Tag Archives: Keiko Zoll

Blog Tour of Inspired Reading: The Red Tent

By Keiko Zoll, (From Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, June 18, 2011)

Today’s post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour: a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today’s hop, the blog featured before mine is Karen’s But I Digress. The blog featured after me is the captivating Catherine at Idea City. Do stop by and say hello plus some of us are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!

For this Blog Tour, we were asked to write about the book that inspires us the most. I’m glad I’ve gotten the  prompt to write about a book that has meant so much to me over the years and has in many ways, shaped the way I view myself as Jewish Woman (yes, with capital J and capital W).

Every woman should read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. I have often called it Required Reading for Every Woman because it is a remarkable, gorgeous, sensuous work of historical fiction that celebrates both the darkest and most glorious parts of what it means to be Woman.

Seriously? Go read it this weekend.

Very briefly, because I don’t want this to feel like a book report – The Red Tent unearths the story of Dinah from the dusts of the Torah, a Biblical figure who receives little more than passing mention in Genesis 34. Jacob is known as one of the great Patriarchs of Judaism with two Matriarchs at his side, Rachel and Leah, and a whole host of a dozen sons who became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. But among his boyish brood exists a lone daughter: Dinah.  Her story is often known as “The Rape of Dinah” as a prince of Shechem “defiles” her, and Dinah’s brothers Levi and Simeon avenge her rape by massacring the city of Shechem, leaving no survivors.

And with that, Dinah fades back into the dust of the Torah, never to be mentioned again. This is where Diamant picks up, fleshing out the story of Dinah’s youth and relationship to her four mothers: Rachel, Leah, and Jacob’s concubines Zilpah and Bilhah, as well has her grandmother, Rebecca. She weaves the tale of Dinah falling in love with the Prince of Shechem and that her brothers’ crusade was bent on murderous rage. After the massacre, she flees to Egypt where she gives birth to a son and becomes an devoted and talented midwife.

The Red Tent refers to something we talk about a lot in the infertility community: our menstrual cycles. As happens in many confined living arrangements, the women would often cycle together, in a phenomenon known as menstrual synchrony or the McClintock effect. Ancient tribes of women would gather in a menstrual tent or hut during their blood cycle, often cycling with the moon. Dinah learns of her rich heritage, not just as a third generation of monotheistic Jews, but as a Woman in her place in a Long Line of Women Before Her.

As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t be ashamed or grossed out by our periods, because our menstrual cycles are a vital indicator of women’s health. The Red Tent reminds us of this and inspires us to be mindful of the miracle and wonder of our own human forms.

You may have also read posts where I speak of the Red Tent Temple, the women’s group I go to every month. The Red Tent Temple movement was born out of Diamant’s novel by ALisa Starkweather, a Wise Woman and Women’s Empowerment Practitioner. I’m also so pleased to know filmmaker Isadora Leidenfrost who is making a documentary of the Red Tent Temple Movement: Things We Don’t Talk About. This one-hour film is slated to be released next year. I have eagerly been awaiting the trailer; hopefully I’ve made the cut from hundreds of hours of footage that Isadora shot herself at Red Tent Temples all over the country. She’s also looking for some more financial support to stay on track with her production and release schedule, so if you know of women-empowered businesses or organizations who’d be willing to help out an empowered woman filmmaker, please head over to her site and drop her a line.

The Red Tent in its modern iteration has become a place of community wisdom and social healing, a sisterhood of empowerment. In reading The Red Tent and participating in the Red Tent Temple in my own community, I’ve realized that their is indeed power to be had in gathered groups of women. We need more dialogue circles like this, more Red Tents, to share our collective womanhood experiences; there is so much we can learn from one another as women when given the opportunity.

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Filed under Anita Diamant, Keiko Zoll, Sarah Laughed, The Red Tent

What IF?

By Keiko Zoll (from Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, April 25, 2010)

I was so inspired by so many of the questions raised in the Phase One of #ProjectIF that I couldn’t pick just one to respond to. I saw this as a collective lamentation laid bare for the world to see. So many of these questions have flittered through and lingered in my brain at one point or another in our journey that I simply had to include them all. My hope is that this video captures the “everydayness” that is coping with infertility. So, here is my response to #Project IF. More about my thoughts on #ProjectIF below the video.

