in search of an anchor

It used to be I woke up and knew what kind of day I was going to have, or at least what mindset I would approach it with. Most days it was with a sunnier side of life outlook. On the days I stirred feeling a restlessness in my core, I'd do my best to break out of it.

Nowadays, unpredictability seems to be the name of the game. I feel lost, like I'm in need of an anchor, something to ground me and assure me that everything will be okay. I know this is only a phase, but the anxiety on my part stems from the wonder of how long this phase will last. The feelings of sadness and insecurity also come barreling out of nowhere. One minute I'm fine, fondling Valentino dresses at Loehmann's—I didn't buy any, the next I'm a teary mess talking to the salesman at West Elm. It just seems to be par for the course these days.

I needed something to center me, keep me focused and remind me that I can do this, even during the seconds and minutes when I don't want to. See, everyone seems to think my girls are enough to keep moving forward. I love them, gosh knows I really do. Isabella and Virginia, if you girls read this post one day when you grow up, you should know that next to your daddy, the two of you are my beacons. I am very aware, though, that you both need to be free to grow up one day and live your own lives. You do not need to be tethered to a mom who is utterly dependent on you for her own happiness. I've always been keenly aware of this, long before your papa died.

As you grow up, it's important to understand that independence is key in preserving the relationships that matter most. So, a mother is not simply a mommy. A wife is not just the woman who married her husband. A writer is not just someone who puts words to paper for a living. People are like puzzles, and there are a multitude of pieces that make us complete. My challenge now is to figure out how to live life minus one key piece. The puzzle that is my life is not one I want to discard, but your lives are your puzzle and I cannot take a piece of you to fill the void your daddy has left in mine.

So for the days when I need a reminder that I will survive, flourish and have so much life left to live, I got that tattoo you see above. It is something I've always believed in staunchly. Some day, I'll tell you both about the challenges your daddy and I overcame. For now, just know that this humble Brooklyn gal and a blue-collar boy from the Bronx made good because we never gave up on our dreams.


  • Joan B

    what a difficult time. I hope as you go forward the ups and downs smooth out a bit and you can put the anxieties, grief and all the other feelings on a shelf for longer and longer periods of time.

  • Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane

    All I can say (with tears in my eyes, yet again) is that you are the truest definition of inspiring. I can only hope you wake up each day with a genuine sense of pride for the fabulous and strong woman you inherently are.

  • Louisa T.

    Right now? It’s whatever gets you through the day. A tattoo today, or that Valentino dress (you go girl) or half the West Elm store (God knows I could find reason to buy the whole damn thing if I could!). Baby steps today turn into big strides tomorrow. You are reinventing yourself with every step you take, forwards or backwards. Today I hear you looking to a future again. Might not be so tomorrow, but it will the next. No, you don’t need to depend on your girls for your happiness the rest of your life, in fact I sincerely hope that you don’t. But, it’s okay to look to them to center yourself in the here and now until you find your own center, whatever and wherever that might be. I wish you a good night’s sleep tonight so you can face another day with optimisim and resolve.

  • Texas Mel

    I don’t really cook, I don’t know why I feel drawn to all your cooking blogs and postings but here I am again. I am late to this sad party, I just started reading your posts a short time after you lost your husband. Something posted by The Gluten Free Girl compelled me to read about you. I am so sorry for what your going through. I guess life is never perfect but it sure seemed like you managed to have perfect for a little while. I don’t have any words of wisdom, I can send you good wishes and hope for a peaceful mind soon. I want to say I love your writing, I only wish you were writing about the fun you and your family had. For now that’s not possible but something to look forward to?

  • Margie

    Some days our dreams feel like they are lost, or worst, forgotten, but one look into our children’s eyes and we are reminded of how alive they really are.
    I wish you hope. May dreams, far greater than you had ever imagined, find you.

  • Marilyn

    It’s quite all right to flounder for awhile; you will be centered and you will be anchored. Just not right now. But it will come. Right now, you just put one foot in front of the other and move with life.
    My sister died in an auto-ped accident in Feb., 2003. Sometime during the 1st week of Oct., 2003, my brain “woke up.” Everything changed. I felt more “here,” and I hadn’t realized I wasn’t “here.” But to this day, I can only remember 2 things out of those 8 mos. (and 1 was a kidney stone).
    So, give yourself a break. There are no rules to grieving; you just make it up as you go along. And you learn a new “normal.”

