Saturday, November 27, 2010

To My Beloved Children

Just to see you smile,
My joy is there flitting around your up turned lips
My happiness dancing at the song of your laughter
Just to see you smile,
My fears and worries are allayed
My heart is filled with peace
Just to see you smile
Your joy is my joy
Your laughter, my song.
Just to see you smile
My life is whole
My happiness complete.
Just to see you smile
Noting exists but that moment
And your beautiful, wondrous smile.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thank you, Ms. Steinman!

Finally, finally, Ms. Steinman has called a spade a spade and spoken the words I have been longing to hear! In an article titled Feminist Ideal: A myth she states:

"Women are told they can have it all, that they can do anything, as long as they also keep doing everything else they were doing before."

I am doing such a happy dance over here you have no idea!!! This was one of the main points that would infuriate me so much about the Feminist Movement. I could support equal pay for equal work, respect for women in the workplace, gender equality and such, but what I could not support is the fact of that women were still expected to "Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget your a man!" GRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!! It seemed to me that women simply were making more work for themselves and men were either becoming emasculated or lazy! Horrible words I know, but that is what I witnessed.

Women who wanted to stay home and keep house or raise their children were made to feel like they were being treated as slaves, second class citizens or iconic novelties. Women who desired a career were considered power starved bitches, male wannabes, or evil for abandoning their children and the only way to make up for it was to become frantic Supermoms who worked themselves into Valium induced oblivions.

Women were not given choices, and they were not supported in their choices if they made them.

And the men. Well, they seemed lost through it all. Is it okay to be a 'gentleman'? Does he hold the door not hold the door? What if he wanted a more active parental role? What if he wanted to stay home with the children? (True story: my brother raised his son for several years on his own and was a Stay at Home Dad for a bit.) What if he wanted to maintain the traditional role of breadwinner with his wife being a homemaker? What if that is what worked for them?


Finally, I believe these words spoken by one of the most vocal Women's Movement activists of our time, and this article may get women and men to truly stand up and stop the insanity. Finally maybe women will stop believing the lies that they must do it all, be all and rise up and be who they are individually and collectively called to be. Women may finally be able to lay aside the guilt, give up the media and societal induced responsibilities and perceptions of their bodies and take up the ones that they truly desire, the ones that truly work best for themselves, their families, in whatever way that route may be for them.

Here is that 30 second commercial that I grew up with and supposedly represented the Feminist Movement. What it succeeded in doing is brainwashing most of my generation.

I really hate this ad!

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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Business of Birthing (Repost)

The "Business" Of Birthing

This is a repost from the Giving Birth Naturally website.

Note: All of the information here represents fact, not opinion, of birthing within the United States. If you don't believe it, check the references listed at the end of the article. That being said, you may want to sit down before reading further...

Each year, the U.S. spends over $50 billion dollars on childbirth. This is more than any other nation in the world. (This number does not include babies in the NICU or readmissions during the first month.)

Maternity care is the largest source of income for American hospitals.

The U.S. ranks 37th in the world for the quality of its health care.

Over HALF of all hospital admissions in America are for maternity.

Hospitals are NOT the safest place to have a baby. 25 infectious strains exist that are resistant to ALL known antibiotics. These are found primarily in hospitals.

75 years of routine hospital birth have produced NO studies to show it is safer than having a baby at home with a skilled birth attendant.

Both homebirth and birth centers have been scientifically proven to be as safe or safer than hospitals with a skilled labor attendant (i.e. midwives, not doctors).

The more technology used in childbirth, the more dangerous it becomes.

The larger the hospital, the greater the risks to both mother and baby.

Of the 4.3 million babies born annually in the U.S., a mere 5% represent natural childbirth.

America ranks 29th in the world for its infant mortality rate, the number of babies who die in their first year per 1,000 live births, meaning the US loses more babies than 28 other nations per year.

The U.S.A. ranks 14th among developed nations for its maternal mortality ratio, the ratio of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, meaning 13 other countries lose less mothers within 6 weeks of childbirth than the US does per year.

Over 90% of all infants in the U.S. are born with drugs (e.g. narcotics from epidurals, pitocin, acetaminophen, etc) in their systems. NONE of these drugs have been tested for safe use in infants.

