Archive | Gratitude

The Jewish Year in Satisfied Review

שנה טובהWe Jews are so lucky — we get to reflect on our soul accounting, “Heshbon Nefesh,” as we say in Hebrew, twice a year. On Rosh HaShana we welcome the Jewish new year with honey and apples and by asking forgiveness for the sins we committed knowingly and unknowingly all year, and on New Year’s we welcome the Gregorian new year by making resolutions and celebrating till after midnight.

As the year 5773 winds down, I too reflected on what I did (and did not do) this year and was surprise to find the balance a good one.

This year, 5773, I visited Israel twice for a total time of three weeks. I traveled to Florida twice, the Bahamas, Maui, the Redwoods, San Diego, and Arizona twice. Dar and I also went freeze-camping with the kids and the dogs in Point Reyes in February for Valentine’s Day. On the downside, it is the first year in a long time that I had not been to Yosemite. This will have to be remedied in 5774 at least twice.

I wrote a total of 67 blogs, about a third of them for my new blog. I love the new website that the new blog is on! I worked a lot on my novel this year, but finally decided that I need some distance from it. Like many other wonderful creations, I am still “cooking” it in my head, and I hope to get back to it fresh and energetic this year.

Another thrilling thing I did this year is start my own Reiki business. I taught my first Reiki I workshop and have one scheduled for the end of September and another for November. Two weeks ago I finally found a gorgeous space for my practice, and I can now give Reiki sessions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings as well as at your home! I’m excited about the new prospects opening up for me this year.

Learning is high on my list of favorites, and this year I learned a lot! I took a Maya Abdominal Massage class which led me to begin training as a certified massage therapist. I’ve taken courses in Tuina massage and acupressure, and this year I hope to begin a medical qigong certificate as well. Another amazing class I took is Karuna Reiki® (this was why I went to Maui). I loved this class and working with the Karuna energy! It is a beautiful, beautiful energy of love and compassion, and I’ve been enjoying treating with it.

I read some fabulous books this year. Perhaps the most notable of all is The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. I just finished reading it for the second time, and it is as fabulous as it was the first time I read it. That book is an entire world in and of itself, and I was again amazed how Gary Schmidt succeeded in creating so many rounded characters, all of whom grow and change in the book. I also finally read War and Peace this year — I’m very proud of that!

Seems to me, looking back, that this was a wonderful year. My boyfriend asked me to marry him and bought me two sparkly rings. The kids grew tall and happy. I finally bought curtains for our bedrooms. We had fun birthday parties for all of us and ate lots of good food. I hope for more wonderfulness for this coming year. May we all continue to grow, may we be happy and healthy, may we be free, and may we all be together!
Shana Tova everyone!
Love,
Sigal

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The Reiki-Chihuahua Five Precepts

Over 43 million dogs live in homes around the United States. I personally own three of those. Kathleen Prasad, Reiki master and owner of Animal Reiki Source, calls pets our animal teachers, but I had my doubts. My less-than-impressive chihuahuas did not seem likely candidates for imparting wisdom. Then, one day, I found myself explaining the five Reiki precepts to a friend by using Chaim, Nati and Percy as an example. Turns out, they have a lot to teach, and I have a lot to learn.

1. For Today Only, Do Not Anger
I never get really angry, or rather, I should say I rarely realize that I am angry. I fear anger, and so I often bury it deep beneath the surface where, unrecognized and mishandled, it turns into hopelessness and despair.

During our walks, the puppies get mad at every passing dog. They  turn into a raging whirlwind of blood-thirsty canine storm. I drag them forward, ashamed of my inability to control them, and just like that, with the other dog left behind, they are little angels again. They never hold a grudge. They never stay angry for more than a second.  They are experts at living in the moment and letting go.

2. For Today Only, Do Not Worry
Worry lines crease my forehead permanently now. I constantly worry about the children’s well being. I worry about the future, and I worry about the past. Even telling myself, “Just for today, do not worry,” does not quite do the job.