  • Jessica / Green Skies and Sugar Trips

    I am so proud of you for this. One’s first ink is never their last though….so watch out… 😉 You really do inspire me Jennie, in more ways than you will ever know 🙂
    And again…. “ink is constant proof that deep inside everyone, is a little S&M lover”
    Thank you for being you!
    xoxo – Jess 🙂

  • Lindsay

    Love the tattoo and love this post. Focusing on the sweet possibilities and big dreams for the future are how we remove limitations and doubt. Thank you, I needed this reminder 🙂

  • Linda Walmer

    It seems to me that God is closer to those who hurt the most. I can feel just a tiny part of your grief in your words. Thank you for sharing so we can all learn from your experience. Heartache comes to everyone eventually. Someday, you will remember the good times more than you remember the pain of your loss.

  • Tracey

    You are doing REALLY well….good thing you are a smart cookie, great writer and all that jazz..
    Sending you a hug.

  • Rachel Willen@FoodFix

    I can relate to the idea of having a talisman like that on your arm…it’s all we can do after fate deals us random cruelties, and kindnesses alike…keep on dreaming and doing and living the best life we can. I am grateful to have survived a heart attack this past Aug 13. I am asking myself similar questions beginning with WHY….???? and NOW WHAT??? But the answer is always a version of what you have tatooed on your arm…

  • robin

    Sending you Blessings and love sweetie in this time of pain… and if you have faith in God’s love…just keep looking up.. and know that he has a very solid plan for your life… God says that he does not give you more than you can handle.. I did not understand that fully while I was in the midst of my grief… It was only till I lifted my eyes and saw how many people he sent to lift me, and support me, during my darkest hours that I began to understand.. and oh just reading these replys to you shows how much love is being sent your way… like arms all coming together to help hold you up….

  • Patty Ann

    Hold those beautiful daughters close and you will flourish together. Allow these stages of grief,recovery,& healing to happen. The tattoo’s message will be for all of you.

  • Pamela Chiasson

    I am so drawn to your truth in your expressing yourself in your deepest pain.. i am a widow and have experienced the things that you write about and was unable to speak that truth so fully for myself. I knew it inside but just unable to express it. My husband passed what will be 4 years this dec 26th of a heart attack I have 2 boys now 16 14 and there lives moved forward and there becoming young men that my husband would be so proud of them.. My focus was on boys the day he died and the moments i needed to be there for them i neatly tucked away my pain in my back pocket to be there for them so my continued healing comes out in moments like reading your blog or when i create a piece of art work or taking a walk ..on my journey I am grateful for your honesty and blessed that you have made a difference in my walk. I know too that i have survived and i continue to rebuild . I wish you the same continued healing and rebirth and to achieve the big dreams that you have for yourself and your daughters peace and light

  • Rosie

    just pull up your socks and get on with life. We signed up for this blog because it was about food.
    JP’s Note: No one is forcing you to stick around. There are plenty of other blogs to fulfill what you’re looking for in life. In fact, please do unsubscribe. I don’t need useless readers like you in my life.

  • Tracey

    I hope you are recieving messages (besides these beautiful messages from others) from Mikey. I have mentioned this to you before. I hope you don’t think I am too much of a freak, but hope that you have a calming feeling today.

  • Elissapr

    You know what’s wonderful to read? Your posts, of course…but when I look at the list of blog titles on the right hand side? The titles show your progression of thought and awareness during this time of your life…
    I’m sure you’ve noticed that before, but it just sort of struck me at this moment…

  • Gema

    You need something to center you, then you have to write the book, Jennie. It’s simply amazing the way “you put words to paper”. And I will be the first one, who will buy your book from the other side of the ocean. Keep dreaming and don’t forget to make your dreams come true. You have the strength to make it possible.

  • Julie

    Jennie, you are an inspiration. I know it is probably no comfort right now to know the light you are bringing to others in your time of loss and grief, but the next time tragedy strikes in my life, I will draw strength from your words.

  • Denise-EPL

    I read your blog because it’s always been about much more than the food. The best part is, this is YOUR SPACE! Whatever it is you need in the moment when you hit publish, I know I’ll be here to share in it.

  • Nancie McDermott

    Grateful that you are putting words onto ….screen, not paper….putting words out there in the 21st century way so that I can read them. Extraordinary writing. Wishing you everything you need for today, and taking your counsel, to dream Big!

  • JulieD

    Wow, I can’t believe that asshole comment.
    I read this post early this morning while still in bed on my iPhone and had to think about what I wanted to say in a comment.
    Well first thing, ignore the haters, you know everyone’s going to say that.
    Second, your wisdom, grace and strength is inspiring. The ability to know and see that you do not (and should not) want to draw from your girls for your own happiness is another sign that you will make it. I wish other moms (there are tons out there) knew this and lived and breathed this. Too many people depend on others for their own happiness and lose themselves and drag themselves down because they are left disappointed and unhappy.
    Love you, Jennie, you’re amazing and I love your new tattoo.

