blog books and teaSelf-care to me means reading fiction or interesting nonfiction. Slowing my pace. Coffee with a friend. Watching the birds in my backyard. Savoring the smell of a morning cup of coffee. Sleeping in. Taking macro photos of flowers. Savoring a kiss. Getting a manicure.

Self-care is also making life easy for myself, like planning out meals and going grocery shopping for an entire week of dinners. Doing laundry on a Sunday so everyone has the clothes they need for a successful week.  It means lowering my standards sometimes, especially when it comes to expectations I have of myself.

What is self-care to you and how do you slip it into your day?

Interesting read: Kristin Neff tackles the misconceptions that stop us from being kinder to ourselves in this Daily Good article, The Five Myths of Self-Compassion.  “Relating to ourselves in a kind, friendly manner is essential for emotional wellbeing. Not only does it help us avoid the inevitable consequences of harsh self-judgment—depression, anxiety, and stress—it also engenders a happier and more hopeful approach to life. More pointedly, research proves false many of the common myths about self-compassion that keep us trapped in the prison of relentless self-criticism.”

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Wednesday has been cancelled: embracing the weirdness

Home paintedHave you ever watched people dance without hearing the music they must be listening to? They look completely goofy.

Or have you been on an airplane or in a quiet waiting room and heard someone who was wearing headphones, engrossed in a movie on their computer or ipad, suddenly scream out, “Watch out, Kramer!” super loud? It’s shocking and then hilarious at how out of context it seems.

If so, then you will absolutely adore David’s post on Raptitude called “Don’t Forget How Strange This All Is.”  He writes that because of familiarity blindness, we are accustomed to things that might seem strange if you were, say, an alien visiting our planet for the first time.  Liquid randomly falling from the sky? People who take off their clothes and expose their skin to “radiation burns from a glowing ball in the sky?” Picking up dog poop and carrying it around in a bag? All quite odd when you think about it.  We are just used to it now.

“Camus thought our unreasonable demand for meaning and sense was fundamental to human beings, and that it creates a ton of pain for us. He saw only three ways to respond to life’s absurdity: we can deny it (usually by claiming that a God has designed it this way), we can commit suicide, or we can embrace the weirdness and live in it wholeheartedly.

“The last option, he figured, was the only good one. When you stop expecting the world to be sensible, suddenly it all makes sense.”

You must read this article!

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The connection between disease, healing and personal power

“Your biography becomes your biology,” Caroline Myss writes in Part I of her classic book, Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing.  She teaches that each illness and each body organ has its own vibrational pattern.  As a medical intuitive, she can identify the emotional, psychological, and physical stress patterns of about 100 different illnesses.  (A medical intuitive is someone who can identify the underlying cause to a physical illness by reading the body’s energy.)

Myss’ main point is that our emotions, our choices, and our stresses integrate themselves into our physical bodies, often becoming diseases.  Certain emotional or spiritual crises become particular problems in the body.  Myss can read a body like a book, determining where someone’s personal power has been weakened.  She can examine the energy state of an illness and help treat it’s underlying cause, not just its symptoms.

“All our thoughts… first enter our systems as energy.  Those that carry emotional, mental, psychological, or spiritual energy produce biological responses that are then stored in our cellular memory.”

card bridge shootsScientists have already identified the speed that our DNA vibrates and have even targeted ways to heal the body using variations of speed.  Here’s the idea of medical intuition in a nutshell: “Each illness and each body organ, I learned, has its own “frequency” or vibrational pattern… Just as radio stations operate according to specific energy wavelengths, each organ and system in the body is calibrated to absorb and process specific emotional and psychological energies. That is, each area of the body transmits energy on a specific, detailed frequency, and when we are healthy, all are ‘in tune.’ An area of the body that is not transmitting at its normal frequency indicates the location of a problem. A change in intensity of the frequency indicates a change in the nature and seriousness of the illness and reveals the stress pattern that has contributed to the development of the illness.”

