Wednesday, December 26, 2012

[Debunking Healthy Food Myths] Myth #3: Healthy food is SO hard to make. Waaaah!

By Shaina Kamman
Shaina is a Board Certified Health Coach. She works with mothers and others who are hungry for change and ready to make healthy food the staple in their home. She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school, and she is also a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and the Weston A Price Foundation.
Myth #3: Healthy Food is SO Hard to Make. Waaaah!

The actual myth goes something like this: Healthy foods are SO hard to make because they are so terribly time-consuming. I will never be able to be both sane and healthy! Waah.

This, of course, is not the truth of the matter. The truth is that potchke foods are terribly time-consuming to make, and can easily wear down your sanity. Foods that necessitate a lot of peeling, chopping, sautéing, and/or many different pots, pans, bowls, and utensils are potchke foods. There is nothing about healthy foods that mandates you making a large mess, or spend a lot of time in your kitchen. 

Healthy foods made with simple ingredients can be prepared in a snap. Today’s simple example is scrambled eggs served with sliced tomato.

Crack the eggs. If you keep kosher -or you are just grossed out by blood spots- check for blood spots. If all is free and clear, go ahead and scramble it up with a fork. Pour it into a preheated pan with butter. WHAT? The crowd gasps. Yes, butter. Just like your great-grandmother used. Scramble it all around until it’s as soft and mushy, or as hard, as you like it. Plop it on a plate next to some tomato slices. Salt and pepper to taste, and voil`a. The breakfast of champions.
Why, you ask? Why is this the breakfast of champions?

Let’s see. Eggs. Incredible, edible eggs. Good quality eggs are rich in just about every nutrient we’ve discovered, especially Vitamins A and D. They have sulphur-containing proteins, which are necessary for the integrity of cell membranes, and contain amino acids tryptophan and methionine that promote a healthy nervous system and good moods! Waah no more. Egg yolk is the most concentrated source of a B Vitamin called choline that we know of. Regarding minerals, eggs are an outstanding source of “heme” iron, which is one of the most absorbable forms of iron. They also provide calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals. Overall, chicken eggs are considered to be the “most complete” protein source in a single food. In fact, the amino acid profile in an egg is so well proportioned that eggs are used as the reference point in judging the protein quality of other foods.

Butter. It’s bettah with buttah. Good quality butter is a wonderful source of fat-soluble Vitamins A and D, and they are in a most absorbable form. Because of this, in many primitive cultures, butter from grass-fed cows is prized for being especially beneficial for children and expectant mothers. These fat-soluble vitamins found so abundantly in butter act as a catalyst for mineral absorption. Without them, our body is not able to utilize the minerals we ingest, even if they are present in abundance. They are essential for growth, for healthy bones, and for the proper development of our nervous system and brain. Many studies show that butterfat is crucial in maintaining normal reproductive powers, as it is rich in Vitamin E, a precursor for sex hormones.

Tomatoes provide Vitamin C, carotenoids, B-Complex, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. Along with other red fruits, tomatoes are a wonderful source of lycopene, which is valuable in protecting us from cancer.

Now, the recipes I’ve shared in this little mini-series are not exactly earth-shatteringly unique. They are intentionally very basic and simple. Preparing body-building, brain-building, good-mood-supporting, and delicious food for your family is practical, relatively easy, and valuable goal for every home-makin’ Priestess.

Myth #3 has been debunked!


For more information on Shaina’s Health Coaching practice visit and LIKE Life Within on facebook at Considering if Shaina’s program is the right fit for you? Mention this LadyMama article for a 10% discount on your initial consultation!

Monday, December 3, 2012

CLOSET CASE: A Convert's Struggle With Dressing Modestly

Kate Sample decided to become an Orthodox Jew in early 2010 and prepared for her first Pesach by watching a Passover-themed episode of Gossip Girl. She has been trying to successfully balance modern life with observance ever since, and considers it her mission to dispel the idea that belief in G-d is unfashionable. You can check out her blog at

"The transformation didn’t happen overnight, but I have slowly 
evolved into more of a person and less of a persona."

A Convert's Struggle With Dressing Modestly

“You don’t look Orthodox.” 

