The gift of a


I learned a profound Jewish teaching from a Franciscan priest! 聽馃檪
Father Richard Rohr learned it from a Jewish Rabbi and speaks about it often. 聽It gives me great comfort in my life.

In Judaism the true name of God is not spoken. All the names we use are nicknames. The true name of God consists of 4 Hebrew letters (讬讛讜讛) (yud, hey, vov, hey). When these 4 letters are put together there are no consonants.

Many believe that we don’t speak the true name of God because it is taboo or because of the commandment, ‘thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain’. 聽This is only partially true.

The real reason we do not speak God’s name is because it can not be spoken. The closest word is the sound you make when you inhale and exhale.

Just take a minute to think about this.

God’s true name is the sound of your breath.

Inhale. 聽Exhale.
Do it again.

You are breathing the name of your maker.

We are alive when we are able to breathe.

Gen 2:7 聽讜讬讬爪专 讬讛讜讛 讗诇讛讬诐 讗转志讛讗讚诐 注驻专 诪谉志讛讗讚诪讛 讜讬驻讞 讘讗驻讬讜 谞砖诪转 讞讬讬诐 讜讬讛讬 讛讗讚诐 诇谞驻砖 讞讬讛變

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” 聽

Breath is life. 聽Breath is The Spark of God within us. 聽It is also His name and our own personal prayer.

It is our first word uttered when we are born. It is the last thing we say when we die. We pray it all day everyday. 聽 It is unique to each person and free to ALL.聽 It is our built in ‘fail safe’. 聽All the times we doubt ourselves and our worthiness, we are breathing our own affirmation. 聽God has it covered.聽 It is not required that we believe in it. 聽It will happen for us regardless.

When ever I am having a hard time. 聽When I am tired and overwhelmed. 聽All those times I am not sure I am doing ‘whatever’ right.

All I really have to do is remember to breathe. 聽It contains all that I need. It is prayer enough, it is life enough, and it is powerful enough to carry us through. 聽Trust your breath. When you feel especially lost or heartbroken. Just focus on your breath.

Father Rohr offers a beautiful meditation from Psalm 46:10 to lead you back to your breath:

“Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still”
May your Breath be with you :))
made with love

Cocoon of Trees

Chicago 2014.聽 I sat listening to crickets in the trees one night before our move South.聽 So much unknown terrain stretched out in front of me. 聽 I remember thinking that only in nature can the deep quiet be so loud.聽 That is when it happened.

God said to me, “It will be the same.”

What I thought?聽 What will be the same? It is such a surprise to be spoken to this way.聽 Not the way we speak to each other, but a knowing, a memory of the conversation.聽 As if you catch it just after the words are spoken.聽 It took me a minute to gather my wits.聽 What just happened?聽 And then I knew.聽 I was about to pick up my family and move to another planet.聽 God was tucking me into the roller coaster ride with a message to hang onto.

“It will be the same.”

The same trees, the same sounds, the same sky, the same.聽 God will follow me there.聽 With his majestic creation.聽 I will be starting over, a stranger, but I will be wrapped in a cocoon of crickets.聽 The same crickets.聽 They will sing me this very same song.聽 The one they have been singing forever.聽 Since the beginning.聽 A cocoon of trees.聽 The same trees.聽 Green and tall and solid, with roots that connect them in communal unity.聽 A cocoon of sun and sky. 聽聽 The same sun filling me up with the essence of myself.聽 A cocoon of earth and dirt.聽 The same dirt reminding me of where I come from.聽 All familiar and the same.聽 This will be my blanket of comfort in the unease of change.

South Carolina, 19 months later, I stand on my back deck.聽 It is night and I am listening to the crickets in the trees.聽 They are the same.聽 A cocoon of trees tucking me in.

I go to say “good night and thank you.”

I look up at these guardians towering over me.聽 At that moment it happened again.


God said, “It is here to take care of YOU, not the other way around.”

I said, “who?”聽 “what?”聽 There I was again trying to catch the conversation as if that is possible.

God said, “all of it, but especially the trees.”

I stopped chasing and let it sink in.聽 “Wow, that changes everything.聽 What fools we are NOT taking care of them, so they can take care of us.”

I got no response.聽 Just the wind blowing and the crickets chirping.聽 The same as always.

No wonder I feel grief when I see a forest felled in a single day.