The puppies get worried too. You should see Chaim’s little face whenever he sees me pack a bag. He knows that I am about to go away, and his eyes follow me as I move about the room, seeming to ask: “Must you go?” Sometimes he stays sad for a little bit after I leave, but he is a cheerful little creature, like the other two, and he soon lets go his worries in his other responsibilities as a dog: keeping the house safe from passers-by and UPS deliverymen.

3. For Today Only, Be Humble
Every time I dread meeting someone or am afraid of what my performance will be like, I can feel my ego stretching to take control. Perhaps I ought to retreat back into my turtle shell, it suggests. But I remind myself: Be Humble. Be ever ready to embarrass myself.

For the puppies, humility comdogs sunninges naturally. They beg for food. They lie on their backs, exposing their bellies in hopes of a petting. They do not imagine that they are a lion (except when they meet a bigger dog) or that they can defeat the world. They have no ego about success or failure. They simply know they are who they are, and it’s ok.

4. For Today Only, Be Honest in Your Work
Every morning I groan with the thought of the chores awaiting me. I need to put away the dishes, clean the chicken coop, make dinner. If only I had a Mary Poppins magical umbrella, or better yet, a wand! Sometimes I finish everything that needs to be done, and sometimes I’m just too tired, lazy or distracted, and those chores are left for another day.

The puppies, in contrast, are always honest in their work. You will never hear them say, “I already got up twice today to bark at people walking down the street. Now it’s your turn.” They are never too tired or busy to come to the door when I arrive. Chaim jumps up and down, Nati dances the hula on his back legs, and Percy runs around in circles. Every. Single. Time.

5. For Today Only, Be Compassionate to Yourself and Others
I love this precept. I’ve engraved it on my heart and try to live by it. But being compassionate, especially to myself, does not come naturally to me. At first reaction, I am often critical, judgmental, or simply not in the mood to be understanding, and sometimes even after I remind myself to be compassionate, I just cannot.

Compassion truly defines what it means to be a dog. Unlike us humans, dogs are always compassionate to themselves. They live by their needs and inner motivators: “I need, therefore I am.” They are ever compassionate to us too. Even when I least like myself, my dogs still love me. They love me happy, and they love me sad. They even love me when I’m mad at them. They simply are a compassionate body, mind and heart.

A children’s poem titled “Loyalty,” by an unknown poet, reads:

You can’t buy loyalty, they say,
I bought it, though, the other day.
You can’t buy friendships, tried and true,
Well just the same, I bought that too.
I made my bid and on the spot
Bought love and faith and a whole job lot
Of happiness, so all in all
The purchase price was pretty small.
I bought a single trusting heart,
that gave devotion from the start.
If you think these things are not for sale,
Buy a brown-eyed puppy with a wagging tail.

I did not buy my puppies. All three are rescues. The loyalty, friendship and love came built-in their little bodies. Usui Mikao called the Reiki ideals the secret to health and happiness, and I have my three canine teachers to show me the way.

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Time to Pause

My cousin Iris, who is also a life coach, recently recommended a book on her blog, The In Between, by Jeff Goins. The book blurb reads: “The In-Between is a call to accept the importance that waiting plays in our lives. Can we embrace the extraordinary nature of the ordinary and enjoy the daily mundane — what lies in between the ‘major’ moments?” I have only just began reading the book, but I’m already curious: What do I do in my moments In Between?

I spend a lot of time driving. On Wednesday, for example, I first drove my daughter to camp, 50 minutes. Next I drove my son to his swim lesson, 30 minutes. Later we drove to his dentist and back home, one hour. Finally, I drove to camp to pick up my daughter and then to her Hebrew lesson, 75 minutes. All together, I spent nearly four hours in the car. That’s a lot of In Between time.

