports what we are doing and helps us to accomplish it.

Tabby: Why do you think a girl or young woman telling her story is so healing?

Meade: A lot of the stories that the girls tell are being told for the first time. So it’s not just telling a story, it’s like telling a secret. These kids have been sexually abused and assaulted, and that in particular is often an unspeakable trauma. What we do is provide a safe way for the girls to tell their stories.

If you’ve held on to something forever, it just festers and you don’t heal. But

Rosa raps her story

once you tell the story, then you let it go. By sharing stories, you also hear that there are other people in the room who have had similar experiences. This is strengthening and empowering.

I think the biggest thing is that you are able to let it go. You tell the story on stage, so it’s formalized, it’s universalized, and other people relate to it. Then it becomes a story that exists in the world outside of yourself and so, you can kind of walk away from it. Furthermore, it becomes not just a story but a song or a scene in a show — and then it becomes artistic. It’s something that, although it reminds you of a time that was painful in your life, it also becomes beautiful.

Tabby: You are a woman helping young women tell their story. Do you find a healing and empowering element for you?

Meade: Oh yes. Even though I am hearing a lot of trauma, it’s enjoyable because I see kids who really seize the opportunity to tell their stories to work out trauma in their lives. I see kids who go from being scared to be on stage to feeling good about it and feeling good about telling their stories. You see them change. It’s really a remarkable thing to watch. When you see a light go on in somebody’s eyes and they understand, or they feel safe to tell something for the first time, when they reach out to other people and support them – it’s a wonderful feeling. When everybody gets on stage together and they become a team and really support each other – especially kids in jails that have been tearing each other down — when they begin to empathize with each other, it’s kind of a high for everyone.

Tabby: I notice from seeing Girls on the Wall that you have great instincts about when to push the girls and when to back off. Where does that come from?

Meade: I love to solve problems. If I have a kid where something isn’t happening, I go home at night and think about it. The next day I try a new approach. You have to be patient. I think what’s important is patience and realizing that everyone comes around in their own time. You can’t predict exactly when it will happen for everybody.

These kids need love. They have been abandoned by everybody in their

casting for the musical

families and have been left behind, and so they don’t trust people. So you really have to build their trust. And you have to love them. They really need to feel like you care about them. Even when you are disciplining them, you have to do it with love. I use a lot of terms of endearment, like “Stop it sweetheart.” They have to know you are doing it because you care about them, and not just because you are ordering them around. They don’t like to hear harsh tones in people’s voices.

It’s important to be the adult in the group. These kids are not looking for peer friends from you. They are looking for someone who will be a guide, and will assume an adult role in their life that has been missing.

Tabby: What are some important leadership lessons you’ve learned in working with these girls?

Meade: When I first started working I was really absorbed in it being my own work and absorbed in all of the one-on-one stuff with the kids. What I learned over time is that the more people you bring into the process, the more you get the staff involved and the administration involved, the better off the kids. You really need to do that to support the kids. You need to have a bigger structure. You also need to work in institutions where you have a champion – where people believe in what you are doing so you are not fighting the system.

Tabby: What are some of the common misperceptions about the work that you do?

Meade: I think when people think of kids that are locked up they think of them as bad kids, evils kids, or dysfunctional kids. They think that for anyone who is locked up, there is something wrong with them. I think what people learn when they come in to work with the girls is that what’s dysfunctional is our system. What’s dysfunctional is that we don’t have a lot of systems that work for kids on the outside. They learn that these kids are kids. They have potential. They learn that these kids are really likeable and smart and could be somebody if society helps them out.

When the girls tell their stories it becomes so clear why they are locked up. It usually starts from a trauma they have experienced causing them to be angry and depressed, which causes them to drop out of school, do drugs, join gangs, and eventually become incarcerated. It’s a pretty clear cycle. It can be surprising for some who come and work with the girls since they’ve never thought about it before.

Tabby: How has this worked changed your life?

Meade: Well, this is my life. [Laughter]. It’s my mission in life. When I first started doing this work it was more with kids out in the community and in high schools. When I started working in prisons in 1990, it was a real turning point because I felt like I met the population that I was meant to work with. From that point on it’s been a personal journey figuring out … I feel like I’ve been given a gift that I am a playwright and a lyricist. It’s a real gift to be able to use what you love to do to get other people to not only learn playwriting and songwriting, but to actually use that process to heal themselves. That’s joyful for me to do that.