Long ago, when God made the world for us, trees had legs.聽 They could walk and run just like us.聽 This is not in the Torah.聽 It was inspired by my daughter, Hannah, one day as we hiked through the forest.聽 Trees traveled from place to place.聽 Usually, they were making sure we were taken care of.聽 It was their job.聽聽 For thousands and thousands of years this worked.聽 We loved the trees and they loved us more.聽聽 Then about 10,000 years ago, we stopped living in small family clans and started figuring out how to farm the land.聽 We changed.聽 We started trying to conquer instead of collaborate.聽 Everyone wanted to be the boss and nobody wanted to compromise.

We began killing for meanness.聽 We fought just to fight.聽 The trees were extremely worried for us.聽 The Grand daddy trees called a council meeting of all the elders.聽 They came from all over the world for a once in a million year event.聽 They wanted to help us.聽 Trees know only peaceful protest and standing for what you believe in.聽 Period.聽 No exceptions.聽 They decided that they could only lead by example, and it had to be drastic.聽 That is when it happened.聽 They stood.聽 Still.聽 Forever.聽 The only travel now is a seed carried by wind, or bird or other avenue of nature.

They are waiting for us.聽 They stand still in their love for us.聽 They refuse to move until we change our selfish ways.聽 Of course, we didn’t get it.聽 Still don’t.聽 Will we ever?聽 We cut them down and they let us!聽 They just stand silent.聽 When they fall sometimes a groan slips out, but usually their thunderous fall is all that marks the tragedy.聽聽 Then the ones still standing聽 just continue their watch over us.聽 A loving example.聽 Waiting.

I am in a quiet place of my life.聽 It is hard lonely work to pull up your roots and replant them.聽 Is this how the butterfly feels?聽 Tucked into her cocoon. 聽 Wrapped up tight.聽 Is she quiet and lonely?聽聽 Or does she know that it is loving protection for the work of change? 聽 The only way transformation can take place.聽 Does she know that it is temporary?聽 Something to cherish for the restorative sleep that it is?聽 How I want to appreciate this silent stillness.聽 How I want to become the tree I already am.

I am tucked in my cocoon of trees.聽 They rock me to sleep and sing me to wake.聽 If you listen in just the right way, they will tell you things.聽 Ancient things.聽 They look down with love and look away with respect.聽 They hold me safe.聽 Protecting this time of transformation.聽 They never lose hope.聽 They are always the same.聽 I am the one who needs to change.



February 2016

The Day the Angels Disappeared

They would sing to me.聽 A song with no words, and deeply familiar.聽 There were so many. Choirs of them. 聽 I would sing with them, and other times I would just sit in awe.聽聽 Words fail to describe the power of them.聽 The closest I can come is JOY, and that is like describing a technicolor聽 3-D IMAX movie as an old black and white film.聽 Beautiful, glowing with light, enormous, ethereal?聽 These words seem insulting when describing them.聽 How old was I?聽 I was young enough that I didn’t have words to describe it to anyone, or even think to try.聽 I assumed it just was.聽 Didn’t everyone visit with Angels?

When I would go to sleep they would come to me.聽 Or I would go to them, I am not sure.聽 The memory is strong yet fuzzy.聽 Similar to how I see without my glasses.聽 I can capture most of it and imagine missing pieces, but it always seems to be at a distance.

As a small child, napping was a wonderful place to go.聽 Sleep something to welcome.聽 Maybe it was all a dream.聽 If that is so, then I only had one dream.聽 The same each time I fell to sleep.聽 There was no other.

And then one day.

I have two vivid memories.聽 They happened around the same time, but since memory is fluid, I can’t say for sure.

The first is standing frozen in front of the TV.聽 My parents had been so excited that a popular children’s movie was airing.聽 ‘The Wizard of Oz’.聽 They put it on and probably thought it would give them some much needed adult time to catch up.聽 They left me to watch by myself.聽 The witch and the monkeys haunted me for years.聽 The purposeful meanness, so hard for me to digest.聽 I couldn’t leave the room and I couldn’t bear to watch.聽 I was sweating and shaking.聽 I did not know that feeling before.聽 Unfortunately, I have known it many times since.聽 Fear.

The second memory happened chronologically after the first.聽 Yet, it could have happened the other way around.

I remember going to take a nap.聽 As soon as my mother left the room a bee landed on my covers and began to slowly crawl towards me.聽 It was the biggest bee I have still to lay eyes on.聽 I could not move, or run away or even call for help.聽 I just lay there sweating and watching.聽 This horrible, terrifying, hairy monster walking up my covers to where I lay, helpless and horrified.

