“Then Again”…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2012 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Been thinking a lot today about Diane Keaton’s memoir, “Then Again”, which I just finished last night. I loved it. Upon finishing, I decided to hop onto Goodreads to see what other readers were saying about it. I don’t know why I did that exactly as it’s not something I ordinarily do but I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read what I was sure would be similar ravings. I was surprised and taken aback to see how many mediocre reviews existed. As I began to dive in to read them, I noticed a familar theme throughout several of them – betrayal.

These feelings of betrayal shocked me. All of these women were expressing their disappointment in Ms. Keaton for being insecure, self-deprecating and seemingly nothing like the image she has portrayed all these years–independent, irreverent, one of a kind (when does the name Diane Keaton not conjure up an image of a man suit and black hat?). Nope, Diane was just like one of us – uncertain, insecure — even bulimic at one point. She felt inferior around many of her boyfriends (shall we keep in mind that they were the likes of Warren Beatty, ladies) and never felt pretty enough.

Now, I’m no Diane Keaton. I’m not even a writer. But, I do aspire to commit to my blog again. The thing that has kept me away – even more than lack of time – is fear. I can’t write because I’m afraid to tell my truth. I’m afraid of the words that will come out, who might read them and what they might think. Reading those reviews last night tapped into all of my fears about telling my own truth – about putting my real feelings out into the world. The ugly stuff. Stuff that may make those who know me step back and say, “Whoa – this isn’t the woman I know at all!” Worse, is they’ll hold this against me. Judge me. Just the way Diane is being judged.

When I started this blog, I aimed to be funny. I think that was mostly because when I started this blog, I was able to see humor in a LOT. These days, not so much. I find that I’m rarely laughing – at least not nearly as much as I used to. In fact, I’ve noticed that I feel like crying a lot more than I feel like laughing. Or, maybe more that one day I feel like laughing and the next like crying. This kind of up and down scares the crap out of me. I have NEVER felt like this before. I mean, sure, I’ve been down and I’ve definitely been up. But, this up and down rollercoaster of emotions is not something I’m accustomed to.

It seems like everything is wrong – all the time. And, yet, nothing at all. My doctor tells me it’s my hormones. She’s been telling me that for three years. I recently broke up with my doctor. I was tired of hearing over and over that every physical symptom I’ve had is related to hormones.

But, if not that, then what? Am I depressed? Burnt out? Have I just been in limbo too long? Do I need to re-examine my childhood? My marriage? Have another kid? Start a gratitude journal?

I’ve examined my feelings from many vantage points. I’ve reviewed and re-reviewed every plausible scenario and I’m still not sure how to fix it. To fix me.

Then again, maybe I don’t need fixing.

 

 

 

Coming out of the darkness…

Posted in Tiny spaces on March 14, 2012 by talesofanunfinishedmom

If I’m not mistaken, I started this blog in 2009. Or, was it 2008? I do know that I have not posted in almost exactly one year. A year that has had a bit more than its share of hardships. A dozen times I stopped to write a post – be it about something funny, sad, revealing – but then I couldn’t muster the energy for it. Or, fear stopped me in my tracks. Fear of who might read what was really there- behind the facade of the spunky girl at the office or about town.

After this past year’s events, I’ve learned that darkness can come without an invitation and it can stay longer than you’d like it to – many seasons, not just winter.  I’ve learned that you really can walk out the door one day and get hit by a bus, except in my case it was a bicycle. I’ve learned that people you think you know, can take their life without warning.  I’ve learned that the people you most rely on, can let you down. I’ve learned that in the end, you have to be your own best champion.

I’m a year older. I’ve taken stock. I’m working toward acceptance and renewal.

And, perhaps for the first time, I feel measurably wiser. This life thing is hard. And, yet, I find myself once again feeling hopeful, despite myself.