These are words I’ve heard often enough, from Jews and non-Jews alike. Although I had an Orthodox conversion, accept the Divine origins of the Written and Oral Torahs, and keep kosher and Shabbat, I have not yet mastered tzniut. It’s not for a lack of caring about or understanding this particular mitzvah. In fact, it has totally changed the way I look at clothes. For someone who’s been obsessed with fashion since childhood, that is no easy feat.

I can’t help but wonder if that’s part of my obstacle. As much as I love food, keeping kosher came easily to me, probably because I never attempted to define myself by cheeseburgers or shrimp cocktail. Cocktail attire, however, was another matter entirely. I never wanted to blend in; I always had to stand out. Green wasn’t really my color, unless my accessories were causing someone else to turn that shade. Looking back, it’s hard to believe these were my priorities. The term “slave for fashion” gets thrown around in the industry, and that’s exactly what it feels like. I can remember many a late night spent hunched over my laptop, determined to be the first to wear the next new thing and combing through shopping sites like a maniac in order to achieve it. When I read a Rabbi’s commentary on the modern forms of slavery to which we chain ourselves, these episodes popped into my mind. I didn’t want to be a slave for fashion anymore. I wanted to be known for something other than my shoes. 

The transformation didn’t happen overnight, but I have slowly evolved into more of a person and less of a persona. I have gotten so far from my former self that I don’t say the blessing over new clothes often enough to have it memorized and I always have to look it up. It is because Judaism has helped me get to this point that I trust I will be totally tzniut someday, even if I’m wearing pants as I type this. 

The hardest part, of course, is being accepted as a sincere Jew by my fellow Orthodox. I always dressed properly in the synagogue out of respect, and I was very open about my challenges with the people closest to me. So I never dreamed it would be a problem until I added some women from shul on facebook, where they could see photographic proof of my lack of modesty. To say there was a palpable shift in how I was treated would be an understatement, which is why I had to write this and push back a little bit. This isn’t Mean Girls; this is Judaism. I don’t want to be defined purely by what I wear, in any sense.

Finding Judaism is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m grateful to have found a Rabbi who trusted that I would keep growing as a Jew and helped me to become one. My conversion wasn’t the end, it was just the beginning. Some mitzvot are more hidden and others are not. The challenge I’m currently working on happens to be really obvious, but it doesn’t mean I’m not trying. The bottom line is that I don’t want to perform the mitzvah of tzniut to be accepted or to prove I’m a good Jew. I want it to blossom in my soul and grow until it’s a part of me. 

“I love how you wear your spirituality on your sleeve.” One of my closest Orthodox friends once said this to me. Little by little, I improve, and that sleeve is now both literal and figurative. At first glance, I may not always look Orthodox. But if you get past that and have a conversation with me, I hope you’ll see my sincerity. My friend’s kind words speak to what I really love to show: my love of G-d.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We’re Still Maccabis: A Message of Hope After the Ceasefire

By Ayala Gordesky 
(Photo courtesy
(Photo courtesy
Ayala resides in Israel with her husband, gorgeous daughter and not so gorgeous Boston Terrier. Nestled in the beautiful hills of Jerusalem she is enjoying enjoying life as an Olah and her career as a Marketer/ Content Writer.  Ayala may be reached at See her previous LADYMAMA articles here

We’re Still Maccabis

A Message of Hope After the Ceasefire

As the siren went off and the bombs exploded with our friends in the South living in a rocket rain of terror, there was one  constant thought in my mind.  After three thousand years of persecution and fear this was finally it. G-d had set up the chessboard.  With the State of Israel and Bibi as our PM we were perfectly aligned for the final redemption. This time things were going to be different. This Kislev we were going to annihilate the enemy. We were not going to be cowed by the world at large hating us indiscriminately. Then the ceasefire happened...

No matter how many times the news made mention of it or my family from America brought it up, I firmly believed it was not going to be happen. When it did it was like a blow straight to my heart. I’m not a crier but I actually wept. I could not focus on simple tasks I felt so let down and betrayed. It felt as if I were going back in time and perhaps these were not the days leading up to Moshiach after all. Perhaps my daughter was not going to know a brighter future where hatred for Jews and Israel was a thing of the past.