I don’t know how it ended exactly.聽 The bee did not harm me.聽 I just know what happened next.

My mother had to go back to work.聽 My sister and I were put on a bus in the morning to go to a day care center.聽聽 I remember the sick feeling in my stomach.聽 My younger sister just one and a half years old.聽 She was screaming and clinging to my mother’s neck.聽 They peeled her little arms away and strapped her in the van.聽 I watched my mother get back in the car and drive away.聽 My sister kept crying.聽 They told her to stop in a commanding聽 voice.聽 She couldn’t.聽 Her little chest heaving and hiccuping.聽 The woman driving the bus reached back with a ruler and spanked her legs, telling her more sternly to stop.聽 She cried harder.聽 She spanked her again.聽 It continued back and forth like this until the end of the ride.聽 Then they took us to separate rooms. 聽 I did not see her again until later, as they put us on cots to nap.聽 I lay there missing our bright kitchen where my mother and sister and I would sit eating lunch.聽 I missed riding my tricycle up and down the sidewalk. I missed getting up from my naps to tip toe into the kitchen where my mother would leave fresh bread cooling.聽 I missed my mother.聽 I heard my sister crying.聽 I got up to comfort her.聽 I needed to get comfort as much as to give comfort.聽 They caught me before I got to her.聽 They spanked me and put me back on my cot.聽 My sister and I had never been spanked before.聽 No adult had ever struck us.聽 They told me to stay there and not get up.聽聽 I swallowed my sobs as quietly as I could.聽 I already learned what happened if they heard you cry.聽 I did not get up again.

The Angels never came back.聽聽 I have only seen them again in memory and imagination.

My mother did not stay home anymore.聽 Day care became our foster care.

The loss was gargantuan.聽 My whole body would ache at the missing of them.聽 What did I do wrong?聽 Why did they leave me?聽 Please come back!聽 Some how I knew it was over.聽 Going to sleep became something else.聽 I did not welcome naps.聽 I would run and hide to keep from going to bed at night.聽 These early memories have been a powerful force shaping my path and direction as an adult and mother.

It took a long time to put all the pieces together.聽 To understand what happened.聽 It was simple really.聽 I came to know forces we must battle here on earth, whether we like it or not; fear, doubt, hatred.聽 It takes innocent faith to see Angels.聽 You must trust completely.聽 Children are born in this pure state, and then life happens. 聽 We spend the rest of our time searching for the way back.

This is not a story I have ever shared with anyone.聽聽 No one goes around talking about their experience with Angels.聽 How do you explain your grief at losing something that people don’t believe exist?聽聽 I am not sure if I was even able to share my grief of what happened to my sister and I at the hands of irresponsible cruel caregivers.聽 If my parents are upset by this I would tell them this was no failure on their part.聽 In fact, I would argue quite the opposite.聽 They did something so right.聽 They were able to protect me from fear and doubt until I had long term memory to store my Angels.

As powerful as those traumatic memories have been in my life, the memories of Angels have been more so.聽 I have cherished this memory of my Angels all of my life.聽 Evidence of a power so great and filled with light that words cannot define it.聽 I wonder if we all are born wrapped in this gift of love.聽 Meeting with Angels while we sleep.聽 Easing the transition to a physical world filled with fear and gravity.

In a rather low point in my life, I took a workshop called “The Illuminated Heart”.聽 One of the exercises within the meditations was to call your Guardian Angel to be with you on the journey.聽 Focusing on it this way, I felt the presence of something so big and familiar that it brought tears. 聽 I recognized the Angel as being with me all my life, just out of focus and on the periphery.聽 This realization was a game changer.聽 I know I may never see Angels again as I did with the clear eyesight of innocent faith.聽 But I know they are with me always.

I had a conversation with my son, Zeke, this week before he fell asleep.聽 He had been listening to a story about witches and was having trouble sleeping.聽 As I searched for how to help him, I shared my story.聽 It is the first time I think I have shared it with anyone and it prompted me to write about it.聽 He listened and had many questions about the Angels.聽 I struggled for words to explain.聽 He immediately fell asleep.聽 He slept through the night and awoke to tell me how he had asked his animal friends to help him defeat the witches and bad guys in his dreams.聽 Maybe he connected with his Guardian Angels.聽 He walked taller the rest of the day.