Tabby: What’s your best advice to other women who want to follow their mission I life, but are scared to for one reason or another?

Meade: My best advice is that if you want to do something, you just have to do it. I grew up in Flint, Michigan with a father who always said ‘no.’ I used to tell him, “I’m not going to ask you about this, I’m just going to tell you because otherwise you’ll just say no.” My advice is don’t allow yourself to accept ‘no’ as an answer when you want to do something. Ask yourself the question: “What’s the worst that’s going to happen?” If you can live with the answer, then you should do it.

Tabby: What’s some of the best advice someone gave you in your life?

Meade: When I was a kid my teachers always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be. Having been told that, I believed it. I feel like that is one thing I have to do in life is to tell other young women the same thing: You can do it. Believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid of failure — see failure as an opportunity to learn.

To learn more about Meade’s work, visit www.storycatcherstheatre.org.

To see Girls on the Wall, visit www.girlsonthewallmovie.com.

Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a writer/editor dedicated to amplifying the voices of women making a positive difference in the world. Her work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and other national media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.

The Difference Between Curing vs. Healing

Written by Tabby Biddle


Most of us want a quick fix when we are sick. Who wouldn’t? The problem with this, however, is that a quick fix isn’t always possible — and in many cases, it’s not even the best medicine.

When I was taken to a hospital in Thailand 15 years ago for what appeared to be amoebic dysentery, I had a deep sense that medicine was not the only answer to my illness. I had been away from my American cultural norm for six months, and was opening up to new ideas and perspectives (in particular through the practice of meditation and yoga). While I knew that medicine would probably help subside the painful and life-threatening symptoms of the dysentery, I knew deep inside that medicine was only one piece of the puzzle.

As I laid there in the hospital bed for what seemed like endless hours, I came to realize that whatever was going on with me went much deeper than the symptoms I was experiencing on the surface. It wasn’t just my physical body that needed to be cured, but my mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies were asking to be healed. Thus, my healing work began.

What I am talking about here is the difference between curing vs. healing. While I was brought up under the conventional medicine belief system where prescribed medications were considered the “cure” for my various illnesses as a child and young adult, the experience in Thailand woke me up to some other possibilities for healing. In short, for the first time I discovered my own power to heal.

Enter: holistic medicine.

There is no question that the relationship between holistic medicine and conventional medicine has been a contentious, or maybe more apt — ignored one — for many years. Those who prescribed to holistic medical thinking and action were considered “on the fringe,” New Age “woo-woo” types, or flat out ignorant. Understandably, those who prided themselves on their rational minds and put an emphasis on the physical world (at the expense the “unseen” one) would not want to consider that there might be more to healing than treating the physical body.

Today, however, due to the work of some particular individuals — we’ve moved on a bit from these stereotypes.

One of these outstanding individuals is Caroline Myss, Ph.D. Caroline, a world-renowned medical intuitive, author, and speaker in the field of health and healing, has been a pioneer in courage in the health care field. In her book, Anatomy of the Spirit, she points out: “Healing begins with the repair of emotional injuries.” She explains, in other words, that instead of illness being considered simply a result of germs and genetics, it is essential to consider the emotional component of illness.

“Holistic and conventional medicine take two different attitudes toward power: active and passive,” says Caroline. “The chemical treatments of conventional medicine require no conscious participation on the part of the patient … When a person is passive – with an attitude of ‘just do it to me’ – he does not fully heal; he may recover, but he may never deal fully with the source of his illness.”

In contrast, she explains, holistic medicine considers the patient’s willingness to participate fully in his or her own healing as necessary for its success. “Healing is an active and internal process that includes investigating one’s attitudes, memories, and beliefs with the desire to release all negative patterns that prevent one’s full emotional and spiritual recovery,” says Caroline.

To put it simply, when you give your authority over to your doctor to “cure” you, you may be missing out on an important part of your healing process (aka the emotional, psychological, and spiritual stresses that were part of the illness). If conventional medicine cures your symptoms, but not the underlying causes, Caroline and other holistic medical experts say there is a high possibility that your illness will come back.

It’s been 15 years since my hospital experience in Thailand and the healing journey continues. Each time I get sick or “under the weather,” I look at the underlying causes and respond accordingly. I am happy to report that my frequency of illness has decreased tremendously and when I do get sick, I recover much more quickly. To me, curing is one piece of the health care puzzle and healing is the puzzle itself.