  • Jean

    Enjoy your girls as kite…hold tight to to very long strings and you will never loose touch with each other.

  • Julia

    Grieving is a difficult path. One moment you are crying, the next just fine, then unexpectedly at moments unexplained the hurt is unbearable. Grieving has a path of its’ own and I think you need to just let it happen. All the while, your daughters need you more than ever now. You are their focus, they are yours’. As difficult as all of the coming moments in your life may be, looking ahead is essential and is what will give you strength, day to day, in the long run. I am sure your husband would have wanted to know that your strength, even in the worst moments, would be the path you choose. For the time being….one must let the grief take its’ moments….then turn around and hug your daughters and know all will be ok.

  • Sherry

    Praying for you today! Your pain is fresh….and while it will always be a part of you….I can tell by your writing…you will move out of this phase…..but don’t be surprised by the pain and tears that sneak up on you and knock you flat. They will get fewer and farther between…..but the first year is really really tough. I hope you feel the arms of God holding you up on those days when you have no strength.

  • be

    i’m sorry if my english isn’t very good, i hope you can understand me anyway.
    i’m from argentina, i’m 25 years old, and i’ve get to this blog going from one blog to another.
    i’ve read your latest posts, and, i don’t really know how to describe it, but, they have touch something in me, at a very deep level.
    i can’t even imagine what you are going through. i’m not married and i don’t have children, but, i think you are so so brave, not only for let yourself feel the way you have to feel, sometimes well, and sometimes horrible, but also for being able to share that with all te people that can read you.
    i know it doesn’t helps, but i send you love, from this part of the world.

  • Glenda

    I found your blog via twitter (Mikey’s pie). I love your beautiful, real, raw writing. I was 13 when my dad passed and I saw my mom pick up the pieces to her life. As a mother and wife your words are inspirational. I wish you and the girls much love, health, peace and strength and continue to dream big!!! XO

  • Jlhpisces

    As others have said, your efforts to create a new life “after” for yourself and your daughters are truly an inspiration. Dream big indeed.

  • Emme @Food Samba

    The summer before college, I got an overwhelming need to get a tattoo on my wrist that signified “strength”. I was about to start college in DC in the fall and had this gut feeling that I would just need that reminder, while out there alone, that I needed to be strong. Well, when I got to school, I found out I was pregnant. I was 20, alone, scared out of my mind. I found myself looking at my wrist many times to find my “strength”.
    I love that you got this tattoo. I totally understand it and I know that it will help you get through rough days and keep dreaming big.
    As always, thinking about and praying for you and your girls.

  • Sue

    Jennie –
    I have been reading your blog and sending your much support for some time now. I have to say, I appreciate all your honesty and your openness about the impact of Mikey’s death on you and the girls.
    Forget about people like Rosie. She clearly doesn’t get it.
    Keep writing, and keep enjoying your food and creativity. Keep remembering every moment you have of Mikey and sharing them with the girls.
    Having lost my Dad at a young age, I appreciate the numbness, and the cruelty of having life continue, time passing… putting more and more distance between you and the last time you saw them…
    Time just changes things, it doesn’t mean it gets “easier”.
    But I encourage you to keep writing and remembering. All the memories captured will bring much comfort in the future.
    Sending you lots of positive thoughts and support.

  • Jenny

    That post is beautiful and Rosie can suck it. I tweeted you that I once got Dream Big tattooed on a part of my body….now unfortunately that part is BIG. Love you.

  • Judy

    Although I loathe tattoos-they evoke the same negative feelings in me as cigarette smoking-somehow yours is more than ok. I lost my Dad the same way you lost Mikey and although you never get over it, your dreams are what gets you through. Your dreams for your girls and your dreams for your future. Touch that anchor that is inked on your arm and remember the good times you had and envision the new ones that are sure to come! Your postings are an inspiration.

  • Tristen

    I have been enjoying going through your posts from the last few years, you have a gift and a talent for beautiful, healthy, satisfying and delicious food. I look forward to watching you right now redefine your life, your purposes, who you are. I love the tattoo and the message that it carries with it. Dream big.

  • j

    when you wrote about pancakes, i made them and they were perfect for the first time. same with the eggs. thanks for the tips. just needed a little butter, who knew? 🙂
    dig the ink. and i hope that with each dream you dream for you, big or small, you reach with an open mind and an effusive heart.
    keep on keepin on, chica. we’ve all got your back.

  • Allie

    I love that arm ink of yours too much. On August 11, I suddenly lost my “person”–Suz was my best friend, mentor, bonus mom, sister woman of 16 years. This blog has been my anchor since then–thank you. I am trying not to be the sad woman–but I feel mostly weepy.
    Your girls will live big because you you–I just feel it.