A 24-hour hospital stay, uncomplicated delivery in the U.S.A. costs anywhere from $8,000-10,000. This cost DOUBLES for a c-section.

ALL families in the U.S. are charged newborn nursery charges, even if the babyNEVER leaves the mother's room. This "routine" charge amounts to about $1.3 billion dollars annually, for services that are NOT rendered. (I'm not quite sure why this doesn't constitute insurance fraud - billing for services not rendered.)

Every year, 1 million, or about 20%, full-term, healthy infants are sent to the NICU for "observation" for an average stay of 3 days, totaling a whopping $6,000.

For newborns suspected to have serious medical conditions, the same NICU stay totals $20,000.

1 in 3 American women has an episiotomy. Episiotomies are medically indicated for less than 10% of all women. Over 1 million unnecessary episiotomies are performed annually in the U.S.

1 in 5 births in the U.S.A. are induced. 44% of women surveyed in 2002 reported their doctor wanted to induce. Only 16% reported medically-indicated reasons.

American women who elect epidurals are FOUR times as likely to have cesarean sections.

31.8% of American babies (nearly 1 in 3) in 2007 were delivered by cesarean section. The World Health Organization recommends a c-section rate of less than 10-15% as acceptable.

U.S. hospital policies for routine tests, practices, policies and procedures are based on financial considerations, which include malpractice insurance costs. They are not based on evidence, research, or appropriateness of care.

I truly hope you found these statistics disturbing. If they don't speak to the medicalization of childbirth in this country, I don't know what does.

The true horror comes in the fact that these views are being exported across the world. As the U.S. is such a powerhouse of marketing, more impressionable regions are adapting to these customs, despite the overwhelming evidence that the U.S. approach to childbirth IS SERIOUSLY FLAWED!

American obstetricians are taught to view birth as "a disaster waiting to happen." The average delivery in the U.S. is neither natural nor healthy. We have embraced a cascading system of successively more intense, unneeded interventions termed "active management" or the "standard of care".

So what do we do? How can we change the system?

We as a country need to reach beyond our own boundaries to embrace an effective model of maternity care. We, as women, mothers, and families, must educate ourselves as to the true process of labor and childbirth.

We must regain our faith in our bodies' perfect ability to have a baby. We must look at what the research is already telling us - that nature has it right!

In short, we must take back our births!

And if you're still not convinced, check these out:

Deneux-Tharaux D, Berg C, Bouvier-Colle MH, Gissler M, Harper M, Nannini A, Alexander S, Wildman K, Breart G, Buekens P. Underreporting of Pregnancy-Related Mortality in the United States and Europe. Obstet Gynecol 2005;106:684-92.

Hartmann K, Viswanathan M, Palmieri R, Gartlehner G, Thorp J, Lohr KN (2005). "Outcomes of routine episiotomy: a systematic review". JAMA 293 (17): 2141–8. doi:10.1001/jama.293.17.2141. PMID 15870418.

(2006) "ACOG Practice Bulletin. Episiotomy. Clinical Management Guidelines for Obstetrician-Gynecologists. Number 71, April 2006". Obstet Gynecol 107 (4): 957–62. PMID 16582142.

Macfarlane A, McCandlish R, Campbell R.
Choosing between home and hospital delivery. There is no evidence that hospital is the safest place to give birth.
British Medical Journal. 2000 Mar 18;320(7237):798.

Home versus hospital birth.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2)

The cost-effectiveness of home birth.
Journal of Nurse-Midwifery. 44(1):30-5, 1999 Jan-Feb.

Peck P. Preinduction cervical ripening significantly increases risk of cesarean. Medscape Medical News, 2003

Goer H. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. New York: Perigee Books, 1999, p 228-9.

Fullerton JT and Severino R. In-hospital care for low-risk childbirth: comparison with results from the NationalBirth Center Study. J Nurse Midwifery 1992;37(5):331-340.