Caroline Myss, Ph.D., will be teaching at the I Can Do It! 2010 conference in San Diego, May 14 –16. Click here for more information.

Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a writer/editor specializing in the areas of health and wellness, women’s empowerment, personal growth and spirituality. Her work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and other national media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.

Sonia Choquette is Goddess of the Week!

My Interview with Sonia Choquette

by Tabby Biddle

“I feel very strongly that we are evolving from homosapiens to homospiritists. We are taking the next steps. We are in process of morphing evolutionarily into a higher expression of consciousness … human consciousness on this planet … We are beginning on a collective level to intuitively sense that we will self-destruct unless we evolve.”

— Sonia Choquette, Ph.D.

Sonia Choquette

For more than 30 years, Sonia Choquette has been sharing with the world her wisdom and experience with six-sensory perception. Even when others thought she was a “kook” and a “deviant,” she pressed on. She never let others’ judgments prevent her from sharing what she knew to be true. Today, she is a world-renowned author, storyteller, healer, intuitive guide and spiritual teacher.

T:  I just started reading your book “Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose.” In the book you said, “The sooner we individually raise our vibrations, the sooner we’ll collectively heal the suffering on the planet. We have no time to waste.” Can you say more about this?

S:  I believe that what we have been genuinely unconscious about is that even though we have free will, what we choose, and how we live, and how we go about our daily life affects the whole. Nobody is having an autonomous experience that is independent of the collective experience. Conversely, for every one of us that elevates our vibration, our intentions, our direction, our priorities, and our commitment to living as a responsible, creative, contributing human being versus a victimized, dispirited, uncreative, non-contributing, non-interested person — we will, by the laws of entrainment, affect those around us. As our vibration is felt, it inspires and activates those same inclinations in others. It begins to set off a chain of events where one can affect five; five can affect 25; 25 can affect 125, and so on and so on — like ripples in a lake.

So until individuals really begin to feel and embrace their personal responsibility and power to influence the whole, we won’t see a change. Now, having said that, that book was written a few years ago. I actually see that that kind of awareness is really beginning to kick in and take place.

T:  I absolutely agree. It feels as if in the past couple of years things have rapidly increased in terms of consciousness. Do you think the pace has quickened? And if so, why?

S:  I definitely think you are accurate about the quickening pace. I think that in the last 24 months things have become extremely destabilized in terms of our personal comfort zone. Our financial systems are imploding. Our jobs and the things we assume to be there — or be reliably consistent — have fallen apart. The earth under our feet is rocking and rolling, firing and spewing. Although some would say it’s been happening all along, certainly not at a time and place in civilization where so many people have been affected. In other words, we may have had earthquakes for the entire history of the planet, but huge societies were not necessarily built on those places where those quakes were taking place.

People are beginning to recognize that there is a dependency on one another and a dependency on our earth that is elevating our awareness of how we treat one another and how we treat our planet. In many cases, it’s bringing out the best in us, not the worst. We are more creative, conscientious, and have spirited awareness. So, I think that the disturbances are sort of like the metaphor: It almost kills a butterfly to get out of a cocoon, but the same effort gives its wings the power to fly.

T:  I know you work a lot with guides, angels, and emissaries. Are they playing a part in the more drastic phenomena?

S:  I do think that the veil between the third, fourth, and fifth dimensions is thinning. I think the level of perception in the average human being is elevating, and that we are beginning to sense on many different levels that we are not alone in this Universe. And that our human voice is not the only voice that has influence – that we have a subtle, intuitive voice. We are beginning to sense the subtle conscious realm of Divine beings. This is happening in rapid rates.

I do feel that the parts of people’s brains that have been dormant and inactive are starting to get stimulated because of all this change. This includes the pineal gland, which is the source of the Third Eye – the inner knowing that gives us the ability to perceive subtle energy. I feel very strongly that we are evolving from homosapiens to homospiritists. We are taking the next steps. We are in process of morphing evolutionarily into a higher expression of consciousness … human consciousness on this planet.

T:  That’s pretty cool.

S:  It is cool. Every evolutionary step in human consciousness has been adaptive, and we are adapting now to a lot of shifts in terms of how to survive as a species. Homosapien is ego-centered, and ego-centered is “me against you.” So we are killing each other. “Me against you” in the physical body is called cancer.

We are beginning on a collective level to intuitively sense that we will self-destruct unless we evolve. So it is our adaptive sense of survival that is activating this higher consciousness.

