Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blog has moved!

My dear readers,
I wanted to let you know that I moved my blog over to my new website. You can now find it on
I have not yet quite figured out how to have people sign up to receive the blog via email, but hopefully this will come soon! For now, you will have to check periodically if you want to see new posts.
Hugs and thank you for following me for the year and a half I've had my blog over here!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leaping out of Loneliness: Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

When I got divorced, one of my friends suggested that I now had a golden opportunity to meet my real self. "As an adult you’ve known yourself only inside a relationship," she said. "Now is the time to get to know the true Sigal."

I followed her advice and spent five years trying to get to know the me-without-the distraction-of-a-man, and let me tell you, the me-without-the-man is the exact same me: confused, yearning for love, and eager to please. I found no secret me, because even without a man, my life was full of relationships, relationships with my kids, dogs, parents, friends, and even with my own ever-present desire for a relationship. I searched for five years, and finally found myself in the spot I had never left, because the truth was that I wanted to love, and I wanted to be loved, and that was in essence who I am.

I was thinking of my years alone as I read Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ wonderful romance, Natural Born Charmer. The novel follows two characters who choose aloneness. Blue is a nomad painter. Having been raised by a chain of foster parents chosen by her absent mother, Blue prefers not to get attached to anyone. She is safest on her own. Dean is a famous quarterback. He had been raised by an addict mother who was often absent and a father who refused to acknowledge him as his own. Flings Dean does. Settling down with one woman? No.

The motivation of romance characters is often to find love and to belong, and their conflict is the belief that love and belonging cannot happen to them (there is always a “because”). This is also true for Dean and Blue. Trusting each other with their hearts requires a seemingly impossible forgiveness, courage, and letting go. “I’m crazy about you,” Blue says at one point, “but I don’t fall in love.”

Dean and Blue meet in the land of fictional dream, but they are drawn together because they are both lonely and alone.The real them was not waiting to be found on a solo road, but instead blossomed through their interaction and willingness to take a leap of faith and fall in love.

Like Dean and Blue, I believe that we humans belong together. We are creatures of love, touch, and sharing, and we ought not to be alone. There is too much aloneness in our world, too many people who live their lives without getting even a hug a day, without feeling accepted or cherished by anyone else.

Sometimes people start talking to me in the street or the supermarket, and my first reaction is to walk away, back into my “normal” life. Then I tell myself: maybe this person just wants the spark of having connected with another human being today. And I try to smile, and be polite, and later, regretfully, walk away.

Dean started talking to Blue when she walked down the street in a beaver costume, but in order to know whether or not he walked away, you will simply have to take your own leap of faith, and read the book.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Don’t Push and Keep Breathing

My children are slowly edging toward teenager-dom. A scary time. Perhaps now, before all hell breaks loose, I’d do well to find some coping techniques that might work. Yesterday, at doula training, I had an epiphany, directly from labor and delivery, which I think is perfect for life. This one I intend to use: Don’t push and keep breathing!

We were discussing a phase of birth called transition. In this phase a woman moves from the early and active phases of laboring to the second stage, or actual delivery, of the baby. Transition is the hardest and most painful part of the birth. Contractions are coming in greater frequency and are longer and stronger. The baby’s head is lower in the mother’s pelvis, ready to make its way out to the world. It is putting a lot of pressure on the mother’s bottom, but the mother’s body is not yet ready for delivery, and she needs to practice this fabulous lifelong lesson: Don’t push and keep breathing!

What a wonderful lesson for the future! It is a lesson all us parents would do well to remember when the time comes for the baby’s first steps and her first attempt to go up and down the stairs. It is perfect for our son’s first day of kindergarten, his first playdates at a friend’s house, and the first time he goes to the neighborhood store by himself. It’s invaluable for our daughter’s first car ride, her first date with a boy, and for when she asks us for help with birth control. And later, too, this lesson remains: when our boy goes to college, marries, and has his own child. Don’t push and keep breathing! Let go! Stay calm!

Parenthood is a hard road, paved with mistakes, crises, and love. It can teach us so much about ourselves, some that we like and some that we really, but really, don’t like. In the doula class yesterday, we learned that one good position for a laboring woman in transition to be in is to lie on her back in bed with her legs resting on the birthing ball. The blood is flowing easier in her body. The pressure is there, the contractions are strong, but she is in a position of relaxation, and she cannot push.

