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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Passover 2015

Becoming Myself

One year ago there was a momentum beginning.  I had come through significant financial, spiritual and marital distress.  I had overcome the paralysis of being an anonymous stay at home mom for 17 years, to starting my career again.  I was getting some traction at building an identity that was separate from my children and husband.  I was building a few days a week in private practice as a Family Therapist.  I was going to workshops again, collaborating with other professionals, even leading groups and workshops on my own and with others.  I was preparing for my daughter, Micah’s, Bat Mitzvah the Shabbat after Passover.  This had forced me to stop waiting for someone else to lead the way to finding a spiritual community.  I began finding that on my own.  I had even been asked to give (and delivered) a D’Var Torah (sermon or lesson) to our congregation.  I had discovered how much I love to play physically.  I was running, swimming and beginning to learn about a way of playing called Everything was lining up.  I had laid a foundation to build upon.  Zeke would go to Kindergarten in the fall and I would be ready.   I would build my practice and identity as a Family Therapist.  I would do some physical preparation so I could be ready for a movnat certification course in September.   I would get to enjoy the community I had begun to realize was surrounding me.

Then Passover comes around.

The rug was yanked out from under me.  I lost my footing and my world turned upside down.  (again!  this does seem to be a theme in life) I had cancer.

How could this have happened to ME???  I was stronger and healthier than I had ever been!  I had no symptoms.  Except maybe that deep down tired that I couldn’t shake over the winter.  I thought it was just the winter.

It is never lost on me how Passover has become this significant time in my life when G-d forces me to let go.  It is a time of freedom, yes, but the children of Israel  had to LET GO of being slaves.  They didn’t all want to, you know.  Not all the slaves followed Moses out of Egypt.  Those that did had to wander in the desert for 40 years before they let go of their identity as slaves.  Actually, G-d finally had to wait until they had children who had never BEEN slaves.  That is how powerful our identity is to us.

Father Rohr speaks about our identity, our ego, in his writings.  He claims that G-d doesn’t like our ego that we create for ourselves.  Mainly because it gets in the way of us being ourselves.  The self that G-d created.  G-d is ready to strip us of that ego whenever She/He gets the chance.  In whatever way is possible.  Because G-d doesn’t know our ego.  That is something we create.  G-d wants US, not this illusion we create to show every one else.

So one year later… I am completely stripped of my ego.  I was beginning to create that identity of my own.  That thing I wanted to show the rest of the world.  It is gone.  I am back to being the anonymous ‘stay at home’ mom.  I am starting from scratch to find a community.  Hell, to even find my way around the grocery store! (don’t knock how hard that is!)

Passover last year started a letting go that rivals anything I have been through in my life as of yet.  Starting with my health, I then let go of my work as a Family Therapist, my son (leaving home), then my home, my community…my identity.   I had to let go.  It is a very humbling experience.  Actually it is not just humbling, it is devastating.  I had a few days and weeks of pure grief.  Crying constantly.  Then anger.  Then crabbiness and grumpiness.  Then snapping at my family.  Then crying again.  It has gone on for awhile now.  It does not seem to be done yet.

And yet, my body is healing.  I am cancer free.  I have a beautiful new home in a new state.  My son has had an amazing year in Israel.  My husband has a wonderful new job.  My other children have made new friends and fallen in love with new schools.  I have reunited with my best friend of 15 years. So many blessings.

So what is the problem??

I guess that finding ‘myself’ ain’t that easy.  Letting go of my ego is spiritual work.  I understand that intellectually.  I don’t get it on a full body visceral level.  I am grieving what is lost.  I was attached to it  ALL.

So who is the real me?  How do I become ‘myself’?  How do I fill out MY life and live it fully?  That mission G-d sent me down here to fulfill?  The one I agreed to in full before my Angel touched my lip and let me forget?  How do I remember where I am supposed to go and what I am supposed to do??  How do I do it without creating that armor?  That ego?  That identity that I want to use to puff me up like the chametz??

Last Passover I was the matzah.  Barely able to stand up.  Unable to rise.  My beautiful friends picked me up and carried me through Passover on their backs.  Frankly, I have to say, it was one of the most beautiful experiences in my life.  To be so fully supported and so clearly carried in a time of crisis.  There was no doubt that i was loved and cared for.