T:  How do think the upcoming I Can Do It! conference can help people?

S:  Every one of us who comes to speak at those conferences are all messengers – and we all have very unique and very important ways and means and gifts to share.

I know my gift. I am more than a messenger … I am an alchemist. What I create within my workshop is that I actually activate the vibration for the frequency and the experience of vibrating at that higher level of consciousness. I activate the four chambers of the heart. I activate the pineal gland. I engage the participants’ voice of intuition. It’s sort of like I jump start people into this higher frequency and they feel it. So it’s not a matter of taking notes and hearing about it and thinking this is a destination you are going to be in one day if you stay the course. I actually put them in the experience – and give them the vibrational jolt.

T:  What role do you think intellect plays in all of this?

S:  I think that the intellect is important. This is how we learn. First we see it. Then we hear about it. Then we experience it. Then we own it. It’s sort of like window-shopping. You’ve got to let something be introduced to you before you even know it’s out there. It’s like when you see something beautiful in the window and you think, “Hmmmm … I might like that.”

My workshops are about having the experience, and then my books are a way to educate the intellect to support the experience rather than undermine it.

T:  What can you share about guidance?

S:  Every human being has had some experience of guidance. That is not our challenge. Our challenge is: Will our ego humble enough to acknowledge that there is more than the ego running the world and the experience of the human journey through life?

My mother used to say this all the time: “Never assume what you know is all there is to know, or you’re in a lot of trouble.”

Be open to being surprised with guidance. One of the ways to accelerate guidance is to talk about it in a positive way.

T:  Can you say more about this?

S:  I gave this whole workshop one day about guidance, and I said, “Talk about it in a positive way.” At the end of the workshop, three of my students came up and said, “Oh, I’ve got to tell you about this really weird thing. It’s really bizarre.” And I said, “What’s positive about that?”

If you frame guidance as being abnormal or peculiar, then you set up subconscious resistance. Instead, you can say: “The most beautiful thing came through today. I can’t explain it, but I’ll take it.”

T:  Do you remember your very first moment of being guided?

S:  I never have a moment of my life where I remember not being guided. To me, that’s like the worst handicap that I can fathom. That is why I am devoting my life to activate the higher octave of our eyes and ears, our intuition. With intuition in place all will be okay. And without it, I can’t make the same claim.

T:  In closing, any last words you want to share about intuition?

S:  The question has definitely matured. It’s no longer, “Does it exist?” The question has evolved into, “How does it work?” “How can I get it to work consistently?” How can I get it to work for me?” And that’s the question that I’ve devoted my life work to.

Sonia Choquette will be teaching at the I Can Do It! 2010 conference in San Diego, May 14 –16. Click here for more information.

You can visit her website at www.soniachoquette.com.

Kudos to Jamie Oliver for Leading the American Food Revolution

Written by Tabby Biddle

“For all the debate lately, one basic fact about America’s health care crisis is rarely mentioned. Namely, the one thing that could really reform health care is you, collectively speaking: People living healthier lives.”

– Steve Lohr, New York Times

As I’ve listened to the health care debate over the last year, my main concern has been the limited focus on preventative medicine. Did you know that studies show that 50 to 70 percent of the nation’s health care costs are preventable? And do you know one of the best ways to prevent disease?

Eating a healthy diet!

Here’s something important to know: This is the first generation of children who aren’t expected to live as long as their parents.

It’s an open secret that kids today are growing up in a soda-filled, carbo-centric, junk food culture. According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years (and the numbers keep growing). This increase in obesity has both immediate and long-term health effects for our kids, and our country. For example:

  • Obese kids are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
  • Obese kids are at a greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
  • Obese kids are more likely to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore are more at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, and several types of cancer.
  • Obesity can cut off 10, 12, 15 years or more of one’s life.

Lots of people may be aware of this information, but why hasn’t there been change?

2010-04-02-junkfood_lunch.jpgThe fact is that even if parents are trying to feed their children healthy foods at home, the school lunch programs around the country are feeding them JUNK. French fries and chicken nuggets are school lunch staples. Add to this, the soda and candy vending machines around school serving your children sugar bombs are destined to set them up for diabetes, mood swings, and in my opinion, attention deficit issues.