What IF I can’t pick myself back up after each setback?
I have seen the gamut of human experience and emotion this week. I’ve been going for Iron Commenter for ICLW, my first time trying it. I’ve read so much already – for every small victory: Aunt Flo still hasn’t shown up, a successful transfer, social workers secured- there are just as many crushing setbacks: empty yolk sacs, canceled IUIs, no matured blasts, the birthmother backed out. I’ve read and commented on just over half of this month’s participating blogs so far, and the sheer variety and depth of experiences is humbling, overwhelming, and at times, comforting. When you find someone, an otherwise stranger to you, who is going through nearly the same experiences, positive or otherwise, there is instant kinship between you and she, somewhere in the mix of wires and signals and binary code. In this mess of electronic tangles, we find connection.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far in this year of coping, crying, laughing, and learning, it’s that the road through infertility is indeed a bumpy one, and sometimes we diverge so far off course we hardly even recognize where we are anymore or from where we’ve come. All we know is that we are weary from the journey.

My hope in making this video was to answer this question above, to inspire those struggling with any aspect of IF to find the strength to press on, to find peace, to remain inspired and to remind them to be true to themselves.

What IF I got rid of the anonymity and put a real name and a real face to a story of IF?
Like most ventures on the internet, I got scared of putting my real name out there, much less my face. I hid behind my Hebrew name because it was convenient, and I think because in many ways, I was still ashamed, angry, and bitter at my diagnosis. Over this past year, I have grown and learned so much. I wouldn’t say I’ve healed completely, but I’ve let go of a lot of baggage and realized that I can only move forward with my life if I allow myself to do so. I have found and met amazing people on the internet and in real life who understand this struggle. And I realized that legislators don’t care about internet pseudonyms. They care about constituents with names, verifiable addresses, and most of all, votes.

So, allow me to introduce myself, dear readers:

Hi. I’m Keiko Zoll. *waves* Yes, my Hebrew name is Miriam. (I’m still the same old Miriam, but you can call me Keiko. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was half-Japanese.) Yes, I’m 27 years old and yes, I live in Boston, MA. I still love food, travel, camping, scrapbooking, and playing a ridiculous amount of Modern Warfare 2. 

I live and cope with my infertility every single day, but I refuse to let it bring me down.

I’m taking this a step further. As I mentioned in my post about National Infertility Awareness Week, I posed a challenge to folks reading this blog to out themselves out of the IF closet on Facebook, Twitter, their blogs- wherever. Not only am I doing this myself tomorrow via my FB status message, but I’m sharing this video on my Facebook profile and Twitter accounts too.

What IF my video can help erase some of the stigma surrounding infertility, and give a voice to millions who may be otherwise silent?

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Filed under Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll

Feminism is Not a Four-Letter Word

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, June 22, 2011)

Whether I call myself a women’s health advocate or Vagina Warrior, it boils down to this:

I’m a feminist.

(Shocker.)

What a loaded word, right? Images of unshaven armpits, gross looking white-girl dreads, floppy bra-less boobs, a man-hating smirk on my face, my fist raised in the air. Now, granted, if this describes you… um, cool! More power to you. But it’s not me. And honestly, that’s not what feminism looks like.

Feminism looks like women and men who want to take the world by storm to make the world a safer, better, more empowered place for women and girls. If you want men to stand by your side and advocate with you, feminists can’t be man-haters. Are there some feminist man-haters? Sure. But if feminism is going to make any kind of global impact, it’s got to be a collaborative effort between both sides.

Why the heck am I talking about feminism? A few reasons, actually. First, to be an advocate for women’s health is a pretty fundamental aspect of feminism. It’s about leveraging equal access to healthcare. Second. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully has a post that asks the question Do we want too much? and third, Schmoopy in our Prompt-ly Writing Group posted a link to a Guardian article that asks Why is feminism still so afraid to focus on its flaws?

The two are truly interrelated and it got me thinking about stereotypes that even I’ve held about what it means to be feminist, who is and is not considered feminist, and what it means to want more than we have.

I took a few women’s and gender studies courses in college. I was both vice-president and then president our of GLBT student alliance. I performed in the Vagina Monologues. As a young empowered woman in my early 20s, I was rockin’ the feminist label and damn proud of it.

Like so many things in my early 20s, I wouldn’t really appreciate all of it until now, as I approach my (gulp) early 30s. Feminism has become less about the rallies and the petitions and the student activism for me. Feminism for me has now become an active effort to make good in the world for women and girls where I can with the strengths and talents I have to offer. I blog about infertility and women’s health. I blog about why we need to care about the cultural norming of misogyny in America. I support and promote the work of the Red Tent Temple Movement. I think very intentionally about the kind of world I want to shape for my niece and hopefully, my own daughter should I be so blessed.