The Family Bed

Posted in Mommy stuff with tags , , on March 9, 2011 by talesofanunfinishedmom

If you told me two years ago that I would be co-sleeping with my child, I would have told you you were crazy. After all, I am the Mom who brought in a professional sleep trainer when my daughter was 3 months old (and I was on the verge of jumping out a window) to help me figure out what to do to get my infant to sleep more than two hours at a time.  I was pretty much out of my mind and so sleep deprived that I thought I had developed a case of postpartum depression. Additionally, I was returning to full-time work in one month and couldn’t imagine how I would function with only a few  hours of sleep a night. 

A sleep trainer may sound extreme but a good friend of mine had used this trainer and said that she pretty much “fixed” her family life overnight. Well, maybe not overnight and maybe not fixed as she got divorced a few years later–but, I digress. The bottom line is I was desperate and there was no way I was going to be able to allow my child to cry it out (which seemed the only alternative) without someone talking me off a ledge 24 hours a day. So, I talked with my pediatrician and we agreed on a plan that made sense. I still felt guilty, but, also knew that 1) I could fire the trainer five minutes after she came into my house and 2) knew that my mental state was hurting enough that this was probably not only good for me but good for my child. A depressed sleep-deprived mother does not a good mother make.

I will admit that five minutes after the “trainer” entered our home, I wanted to tell her to get out — you know, like, in that scary Poltergeist voice. But, after listening to her “plan” and having her there to hold my hand, it actually didn’t seem so outrageous.  She suggested that my 3-month old didn’t need to be swaddled anymore. WHAT?! Not swaddle. Well, maybe this actually made sense since my daughter hated the swaddle and pretty much kicked out of it every night. I was also told that we had to get rid of her pacifier. That wasn’t really a problem since I was still trying to train my kid to keep it IN her mouth. She would always suck and then spit it out which was hilarious but didn’t do much for her self-soothing. Then the sleep trainer told us that our daughter would have to move out of the bassinet in our room and into her crib in her own room. This was where my head nearly popped off. OUT OF OUR ROOM? OUT OF THE BASSINET? ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE APARTMENT? (Mind you our apartment is only 900 square feet.) Just as I was about to kick the “trainer” out of the door, I thought again about how my daughter’s previously good sleeping habits had reverted to such minimal stretches that NO ONE, including her, was sleeping well. And, hey, what did I have to lose by trying it for one night? We were also lucky in that since we live in such small quarters and her room is a windowless 10X12 box which occurred to me may actually be MORE comforting to her — more womb-like — than sleeping in our big master bedroom.

Well, long story short, the sleep training was actually a great success. I didn’t actually follow everything the “trainer” recommended (like ignoring my daughter’s request for a feeding at 4:00am–um, hello?!) but I followed enough that I felt OK with it. Frankly, it was easy to be OK with it because my daughter responded beautifully. And, I think if she could have talked she would have said THANK YOU for getting me out of that suffocating swaddle and into a real bed with a real mattress and into this nice dark quiet room that takes me back to that incredibly cozy place I lived for 9 months.

I would say the rest is history but, as you know, history is always rewriting itself.

My daughter did remain incredibly happy in her crib for 3 1/2 years. She LOVED her crib. She took incredible naps, slept amazingly well at night (NEVER woke up unless she was sick) and it wasn’t until she was about a month shy of turning 4 that I decided to move her into her big girl bed. It may seem unlikely that someone who sleep trained her child at 3 months would keep her in her crib for so long but my feeling about these things is if it’s not broken, why fix it? And, it really wasn’t broken. 

What I didn’t anticipate was the pressure I would start to get about moving my child into a “big girl bed.” I ignored it for a long time but when my daughter started to approach four, I did start to cave, thinking that I wasn’t doing right by her–especially since she was on the verge (finally) of being potty trained.  The thing is, my daughter never ASKED for a big girl bed. She knew what one was — she saw big girl beds at friends’ houses — but didn’t really seem especially interested in moving to one. She was that way about potty training too – no interest. I believed it was important to work with her cues (within reason) and had heard disastrous stories about potty training that backfired because it was pushed too early. So, again, hard to believe that the Mom who sleep trained her kid at 3 months allowed her child to almost turn 4 without being potty trained! As luck would have it and my instincts told me (in between the fears) my daughter became fully ready and engaged in potty training about one month before her 4th birthday and she was trained in about one week — all on her own.  