Now, a few days later, I’ve had time to reflect on those 8 days of battle. There were over 1,500 rockets sent our way with the full intention of killing civilians, there was a bus bombing and a group opening fire in the Gush. Examining these numbers, hundreds, if not thousands should have died. My own friends were fully exposed in a field while four rockets headed directly their way. Instead of death they got a fireworks display as the iron dome took the rockets out directly above them. There was a family in Rishon Lezion in their safe room. The building received a direct hit and collapsed around them completely yet their one room remained intact and no one was hurt. There are dozens of such stories. My husband told me today that never in his 29 years has he experienced the hand of G-d so directly as in these past two weeks. He didn’t even bother to stay hidden as we experienced open miracles that still take my breath away.

Aside from all that we have to examine what was accomplished. During the operation, Israel took down 1,500 terror sites, 30 top Hamas Jihadists, 140 smuggling tunnels and 26 weapons manufacturing facilities. Hamas spent years building these facilities and we took them down in just eight days.

Eight days has a special significance this month. One of my friends commented after the ceasefire that “Bibi is no Maccabi.” Looking back, I’m not sure I agree. Who knows what Hashem intends for us with Bibi as his conduit. Bibi has been openly and fearlessly fighting that battle for Israel since he was my age. Whether this ceasefire enacted by the Egyptian Prime Minister will create a much needed alliance with Egypt or whether it may result in major military backing by the U.S., we don’t know. What we do know is that like the Maccabis it was us against the world, accomplishing an astounding feat, all within the backdrop of open miracles. This story sounds familiar to me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

LUNCHES MAKE ME CRINGE: The search for healthier lunches on a budget

By Becky Brownstein 
Becky Brownstein is a  wife, mother of five, cleaning lady, chef, program/trip organizer, taxi driver, blogger and all around great gal that lives in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Visit her website at where she shares all her experiences as a mother with the motto, "When all else fails, laugh!" 

The search for healthier lunches on a budget
(+ 4 lunch ideas you should try!)

Lunches. Uch... Just the word alone makes me cringe. It’s the last chore of the night (on a good night) and it’s the hardest. Especially when the cupboards are running low. As soon as you start chucking cereal in a bag, you know it’s time to go to the store.

Last school year I made it my own “Mother-Mission” to make healthier lunches without going over my food budget. I also wanted to get rid of the guilt of spending money on baggies that just get tossed out without a second glance. When I keep to a budget, I have to keep everything in mind. With my budget in mind and with the idea of not over-using baggies, I set out to look for a reusable container that would make that possible.

I found these sectioned ziploc containers.

They held up for a few months so I had to replace them in the middle of the year plus, they leaked. A lot. I spent a lot of time saran wrapping the apple sauce inside one of the sections. But it still didn’t cost as much as an actual apple sauce to go cup. Plus, it was one container to clean and it was durable. But the con’s outweighed the pro’s, so this school year I set out to spend a little more money and get something better.

I found this Rubbermaid lunchblox kit.
That blue thing in the middle is an ice pack. They are durable, easily washable, sparkle when they are clean and look really cute. The kids like them better since they can grab one container to take out to recess.  A few of the con’s are It’s easier for the kids to lose lids or misplace them.
The lids also have potential to get yucky stuff trapped so you have to make sure to clean those out well. I also have so many little containers to wash. But it beats saran wrapping. I fill up a sink tub with hot soapy water and either me or the kids will chuck the containers inside.

I mainly use the Lunchblox kit for the fresh fruit and vegetables. I use smaller ziploc containers for the carb snacks. I have 1 box of sandwich baggies for the times I must use them (usually for half a cucumber or tomato), or the times my kids ask for extra snacks, but other than those few times, I don’t use them.

When making lunches I try to think of healthy foods that I know my kids will like, not what I hope they’ll like. I usually ask them “will you guys eat green beans if they were in your lunch?” Either they will answer excitedly or look at me like I was insane and yell “no way!” I also try to keep things the same for everyone. If I know all the kids will eat grapes, I’ll put grapes. But if two kids don’t like bananas, I won’t put bananas at all. But if it’s only one kid who has an aversion to that specific food I’ll make an exception. If I had to make different things for everyone, it would make things really hard for me. Plus, there is a greater chance for mess ups.

One time my daughter came home with two full containers of applesauce and said to me “I don’t even like applesauce!” Shortly after, my husband came home and said “I would like to speak with your quality control department please.” He came home with one full container of grapes. He ate the other. So yeah, mess ups happen. Especially because it’s the last chore of the night. Don’t judge!

Now the fun part!