So I face this Passover with so many emotions and questions.  I hope that I can tap into that same sense of being carried, fully supported by G-d, as I was by my friends and community last year this time.  I know G-d is there to do that.  The challenge is to tap into it.  Maybe if I can, I won’t have to worry about the identity so much.  That whole “who am I” thing.  Maybe G-d is ok with just plain ole me.  My father tells me I have to let go before something else can take hold.  Letting go makes space for something new.  My mother says, the grief carves out space so you can fit more joy.

So my prayer this year is that G-d please carry me fully supported on Your back like the matzah.  Please help ease the pain of letting go.  Transform this pain of letting go into the joy of freedom.  Help me embrace this as freedom to find the path you want for me.  Please use that empty space to fill me up with the essence of ‘myself’.  The real me.  The one You intended for this world.  And then please, please help me remember which way to go.

Thanksgiving 2014



noun \kō-ˈin(t)-sə-dən(t)s, -sə-ˌden(t)s\

 the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection
The first known use of this word was in 1605.
I have been thinking about my ‘thanksgiving’ this year and it keeps coming back to this word.  Mostly, because of how inadequate a word I think it is, yet how present it is in my life.  I have decided to formally strike it from my vocabulary.  (After this post)  The problem is finding an adequate word to replace it.  I will explain.  I will start small.
The Thursday before Thanksgiving, I wrestled myself, my remaining family (3 kids) and all my remaining stuff (which exploded and multiplied during the 6 weeks I moved into our friend’s house) to the airport for our final trip to Columbia, SC.  I cried the entire morning.  I was leaving such good friends.  I was facing the vast unknown.  We were all still recovering from a serious bout of ‘yuck’ just days before.  It was COLD.  It was to the point of comical.  At least that is the tone of the skit my children enjoy acting out now, dubbed “Uber Ride to Chicago Airport”.  I tearfully explained to the Uber driver through sobs and snot that I was really fine.  I was just moving away and it was haaaaard.  (That last word has to be drawn way out.  Not because of my southern accent but because of the sobbing).
After finally drying up the leaky faucet, and finally getting seated on an airplane that could actually FLY.  I found myself sitting beside a lovely woman named Danika.  We spoke briefly.  I figured I was only capable of talking for five minutes tear free, so we just settled into a quiet flight.  As we landed, she turned to me and said, “I made this for you, and I want you to have it.”
A bracelet with the word, “HOPE”.  How could she have known?  Since I was diagnosed with cancer in April, I have been wearing a small gold bracelet of a hamsa.  A Jewish symbol of protection.  Given to me by my son’s sweet girlfriend.  I do not take it off.  I tried to sneak it into surgery, but they wouldn’t have any of it.  I look to this bracelet as a reminder that I am loved and protected, even through the hard stuff.   The timing of her gift and the significance of its message were so striking to me.  An ‘act of loving kindness’ from a stranger.  Such a ‘coincidence’.   Or was it? I now wear the two bracelets together to remind me that not only am I loved and protected, (even through the hard stuff) but this is a time of “hope”.  This is a new chapter for me and my family.  A fresh start.  Thank you Danika.
I will move on to the bigger example of this past year.   Many people would agree that it was a difficult year for our family.  I will not argue that point.  It was tough.  But, it was something else too.  It was miraculous.  It was hard to believe.  It was WOW.  It was chock full of ‘coincidence’?

It started with Pneumonia on Passover 2013.    I had just run 9 miles the day before and felt great.  Then Richard and I heard some really weird sounds coming from my chest!  I went to Dr. Davis and she and her resident listened to my lungs.  They heard nothing.  I still remember the look on Dr. Davis’ face.  She leaned her head to the side and narrowed her eyes.  She looked at me that way for a few minutes.  A certain quietness came over her.   She went against medical protocol and sent me for an x-ray.  On a hunch.  Something just wasn’t right.

I didn’t even make it home from the x-ray before she called me.  “Please go straight to the emergency room.”  “I have called ahead and they are waiting.”  “No you do NOT have time to take a shower.”  “Best case is pneumonia”  “Call me when you get there.”

Now let me share the string of events that happened from there.

In the emergency room, I had a CT scan to diagnose pneumonia.  That found a pulmonary nodule on my lung.  My doctor, Rhonda Stein, then pushed me to follow up and get a second CT scan 6 months to a year later.  I was reluctant, but finally gave in.  She called me a week later.   “We found growth in the size of the nodule.”   “It is probably nothing.”  “You will need some more tests.”