Once the potty training was underway, the big girl bed became more of a topic of conversation. Well-meaning relatives were telling my daughter “next time you visit us, you’ll have to sleep in a big girl bed” and well-meaning friends told me that now that she was nearly potty trained that I would be setting her up for failure by keeping her in a crib.

So, online I went. After much searching — and against my better judgement I bought a brand new beautiful white toddler bed complete with girly bedding and decorative pillows (decorative pillows people – I mean, does a 4-year old need decorative pillows??!!). 

I remember the night we put it together. Except by “we” I really mean my husband. I remember the 4-year-old’s excitement. “Yay! Big girl bed!”  By this point, she seemed REALLY excited about the notion of having her own big girl bed. In addition, getting that big ‘ol crib out of her room gave her more room to actually play in her little space.

Well, wouldn’t you know…the idea of the big girl bed turned out to be MUCH more appealing than the actual big girl bed.  And, so, yadda yadda yadda — it’s been four months and my daughter has NOT slept in her bed all night.  Not ONE time.

At first I was sufficiently on edge about it. After years of putting my daughter to bed without issue and retreating to my sanctuary (otherwise known as the master bedroom)  to be lulled by her steady breathing on the baby monitor while I read my book; I was not prepared to have a visitor in my bedroom every five minutes!

Everyone said that was normal and that after a few days or a week she’d get used to it. She didn’t. And, I tried everything to make that room welcoming (did I already mention decorative pillows??). Tinkerbell pillowcase, fairies on the wall, nightlight…NOTHING was keeping her in that room.

So, I finally retreated to the good ‘ol internet in search of advice for getting your kid to stay in her big girl bed. The advice seemed pretty consistent. Every time your kids comes into your bedroom, you walk her back to her room without getting upset or giving in to any kind of conversation. I was pretty good at the first (after all–this was all new to her–it didn’t seem fair to get angry) but not so good at the latter. I was especially bad in the middle of the night so I had my husband take responsibility for taking her back to bed. From everything I read, it should take no more than TWO WEEKS to train your kid to stay in her bed but you HAVE to be consistent. You HAVE to walk her back to her bed EVERY TIME she comes into your room — no matter how many times it happens. You should remain calm and not engage in conversation. Consistency is key.

It was REALLY hard. Sometimes during those first few nights she would cry as my husband carried her back and we felt AWFUL. I recall my husband telling her over and over again that she was safe and that Mommy and Daddy were in our room if she needed us. But, it didn’t seem to sink in.

After about 10 days, we started to weaken. Most of all, we were just so DARN tired and were losing the energy to walk her back to bed throughout the night. I knew if we weakened that we would lose the battle but we just couldn’t keep it up. I asked a couple of friends for advice and a couple of them said they put gates up to keep their kids in their room and it was quite effective. I began to threaten that we’d put a gate up and while my 4-year-old wasn’t crazy about the idea, with no gate in sight, it seemed an empty threat and not effective. I finally borrowed an actual gate and showed her how it would fit in her door and she was none too pleased. I explained that if she could stay in her big girl bed, we wouldn’t have to use the gate. I even went so far as to buy her presents — a new pair of sassy pink sunglasses to be specific. I offered that all she had to do was stay in her bed for three nights in one week and she would get the sunglasses. She loves the sunglasses. But, she loves Mommy and Daddy’s bed more.

About this time, I began to get used to having my daughter in bed with us. I couldn’t bring myself to put the gate up, envisioning her waking up in the night and panicking that she was trapped in her room (even if we could hear her every move on the baby monitor) and imagining the therapy bills later.  It started to occur to me that maybe she was really scared in her room. Even if she had loved it for all those years, perhaps things were different now. How could I force her to stay somewhere she didn’t really want to be?

And, perhaps, even more than all of this, I began to get used to sleeping with her — to waking up next to her warm sleeping body throughout the night and listening to her rhythmic breathing. I never have to think of checking on her because she is right next to me. If she happens to sleep in uncharacteristically late, I don’t panic that maybe she stopped breathing because I can feel her breathing next to me. Our unexpected family bed has turned into an unsuspecting source of comfort.

