December 22, 2015

Dear Dad

Today, at age 70, you face surgery to remove the cancer that threatens your life.  I wish I could be there.  Sitting by the phone feels kind of pathetic compared to the endless ways you have been there for me in my life.  Your wish that we not crowd around you hovering and fretting is understandable.  In my helplessness, I  reach for pen and paper.

I just got word from, John (your brother and guardian in this adventure) that they let you WALK to the OR.  No way did they let me do that when I was in your shoes just 18 months ago!   They had me on a gurney whipping down the hall before panic could set in.  Smart, because I probably would have bolted.  This is symbolic of your deep strength to face whatever confronts you in life.  Even the doctors sensed that you would not run away,  no matter what lay behind those doors.

I recently heard Rabbi Lord Jonathon Sacks discuss what the Torah has to say about surviving trauma.    When Sarah died, Abraham was 137 years old.  He had already survived one trauma, the binding of Isaac.  How does a father survive almost sacrificing his only child?  Now his life long partner has died.  Two traumas involving the people he loves the most.  How did he have the strength to survive them?

The Torah says that Abraham, “came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her”.  Then the very next line says, “and Abraham rose from his grief”.  Rabbi Sacks goes on to say that from that point forward Abraham “engaged in a flurry of activity with two aims in mind: first to buy a plot of land in which to bury Sarah, second to find a wife for his son. Note that these correspond precisely to the two Divine blessings: of land and descendants. Abraham did not wait for God to act. He understood one of the profoundest truths of Judaism: that God is waiting for us to act.”

You are like Abraham.  At a very young age you began to carry others.  As much as we love to hear your ‘poor stories’, they are not what a childhood should be.  Then your father died.  All 8 of your siblings would agree that you carried everyone through a horrible trauma.   You let go of your own 20 year old life, dropped out of college, moved home and simply carried them.   How you were able to stand tall and move forward under the weight of this burden, I can’t imagine.

Rabbi Sacks points to modern day mentors who overcame tragedy,.. Holocaust survivors.  Soldiers who liberated the concentration camps talked about how it changed them forever.  How then, did the people who actually survived them cope?  How did they move past such trauma?

Many of them refused to speak about the horrors.  Not to their marriage partners, or children.  Instead, they began to build a new life and a new land.   “They looked forward not back. First they built a future. Only then – sometimes forty or fifty years later – did they speak about the past. That was when they told their story, first to their families, then to the world. First you have to build a future. Only then can you mourn the past.”

I knew growing up, without ever being told, that your father’s death was a forbidden topic.  Suicide.  Even saying it now feels like breaking a code of silence.  You did not speak about it until I was grown.  Mom remembers when you received the call that summer.  You were standing at the table in your apartment where you were both working 2 jobs to get through another year of college.  She says you sat down and dropped your head into your hands.   Then, as soon as your head hit the table you stood  back up and moved on.  You began to take care of what needed to be done.  She never saw you cry.  Not until 20 years later.

I think there may be trauma so great, that to stop and mourn is a luxury you can not afford at that time.  You run the risk of getting stuck there.  “Lot’s wife, against the instruction of the angels, actually did look back as the cities of the plain disappeared under fire and brimstone and the anger of God. Immediately she was turned into a pillar of salt, the Torah’s graphic description of a woman so overwhelmed by shock and grief as to be unable to move on.”    Abraham “set the precedent: first build the future, and only then can you mourn the past. If you reverse the order, you will be held captive by the past. You will be unable to move on. You will become like Lot’s wife.”

I think all these years, I didn’t really understand.  I didn’t understand that you protected us all from the horror and trauma that you had to face.  You did not allow yourself to become lost in the past.  You refused to dwell there.  You went about building a future.  You had to do this in order to survive.  In your quiet way, you and mom got your college education.  You kept your mother and siblings from drowning and brought your own children into the world at the same time.  Even when I went through eye surgery as an infant and you were told I was blind, you did not falter.  You and mom worked and went to classes while never leaving me alone in the hospital for a single minute.  In a time that parents didn’t stay with their children in the hospital, you didn’t leave me alone.