When I made the decision to live outside the city, I knew that my kids will be staying in the same school as before. To my surprise, I discovered that the drives back and forth are not all bad. We often sebutteflye deer, jackrabbits, and even the odd coyote crossing the road while we drive past the preserve near my house. I enjoy listening to audio books with the kids or by myself and have managed to listen to some books I probably would not have read on paper (War and Peace for example). Best of all, the drive turned out to be a good time to have family talks in which the kids tell me about their day and their dreams or ask me life questions without distractions. The In Between hours of driving, while not easy, have become meaningful and even important parts of my day.

When stuck in traffic, I often tell myself this is a great time to practice patience. This past Wednesday, the thought occurred to me that being stuck in traffic is also an opportunity to pause in the middle of my busy day and examine how I am doing and feeling and what it is that I need. It is an opportunity to find myself in my own body, settle in, and explore all of my emotions (including frustration, impatience, irritation, anger, boredom, or any other unpleasant sensation that traffic might make me feel). In answer to the claim, “I have no time to meditate,” the Dalai Lama (at least, I think it was him) responded: “Do you have time to breathe?” The In Between moments of waiting in traffic just happen to be a window in the midst of busyness in which I can breathe.

Tara Brach talks in her books about our tendency to run away from unpleasant emotions. While pausing, breathing and noticing where I am in my body might involve suffering an emotion I had rather ignore, I hope to remember how often those In Between moments really do turn out, in the end, to be moments of gratitude, restfulness and joy. I hope to remember to pause. In fact, I am going to do that right now. Pause. Breathe. Pause.

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Gift of Love

In elementary school, I was a social outcast. I was not alone, of course. I was the bespectacled, nose-dripping outcast, but there were also the fat outcast, the too-tall outcast, the too-short outcast, and a boy and a girl who were outcasts apparently only because of their race. My class was extremely hierarchical, with three class queens and three kings, and we stayed the same group for five years, with the same kings and queens and the same outcasts.

A few days ago I was listening to Tara Brach’s True Refuge. The author was telling the story of Amy, who had a difficult childhood with a mother who neglected and rejected her. In her sessions with Tara, Amy managed to experience the anger which she had kept in check for years and to express the fears beneath: of never finding love, of not being worthy of love, of being alone in the world. Tara called it experiencing soul sadness.

In that moment, for a split second, I saw myself as a bleeding, mucusy, open wound, a whole-body sore. And I realized: This is how I walk around. This is what I am hiding. In my mind’s eye, I instantly knew when it started. Elementary school.

We switched seats that day, and the teacher partnered me with Matat, one of the class queens. In front of the class, Matat said: “I don’t want to sit next to her.”  But the teacher insisted, and as Matat slid into the seat next to mine, she whispered: “Stop sneezing and wiping your nose like that.”

Other than that split-second knowledge that I was a trembling, bleeding, mucusy, open wound, I had not been able to feel any emotion about this event. It was as though I had no feelings about it at all. I knew I needed to heal the wounded body and clear the hurt from my heart by forgiving Matat, but I could feel no real hurt and no compassion for her, and without any emotions, I didn’t know if it was possible to forgive at all.

I decided to try a forgiveness meditation (also from Tara Brach’s book). I settled myself into my cushion and slipped into my body thirty years ago: thick glasses covering half of my face, light brown hair twisted into two long but messy braids, a drippy, red nose, and a skinny body. And there was Matat, refusing to sit next to me, and a heaviness choked my throat.

All I wanted was to be loved, to be appreciated. Scooting down in the chair, I held the sneezes back and tried hard not to wipe my nose before absolutely necessary. There was no room for me to exist. I could feel the weight on my back (ah, said a voice in my grown-up head, that’s when you became a turtle), in my throat, in my heart.

Holding that little girl with compassion, sending her love, I began to murmur a lovingkindness meditation. May you be happy, may you be well, may you be filled with lovingkindness and joy. Then, realizing turtlethat she is me, I started anew: may I be happy, may I be well; may I be filled with compassion for myself and others.

Matat means gift in Hebrew. As I went through the meditation, I realized that by forgiving her, I am giving myself a gift. A gift of love.