This led to a PET scan to see if it was cancerous.  It was not.  But the PET scan found something else.  This led Dr. Stein to hound me for more tests to find out what that ‘something else’ was.  I was annoyed.  I knew that medical tests like these tend to find weird stuff that everyone has.  She was persistent.  I kept telling her I was fine!  I felt fine anyway.

I went through many more tests that led me to my OB, Dr. Saleh.  He did some tests.  Everything looked fine.  I kept telling him I was fine.  He did that thing.  That thing that Dr. Davis did.  He cocked his head to the side, narrowed his eyes and looked at me for a long quiet minute (or two).  The wisdom of all those years of experience speaking up.  A life time of ‘acts of loving kindness’ we come to know and lean on from the really good doctors in our lives.  He went against medical protocol and did a final test that even my oncologist said he might not have done.   It was Passover 2014.   One year later.  My daughter’s Bat Mitzvah weekend.  It was just hours before 30 people showed up at my house for Shabbat dinner.  I received a phone call.  It was Dr. Saleh.   “We found cancer.”  “Aggressive and invasive.”  “Radical hysterectomy.” “Possible radiation.”  “Staging will be done during surgery.”

One week later, I was in the hospital having a major 5 hour surgery that saved my life.

If just one of those ‘coincidences’ had not happened, when it happened, in the exact way that it happened, my life would have taken a very different, most likely tragic turn.   But all those ‘coincidences’ DID happen.  A whole year of them.  So many that pile up to become your life that you can not believe.  You begin to lean on them.  I might be so bold as to say, you begin to expect them.  Like a message.  That ‘Whoever Runs This Place’ is paying attention AND on my side.  That maybe I am not as alone in this world as I sometimes feel.

At risk of writing a very wordy and too long post, I will share one last example of ‘coincidence’ in my life.  The story of my life that began even before I was alive.

I was born as a seeing child.  Seemingly healthy and normal.  No one knowing that I had a rare eye disease.  Congenital glaucoma.  A disease that keeps the eyes from being able to release the pressure within them.

When I was four months old, my mother came to get me out of my crib from the night and my eyes were clouded over.  As all new moms struggle with what warrants a call to the pediatrician and what does not, she thought “that can’t be normal”.  They said, “yes come in right away”.   I was four months old.  I was now blind.

My mother has talked about that day so many times.  She was 21 years old.  Married at only 19.  A first time mom.  A college student.  The year before my birth, had been tragic.  Her father-in-law, my grandfather, my father’s father took his own life.  My father, the oldest of 9 children in a poor Catholic family, had been unable to cry.  There was too much responsibility laid on his shoulders to afford tears.  They had to quit school and move home.  They so wanted to have a child.  New life.  A sign of hope in a year of sorrow so great my father could not cry.

This day my mother describes as the lowest point in her life.   She sat holding me in the hospital hallway sobbing.   She would not let anyone come near her and I.  My father standing at a distance, alone…crying.  She kept thinking “my child, my daughter, she will never get married.  She will never go to college.”  She prayed or maybe she just cried out, as she knew she was alone in the world.   G-d had forsaken her.

What she could not have known at the time is that she was not alone.  G-d had not forsaken her.  G-d not only heard her cry, but was answering her cry at that very moment on that very day.

One week later, I was recovering from eye surgery and the doctors kept shaking their heads.  They were not sure how to explain the results.  They had tried a new and experimental surgery to correct the glaucoma, but there was no way to reverse the damage to my corneas.  The wounds had left me blind.  How then was I able to see?

Growing up, I saw a lot of eye doctors and it was always the same.  A lot of head shaking and comments like “we can’t believe she can see as well as she can.”  “Hard to explain.”  “Beyond science.”  My parents called it a miracle.

What I found out many years after being married to Richard is the other ‘coincidence’ of that day.  I had searched medical records to find the doctor who did the actual surgery on my eyes.  I wanted to thank him and let him know the impact his work plus whatever mystical input had had on my life.  I was unable to locate him, but I was struck by something even bigger.  That day.  That day that my mother talked about all those years.  That day she was convinced I would never go to college and never get married.  The day that she knew she was forsaken and alone.  That day was February 26, l969.  It was the day my husband was born.

