Dear Spouses,

Dear, dear spouses

of victims

of survivors

of the broken people…

Thank you.

Thank you for not letting us push you away.

Thank you for seeing past the desperate facade we thought was infallible.

Thank you for understanding that not everyone wants to be touched…or can be touched…and adjusting your needs accordingly.

Thank you for remembering not to ask about it.

Thank you for listening to all of it and accepting it

even though you want to kill someone

even though you want to let anger take over and justice prevail.

Thank you for knowing that you just have to embrace it.

Thank you for sleeping on the floor when the bed becomes a trap.

Thank you for letting irrational behaviors slide…

because they make sense…because you get it.

Thank you for never attempting to relate to it.

Thank you for teaching us that we can be loved despite…

in spite…


Thank you for always, always standing by…

through panic…






and hope.

Thank you for waiting for us to come to you.

Thank you for knowing when we are ready.

Thank you for knowing when we aren’t.

Thank you for agreeing to take part in a union we believed we could never deserve.

Thank you so very much…dear, dear spouses…

for loving people…who sometimes doubt the love they are in.

We are grateful for your patience.

We are overwhelmed by your strength.

And we believe in the salvation you offer when you look into our eyes

and show us who we are.


The Lonely Love of Faith

I walk the lonely road…

twisting…turning…forever changing…

and as I wander…

I believe…I doubt…I question…I yearn…I want.

He walks…on a different road…

twisting and turning in ways I don’t always understand…

with a belief…a doubt…a question…a yearning…a want…so different from mine.

Sometimes we meet…at a fork in the road.

He goes right…I go left…

our eyes drawn back towards the place we knew together…

as our souls move over rocky paths…smooth sand…and raging rivers.

We can be this lonely…because we are together…and we are together…because we are this lonely.

The Rabbi’s Daughter

“So I watched this thing…it’s going around…”

They are looking at me, waiting, and I realize it is too late.  I will say it.

“It’s called The Rabbi’s Daughter…”

My father’s eyes raise and I almost swallow the words, even though I know I can’t.

“It reminded me of you…of us.”

And then I am describing the scene, the one where the girl is baring her soul to her father, showing her a piece of him that is so raw and so full of confusion…the part where they watch her creation float across the screen…the image of him walking…her circling him in his shadow, at the end of his shadow…always, always in his shadow…and then he smiles and reaches for a book…and her face shows sorrow and acceptance…as he finds a quote…intellectualizing her experience…explaining it…his way…even though it is hers…

And my father…my teacher…my very own Rabbi…is nodding his head in a way that shows me he knows…very well…why I am telling him this…and he is sort of pulling away…wanting to leave the conversation…


He stays.

We wrap it up easily.  He kids a bit about how I tried to smooth my choice of topic over with a silly comment about his lack of emotional capacity…just so I wouldn’t be disappointed…and in very few words he calls my bluff.

And then the goodbye is easy, comfortable…and I am so incredibly in awe of him…of them…the only two people in my life who were willing…eager…to change…just so that we could hold a conversation where things that aren’t so nice to hear…can be said, accepted…and embraced.

How I Say I Love You

“What – you love each other?” she asks, catching us in an easy embrace.

We share a smile as I lift my head off your chest and answer her with a slight nod.

“Ok” is the only thing she cares to say as she scampers off with her brother, leaving us relaxing comfortably together in the Sukkah.

But I’m not able to casually stroll on as the weight of those words reverberate through my ears, ringing memory bells in a glorious symphony of cherished emotions.

And so I write as my heart fills with the old feelings of new love and my soul wraps the fragile little me up and gifts her to you as a symbol of the kind of trust only you can understand.

The memories…the things I try to talk about all the time…to keep at the forefront…they are not in the past as we live out our days.  They are here, with me, in my now with you…because they keep me from getting lost in the safety of secured love and forgetting what you mean to me.

Remember…we were on the swing, the one we used to go to when we wanted to run away from everyone…and I stroked your hair and realized I loved you.  So I said it.  I think I love you.  But the wind took my whisper and blew it away from your ears and you turned to me and asked me what time it was.