Part II of her book is about the seven power centers in our bodies.  She integrates Judaism’s Kabbalah, Christian sacraments, and the chakras into seven universal spiritual truths.  Energy is power, and each of the seven energy centers houses a particular set of powers.  This section is the majority of the book and it is wholly fascinating.  These seven centers regulate the flow of our energy. “They represent the major biological batteries of your emotional biography.” Each energy center houses a specific power, and when you learn about each of them, you know where and why your energy is being drained. I have another post already scheduled with details about these 7 energy centers.

After reading this amazing book, I feel far more conscious of how my emotions are affecting me physically.  So much of what are/were my patterns have caused energy depletion.  Some days I hardly did anything and yet I was exhausted.  Now I know exactly why.  I refer to earlier periods of depression but also something as relatively minor as needing gallbladder surgery.  All of that pain stemmed from my own untrue judgements, illusions of separation, pressures to conform, and lack of love for myself.  Myss could most likely find the cause of a run-of-the-mill headache too.

Think of how this could help people for the betterment of their health if only they’d learn about this!

card leaves in water“All our thoughts, regardless of their content, first enter our systems as energy. Those that carry emotional, mental, psychological, or spiritual energy produce biological responses that are then stored in our cellular memory… Accepting the idea that every part of your life—from your physical history to your relationships to every attitude, opinion, and belief you carry inside yourself—affects your biological makeup is only part of the healing process, however. You also have to get that acceptance to move from the mental level into the physical level, into your body, to feel the truth viscerally and cellularly and believe it wholly.”

Of course we can’t blame someone for falling ill, for nobody would consciously choose to create an illness. But sickness develops “as a consequence of behavioral patterns and attitudes that we don’t realize are biologically toxic until they have already become so.” That is what’s in our control.  And whereas going to a doctor and following their prescribed treatment is mostly passive, energy healing is 100% active and “an 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. This internal review inevitably leads one to review one’s external circumstances in an effort to recreate one’s life in a way that serves activation of will—the will to see and accept truths about one’s life and how one has used one’s energies; and the will to begin to use energy for the creation of love, self-esteem, and health.”

The thing is, though, you have to want to be healthy.  If you feel a sense of power from being unhealthy, there’s not much anyone can help you change.

card raindropsOH! And a huge helpful aha for me…

“Learn what rather than who draws power from you. Understand that the person who seems to be drawing your energy is actually only a reflection of some part of yourself. For instance, if you are jealous of someone, the important issue for you is not that specific person but the shadow side of your nature as it is reflected in that person. In effect, that person serves as your teacher. Concentrating on the person of whom you are jealous will not heal you. You will only be sent more and more teachers, each more intense than the previous one. Your task is to learn the lesson that the teacher has for you rather than to resent the teacher.”

What do YOU think?

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September reading and review

Sept books headerI don’t know how September is gone already! It was a FULL month with lots of activity… school events, board meetings, the Jewish holidays.

  • I’ve been planning the school’s book fair, which definitely involves a LOT of moving parts.  Having not done this before, I’m a tad overwhelmed, but I’m sure it’ll come together.  I’m definitely meeting lots of new people, which is one of my reasons for doing it.
  • One new thing that I’m specifically enjoying is my new board position with AJC.  Last week I got to meet the Consuls General of Israel, Italy, and Greece and this week I’ll be with a small group of Kurdish leaders from Syria.  Very interesting stuff.  
  • Our Daisy troop had its first meeting and it was enjoyed by all 12 girls.  We have lots of extra troop events this year, outside of our meetings, and we are all looking forward to building fire trucks, camping, a bank tour, going to Disney on Ice, and multiple service projects.  
  • In case you didn’t see my series last week on Perfection, People-Pleasing, and Pretending to be Superwoman, check out those links.  Enjoy these book reviews…. many excellent reads this time.  :)

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

We want to be seen for who we are.  We all struggle at times.  We have all fallen.  We’ve been lost.  This book is an examination of what happens during the process of getting back up again.