Not only was I saved from being blind.  Not only was she standing on the university campus that I graduated.  But many miles away, on Andrews Air force Base, the person intended for me was being born.  That very day.  She could not have known any of that then.  But what if she could?  What if we could believe in the connections and ‘coincidence’ and miracles and messages that are making up our lives?  Especially in our darkest moments?  What a comfort that would be.

So I look at this bracelet that was given to me as I landed in a new chapter of my life, and I know that it was a message to me, delivered through an ‘act of loving kindness’ from another.

“No matter how hard the transition into the unknown is, my dear Michaux, this is a time of hope.”


The End of

The War of Chicago Winter

Tomorrow I am leaving.  I am going home.  To the sweet gentleness of the Carolinas.  My planet.  My father and brother-in-law will be waiting for me at the airport, while my husband gets our new house ready.   In a neighborhood just down the street from my long time girlfriend.  My mother on her way.

I have been away for a long time.   I know my family has been supporting me and praying for my safe return all this time.  I can feel their joy as this day finally comes.  I was searching for a way to describe how it feels.  This going home.  I realized I feel like a wounded veteran.

Because It has been a very long time of fighting for me.  I came here with the innocence of a young soldier not knowing the battles ahead.  When it dropped to 40 degrees that first winter I asked someone if it was going to get any colder?  They shook their head and laughed.  Not a ‘ha ha funny’ laugh.  A ‘oh you are f—d’ laugh.

The long, lonely, dark, cold winters with small children here in Chicago was the war.  The worst battles when they were sick and I was alone.   I met many heroes in my time served.  These super heroes took me under their wings and taught me everything they know.  They are the reason I survived.  We formed a bond as strong and permanent as blood relatives.   They will always be my family and my heroes.  I wish they could come with me to my planet.

I, on the other hand, have to go.  This last winter was a battle I almost lost.  I guess the rule in war is, when you lose a body part you get to go home.

There have been many tearful goodbyes and many goodbyes I didn’t get to say.  I wanted to do more to celebrate the friendships and the battles won.  But even that turned into a battle.  Instead of celebrations this weekend, winter blew in early.  The temperatures dropped and I was alone again.  Very sick with very sick children.  My husband unable to fly in to help.

So this going home.  I am just going to get there.  One way or another.  If I have to crawl to the airport and fly the plane myself.

I am minus some body parts and a lot of tears.  I have a big scar up the middle.  I get to take 3 of my 4 children with me.  My oldest off in a country with a different kind of war going on.  I am hoping I didn’t teach him that life is about living in a war zone.  Now I am the one praying for his safe return.

I feel worn down and war torn.  I need a good rest.  I need the warm sunshine.  I need my family together.  I am ready.

All the people I love here are in my heart.   Now It is time to take my heart home.

Yom Kippur 2014

My Graduation Speech

It has been quite a year for my family.  Maybe that is an understatement.  This New Year has brought with it a new direction for us.  We are moving to Columbia, SC.

Yesterday we packed all that we own on a moving truck and sent it south.  When we will see it again is unknown.  It was wonderfully freeing to let go of it all (for now).  The timing so significant.  It has removed the clutter from my line of sight.  I can see that what I have with me, is all that I need.

12 years ago, when we moved to Chicago from TN, I felt I landed on a different planet.  I had not lived anywhere but the South.  I did not own a real coat.  I did not understand the depth of the word “winter”.  I did not even have an accent before I moved here. 🙂

And I was not Jewish.  But I wanted to be.  More importantly, I wanted my children to be.

12 years ago, the very first person I met in this community was Amy.  The very second person was her sister-in-law, Laurie.  Looking back, I now understand the significance.


I had left everything behind, including family.  I had set out on a journey, a Quest.  And G-d had sent me guides.

They adopted us into their family and community.  Then they spent the next 12 years educating us about what that really means.

When I talk to G-d about it, the conversation goes something like this:   “WOW  THANKS”

They not only taught me how to cook and the proper way to throw a dinner.  They held my hand through 2 conversions, my wedding, a Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and the birth of 2 more children.

Then they held me up when I faced a fight with cancer this year.  They taught me how to broaden and deepen my definition of family.  They taught me how to give of myself.  How to welcome a stranger.  They taught me what it means to be a Jew.

As our son, Noah, graduated from 12 years of Jewish education…so do I.

As he sets out on a Quest to find his mission in the world…so do we.