Giving Birth Naturally: "Business" of Birthing

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Cell Phone Doula-ing

At 5:30 this morning I received a text from a dear friend/sistah informing she was at the birth of her niece! Well, anyone who knows me I cannot resist fiber, plants or birth so I shook off the sleep and got to it. I got to be the 'doula's doula' offering her support and encouragement through texting! I was amazed at the speed of my thumbs! What an honor to be a part of this birth even if only peripherally. The last time I had this kind of opportunity was about 5 years ago and I was a doula for a mommy over the phone! Yes, it can be done and although not ideal, that is what I do as a doula, support birthing mommies (and their doulas) however and whenever they need me.

This is such a timely reminder of what I've said many times before and will continue saying, "It takes a village!" Believe me, I struggle with this myself, not allowing anyone in and not venturing outside. It is much easier to close up into my shell and stay there. But the truth is we truly need each other, we do! We are the community we create and although it may not come naturally to us anymore, it is needful for us all to remember this and to what ever capacity we can, be there for each other.

It has been some time now, the many texts have ceased and the phone has gone silent. This tells me there may be some birthing going on. My thoughts and prayers are there with the birthing Mama and my dear friend, supporting her sister as her doula. May the Shechinah fill the room with Her sweet presence and usher this baby into the world in love and peace! Many birthing blessings!!!

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Today's Horoscope said:

Ok, let it be known that although I dig astrology, I only read horoscopes for fun about once a week, and only if it suits me. They are obviously generic and bogus but every once in awhile I happen across one that I say to myself BRING IT!!! This one happens to one such horoscope I want to make come true, and stars aligned or not, I am the only one who can manifest this into reality.

"New ideas are flowing into your life now, but you must be ready to receive them. You may already be in touch with a philosophical perspective as beneficial Jupiter continues to inspire your 9th House of Higher Truth, but the Sun-Jupiter trine today can blast the doors of awareness open. Luckily, this shouldn't feel like hard work. Opportunities to expand your thinking and widen your horizons are more fun than you might expect."

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bellydance, Anarchy and Prayer...OH MY?!?!

Last night my troupe and I danced at a ridiculously awesome Hafla hosted by Tribalbellies studio. Hipnosis opened the show and we (Tribal Spirit) closed the first half. Unmata was the headliner and well, I couldn't possibly explain their awesomeness so just take a peak here to have a look see. To say it was an amazing show would be such an understatement. Once we get the videos up I will try and share them here with you. I can't even begin to explain to you the mad love I have for my tribal sisters, let's just say they remind me to not take myself so damn seriously and they keep a very silly smile on my face and dance in my step.

This morning, I stumbled upon a anarchist youtube channel. (!?) You know how that goes, you click on and this that leads to that, then all of a sudden I am on some anarchist youtube channel. I thought to myself, "Well some of my best beloved and dearest to my heart are anarchists so why don't I have myself a listen." I'll tell you what, I found I liked a lot of what I heard, many thought of which I have thought (surprisingly??) for many years. Other things, well... not so much. Regardless, the thoughts that resonated with me, I enjoyed. One such quote I thought I would share with you all: "Women go to work to have an income because you can tax that (but) you can't tax staying at home...not only do women not get to raise their children but the money that they generate is used to sell their children's future...if that doesn't outrage you if that doesn't make you look in the mirror and change your ways then you are lost beyond hope." ~Stefan Molyneux Isn't that brilliance! Take it for what it's worth, you don't have to agree with the source or his philosophies, but facts are facts and what he is saying here is true.

This afternoon I read this article . It is about Jews, Muslims and Christians all joining together to pray for the drought conditions in a valley near Yerushalayim. I was really excited when I saw it and eagerly read the post, only to end up being disappointed when I discovered that although they were all there at the same time, they did not actually pray together as a unified group. Each group prayed separately and on their own. I am happy that at least this seems like a step in the right direction, but saddened because it still feels like a matter of 'so close and yet still so far.' :::sigh:::

RABBI MENACHEM Froman joins in prayers to end the

Anyway, that has been my weekend thus far. Now to venture off on more domestic matters and adventures to see what I discover next!

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honoring Veterans Day

I am a multi-faceted "peace-nik".

So what does that mean? Well, think of a woman heavily influenced by images of John Lennon in front of the Statue of Liberty and the choruses of "Give Peace a Chance" ringing in her head.