Then, when we were almost grown.  When all involved could stand on their own two feet.   When holding your silence was going to wreck you and the future you had worked so hard to build.  Only then did you look back.  Only then did you mourn the past.  For the first time in my life, I saw you cry.  You did not cry from anger or bitterness, but with grief of a boy abandoned by his father.

Your sacrifice gave me a childhood.  One that was wholesome and carefree.  You made sure I had a strong and loving father to lean on even in my 40’s.  You built me a future.  Then you taught me how to survive.


We went for a long walk just a few days ago, and you were already listening for a ‘future calling to you’.  Something left undone.  Something only you could fulfill.  Something meaningful to leave behind.  Something that would secure a future for both your land and your descendants.   Something that you had to beat this cancer so you could build.

Rabbi Sacks explains, “Abraham heard the future calling to him. Sarah had died. Isaac was unmarried. Abraham had neither land nor grandchildren. He did not cry out, in anger or anguish, to God. Instead, he heard the still, small voice saying: The next step depends on you. You must create a future that I will fill with My spirit. That is how Abraham survived the shock and grief. God forbid that we experience any of this, but if we do, this is how to survive.”

I spent my day writing this to you.  (There were a few interruptions and loud children running around)  I can’t say it was my finest parenting hour.  My body was here while my heart was hovering and fretting outside the OR.   You made it through surgery and are resting comfortably tonight.  I am so thankful.  I honestly would not have been surprised if they had reported you walked OUT of the OR after surgery.

Dad, you have faced both tragedy and miracle in your life.  You have faced each with grace and quiet strength.  You have the survivor instinct to get after building a future when faced with trauma.  You are like Abraham.   I will always carry with me an image of you WALKING to the OR today.   It sums up how you live your life.  Walking forward on your own two feet, with quiet dignity and courage to face whatever comes.

Your loving daughter and greatest admirer





making my case for more time in the woods

A Mother’s Manifesto

I want my children to spend more time playing in the woods!   I want them to build forts and climb trees and play wild games of chase and hide and seek.  I want them to co-exist with bugs, ants, spiders and snakes without hyperventilating.

Here is why and what I did about it.

Their school has access to a natural wooded area with a creek running through it.


Last year Hannah’s teacher took them out here to play.  Not all the teachers felt so comfortable doing this.  The teachers at this school love the children as their own.   A wild wooded area where children run free is intimidating.  The fear of them getting hurt is unbearable.  I understand and appreciate this.  Finding the balance between safety and the need to explore is not always so simple.

So this past August, I helped coordinate an in-service for all the teachers with a naturalist.  We took them out to play and learn in this outdoor classroom.  The following is my letter shared with them, making a case for more time in the woods.

I, Michaux Shaffer, mother of Hannah and Zeke, am here today as a parent representative in full support of my children spending time each day in the woods, regardless of weather, mud, bugs and risk.  I will give you 3 good reasons I feel strongly about this.