Like I said, if you would have told me two years ago that I’d be co-sleeping with my 4-year-old, I wouldn’t have believed it. If you had told me I’d be co-sleeping and actually enjoying it, I’d have told you you were insane.

I’m finding motherhood is like this–an array of constantly shifting paradigms. I’m even beginning to accept it.

Missing you…

Posted in Tiny spaces on January 19, 2011 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Dear blog,

I am sorry that I’ve been so neglectful. It’s now been more than three months since I’ve posted. I haven’t forgotten about you. I promise. I think about you often and about how much I miss our time together.

I’m still trying to work some things out but hope to return to you soon.

Thanks for your continued patience…

Jennifer

I Do…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 3, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

I can’t remember the last time I attended a wedding. I guess by the time you’re my age, your friends are either already married or have sworn off matrimony altogether.

In this case, it was a second marriage. My husband’s close friend from business school tied the knot for a second time. Not how it sounds at all, E is that salt of the earth kind of guy. His first marriage was never meant to be. Like putting a round peg in a square hole. I didn’t know his first wife well, only meeting her once early on when husband and I were first dating, but, they did seem like a case of opposites attract. Which, I guess can be good in some circumstances. Not in this one. They were together long enough to have a child – a daughter. And, throughout the years, we’ve witnessed E be a dedicated single Dad. Although there was a custody arrangement, E found himself being more of the responsible one and he’s been a rock for his only daughter.

I recall how devastating it was for him when his marriage ended. And, I recall it took him quite some time to “get back on the horse” so to speak. Once he did, we would hear stories here and there of different women he was dating. But, nothing really stuck. Until he met his current bride.

They’ve only been together for less than two years, but, it’s clear they’re a perfect match for one another. Besides both being tall, dark-haired and beautiful, they are clearly kindred spirits. E being the consummate outdoorsman, he finally found a woman who shares his passion for the outdoors and loves adventure. She also clearly loves children in general, and his daughter, in particular. I’m quite certain that was a big factor in E considering marriage.

They had a small ceremony with family to make things legal and this past weekend they held the official reception at their home in Napa Valley. I had not been to Napa in quite some time either and had forgotten how stunningly beautiful it is. Since Napa is a bit of a trek outside of the city, we decided to make a weekend of it and stayed at a lovely B&B only a few miles from the wedding.

The B&B was not exactly posh but certainly pretty – especially the grounds — which were lavish including beautiful rose gardens.

Morning dew

I couldn’t help photographing flowers everywhere we went. Not only on the grounds of the B&B but at the wineries we visited as well. Everything was so lush.

The wedding itself took place in the backyard of E’s house. I had been to his house when he first purchased it several years back and while I recall he had a nice amount of property, I also recall that there was a LOT of work to do. However, when we entered the wedding reception last night, it was amazing to see the transformation. The once rustic, untouched backyard was turned into a virtual fairyland! 

Nice artsy shot taken by my husband

The cocktail reception was extra long – about 2+ hours. Given the fact that I didn’t actually know anyone other than the bride and groom and was not in an especially schmoozy mood, I took the opportunity to take pictures before the sun went down. This is one of my favorites.

The view from the bride and groom's front porch at dusk. Yes, those are rows and rows of grapevines!

 The reception was lovely from beginning to end. The food was deliciously and lovingly prepared by the bride’s girlfriends (amazing!) and the wine (of course) was fabulous. Once dinner was complete, the dancing commenced. it was amazing to see this old rustic barn turned into a platform for booty shaking that even John Travolta would be proud of!

Yes, that is a disco ball. Apparently, the final paint touches were being put on the barn right up to the last hour prior to guests arriving. You'd never know.

All in all it was a fabulous affair and I was so glad to be able to witness such true love by two tremendously deserving people.

On your 80th birthday…

Posted in Tiny spaces on August 28, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Today is your 80th birthday. That officially makes you an octogenarian. And, yet,  that seems so totally impossible.  You seem so much younger than your years.

