Minnesota Mamaleh: It’s My Blog-O-Versary And I’ll Talk Conversion If I Want To

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Yiiipppeeeeee!

It’s my blogoversary! I can hardly believe it, one year. One year of musings and questions, new terms and typos, joys and concerns, wonderings and thoughts. So. Many. Thoughts. Pouring right on out me in a way that I had no idea that they could. Or would.

I know that this is going to sound totally and completely absurd on a blog, but I’m actually a fairly private person. And generally, I don’t open up very easily. But with you, sometimes through you, I’ve found a story to tell. One that I didn’t even know that I so wanted to be telling.

I quite literally hang on every word that you say. Every single blog, facebook and e-mail comment makes my day and completes my thoughts. I’ve connected with some of you in a way that blows my mind. All the freakin’ time. I’m humbled. Inspired. And seriously wow-ed by it all. So, thank you. Thank you for being my thought, heart and soul partners. I needed you.

I waited a seemingly long time to share this part of my story with you. Jason and I simply weren’t ready before. And now that we are, I hope that you are, too. Somehow I know that you will be.

About ten years ago I was a Kindergarten teacher by day and a thesis writer by every other impossibly, unforgivingly awake moment. These roles melded together within my over-scheduled brain and I found myself intrigued by the interfaith families and children that I was getting to know.

So for my thesis I explored the nature of these (specific) couples’ dialogue, openness to questioning and lack of given, predetermined answers. I was curious how all of that wonderfulness fostered open ended, thoughtful questions from their children.

And here I am ten years later still contemplating children. And their questions. And the wide world of possibilities of answers available, but not always necessary, at our fingertips. Except now, I’m thinking and writing about my own children. And my own family.

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Sometimes a different perspective changes how you see things. Just sayin.'

What might surprise most of you to know is that the alternate title for this article was, “Why We’re Not An Interfaith Family, And Why We Are.” When Jason and I met ten years ago he was a Catholic boy from the Midwest. He was the “Epilogue” of my thesis.

After “doing” a year’s worth of Judaism with my family, he found that he fell in love with that piece of me and could easily see himself fully immersed right in the midst of it all. So he decided to convert, which he did about a year later. This article, however, is not about Jason’s decision to convert. It’s also not about the conversion process. Because those are not my stories to tell.

What this post is about is how our family’s Judaism is formed and affected by the fact that one of us is a Jew by Birth and one of us is a Jew by Choice. The two of us saw Jason’s conversion as the sign-off on our happily ever after. We would raise our children in a Jewish home. Everything was buttoned up. Tight. And the deal was sealed. Cue sappy end music here, right?

And that is, indeed, how it works sometimes. There’s no negotiating his childhood traditions with mine, fighting over his tunes or mine, deciding between his mom’s recipe or mine. And I will admit that the control freak part of me thrives within this system most of the time.

But every so often both Jason and I have been struck by the total and complete miss of our children not experiencing a part of my husband’s story. His memories. His tunes. His recipes. There’s something amazing about seeing your childhood traditions and beliefs through your children’s eyes. It’s sweet and endearing, for sure. But there’s also the joyful vulnerability of saying This is who I am and seeing what they do with it. On the flip-side, there’s something equally amazing about being that child participating in a tradition that your parents’ treasured when they were children and are now choosing to share with you. And you know what? I want all of that amazing-ness. For Jason and for our children.

I have often found conversion to be a hush-hush topic. Not really talked about. Ever. Well maybe once you’re really close friends you let the cat out of the bag. A Jew is a Jew and not a Convert. And I get that, I do. But…Oy! Sometimes, most times really, we do need to talk. We need to discuss what happens outside of our family. Christmas. Sunday School. Easter. There’s also the things that boil over on the inside that need to be addressed or they run the risk of becoming a wall or a division between us. Things like Jason having been part of the mainstream and then, well, not. For us, even though we’re still stumbling over the words, the lessons and the what’s-importants, its been literally impossible to not talk about these things.

So we do. We talk about it in little bits. We keep it about us. As a cohesive family. And we keep the conversation open ended. We answer our children’s questions honestly. And as best we can. Without overwhelming them with information. We find ourselves telling, sharing, explaining more each year. So bit by bit our children will see how Jason grew up, what he did, what he learned and what he has chosen. There’s something powerful in that information, isn’t there?