Think of a teenager racing up to a friend in the halls of her high school hands held high in peace symbol/victory sign, exclaiming "MAKE LOVE NOT WAR" every day of her sophomore year.

Think of an eight grader engaging in a screaming match with her teacher on the injustice of dropping the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those images are still burned in my mind so clearly, I still feel the pain in my heart as when I first saw the video in class that day.

Now, think of a young woman who witnessed Vets returning home from a war they had valiantly fought in and were thanked with protests signs, obscenities and claims they were murderers and baby killers. Vets who came home from nightmarish conditions, who the government deemed old enough to endure those horrors but passed laws in which they could not even buy a beer to calm the memories.

I try to be a peaceful person. I am anti war(really is anyone PRO war?!) I want troops to come home. I don't want 18 year old men and women out fighting a war, giving their lives for a cause, that I personally don't think we should have been involved in, in the first place. I have always had the opinion since my teenage years that "If the politicians want a war let them battle it out themselves". I would protest war and the governments who cause it.

But I will not protest the Vets.

So with this is mind I wish all the Vets, near and far, present in body and spirit much PEACE and LOVE. I honor you for your self sacrifice, valor and courage.

May we all soon see the day when "nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war." Isa 2:4

PS. BTW, I found it interesting to learn that the Peace symbol was originally designed as an Nuclear Disarmament symbol.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Words from the heart, touch the heart.

I have some pretty awesome friends, of which I am most grateful. One particularly special lady stepped out of her "No Poetry" zone and wrote this for me. Strangely enough it came after I had seen her and said nothing in particular, but obviously my heart and soul spoke volumes to hers. Words from her heart spoke to mine and, I believe, offered me some healing.

Gentle waves start from her heart

Flowing down her arms

Twisting wrists and flicking off fingers

Beckoning you to come, warning you to stay

Her heart pulses, lifting her breasts

Chest fills with desire

And collapses, coated with pain

Loneliness washes down her belly

Her body remembers fullness

Ecstasy and conception

The undulation of birth

Dancing children out of her womb

Her empty hands wait

Anxious for the next baby to catch

The next tuft to spin

The next florio to circle

Hips twist, thighs pump

Knees flex, calves tighten

She pushes against the ground

Feeling, needing the ground to push back

Spirit demands her body to dance

Ears strain to hear the changing tempo

Missed beats, stumbling feet

Her life song feels distorted

She looks more graceful then she feels

Swaying to the arrhythmic strain

Her muscles miss the old cadence

Spirit waits for body’s inevitable surrender

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Monday, November 8, 2010

New Moon Musings Kisev

The Month of Kislev, birthed under the Dark Moon in Scorpio, brings with it many, many changes for the Village Wise Woman.

The month of Kislev falls during the Dark Months, the months that beckon us to rest, to delve inward and to reflect. Their is no foliage, no birdsong to distract on this leg of the journey. Physically the animals are making their final preparations for their long winter's sleep and the gardens are all mostly bedded down for the winter. The sun sets earlier making our times of daylight shorter. I will admit, this is not my favorite time of the year. The cold and dark force me to search out the cold and dark within myself. That Dark Side of the Moon we all have as Twain so aptly calls it. Sometimes it is a hard place to visit.

This lovely piece of art is by a dear friend and mentor of mine, Dvorah Horn. She has based this beautiful and comtepletative piece on the month of Kislev. You can read her thoughts here.

It is not mere coincidence that many major religion's "Festival of Lights" fall during this time. Diwali has just passed, and Hanukah will soon be here along with Christmas and Kwanzaa soon after. My hope lies with the Great Spiritual Light that will soon be celebrated and emerging through the physical darkness. While I only celebrate Hanukah, I am aware of all peoples need for light during this dark time.

I am also aware of the necessity of this dark time. This is a time of renewal and re-dedication, a time of rest and reflection. A time of borrowing deep within and seeing who and what truly lies there.

We shall see who and what comes out on the other side.

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A picture is worth a thousand words

And when you add a few words it becomes even more valuable!

Picture of my friend BJ at the Rally to Restore Sanity by LaDawna

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I have realized...