For the main dish I made flat bread (easiest and quickest to make when I didn’t have a chance to get bread) with a small cup of jelly for dipping. Next to that is homemade granola that the kids LOVED. Then it’s cut up baby carrots, applesauce and cut up watermelon.


The main dish is tomato, cucumber and lettuce sandwich with a a little bit of mayo. The sides are dried fruit and nuts, pickles, deviled eggs, pretzels and a clementine or half an apple.


The main dish is a pizza pocket. (I take frozen dinner rolls out while I make dinner and let them defrost/rise until I am ready to make lunches. I then shape them into round circles, add sauce, cheese and mushrooms or olives and bake.) The sides are edamame beans, applesauce, grapes and corn chips.

Lunch #4 

The main dish is a cream cheese sandwich. Not that exciting but the kids could eat those every day. The sides are sugar snap peas, cantaloupe (one is kiwi since my oldest hates cantaloupe) dried fruit and nuts and homemade date bars. (It was my first attempt at these whole wheat bars and I had to agree with my kids that they sucked. I will not be making those again.)

These are just a few examples. I juggle things around, switch around the vegetable options and try to pick things my kids will like. I am not a dietician or a crazy health nut. I just know my kids and know their reaction to overloads of sugar. They crash. Big time! Plus, if I give them sweets as snacks, they are hungry not even an hour later and come home with crazy stomach pains. I used to send them with store bought granola bars but they didn’t feel well after. 

After starting to make lunches like these, my kids have been coming home with empty containers and started requesting healthy snacks first when they are home without even realizing it. Because of that I don’t buy a lot of the snacks I used to. It’s a lot healthier and makes them a lot happier. Sugar treats have become just that, treats.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I Haven't Blogged (Alternate Title: "Excuses, Excuses")

Warning: This blog post is uninspiring, unimportant and simply satisfies my need to get back into blogging with a post that addresses my insane absence over the past few months :) Nevertheless, welcome me back in the comments and let's get ready to roll :) 

Why I Haven't Blogged
(Alternate Title: "Excuses, Excuses")

1. I am lazy. This comes first because if I wasn't so lazy, none of the excuses to follow would exist. There are no good reasons for not blogging, especially considering that when I do write an important article or even just a fun post, I feel expressed and accomplished. I just need to do it. But from my laziness breeds procrastination and the next thing I know I'm so desperate to snap out of it that I'm sitting down writing and actually considering publishing my excuses because I'm too LAZY to actually put something good out there. But hey, consider this me breaking the ice. 

2. I am tired. This is very different than being lazy. Lazy is a passive and pathetic. Tiredness feels more valid. My kids wake up before 6 and want to conquer the world. That's really great for them. Not so much for me. And yes, I do go to bed early. But since summer, I have been devoting a lot of time to my home and my kids. It's been rewarding. And tiring. 

3. Content doesn't come easy. Sometimes I wish I was a fashion blogger or a food blogger. Not that I excel at either of those. But I would have more natural content covering fashion and posting recipes. LadyMama is my own personal thoughts and opinions (plus awesome guest bloggers every now and then!). I have a plethora of thoughts and ideas during the day worthy of publishing, conversations worth starting. But I need a lot of mental space and time to get it out. And I need to be inspired and thoughtful and caring and NOT #1 (lazy) and #2 (tired). 

4. Losing my groove. When I am in a groove with my blog, things are smooth sailing (okay, that's redundant). But when I let some weeks pass, it's incredibly hard to get back into it. I start feeling like no one cares whether I write or not...and there are so many other rocking blogs out there...who am I to even pretend to be a blogger? And what could I possibly write that's good enough to make up for the time past? And maybe I'm not a good writer. And maybe it's just a silly time-wasting distraction. Sure, I look back at articles like about my miscarriage and my opinion on Chassidim in the media and I know that people are listening and my writing is important to people. But is it really worth it? 

5. I have a new business. Okay, so maybe I'm not THAT lazy after all. Together with my sister-in-law, we started MimuMaxi, an original line of skirts that we design ourselves. I never intended for a new venture to take away from my baby, my blog. I know it's possible to "do it all," especially if my writing is meaningful to me. But nevertheless, putting energy into a new venture still makes it easy to ignore LadyMama. 