I’ve been doing the SITS Girls 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (SITS31DBBB). Much like their Bloggy Boot Camp blogging conference I went to in May, I am out of my league here. I’m one of a very small group (as in, you could probably count us all on one hand) of infertility bloggers participating. SITS is a very Mom Blogger focused forum of support. I’ve stuck with it because I’ve got a lot still yet to learn about blogging and as I’ve come to realize from reading both Esperanza’s post and the article Schmoopy shared – I’ve got a lot to learn about feminism too.

Did I turn my nose up at Mom Bloggers? A little, yeah – I’ll be honest. Part of it was jealousy – I want what they have. Part of it was being judgemental – how can nothing but reviews and giveaways be good for the blogpsphere? But as I’ve spent the last 3 weeks interacting and networking with these fabulous ladies, I’ve realized my stereotypical judgments were wrong. The Mom Blogger niche is just as varied and valuable and has as much to offer as the ALI blogosphere. I’m realizing it’s time to stop passing judgment and start taking a closer look at blogs outside of my niche to see what I can learn.

Oh Diane is one of those Mom Bloggers I’ve met through SITS31DBBB and she posted a fantastic post on why the Mommy Blogger market is so hot right now. What followed in her post comments was a fiery discussion about why Mom Bloggers get all the attention from advertisers while may of us childless folks sit here twiddling our thumbs.

My point is this: Mom Bloggers – and Mom Blogging in general – can be feminist too.

The Guardian article elaborates:

“Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that.”

Mom Blogging is not counter-productive or counter-intuitive to feminist ideals. Even when I was in college, I got horrified looks from other college feminists who were shocked – shocked I tell you – that I didn’t really care what my degree was in because I eventually just wanted to be a SAHM and pump out babies.

This is the point: it’s not about creating an army of empowered career-women. Feminism is about having  equal access to and support for making empowered choices, be it career, motherhood, health or otherwise. Wanting to be a SAHM mom – like my own mom was when me and my sister were kids, a fact that I am so grateful for to this day – doesn’t make me any less feminist. The fact that the Mom Blogger market is growing says to me that women’s voices in social media and technology are rising, and people (especially advertisers) want to hear what they have to say.

Which brings me to my last point: does feminism want too much? Again, from the Guardian:

Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it’s pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place. On even an average income, it’s never easy, even once children are at secondary school (though it’s certainly easier then). Your priorities change. Work is no longer the most important thing, for a while anyway. Ambition can dissipate.

Let me rephrase that: do we want too much? In fact, let’s drill that down again:

Do I want too much?

Take a look at what I grew up with: a mom who stayed at home for the most part, picking up seasonal part-time work to pad out Christmas and birthdays. My father still works almost 60 hours a week. He traveled extensively when I was much younger, leaving the brunt of the child-rearing to my mom. I’m stating this as fact, not to pass judgment. This was what worked for my parents and they were in agreement about their roles as caregiver and provider, respectively.

I grew up with a big, two-story house with two cars. My sister and I went to public schools and college. We pretty much got to do just about any lesson or extra-curricular we wanted. We lived in comfortable New Jersey suburbia. For the 18 years I grew up and lived in that house, this is what The American Dream looked like to me.

Is it too much to want the big, single family house? Is it too much to want a husband that brings home the bacon while I stay at home and serve as primary caregiver to our gorgeous genetic children? Is it fair to place that kind of burden on my husband?

Folks, I struggle with this. These are things I want really bad, I can’t necessarily have and boy howdy, I don’t like taking No for an answer.

But let’s step back for a second: in an time of record foreclosures, a flailing economy, and my seriously busted reproductive system, The American Dream I grew up with isn’t realistically even possible anymore.

Esperanza challenges us:

“The reality is, we might not get to be what we want to be, or we might have to sacrifice greatly to get there, and the same can befall our children. If certain lessons are learned; that frequently life brings disappointment, that sometimes their is no just reward for our efforts, that we must be grateful for what we have and stop continuously looking for more, that sometimes we won’t be happy, maybe, just maybe, we will wake up one day knowing how to be satisfied with our life.And maybe some day, if we’re very lucky, we can learn to be truly happy with what we have.”

I counter with this:

If the status quo was okay though, we wouldn’t need a feminist movement in the first place. And you know what? After all this, after this huge and rambling post, it’s not about feminism anymore.

It’s about being active participants in shaping a just world.

Feminist labels aside: where do we fit in to shape that world?

Where do you fit in? How are you helping to shape a just world?