Jason made a move of love for me. For our children. For our Judaism. And ultimately for our family unit. On my end? That move, or change per se, comes in the form of cobbling together our family’s religious, spiritual and cultural traditions from scratch. And I do do some of that on my own. I pull from what I remember growing up and what I’m learning from so very many of you. The together part comes as we figure out works for us, as a family.

Ultimately it means that that we keep redefining as we go. So no, Jason’s conversion didn’t give us the ease and simplicity, the given of answers that we assumed we were going to have access to for our children. But it is, in no uncertain terms, our happily ever after. Our question asking, answer unknowing, sometimes fly by the seat of our pants “tradition” creating happily ever after. And I’ll take it. In a heartbeat.

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Happily

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Ever

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After.

About Galit Breen

Galit Breen is an Israeli freezing her tuchus in Minnesota. On any given day she can be found juggling her husband, three children, and new puggle. Galit has a degree in Human Development, a Masters in Education, and 10-plus years experience as a classroom teacher. Galit is now a stay-at-home mom, blogger and freelance writer with a serious affinity for challah. And hummus. And challah with hummus. Galit blogs regularly at theselittlewaves.com and writes the monthly Minnesota Mamaleh column right here at TCJ. Contact Galit at [email protected]

Comments. Add Yours!

45 comments

  1. Happy blogiversary!! May you have many more. Or at least as many as it takes to get a book deal. ;)

    As a prospective convert, I am fascinated by conversion stories (so your husband had better speak up sometime!). People are surprised that both my husband and I are coming to Judaism totally on our own, without any trace of Jewishness in our family trees. Part if it is so we can pass traditions on to our children, though the funny thing is that once you are faced with this edict of “no celebrating anything but Jewish holidays,” you end up realizing that, hey, you had some traditions of your own (though entirely secularly based ones, really). We’re going to have to figure out what’s kosher and what isn’t, but I do hope that we can incorporate some of it. Our traditions were never about religion, but about culture, and even when we’re Jewish, we’ll still be born-and-bred Americans.

  2. happy blogoversary…
    truly a vulnerable topic. you handled this one delicately and compassionately. while my family is not inter-faith, i can appreciate the the sacrifices your husband has made.
    i too, can be a private person, but on my blog might appear as an extrovert.
    this might be early, but shabbat shalom from columbus

  3. I honestly almost wet my pants when I read the word “BLOGOVERSARY”. That is just pure genius, people. If I had an alternative career, (or one at all?!?), it would be a “word creator”. Thank you for your insight, G. Although I am not Jewish and am not going to become Jewish, I LOVE every single thing about your blog and your writing. It’s the real deal. You rock. So… comin’ right back atcha’: I just love you and that is all!!

  4. Happy blogoversary! How lucky we are that you have chosen to share your stories with us.

    To Tiffany: I don’t think you need to stick to “no following anything but Jewish holidays.” I think of it more as “Don’t follow holidays from other religions.” So, unless you’re in a strict Orthodox environment, it’s probably ok to celebrate things like birthdays, the 4th of July, New Year’s Day (Jan 1 as well as the 4 Jewish new years), etc. Halloween may be iffy in some Jewish communities, but I carve a pumpkin and give candy to the kids who knock on the door.

  5. Well first Galit, Happy Blogiversary! I’m very happy to have found you because I love your writing and the beautiful photos. I would think that any difficulty in the decision to make a conversion of your faith would depend upon how deeply rooted you were in your prior faith based beliefs. I know this post wasn’t about conversion but after reading it I would be interested in hearing Jason’s perspective on it, especially now that he’s a father. Your family is beautiful and no doubt the love you share will be the powerful force that guides you on the days you feel like your flying by the seat of your pants. Wonderful post.

  6. Being English, married to an American, living in California, no religion there would seem to be nothing we share in common but I could have written this save a few words here and there. Building something new, a little piece of this, a little bit of that. That’s how it goes in our house, too.

    Wonderful post, I’m glad you decided to share.