Keep breathing. Don’t push. Let’s lie back with our feet on the ball and at least try to relax. Let the blood flow to our brains. Soon enough transition will pass. It’s the hardest phase, and after that, at least till the next transition, we can get some relief. The daughter or son who we brought to this world and who had taught us so much will soon be all grown up and doing just fine. Like our road, so theirs is paved with mistakes and with love. If they stumble or fall, we parents are there, ready to kiss and hug and give our support. Don’t push and keep breathing. I know we’re going to be all right.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Princess in the Tower

High in the tower, Rapunzel sits, combing her long hair. She reclines by the window, in her luxuriously decorated room, surrounded by her books, her canopied bed, and perhaps, if she is anything like Princess Fiona from Shrek, her kung fu tapes. One day soon her prince will come on his white horse. He will call, and Rapunzel will let down her hair so he can climb up.

Once rescued from the tower, Rapunzel will ride behind the prince through the never-before-viewed countryside, into the dark forest, and over the blue ocean (they’ve exchanged the horse with a white sailboat, of course). The prince is taking her to his castle, and once they get there, Rapunzel might discover that she has traded one room in a tower with another room in a castle. Both lovely, and both, ultimately, the same.

After posting my blog about the dolphin rescue, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wondered: if there were only women on that beach when the dolphins were stranded, would they still have stood back and just watched, or would they have jumped in for the rescue? It occurred to me that the answer to this question is an obvious, resounding "Jumped!" Of course women would have saved the dolphins. But somehow, because there were men around, they did not. They stood back and allowed the men to be heroic.

I doubt I would have jumped in to save the dolphins either in the midst of these men. “I’m too weak,” I would have thought probably. “What if I can’t grab hold of the dolphin’s tail, or the dolphin starts twisting and turning in my grip? What if I fail? What if the men tell me to go away?”

At the beginning of the first Shrek movie, Fiona surprises Shrek with her impressive kung fu skill and beats up Robin Hood and his Merry Men. At the end of the film, however, Farquaad's soldiers pull her back, and Fiona is suddenly helpless, allowing Shrek to rescue her. If Fiona can’t beat up two guards when her man is around, no wonder the rest of us can’t jump into the ocean to pull some dolphin tails back into the sea.

Is it that whenever men are watching, we women immediately become weak and powerless? Do we voluntarily (and perhaps involuntarily) give up our personal power, our own initiatives and allow the men to lead?

To us Rapunzels everywhere, I suggest we cut our own braids, tie them to the windowsill, and then let ourselves down. Why would we ever consider letting the prince climb up by holding on to our hair! It’s uncomfortable and painful and just plain dumb. I suggest we start changing our own lightbulbs and opening our own jars. The only tower I can see is the one we’ve built in order to keep ourselves inside -- and surely there’s no reason to avoid the beautiful, open, green outdoors just to please a guy?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dolphin Rescue and the Weaker Sex

This morning I watched a clip which showed a pod of dolphins stranded on a beach. Spectators on the beach approached, uncertain at first what to do, then waded in to help. A few tried to pick up the dolphins and found them too heavy. Finally someone figured out to rescue the stranded animals by pulling them into deeper water by the tail.

Many beach goers waded in to help. An inspiring sight. Humans helping dolphins. But then, who can avoid helping these beautiful, intelligent animals? Who would not, without hesitation, jump right in to help? You might be surprised, then, to know that not one woman was among the courageous rescuers. No woman? My heart rebelled and cried out: Why not? Why did the women present remain on the beach, watching and not participating in this grand rescue?

A corresponding question immediately rose in my mind: are we women really the weaker sex? Some, I know, might have a quick response to this question: Yes, in general women are weaker than men. The statistics speak for themselves. The fastest woman ran a marathon in 2 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds. The fastest man's marathon record is 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds. The heaviest a woman weighing 69kg weight lifted was 128kg. For a man in the same weight category, the record is 165kg. And the list, I am sure, goes on and on.

Without bothering with statistics, however, there are quite a few first woman and person achievements that show that women are as capable as men. Lynn Hill, an American climber, was the first to climb El Capitan’s route “The Nose” without aid. Amelia Earhart holds a number of first flights: the first to fly from California to Hawaii, from LA to Mexico City, from Mexico City to Newark, and from the Red Sea to India. In a google search I found mention of a Sherpa woman named Chhurrim who climbed Mount Everest twice in one week. She is the only person to have done so. And women have intellectual achievements as well: Marie Curie, for example, is the only scientist to receive two Nobel prizes.

These firsts make me wonder. Is “the weaker sex” only in our heads? Do we women stand back and allow men to rescue dolphins because we perceive ourselves, not incapable exactly, but maybe less capable than them? And, a niggling question remains, would I have jumped in? And what would have happened if I did?

My daughter, watching the movie this afternoon, immediately voiced the same sentiment. “Why did no woman help?” She asked. My heart swelled with pride. Clearly I have taught her well. She and I, I told her, will make a commitment to each other right now. We will jump in together if ever dolphins are stranded on a beach before our eyes.