2010-04-02-JamieOliver.jpg
Jamie Oliver, chef, foodie author and television personality, is now on a mission to change the way America eats. After airing a four-hour television series in the UK aimed at improving school lunches, he got the British government to allocate one billion dollars to revitalize the British school lunch system. The revamped program includes more fresh foods, more local foods, better food standards, and no more junk in the vending machines. Nice work! Now Jamie is on an even bigger mission in the US doing what he calls, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” Through a TV series, recently published book, and his website, he is inviting Americans to take a stand and change the way we eat in our home kitchens, schools and workplaces.

Can he do it?

2010-04-02-MichelleObama.jpgLuckily he’s got First Lady Michelle Obama on the same team. Last month Michelle launched her Let’s Move initiative aimed at solving the childhood obesity epidemic (within one generation!). Let’s Move was designed to get healthier foods in schools, give parents support to make healthier choices for their children, and get families up off the couch and active together. Furthermore, and I think probably the most important aspect of the program, it is focused on getting healthy, affordable food available in every part of the country. Whether we want to talk about it or not, money is a core element of the health equation, and cannot be ignored.

“The culture of supermarkets – buy one get one free, and the bargain deals – is so weighted on the highly processed cheap foods, junk foods, snack foods, and drinks. But also give us some deals on something seasonal and local in America,” said Jamie in an interview with Oprah that aired last Friday, the same day that Food Revolution premiered on primetime ABC.

In my opinion, if our country wants to get itself back on its feet fiscally, health should be our number one priority. Without our health, what we do have? Now is the time to heal the huge disconnect between wanting to be the best country in the world and at the same time abusing our health, which is the very core of who we are. It is time to heal the rift between what we vision in our minds for our future, and what we are actually feeding our bodies in the present.

“Enough is enough,” says Jamie. “The standards in this country are not protecting your kids, and I want mothers and fathers to get angry about this.”

Anger can be a good first step, as long as it fuels the fire for positive action.

As with many things in life, just a little effort can make a massive difference. If you want to make a positive difference in the health of your children and in effect, the health of our country, here are some simple things you can do.

• Shop for your family at your local farmer’s market.
• If you don’t have a local farmer’s market, buy local foods at your grocery store.
• Buy organic as much as possible.
• Take your kids with you to shop for foods and teach them where the foods come from.
• If you have outdoor space, start a vegetable garden with your kids.
• If you already have a garden, involve your kids in it.
• If you have limited outdoor space, consider planting herbs, small lettuces, and cherry tomatoes in window boxes.
• Talk to other parents about the changes you’d like to see in the lunch program at your child’s school.
• Attend PTA meetings and give voice to changes you know need to happen.
• Talk to the school principal to open up dialogue about food at the school.
• Sign Jamie’s petition for fresh foods in school. Jamie will take this petition to the White House to show President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama how many people across the country really care, and ask for their support.

You can get healthy recipes to be used in your child’s school or in your home on Jamie’s website. The LunchBox: Healthy Tools to Help All Schools is also a great resource for healthy menus and recipes.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution can be viewed on Fridays at 9pm/8c on ABC.

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Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a writer and editor living in Santa Monica, CA. She specializes in women’s issues, personal growth, health and wellness. Her writing has been featured by The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and other national media.

Michelle Obama is Goddess of the Week

Written by Tabby Biddle

Presenting GODDESS OF THE WEEK …

Michelle Obama

First Lady and Leader of Let’s Move


god•dess n:
1. one of a group of superstar female beings who uses her feminine wisdom and supernatural powers to heal the collective consciousness and create good in the world.
2. a woman who pursues causes and concerns with passion, unconcerned about challengers and naysayers.
3. a woman who is courageous, gutsy and dares to live her truth.
4. a female who emanates love, beauty, and grace just by showing up.

I have chosen Michelle Obama as Goddess of the Week because she is working BIG TIME on helping America raise a healthier generation of kids, and in effect improving the overall health of our country.

For those not familiar yet with her program, Michelle is leading an initiative called “Let’s Move” to help solve our country’s epidemic of childhood obesity. Did you know that childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, and that one third of America’s children are obese? Childhood obesity is not only damaging our kids physically, mentally, and emotionally, it is also destroying the health of our country.

“Before coming to the White House the President and I lived lives like most families. Two working parents – busy — trying to maintain some balance — picking kids up from school, and trying to get things done at work. Just too busy. Not enough time. And what I found myself doing was probably making up for being unable to cook a good meal for my kids – was going to fast food a little more than I’d like, ordering pizza, … And I started to see the effects on my family, particularly my kids. It got to the point where our pediatrician basically said you may want to make some changes. So I started making those changes. Short, easy changes. But they led to some really good results.”