  1. Nature is the original multi-sensory learning experience.  It’s got it all.  Children can access, engage and feed all their senses.  It is a full body experience.  This forest is a natural library.  It contains an endless and untapped supply of multi-sensory learning opportunities children can explore at their own pace.  I want my children to have full access to one of our most valuable teachers–mother nature.
  2. Spending time in the natural world benefits not only learning, but the development of the ‘whole child’.  In Chicago access to outdoor movement and play is consistently limited at school by severe weather.  Many times, we begin to better understand the value of something when we see the effects of its absence.  Each winter we lived there, I watched my children grow pasty and weak, losing muscle tone and getting sick often.  My last winter there, the children did not go outside to recess for 3 months straight during an especially cold winter.  Sensory Integration issues, mood, attention and behavior disorders in children that require therapeutic intervention are on the rise.  There is a connection between this rise in serious disorders and children spending less time outdoors.  I saw this first hand in my work as a Marriage and Family Therapist.  It was not just my children who were suffering from lack of outdoor play and movement.  There were many other children who were suffering even more severely than my own.  I saw everything from lacking the core strength to sit up in class, to phobias of, not only dirt and bugs, but the very ground itself!  Not to mention, severe anxiety and depression in younger and younger children.  More and more research is focusing on extended time in nature as a therapeutic intervention alternative for these disorders with amazing results.
  3. My children, Zeke and Hannah.  Richard Louv in his book, “Last Child in the Woods” tells us that fear of the  natural world comes when we disconnect from it.  When children develop a personal relationship with nature, they become stewards of the earth.  One of the core values in Judaism is Tikkun Olam (repair the world).  I would like to find as many ways as possible for my children to uncover their power to repair the world around them.  I want my children to learn about habitat restoration and benefit from the therapeutic effects of spending time in a natural and wild habitat.  Last year, Hannah loved going to school more than I have ever seen her.  I asked her what gave her that spring in her step?  She thought for a minute and replied simply, “the woods”.  So I joined them one day at recess to see first hand what she was loving so much.  I witnessed a high level of imaginative play and movement in all different planes of motion.  Running, jumping, balancing, lifting etc.  I tried to keep up with them to video their play.  I run on trails regularly.  I consider myself somewhat fit.  I could not keep up.  They were able to move quickly over and under very technical terrain and through tight spaces.  Aside from being a workout that could stand up in any ‘cross fit’ gym across the country, these are all kinds of movement and sensory experiences that an OT would prescribe for children with sensory issues.  In a country where childhood obesity is on the rise, I can’t imagine a more beneficial way to get children moving.  I also observed that the freedom to take risks, climbing and jumping had significantly developed their judgment and ability to navigate this natural space, therefore, making them safer in the process.  When they were showing me how they climb on a ‘climbing wall’ of vines, I asked if they could go any higher?  They responded, “no” that they had learned through experience that to go higher was to risk pulling the vines down and falling.  Play researcher, Peter Gray, in his book, “Free to Learn” writes that when children and animals are given freedom to take risks in play they don’t just jump off rooftops to risk their lives.  They become scientists.  They systematically take calculated risks that they can handle, exposing themselves to levels of danger and fear that test themselves, and then incorporate what they learn.  This means that they will get dirty and fall down.  But it also means they will develop safer judgement and increased body awareness and control.  Allowing children to take risks makes them safer!  Zeke is a great example of this.  He has already had 2 concussions, a broken foot and stitches in his chin.  In his stuntman personality he takes more physical risks than most children.   I  have learned through experience, that if I do not let him learn HOW to fall, he will be in much greater danger down the road.  He is, by far, the most skilled ‘mover’ in our family.  He has astounding skill, body awareness and control of his body in space that makes him more coordinated, mobile and SAFE than most children his age.  I want my children to have access to this natural playground so they can take these calculated risks, test themselves and become safer in the process. 

We know that it is crucial for children to have time to move, play and explore.  But when we give them this, in combination with the natural world, we take out an insurance policy of sorts for the future.  For their future and the future of their world.

I want my children to spend time in the woods getting messy, taking risks, repairing their world and experiencing ‘full body learning’.  I believe this is how we support the development of safer, smarter, happier, healthier kids. 

Please share this with anyone and everyone that you feel could benefit from it. 

Yours Warmly–Michaux Shaffer

My Mom used to say

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

My Grandma Myles lived with us when I was a little girl.  One of my earliest memories is of her standing in the kitchen making some yummy treat to take to the beach.  I was standing behind her watching and waiting to go.  She had on a beach cover up and my eye level came right up to the back of her legs.  I remember studying the blue and purple veins running like highways up and down her legs.

The strongest part of that memory is the overwhelming feeling of love as I looked at her.   She was the most beautiful woman in the entire world.  I remember thinking “that is the most beautiful color purple”.

I was a little girl.  I was beholding true beauty.  It was powerful.

Then I forgot.

I learned that varicose veins are ugly, unsightly and something to be fixed.  I learned other things too.  Things little girls learn as they grow into women.  I learned anything different about you that doesn’t fit the ‘ideal’ shape or size of the women on TV or in the magazines is NOT beautiful.  I learned that anything about you that doesn’t fit the ‘ideal’ is something to make you feel shame or embarrassment.  Regardless of how many times I heard my mom say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.  It didn’t matter.  I had unlearned what it meant.