That just because something is good and wonderful that doesn't mean it's not painful.
That just because it painful, that doesn't mean I don't want to feel.
Pain and sorrow, joy and bliss can be wrapped up into one beautiful package and I owe it to myself to feel it all. To pause in the moment and rejoice and mourn. That intermingled in the laughter and the dance are tears.
It is okay to cry and feel the sadness.
It is okay to feel the ache in your heart and soul.
And it's okay to go right on dancing and while feeling it all.

Birth Art by Nancy Bright

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Our daughters are like cornerstones, crafted in palatial form."

My daughter is moving today. Close to three weeks a married woman, she and her beloved are setting off about 12 hours from my home to establish their home. This morning as I woke up she was who I saw in my mind's eye and she is to whom my thoughts turned and my heart was full of words and love that I want to share with her as she embarks on one of the greatest journeys of her life.

My daughter, you are my daughter. This means you come from a long line of kick ass women. Never forget who you are.

You are the granddaughter of Dawn Ann and Carmen Lydia. You are the Great granddaughter of Mercedes, Inez and Blanche. You are the great-great granddaughter of Maria de los Angeles. You are the daughter of Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah and a child of Chava. All strong women, all wise women, and all of which you carry a spark of inside of you.

Inside of you are the generations of women, strong and brave, tender and loving. Inside of you is all of the collective Wisdom and Light of your grandmothers and great grandmothers of generations past and even a bit from your own mother. May you open your heart and your mind to this Wisdom and Strength to receive and draw from it freely. May you also know that the answers to your questions simply lie as deeply as your own heart.

Yes, that's correct my princess, your own heart. For in that beautiful and loving heart of yours is your own Wisdom. Your own Light. Your own Strength. Stuff that you have not even yet begun to tap into. Hone and sharpen it and then trust it, for it is the Wisdom of the Divine. The Divine of which you were created from. The Spark of Light that spoke you into existence. That Spark of Light that shines brightly through your eyes and radiates from your soul.

May you grow deeper into the Woman of Wisdom you have always been. May you grow deeper into the Woman of Strength you are becoming and may you grow into the Woman of Valor you were created to be.

May you always be a help meet to your beloved, a support to him and the wind beneath his wings. May you always be a Home to him and his Crown of Glory. May your words always build him up and provide strength and wisdom for him. And may your great love for him grow and give you the courage, wisdom and strength to say the difficult yet needful things.

May you and your beloved walk in Light and Love together always. May you always be a comfort for each other and provide strength for each other. May you both be the one to lift the other up and to champion the other on. May you both provide shelter for each other and be a safe haven for each other. May you both always know that no matter what may happen in this life of variables that the one thing that always remains steadfast and firm is the deep love and respect that you have one for the other. May you both create a home of Love, knowing that no matter the edifice that you may dwell in, your true home lies within each other's hearts.

May you both have excellent health, success, prosperity, joy and long life.

May you both always feel and know the presence of the Shechina and may Her wings be ever over you both providing protection and love all the days of your lives.

And may you also know, my beautiful daughter, that more than this meager offering of words can express, I love you and I am so very proud of the woman you are.

My daughter, you are my daughter. Which means you carry bits of me , good and bad with you. May you keep the good, learn from the bad and always know that most of all you carry my heart, my love and my prayers with you.

May Hashem bless you and guard you.
May Hashem shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
May Hashem turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Walk in Peace. Walk in Light. Walk in Spirit. Walk in Respect. Walk in Love.

Amen, ve Amen.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy October

Well, it seems Autumn has finally arrived in all of her golden, red, and orange splendor. Granted, Philly is in no way Lancaster County or Maine :::sigh::: but we do have a few trees around here and they are quickly changing their clothing for their last dance before Winter.

The weather has also cooled down and the sun has returned after a very rainy last days of Sukkot. I'm ready for the sukkah to come down and return the sunlight to my home. Once I know the shach has dried I will start that process. A bit sad for me, I really do enjoy Sukkot and the removal of the sukkah means re-entry back into the 'real' world with work and responsibilities. I have to try to keep in mind the bit of chizuk (encouragement) I received on Simchat Torah. We rejoice when we enter the sukkah for obvious reasons, (think fun outside harvest festival and good food, woot!) but then we are also supposed to rejoice when we leave. (huh??) Well, the trick here, I was told, is to take with you all the joy that we felt in the sukkah and bring the sukkah in with you. I liked that thought and, like many other things, the ikar (main point) is basically to remain in your happy place, keeping your thoughts good and being joyful always.