I am ready.  Amy and Laurie, you have prepared me well.  I take all your loving and giving with me.  I am stronger and deeper and bigger than before knowing you.  So I say to you, “WOW  THANKS”

Although Yom Kippur is a time of atonement, I keep falling into gratitude.  It is clear that all my blessings have been undeserved.  Simply Grace.

My prayer for Yom Kippur is this, “Please write me into the book of life!  For another year of life here on Earth is just too good to miss”.

I do not know what it will bring.  I head into Sukkot without even a tent.  Just a suitcase, my family and a direction on our compass.  Yet, I fully expect that the Lord will, again, give me all that I need.  I have learned that it will be wilder and more magnificent than I can even imagine.

So ahead of time I say,   “WOW  THANKS”

A Tough NIght

ER and the ‘Zeke Experience’

It has been a dry summer for writing. A drought. A summer of living the stories, but no words to tell it. I have been wondering would  be the storm to break this dry spell? What will bring the flood of words? It happened last night.

6 hours in the ER with a 5 year old. 9 stitches in his chin.

That is basically the story. So if you just need the facts, you can move on to the next blog on your reader. However, if you like the telling of the story, the dam has broken.

So far in Zeke’s 5 years of living, he has broken his foot, killed his two front teeth (two different accidents), had 2 concussions (within a month of each other), had surgery on his foot for an embedded piece of glass, another surgery (when he was a baby that was not his fault) and now split his chin. I needed 3 children before him to prepare me for the ‘Zeke experience’.

It was a great day. Pick the kids up from school, have a yummy snack on the way to the pool. Gonna give ’em a good swim, shower ’em and take ’em home relaxed, clean and tired. Richard has burgers ready to grill and a good bottle of Rose. Made it all the way to the locker room. Everyone had their bathing suits on. Zeke was doing some ninja moves. He was jumping and flipping from one granite topped bench to the other. He missed.

We put our clothes back on, apologized for stealing a club towel (when they saw the blood they said we could have it) and drove to the ER.

All good. We got this. Hannah did the same injury at the same age. Just gonna be a quick set of stitches, then home to eat ice-cream and watch a movie. I ask the girls if they would like me to drop them at home on the way. Nope. They are gonna BE THERE for Zeke! Hold his hand, support him.

Hour one: 4:30 pm. We walk into a completely packed ER. Sick and angry, very sick and very angry, and grossly sick (too sick to be angry) people sitting and laying all over the place. We put our name on the list. The girls start FREAKING OUT!! Hannah begins to cry and shake with PTSD from her own chin stitching memories. Micah goes into full blown panic when she sees a gross sick woman laying on the floor moaning. She begins to hyper ventilate. I send them outside to breathe. They come back in FREAKING OUT MORE as an ambulance pulls up with a sick AND OLD person.

I am so so so thankful that this is the rare week that Richard is home. He comes to get them. Zeke is fine. He is just hanging out. (He has been here before)

Hour two: 5:30 pm Zeke sat in my lap and asked me 179,842 questions. I have answered 78,999 of them. Made up answers to most of the rest. Got away with “um humm” to the others. All the sick angry people are done thinking it is cute. I am praying Zeke doesn’t ask me anything politically incorrect that might offend sick angry people. I am starting to wonder why I am sitting here in the ER with a 5 year old and his questions, while Richard gets to be relaxing at home with the girls who are NOT freaking out anymore. I am the one who had cancer! This should trump everything from this point forward for the rest of our lives.

Hour three: 6:30 pm Zeke is now doing all his ninja jumps from chair to chair. Over and around the sick (now angrier) people. Sick angry people are now missing Zeke sitting in my lap asking questions. I am begging him to please let us get the first injury fixed before he has another. People are cursing and yelling at the nurses. Some people stomp out after saying some very impolite things to the nurses. (When I am sick, I don’t have the energy for that kind of stuff.) I don’t know how to sew up a chin, so we stay put. We move up in line. I apologize a few times to sick angry people that Zeke is jumping over. I ask the nurses very nicely when it will be our turn. They say they don’t know.

Hour four: 7:30 pm ER beds are full. More sick people coming in. Nurse checks other ER’s. They have just as long a line. It is a full moon. Zeke is beginning to whine. I talk Richard into bringing us some food and a phone charger. I give in and let Zeke play on my phone. This goes against every bone in my body. It is my PHONE!!! He does stop jumping over sick people. The sick people stop giving me dirty looks and coughing on us. Richard comes and then wants to leave after 10 minutes. I protest. He argues that he is having some emotional discomfort being there. I tell him that I had cancer. He stays.