I love to watch people.  I looked everywhere but couldn’t  find the ‘ideal’ woman walking around the grocery store, dropping off her kids at school, playing at the park, beach or shopping at the mall.  Where was she? Where did she dwell?  I only saw her in the magazines when I checked out with my groceries.  I am guessing those magazine women were thankful for the technology required to make them look ‘ideal’.

My hands are old.  They are at least 100 years old.  They have thousands of wrinkles, elephant knuckles, age spots and big veins popping out.  I never paint my nails because it would look weird on such old hands.  My hands will never be found in a magazine of the ‘ideal’.  I was embarrassed of these old hands.  Until…

I was joking about them one day with my family and my daughter said, “I love your hands.  They are one of my favorite things about you”.


The rest of the family chimed in, “Yes!.  We love your hands.  They show how hard you work.  We love them”

Then I remembered.  The things about you that are different are the best things about you.  The things about you that don’t fit the ‘ideal’, make you, You.  You NEED those things.  I am guessing God gave them to us on purpose.  A gift to us and to the people who love us.  Because the people who love you and me, inside and out, love those things the most.  If we were just an ‘ideal’ then there would be nothing unique to cherish.

Sometime during those many years of birthing 4 babies a Dr. noticed the many purple varicose veins running up and down my legs and asked if I wanted to fix them.  I laughed.  His eyebrows shot up and he looked at me with his head to the side.  I just said, “No I need them”.  He shook his head and rubbed his hands through his hair.  I didn’t explain further.

But I want to make sure to fully explain.  I tell my girls frequently that their beauty is something that shines from the inside out.  That each act of loving kindness increases your beauty.  My grandmother had a lifetime of these piled up by the time I knew her.  “I need them” these big purple veins and these old hands because I want to earn that kind of beauty.  Not in spite of them but because of them.  Because they represent me.  My children and husband loving my old hands is a sign I am on the right track.  And who knows?  Maybe after a lifetime of working at loving kindness there will be a little boy or girl who looks at the highway running up and down my legs and says, “That is the most beautiful color purple”.


the souls of my tribe


When I was 17, I lived through a nuclear explosion.  My parents divorced.

Before that day I had lived my life full of family. Not just my sister and parents living our life in our little house together, but my enormous comforting cushion of 23 aunts and uncles, 27 cousins and 3 living grandparents.

Up until that day I spent many hours growing that connection, sharing experiences, creating memories with ‘my people’. People with whom I shared a genetic pool and a history.  My tribe. It wasn’t something I gave much thought.   I had the privilege of taking it all for granted.

After our nuclear family explosion, there was a black hole where that cushion of family had been.   It wasn’t really anyone’s fault.   Just the fall out of that type of war.  My uncle Andy was the only one close enough to walk with us through the rubble.

We left our home we grew up in and were taken to new homes.  We were handed a new family. Step family.  My sister and I tried to forge bonds there. We failed. Perhaps we were half hearted in our attempt. There was no shared genes or history there. There was instead, a shared wariness. A jealousy over the territory of our parents.

We decided to not need it. To not need family. To not need to be a part of our tribe. We had each other, it could be enough.  So my sister and I became an island. Shipwrecked and lonely. We didn’t admit this to any one but each other. It was our shameful little secret of isolation. Everybody else seemed to have that happy Thanksgiving  thing going on. That Rockefeller Christmas. It was just us. We were the tainted broken ones not good enough to be included any more.

Jelalluddin Rumi speaks of the Open Secret in his poems and commentaries written centuries ago.  This ‘secret’ that we ALL carry around in some form or another trying to hide from each other.  The one about how everyone else has it (life, family, etc) figured out except us.

I was amazed at the affection and longing my children seemed to be born with for their extended family.  Even very young they seemed to know that family was different from friends we had made along the way. This love seemed to be especially powerful towards their cousins. Watching this, I felt a stirring.

This deep love seemed to be there even when we lived far away and they saw each other rarely.  It caused me to reach out tentatively for my own, my people, my tribe. It had been so long. An email here and there. Finding and friending family bit by bit on Facebook. All from a distance.

Then there was an opening. A window. My cousin’s wedding.

I have not seen Patrick, Macon and Emily since they were very little.