  • Lynn Pawluk

    ” I’d rather have three minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Shelby, “Steel Magnolias” We had our “three minutes”, darlin’, we may have three more, we may not. When my Michael died, I lost my anchor. I lost half of myself. It took a long time to figure out the reality. I was my anchor and I had to grow to fill up that missing half. You’ll get there. Take a deep breath and know that I, and many others, are out here pulling for you.

  • Kelly

    Hi Jennie,
    Sorry to be a multi-commentor, put your words move me every time. You have this amazing following because we not only are rooting for you, you are making us all feel we can have strength and vigor thru tragedy. This is my mantra, sent to many in trying sad times. But you, my cyber friend are living these words and as said, we are all rooting for you!
    (quote from Mia Farrow’s biography)
    “In the end, mine is a navigator’s sense of place and the strength again to hoist the sails, the will again to catch the winds; and even when the land and all I ever loved are lost to me, and the stars are shrouded, and I am sore with losses, and afraid – even then, the miracles all around will leap to celebrate themselves, and I will celebrate them too. And even then, I’ll trust that a new shore will rise to meet me, and there, in that new place, I will find new things to care about”.

  • karen

    I feel very privileged that you share these very private intimate feelings. stay were ever you need for as long as you like. nice font. Ps. i made your best ever chocolate chip cookies for a neighbor who changed my flat tire, he loved them.

  • Peggy Sherry

    written for jennie
    loss is a lonely word that
    captures a moment:
    Totally unexpected
    Was the arrival of you
    I did not know how love arrives
    So easily
    I found a space in my heart just for you
    It did not take away from others
    Just a new person to care for
    To protect
    How could I know your brown eyes
    Would make me smile
    And your smile would make me laugh
    Your antics would make me scream
    And you would become someone
    So close to my heart
    An beat for only you
    So, now I can cry because
    My heart has a space that cannot be filled
    And to put pain there, would be oh so wrong,
    When you only ever made me a better person
    And woman,
    my tears will only come for awhile
    Then you will claim your spot once again
    Within my heart forever
    Sometimes we truly cannot see that the
    Thorn among the roses has more beauty
    Because it protects the roses from the elements of life
    Lets them bloom in all of their beauty while
    The thorn may prick us, the rose is eternally thankful for the
    Remember, there are far more thorns than roses
    So, like the flowers who smell sweet
    The thorn stands tall ready to ward off
    The world to protect his rose
    So, what I want to say is I loved you,
    Will love you and never forget you
    Because like the thorn to the rose
    you were a knight with a sword
    To protect my world

  • Emily

    Was listening to a local radio station. A man was speaking about losing his son in a go-cart accident. He said how well meaning people would say stuff like, “It’ll get better/easier”, etc. He talked about how losing a loved one is like having an amputation. You learn a new normal. That body part/person is no longer there, but you learn a new way of life, a new way to go on. It seems that’s what you’re doing. Keep on keeping on. I think your husband would be proud of you. And your girls will be one day, too, when they more fully understand from an adult perspective.

  • Marie

    I cannot even begin to imagine your pain and I send you all my warmest thoughts. The only advice I can ever give is to keep him alive in your hearts. Tell each other and the rest of the world the anecdotes and stories of him again and again. Your daughters will want to remember him, will want to know the story of your courtship. Of your life together before them and with them.
    Laugh when you are ready, cry if you need to.. And just know that in all of our own ways, you are surrounded by people who wish nothing but the very very best for you and your girls.

  • Kas

    I think Laurie says it best:
    “My heart hurts as I read this. And, yet, there is hope. It’s all beautiful, sad, sucky, shitty and beautiful.”
    I have no words, but know that I am praying for you and your girls.

  • Mary

    Tears are pouring down my face once more as I read your writings. This is beautiful. Your girls will most definitely know their daddy through their own memories. Through your writings they will know him even better.

  • April

    Nice font choice! 🙂 I’m a believer in getting tattoos to remind myself of where I’ve been and where I want to go, so I am definitely a fan of this post. Take care.

  • April

    @Rosie: Whoa! It takes some guts (and/or lack of couth and compassion and maybe even a soul) to make a comment like that on someone’s personal blog. Like Jennie said, take a hike!! Sheesh!

  • Kyle Renae Heitzman

    Beautiful, as always. I have been following and have cried many, many tears for you and Mikey and your girls.
    Kyle Renae

  • Kim in MD

    Beautiful post, Jennie. Oh- and I laughed out loud when I read your comment to Rosie. Good for you, Jennie! 🙂