Inspiring Women First link
Best women in sports link

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Doula Training, the Fantasy Birth, and My Road to Freedom

Twelve years ago, I discovered that women love sharing their birth stories with other expectant mothers. I remember one friend’s surrealist tale: she had accepted an epidural and felt free from pain. She sat in bed with her husband, ate an ice pop, and watched television till the nurse told her it was time to push. Other moms had horror stories. My sister, who gave birth a few days before me, said: “I can’t believe that you still have to go through this torture.”

I was not really excited about giving birth after this. I was terrified of the pain and even more terrified of a needle in my back. If there was one thing I knew, it was that I wanted to give birth without an epidural. I said “No, no, no,” to the needle, and the needle was what I got. The universe, never distinguishing between yes and no, delivered.

At that point in my life, I was not yet aware of the power of manifestation, my abilities as a healer, or the importance, to me, of leading a natural life (including giving birth naturally). By the time my daughter came around two years later I was one step closer. I knew better what I wanted and not just what I did not want. My message was clearer: “Yes, yes, yes” to a natural birth.

During doula training, I find myself going back in my mind to those two births, trying to figure out what made them so different. I think one difference lies with the medical personnel who attended my birth. The nurse in my son’s birth broke my water, insisted that I lie in bed, connected me to monitors, ordered pitocin, and overrode my worries about the epidural, warning me that the pain of pitocin-induced contractions would be unbearable.

My daughter, in contrast, came out without medical intervention after three and a half hours, with very little pain and a lot of (me) dancing on the labor and delivery floor. My fabulous doctor sat off to the side, quiet and reassuring, allowing me to try any movement I wanted to do, and permitting me to stay out of the bed till I needed to push.

A second difference, I believe, lay in me, in the changes I went through in those two years, my determination and will. I did not get scared but simply let the experience happen. As I think of it now, I feel so proud of myself for having been able to have the birth I wanted, express my needs, and handle the pain.

Breakfasting with a doula book

At doula training, I hear stories about women who have gone through natural birth and felt empowered, as though having faced that, they could now do anything. Without having ever before put this thought into words, I think my second birth has given me a similar knowledge. I was still at the bottom of my spiritual ladder, suffering from depression, in an unhappy marriage, and overwhelmed by the world. But slowly and surely I was climbing, one step at a time, toward freedom. So brave, I can hardly believe it of myself.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Scooby Doo, Life, and the Joys of Parenting

This was one of my daughter's favorite films
“Mommy,” my daughter asked one night on the phone. “Can you tell me a Scooby Doo story that you make up?” I groaned. Making up a Scooby Doo story is not terribly hard -- there are elements which are sure to repeat in every tale -- but making one up still requires concentration and energy. It was 9pm, and her phone call had dragged me out of bed. Not my most creative and imaginative time. Despite that, I sat back in my rocking chair and began: “One day Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred went mushroom picking in the forest....”

As the tale unfolded, I added in all the expected twists and turns: a ghost appeared warning the friends away, Velma lost her glasses, Fred ran away in terror without looking out for the girls, Shaggy and Scooby required two Scooby Snacks in order to become bait, the trap the friends set up failed, and Scooby and Shaggy accidentally trapped the villain while attempting to ran away. In the end, after exposing the ghost (it turned out to be Red Riding Hood), the friends went together to eat mushroom pizza.

I told the story and smiled to myself. It occurred to me that a Scooby Doo story is not that different from life. Am I not often warned away by mysterious fears? Do I not bumble about most of each day feeling near-sighted or blind? Embarrassingly, I can think of occasions where I (metaphorically) ran away without assisting someone under my care, and chocolate is without doubt my most effective motivator in any situation in life. When I succeed in solving whichever mystery I struggled under for days, it is almost always by stumbling on the solution and after making a lot of mistakes, and I’ll always consider eating pizza (not forgetting my gluten/dairy free restrictions) the very best finale.

GF/DF pizza
Taking my reflections even farther, a Scooby Doo story can be a metaphor for parenting as well, and as such it offers me great comfort. Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne always have the very best intentions. They are there to support those in need, solve mysteries, and expose fears for what they really are. Not that different from the work of a parent. Perhaps the gang does bungle most every thing they touch, but in the end, they are still somehow successful, and good intentions triumph over evil ones.

As a parent, I stumble in the dark more often than not. The only real tools I can depend on are my good intentions and the love that I bear for the kids. Scooby Doo gives me hope that those will be enough. “Those meddling kids!” The villains always complain at the end. “Those meddling parents!” My kids might say. But I hope that in time, over the course of their lives, they will end up appreciating what I’ve done, remember the good intentions and not the mistakes, and continue the tradition by enjoying their very own families, pizza, and Scooby Doo fun