That was a long time ago.

  Rumi writes that “When you do something from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy”.

I had no idea how much I missed them. I had not paid attention to the Open Secret they had been carrying all these years.  Each in our own worlds thinking we were the only ones not invited to sit at the family table.  Their suffering so much greater than mine.

My soul woke up and whispered, ‘pay attention, these are your people. You have been away too long’.  I felt the river moving in me. It was joy.

I spent the evening soaking them in.  Trying to catch up on our stories. Crying at the beauty of them. Missing their father. Touching them to make sure they were real. Wanting to sit them down on my lap and pet them and hold them close. Instead trying to use my words to say ‘i am sorry for all the time I have lost. I want to come back home’. 

We don’t live in villages with our families much anymore. We are spread out across countries and even continents many times. Our lives are hectic and some days I can barely keep up with my own children much less my sister or parents. I am not doing a good job of keeping my children connected to their cousins, in spite of their longing.

But this weekend I felt an opening of my heart. So many things came into focus that I had pushed down below the surface of my soul.

I reconnected with ‘my tribe’… my cousins.   

The gift of a

Frisbee Summer

My oldest son, Noah, is coming home in exactly 5 days, 1hour and 32 minutes.  Yes, I am counting it down.  I have not seen him since August 28, 2014.  To be a first timer at letting go of my first fledgling, I think this is pretty hard core.   I went from the comfort of having him sleep at night under my roof, safe and sound, to an occasional phone call from another time zone, halfway across the world.

Last June 2014, I was still reeling from a surprise cancer diagnosis and immediate major surgery as I stood (and mostly sat) at his graduation from high school.


It hit me.  I had a summer.  I had one precious summer left in my house with all my children living under my roof before it changed forever.  Sure, we can always count on change, but for the last 18 years I had been a stay at home mother with at least one small child not even in school yet.  I never had to adjust to life as they leave my nest.  My life had been about adjusting around these children who were always around me!  Now, my child was leaving for another country and I was moving away from Chicago.

At first, I panicked.  I will confess that I don’t do panic very well.  It looked something like me pouncing on my 18 year old son at breakfast with a guilt trip about not spending enough time with me.  It went from there to an angry tirade about ‘aren’t we important to you? We are your FAMILY!’   If you had a video camera, you would have seen him looking at me wide eyed and nodding, mouth open.   He then backed out the door slowly, breakfast forgotten, until he cleared the door frame, at which time, he RAN to the car and drove off as fast as he knew he could get away with.  I cried.

I knew I could not prevent the inevitable.  This child was leaving home.  It was time.  It was exactly what I knew was a successful outcome.  A child confident and independent enough to go out into the world and figure out his path.  But damn it sucked.

When I related the conversation to Richard, he laughed.  Then he shared with me the secret sauce.  “Michaux, if you chase him, he will run away.  He is an 18 year old boy.  Just find something fun to do with him, then make the time to do it. That is all you have.”

I knew he was right.  (enjoy that statement Richard, it is rare)  At first, I did the standard mother things.  I spent money on him.  I took him out for lunch, or dinner.  I took him shopping.  We went to the movies.  But that will only take you so far.

Then one day the answer came.  Noah was sitting on the couch frustrated that a friend had ditched plans with him.  I was, of course, secretly jumping up and down, clapping my hands at an unexpected chance to have time with him.  I went through the list of things I could think of to do and he ‘poo pooed’ all of them.  He was really not happy about being dumped.  I finally said in frustration, “Noah I just want to hang out with you!”  He sat there for a minute, and then he looked at me and said, “You know all I really want to do is play frisbee.”  (NOW WE ARE TALKING!!)

OH YEAH!  Noah and I played some FRISBEE.  We played.  All summer.

Whenever we could sneak away from the other kids, (they would always take over the game) we would grab the frisbee and go to the big field at the park and play.  It was pure play.  Neither one of us willing to call the game.  It became a friendly competition to see if I (old, broken down) could outlast him (young, strong).