In Judaism there is a bedtime prayer that calls 4 Angels to guard you.聽 It is ancient and meant for protection during the dark night.聽 I do not know the entire prayer in Hebrew.聽 Even though it is a prayer that is intended for you to say for yourself, I call the Angels to come guard my children before they go to sleep.聽 Then I recite, the Shema. I have done this every night for more years than I can remember.

I call upon you Hashem, put the Angel, Michael on the right, Gabriel on the left, Uriel in the front and Raphael in the back, and above my head the Sh’khinah (Divine Presence) (3x ) Shema Yisrael Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad) (Deuteronomy 6:4)

It is the last thing they hear before they fall asleep.聽 As I go to sleep, I call the Angels for my children that are now away from home and then myself.聽 This may not be religiously correct, but it is my way.

I want my children to hear me call the Angels by name, every single night.聽 In this world, there is a constant battle raging between light and dark.聽 Between faith and fear.聽 While we cannot insulate ourselves or our children from the forces of dark, I firmly believe that light and faith are the stronger force.聽 Just the memory of Angels can be powerful enough to beat back the dark.聽 Just the possibility of light can give us the hope and courage we need to face down fear.聽 May your Angels always be close, guiding you and giving you light for the way.

December 22, 2015

Dear Dad

Today, at age 70, you face surgery to remove the cancer that threatens your life.聽 I wish I could be there.聽 Sitting by the phone feels kind of pathetic compared to the endless ways you have been there for me in my life.聽 Your wish that we not crowd around you hovering and fretting is understandable.聽 In my helplessness, I聽 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.聽 No way did they let me do that when I was in your shoes just 18 months ago! 聽 They had me on a gurney whipping down the hall before panic could set in.聽 Smart, because I probably would have bolted.聽 This is symbolic of your deep strength to face whatever confronts you in life.聽 Even the doctors sensed that you would not run away,聽 no matter what lay behind those doors.

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

The Torah says that Abraham, “came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her”.聽 Then the very next line says, “and Abraham rose from his grief”.聽 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.聽 At a very young age you began to carry others.聽 As much as we love to hear your ‘poor stories’, they are not what a childhood should be.聽 Then your father died.聽 All 8 of your siblings would agree that you carried everyone through a horrible trauma. 聽 You let go of your own 20 year old life, dropped out of college, moved home and simply carried them.聽聽 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.聽 Soldiers who liberated the concentration camps talked about how it changed them forever.聽 How then, did the people who actually survived them cope?聽 How did they move past such trauma?

Many of them refused to speak about the horrors.聽 Not to their marriage partners, or children.聽 Instead, they began to build a new life and a new land. 聽 “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.聽 Suicide.聽 Even saying it now feels like breaking a code of silence.聽 You did not speak about it until I was grown.聽 Mom remembers when you received the call that summer.聽 You were standing at the table in your apartment where you were both working 2 jobs to get through another year of college.聽 She says you sat down and dropped your head into your hands. 聽 Then, as soon as your head hit the table you stood聽 back up and moved on.聽 You began to take care of what needed to be done.聽 She never saw you cry.聽 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.聽 You run the risk of getting stuck there.聽 “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.”聽聽聽 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.聽 I didn’t understand that you protected us all from the horror and trauma that you had to face.聽 You did not allow yourself to become lost in the past.聽 You refused to dwell there.聽 You went about building a future.聽 You had to do this in order to survive.聽 In your quiet way, you and mom got your college education.聽 You kept your mother and siblings from drowning and brought your own children into the world at the same time.聽 Even when I went through eye surgery as an infant and you were told I was blind, you did not falter.聽 You and mom worked and went to classes while never leaving me alone in the hospital for a single minute.聽 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.聽 When all involved could stand on their own two feet.聽聽 When holding your silence was going to wreck you and the future you had worked so hard to build.聽 Only then did you look back.聽 Only then did you mourn the past.聽 For the first time in my life, I saw you cry.聽 You did not cry from anger or bitterness, but with grief of a boy abandoned by his father.