— Michelle Obama

Michelle is now bringing the lessons she learned to the White House, and to the country at large.

The Let’s Move initiative has four key components:

  1. Helping parents make healthier choices for their families
  2. Healthier foods in the schools
  3. Access and affordability of healthy foods
  4. Increased physical activity for our kids

“Let’s Move is going to take families out of their isolation and give them the nationwide support that they need in a whole range of industries to get their kids on track to live healthier lives, to eat right, to get more exercise, and to be ready to face the challenges of the future,” said Michelle in an interview posted on the Let’s Move website.

Yipppeee!

Thank you Michelle for putting the focus of government where it needs to be – supporting the health and well-being of its citizens. Without healthy people in America, we’ve pretty much lost our course. If America aims to be a leader in the world, demonstrating healthy growth, prosperity, safety and peace for its people, then how we take care of ourselves as individuals and as a nation has to be the number one priority. Who cares how many tall buildings we construct, how much technology we invent, or how many companies we build? Without healthy citizens, it doesn’t mean much.

You can learn more and get involved by going to Let’sMove.gov.

Goddess of the Week! Dr. Christiane Northrup

god•dess n:
1. one of a group of superstar female beings who uses her feminine wisdom and supernatural powers to heal the collective consciousness and create good in the world.
2. a woman who pursues causes and concerns with passion, unconcerned about challengers and naysayers.
3. a woman who is courageous, gutsy and dares to live her truth.
4. a female who emanates love, beauty, and grace just by showing up.

My intention in creating Goddess of the Week is to make women and their great work more visible.   Goddess of the Week is just a start to my efforts in promoting women. I’ll be adding new elements in the coming months. Stay tuned.

Presenting the GODDESS OF THE WEEK

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

OB/GYN, visionary, author and international speaker for women’s health and healing

“I’ve spent the first half of my life studying and footnoting everything that can go wrong with the female body – and figuring out how to fix it. I’m dedicating the second half of my life to illuminating everything that can go right with the female body, including teaching women how to truly flourish.”

— Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., author, visionary, women's healer

I have chosen Christiane Northrup as Goddess of the Week because by living her personal truth, she is helping women reclaim their power as sexual, sensual, soulful and spiritual beings!
Christiane Northrup is healing women around the world. While trained traditionally at Dartmouth Medical School and Tufts New England Medical Center, Christiane found the courage to speak up and voice the knowledge that was coming to her through her intuitive wisdom. Combining her expertise as a classically-trained physician in Western medicine with her feminine intuitive healing wisdom, she became an advocate for looking at women’s health from a whole person perspective (as opposed to a mechanistic perspective). In the mid ‘80s, she co-founded the Women to Women health care center in Yarmouth, Maine, which has become a model for women’s clinics nationwide. These clinics are devoted to healthcare for women, by women and combine alternative and conventional medicine. The work at these clinics is focused on the underlying causes of a woman’s illness, rather than simply treating the symptoms. It is based around the premise that many physical health problems have their roots in a woman’s mental, emotional and spiritual bodies as well as in her lifestyle choices. Thus when a woman changes the basic conditions of her life that have led to her health problems, she heals faster, more completely, and with far fewer medical interventions.

Christiane’s groundbreaking book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, hit the stands in 1994. Over 1.4 million copies have been sold in 16 languages. The book has empowered women around the world to understand their health from a holistic standpoint of self-awareness. It has given them the tools to actively heal themselves. Additionally, she has broken the taboos of conversation around natural processes such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, providing women a space for self-acceptance, compassion, and ownership of their unique and beautiful feminine bodies.

In 2000, Christiane published The Wisdom of Menopause, which has been changing the dialogue about menopause and radically changing women’s lives. No longer do women feel their feminine life is over when they hit 50 or thereabouts. It’s actually blossoming! She debunks the stereotype of menopause being a frenzy of hot flashes and mood swings. Instead, she proves it to be a time of incredible creativity and wisdom for women.

More recently, she wrote a book called Mother-Daughter Wisdom, which explores how the mother-daughter bond sets the stage for a woman’s health throughout her life. And in 2008, published The Secret Pleasures of Menopause, proving that the “The Big M” can actually be one the most pleasurable times of life for a woman!