Hour five: 8:30 pm ER beds still full. I hang out near the nurses station. I talk real nice to them. I try to do some spying into the back room where I want to go for chin stitches! I see the ER doc is a fellow Schechter parent. I tell the nurse he is a good friend of mine. She tells him I am out there waiting. He tells her he doesn’t know me. I tell her he will remember when he sees me. She is not sure. I tell her that he is gonna feel real bad when he sees me (sooner or later) and he remembers he is a good friend of mine. She tells him.

Hour six: 9:30 pm The nurse calls us back to the place you get stitches. Marc sees us and remembers we are good friends. He says how he was just thinking about us the other day. He asks why did we sit out there so long without telling him we were there! I just smile. I want to get stitches over with and go home. ER beds are still full, so we get a gurney out in the hall. We have a good view of all the sick people and all the tired nurses and doctors. In between saving people from dying, they begin to stitch up Zeke. I am having some flashbacks of recent needles, pain and that smell of the hospital. I sit down and put my head between my knees. Richard makes lots of inappropriate jokes. The nurse sewing up Zeke tries to keep from laughing while stitching. She seems a little punchy to me. Zeke holds very still and doesn’t move or cry so we can go home soon. He does a lot of sweating though.


10:00 pm We made it!!!! Marc gave us his home number so next time we need the ER we don’t have to sit out there for 5 hours. We hope we don’t need the ER again anytime soon!  We agree to keep in touch anyway.


We go home to eat ice-cream before bed like it was just another day at the pool.

11:00 pm I am crying myself to sleep. I think I am tired.  Richard comforts me and agrees that he is probably not gonna get lucky, even though he DID stay with me in the ER in spite of his emotional discomfort.  This settled, he falls asleep with lightning speed.  I say a prayer of thanks that I am ME and not one of those other people in the ER. I pray we do not get whatever they had.  I am truly thankful for this day and my family even though it was tough. I decide I really need to start writing again.

The Gift of Hearing

The Voice of Angels

It turns out that when they take out your uterus, they fry your brain.  My body seems to be recovering on a nice predictable path.  My brain is another story.  I am not a big talker in my family to start with, but I have taken quiet to a new level.  Richard accuses me of ‘going into my cave’ when I am sick or sad.   I tend to write more than talk.  But even I didn’t expect the shut down that my brain was going to go through after this event in my life.  My brain is tired.  Small talk is beyond me.  My voice has gone silent.

In the quiet, I have heard some one else speaking up.  My children.  During this 2 months of scary cancer, Bat Mitzvah, surgery and graduation they seem to be finding THEIR voice.


Micah’s Bat Mitzvah


Noah’s Graduation

They wrote and spoke to the world their values and beliefs, their hopes and dreams, their fears and pain.   They stood up and risked their hearts publicly.  They gave their voices to the world on several occasions during this time.  I am blown away.  How did these little tow heads of mine become so beautiful and bold and brave? How could they have found such a strong wise voice so young?

When I got the very first phone call that I had cancer,  I wanted to protect.  To shield my children from any realization of my mortality.   It was only for a split second.  Right behind that instinct to protect, was a deep knowing that I had to give it to them straight.  No flim flam.  No drama.  Just honesty.  They deserved nothing less.  They rose up and showed their super hero strength.

They each gave a D’var Torah publicly during these two months.  They each spoke about holiness.  The very middle portion of the Torah.   Kedoshim    Their message was simple.  Our holiness lies in our connections to others.  Our kindness and respect to those around us is what matters most.  That is where we will find God.

It was a hard two months for my family, I will not lie.  But it has also been beautiful and loving and awe inspiring.  I did not know each of my children could step up in such a grace filled way.

I still remember hearing my angels sing me to sleep as a small child.  They were so beautiful.  There were so many!  I remember the grief I felt when they stopped.   Maybe it was my ability to hear them that stopped.

My deep quiet has been a must to help me find peace right now.  That deep quiet has also strengthened my listening.  What I hear is my children’s voices rising up.  It is as sweet and pure as the sound of my angels singing me to sleep as a small girl.  God is there in my connection with these beautiful 4 souls.  What a gift.