An Ode to My Boys

The oldest grandchild in my immediate family was a boy. The most recent grandchild, born this week, is a boy.
The six grandchildren born between the two also…have been boys.

I’ve got eight nephews, and this poem is an ode to the beauty that they are in my life.

To my first one:
Tonight, as I read you a story in your bed,
My mind wandered as you leaned your almost-seven-year-old head on my shoulder.
I felt your little sighs and the little struggles on your big heart,
As you prepared to go to sleep, a big brother for the 4th time.
It was a long book, and I asked if you were ready to press pause,
And right before you said yes, you said quietly “can you just read one more page?”
And my heart split, and I read three more pages.
You have younger brothers, four of them now,
And three little cousins who live past the hay-filled farms and old American towns on the other side of this country.
There’s 8 little guys in all.
And my love, for each, continues to grow.
For the little eyes that blink awake in my arms,
And the little eyes that blink shut as I sit nearby,
And the little hands that squeeze tight,
And the tighter hugs when it’s only been a couple of days.
And the giggles, and the jokes that really make me laugh,
And the long talks about space, and the Mayor, and saving the day.
For the FaceTimes, and the naps on my lap.
For the exploration, and the trust I see in your sweet little eyes.
For the way you reach out your hands and ask to play.
For the songs we sing together, for the inside jokes we share, for the little whispered secrets.
And for the moment your hand grips mine as we walk down the street,
my heart not ready for the fact that any day now you’ll realize you’re too big for that.
And the best part about loving all of you
Is sharing you with all your aunties and uncles.
Because it means you’ll always be loved.
And you’ll never doubt
That the world has your back
And that you’re capable of everything.

To my newest one:
Last night, I sat near your oldest brother,
Waiting for his many thoughts to drift
Into peaceful slumber
And tears found my eyes.
My heart swelled at the thought
Of you: my newest boy,
Ready to join the chorus of little boy voices
And my tears fell
But they were happy tears, baby,
And they filled eyes that will watch you grow,
My heart barely containing my love for you,
And all my little boys.




Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

Remember this pain.


Every time it happens, we pull together.
Everyone feels united in pain, in the shock we all felt when we heard. Social media is peppered with photos of the heroes, those who put aside everything, to save someone a person they didn’t know.
Today, we are together in grief.
Today, we pray together, we fall together, we pull each other up.
Tomorrow, the anger will begin to sneak back in.
The baseless hatred, the crushing words, the unnecessary bickering that has become our new normal.
Only when we are shocked into silence by terror are we able to stop talking and look at each other as human beings.
Why do we let this happen? Time and time again?
Our country will only continue to spiral into the terrifying mess it is quickly becoming, if we don’t decide to stop.
Put the swords down, lay down the weapons, and let’s face our common enemy together.

Just days into the Jewish new year, let us prove that we can recognize the human in each other before the tragedy has to strike.

The next time you feel like lashing out on a stranger on the internet, remember this pain, this grief, this connection you felt with your fellow human beings today.

Take something from this senseless act, and let it be a motivator for love, understanding, and courage in a time when acceptance is what we preach, yet rarely practice.

The world is trembling. Rather than ripping it apart with our words and hateful actions, let us tenderly fix each broken seam, and lovingly put it back together again.

Not all heroes wear capes, they say.

Take today, and become a hero.


Blog post: 4/52.

Dedicated to the memory of the 59 lost souls in Las Vegas, and all those who have needlessly lost their lives this year.