Your sacrifice gave me a childhood.聽 One that was wholesome and carefree.聽 You made sure I had a strong and loving father to lean on even in my 40’s.聽 You built me a future.聽 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’.聽 Something left undone.聽 Something only you could fulfill.聽 Something meaningful to leave behind.聽 Something that would secure a future for both your land and your descendants. 聽 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.聽 (There were a few interruptions and loud children running around)聽 I can’t say it was my finest parenting hour.聽 My body was here while my heart was hovering and fretting outside the OR. 聽 You made it through surgery and are resting comfortably tonight.聽 I am so thankful.聽 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.聽 You have faced each with grace and quiet strength.聽 You have the survivor instinct to get after building a future when faced with trauma.聽 You are like Abraham.聽聽 I will always carry with me an image of you WALKING to the OR today. 聽 It sums up how you live your life.聽 Walking forward on your own two feet, with quiet dignity and courage to face whatever comes.

Your loving daughter and greatest admirer





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.聽 One of my earliest memories is of her standing in the kitchen making some yummy treat to take to the beach.聽 I was standing behind her watching and waiting to go.聽 She had on a beach cover up and my eye level came right up to the back of her legs.聽 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.聽聽 She was the most beautiful woman in the entire world.聽 I remember thinking “that is the most beautiful color purple”.

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

Then I forgot.

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

I love to watch people.聽 I looked everywhere but couldn’t聽 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.聽 Where was she? Where did she dwell?聽 I only saw her in the magazines when I checked out with my groceries.聽 I am guessing those magazine women were thankful for the technology required to make them look ‘ideal’.

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

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


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

Then I remembered.聽 The things about you that are different are the best things about you.聽 The things about you that don’t fit the ‘ideal’, make you, You.聽 You NEED those things.聽 I am guessing God gave them to us on purpose.聽 A gift to us and to the people who love us.聽 Because the people who love you and me, inside and out, love those things the most.聽 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.聽 I laughed.聽 His eyebrows shot up and he looked at me with his head to the side.聽 I just said, “No I need them”.聽 He shook his head and rubbed his hands through his hair.聽 I didn’t explain further.

But I want to make sure to fully explain.聽 I tell my girls frequently that their beauty is something that shines from the inside out.聽 That each act of loving kindness increases your beauty.聽 My grandmother had a lifetime of these piled up by the time I knew her.聽 “I need them” these big purple veins and these old hands because I want to earn that kind of beauty.聽 Not in spite of them but because of them.聽 Because they represent me.聽 My children and husband loving my old hands is a sign I am on the right track.聽 And who knows?聽 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. 聽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. 聽My tribe. It wasn’t something I gave much thought. 聽 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. 聽 It wasn’t really anyone’s fault. 聽 Just the fall out of that type of war. 聽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. 聽We were handed a new family. Step family. 聽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.聽 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 聽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. 聽This ‘secret’ that we ALL carry around in some form or another trying to hide from each other. 聽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. 聽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.聽 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.

聽 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. 聽Each in our own worlds thinking we were the only ones not invited to sit at the family table. 聽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’. 聽I felt the river moving in me. It was joy.

I spent the evening soaking them in. 聽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’.聽

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.聽 聽

The gift of a

Frisbee Summer

My oldest son, Noah, is coming home in exactly 5 days, 1hour and 32 minutes.聽 Yes, I am counting it down.聽 I have not seen him since August 28, 2014.聽 To be a first timer at letting go of my first fledgling, I think this is pretty hard core.聽聽 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.聽 I had a summer.聽 I had one precious summer left in my house with all my children living under my roof before it changed forever.聽 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.聽 I never had to adjust to life as they leave my nest.聽 My life had been about adjusting around these children who were always around me!聽 Now, my child was leaving for another country and I was moving away from Chicago.

At first, I panicked.聽 I will confess that I don’t do panic very well.聽 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.聽 It went from there to an angry tirade about ‘aren’t we important to you? We are your FAMILY!’ 聽 If you had a video camera, you would have seen him looking at me wide eyed and nodding, mouth open. 聽 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.聽 I cried.

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

When I related the conversation to Richard, he laughed.聽 Then he shared with me the secret sauce.聽 “Michaux, if you chase him, he will run away.聽 He is an 18 year old boy.聽 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.聽 (enjoy that statement Richard, it is rare)聽 At first, I did the standard mother things.聽 I spent money on him.聽 I took him out for lunch, or dinner.聽 I took him shopping.聽 We went to the movies.聽 But that will only take you so far.