    And those first few paragraphs? May have to plagiarize in a few months ;-)

  7. Happy blogoversary.
    Conversion, faith, traditions, what makes a family tick, all in my very humble opinion, works in progress. I will look forward to witnessing the evolution that is almost inevitable as life does its thing.
    Seems to me that’s why it’s interesting, yes?

  8. A VERY HAPPY BLOG ANNIVERSAT, MY DEAR.

    Such an interesting sharing….It has been my experience that the majority of people who convert to a religion are often more strict about the traditons and ‘rules’, if you will…..They have made a concious choice and seem to embrace it fully and completely. I don’t know if that is true of Jason, but from all I’ve read here on your blog, I know your Judism is very important to you as a family. I would hope that Jason will share his childhood and what was important and meaningful to him growing up, in all aspects….This will and already does enrich your lives as a family and your children’s lives, as individuals too.

    I know I have mentioned to you our Family Passover dinners and what lovely memories I have of them…..And being a Musical Family, we always sang all the Passover songs–loving to Harmonize as we did, and it ALWAYS led us to singing Christmas Carols which were wonderful to Harmonize, too. No one really ever thought of this as a bad thing or a slight on our devotion to being Jews—it was just something that came naturally….The blending and verlapping of certain aspects of Cultural Life are important—MORE today, than ever, to my way of thinking. Understanding and acceptence of what others believe is the key to a Peaceful world, don’t you think?
    One of the great things Blogging has done for so very many of us is seeing that no matter where you are from—everywhere in the world—-there are certain things everyone wants. And this shows us how ultimately we are more alike than not, though our experiences may be different. Bravo on a really lovely sweet post, my dear! You always give me lots to think about and I am grateful to you for that. And the pictures are just as dear as they can be!

  9. Happy blogiversary, sweetie! :)

    “Jason’s conversion didn’t give us the ease and simplicity, the given of answers that we assumed we were going to have access to for our children.” Answers are never concrete or set in stone, even for those who were born Jewish. We are always learning, adding food to our pot of religious stew, snipping here, cutting there, stirring in bits and pieces of this and that, in order to form the familial, recipe harmony we hope to instill in our children.

    I am glad to have met you and connected with your through the blogging world.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  10. Happy blogoversary. Blogging is an “easy” way to share your thoughts, ideas and feelings about particular topics. The one piece of advice I have to offer is don’t write about personal things unless you have a thick skin as some people will tell you things you might not enjoy reading.

    But overall I think that blogging is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor.

  11. This is a wonderful post and happy blogoversary. My first year is coming up too. As you probably know, we have a mixed faith home. We are rare, I think. To be talking about it is rare at least. This last year I am on a journey to be completely authentic, even if that means not agreeing with good friends. I don’t mean in your face disagreeing… Now that I blog, I don’t talk as much about myself face-to-face. I figure if someone wants/needs to know what I’m about they’ll read my blog. LOL My choices have mattered to some, but not all and it is so freeing to be who we are… I hope you find that too.

    Love and light,
    Cori

  12. Happy Blogversary.

    I never would have guessed from the things you have written that he had converted. Wow.

  13. Happy Blogoversary!
    Thanks for sharing, it is interesting to read. Wow, what a combination of two different worlds. Not easily done, but it looks like you’ve found a way! Congratulations!

  14. Many happy returns. I found your post really interesting, but also puzzling. I don’t really understand why your husband’s conversion, or his tradition of origin, would be hush hush or meted our in little bits. Like I really, truly, don’t get it at all. I can’t imagine your community is that much different than mine (perhaps I’m wrong here) but I know families in our Jewish community of all stripes – 2 jews by birth, 1 jew by birth with 1 by choice, 1 jew by birth with one not jewish, 1 jew by birth with 1 who converted after the children were born, 1 jew by birth with 1 who converted and then un-converted (in his mind, anyhow), and families where the only Jewish parent is the father…you get my point. And, you know, these are just things we know about each other and are part of who were are. I’ve never heard a judgement even once about who might be more authentic, more real, more Jewish. I think it’s really important to model for your kids being proud of the choices you’ve made – I’m sure you are doing this, of course – but part of that demonstration is showing that you have nothing to hide. After all, why should you?