Remember…when you gave me your necklace and promised you would be back…and I loved you so much that I wanted to get down on one knee and propose to you, and beg you to take me with you…but I didn’t know how to do that or how to say that so I said I think I’m falling in love with you.

Remember….when you called and I was crying and needed you…and I loved you so much I wanted to scream out how I couldn’t live without you but the words got lost somewhere from my head to my mouth and I said It would be nice not to have to cry to you over the phone.

Remember…when it got too much for me to handle and I needed you to know and I couldn’t be afraid anymore to tell you how I felt because if you didn’t love me there was no use living anyway and if you did love me I would be able to start living again…so I sent you a three page e-mail explaining how hard it is for me to trust people and all the different levels of trust and then at the end wrote I can say I love you because I trust you.

I cried all that day because I sent that off and I hadn’t even written the words.  I had only written about the words…and explained the words…but I thought maybe you still wouldn’t know.

And remember…you called…and you said I love you too…and I…have never…been…the same.

Happy birthday my love, my life, my darling.

I love you.

Being Born

We are finishing dinner when I begin.

“See, I always had an issue with birthdays.”

Smiling, he settles back in his chair.

“My mother always forgot my birthday…well, she still can’t figure out the right date…”

He laughs.

“You never know, maybe this year she’ll remember…the day’s not over yet.”

We smile at each other comfortably and I am filled with gratitude that I am sitting here with my best friend.

“Anyway – she’ll definitely remember my Hebrew birthday.  Everyone does…because it’s a holiday.  Just makes it worse.  Like the holiday is remembered, therefore I am remembered.  And here’s what I mean by that.  All I ever wanted out of a birthday was the acknowledgment, or rather the celebration of the day I came into existence.  It’s a real appreciation for ME, regardless of how old I am or what I’ve done with my life.  And getting a cake, although I understand that ten kids equals ten birthdays and the expected cake is the only fair way to go about it…just didn’t cut it.  I wanted more of an emotional gift of pleasure that I am in this world.”

“You know that you’re talking about a very intense, deep view on birthdays, right?”

“Of course!  But – that’s me.  That’s who I am.  So, not getting that validation always put me in a dark, depressive place because when a kid equates birthdays with people acknowledging their very existence, and then said people either forget, don’t say ‘I’m happy you were born’ or happen to have other things on their mind that day that cause feelings other than pure joy, a kid could start questioning their place in the world altogether and whether it might just be a better idea to ease people of the burden of there existing a child who no one cares exists.  And yes, I’m aware of the immaturity of the logic – remember it’s a thought that somehow followed me from a different sort of childhood then what is considered ‘normal’ to an abnormal adult life that I’m comfortable with.”

He looks at me, waiting as I take a breath and look around the room.

The kids are running around in their pajamas, singing silly songs.  The room is the kind of messy happy families create.  There is a smell of wood that can only mean my husband has worked hard today to support us.  The princess sign on the wall is starting to roll up a bit at the edge and the bits of colorful popped balloons hide in the one corner I forgot to sweep.  The sun is setting over the mountains and I am content.

“So what I’m saying is, well, right now there are three people in this room, in the world, who are happy I exist.  And I know it.”

I look up at him, lovingly, wishing he could take my heart and feel how overwhelmed with feelings beyond words it is.

“So I just wanted to say, thank you.”

He stands and begins to clear the table.

“Happy birthday,” he says, and I know that my birth was, for him, for my little girl and my baby boy, worth it.

Loving You

Come quick!

My husband’s shout propels me off my seat and out on the balcony.  The flock of White Storks are back.  They are flying overhead in a haphazard pattern, lazily flapping their massive wings as they circle their way over our heads and past the mountains.

I am leaning against the gate, my head raised, my toes lifting me up slightly so I can see a bit more, my arms extending towards the wonder that just flew by and the arm of my husband wrapped around my waist.

I exhale as the last straggler disappears from view.

We go inside.  I make a small remark about wanting to go to the Hula Valley to see the birds migrating before the season is over when I notice that my husband’s face is splitting with a beaming smile and a strange look in his eyes.

