Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Right Stuff.

Move Over Barbie, This Doll Gets Real About Anatomy
By Courtney E. Martin, Women's eNews
Posted on December 13, 2006, Printed on December 14, 2006

Amamanta, Spanish for breastfeeding, is a blend of two words that mean love and protection.

It is also the name of a doll family whose members may appeal to holiday shoppers looking beyond the latest Barbie or Bratz doll for a present that's non-hazardous to body image and can also educate about how babies are made, born and nurtured.

Each 16-inch cloth adult Amamanta doll has genitals and pubic hair, and the mother doll features breasts that can be snapped onto the baby doll's mouth to help reinforce the importance of breastfeeding.

"I wish children to be happy and grow with the idea that sexuality is important and is part of our lives," says Margarita Maria Mesa Leal, owner of the company that makes the dolls. Leal hand sews dolls herself, in addition to employing 27 local women in Medellin, Colombia, all of them mothers.

Dolls aren't cheap; an individual can be purchased for $39 or a family for up to $199. Leal didn't go into the particulars of what she pays her workers, but she says these prices allow her to pay a living wage and use only high quality materials.

Doll Explains Pregnancy

Leal, a former industrial designer, began the project in 2001 as an instructional device for her small daughter.

She created a mother doll, complete with a baby in the belly and a vagina, to explain that she was pregnant to her daughter. Though only 3 years old, her daughter took to the concept immediately, requesting a father doll and a sister doll to go with the mother and baby, just like her family. A for-profit, small business was born along with her son.

Leal sold the dolls to various families and small businesses around Colombia, and eventually throughout South America. She also spent much of those early months making dolls for a local orphanage filled with children, many of whom had lost their parents in Medellin, a cauldron of drug cartel-related violence during the 1990s. The dolls were a great tool for educating the children, many of whom did not have basic knowledge of human anatomy or sexuality and some of whom had also been sexually assaulted while on the streets.

Leal soon realized that many of these supposed orphans, in fact, had mothers who were too poor to take care of them. She began employing this population, providing them with just the opportunity they needed to move out of poverty and reclaim their children.

When Raul Morales, a Bronx, N.Y.-based advertising entrepreneur, stumbled upon Leal's table at a doll trade show in 2002, he was immediately taken by the quality and ingenuity of the dolls, but even more by Leal's commitment to the women and children of Colombia. A South American immigrant himself, Leal's work reminded him of home.

Sought by Educators and Families

OneWorld, a small business Morales owns, became the U.S. mail order distributor for the dolls. Their clients include parents, expectant women, doulas, child psychologists, sex educators, hospitals and child advocacy organizations throughout the Americas. He projects that OneWorld, constituted by Morales and two part-time consultants, will make about $25,000 total North American sales in 2006; Leal sells about the same amount to South American clients directly.

From its three original members the Amamanta Family has grown into a sprawling clan of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, adolescents and even step-parents representing more than 10 cultures. In addition to Colombian members, the company also makes contemporary U.S., traditional Indian and Japanese dolls.

Leal continues creating new dolls and making changes, sometimes at the suggestion of her customers.

Teresa Benami of Atlanta contacted Morales last December, after her 3-year-old daughter, Cora, made a request while playing with her new family of dolls, which had been a Hanukkah present. "She was worried about the newborn baby being cold and asked for a diaper," Benami said.

"I conveyed to Teresa that her little girl had just has given me a great idea for product innovation," Morales says.

Leal loved the idea and immediately designed a diaper to be included with all of the Amamanta Family doll units, which currently also come with a sling to carry the baby, clothes, a blanket and a brochure designed to guide the educational experience.

Dolls Also May Offend

The dolls, however, are not for everyone.

In fact, as Women's eNews was interviewing Morales, at a coffee shop on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, he pulled out an Amamanta Family of dolls to show the way in which a baby can be "born" from the mother's stomach and then snapped onto a breast to simulate breastfeeding. His demonstration offended a man at a nearby table who angrily asked, "Do you mind?"

Morales was not surprised. "People think these dolls are radical, but isn't it more radical to castrate a part of the human body as if kids will not notice?" he said, referring to conventional dolls, which now often feature breasts, but typically leave out genitalia.

But other people see the dolls as a way to communicate honestly and positively with children about human anatomy. He says recent customers include a health educator who planned to take the dolls to a rural part of Africa, where she was teaching children about AIDS with the challenge of not speaking the local language.