  15. Happy Blog-o-versary. I will be coming up on 6 years, although my posts are much less frequent than in the early days…

    You shared another dimension of your family life and personal background and I thank you. I’m sure life cannot be easy for a “Jew by choice” — nor is it ever easy for one born into the faith. There are always questions, never always straight-up answers…continual searching and finding just the right fit. But you and Jason work as a brilliant team and share with your lovely children all that you know and all that you’re continuing to learn. I say “Yasher Koach” to the two of you.

    Lovely photo captions too!

  16. what a great post. important reminder for all of us that taking on a new future doesn’t necessarily erase our past…

  17. Happy Blogoversary! I just assumed you’d been writing for much longer than a year!

    Your post was really interesting – I am sure a lot of people think that the story ends when the conversion has been achieved, that everything is neatly tied up, Ts crossed an Is dotted. If only! That’s when the real work begins, when you start making your own traditions, creating your own history, negotiating the twists and turns of the future.

    My BH doesn’t follow a religious tradition, whereas I am now a Jew. So we negotiate what to do at all the festivals, Jewish and otherwise. We both have family traditions that we shared – Christmases, Easters etc, and now we’re on a different journey together. But it takes lots of discussion, communication and getting ourselves comfortable with change. Conversion IS my story to tell, but living with someone who has converted is not. If I could persuade my BH to write about it, I know it would be enlightening!

  18. Wow, just wow. I can’t say anymore, this amazing story is so close to home, more than you know. Wow.

  19. Happy blogiversary! :-)

    But it is, in no uncertain terms, our happily ever after.
    This actually reflects the traditional Jewish approach to life. As our Sages teach:
    “Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot.” (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1)

    Have a wonderful week!

  20. This is a great post. First off, happy blog-o-versary! And thank YOU for your honesty and wonderful posts.

    I think it’s great that your husband not only found you but his faith at the same time! I admire both of you! And your family is gorgeous. That last photo is absolutely screaming out for a frame!! (I think I’ve said that before but I really mean it this time!)

  21. Happy Blogoversary!

    Your story is amazing and very touching. I can only imagine what type of questions come up from the kids but an honest age appropriate answer is always the best way to tackle them head on. Sounds like you and Jason have a great plan in place to help the kids understand both sides of religion. ;D

  22. Great post, Galit. Amazing how writing/blogging can bring out the best of us and push us to examine our lives and think through things in a new way. Thank you for continuing to share your story. Even though some of us may not have the same exact experience, we can relate to parts of your story.

    Congrats on your blogaversary. You have a voice — a strong, beautiful voice. I am grateful for the opportunity to know you.

    xo,
    missy

  23. Happy Blogiversary! I’m coming up on two years, and never imagined it would be so rewarding and that I’d stick with it this long. (I tend to be a quitter of hobbies like you wouldn’t believe.)

    And I think raising children opens you up to so many questions from your own childhood. Even though my husband and I were both raised Catholic, neither one of us practice it. But yet I’m conflicted about not giving my son the same experiences we had (or at least some of it). I feel conflicted sometimes about him missing out on that aspect of life that both of us had. So we’re figuring out how to work that into his life in a way that feels balanced and natural.

  24. Happy Birthday to your blog. I remember when mine turned one (can you tell I don’t have kids?)(My blog is in first grade – going on six years old – poo poo poo) Thank you for sharing this part of the story. It’s funny – not ha-ha that just today someone was talking to me about conversion and the idea of being who you are.

    You’re posts are articulate, literary, and so rich. Your writing is also clearly honest, salt of the earth – real. I am grateful to have your blog to read and to have you as a blog friend. I look forward to reading more of your writing!

  25. I enjoyed reading this post and learning a bit more about your family. Thanks for sharing and tell Jason we are eagerly waiting for his side of the story.

  26. Happy Blogiversary, Galit! So glad our paths have crossed in the blogosphere.

  27. Your story is my story, only I’m the convert. I am humbled each day to be a jew but do at times miss sharing bits of my childhood with my children. And as my husband is a Russian Jew, his family doesn’t ave many traditions of their own. For better or worse, rather than paint by numbers, we make it up as we go along. I am fully committed to being a jew, living as a jew, and making sure my sons marry Jewish girls but, I do listen to Christmas songs on the radio when I’m by myself in the car . . . When Decwmber comesI can’t help it. :)

  28. Happy Blogoversary!!! This post was the first of yours I’ve read and I’ll be BACK!!! You are good stuff!

    Sounds like you have a wonderful and committed partner and are a strong family unit, no matter what the faith, I think that is the most important part of raising centered and balanced offspring:)

    Congrats on one year!! Here’s to many more!