To My Nephews

Dear Nephews,

All five of you.
Your favorite Auntie is writing this letter. I know we play this game of pretending that there is no favorite auntie so that the other aunties don’t get insulted, but we can be honest here. I know I’m your favorite.
When there was still just one of you, my friend looked at me in middle of one of my obsessive long-winded stories of whatever it was that you were doing at the moment, and she said “How are you going to love another one?”
I was honestly quite concerned. When I found out that your moms were pregnant again, I wasn’t sure that I could love the new ones as much as I loved the first one. But it only took a moment to discover that it was a useless fear. I fell in love with you all the moment you joined my world, and I never looked back.
Of all the things I call myself, my proudest one is Auntie.
I hate being too far away. I love our face-time dates when we have to be apart.
Most of all, I love being your best friend.
The moments in which you trust me so sub-consciously, reaching for my hand, wrapping your arms around my neck. When you are afraid, and I am your safe place.
The moments in which you look up at me, wonder in your eyes, a question in your sweet little voice.
I don’t have all the answers, but answering your questions fills me with a joy that I can’t explain.
Most people I see in the adult world have an incredible depth of pain. They are mistrusting, suspicious, angry, saddened and broken down by the way the world has trodden upon them.
You, my sweet, sweet nephews, are untouched. Your eyes are still bright, your smiles are genuine, your questions have no ulterior motives.
If I could be all-powerful for a moment, I would grant you the capability to be that way forever.
Yet that is not the way this life works.
But the thing is, I don’t have to change.
As life hands you lemons, I beg you to come to Auntie Ettis house and we will make lemonade together.
I hope, so deeply, that when you are 15, 16, 17, you still have that trust in me. That you still turn to me with that question in your eyes, and trust me to give you the answer. That you are unafraid to voice your thoughts to me. That in the moments of your fear, and for whatever reason, your parents can’t be there for you, you remember that you have an auntie that loves you more than anything.
You currently range from ages 4 years old to 3 weeks. Pictures of you flood my camera roll on my phone. In my conversations with others, I have to hold back from sharing story after story of your antics. Hanging out with you is my first choice in activity, far above anything else.
Drinking coffee, as you drink your cocoa, sitting together.
Playing with your toys, constructing worlds inside your head.
Waking up at 5:30 with you.
Reading stories.
Making up stories.
Rides over my shoulder.
Singing songs with you.
Running around the playground.
Flying down slides.
Holding your hand as we walk down the street.
Rocking you to sleep in my arms.
When you rest on my shoulder, comfortable and at peace.
The hugs, the kisses, the ridiculous things you say.
I love you. I love all five of you, and I already love those who have not yet joined our family, but will one day.
I know you aren’t able to read this letter yet. But one day you will be. It will then be more years until you can understand what it says.
But the words in here will always be true.
While our activities will change, and our relationship will transform as we all grow older, the depth of my love for you will never  falter.
And while g-d willing, I will grow busy with my own family, I want you to know right now that my door will always be open, my arms will always be ready for a hug, my food will always be cooked for you, and most of all, I will always be here to answer your questions.
I love you, M, M, B, A, and B.
Your Auntie,


This #happychallenge has been interesting for me.

I’ve been home for the past few days, which means I didn’t get out and around as much as I do when I am in NYC. The past few days were great, but great because I was home. Normal days. Sleeping late, eating good food, spending time with family.

It’s hard to pin-point at the end of the day what in particular made me happy without being too cliche.

I could have said “Family” every single day this week, and it would have been completely true. But I didn’t want to be cliche.

What I did notice over the past few days is how very much I have and how easy it is for me to forget.

When something goes wrong, it’s so easy to be angry. To feel as if nothing ever goes your way. As if  everything is slipping away, and it will never come together.

Over the past few days, my eyes have been peeled for something happy. And I discovered a lot. Mostly tiny things.

Things like:

Waking up in the morning, healthy.

Warm water to wash my face and plumbing so that I can use the bathroom in the comfort of my home, down the hall from my bedroom.

Enough clothing for me to have to decide what to wear.

Having enough food in the house that it’s a challenge for me to choose what I’d like to eat for breakfast.

Car’s at our disposal, so that I can go somewhere with my sisters.

I have not been forced to flee my home. When I leave tomorrow, it will not be against my will (although I’d love to stay home a little longer!), and I will not be heading to a shelter with thousands of other people, where there are crying children and adults having nightmares.

I do not wake up in the morning, wondering where my next meal will come from.

I have sweaters and scarves to keep me warm when the weather outside dips below 50 degrees.

I have parents who try their best to support my dreams.

I am not afraid to express myself. I am free to practice my religion. I have friends that I am so grateful for. I am going on a trip across the country next week. I have a good job. I have hobbies and so many interests.

I have so, so much.

And it’s so easy to take all these things for granted.

The moment dinner doesn’t work out, or it rains when I had a big day planned, it all seems to crumble, and all these things become barely a priority.

This #happychallenge opened up my eyes to all of these things. Bubby opened up my eyes to all these things.