“My goal for this book is to slow down the falling and rising processes: to bring into our awareness all the choices that unfurl in front of us during those moments of discomfort and hurt, and to explore the consequences of those choices. Much as in my other books, I’m using research and storytelling to unpack what I’ve learned.”

I’m already a huge Brené fan.  I love how she brings topics like shame and vulnerability onto the main stage of discussion.  I especially love how she incorporates personal narrative into her research.  In this book, she includes many stories from her own life to illustrate her thesis.  Her research in this book is about how we can best engage with life: recognize an emotion, get curious about it, and connect the dots to make sense of our experiences.  Our job is to find the truth in our stories.

“When we combine the courage to make clear what works for us and what doesn’t with the compassion to assume people are doing their best, our lives change.”

Vulnerability.  Authenticity.  Courage.  This book touches on everything we need to know to lose our judgements, set boundaries, and, well, rise strong.  I especially appreciated her list of 10 guideposts for wholehearted living at the end.  Highly recommend.

Tune In: Let Your Intuition Guide You to Fulfillment and Flow by Sonia Choquette

Another gentle and perfect Sonia book that came to me just when I needed it.  She leads the reader step-by-step how to notice our intuitive nudgings and being more aware of our choices and why we make them.  She has journal prompts at the end of each chapter to fully tap into our thoughts, as well as ideas for simple daily practices to focus our attention inward.  It’s doable, simple, yet can lead to profound life shifts.  Recommend.

“Listening to the voice of your intuition—instead of the voice of your fears and other peoples’ wishes and instructions—will bring about, over time, a deep-seated, unwavering sense of profound integrity, creative inspiration, and grounded soul purpose.”

The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist

This book read like an adventure story.  Since I was aware of about 1% of the events before the Iran revolution of 1979 or in recent years, I read it as if it were unfolding in real time and couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happens! This book is the secret history of the last three decades of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Crist is a historian for the federal government and an adviser to government and military officials on the Middle East. The amount of research that must have gone into this book astounds me.  I learned a vast amount, not least of which is that Iran is an incredibly complex country.  And of course, the story continues to unfold.  Highly recommend this one.

The Case Against the Iran Deal: How Can We Now Stop Iran from Getting Nukes? by Alan Dershowitz

In a rational yet powerful set of recent articles, Dershowitz outlines and details the many ways that a nuclear armed Iran ruled by religious fanatics would “threaten the security of the world.”  One of the foremost legal minds of our nation, Dershowitz rationally debates the pros and cons of the agreement, the next steps, as well as many possible solutions.  He describes to path of several years of talks in how we got to where we are now, provides the text and many questions about the current deal, and sets out a moral and political case for keeping the strong military option on the table.  Highly recommend.

A Window Opens: A Novel by Elisabeth Egan

I read this book the week it was published because I’d read two reviews from online friends that were so favorable I could hardly wait.  I suppose I enjoyed it, but was also disappointed by the mundane-ness of it.  Maybe my expectations were set too high?

The story follows a middle-aged mother-of-three and immensely likable person who has to leave her loved part-time job to find a full-time one when her husband loses his.  She joins a startup that is “the future of reading” but ends up hating it, and also hating being pulled in so many different directions, not measuring up to any of her roles. All of Egan’s characters are drawn extraordinarily well. We hear all about her three kids, her parents, husband, etc. In the end, she must think about what she really wants most of all.  I understand wanting to be everything to everyone, but when reading this book, I often felt like I was drowning.  Not sure if that’s a good thing or not!

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

Thank you, Patti, for telling me about this sweet little book! A bookseller comes across a handbag on a Parisian street and feels impelled to return it to its owner. Inside is a red notebook with handwritten thoughts and jottings reveals a person that Laurent would very much like to meet. Romance ultimately ensues, but the book isn’t so much about that.  It’s the vulnerable inner workings of each heart that makes this book so compelling.  It’s real and such a great story that grabbed me right away.  It’s a fairly quick read.  Recommend.

Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home by Leah Lax

This is a powerful memoir about a woman who, lost and searching as a young adult, purposely chose to become a Hasidic Jew for thirty years, and then abandoned that way of life after realizing that she was living in conflict with her true values and self.  We hear about her arranged marriage, her experiences mothering 7 children, her friendships, and we are privileged to hear her inner thoughts and struggles with a faith that doesn’t allow questioning.  Highly recommend.

I want to tell my children that I don’t believe so much about our life anymore, but I don’t dare. If I could, I’d say, It isn’t important to me whether you recite the right prayer or wear the right clothing. Just know yourself. Don’t go forward without that, like I did. Don’t be dishonest with yourself and with people you love, or with God, like I have been. If I change, if I get honest, will you know me?

Here is where I put my forbidden woman’s hands on the Torah’s wooden handles and grasp them for the first time, a grasp I instantly understand as an ancient act of ownership. In that instant of touch, I am a creature of touch, sensual and real, power and resonance in my palms. I stand uncovered before the Torah, not naked but revealed. I have ascended to a new Torah. I think, however imperfect it now seems, the Torah is mine. My inheritance. To love, or not. To believe and follow, or not. True or not, there my people have found shards of truth. We have rallied around it, holy or not. We have argued with this text, giving it shape and depth. We have made it holy.

This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Rabbi Alan Lew

Wow.  This book floored me.  It is rich, compelling, and astounding in its purity.  The late Rabbi Lew addresses the beautiful transformation and soul searching ritual that takes place each year during the Jewish holidays of Tisha B’Av and Sukkot.  He writes that we are constantly redefining ourselves, that we must become conscious of our blunders, and that the healing and repentance that we undergo at this time of year can heal us.  Inner healing requires self-acceptance, forgiveness, and a willingness to let go of mistaken beliefs.

Lew likens the holiday rituals and meaning to the journey each person makes from birth to death and back again, as if life were a circle and traveling it teaches us what is most important.  “It takes the living of a whole life—a life and a death, the complete journey—to learn that. We are all making that journey, and the High Holidays are a dress rehearsal for it, a time when we are all stripped down—a time that gives us an intimation of what this long, strange journey home is all about.”

“So we can pray, we can meditate, and we can set aside a moment every day for reflection. Or we can simply choose one thing in our life and live that one small aspect in truth, and then watch in amazement as the larger truth of our life begins to emerge. The truth is, every moment of our life carries with it the possibility of a great blessing and a great curse, a blessing if we live in truth, a curse if we do not. All that’s required of you is to see what’s in front of your face and to choose the blessing in it.”

So many eloquent passages.  Reading this book adds such a richness to this time of year.  I will definitely read it again.  For readers of ALL faiths, this book will change the way you look at life.  Highly recommend.

The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter by Susan Pinker

I have never seen so much evidence about our fundamental human need for face-to-face interaction. It’s easier now than ever to socially isolate ourselves, but Pinker tells about how social interaction improves each and every aspect of our lives.  In case study after case study, Pinker proves that face-to-face contact can lengthen our lives, make us smarter, and develop trust within a community.

I’ve made a practice this past year especially to actually see and visit with friends.  Besides reading their Facebook updates, an in-person coffee or lunch date, truly does make a difference.  I found this book highly relevant to today’s culture.  The connections that Pinker makes between research topics are fascinating.  Truly a compelling read.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading! Do you have any spiritual books you’d recommend?

What have you been reading lately? And are you on Goodreads? I’d love to connect there.

More monthly book reports

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Pretending to be super woman

On to part 3 of our series! (See the posts about Perfection and People Pleasing.)