  29. Thank you for sharing this. It’s been a few days, but I was saving it for a moment that I could give it the attention it deserved. Sorry I’m late to the talky-table!

    We (my dh & I) are lucky in that conversion in our community isn’t a “secret,” but it IS secret in that, as you say, you’re never supposed to look back over your shoulder at what you were, at what you could have been, at what would have happened had the choice of who was going to convert gone the other way.

    A couple of personal things here: your article has helped make me more curious and sympathetic about my dh’s choice to convert and everything he’s left behind to make that choice.

    And yes, even in an “open” community, I wish people WOULD talk about conversion more. Not just the happily ever after that “now we’re Jewish, and we all fit in together,” but “what richness can we bring to the Jewish world from our upbringing?”

    Frankly, I found a lot to love in Catholicism – its view of sacramentality, for one – that I have tried to incorporate in my own Jewish belief and observance. It’s not true that we have nothing to learn and I sometimes wish we acknowledged that as a community.

    Thank you – and mazel tov on the -versary!!!

  30. It is funny how a different perspective changes how you see things. My brother converted to Judaism when he married years ago, and, for our family, it’s opened up a world of tradition and perspective I never knew existed. Thank you for sharing your family’s story. Just beautiful.

  31. First of all, congratulations! A whole year in blog time feels like 5 years in the rest of the world. This post is beautiful – I had always hoped to fall in love with a nice Jewish boy and convert. It didn’t quite pan out, but I still admire the traditions so much. Keep blogging and I’ll keep reading!

  32. Very nice. And very resonant with this Jew-by-choice whose own enthusiastic embrace of certain holidays still freaks my born-Jewish husband out.

  33. Ah, Galit….

    “But every so often both Jason and I have been struck by the total and complete miss of our children not experiencing a part of my husband’s story. His memories. His tunes. His recipes. There’s something amazing about seeing your childhood traditions and beliefs through your children’s eyes.”

    This, for me, has been the hardest part: the loss of my pre-conversion identity. Had I known when my kids were little what I know now, I would have addressed that loss openly and honestly. “Embracing the new” doesn’t have to mean “negating the old.” How I would have done that, however, I haven’t a clue!

    I’m glad – for your sakes and your children’s – that you and Jason have the courage to acknowledge the issue now and hope that you find significant ways to continue to address it in the future.

    Mazal tov on your Blogoversary!

  34. Happy, happy birthday to your blog! I’m so glad you are documenting the tale of your beautiful family.

  35. @Tzipporah: Your comment reminded me so much of this joke. Hope it doesn’t offend anybody… with some of the Jews-by-choice I’ve known, it’s SOooo true…
    http://bit.ly/9CO5DX

  36. Galit: Thank you for sharing your family’s story. As a JBC myself, I soak this stuff up. Yasher Koach to you and to Jason!

    Chris

  37. Hi Galit! Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my broccolini post. Turns out we have more than our love for broccolini in common. I live in an interfaith household where my husband has chosen not to convert which can raise all kinds of other issues than the one you are writing about. But as you said, each situation is different. We are raising our children Jewish and he participates at services more than most of the Jews in the synagogue and certainly 2 out of my 3 brothers :-). And it has been very important to us to let our kids experience his traditions. Not only was he raised Christian, but his family is from Hawaii and originally from Korea. But we make it all work. My daughter, the youngest, is about to become a Bat Mitzvah and my son is already and attends an all Jewish high school, though honestly, not for the Judaism specifically but for the wonderful approach to education that they offer. However, my son has a real Jewish soul while my daughter is most comfortable in a completely non-religious environment. But you should hear her chant Torah. Who would know?

    Anyhow, I am glad that you are opening the doors to your husband past – it’s all part of who he is and how he was shaped.