I love you.

I burst into peals of laughter as he says it over and over.

It’s been more than seven years since the first time he said he loved me.

He said he loved me even though I rolled my eyes when he pointed out a beautiful flower.

He said he loved me even though I told him zoos gave me a headache and that I had no interest in seeing fish swim around in an aquarium.

He said he loved me even though I told him that he could hike all he wanted without me.

He said he loved me even though I smirked as he caught a cockroach and freed it outside.

He said he loved me even though I made a face when he started talking about science.

He said he loved me even though I insisted that knowing how to tell birds apart was a weird and awkward bit of knowledge, especially for a kid growing up in Brooklyn.

Seven years of loving me without needing me to take an interest in what he thought interesting.

Seven years of smelling the flowers as I waited impatiently.

Seven years of appreciating the world around me while I took little notice.

Seven years of loving someone with an incredibly different disposition.

Until…suddenly…here I am…getting excited about a flock of birds on their way home from their winter retreat…looking up the differences between Great White Pelicans and White Storks…and laughing hysterically with someone who doesn’t quite know how he could change a person so much…just by loving them.

I Write the Songs that Make the Whole World Sing…

The world knows about the songs she wrote.

I know about the poems and heartfelt musings she keeps together with some sketches in the back of the file cabinet in the section marked “misc.”.  Most of them are from when she was in high school.  The words are fading and it’s hard to make out the script that used to be mandatory in English classes, but it’s tangible and smells like cheap construction paper and my grandmother’s house.

The majority of her writings make their way into the piano and off to some production or other.  Most of the time I don’t think about them.  Most of the time I just write.

I write words to my children, day after day, month after month, year after year, and I wonder how they will read them when they are older.  As I write, I hum the tunes to songs I sang straight through the long hours of childhood, through the minutes of confused youth and right into the second of my very own adulthood.

And then I stop.

And I listen.

And I hear her words…

…well hello little stranger…entirely new…only born an hour ago…look at you…open up your little eyes a glimmer or two…hey there…can you see me…I’m the one who’ll be there taking care of you…and all the things I do for you…are things you’re gonna do…for children of your own…someday…

…there’s just one more adornment…I’ve added in…my own little prayer…I always sew in…may I live to see…that a bride you will be…and I’ll sew you a dress for your chuppa…as we walk down the aisle…it will have all been worthwhile…

…all those dreams…my child…that you dream tonight…will come true…you can be sure…close your eyes and dream of tomorrow…for tomorrow there’ll be more…

…little one…yes it’s true what they say…fathers cry for their children…and Hashem does the same…when we hurt…so does He…yes He does feel our pain…

She wrote…while we were young…and as we grew…and changed…she wrote…and wrote…and wrote…

She hasn’t written in a while.  She says she doesn’t have the time.  But maybe…she doesn’t have the need…because here I am…writing…and humming her songs…with a smile on my face and understanding in my heart.

Mommy and Me

My son hit another kid.

I’ve been waiting for this challenge for a while.  I’ve been curious as to how I would react.

My brother has three little boys, all deeply rooted in Israeli-Chareidi society where boys communicate physically with one another before they get down to verbalization.  (This is in no way a judgmental statement – typical Yerushalmi boys pride themselves on their strength.:))  My poor baby girl suffered at their loving hands until I limited visitation rights.  I love those kids, I just didn’t know how to handle kid-on-kid violence.  I spent a lot of time talking about discipline and how my daughter was non-violent because of how we raise her even though it was really only because that’s her nature.  But there was definitely righteous indignation in my voice when I protested against boyhood behavior.

Now my son got old enough to hit.


What a milestone.

He’s strong and has the cutest smile on his face when he pummels his closed fists (!) into tiny heads and stomaches.

Oh what a beautiful boy.

Anyway – so he hit another kid and it was completely unprovoked and I was sitting right there so I couldn’t try to make excuses for him.

I sighed and began the grueling process of disciplining my son, the joker, without cracking a smile.  Believe me, it’s hard.