This is actually only a snippet of Christiane’s Northrup’s incredible work.  Read more about how Christiane’s work has directly affected me in Fearless Women.

Yay Christiane! Your work is outstanding and is healing women on such a deep level. The world is a better place because of your courage to speak and live your truth.

Thank you.

Fearless Women

Written by Tabby Biddle

For many women, what holds us back boils down to this: Will I be loved if I become everything that I am meant to be? Maybe it’s the fear that we can’t be strong and taken care of at the same time. Maybe it’s simply the fear of looking stupid from making a mistake as we come into our power. Or maybe it’s the collective memory of witches being burned at the stake for owning their power. I know in my case, all have applied.

In talks with numerous women, I have found that there are many of us whose inner wisdom tells us that we are so much more than we are allowing ourselves to be, but we are still holding back. Even though we want to change the world for the better, we shrink when all eyes turn on us.

Christiane Northrup, MD, writes in her bestselling book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, “We can’t create a new world if we believe that we must remain small and ineffective on any level in order for others to love us or for them to feel safe around us.” Although this book was originally published in 1994, Christiane’s words still certainly apply.

What I have come to discover is that each time a woman shares her truth about her insecurities, questions, doubts, addictions, abuse, etc. — and as well shares the truth about her joys, ecstasies, discoveries, mystical experiences, spiritual beliefs, and feelings of power – it heals another woman.

Haven’t you ever wondered why almost every year at the New York Marathon a new runner sets a record, or at each Olympics the athletes seem to be breaking records left and right?

Rupert Sheldrake, an innovative British biologist and author, has an answer for this. He posits that when an athlete breaks a record, it opens the door for other athletes to break the record. He explains this in terms what he calls morphogenic fields. These are electromagnetic fields that are said to contain knowledge of all the earth’s past. Sheldrake explains that the morphogenic around the world record is changed by the first person who breaks it, thus making it easier for others to equal that performance by tapping into the new morphogenic field.

Pretty cool stuff.

So in the same way, as Dr. Northrup suggests in her book, when a woman finds the courage to come out of silence on an issue — be it food, sex, money, relationships, health, spirituality, etc., — she too is breaking the collective morphogenic field of shame, fear and pain. In other words, each time a woman speaks her truth, it makes other women stronger.

“Breaking the silence takes courage. I know of no woman who has tapped her inner source of power without going through an almost palpable veil of fear, often feeling as though her very life would be threatened by telling the truth,” says Dr. Northrup in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.

I know for myself I have been silent on issues ranging from money (not asking for help when I needed it because I was embarrassed about not being ‘perfect’), to silent rage about being treated as second fiddle to the male gender, to owning my own power as an intuitive healer and modern day medicine woman.

Christiane Northrup, MD

Step by step, my voice is opening and my power is expanding. It has taken the courage of other women to speak their truth such as Christiane Northrup, Louise Hay, Debbie Ford, Caroline Myss, Barbara Stanny, Christiane Amanpour, Clarisssa Pinkola Estes, my dear friend Lotta Alsen, and other incredible women to help me break through my own silence and own who I am.

What it is that you have been silent on in your life?

Write about it. Talk about it. Create art based on it.

The point is that whether it’s sharing your truth with a friend at coffee, blogging about it on the Internet, talking with your family, writing a poem, writing a book, making a film, or starting up a business or organization with a cause-based mission – each time you share your truth (and by this I mean your deepest inner knowing), you help another woman to heal. And it’s this one by one healing that takes it global.

“We believe women are the healers of the planet. In order to heal, we must embrace the powerful women that we are,” says Mary Ann Halpin, photographer for the groundbreaking photo essay book, Fearless Women.

Who’s ready?!

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Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed. is a writer editor dedicated to amplifying the voices of women changemakers.  Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and other popular media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband.

When Calling a Woman “Skinny” Isn’t a Compliment Anymore

Written by Tabby Biddle

Santa Monica beach

I have a friend who, every time she sees me, feels the need to say, “You look so skinny.” The first time she said this, I took it as a compliment. I thought that she was giving me kudos for the good care I take of myself with three healthy meals a day, exercise, stress management tools like yoga, walks by the beach, romance and good sleep habits. However, now that this is the greeting I get every time I see her, I am beginning to wonder about the motivation behind the comment.