That being said, I intend to put some 
more time and energy into LadyMama. Stay tuned :) 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yom Kippur: I Want More

This is a scrappy poem I put together, built on my frustrations about how hard it is to tap into the holiness and opportunity of Yom Kippur when you're a mother of small children. When you complain about not being able to sit for hours in shul (yes, I actually would like to) or mentally prepare for the prayer and immerse yourself in the magnitude of the day, people like to say, "You're a mother, it's hard, that's how it is. You're not alone." I get that, and trust me I love the validation. But, alas, it's also frustrating. When you want more. I would never "trade" my children for anything (duh), but in all honesty, I deeply crave those days when it was just me to take care of and I could go to classes and read and felt totally in tune with spirituality and holidays and...know what I mean? Sorry if this is me being a debbie-downer. But I hope some mamas out there relate! ~ Mimi

Yom Kippur: I Want More

Holiest day of the year
Coming to mock me, have me fear 
The part of me that's not alive
Not quite dead, but not quite there
There to hear the dear sounds of self awakening
And accounting and growing and consciousness

Don't tell me I'm a mama so this is what it is!

Holiest day of the year 
Coming with a telegraph that says 
Get your act together
And stop acting
Listen to what's real
But I am busy and rushed and busy and rushed 
I can't bother to open the mail

Don't tell me I'm a mama so this is acceptable!

Holiest day of the year
Arrives on my doorstep
Comes in uninvited, pushes me aside 
Rustled my belongings and says
I don't care what your life is like
You must feel me before I go
But I am not ready, I am frozen

Don't tell me I'm a mama so this is normal!

Holiest day of the year
Loves me, cares for me, wants to coddle me
Comes with renewal and opportunity 
And yet my hands are not grabbing for its hug
Because all I hear is the lost opportunity and 
How unprepared I am to grab the reigns 
Because I'm busy thinking 

Don't tell me I'm a mama so this will be alright!

The holiest day of the year
Taps me on the shoulder
Whispers to me
Its fine, breathe, calm down
I will wait
I am patient
Just show up
Shed a tear from this poem
That's all I ask
But deep down this will not do
What do you take me for?
I want more
What do you take me for?

Don't tell me I'm a mama so this is will have to do!

The holiest day of the year
And all I have
Is a broken poem
My frustrations and yearnings 
And potential zooming past
Swallowed in the every day tasks 
And a deep wanting for more 

G-d, only You know me
Only You, only You
Only You know me
What do I have to give you?
My thoughts are sloppy
My molecules are thin
My ego is bruised but huge

Don't tell me I'm a mama and it's okay
And this will have to do
When what I want
Is the holiest day of the year 

My want
Is a want
Is a powerful and stirring want
For the holiest day of the year 

And this
Well, this is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement

This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement

This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bais Yaakov Cookbook: Recipe + Giveaway!

I'm very excited to be back to the blogosphere with an exciting review+recipe+giveaway! 

Introducing the Bais Yaakov Cookbook! 
Want a cookbook of your own? Hop over to for 20% off + Free Shipping! 
Or enter to **WIN** one by liking LadyMama, finding the post about the cookbook (it's a picture of my 
mocha cake!) and commenting on the photo! (Yep, that simple.)

The new gourmet Bais Yaakov Cookbook features recipes from the Bais Yaakov community (including prominent teachers and Rabbis' wives) but showcase a plethora of both traditional and unconventional recipes that reach beyond that label. In other words, if you're not Bais Yaakov LadyMama, you're still going to want to add this cookbook to your collection! Even if it does open with an extensive history of Sara Scheinirer (which is very eye opening—read it!). 

The cookbook is surprisingly professional for a project that seems rather "heimish" with its community vibe. The pictures are vibrant and colorful, the directions are written very clearly, and the selection is impressive. The collection of over 200 original recipes include new takes on some Jewish favorites as well as some very original ideas to spruce things up (like the Green Bean Mango Salad or Chilled Strawberry Soup with Walnut Crunch!)

A HUGE, unprecedented plus about the Bais Yaakov Cookbook is that it includes a rather extensive overview of Halachic guidelines in the kitchen. All about kashrus laws, dealing with food on Shabbos, checking food for bugs—you name it! Let's just say there were a few things that were good to learn (I guess I can consider myself a Bais Yaakov student now!). 