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

OH YEAH!聽 Noah and I played some FRISBEE.聽 We played.聽 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.聽 It was pure play.聽 Neither one of us willing to call the game.聽 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.聽 He bounded like a puppy into the house and demanded that I get out of bed!聽 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.聽 So I got out! I played for an hour聽 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.聽聽 I didn’t get to go visit him, or even talk to him much.聽 I don’t know what his room looked like.聽 He hasn’t seen our new home.聽 I didn’t get to meet his teachers or his new found friends.聽 I will admit to some tears about all this.聽 Yet, I had that frisbee summer tucked into my heart to hold onto.聽聽 It was a gift that sustained me.

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

This decision was obviously not made over night.聽 It was a tough trial and year for her here in SC.聽 I watched her suffer and prayed for the answer.聽 I was bothered that her brother had a wonderful Jewish high school education and I could not give her the same.聽 So when she came to us and asked to go away to school, I knew I had to take her seriously.聽 I listened with a heavy heart.聽 I felt angry and cheated just thinking about being absent from her high school experience.聽 She is only 14!聽 How can I lose another one!聽 I was supposed to have four more years before I had to do that ‘letting go’ thing again.聽 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.聽 I got off the phone and bawled.聽 I laid face down on the floor and shook.聽 I called G-d a few bad words.聽 I could not get up for awhile.

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

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

I can’t wait to play frisbee.聽 I look at the long golf hole number 3 out my back yard and see the game in my imagination.聽 I am excited to discover what else?聽 What gift will I get with Micah to sustain my heart this fall?聽聽 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.聽 Maybe it will be the silly dancing in the kitchen while I cook.聽 Maybe it will be all of the above!聽 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.聽 A mother getting used to my children leaving home.聽 A mother learning how to let go but not despair.

A mother looking forward to another frisbee summer 馃檪

A reflection

Mother’s Day 2015

I took a look back at my words from Mother’s Day last year. 聽 I love writing because it paints a picture, not just of what I did, but how I felt.聽 Reflection is a process I find a necessity of my life.聽 (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!!聽 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.聽 But I know it was more.

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

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

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

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

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

The day I got to sit, so proud, and hear my son give one of the commencement speeches at graduation.聽 The days last summer I played frisbee with Noah.聽 A whole field to ourselves of green grass and clover.聽 Running barefoot, at risk of being stung, by offended bees accidentally stepped on.聽 Too tired to play, too much fun to quit.聽 The day I watched him walk away to board a flight to Israel for a year.聽 Instead of tears, just sweat pouring down his shirt.聽 Tall, strong and young.聽 Goodness wrapped around him like a warm yellow light.聽 Knowing I would be here to miss him.聽 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.聽 Homeless and moving to a new land.聽 Unforgettable and perfect, as it highlighted the teamwork we have hard earned through our 20 year journey together. 聽 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.聽 The day I bought this dress.


In spite of all the good reasons I shouldn’t.聽 Because I could.聽 Because I was still here, standing in this store liking how it looked on me.聽 Even with an endless number of more days, you only get a handful of those!聽 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.聽聽 The days I was so mad at my kids I started screaming at them!聽 Until I said something stupid and we all started laughing.聽 The days I have had to say “I’m sorry” for being grumpy, grouchy, snappy and impatient.聽 The days I belly laughed so hard at my family telling stories and acting out skits around the dinner table.聽 The day I cried to the ‘uber’ driver all the way to the airport, because we were moving and leaving our dear friends.聽 (No one else will give my kids THAT experience).

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

Hannah’s first day at her new school.聽 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.聽 Watching her not watching me.聽 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.聽 Me, being able to offer ‘security’ just a bit longer.聽 Knowing she was going to see her brother.聽 Knowing they were excited to see each other.聽 Knowing they didn’t have the burden of missing me yet.聽 Knowing, even when my time is up, they have each other, and I am still here to nurture that.聽 Reminding myself why it was OK I didn’t get to see Noah this time.聽 I have more time.

Time.聽 More of it.聽 Lots more of it.

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

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

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

Happy Mother’s Day

A spiritual journey

A Walk In The Woods


Money has been a little tight at the Shaffer house for the past year or so.聽 I am restarting a career and Richard is changing direction within his industry.聽 We have been putting 4 kids through Solomon Schechter Jewish Day School and then Ida Crown Jewish Academy for many many years.聽 So things are tight.聽 I get accused of making understatements, but let’s just leave it at that.