I hug to my heart the wounded little girl I was thirty years ago and begin to let go of rejection and shame. As space clears in my heart, and I allow myself to expand into it, healing all hurt. I hold myself as a child and whisper: I am here; I love you; I appreciate your wisdom and originality, your quirky sense of humor, the doodles on your notebook, and the used tissues thrown about everywhere.

Then, I am ready:

I feel the harm that has been caused, Matat, and to the extent that I am able, I forgive you.

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The Egotistic, Egomanic, Egophobic Ego

Lately, I’ve been contemplating my relationship with my ego. “You must work to minimize your ego,” one of my teachers told me. I interpreted his words to mean that I think too much of how I look to others. My overlarge, overactive ego was preventing me from doing anything that might make me look ridiculous or foolish. I realized that the size of my ego was keeping me from trying new things and having fun. I saw myself like a huge hot air balloon that must pop in order for me to become who I really am.

I watched other people, who were able to be ridiculous, tell jokes, make faces, fool around, and decided they did not have an ego. How freeing, not to have an ego! How I wished I could get rid of mine.

I tried to pay attention to when my ego was speaking to me, to recognize its evil, hampering voice. But the more I pushed my ego away, the more present it became. I pushed, and it pushed back at me.

Here is something I learned in the last few years: Pushing does not work. Resistance is futile. The only force strong enough to wreak change is love. But could this be true? Could the only way to minimize the ego turn out to be love? And if I love my ego, would I still want it to go away?
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Tara Brach, in her book True Refuge, tells a story about the metamorphosing power of love: The Buddha’s disciples once went on retreat to a forest that was haunted with tree spirits. The tree spirits, angry that their home was invaded, taunted the monks with terrifying visions and finally scared them away. The monks returned to the Buddha, but to their surprise, he told them they must return to the forest. Before sending them back, he gave them a powerful tool for their protection: a lovingkindness meditation. The monks returned to the forest, armed with goodwill and love, and soon their love penetrated every nook and cranny of the forest, turning the angry spirits into kind and loving ones.

But how do I give love to the egotistic, egomanic ego? I started to notice the wonderful things the ego does for me. Not only is it always on guard, protecting me from looking like an idiot, but it also has, of everyone around me, the highest opinion of my self worth. My ego, quite literally, adores me!

Perhaps not surprisingly, googling “How to love my ego” brings about 43 million results. I guess I’m not the only one with this question. Some are titled “Kill Your Ego,” or, “Don’t Let Your Ego Interfere With Your Relationship.” But others speak about accepting all aspects of ourselves, whether we like them or not, or about how loving our ego teaches us to love our whole being. They remind us that fearing the ego — the egophobic ego — comes from the ego itself.

I wonder if we could change our perspective of this vulnerable, child-like aspect of ourselves. Instead of saying selfishness, we could say: Self Worth. Instead of saying self centeredness, say: Self Care. Instead of squashing the ego, we could love it. We don’t have to follow its advice, but listening to it is free, freeing and fulfilling, allowing for a surer step on our path.

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Passing the Two/Three/Four Fingers Test

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Asked the optometrist. She was standing about seven feet away, holding up her hand. All I could see was a lot of skin-colored fuzz.

“Three?” I guessed.

She took a large step forward. “How about now?”

“Two?”

Another step. “And now?”

The fingers looked slightly less hazy, and I hazarded an educated guess. “Four, I think. Did I get any of them right?”

She shook her head. “Only the last one.”

The truth hit me like a tornado, and I was blown away by the realization of my near sightedness. My body is flawed. My eyes are defective. I cannot see well, and I will never see well without corrective lenses. I am not, nor will I ever be, wholly perfect.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was ten years old. I remember the narrow corridor at the entrance to the eye doctor’s office in Ra’anana, the town in which I lived as a child. A man came out with his new glasses. He had a prescription of eleven, he said, and I stared, stupefied, at his thick lenses. “Please, God,” I prayed in my heart, “let me never have his thick lenses.”

