The New Me, On a Tough Day


IMG_4595 I spent a good part of my day thinking of what I was going to write here at the end of it. I remember having some good ideas. I had some good ideas! Yet, in this moment, I cannot remember any of them. It seems impossible to sum it up. Or even just say something meaningful. With so many possible things to say, that I know, that I feel, that are true...few seem appropriate now.

So I'll tell the facts, as they were, as they are: today was Jonny's unveiling. It is hard to comprehend that it's been a year since he died. It's still hard to comprehend the fact of it at all.

Nonetheless, I was fine. I got up early. Drank some coffee. Taught two SoulCycle classes. Ate some food. Packed us bags. And brought my kids to the mall. That's where my grandmother watched them while we went to the cemetery. We were late. As usual. And got to the grave site to find so so many people already there. We walked up. Said our awkward, loaded hellos. And I was feeling ok. Aware that all week I was avoiding, but holding it together: OKAY. And I believed it. Though knew the break was coming.

And for some reason, still, I was surprised when it happened. Strange how that it. How it sneaks up on you. It was when I actually noticed the family headstone. And then the footstone. Jonny's. Immediately I chocked up. Tears welled. But I swallowed it back. And then the rabbi started the ceremony. And again I was fine. But then the cantor started to sing. And the beauty in her voice was poignant. And I cried. And Richie cried. And it was there all over again. The realness. The weight. The truth.

But the ceremony went on. And the day went on. And we all got through it. Lighter than a year ago. In some ways scarier, since we weren't in the state of shock. But also easier, because we are stronger now. WE ARE STRONGER NOW.

And that is what Jonny Kessner gave us. A softness because he was a softee and always made it his business to bring light and laughter to a situation. But a strength too. A strength that I think none of us knew we were capable of . I certainly didn't.

On this earth, Jonny was the sweetest and silliest little brother. For all the things he taught me in the time we spent together, there are infinite things he's taught me since he's left us.

Now, I take bigger leaps, risks, opportunities. I am not afraid of living my life. I am not afraid of what people think. There is just no time... I push myself harder, farther than I ever would have. I stretch myself to the limits and know pride in what I find. I see the positive. I choose the positive. I try to motivate. I always share my energy. I always keep it real. I always keep it positive. There is no other way to live.

The new me is one I think Jonny would have liked a lot.

He Would Be 24 Today


Balloons Today is Jonny's birthday.  I planned on blogging at the end of the day.  But now the end of the day has come and I'm still too foggy to write.

This was one of the hardest days.  All the other "big" days were days we memorialized him.  Recognized his death, his life...  But today just feels like a day he was supposed to be here.  And he's not.

Yesterday, lots of people, people who love Jonny, gathered at my in-laws' house.  Among other things, we wrote notes on some balloons and sent them into the sky.  It was a special moment...


A Week of "Normal"

Spending Time With Avi

Spending Time With Avi All day I planned on writing a blog post.  As I promised so many of you I would.  Tomorrow will be a week from Jonny's 1 month memorial service.

Last Sunday was a hard day for all of us.  A reality hit.  Time to make an effort to get back to real life.  Without Jonny...

I spent the week doing standard issue, day to day things.  Bussing the kids to their schools and other programs, SoulCycling, Ikea for the house, I stencil painted our powder room, visited with my college roommate in from out of town and with another close friend in from out of the country, cooked a few dinners with my favorite fall flavors (kabocha squash, cinnamon, apples, adzuki beans, chestnuts), did some training with my new pup, I spent a lot of time with my kids, I spent some time with my mom, school shopped for the girls, I even went to a concert with Richie and a bunch of Jonny's friends...  I was busy.  And sad.  But it was in the background.

This morning we woke up and everyone was sick (except for me).  Runny noses, sneezing...  Our plans for the day were all nixed.  My in-laws came and spent the day.  And they were having a tough one.  Everyday is different.  Some days you just can't kick the bad feelings.  Today they couldn't.

Now, after a long day, I sit here, awkwardly typing, over a sick baby lying on my chest.  I find myself contorting my body every time she stirs to get her comfortable.  That's what you do for your children I guess.  You sacrifice your comfort for theirs.  Because that brings you happiness.  To see their comfort.  Even at your own expense.  It's something I learned early in the baby game.  I'd find myself sleeping mangled to nurse my baby through the night only to wake up with a cricked neck, but a happy baby.  I found myself most hours of the day in the rocking chair, nursing, rocking, staying still so they could sleep.  I remember in those early days always having to pee, but never wanting to disrupt them while they were sleeping on me!  It felt like my forever dilemma.

And here I am now.  Tears brimming for the loss of my baby brother-in-law, stuck in this spot in my bed under my sick and snoring baby, and all I know is that my pain is deep, but I cannot imagine what my mother and father-in-law are going through.

So, from this anchored spot, I'm sending them as much love and support as I can and praying that they can find a way to get to a place where they can experience the pure love between them and the rest of their children and grandchildren and allow that to heal them.

Tragedy and Truth

Today my chest feels tight.  All day.  Yesterday was the 30th day since Jonny died.  Today we had a ceremony at the cemetery.  My father-in-law spoke, some of his friends read poetry, others played music.

It was a gorgeous day.  Everyone hung around for a while.  It was painful.  And sad.  And perfect.