I am starting to wonder if there aren’t some real blessings in this for all of us.聽 As a free activity this week I took my kids to the forest preserve by our house.聽 It is actually a place I love to spend time running.聽 I call it the path to Eli’s house.聽 Eli is a name I have for God that comes from my favorite children’s book by Max Lucado.聽 It is where I feel Eli the most.聽 But I haven’t been taking the kids there so much.聽 And if money weren’t so tight, we probably wouldn’t have been there this week!

I packed a picnic, herded my 3 younger ones to the car and off we went.聽 It was one of my favorite experiences this summer so far.聽 We found a perfect spot to practice balancing, bear crawling and jumping on and off a log.聽 We climbed trees.聽 They were wild, loud and joyful.聽 I didn’t have to say ‘no, don’t’ even once.聽 After a few face plants in the dirt from all the jumping, we recovered and proceeded to spend another hour exploring the trails.


There were squeals and shouting every time we came across a bug, spider, dragonfly, or any other little creature.聽 They picked up rocks and threw them into the river.聽 We passed lots of dogs with their owners, and horses with their riders.聽 Their little bodies jumped, skipped, raced, ran and moved in every way they knew how.聽 It was like they had been set free from some type of bondage we don’t even know we are in until we are out.聽 When they began to get tired, they took off their shoes and walked, ran and carried each other the rest of the way back.聽 There was not a single whine the entire time.聽 It seemed to meet each child’s needs regardless of age difference.聽 There was no gift shop at the end to cause conflict.聽 We got in the car to go home worn out and peaceful.

Not having money to spend whenever I want is teaching me a lot.聽 I have been learning what my parents went through at this same time in their lives.聽 I had no idea.聽 I thought they just didn’t want to have heat in our bedrooms growing up!聽 That we didn’t eat out because they loved their own cooking. 聽 I thought my mom made all our clothes because she just liked to sew.聽 I never thought we were poor.聽 I actually thought we had more than most.聽 I am learning that having or not having money is not a character judgement.聽 The two things are not related.聽 And I am being reassured that it is temporary.聽 Money ebbs and flows in our lives.聽 What we do with that information is character development.

So maybe we are walking this path in our lives right now for good reason.聽 Maybe we are learning how to “be” and be thankful for what we have.聽 Maybe it is us parents that need to learn this more than our kids.聽 Maybe we just have to keep our kids from unlearning it.聽 Hopefully we can hang onto this lesson of what we don’t need…to always accumulate more stuff, when money is easier.聽 Maybe this is the real path to Eli’s house.聽 We are definitely becoming more humbled in our shoes.聽 Our worn out one pair of shoes.

Maybe my kids will look back and think that their mom just liked taking them to the woods instead of the mall.聽 They will be right.

coping, Micah, Zeke

A blessing or a cursing?

I do believe in the possibility that ADHD is over diagnosed these days.聽聽 Yet, I also believe in the possibility that when we were growing up there might have been some kids that fell through the cracks.聽 Richard would be one of them.聽 He is slightly impulsive and speed (a pot of coffee) calms him and puts him to sleep.聽 This is not news to anyone who knows us very well.

What everyone might not know is that one of the side effects of his impulsiveness is:聽 cursing.

Now this drives Micah completely and utterly insane.聽 She has tried everything she can think of to get him to stop.聽 The first strategy was to charge him 5 dollars for every curse word.聽聽 This failed.聽 Not only does he refuse to pay the huge tab he has made for himself, but he is not the “money manager” in this marriage.聽 So I finally explained to her that she is basically punishing me for his misbehavior.聽 Not that Richard wouldn’t try to blame it on me anyway.聽聽 Everything ultimately comes back to me somehow.聽 Then she tried to charge him 5 minutes of playing a game with her for every curse word.聽 This worked a little better, except that he is also slightly competitive.聽聽 So the games ended up as punishment for Micah!!!聽聽聽聽聽 I think she has resigned herself (as the rest of us have) that cursing is just a part of the Shaffer household.聽聽 Most of us understand that certain words are for Dad and certain words are for us.聽 Except Zeke.

Zeke is getting in the car and accidentally dumps his lunch box and back pack all over the ground.

Me:聽 oops

Zeke:聽 (in his matter of fact teaching voice)聽 Mom, that is when you are spossed to say聽 G-d dammit.

Me:聽 no baby just your Dad.聽 We say oops.

Zeke:聽 No mom, the hims say G-d dammit.

All I can say is that my children can never claim that growing up in this family is boring.聽 In that way, I choose to see this as a blessing, not a cursing.聽 After all, no trouble: no story