that girl…

I’m staring at the screen, and not even sure where to begin. There are so many things on my To Do list that I’m supposed to be sharing with you all. There’s updates about the book publicity, a very fun kids’ contest I mentioned in my last post, and a recipe for French toast waffles that I just wrote for Relish.

Instead, I continue to stare. Well, I guess now I’m typing and staring. I’ve been slipping into a malaise these last two weeks. It started with feeling “off” one day, and now the sadness is like a quicksand I’m struggling to get out of, in hopes of finding safer ground. I’m doubting myself as I share this painful truth, because how much is too much? I know it’s related to the book, and for that reason too, I worry that being honest about what I’m going through is not the wisest publicity decision.

But this place has always been about honesty. It is why I created In Jennie’s Kitchen, to express my voice. I look at this space as an heirloom I will pass along to my daughters one day. Unlike a necklace or ring, I don’t need to choose who gets to own this space when it is no longer mine to inhabit. The amazing gift of this virtual world I’ve created for myself is that they can each be privy to a side of their mother they are not yet able to fully comprehend.

I am a mother. I am a woman. I am a food writer. I am a daughter. I am a niece. I am a cook. I am a lover of life. I am a widow.

I am a person in deep grief, and hope with all my heart to one day feel whole again.

The smile people see isn’t always a reflection of what is going on in my mind and heart. I put it on carefully every day, part of my routine, the same way I apply my lipstick and cover the circles under my eyes. Something has to change to snap this mood, and frankly just writing about it lifts the weight a little. I need to stay focused for the book. I’ve worked so hard the last 15 years to get to this point in my life.

And that’s where the lightbulb goes off…we worked so hard to get here. But now the “we” has become a “me”, and some of the joy has been sucked from what should be one of the proudest moments of my life.

I wrote a book. This may not seem like a big a feat because people write books every day. Still, I think back to the 11 year old girl who was helping her mom empty liquor bottles after her father passed out drunk.

That girl grew up to learn that love didn’t have to hurt.

That girl met a man who made his dreams her own.

That girl grew into a woman with that man, and they built a home together, a life together.

That girl had her heart broken by a simple twist of fate 19 months ago. She has been working so hard to figure out who she is supposed to be without him now.

Music Pairing: Nightswimming by R.E.M.

16 Comments

  • Rose D. Frenchtown, NJ

    My heart aches for you…There is no timeframe for grief. There is no clock that we watch and countdown to joy I know this first hand. We put so much pressure on ourselves to move forward before our hearts have had time to process and heal. Do what is right for you and your beautiful girls and the heck with the rest of the world…And to quote Selfish Mom’s last line–“The world will get over it”.

  • Audrey S. PA

    Rose said it all, “there is no time frame for grief”. Experience has taught me this. But, I too, put on the smile everyday and put one foot in front of the other to move, not always forward, but just to move. The time between feeling ‘off’ and falling into the hole of pain again will lengthen, the fall will be shorter, the picking yourself up will be easier; someday . . .that girl. . . will reemerge, changed but again confident and ready to find joy. Treat yourself with kindness.

  • Jackie

    Oh Jennie, how I wish I could magic wand this away for you.

    I’ve been following you for over two years and shared your shock and grief at losing Mikey and then your strength, grace and fragility at going on without him. You have always shared your feelings honestly and I’m sure it has helped others who do not have the voice that you have or the courage or ability to express their true feelings. Screw the publicity or what other people think is “proper”, take care of yourself and your beautiful girls.

    In this space that you have created, nothing is too much, the people who are here care… not about the food (although, it is fabulous!) but about you! Quite frankly, I think it will be a true gift to your daughters to be able to look at this in the future and admire the woman that you are.

    All I can say is try to gather together the courage I know you have and believe that you will find the stable ground to walk upon once more. You may feel like you are in quicksand but there are many people who will extend a strong hand to help pull you out.

    Be selfish, put yourself and your needs first. Anyone who can’t deal with that… well, screw ’em. I love Selfish Mom’s outlook “The World will get over it” and if they don’t, well they didn’t deserve to be here in the first place.

    Much love and peace.

  • chris

    I love your honesty, Jennie. Never change that. Grieve at your own pace.

    Your site is one I always take time for. Keep expressing your voice. You have a beautiful gift.

    Your girls are in such good hands with you as their mother! Happy weekend to you ­čÖé

  • Alexa

    Oh Jennie, my heart goes out to you. Sadly, there is no recipe for grief. I think it is the long process of trying to figure out who we are and what life is without that wonderful person. It is a deeply personal and individualized process. I don’t think that our culture truly understands grief or let’s people grieve fully. Rose said it best that there is no timetable for grief. Take care of yourself. I asked a friend once when it would stop hurting and she said it is like a pebble in your shoe, it is always there, but over time you learn to walk without it hurting so much.

    Your writing is so beautiful and I always make time to read it. Ironically, I happened upon it right after you lost Mikey. Keep writing. It is a lovely gift being able to put your feelings into words.

    Be kind to yourself, love yourself. Your girls have a wonderful mother.

  • Meghan

    I wish I could say something that would magically make your grief go away. I can’t but I can offer virtual ((HUGS)

  • Marisa

    There has to be something for us, in this life. We are strong women with so much love to give.
    It’s as if the grief has amplified for you these last few weeks….and strangely for me too. And it’s absolutely because they should be by our sides at such a pivotal moment in our lives.
    You WILL get through. It has and still will be a damn hard journey, but one day, there will be a reward…..I just know it. Xoxoxoxo

  • Nancy M

    My youngest brother died fairly suddenly of cancer when he was 14. He was diagnosed in August, and in spite of heavy radiation and chemo, he was dead by the end of October. There have been a lot of years since then – I was 19 when he died and I’m now 60 – and my mother was eventually able to say in response to a question: “You don’t get over it. It gets better, and you come to almost always think of the good things without much of the sorrow, but you never get over it. And who would want to?”
    I ask you, would you want to “get over” Mikey? Of course not. But it will, gradually and on its own schedule, get better. You may take seven steps forward and then two back, but it will get better and easier. I read your blog as much to see how you are doing as for the wonderful recipes. I hold you in my thoughts and my heart.

  • Molly M

    Always sending positive thoughts your way. Your eloquence and honesty in these posts are always beautiful, if also heartbreaking, to read. But I also received notice from Amazon that my preordered copy of your cookbook has SHIPPED and will arrive this week! Such great news! I can’t wait to curl up and read the whole thing!

  • Karin

    Beautiful Jenni. I appreciate what you share- from recipes to your heart break. I can imagine, from your words, what it was like for you when you talk about Mikey taking the first bite of a recipe and giving it his approval. And I cannot imagine what it could possibly be like to not have him there to share in this with you, but your honedty helps. Homemade with Love will be a wonderful tribute to what you built together.

  • jehanne@thecookingdoctor

    Hi Jennie, I feel for u and what tough time u must be going through, on your own, and also to put a brave facade for the girls. I hope it gets better by time, and we are here to be for you albeit virtually, supporting you in any way possible, always.

  • Becky

    Honesty is the best policy.
    I can’t imagine how hard it is for you to do the publicity for this book, but I’m featuring it in my May Home & Garden column for a local publication here in Virginia.