I think we should all let go of the pattern of thinking we need to be perfect, comparing our path to others, and judging ourselves.  Aren’t we all exactly where we are supposed to be? What exactly are we afraid of?

Tanya PennyTanya Penny offers a free 3-part virtual workshop if you sign up for her mailing list.  Her workshop includes a video lesson, an audio lesson, and a live virtual class, each with lots of great information about what these patters are, how and why they manifest in your life, and how to heal from them.

She teaches that perfection, people-pleasing, and pretending to be superwoman are sometimes all linked together.  If you have one, there is a good chance you have 3.  They are patterns that can be sneaky, and if we want to change them, we first need to identify and accept them.

The 3 P’s can make us sick, gain weight, cause anxiety/depression, AND hold us back from living the passionate, purposeful life we are here to live.  I have struggled with all three of these qualities big time.   I have had all of those serious consequences Tanya mentions.  There were a few times in my 20s that I thought I dealt with them for good, but I see them creep back in each time I enter a new phase of life.

Tanya teaches that the 3 P’s MUST be released so you can have a healthy body, peaceful mind, and live the passionate, purposeful life you were born to live. 

The 3Ps are driven by fear.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of loss of approval.  Financial loss.  We think we won’t survive the loss of love, approval, or money.  We are afraid that if we disappoint someone, they won’t give us the love or attention that we need to survive and feel safe.  Often we are carrying out what our parents modeled for us in childhood.

Our unconscious beliefs control our actions (or inactions) every day.  They are conditioned in us as children or simply by our culture.  How do we heal? First we reprogram those beliefs.  Catch yourself in a damaging pattern and consciously shift.

* * * * *

Pretending to Be Superwoman 

As a SAHM, I believe I should be able to handle [list the 139 tasks involved in a typical day]. That’s the first problem.

I have learned to ask for support because that belief is flawed.  I don’t want to spend all my time on these tasks to be considered worthwhile or to be loved by my family. If I don’t make time for my own interests, creative pursuits, friendships, and restful activities, I will burn out and be no good to anybody.

That birthday party that I wrote about in the People-Pleasing post? Exhausting.  The garage cleaning that I mentioned in the Perfection post? Wiped me out for the next two days.

I had a job just out of grad school in “community relations” where I was responsible for reading several national and world newspapers a week, listening to people’s serious political concerns, organizing groups of people to travel to Washington DC to lobby certain interests, planning large meetings and events to educate or deliberate or make decisions on such important topics as public education, intergroup dialogue, violence in the Middle East, upcoming elections, etc.

I hoped to make a difference.  I interacted with hundreds of community members and enjoyed that immensely.  For four years, I felt I was doing something of value.  And yet, being a small fish in a very large world ocean, I was continually swimming upstream.  This was way before I knew what an intuitive or an empath was.  Taking in such negativity and not knowing how to process it was eroding me.  Toward the end of this job, I was busy planning our wedding.  Family stuff happened.  And then 9/11 happened.  And then and then and then.  I sort of shut down and went somewhere within.  I couldn’t even think about doing the laundry.  I was completely burnt out.

Overdoing.  Overcommitting.  Pushing far past your limits.  I’m pretty sure Superwoman would know when enough’s enough.

Thankfully, most of what I spend time on today is self-chosen.  I am much more comfortable disappointing others if I must for self-preservation.

How about you???

* * * * *

Tanya is an international coach and leader, teaching and supporting women globally through 1:1 coaching, virtual programs, and live retreats. Learn more about Tanya and her work at  She will be leading program in November where she will dive deeper into these 3Ps and provide healing and support.

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Nobody’s perfect

I’m enjoying the discussion we started on people-pleasing! Let’s continue our discussion about the 3 P’s (People-Pleasing, Perfection, and Pretending to be Superwoman) by talking about Perfection.  What is it and how does it serve/not serve us?