One particular day, I was in bed suffering and sick, and Noah came home with a new official frisbee.  He bounded like a puppy into the house and demanded that I get out of bed!  I couldn’t imagine how I was gonna get out of bed at that moment, and yet, I couldn’t imagine how I was NOT gonna get out of that bed.  So I got out! I played for an hour  before the other kids realized I was outside having fun without them.

When Noah did leave home and we did pack up our house and move across states, it was pretty traumatic.   I didn’t get to go visit him, or even talk to him much.  I don’t know what his room looked like.  He hasn’t seen our new home.  I didn’t get to meet his teachers or his new found friends.  I will admit to some tears about all this.  Yet, I had that frisbee summer tucked into my heart to hold onto.   It was a gift that sustained me.

Now I am getting the gift of another summer.  I will have all my children under my roof for a short time.  This time, in August I have to face sending  TWO of my four children off into the world.  My daughter, Micah, 14 is leaving home to attend school back in Chicago.

This decision was obviously not made over night.  It was a tough trial and year for her here in SC.  I watched her suffer and prayed for the answer.  I was bothered that her brother had a wonderful Jewish high school education and I could not give her the same.  So when she came to us and asked to go away to school, I knew I had to take her seriously.  I listened with a heavy heart.  I felt angry and cheated just thinking about being absent from her high school experience.  She is only 14!  How can I lose another one!  I was supposed to have four more years before I had to do that ‘letting go’ thing again.  It felt so unfair and yet I knew it was what she needed.

I made the phone call to the admissions counselor and was sick to my stomach the entire time.  I got off the phone and bawled.  I laid face down on the floor and shook.  I called G-d a few bad words.  I could not get up for awhile.

Then I stopped.  I remembered last year this same time.  I looked at all the reasons I did not want her to go and knew they were my selfish reasons not hers.  I realized I had to figure out MY path separate from my children.  Because, dammit they are gonna grow up and leave you.  And that is if it all goes WELL.  I knew if I did not figure out my purpose in this world I would not survive this child rearing.  My heart was breaking.

So I let it go.  I pulled out my frisbee summer from my heart space and let it soothe me.  I began to look forward to the fleeting gift ahead.  A summer.  This is what I have.  I must embrace it and use it to create new memories to tuck into my heart.  I must enjoy my children while I have them.  That is all we really have.

I can’t wait to play frisbee.  I look at the long golf hole number 3 out my back yard and see the game in my imagination.  I am excited to discover what else?  What gift will I get with Micah to sustain my heart this fall?   Maybe it will be the foraging for wild blackberries after dinner in the vacant lot nearby.


Maybe it will be the kayaking down the Saluda River.  Maybe it will be the silly dancing in the kitchen while I cook.  Maybe it will be all of the above!  Maybe it will be something from G-d’s great imagination that I can’t fathom.

I am trying to figure out what else I am, but right now I am a mother.  A mother getting used to my children leaving home.  A mother learning how to let go but not despair.

A mother looking forward to another frisbee summer 🙂

A reflection

Mother’s Day 2015

I took a look back at my words from Mother’s Day last year.   I love writing because it paints a picture, not just of what I did, but how I felt.  Reflection is a process I find a necessity of my life.  (When there is time)

Reflecting on my post (re posted below) I realized, that WAS the gift of last year… More time

Invasive cancer caught, in time, through a miraculous sequence of events outside my control.

What a gift of Grace!!  A double gift.

More time…AND

The knowledge that I was given more time.

I don’t know exactly how much, no one can know that.  But I know it was more.

WOW  I did nothing to deserve more time.  I know there are many others without more time.

I am not sure I lived this, more time, fully enough.  I have had good days and bad days, but mostly I have had MORE days!  So many more, that I took some for granted.   Some, not all.

Not the day I gave birth to myself.  The part of me that had given life 4 times, now giving life to me.

That was kind of a big deal.  I was the mother recovering from a difficult birth and baby beginning all at once.  One year old now, I am starting to stand on my two feet and walk a bit.  Shaky still.