Speaking of joy, we will be having a wedding here, b'ezrat Hashem, in three weeks! Sheesh talk about time flying! There is still alot to do and the whirlpool of emotions that goes along with it. I really haven't allowed myself to think about that, other than I am most happy for daughter and I am quite proud of the lady she has become. It's a new generation, facts are facts, but she does carry with her our core family values, traditions, stories and love so I am looking forward to what the future holds with this next generation. I have had the honor and priveldge of raising three of the finest human beings on the planet, and they have shown me much compassion and respect when the time came for each of them to leave my home. It's obviously hard to let go, but thankfully my children have been very gentle with their mother, letting go of my hand often times one finger at a time. It does make the transition easier for my heart becasue I know each one of them would have loved to simply have spread their wings and flown high into the sky, racing headlong into their lives. It is after all, what I did and truly what I have always hoped for them, to Live Life!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The disease called "Perfection"

This is the title to a blog post that I am hoping will go viral. The Disease of Perfection is something that is wipespread, in face I am a victim...or a willing infectee, but I would like to now be part of the cure. The first step, of course, is knowing you have it. Click this link and see if you have any of the symptoms: The Disease Called Perfection.

After you read it you can comment there or here and read my comment below in the comment section.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Walk it Out - Baby (another Baby Dance Video!!)

Well, they say walking is best to get baby going! °Ü°

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Labor of Love Birth Dance

Enjoy this beautiful mommy as she dances during labor just hours before delivering her baby! I particularly enjoyed her musical lullaby, 'Sweet Child O' Mine'.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday's Tasty Tidbits

Ack, that was really too corny but I was trying to think of something clever to call this list of fun and interesting links I wanted to share with you. Enjoy!

Cloth Diaper Blog is having a huge giveway with a $500 gift certificate to Diaper Junction!

Essential Herbal has super tutorial for an herbal syrup for cough and conjestion.

Check out this pictorial on Positions for Labor and Delivery.

Great post by Public Health Doula delinating the role and usefullness of a doula and how she does not interfere with the birthing mom's partner or other birth team members.

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And Now for a Man's Opinion on Nursing in Public

Neil over at Citizen of the Month has decided to join the forum and share his opinion regarding the whole Nursing in Public controversy that is so hot and heavy right now. You know, I kinda see what he means. ;-)

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Grandmother Moon

I am a moonchild and I have a love affair with the moon. I watch her constantly and observe her comings and goings. I meditate on her waxing and her waning and it makes me think of my own. I think of how she is the lesser light that rules the night and a reflection of the greater light that rules the day, regardless of whether you see her or not she is there. I love all the moon songs, moon books, pictures and jewelry. I've written her poems and celebrated her monthly rebirth. She is a metaphor for women and the beauty of femininity. According to the rabbis she is even a metaphor for the Jewish people, a reflection of Divine Light. She is my Grandmother carrying wisdom and Light from high above. And I love her.

Tonight my husband set up the telescope and knowing how much I love the moon he called me out to see. How lovely! I could not believe the craters and the light that was reflected off the surface. There she is and here we are, drifting in space, spinning and twirling, dancers in time guided by the One, and I was privileged to have the joy in that moment and see her.

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Yom Kippur Reflections

Photo Credit

Kippur has come and gone and I am left with a feeling of joy and deep gratitude. Much prayer and petitions for help from Above enabled me to exchange my fear of not even being able to get through the fast (Tisha B'Av kicked my butt with a blazing headache by evening you would not believe) to sincere thanks that I made it and even experienced Joy in the Journey. I did not get hungry and I did not suffer the ever feared caffeine headache. Prior to the fast I did have a bad attitude. No, that's not entirely accurate because I knew I wanted to fast. I had been working on myself and I wanted very much to be there for the Kol Nidre and Neilah services. My stress level though felt like it was through the roof and it left me ultimately feeling quite unprepared to come before the King. Also I was struggling with a few of the pre Kippur traditions and these feelings were irking me. (Truth is, if someone wants to wave a chicken (or even money) over their head, more power to them, just don't go around feeling all smug and superior when someone else doesn't do it or even agree with it.)