Parents for Megan's Law -- a Stony Brook, N.Y., nonprofit that seeks to prevent child sexual abuse -- recently put in the largest order Amamanta has ever received, hoping to use the dolls to educate children about the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch.

Courtney E. Martin is a writer, teacher and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body," her first book, which will be published on Simon and Schuster's Free Press in spring of 2007. You can read more about Courtney's work at

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Very Quotable Book

After hearing people rave on and on about it, I finally succumbed to reading The Time Traveler's Wife, and I hate to admit it, but it was a good tale. Afterwards, I immediately looked for Iggy Pop's Lust for Life and Prince's 1999. As for the latter, I prefer Purple Rain, whoops!

After being on the Vegan Freak forums for a while now, I have looked up Alkaline Trio and Propagandhi, as well.

WHOA me: what year am I in, anyway? But there you go.

Now I think it is time to get a copy of Possession; pun not intended!

I also dreamt of Sir Danny. Hmm. Mayhap I should ask how he is.


I shall end with a quote from Niffenegger's work. It's pp. 518-521 on my copy, and it is Henry's letter to Clare in the event of post-mortem:

A Letter to Be Opened in the Event of My Death

December 10, 2006

Dearest Clare,
As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in the back bedroom looking out at your studio across the backyard full of blue evening snow, and everything is slick and crusty with ice, and it is very still. It's one of those winter evenings when the coldness of every single thing seems to slow down time, like the narrow center of an hourglass which time itself flows through, but slowly, slowly. I have the feeling, very familiar to me when I am out of time but almost never otherwise, of being buoyed up by time, floating effortlessly on its surface like a fat lady swimmer. I had a sudden urge, tonight, here in the house by myself (you are at Alicia's recital at St. Lucy's) to write you a letter. I suddenly wanted to leave something, for after. I think that time is short, now. I feel as though all my reserves, of energy, of pleasure, of duration, are thin, small. I don't feel capable of continuing very much longer. I know you know.
If you are reading this, I am probably dead. (I say probably because you never know what circumstances may arise; it seems foolish and self-important to just declare one's own death as an out-and-out fact.) About this death of mine--I hope it was simple and clean and unambiguous. I hope it didn't create too much fuss. I'm sorry. (This reads like a suicide note. Strange.) But you know: you know that if I could have stayed, if I could have gone on, that I would have clutched every second: whatever it was, this death, you know that it came and took me, like a child carried away by goblins.
Clare, I want to tell you again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.
I hate to think of you waiting. I know that you have been waiting for me all your life, always uncertain of how long this patch of waiting would be. Ten minutes, ten days. A month. What an uncertain husband I have been, Clare, like a sailor, Odysseus alone and buffeted by tall waves, sometime wily and sometimes just a plaything of the gods. Please, Clare. When I am dead. Stop waiting and be free. Of me--put deep inside you and then go out in the world and live. Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element. I have given you a life of suspended animation. I don't mean to say that you have done nothing. You have created beauty, and meaning, in your art, and Alba, who is amazing, and for me: for me you have been everything.
After my mom died she ate my father up completely. She would have hated it. Every minute of his life since then has been marked by her absence, every action has lacked dimension because she is not there to measure against. And when I was young I didn't understand, but now, I know, how absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird. If I had to live on without you I know I could not do it. But I hope, I have this vision of you walking unencumbered, with your shining hair in the sun. I have not seen this with my eyes, but only with my imagination, that makes pictures, that always wanted to paint you, shining; but I hope that this vision will be true, anyway.
Clare, there is one last thing, and I have hesitated to tell you, because I'm superstitiously afraid that telling it might cause it not to happen (I know: silly) and also because I have just been going on about not waiting and this might cause you to wait longer than you have ever waited before. But I will tell you in case you need something, after.
Last summer, I was sitting in Kendrick's waiting room when I suddenly found myself in a dark hallway in a house I didn't know. I was sort of tangled up in a bunch of galoshes, and it smelled like rain. At the end of the hall I could see a rim of light around a door, and so I went very slowly and very quietly to the door and looked in. The room was white, and immensely lit with morning sun. At the window, with her back to me, sat a woman, wearing a coral-colored cardigan sweater, with long white hair all down her back. She had a cup of tea beside her, on a table. I must have made some little noise, or she sensed me behind her...she turned and saw me, and I saw her, and it was you, Clare, this was you as old woman, in the future. It was sweet, Clare, it was sweet beyond telling, to come as though from death to hold you, and to see the years all present in your face. I won't tell you any more, so you can imagine it, so you can have it unrehearsed when the time comes, as it will, as it does come. We will see each other again, Clare. Until then, live, fully, present in the world, which is so beautiful.
It's dark now, and I am very tired. I love you, always. Time is nothing.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Yoga on a Full Moon