I have been near sighted for most84xxxx Sigal a of my life, and yet it seems, ironically, that today I first realized just how near sighted I am. Till today, and despite boasting my own prescription of over eleven, I pegged my near sightedness an esthetic problem. Up to age eighteen, with an over-large pair of spectacles perched on my nose, I was the ugly duckling. I became more of a swan at eighteen after I was fitted with contact lenses. Today, however, struck with the lightning realization that my eyes are flawed, I understood for the first time that my poor vision is not just about beauty, but a body blot.

How often do you pause during the day to appreciate the perfect working of your body? The impeccable way it releases waste, the unassuming way in which it draws breath, the smooth movement of limbs, the effortlessness of a smile, the perfect support given you by your spine? I appreciate my body, and yet I rarely pause to notice how wonderfully it works until sickness or pain strikes. Then I appreciate my body, my immune system, the flawless mechanics every organ and part of the body has.

I got scared this afternoon, face to face with the imperfections of my body, face to face with its finiteness. Slowly but surely it is degenerating until one day it will cease working, and no matter how much I believe in reincarnations or the eternity of the spirit, no matter how weak or limited my body is, I am still attached.

As I write this to you, I remind myself of Thick Nhat Hanh’s words which Tara Brach relates in her book True Refuge: I am going to die, you are going to die, and we have only these few moments together. I remind myself to live and love now, and I feel grateful for my eyes (and the optometrist) which the universe has kindly granted me to remind me of my flaws so that I can see just how lucky I am.

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Savor the Moment — Contemplating Beauty

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it,” said Confucius. A few years ago, friends told me they visited Yosemite and disliked it. I couldn’t understand how that could be! The crowds, they explained. Too many people. And too hot. The beauty was there, before their eyes, but still their experience was ugly, uncomfortable and bothersome.

Here is my experience of Yosemite: The scenic grandness of the park awes me. I love the tall, evergreen trees, the sheer, overarching grey/white rocks stretching as far as the eye can see, the waterfalls whipping clouds of water droplets in my face. I know there are people around me, but my eyes are tuned not to buses puffing out fumes but to nature, great and small. I stop to breathe in the flowing curves of Half Dome, allowing it to open my mind and heart, and I pause to gaze wonderstruck at a single icicle that hangs from a fir branch, reflecting the blueness of a clear Yosemite sky.

Truth be told, I even enjoy the crowds in Yosemite: the dazed parents chasing their children, the older couple sitting huddled together on the bus, the dusty, rugged backpackers who have returned this morning from a multi-day hike. There is something about Yosemite that makes me happy, no matter where in Yosemite I am. In my everyday life, I can’t always enjoy little details, but in Yosemite I am a master savorer, seeing beauty in everything.

My mother is an expert in finding joy in little things. When I walk with her in the street near her house, she points out a solitary pink bloom on an azalea, the pattern of an old, bent tree trunk, or a bird’s nest hiding under a climber’s thick canopy of leaves. She likes to say that there is some beauty in every yard, no matter how neglected, and as I walk with her, looking at the world through her eyes, it seems that beauty does indeed shine from every nook and cranny.

These past few days we’ve been staying in Ein Kerem, a neighborhood of Jerusalem. It is an old neighborhood with quaint houses and dilapidated streets. There are no English style gardens here, but rather old olive, pomegranate and almond trees, wild roses, geraniums in half-broken pots, and patches of un-mown grass mixed with weeds. But my mother has trained me well. For today, I succeed in seeing beauty in little things.

For today only, I invite you to search for and savor the beauty in the world around you. Even in the midst of the most concrete-built city there might stand a tree that longs to be caressed with your appreciative eyes. And if all else fails and nothing looks good, take a peek up above, at this gorgeous sky that keeps us alive. It might be clear like a pool that has never been disturbed, or streaked with feathery clouds, or overcast, with the promise of rain to come. But it is always there, protecting us like a blanket of love.

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Oh, How Flaky! Poodles, Kids’ TV, and Reiki!