    And a big mazel tov on your blogoversary. Mine isn’t until February. Come by and chat again soon :-)

  38. Happy blogaversary to you!!

    Faith, traditions, culture is such a huge topic for our family. We are two Americans raised pretty much without religion. We have (soon) 2 children from China and 2 children from Ethiopia. We have the responsibility and the joy of making sure they know who they are as individuals and who we are as a family.

    Because none of us were raised in our religion, it is up to us to create our own definition and traditions. We have no childhood memories of this to pull from. No one to show us the way. But we are hoping that this will not be true of our children.

    By sharing both cultures with your children, you are teaching them to value all religions and cultures. What a wonderful thing, Gailit! You go, mama!

  39. Well, I’m late, as usual, but once again I loved this post! I know a lot of people who are different religiously than the way they grew up (mostly secular-turned-religious or vice versa). It’s difficult to “forget” everything that was you before, and I don’t know why anyone would want to. I love your approach and your girls are very lucky to be raised in such a warm, loving, understanding environment.

  40. Galit, I’m a little behind on my blog reading (life seems to have a mean habit of getting in the way of things like that) so please forgive me for being so late to say mazal tov on the anniversary! I’m so very glad our paths have crossed. And I very much believe you when you say that you’re a private person – I am too. I think we introverts thrive when we can write to connect with people as well as talk, right?

    Your kindness and respect in sharing your family’s story shines through your words, as it does in everything you write. My husband and I come from very different backgrounds as well, and we struggle with many of the same questions. So I really hear you. I think you’re exactly right about it being a constant process of redefining (within parameters of course). I’m glad you’re sharing just a little bit of that process with us here!

  41. Happy Blogoversary, Galit! I started my blog a little over a year ago, too, so our babies are about the same age! :)

    Thank you so much for sharing the story of your husband’s conversion. I am the product of an inter-faith marriage (Catholic and Jewish, which I coin “Cashew”). I attended Catholic school but was raised with both religions, customs, and traditions. Needless to say, I was very confused about what I believed growing up. Did I believe in Jesus or not? Should I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah? The answer for me was a long and challenging process, but I ultimately recognized my true beliefs in my early 20′s. I felt more Jewish than anything else, despite that I actually had a stronger influence among my Catholic family members and education. I immersed myself in Judaism and started to identity myself as a Reform Jew. I married a Reform Jew and that is how we are raising our child.

    All of this is to say that I wish it had been easier for me at times when it comes to my faith. I was jealous of friends who were Catholic or Jewish because that is all they knew. However, in the long run, I’m glad I was so challenged by the faiths and traditions by both sides of my family. It took me a lot longer to discover what I really believe, but I think all that questioning and searching only solidifies my beliefs even more.

    I think it’s great to share your husband’s background, traditions, and customs with your children. It’s good for them to know both of your histories…and to see that you both ultimately share the same beliefs and values.

    -Aimee

  42. Galit, I love your posts and I’m always eager to hop online Friday mornings to see what fun new glimpse into life you’re going to share. I constantly find myself nodding my head in agreement as you talk about how faith is such a wonderful core for family, love and growth. And so I find the story of your husband’s conversion even more powerful, especially as we get ready to baptize our daughter in the Catholic church. My little family is just getting started, so I value your experience, sense of humor, humility, and open introspection. You also help me realize I’m not totally insane for all the things I worry about for my daughter and husband. Your anniversary post prompted me to do something I have been thinking about for a while but been too chicken to do – start my own blog. She’s only a few days old, but your honesty inspired this likewise private person to try to tell a good (or at least entertaining) story. Thanks for sharing your family and experiences.

  43. Happy (a little late!) Blog-iversary!! This is a very interesting topic because my husband and I are from similar backgrounds there was never a question of what traditions to share with our children and there is an amazing happiness and overwhelming JOY seeing our childhood traditions through the eyes of our children. I hope that within your family you find a way for your children to know Jason’s traditions…perhaps in a different way. Good Luck and thanks so much for commenting!!

  44. This is an amazing post.
    Davka, just last night, I saw/heard Dr. Micha Goodman on tv. He’s a very popular Israeli religious speaker philosopher. I worked with his mother 15 years ago in her role as founder of the Hillel, Parents of MLD kids. She helped me with my dyslexic sons. He revealed on TV some of her background including being descended from Oklahoma Indians.