First I told him he can’t hit.  Then I told him to give the other child a hug.

His response?

He shrugged.  My baby shrugged.  At me.

So I got more serious, and kind of felt it this time, and repeated myself.

And he shrugged.





My thought process was something like “Ok, this isn’t working, he’s just a baby – shrug – wait? shrug?  Did I teach him that?  No way!  I gotta change this pattern now before he shrugs his way through childhood and adolescence.”

I got him to look at me, repeated my mantra of “No sweetie, we do NOT hit!  You must go give that little boy a hug!”

This time he pouted and almost started crying.

I got down to his level, repeated myself and asked if he wanted me to come with him.

He nodded.

“Ok good – communication.  Not like he’ll really hug the kid, he probably has no idea what’s happening, this is pointless….wait!  What?  He’s hugging him!  He’s smiling!  Wow!”

And then he came to me for some Imma loving and I beamed and he beamed…..

I got a round of applause, literally, from the woman I was hanging out with who happens to be my first friend here and also happens to have a degree in early childhood development.  She told me it was great parenting and gave me props.

I thought about it….and realized something profound.

The applause goes to someone else.

My mother.

My wonderful, amazing mother who, despite all the outside horrors that plagued her children, still managed to instill in me the art of mothering with a full heart, soul and sound mind.

Because when people comment on how I speak to my children with respect and honesty and when I see how I actually play with my children and am an integral part of their education I remember my childhood and realize that, like the starstruck child I always was, I am mimicking my hero and raising my children just as she raised me.

And I am eternally grateful.

Oh, The Places We Didn’t Go

I never, EVER, thought I would get married.

I, very vocally, believed that no one should even consider dating until they were 25.  Secretly, I thought if everyone knew that I wasn’t going to think about marriage until then, I would have time to plan my big escape.

At 25, I hoped to be on the other side of the world, possibly on a Harley, and probably in China doing acid.

Seriously, my dream.

Well, time threw me the love of my life and when we realized our dreams didn’t match, (his was to be in some dojo in Japan mastering martial arts) we compromised and got married.

I can’t say it’s been all that bad.  Two kids and lots and lots of troubles later, I’m actually warming up to the idea.

I’ve wondered about my lost dream though.

I’m 26 now.  A year past my deadline.

Had I checked out last year and disappeared, how would things have played out?

If I really look at myself honestly, the journey would have gone something like this:

Day 1:

morning – arrive in China with no money left

later that morning – realize that languages are not my strong point

still later that morning – realize there is no acid to be had in China

noon – get the hell out of China via any stowaway opportunity

afternoon – arrive in Japan

early evening – climb a mountain to find my love

evening – take his bloody, beaten body down the mountain

late evening – camp out in front of the US Embassy

Day 2:

morning – convince the official who opens the door we’re not terrorists

later that morning – concoct story involving cults and kidnappings

still later that morning – think about eating monkey brains

noon – fasten seat belts for takeoff

afternoon – arrive somewhere

early evening – get married

evening – take vow to never mention Asia again

late evening – turn 25 and two days


Dedicated to The Ones I Love

We met when I was barely eighteen.

I kept a low profile, my face hidden behind unkempt hair encased in the hooded sweatshirt I wore defensively.

But I listened to the two of you talk and I couldn’t contain myself.

You spoke my language, peppered with a healthy dose of vulgarity and infused with the strangest spice of real emotion.

I had to join.

Somehow, in my eagerness to be heard, I couldn’t stop talking.

I told you everything.  You heard it all and loved me.

Really, really loved me.

Accepted me.

The first ones to see all of me and appreciate it.

The only ones to let me ride it out without judgement.

In time, I saw you as you saw me.

Perfectly human.

And I began to love you.

Love can never be exactly like we want it to be…

I could be satisfied knowing you love me…

And there’s one thing I want you to do especially for me…

And it’s something that everybody needs…

While I’m far away…

Whisper a prayer for me…

Because it’s hard for me…

And the darkest hour is just before dawn….

….and tell all the stars above

…this is dedicated to the ones I love…

I miss you.

Can we be a family again?