After all this tremendous soul searching and mind wrestling/metal gymnastics, I finally came to the simplicity of it all. Elokai, neshama sh'natta be, tehora (My G-d the soul you have placed in my is Pure.) I remembered that I am ultimately a neshama, a soul ,a pure soul, and I came before the King as a pure soul/child. That is how I explained it to my preschool children. Kippur is the day where we do not focus on caring for our bodies, we focus only on our souls. That helped me so much. I had no fear as I have had in past years. I did not fear an unfavorable judgement nor did I fear my prayers would not be heard. I had absolute trust in that moment in time that Avinu, Malkeinu, (Our Father, Our King) would hear every word and would judge me favorably. I felt absolute love and peace in my Father's favor. I did not feel an obligation to do anything except fast and be. I meditated on atonement, At-One-Ment, and kept the holiness of the day foremost in my mind. I kept my thoughts, attitude and the words of my mouth in that Holy place and was blessed with a honestly meaningful and beautiful day.

I am now looking forward to Sukkot, the Festival of the Ingathering. I have a lovely sukkah up just waiting for schach and to be decorated and will hopefully do that tomorrow as long as my mommy and baby that were due on Yom Kippur don't arrive before then...but then that's another story.

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Now that's an etrog!!!

Check out this ginormous etrog!! This baby weighs in at 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs) and is kosher. It now also hold the Guiness Book of World's record for the largest citron. Imagine waving this around with your lulav, the muscles you would have and perhaps the blessings that come with it!

From Kikar Shabbat

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Herbal Ally: Valerian

So yesterday was Yom Kippur, a 25 hour fast from food or drink of any kind. After I break a fast, I usually catch a buzz which makes it almost impossible to fall asleep and ensures me of a miserable next day. This time I decided to be a good herbalist and heal myself. I took some Valerian and had a great night's sleep and am feeling quite refreshed and content this morning. Valerian is a wonderful ally for those with extreme anxiety and insomnia. It is often referred to as 'Nature's Valium', although I think it should be the other way around and Valium (diazapam) should be referred to as the pharmaceutical Valerian. Although they sound alike and work in similar ways by binding to the same brain receptors, Valium is not derived from Valerian as many people think. Valerian is non addictive, does not interfere with the REM part of sleep, and you are not left with that groggy hangover feeling the next day.

Medicinally the roots are used. You would recognize Valerian simply from the pungent odor. It is kind of a stinky herb, although it does not bother me, some folks find it quite repugnant. (For all that odor though, it's effectiveness is worth it, in my opinion.) You can take it either in a tincture or capsule form. The plant itself has lovely smelling bell shaped flowers. I do not have any Valerian growing in my garden but I read that "Gregory Tilford, in his book From Earth to Herbalist, writes that Valerian is easy to grow and can be a great addition to the herbalist's garden. The roots are harvested when at least two years old and can be divided and planted again."

Botanical name: Valeriana officinalis.

May help: Anxiety, insomnia, menstrual cramps, tension headaches, sleep problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle cramps, and muscle spasms.

Origin: Europe and Asia, although Valerian sitchensis is in the western mid elevations of North America

Cautions and possible side effects: Do not use with prescription medications such as diazepam (Valium) or amitriptyline (Elavil). Don't use Valerian if you experience heart palpitations or nervousness after taking it.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Look and Listen

The day before a holiday and/or shabbat is always hectic at school. Couple that with the fact school has just started and so there is a ton of other things I am trying to accomplish and you have the ingredients for Frustration Stew. Today I was in such a stew and the time came for my break when I soon realized that said break was not going to happen. Nonetheless, I ran home, about half a mile from work, to try and grab something to eat and find glue sticks (don't ask). In the short time it took to get home, my frustration was heavy on my head. I drove home, turned off the radio and got out of my car. Just then I heard a hawk's cry. I looked up to see if I was hearing things when there I saw her soaring over me. As I was admiring my friend Hawk, soaring so effortlessly in the sky, a monarch butterfly flew over my head and I smiled. Right here in Philly, the hawk still cries the butterfly still flies and at that moment all is right in the world and that is what matters. I thought of the message of my winged friends. I do not claim to be a shaman, but I do claim to be a believer in wonder. I try to find the message in all things, (scoff at me if you like, I care little if you find me ridiculous) and mostly I just feel like I was being noticed. It felt good. I happen to love Hawks and all raptors and monarchs remind me of my beloved mother, so it felt like a gift from the Holy One.

