Orange October has brought way more than the awesome San Francisco Giants to the World Series. A tiny life lost in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, a brave army reservist senselessly gunned down in Ottawa, nationwide Ebola panic, a beloved friend quietly battles a ventilator, and another awaits a worrisome surgery. Is surgery ever not worrisome? Strep throat, Halloween mania, lost teeth (finally!), a very skinny dachshund, and nothing screams frightening 40s like smooshed boobs at the first ever mammogram.

In full spin on a very wobbly axis, I whiz through this agitated orbit. It takes a lot of output, seemingly limitless energy to keep that axis spinning. Even though it’s wobbly and erratic. Not only to make sure it doesn’t all fall apart on its unpredictable, hurtling journey through time but also to keep the love, the happy, the optimistic going, and going strong.

But of course everything, everybody reaches a limit eventually.

The very old, skinny dachshund is definitely not my favorite right now. For all his supposed inability to see, hear, run and jump nothing stops him from brazenly climbing onto the dining room table to gobble the last of the chicken, from gingerly pulling himself into the dishwasher to sneak a last lick of the stew, and if I said he peed in my bed the other night that would be TMI.


But after all is said, done and cleaned up he snuggles his warm small body right up next to mine, like he did in the days when Pretzel made three… and I smile. Breathe deep. Feel the crazy spinning axis slow some. “It’s the little things,” I think.

It’s the rare morning coffee date with my always-traveling husband. He is mostly somewhere, and hardly ever here. But a travel schedule includes flights that leave at off-hours, so I get a bittersweet hot chocolate and an hour of Just Him before the 11.35am to Arkansas.

source: foodspotting.com

source: foodspotting.com

It’s the news that my niece has an imaginary friend. G-d bless the child, she is too clever, too busy and too chatty for her three-year-old self so she invented a friend for the overflow! Wonderfully creative and imaginative, inspired and whimsical. And simple. To create what she wants, how and when she wants it, using only the power of her 38-month-old imagination.

This beautiful photo, taken by my mom, of the jacaranda trees in my hometown squeezes my heart and lifts my cheeks with a smile. Pretoria is famous for these blossoms that tint the air lilac and carpet the wide roads with messy purple every October. This scene makes me homesick, but in a good way. In the way that feels warm and comforting, even though I am far away.

photo by Dianne Faktor

photo by Dianne Faktor

These hilarious-to-me texts from my friend Stephanie, who thinks I am the “challah Jedi master” (her words). Her confidence puzzles me, since the one time we did make challah together my dough was too sticky, the braids were misshapen, and the end result was edible but definitely not delicious. Be that as it may, my weekly attempts at rise-to-perfection inspire her inner Princess Leia to text me these hashtags. Even the rising dough laughs: #ChallahJediMaster #MayTheYeastBeWithYou (my favorite) #QueenAmichallah #HansSchlomo. Her hashtagging rules the Empire. Yep, #itsthelittlethings.

Hengry. This is what my little guy calls his friend Henry. Somehow, his five-year-old tongue gets stuck at the back of his throat when he says Henry, and this delicious modification provokes a giggle every time. Luckily, Hengry isn’t bothered by the creative slip.

The surprise purple cauliflower in my salad (purple again – love it!), the 4am blood moon moment with my son as we caught the lunar eclipse together, the garden-fresh rosemary I pick for the lamb chops, this amazing song from Hozier (the way he says Honey makes everything better):

All give me pause, and clear a space in the chaos, a tiny space big enough to find a few ounces of me in the heaviness of everything else. These little things, these small moments remind me to turn in instead of out, to breathe, to find the calm and the happy. To replenish before I reach my limit.

After his cataract surgery last week, my father the optometrist marveled at his suddenly clear vision: “I can’t believe how much brighter the colors are!” The little things between the not so little. Bright orange October.

source: Brocken Inaglory

source: Brocken Inaglory

Aunts are always awesome

She doesn’t know it yet… I’m going to be her first confidante, her strongest ally, her biggest fan, and the one who takes her to cool rock concerts! When her mom is bugging her, she’ll vent to me. When her dad won’t let her go out with a boy, I’m the one she’ll send the “wtf” text to. I’ll take her shopping and out for lunch, and she’ll drink her first beer with moi.

But for now, she’s two. She lets me pick her up only when her mommy is not around. Which is hardly ever – first-time moms with only one kid don’t let the kid stray too far for too long! When we’re together, she only has eyes for my daughter, and sometimes for my sons. She wants to play with her cousins and chase the dog and draw pictures. And she prefers her Granny to me. For now.

G-d knows I’m not a toddler-whisperer anymore! Having had four of my own, I don’t really ‘do’ two- and three-year-olds these days. I will hold and snuggle a newborn baby (that smells good and has just been burped) for at least an hour – okay 45 minutes – with all the love and patience in the world! Or I’ll gossip about school and friends and irritating brothers with second grade girls at the kitchen table all afternoon.

But two-year-olds… not so much – even if they are related by blood, and have a cute fountain ponytail on the top of their heads. They have no attention span, they throw tantrums, they make a mess, they don’t kiss you when they’re supposed to, and worst of all they need snacks in little tupperwares – I loathe little tupperwares: the lids always go missing and they take up unnecessary room in the fridge.

My sister is an amazing aunt to all ages. She engages her nephews and niece in activities, conversation, fun no matter what. She bakes them cakes on their birthdays, and has instilled a love of art in at least two of them that they never would’ve received otherwise. I’m a reader, not a drawer. They do all love to read. My own aunts are pretty awesome too – one cooks all my favorite dishes whenever I come over, and she and I will share a love of the written word forever.

My mother’s sister is eight years younger than my mom, so she was cool before she even knew she was cool. Actually, she always knew she was cool. She took us shopping for writing paper in an off-beat store in Johannesburg just before the writing paper craze hit third grade. So cool. She showed us how to put on eyeliner – a skill she learnt from watching her sister, our mother, but it was way better when she did it. Friday nights were much more fun when she came over for Shabbat. She listened to me worry about my friends, delighted in my talk about crushes, nursed my broken 16-year-old heart. And she’s still cool. She’s like a mom, but she’s not my mom. She’s my friend-mom. My mom-friend.

Most days I feel like a shitty mom for one reason or another – too impatient, no milk in the fridge, signed the homework without really looking at it – but I’m not a shitty aunt. Oh, I know I’m not super-engaged with my niece right now but she always wants to go to “Nicki’s house.” She can already feel the lure, the promise of fun, the intoxicating appeal of rules bent for a little while. That’s my siren-call. And my rocks are padded. It’s enticing, but still safe.

I don’t have to tell her she can’t have ice cream before dinner. I’m not the one to drag her away from the TV. I don’t care if it’s her nap time now, so we can’t go to the park. We’re going! I have my own kids to create those boundaries for. She is my happy, jump-on-the-bed, no-rules-for-now kid. She’s mine, but she’s not mine.


I don’t have the attention span right now to chase after a two-year-old, but when she throws her little arms around my neck for the briefest of hugs I feel the promise of the years to come. “Nicki,” she says, with a little smile on her lips. She’s precious in her not-mineness – she trusts me completely, knows I’m not her mommy but I sound like her mom, and for a moment she buries her face in my neck. I feel like hers, and she feels like mine.

I lift her up with her belly on my legs, and she holds her arms out for just a few seconds before grabbing my hands again… the two of us engaged in a perfect balancing act of laughter and boundless flight.