Giving Reiki to my chihuahua Percy

Giving Reiki to my chihuahua Percy

Many years ago, I first heard of Reiki through an article in an Israeli for-women magazine. It was one of those articles revealing juicy details about a celebrity, in this case, a newly popular kids’ television starlet, a woman younger than I.

In the article, the starlet described her poodle’s last days. The dog had been sick with cancer, I think, and the starlet had sat with it throughout the night, giving it Reiki. The description was heart-rending, but I scoffed as I read. I had never had a high opinion of this woman and thought the programming she was involved in was shallow and silly. Poodles, whether dead or alive, I considered a silly breed. And this Reiki thing, which I had never heard of before, seemed to me even sillier.

That this woman would think that putting her hands on her dog could cure it of cancer! Hands are just hands, flesh, bones and blood — I knew this for certain. Nothing was coming out of them, and most definitely not some flaky Reiki which this flaky TV star imagined could somehow cure her poodle.

I judged, and harshly, and the universe watched and laughed. Water passed under the bridge of my life, smoothing down rocks, while the wind blew through the cliffs of my beliefs, carving out new formations in the hard rock. And now, here I am, a Reiki Master who believes, who knows what Reiki does firsthand.

Flaky Reiki. How could mere touch do anything so grand as to change our physical condition? The idea that energy could come out of our hands, that we could heal with it, seems preposterous! It suggests we might be something more than just body, and surely that can’t be right. Or can it?

Some years after reading the article, divorced and depressed, I allowed a friend to give me Reiki. She wanted to, and though I did not believe in it at all, I figured it probably would do no harm. I slept well for the first time in a long time. Unable to resist the lure of a good night’s sleep, I decided to learn how to do Reiki for myself, but though I opened my mind to the possibility that Reiki could help me sleep, I turned up my nose when my teacher claimed that Reiki could recharge, if only for a little while, an empty battery. Recharge a battery! I scoffed, but the universe, once again, softly laughed.

The world is filled with mysterious things: black holes, atomic bombs, fancy high-heeled designer shoes, penguins, mustachioed men. In California’s Silicon Valley, the daughter of a successful electronics engineer now believes she can recharge batteries with the touch of a hand. One day I judged flaky Reiki and flaky TV star, and the next here I am, giving Reiki to batteries, to my dogs, friends and strangers, no longer scoffing, fully believing that I’m sending out to the world healing, gratitude, compassion, and love.

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The Creative Zone

The creative geyser — must release the pressure

The last two weeks have been tough. My days, thoughts, my sleeping hours, were consumed by stress: I wanted an answer for what was bothering me. I wanted it now. And I wanted it to be the best. I found myself bursting into tears whenever anyone offered a kind word. I cannot tell you what my problem was. Perhaps it is enough to say it was related to parenting and to wanting to parent well.

From below the chaos, Perspective would touch my shoulder with its light hand, reminding me: “Be grateful. You are healthy. The children and Dar are healthy. They are happy and they love you. You are all together. Concentrate on what’s good, and more good will come.” In my heart I knew this was true, but then the moment of gratitude would pass, and fears would take over, and the ever-relentless drive to find a solution now.

Lacking peace of mind, my creative zone zoned out. Unable to compete with worries, it became dormant, hiding below layers and layers of protective parts. This time, however, sleeping through the chaos was not enough. The Critic directed my thoughts away from writing by asserting: “You will never be a writer. It’s never going to happen for you. You better give up.”

I’ve been listening to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. “You will never write this well,” said the Critic. “I have no need to write like Tolstoy,” I argued. “Only Tolstoy could write like himself.” The critic scoffed: “You will never be able to create a world like this. You will never be able to create a story of so many characters, so real, so colorful, so simple at the same time.”

The Critic looted every coin of confidence, burnt every standing wall, painted graffiti over my most treasured pavements. Instead of resting till the storm passed over, my creativity found herself engaged in a survival war. “Is it true?” She asked in a timid voice. “Is it really over?” And then, as though disappearing into herself: “Why do I exist at all?”