When you greet a friend or colleague you wouldn’t say, “You look so fat.” Granted being “skinny” in our culture is a little more accepted than being fat, does this make it okay to tell a woman she looks “so skinny” when you greet her?

There is no doubt that weight is a serious issue in America – both on the fat and skinny side. Obesity in the US is on the upswing. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than one-third of US adults are obese, and two-thirds are overweight. Add to this, healthcare spending on obesity in the US has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. (Obesity has been linked to numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers.)

On the skinny side, statistics are also a bit grim. Anorexia is the leading cause of death in young women aged 15-24, and the numbers of young women affected are growing. According to Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc., without treatment, up to 20 percent of people with serious eating disorders die.

When I was 14, I had a short bout with anorexia – and looking at those statistics, I feel grateful to have recovered as I did.

I have spent my life as an athletic, tall, thin person. Here and there I have popped on or dropped off a few pounds depending on what was going on in my life. However, generally I have been a consistent weight, healthy and in great shape.

So, today when someone says to me “you look so skinny” on a repeated basis (all the while I haven’t changed weight since the last time I saw that person) – it doesn’t register as a compliment – it registers as annoying. It makes me think there is something else going on that I can’t quite put my finger on.

While it is wonderful to hear someone say, “You look great!” – talking about the overall essence of a person — I think it is out of place to greet a woman with the first comment being about her weight.

What do you think?

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Tabby Biddle is a writer and editor living in Santa Monica, CA. She specializes in helping women entrepreneurs and first-time authors get their message out. Additionally, she is the founder of Lotus Blossom Style, a yoga lifestyle company created to support women in their journey of personal transformation.

Healthcare: It’s a You-and-Me World

LosAngelesForumA line started forming just after midnight Tuesday at the Los Angeles Forum in Inglewood, California by thousands of people hoping to get free medical, dental and vision services being offered courtesy of the non-profit group Remote Area Medical. The people in line were not just the uninsured, but also the insured whose deductibles and co-payments are too high for them to handle.

Whether we are one of the insured or uninsured, the debate over the American health care bill affects us.

I have been listening to the debate astounded by those who are opposing the possibility of health care for all of our citizens. Those who are opposing the bill seem to think that if we provide services for the uninsured, that we will somehow be taking away from them – or, as a number of the protesters have argued, “taking statue-of-libertyaway their America.”  I find some irony in that argument. Isn’t America a country that built itself on this premise: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Quoted on the Statue of Liberty).

I wonder if this you-or-me mentality is something that we are going to have to contend with for the upcoming decades, or if we can consider a shift in perspective to a you-and-me nation, and ultimately a you-and-me world?

“Just as blood in the body must flow to all parts of the body for health to be maintained, money is useful when it is moving and flowing, contributed and shared, directed and invested in that which is life affirming. When blood slows down and begins to stop or clot, the body becomes sick. When water slows down and becomes stagnant, it becomes toxic. Accumulating and holding large quantities of money can have the same toxic effect on our life.”

– Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money

I mention this quote because it seems to speak to the toxic meltdowns we have seen recently – Bernie Madoff, AIG, Lehman Brothers – and in particular the situation with the health insurance companies.

We’ve heard about those Americans rejected by health insurance companies for having a “pre-existing condition.” I have been one of them. Getting that letter in the mail (twice) stung with a feeling that the insurance company’s choice was never really about the well-being of people, but rather it was about more money in their pockets.

Well now the money has clotted in their bank accounts, and the toxicity has grown to infect our whole country. If things continue to go in the direction they have been, our “health care” system will turn into a “health chaos” system.

Remote Area MedicalLuckily, there are companies like Remote Area Medical who believe in sharing time, talents, and resources to help those in need. “An infected tooth can’t wait while Congress debates healthcare reform. We’re taking care of people who need help now,” says Don Manelli, Executive Producer of the week-long LA event.

I am not saying that doctors, health organizations, or health insurance companies should be offering their services for free. Of course not. What I am looking at is where the money is getting caught up, where it is losing its flow, and what can we do to change this?

As we continue in this health care debate, I wonder if it is possible to shift the very basis of the way we think – from one where we compete and fight for what seem like “scarce” resources, to one where we realize that there actually are enough resources and that we just need to look at how we allocate them so we can help one another.

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Tabby Biddle is a writer and editor specializing in helping women entrepreneurs and emerging authors get their message out. Additionally she is the founder of Lotus Blossom Style, a yoga lifestyle company created to support women in their personal transformation. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.