"Now, dear daughter relax. See how she flies so high above. You hear her voice from miles below; I too hear yours."

"I see you too kid. Hang in there."

Yep, that is what it felt like. It's good to look and listen. And whatever the message is, if you feel the touch of Love, of the Divine, I say bask in it. It's your gift to enjoy.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crossing the Narrow Bridge--Together

For the past nine years I have wanted to learn Breslov Chasidut with someone, anyone, near my home. As there is no vibrant Breslov community here I was pretty much tough outta luck. I continued on my not so merry way, and occasionally I would meet up with someone who would be willing to learn a little with me. I must say, those times were like a small oasis to me and I was most grateful for them but they lasted only weeks, if I was lucky. By nobody's fault the learning simply fizzled out. Well, perhaps it was someone's fault. Maybe even mine. Perhaps I just wasn't ready. Perhaps I was not committed to learning with others and sharing that learning. Perhaps I simply did not want it enough then, because this past summer I have enjoyed the sweetness of learning with a group of ladies that have become such a precious time in my week and particularly of my shabbat.

It all started when I met one lady at shul (synagogue). Now allow me to preface this with just a little something about me. I tend to consider myself a bit shy, but when my radar goes up and says to me 'You must get to know this person.' , shyness be damned, I hone in and meet them. I do not ignore that inner voice because I know there is something I need to learn from them, some message they have for me. Well, lucky for me, this lady turned out to be a kindred, new to the neighborhood and even more shy. I was tickled to realize that the Divine had already prepped me for this meeting by having me read about her and her family in the local neighborhood paper in a "Welcome to Neighborhood" piece. I was so blessed and I knew I needed to make an effort to become friends. You see, my shyness was a direct combination and result of being hurt so badly by a few folks in the neighborhood and the loss of my mother two and half years ago. I certainly did not want to be hurt again and so I made sure not to be by holding back. But Hashem had other plans and deep within, I found the courage to take a chance and step forward. I am so happy I did! After a few weeks of the casual getting to know you type visiting, I noticed a book on her end table. It was a Breslov book, Crossing the Narrow Bridge and a light went off for me! Maybe, just maybe, this time would be different. We started talking about learning and she expressed interest in learning Breslov Chasidut as did my other friend who was with me and BOOM a study group emerged!

We decided it would be on shabbat and we would alternate homes. After a few weeks another friend joined us and now there is a core of four ladies. We have also enjoyed the occasional and added pleasure of having a reoccurring visitor to our group when she comes in to visit for shabbat and just this past week, another lady joined us! I felt like I was in heaven! Six ladies all sitting in the living room and learning the sweet teachings of my Rebbe, our Rebbe! Since it is a casual learning environment, all of us taking turns reading and commenting when we feel led, we have not gotten very far in the book, page 98 to be exact, but the depth to which I feel it in my soul and my heart is immense. I find myself opening up to these ladies. I have found myself being quite honest with myself and them, realizing where I have challenges, where I need to grow and where I can help. I feel my emunah(faith) growing and the sweetness of friendship blossoming! What a refreshment in my life! And what a need being fulfilled.

It amazes me the way the Universe aligns and provides for needs you may have given up hope at ever seeing fulfilled. I feel so blessed and full with my Shabbat Ladies. I feel so blessed for the precious gift of our learning and time. There has been laughter and jokes shared, struggles and 'I'm not quite there' moments, and through this time I am realizing one very important thing: Rebbe Nachman tells us that "The whole world is a very narrow bridge, the main this is not be afraid." Well, truth be told, it sure is a lot easier to not be afraid when there is someone else there on the bridge with you and even better if you know they will hold your hand and cross it with you.

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