On our recent vacation together, where we celebrated your birthday early in the company of your most beloved family members, toasts abound. Your brothers and sisters, stepdaughter and stepson, and finally,  your dearest sons shared their feelings about you and the imprint you’ve made on them as people, husbands, and fathers and on the many others you’ve touched in your life — through your business as a successful jeweler on 47th street and by nurturing treasured friendships you’ve sustained for decades.

Although the floor was open to all, I found myself unable to speak. I’m not usually one at a loss for words but I just couldn’t imagine what I could share, being the person in the family who’s known you for the least amount of time. (Other than your granddaughter who is 3 1/2, but, she’s already known you for her whole life.) I also felt that what I would share,  wasn’t really meant for a group setting.

So, I waited until your official birthday to share those thoughts…

In thinking about a toast I might have given, I harkened back to the first time we met. I recall that your son (my now wonderful husband) was eager for me to meet you and so he took the opportunity to bring me to your  home in Woodstock while I was already in New York for a business trip. I remember the train ride to Woodstock, where I pondered what this meeting would be like. I felt nervous. I hadn’t had such great luck previously. Not that I ever had an official father-in-law, but, I had boyfriends with potential who came with fathers. Fathers who in retrospect – and perhaps even at the time – I could not imagine being a part of a fabric that I called family.

I recall arriving at the train stop, my mind curious about the father I was to meet. I don’t remember seeing you for the first time but I’m certain I remember you hugging your son affectionately and being very cordial to me. I recall the ride was not a long one – nor was it a short one. I remember feeling nervous in the backseat of the car and wondering if I’d regret committing to an overnight stay upon our first meeting.

We pulled up to your home and upon entering, I was greeted by your wife (my now wonderful mother-in-law) — a beautiful woman who was extremely pleasant and reserved. I knew I could only be myself but nonetheless, I hoped I didn’t say the wrong thing. I hoped we all liked one another.

An impressive lunch spread waited for us and I recall we all dove in voraciously. I can remember that initial feeling of awkwardness when you’re trying to figure people out. What I remember more, though,  is 10 minutes into our visit, the questioning and nerves,  those feelings went away — and they never returned. It seemed immediately that we all clicked into place, like placing the last two pieces in a complicated jigsaw puzzle.

 I recall we cruised around the town of Woodstock during our weekend stay and I clearly remember your generosity towards both your son and myself. I remember you insisted on buying me a pair of shoes. I had those shoes for years.

I recall feeling so welcomed that we returned to Woodstock a few months later for a “white Thanksgiving.”

And, of course the rest is history.

I ultimately married your wonderful son and we brought you your 6th grandchild. I wondered if perhaps you’d wished you had a grandson, having 5 granddaughters already, but, you were over the moon with the birth of your youngest son’s daughter and have remained enraptured ever since.

I remember when I was preparing to go back to work toward the end of my maternity leave and we didn’t know how we would arrange the childcare situation financially. I remember your asking me what I would do if money wasn’t a concern. When I suggested that it was, you pressed me again, “What would you do if money wasn’t a concern.”

Your generosity has never been lost on me. Your commitment to your family is incomparable.

On your 80th birthday I thank you for raising such an amazing son who has changed my life in so many ways.  I thank you for reaching out across the miles to check in regularly, for making me feel so welcome and loved, even though I’m not officially your blood, and finally, I thank you for being such an amazing Pop-pop to my treasured little girl.

Ellie and her Pop-pop

Happy Birthday with love,  Jennifer

Second chances…

Posted in Tiny spaces on July 26, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Sometimes the universe tests you.  I had such a test this past week.

I was lucky. My medical scare turned out to be nothing. Nothing.

But, oh the places my mind went.

Repeatedly.

I feel so blessed.

Not all women walk out with the same peace of mind that I did today. In fact, far too many don’t. And, it’s just not fair.

It’s weird to feel grateful and sad at the same time. Grateful for my good news while sad for the other women in the same waiting room with anxious husbands and nervous faces who may not have received such positive results.

I don’t take it for granted. Second chances are gifts.