It also helps that thanks to their "All About Wine," "Meat Guide" (is it done yet?), "All About Fish," "Spices and Herbs," "Shopping for Fruits and Vegetables" and even a "Guide to Cookware" and "Kitchen Gadgets" section (what exactly is a poultry shear?),  I am feeling pretty confident with my cooking know-how. Like I'm feeling uber smart—though I keep having to open the pages to reference and make sure I am not mixing up which foods go best with Chardonnay and Riesling—but thanks to the Bais Yaakov Cookbook, all the info is there!). 

The Bais Yaakov Cookbook is sure to delight and surprise in that they did not shy away from some more ambitious recipes, or what I would usually like to call "Attempts I wil Never Make at Fancy Shmancy." For instance, Mini Vegetable Wonton Flowers or Layered Turtle Cheescake (ya, you gotta buy it to see what I mean!). And the thing is, the directions are so straightforward and the ingredients so normal that I can for the first time say I am not skipping over those more fancy, complex-seeming recipes. Thanks to this cookbook, I might actually put some things on my table that have people thinking I'm a real balabusta. "Like, how on earth did you make this?!" Yep, thank you Bais Yaakov Cookbook! 

For most my readers, and especially right before Yom Kippur, I wanted to share a simple recipe that would be put to good use, namely for breaking the Yom Kippur fast (I always need a good, moist baked good after a day of not eating!). So I attempted the Mocha Cake! I give it a A+++! It's easy to make, moist and has just the right amount of rich chocolatey mocha flavor (and can even be enjoyed with coffee, believe it or not!). Enjoy!

Want a cookbook of your own? Hop over to for 20% off + Free Shipping! Or enter to **WIN** one by liking LadyMama, finding the post about the cookbook (it's a picture of my mocha cake!) and commenting on the photo! (Yep, that simple.)


2 cups all-purpose flours1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa  
2 teasooons baking powder
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup instant coffee
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For mocha cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Liberally, grease a 12 cup Bundt pan; set aside.
Mix all-purpose flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Set
In a large bowl, mix boiling water, coffee, sugar and oil. Mix well until coffee
and sugar is dissolved. Add eggs and vanilla sugar. Mix well. Add flour
mixture to the egg mixture, whisk to combine.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake 50 minutes. Cool in pan for 10
minutes; remove cake from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

For coffee glaze:
Whisk coffee and hot water in a small bowl. Add confectioners' sugar and
oil and mix until smooth, if glaze is too thick, then slowly add more water,
about an 1/8 of a teaspoon at a time. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake.

Let me know if you try this recipe, would love to hear what you think! And be sure to enter the giveaway for the Bais Yaakov Cookbook simply by commenting on the photo on the LadyMama Facebook page!  

Wishing you and yours an easy and meaningful fast! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

LadyMama of the Week: Sarah Dukes (Composer + Pianist!)

I first met Sarah Dukes at a mutual friends birthday party and thought she was so sweet (and beautiful). How amazed I was when I found out that she was an accomplished composer and pianist who was working on her first album! When she was ready to release her music, I was very honored when she contacted me to write the press release (read it here!). Nothing is more rewarding for me than being a small part of a woman's journey to exposure and success.

I don't know about you, but I do not know many mothers who are classical pianists and compose their own music and actually release albums! And did I mention she is a practicing PSYCHOTHERAPIST? Talk about inspiring—Sarah is real proof that there is a way to actualize ourselves and contribute to the world in more than one way and grow our talents and follow or dreams. 

What's amazing about Sarah is that she feels her music so, so deeply. When she talks about it, there is this real sense of awe and fragility. It's not just something she does—its her essence

My favorite songs on her album Finding Forever are "Wings of a Butterfly" and "Troubled Thoughts." I basically put "Wings of a Butterfly" on repeat and get lost in its interchange of deep and high notes places so delicately...and feel like I am cacooning into a new, more thoughtful, more sensitive and vibrant person. I can't say that about most, if any, of the music I listen to. To genuinely feel transformed through hearing music is a rare and astounding experience. 

I believe Sarah is able to accomplish this because of something I appreciate most about her: she is a perfectionist! If one tiny little something is off in her music, it must be worked through a million times to reach the exact sound and emotion that is in her head. I even interviewed Yaron Garshovky for her press release and he expanded on how sensitive Sarah was to the nuances, and how she would make him play parts of songs over and over again until it resonated exactly the way she intended it. Personally, I find this so refreshing because so many people are overconfident with their skills and don't necessarily take the time to perfect it and essentially honor it in the way that will give it the wings it needs for both the artist and the listener. But Sarah seems to have this down. 