Last night, I practiced yoga, but had a bit of a hard time with balance, plus my energy levels were sapped. I was wobbly getting off Ustrasana, and I felt like collapsing at some point. I couldn't understand it. Then my teacher F said, "It's probably a full moon tonight."

As I was going home, I looked up, and indeed it was. But what about it? I checked this site, and this is what it had to say: Full* and new^ moon days are observed as yoga holidays, as the energy force created by the moon and sun being in opposition and conjunction affects emotions and energy, and respecting these phases is believed to honor nature's rhythms....The moon controls the tides of the oceans. So, if two thirds of the human body weight is water, then it is likely that the moon affects our emotions and energy levels.

The crescent moon is also said to be very symbolic in yoga, at times being the symbol of yoga itself.

Other things to note: The period of a waning moon leading up to a new moon is the best time for detoxifying the body--release all your toxins and refresh. This is the optimum time to exfoliate, use cleansing face packs, sea-salt baths, seaweed wraps, have facials and sweat it out in the sauna.

The phase when the moon is waxing up to a full moon is the time to replenish, regenerate and repair your skin with moisturizers and essential oil massages. Give your hair a deep conditioning treatment too, as it's believed that the skin and hair are more absorbent at this time.

*The full moon occurs between 14 and 15 days after the new moon, and is shaped like a complete disc. The moon's illuminated side is facing the earth. The full moon reflects the maximum light from the sun. This is the time when the moon's energy is strongest and full of magick power.

^The new moon occurs when the sun and moon are in conjunction, occupying the same part of the sky from the viewpoint of earth. During this time the moon doesn't reflect the light of the sun, and so cannot be seen (except during a solar eclipse). The moon's un-illuminated side is facing the earth. This is a time of growing energy, newness, rejuvenation, growth, renewal and hope. It is a good point to make changes in your life, such as ending bad habits or relationships.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Decisions on My Three-fold Path

Yoga in Manila:

Roberto Dario's Power Yoga --I don't think this is for me

Bela Lipat--I don't know why, but she scares me, though I think she also teaches Sivananda, which looks nice

Yoga Manila (Iyengar)--what I'm thinking of incorporating for alignment's sake (I'm told I'm too flexible)

Yoga Manila (Ashtanga)--piqued by this

Bikram Yoga Manila--what I practice: I love the push and the heat and the accompanying sweat

This article and quiz might help.

But what if I want to mix?

A glossary of Sanskrit terms here for resource purposes.

Then ohmygosh, there's Reiki, and vegan wholefoods cooking school.

But seriously, just do it; one step at a time.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back From Bora Too Soon

Despite the howling super-typhoon Reming/Durian (int.) baying at our heels the first day and half of the second, and despite Dad having a bad stomach (Ai-ya, that's for eating oysters on an empty stomach!) for most of our stay, I think our first sojourn to Boracay was a success. For my part, I had Iyengar yoga (Day 2), a Reiki exercise, and Yin Yoga(Day 3/Last Night), all for the first time, at Mandala Spa, where, incidentally, I met a wonderful person/mentor who I experienced all three exercises with, and who encouraged me to go down that same path ("You're a natural; you were born for it!"). Well, I definitely know where I want to go back to! ;)

Personal favorite (place)s:
Lemon Café
Mandala Spa
Sur Resort
the Roxy/Ripcurl shop next to Nothing But Water in D'Mall

Mom liked:
Pearl of the Pacific
Lemon Café

Places to try next:
Bamboo Bar (sangria with cinnamon!)
Juice Bar (caipirinhas?)
dive shops

The white, powdery sand, the deep azure sky, the cerulean waters, the slower, peaceful vibe...I loved every minute of it. Here's to bringing less material goods, but having more soul goods: here's to a return trip sometime soon.