Not the days my Mom came to take care of me.  Healing not only physical wounds but emotional ones.  Not the week Richard spent with me in the hospital.   I treasure those days.  There is more:

The day I got to sit, so proud, and hear my son give one of the commencement speeches at graduation.  The days last summer I played frisbee with Noah.  A whole field to ourselves of green grass and clover.  Running barefoot, at risk of being stung, by offended bees accidentally stepped on.  Too tired to play, too much fun to quit.  The day I watched him walk away to board a flight to Israel for a year.  Instead of tears, just sweat pouring down his shirt.  Tall, strong and young.  Goodness wrapped around him like a warm yellow light.  Knowing I would be here to miss him.  Knowing I would be here to see him home.

My wedding anniversary, celebrated by Richard, myself and the United Van moving team cleaning out our house.  Homeless and moving to a new land.  Unforgettable and perfect, as it highlighted the teamwork we have hard earned through our 20 year journey together.   A very surprising and unpredictable path trying to love each other, and raise good happy kids without losing ourselves and each other along the way.  The day I bought this dress.


In spite of all the good reasons I shouldn’t.  Because I could.  Because I was still here, standing in this store liking how it looked on me.  Even with an endless number of more days, you only get a handful of those!  The day I wore it and my husband kissed me like that.

The day we were all sick, homeless, the temperature dropped to 10 degrees and all I could do was cry.   The days I was so mad at my kids I started screaming at them!  Until I said something stupid and we all started laughing.  The days I have had to say “I’m sorry” for being grumpy, grouchy, snappy and impatient.  The days I belly laughed so hard at my family telling stories and acting out skits around the dinner table.  The day I cried to the ‘uber’ driver all the way to the airport, because we were moving and leaving our dear friends.  (No one else will give my kids THAT experience).

The weeks of days I spent with Zeke at his new school.   Witnessing and waiting and supporting his struggle to stand on his own two feet in a foreign land.   Me, the only one who could see him through in just that way.  The day he hugged me and walked away.  No tears.

Hannah’s first day at her new school.  The joyful surprise when she got to the classroom and said, “Mom I got this, you can go”.

The day I saw Micah walk through Security on her own to fly to Chicago.  Watching her not watching me.  The day I took her to the airport to fly to Israel on her own and she wanted me to stay with her through Security.  Me, being able to offer ‘security’ just a bit longer.  Knowing she was going to see her brother.  Knowing they were excited to see each other.  Knowing they didn’t have the burden of missing me yet.  Knowing, even when my time is up, they have each other, and I am still here to nurture that.  Reminding myself why it was OK I didn’t get to see Noah this time.  I have more time.

Time.  More of it.  Lots more of it.

This Mother’s Day, one year later, I am here.  I am healthy.  My whole family is healthy.  Richard, Hannah, Zeke and I played at the beach.   I watched them squeal and ride the waves.  I took a long walk barefoot in the sand and savored every sweet step.  Steps I could not take last Mother’s Day.   I gave myself permission to let go of any need for fast or far to be a part of my progress and recovery.   I enjoyed simply… progress.  We splurged and stayed a night, in spite of all the good reasons why we shouldn’t.   Because we could.  Because we are still here.    Because we know we were given more time and we are thankful

Time.  More of it.  I was given more days.   I was generously and lovingly given the knowledge of receiving more days.  Then I was given the hope of looking forward to even more days.  A rare and precious gift.

I fully let go of my expectations that ‘Mother’s Day’ look like a greeting card.  I did not need anything from my family to make the day special.   I got to be a mom for another year.  A year of more days.   I take the good days and the bad days with a grateful heart.  Because at the end of the day.  I have been given MORE. 

Happy Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day 2014

One year later, I take a look back.

Not The Maid

Mother’s Day has always been something of a disappointment to me.  Never able to live up to it’s Hallmark image.  My husband and children never able to really do enough to mark it special.  I, never able to do enough to mark it special for my mother, mother in law, sister, grandmothers.  All of this, measured by my own dissatisfied harsh internal judgment and measuring stick.  I have listened to friends lament how it fell short for them.  Their husbands or parents or children not able or willing to do what it takes to really honor the sacrifice and work it takes to be a mother.  Or the opposite.  I have listened to other mothers brag about how perfectly their families celebrated them, and felt pretty depressed about how my own marked the day.

Until now.

I think I finally ‘GET’ Mother’s Day.  Sad that it took facing illness and…

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