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Filed under Feminism, Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Keiko Zoll

The hardest letter to write

By Keiko Zoll (Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed, November 10, 2009)

Dear-

Well, this leaves me at an impasse. I’m writing a letter to someone I have never met, never named.

Let’s try this again, shall we?

. . .

I began this letter as an exercise in grief, in letting go. The goal was simple: write a letter to the genetic child I’ll never have – a textbook psychotherapy homework assignment. Each time I would craft some eloquent opening in my head, rolling it around on my tongue without committing to speak it aloud or put it to paper. I would have these passing thoughts like express trains, blurring past the local stops leaving a windy wake and the knowledge that a thought had passed through this station without stopping, intent on the same ultimate destination.

Each time I thought of crafting this letter, I would be a few sentences in when I realized I would jump right into the body of the letter and neglect the greeting. I was addressing a letter to an unnamed child, always resulting in an awkward two-sentence false start. Before I could commit to anything more than those two sentences, I went on happy tangential daydreams thinking of names. I think this is exactly what they mean when folks mention “that twinkle in your mother’s eye.” That twinkle is possibility, and what drives us is giving that possibility a name. It’s like putting a lasso around the unknown: “I don’t know what my child will look like, but I’ve got a name for them.”

Infertility aside, I have no idea what my child will look like. Even if we could make a baby the old fashioned way, there’s no way to predict the way mine and my husband’s genetics would combine visually. After our vacation in Japan, I ached for an adorable little Japanese baby with their rubbed-the-wrong-way static electric hair. I am genuinely curious to see what a quarter-Japanese child would look like, rather, wanting to know what my quarter-Japanese baby would look like. Would he have big ears like his daddy? Would she have soft skin like her mommy? In the end, I don’t know and for the first time on this crazy ride, I’m okay with not knowing.

Genetically, I’ve got some real beasts I’d potentially pass down: thyroid problems, obesity, a history of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my extended family, not to mention my own infertility issues. How cruel would it be to pass on my infertility to my daughter? It’s just not ethical. But my thick dark hair, my rich brown eyes, and my high cheekbones: these are lost. My seemingly petite mouth and almond shaped eyes that can portray a myriad of exaggerated facial expressions at a given moment: those unique faces that are genetically passed down with the same facial muscle structuring (“oh he looks just like his mother when he laughs” or “she has her mommy’s smile”) – this legacy of visual expression is lost. I grieve for this face that should have been.

I grieve for this now lost moment when I look in my child’s face and see myself, really see my genes and my visual characteristics. I grieve knowing that from an evolutionary standpoint, I didn’t make the cut. I deeply grieve the loss of a child that is part me, part my husband, from their very fundamental genetic makeup. I grieve for the misplaced miracle in utero, where the very essence of me and my soulmate are joined by cosmic biology, a Darwinian leap of faith.

I hold this image of you tight in my arms: I smell your hair and stroke your cheek and smile back at the smile that looks just like mine. I cradle your face in my hands as you balance on tiptoes to reach up to me. I kiss you on the forehead, and release you like so many cells and dust and stars into the cosmos.

. . .

But you are still out there.

. . .

When your father and I met, we recognized something in one another. I saw a part of myself in him and he in me, that recognition of an old soul long separated into many pieces, as if to say, “Hello, at last. I have found the part of my soul that has been missing all these years.” When we found each other, we fit our missing pieces together and found completion.

Or so we thought.

Let’s not kid ourselves: we were only fifteen at the time. We had a little growing up to do.

. . .

After a heaping tablespoon of the real world, we could maturely interpret and internalize just what it means to be soulmates. We wanted everyone to know and share in our joy with each other. We wanted to shout it to the rooftops and we did – we were surrounded by our loving family and so many dear friends as we told the world: “Here! Here is my heart, my joy, my breath! I have found the one in whom my soul delights.” We danced and danced and danced and as we each clung to a corner of a red napkin, hoisted high on the shoulders of those that love us, we were truly a reconnected old soul, laughing with joy and contentment.

The stars laughed with us that night.

. . .

What I have realized is that you are still out there. You are that little piece that has been missing from our souls and while it might take me a little time to find you, I know you’re out there. You may not look the way I thought you would, but I will love and welcome and cherish you just the same. And when your father sees you, he’ll remember you too and say smiling, “Hello at last, little one! We’ve been looking for you. Come, tell us of your travels! We have so much to share with you.”

I will look into your eyes and I will recognize you from so long ago, thankful that we’ve found you after all this time.

. . .

In the clear night sky, the stars hang hopeful.

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Filed under Hannah Wept Sarah Laughed, Infertility, Keiko Zoll, letter