And this definitely comes through on her debut album, which is filled with stunning and stirring original songs that will make you cry from the sheer beauty. Sarah's music has the ability to touch everyone's heart. The soul just seeps through. They are sometimes brooding, usually hopeful -- but always mesmerizing. They just pull you in! When I first started discovering her compositions, I kept on playing her music when I was working on the computer but had to stop because it wasn't good background music—I had to keep interrupting what I was writing so I could focus on where it was taking me! It's that rare type of album you have to turn on and focus and meditate and let it relax and elevate you. Seriously, your heart and soul and mind will just open up. 

Do yourself a favor and check out Sarah's music now! 

Below is Sarah's just-released song, "One" -- dedicated to Leiby Kletzky. 
Grab a tissue, because you're sure to re-experience the emotions we all shared in watching our 
people come together as ONE to search for this beautiful young boy. 

And because Sarah's life and essence is the wonderful undercurrent to all her music, I interviewed Sarah so you can all learn more about this incredibly soulful, original and inspiring woman that we will no doubt continue to hear more about as she grows and expands her musical reach! 


LADYMAMA: When did you decide to go from playing recreationally to actually producing an album? And what have you learned from that process?
Sarah Dukes: Since I am from N.C., I went away to a Jewish school when I was 13. Being a teenager is emotional enough, but I suppose being away from home at such a young age added to the 'tumultuous' emotions. I took piano lessons throughout my years in Pittsburgh, but I also used the piano as a way to express myself and release my emotions. I didn't know what I was doing when I was composing. I never took composition lessons. Yet it felt so freeing to have a way to get my emotions out. I composed my songs and shared them with my classmates and friends. I was so surprised to hear that they all loved it. I never understood why-to me, they were my complex emotions recorded in a physical way. To others, I just thought it was nothing more than a 'scribble' like tune. I even had a classmate who was a trained pianist and she said I inspired her and she is jealous of me. I couldn't believe that my songs that I composed would be anything to be 'jealous' over! SHE was the one whose fingers flew across the piano! My friends continued to shower my songs with praises and even chose to use one in one of the school productions! They always told me I need to make a CD but I thought they were crazy. I felt like my songs are no where close to being "CD quality". I felt their sincerity and truly appreciated it, but never thought it would ever happen.  I continued composing throughout seminary and university and found more and more people who connected with my music. All of them said that I should make a CD, and begged for me to make one. I still was uncomfortable with the idea also because my compositions started getting more complex in my mind, and I was limited with how I could execute it. I didn't have the skill to play the melody as it is in my mind, so it would come out in a more simple form. People loved it that way, but I knew that that wasn't my REAL song in its complete form. I then started feeling uncomfortable and self conscious because I felt like the song sounded 'boring' compared to what it was in my head. This continued until after I got married. I eventually told myself that there's no way all these people can be wrong and I'm the only one that is right. It makes much more sense for ME to be wrong and everyone else to be right. So, I put my own ego aside, and decided to try it out and see if it would work for me to find a way to get my complete song out onto the keys. We saved up and tried one song, me giving Yaron the version of me playing it, the transcription, and dove into the challenge of expressing exact directions/instructions as to any edits, changes, of dynamics, keys, tempo, etc. that I had in my mind. After hearing the final version, I LOVED it--and mainly because I felt like it was still my creation! Once that happened, I felt much more comfortable continuing the CD process.

The process was a humbling one for me. I had to put my ego aside. I had to learn to trust others. I had to learn to make myself vulnerable and take myself out of my comfort zone. I learned that ANYTHING is possible! Even the dreams that seem furthest from your reach. You just have to START and do it. The other big thing I learned is how important it is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and what you can achieve. I owe it all to my friends who kept pushing me. I also owe it to my husband who was super supportive and encouraging and excited for me! :)

Where do you get most of your inspiration from?
My inspiration could come from an event that happened, it could come from a sudden wave of emotion, it could come from feeling an intense emotion, it could come from listening to a song, or it could come from just sitting at the piano and having my fingers just play.