No matter how often I affirm that I am a writer, still doubts and fears assail me. I turn on the computer, my fingers trembling, eager and yet afraid to pull my document up on the screen. A huge weight settles on me. I am unable to begin. Then I remember. In the beginning was the word. I type a single letter, and then another, and suddenly, without knowing how or why, what or where, I am sitting here and writing again.

Relief.

Blooming into beauty — simply and easily

I still search for the answer to that parenting question I mentioned, but perhaps for now the crisis is over. I can raise my head over the storm and find perspective, allow the Critic to calm down, listen to my Creativity hum as it goes about its business, and let my fingers move over the keyboard, bringing my fairy tale world to life.

What do you do to quiet the Critic? How do you keep your creativity free to work its magic?

The Blessing of Love

The first time I remember listening to the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and really hearing the words was when I watched the movie Love Actually. Perhaps the movie had something to do with it, or the song, or books I have read, but for many years now I have been a one-solution woman. For every situation, from raising chickens to potty training the dogs to the academic progress of my kids my solution has always been love.

I believe in the power of love. With my dog Percy, I watched as he softened, calmed, settled into our home. I experience the same effect with my children, family and friends. Love works, but not always dramatically. Sometimes, I thought, love is not enough.

Love was not enough when I realized that instead of respect I receive complaints, anger, and frustration from my children. I know they express negative emotion at home because they know they are loved. I, however, end up feeling under-appreciated. I needed help, and I found it with Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.

Mogel divided her book into nine blessings: acceptance, someone to look up to, skinned knee, gratitude, work, food, self control, time, and faith. She supports each blessing with teachings from the bible, showing how the three principles of Jewish living, moderation, celebration and sanctification, help in parenting.

While reading, I identified some of my parenting mistakes and potential ways to correct them — in moderation, of course. In the Blessing of Acceptance and the Blessing of Self Control, I learned about accepting my child’s temperament and reframing their most annoying trait as their strength. Mogel gives the same warning about perfection that I hear from friends and other experts: stop pressuring myself, forget perfection, enjoy ordinary moments.

In the Blessing of Having Someone to Look Up To and the Blessing of Work, I found how important it is that I be the head of the house and that I assign the kids chores. I had a hard time assigning chores to the kids because they move from house to house and because I felt that policing them into doing the chores was harder than doing the chores myself. It did not occur to me that for my children chores are a blessing indeed, a way to feel more grounded and settled at home when they return from their father’s house. Mogel emphasizes making little changes, not sitting the kids down and announcing that things are going to change from now on. I’ve been implementing changes slowly, encouraging the children to help me with cooking, setting the table, feeding the dogs, and looking after themselves (which Mogel says is a mitzvah — a good deed).

In the Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Mogel reminded me to stop overprotecting the kids, let them make mistakes and learn from them. I am one of those parents who will rush to retrieve a forgotten lunch, book or backpack. Mogel says: let them discover the consequence of their actions so that they learn.

Mogel points out in the Blessing of Time and the Blessing of Longing the importance of finding time to connect with the kids and appreciating little moments. Hand in Hand Parenting calls it special time. Gratitude, Mogel says, must be cultivated. It is so easy to slip from expressing appreciation to thinking about what I don’t yet have or what I fear. In the Blessing of Faith, Mogel talks about the first time she saw a double rainbow with her daughter. The two held hands and recited the Shehecheyanu, the prayer for special moments. I loved how in one instant, Mogel and her daughter experienced three blessings: gratitude, being in the moment, and a connection to God.

Wendy Mogel’s book added many tools to my parenting toolkit, and what I love most about it is that none of them ended up being heavy. By emphasizing moderation, Mogel makes each and every one of her recommendation accessible to all of us. By advocating celebrating our children, ourselves, ordinary moments, and the holidays, she opens up a world of enjoyment in parenting. In the overarching umbrella of sanctification, she tells us not to forget the preciousness of it.

Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109