Tanya Penny

Tanya Penny offers a free 3-part virtual workshop if you sign up for her mailing list.  Her workshop includes a video lesson, an audio lesson, and a live virtual class, each with lots of great information about what these patters are, how and why they manifest in your life, and how to heal from them.

* * * * *

If you’re like me, like most people, human, you have a bunch of half-finished projects sitting around that you mostly intend to get to someday.  We wonder how we can start something new when we have all these unfinished things all around us.  In an amazing interview on MarieTV, Elizabeth Gilbert said “this is huge for women because it’s all rooted in perfectionism, which is, of course, the murderer of all good things.  Perfectionism is killing joy, spontaneity, wonder, grace, humility.   I always call perfectionism ‘fear in high-heeled shoes’ because it’s fancy.  It’s like a really fancy eau couture version of fear because perfectionism can advertise itself as a virtue.”  

You have an inner perfectionist if you put more time or more effort into something than is necessary.  And it does seem like a virtue at first.  Why wouldn’t it be a good thing to work hard at something and focus on details? As I was watching the video of Tanya talking about this trait, I immediately thought of my daughter’s last birthday party.  What was important to her and what was important to me were miles apart.  The amount of time and energy I put into planning every detail of that party shames me even 9 months later.  I clearly remember my mother showing up, seeing me sweating and franticly trying to hang up more decorations as the guests started to arrive, and telling me to get a grip.  I kid you not.

I’m not sure exactly who I was trying to impress with that party.  I know it wasn’t my daughter; it wasn’t my friends and family; so it must have been myself. You know, the inner slave-driver.  If it’s never good enough, how can you possibly stop, right? Like ever.

Since this is a known pattern, I’d already told my family that as soon as the party ended, I would need about an hour alone to recoup.  Even that didn’t set off alarm bells in my mind.  Why not just avoid the stress in the first place? (You’ll be happy to hear that this year, she is having a few girls over and we’re ordering pizza.  Done. No need to consult Pinterest even once.)

heart treeOverdoing causes stress, which leads to all sorts of problems, among them weight gain and illness.  By doing all these other things, we aren’t taking time to rest or spend time doing something for ourselves.  I’ve also been known to take on a project and literally not stop until it’s done.  I might be shaking with muscle weakness and about to fall down from hunger or thirst, but dad gum it, that garage looks amazing!

Some of this perfectionism comes from the need to prove that I’m not lazy, that I can make things happen.  For some reason, and I think it goes back to how my dad encouraged excellence and accountability when I was growing up, any spotting of weakness, physical or emotional, makes me cringe, even in myself.  I’m positive he didn’t intend that to happen!

Another thing Elizabeth Gilbert said in that interview is that we shouldn’t wait to put something out into the world because we think it’s not good enough.  We’ve got to be brave, counter our own criticism, and just put it out there anyway.  “If you can just finish something, you’re already 10 miles ahead of everybody else because most people won’t. And what will make you finish it is not discipline, but self-forgiveness.  We all start our project on Day 1 with the same level of excitement, and on Day 2 we all look at what we did on Day 1 and we all hate ourselves.  The people who pick it up again on Day 3 are not the most disciplined ones… they do what they can and forgive themselves and go and do more.  It’s just a little bit of humanity toward your poor self.”

I have a paralysis with art right now.  Sometimes I will get an idea, but before I can even begin, I’m afraid it’s not going to be “good enough” so I don’t even begin out of fear of making mistakes.

I know it’s ok to make mistakes.  I know there’s nobody judging.  Except me.  I feel better having a plan.  Having a clean house.  Getting things done.  However, I no longer think it needs to be all or nothing.

Tanya teaches that the 3 P’s MUST be released so you can have a healthy body, peaceful mind, and live the passionate, purposeful life you were born to live.

Tanya is an international coach and leader, teaching and supporting women globally through 1:1 coaching, virtual programs, and live retreats. Learn more about Tanya and her work at  She will be leading program in November where she will dive deeper into these 3Ps and provide healing and support.

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