How do you FIND the inspiration and time to explore it when you're a busy mother?
I don't really think I find the inspiration. More that IT finds ME. It's interesting. I can get a 'wave' of inspiration, and something will just draw me to the piano. Just out the blue I could get this strong yearning to go to the piano. There are definite times when this 'flash of inspiration' are missed due to me taking care of my family responsibilities. Then there are other times (usually most often then not) when I will quickly distract my kids with a video or something and rush to the piano to 'release' this sudden emotion or inspiration. Most of the time when this happens, I am unable to finish the song, and that's when the problem arises because once I get up and leave a song I am working on, it is very very difficult to tap back into that original inspiration or emotion that I began with, and often it will take me months to finish a song because of that. There are so many quarter or half written songs that I have that I just have to wait patiently until the same inspiration finds me again :) I'm also thankful to my husband who often has to take over when one of my waves of inspirations comes at a more hectic time.

I feel that it is really important to make time for myself and do things that 're-energize' and 're-center' me so if I find that I am not able to do it enough during the week, I will hire a babysitter for an hour or two so that I can focus on myself. I don't feel guilty about this or think of it as selfish because this is allowing me to have more more energy and be more positive and happy for my family.

How does your work as a composer affect your work as a Psychotherapist? 
I really believe that my clients have so much to offer and I really encourage them and challenge them to believe in themselves and show them that they CAN believe in themselves and have them prove to themselves how capable they are and what they can accomplish.

Tell us about your new song for Leiby Kletzky. How long have you been working on it? How does the music relate to your feelings about the tragedy? 
What happened with Leiby was horrible. I would show my kids his picture that was hanging up on the signs on the street and say tehillim with them for his safe and healthy return. We even made hachlatas for him and until this day, my kids say their kapital of tehillim every day. The emotions of those few days were so intense- fear, sadness, confusion, anger, ....a whole range of emotion. I began composing and an interesting thing happened... I found that my thoughts and emotions switched in the middle and I found myself thinking about how everyone came together and united for Leiby's search. People from all over worked day and night to find him-whether it was with the actual search, printing signs, hanging up signs, learning and davening for him. I had this strong feeling of unity and love and pride - to be part of this eternal bond. The ahavas chinam that I saw and felt was so tangible and powerful, that that is what the song turned into-the power of ONE, and how we ARE one, and that we had ahavas chinam and can continue doing so.

Describe the process of putting emotions into songs. Do you ever fear being that vulnerable? 
As mentioned above, I compose a song when I get a strong sense of emotion or force that pulls me to the piano. I don't think when this happens. I just feel. Sometimes I am aware of what I am feeling and other times I'm not, and still other times I don't really explore it. Whichever way, whatever is coming out is coming from my inner self. It is because of this reason that I feel like I am making myself vulnerable every time I share a song. I feel like I am exposing a part of myself. It is difficult for me to just 'give out' a song to others to listen to or for some guidance etc., and if that is the case, I only share it with those that I feel 'safe' with or that I trust. When I release a song to the public, it is a big and 'scary' step for me. It's like I am opening myself up to the public. It's almost like I have to jump into a pool with my eyes closed. I am giving the world a part of myself and have no idea how it will be received or accepted.

Have you ever run into resistance with your music career simply because you're a woman? 
The truth is I was concerned that my music would not be well received because I am a woman-for fear that many people are under the assumption or have the impression that a woman's work is not up to par or compare to that of a mans. However, I was (and continue to be) super surprised to see that this is not the case at all. Not only have I been receiving so many positive reviews and feedback about my music, but I feel respected as well-not only because of my talent but because I DID something with it! This is an incredible and empowering feeling and motivates me to do more.

What do you want other women/mothers to know about pursuing their talents and following their dreams? 
Being a woman or a mother doesn't mean that we don't have dreams or talents, and it definitely does not mean that we are not capable of doing anything big with our dreams or talents. G-d gave us unique skills and talents and WANTS us to use them! Our families may be our first priority, but it certainly does not mean that nothing else matters or is not important. In fact, you will find that specifically doing things that you love or are passionate about will actually energize you and make you feel better about yourself, which will ultimately result in you being a better woman/wife/mother.

Thank you Sarah for opening up your heart and soul through your music 
and for your candor in addressing these questions which will no doubt 
I-N-S-P-I-R-E and E-M-P-O-W-E-R women everywhere!