Archives for category: Nourishing our Children


Dearest Daughter

When you look in the mirror, what is it that you see?

What image causes the quiet pain behind that radiant smile?

Growing up as a girl in this world isn’t easy is it?

The journey of self-acceptance & self-love seems riddled with pot holes & pitfalls, obstacles and road blocks.

How can a young woman like you grow to see herself as enough when the messages you are bombarded with seem to shout the polar opposite?

Not thin enough.

Not pretty enough.

Not fit enough.

Not popular enough.

I know your pain. You’ve shared it in moments of sadness. Entrusted me with the feelings masked behind the outgoing & effervescent persona that you show to the outside world. A persona that exudes the confidence, strong sense of self & security that you want so much to embody.

You’ve let me wipe your tears, hold you and tell you all that I see when I look at you. Perhaps I don’t say it often enough. I too can get fooled by that outer optimism and smile so, let me tell you again
what I see when I look at you, my darling daughter….

I see a smile that can light up a room. Even when a shroud of heaviness, sadness or despair lays itself over the shoulders of your friends, your family, or even the stranger-that smile, so simple, yet so powerful can lift away that shroud, even if only for a brief moment. It allows the light to seep in. What a gift that is.

I see your radiant blue eyes, and how they sparkle when you laugh. They are the windows into your soul. And yours is a soul so full of kindness, compassion and love. That is what draws people to you.

I see arms so strong that to be wrapped in their embrace is to know you are loved, cared for, supported. I have felt those hugs in my own moments of sadness, fear or worry. You my sweet girl, unable to see a hug exchanged in front of you, without wanting to be a part of it, have such power in those arms. You have arms that possess the strength to lift up another human being. You have arms that enable you to reach beyond yourself, stretching toward your dreams, unafraid to go beyond the familiar, the known, the safe.

Your legs, they root you in a life of meaning. They root you in your Jewish faith, in family, in community and in love. There is such strength in that. To be rooted is to know you belong, you have a place, you are loved and can love in return.

I see those long curly locks of yours, they flow and they bounce when you walk- and you know what my sweet girl, they are free—like your spirit. They dance in the wind, at times unable to be tamed to simply go in one single direction. Open, ready to be carried, to be lifted away toward a new adventure….

I see lips always ready to speak words of kindness, untainted by the bitterness of hate, envy and gossip. Ready to speak words that lift and nurture. You speak words of encouragement & support. Your words so often infused with optimism, with humor, with compassion and healing.

I look at you sweet daughter of mine, and I am in awe at the beautiful human being that you are. I pray one day, you will see her too, in all of her glory. She is flawed, she is imperfect, as are we all.

You carry the spark of the divine in you. You are B’tzelem Elohim (Bereshit 1:26), created in the image of God. In Jewish tradition we are taught, V’ahavta L’Reicha Kamocha (Leviticus 19:18) Love your neighbor as yourself. You who are so capable of loving the stranger, of finding their strengths in lieu of their flaws, their beauty in place of their imperfections, you who can gaze upon the stranger and seek out the best in them. It is my hope that you will learn to love yourself, as you love your neighbor.

And I want you to know, each and every day, that you are more than simply enough. You are, perhaps, one of the most beautiful human beings I will ever have the privilege of knowing. And I pray that one day, that is who you will see reflected back at you, when you gaze into the mirror.

“Love yourself unconditionally, just as you love those closest to you despite their faults.”
Les Brown


There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is. (William P. Merrill)

Once, we didn’t know if she would ever utter a complete & coherent sentence.
Once, we couldn’t bring her into a room full of people & stimuli-knowing it would overwhelm her senses.
Once we didn’t know if she would be able to make & sustain friendships.
Once we didn’t know if she would ever reach or achieve the milestone of becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
Once we were afraid to hope too much, ask for too much, pray for too much.
Once it seemed there wasn’t room for her in our faith. She would exist on the periphary, never being able to believe it truly belonged to her.
Once we didn’t know that we could teach her to cut with a scissor, let alone make beautiful music on an instrument.
Once, the simple act of drinking from a straw seemed too much to ask of her lips, her mouth. The only songs we might hear were those she mimicked, memorized from her favorite TV shows. Rote melodies and words….
Once, we heard the word autism and for a brief moment, our world came to a stand still.
But, we loved her too much to remain in a place of helplessness. We owed her so much more than that.
So once, we fought for her. And she fought alongside of us. We immersed her in therapies, and she displayed a fortitude & a perseverance that, in the company of that support, brought her forward, tiny step by tiny step.
Once, the world overwhelmed her. A clown, a bright gathering of balloons, the sounds of a crowded space. But we did not retreat. She allowed us to slowly expand her world, safely, with trust… inch by inch.
Once, she carved out an entry way into her faith, embracing it as her own, determined that she would have a place, amongst her peers.
Once, we began letting go, allowing her to try, to stumble, to feel her way through, so she would know autism did not own her, it simply inhabited her.
Once…. once we didn’t see her standing on the bimah, guitar in hand, surrounded by her peers, leading a congregation in prayer & song.
Once we didn’t see that smile, full of pride… her smile, our smiles.
Once, our hearts broke–sometimes they still do.
Autism has changed her journey. Not simply once, but forever.
Once we didn’t know where that journey would take her. Today, we still don’t.
So we take in the moments… always.
And last night, as we watched a very special song leader, our hearts filled with pride. We kvelled and turned to each other, my husband and I.
“Remember when we never thought this would be possible?”
Once the word never occupied a space too painful to bear. We tucked it away, choosing instead to focus on maybe, perhaps, one day
And on this Sabbath eve, we quietly revisited the word never.
Never underestimate her.
Never give up on her.
Never forget the quiet courage she displays each & every day.
Never be too afraid to hope, to dream.
Never stop giving her the tools, the chances, the opportunities.
And never forget the moments, when we get to witness the incredible blessing of watching her do, what once we thought could never be done.
In prayer, and in song… and in watching her, her love of music, her love of faith, her love of Jewish community, she shared with us a gift. It’s her gift.
And that we will never give up on.

Yael 3
Never give up, for that is just the place and time, that the tide will turn. (Harriet Beecher Stowe)