It is so much easier to focus on the bad. And I will be the last one to say that the bad should be ignored. No. The bad in the world must be transformed into good. But instead of focusing on the bad, why don’t we just push it away by bringing more good?

A teacher once taught me that the way to get rid of a bad habit is not to abstain from the habit, but to start a good habit and eventually it will push the bad habit away.

If I have a problem with the education system, it will do no one good to listen to me putting down the administrations and curriculum’s. It will do good if I network with those who can make a difference, and we just make change.

I don’t want this #happychallenge to end. But it’s not that helpful for me to just keep posting about the happy in my life. I do need to keep seeing it though. But I need to do more. More for my Bubby, and more for me.

I don’t have any great plans just yet.

But thank G-d, I was given a brain and a heart, and by putting the two together, and combining them with the rest of all of yours..I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do something pretty awesome.


I Love Israel- and that is all.

My two weeks in Israel were the most incredible two weeks of my life. Maybe the first two weeks of my life were more groundbreaking, but there were probably an equal amount of tears.

Every moment was beautiful, every moment was meaningful, every moment was good.
Good in the best sense of the word.
The trip changed my life. It helped me find who I wanted to be. It guided me towards the G-d I always knew was there, but wasn’t as ready to recognize.
If you have spent time there, you know there is a certain peace in Israel that’s impossible to find anywhere else. Even on the streets of Chevron, there is this intense feeling of belonging, of joy.
So as I live my life in the 21st century, surrounded constantly by news updates and everyone’s opinions, I feel my heart hurting.
It hurts because the land that I found peace in has numerous accusations of perpetrating evil.
It hurts because the land that changed my life is being told to stop defending itself.
I owe this land so so much.
How do I explain to the world that even in these days of horrific terror, if given the opportunity and the ticket, I would not hesitate to get on a plane and fly there?
How do I explain to the world that I love that land so fiercely, that it means everything to me?
It is physically painful for me to watch the world turn on my land, to twist stories beyond recognition in the hopes of making the tiniest country in all of the Middle East look bad.
I am coming from the most un-complicated view of Israel. I can promise you that.
It breaks my heart that a land so blissfully beautiful and spiritual has to be dragged through politics, war, hate, and harm.
I see Israel for what it was intended- a land for my nation to finally make a home, to finally be free of persecution and hate.
I am young enough to not actually give any about who the president is. I am old enough to feel desperately in love with the land.
I am innocent enough to not care about right and left, to not care about the differences between each sect of Judaism, and the non-judaism, and everything in between.
I just love Israel and I want everyone to love it too.
That is my plea, that is all I feel about this entire “Israel business.”
I don’t have anything to say.
I don’t have a political view, a deep thought process, or anything that contains technical details about this whole thing.
I just want Israel to be the peaceful place it is for me, for every single person. I want people to open up their eyes and realize that the accusations they are making are impossible, because, I mean, it’s Israel.
In my head right now, I am already predicting that there are those who will privately message me that I am naive. I am stupid. I’m not seeing the whole picture.
Well. This is my response.
I choose to be naive then. I choose to be stupid. I don’t want to see the whole picture, if that picture is going to make me pick fights with everyone in my facebook feed.
I am not the kind of person who chooses to be naive very often. I like to be very educated about everything. I like to be in the know, to form an opinion about everything.
But this is as far as my opinion about Israel is going to go.
I don’t want to know more, I don’t want to learn more or be more involved in the politics of the matter.
I’m done hearing about how terrible it is.
Remember what we are talking about. It’s Israel. If you think of it as an evil or complicated place, please, just spend two weeks there.
You might change your mind.
We might all live in different places, we might all live in homes across the world, but at the end of the day we all have a place that we can come home. That will welcome us. Even if the people there don’t. Even if there are people who will try to drag us into discussions. To discuss why or why not the entire nation is should be settled in Israel. To bring up the things that I just so desperately want to stop talking about.
Let’s stop.
Just stop.
Stop talking about all the awful things you know or hear about Israel.
That land changed my life.
The way I’ll pay it back is by loving it to it’s core, and ignoring the things that will make me think about it as a place of difficulties.
I feel like this post is so un-Etti. But that’s okay. It’s good for me to not be the pre-conceived notion of me sometimes.
To those of you who are disappointed in me for taking what seems to be the easy road out, by closing my ears and eyes and only opening my heart…well, take it up with someone else this time.