I think I was really anxious about it.  Though I was unaware.  I've kept so busy.  People in and out of my house all day.  Running around picking up and dropping off at school.  Setting up our new home.  Back at SoulCycle.  Blogging.  Organizing.  Doing.  It feels as if there is not a free second in the day.  I am late for everything always.  And I am forever going straight from one thing to another.  Presumably I'm doing this subconsciously.  There is just no time to think.

Because whenever I do, I realize.  It's real.  It's surreal.  It's unbelievable.  All I could think today at the cemetery is: I can't believe that this is actually what we are doing right now.  I cannot believe this is our life.  I don't believe this is our reality.  But it is...

And in my weakness.  In my mourning.  In my state of unknowing...not understanding...I've come into this new strength.  I am more capable.  Stronger on my bike.  Getting more done in my days.

Because the is an unfortunate, acute understanding of how precious life is when you've lived such tragedy.

My dad used to tell a story about a man who lived in a small home with his wife and 4 children and 2 dogs.  They had a cow and a goat and 10 chickens out back.  He went to his rabbi and said: Rabbi, I just can't handle it.  My home is so small.  Six of us share two bedrooms.  The dogs sleep at our feet and bark in the mornings.  The rooster wakes us all at the crack of dawn.  There is so much work to be done with the animals every day.  My wife and I are exhausted.  The rabbi tells him to bring the chickens into the house. They can live in the kitchen.  The man does not understand.  He listens diligently though.  The next week he comes in and says: The rooster is even louder inside the house.  The chickens are shitting all over my kitchen.  There is no room for us to move around while we prepare our meals.  The rabbi shakes his head in understanding and tells the man to bring the goat into his home.  He can live in the room with the children.  The man is very confused, but does as he is told.  The next week, distraught, disheveled, he comes to the rabbi: I cannot stand it.  The goat has eaten up all the sheets in the children's room.  He is moving on to their pajamas.  My wife spends her days mending clothing in between cooking and cleaning and tending to the animals.  We cannot live another day like this.  The rabbi nods and tells him he understands.  Now bring in the cow he says.  There is no room! the man replies.  There is always room.  Find some, the rabbi replies.  So the man clears out space in his entryway and brings the cow in.  Now the cow is mooing all night since he is uncomfortable.  None of them sleep.  Everyone is miserable.  The next week the man comes in with bags under his eyes, crying: Please rabbi, please.  We cannot live like this another minute!  What are you doing to us?!  Why are you punishing us?!!!  The rabbi smirks.  He tells the man to move all the animals out.  Back to their respective living spaces.  The man runs home and does so immediately.  Just a few short days later, the man come back to the rabbi, practically kissing his feet.  Thank you thank you.  My home feels enormous.  We are so happy to have all the space and fresh air.  My children are happy, my wife is relaxed, we are sleeping through the night.

Is is true that in order to see the beauty, some of us need to experience the darkness?

I don't want to believe that exclusively, but there is no question, that though I saw beauty before, I appreciate it so much more.  This tragedy has opened doors for me.  Shown me some light.  Made me believe.  Love deeper.  See truth.

There is so much good in this world.  It is only my fault if I do not seek it out, appreciate it, live it.

First Steps to "Back at It"

The Cousins

The Cousins Today a lot happened.

After the morning shenanigans and errands, I made my way into the city.  I headed down the West Side Highway all the way to Clarckson.  Three lefts and I was at SoulCycle headquarters.

I had been planning to go all week.  I had a bike in my friend's class and knew it was time to show my face around there again.  So many people that I hadn't yet seen whom I spent the entire summer seeing daily.

Two days ago I told Conor I wasn't sure if I wanted to "make the trek in".  Before I could spout another justification he jumped down my throat: "It's time to get back at it already...".  Yada yada.  I knew.  I know.

Yesterday I texted him a few excuses why I wasn't going to to.  I got yelled at over text.  It went a little something like this: GO INOT THE CITY EVE!  COME ON!  THIS IS GO TIME!  GET BACK IN THE GAME!  IT'S TIME!  Stop making excuses!  From what I have heard about Jonny, he would want you to finish what you have started and continue to pursue what makes you happy!

I was annoyed.  And angry.  Irrationally.  But he was right.  I guess a good friend knows when you need to be yelled at.

I didn't know how nervous I was until I got out of the car and made my way to the front door.  My heart was racing.  But I wasn't sure why.  Nothing specific.  Everything vague.

I entered timidly.  Smiled at friendly faces.  Got a lots of sad looks and tight hugs.  I was shaky.  Locker.  Shoes.  Water.  Walked into the studio.  When I walked into the room, my friend teaching the class almost fell off the podium.  Hugs.  Tiny tears.  Composure.  Got on my bike.

The ride was amazing.  I rode next to a really sweet girl who reads LLL.  I felt strong and supported, even if nervous.  After I snuck into the offices to make my rounds.  It was really good to see everyone I saw.  Hard, but good.

I was proud of myself.  It IS time to get back at it.  Slowly as I regain strength.  Learn who I am now.  Decide how I want to be.  How I need to be.

It was a huge stepping stone for me.

I drove home.  More errands.  My mother-in-law came over.  Then my sister-in-law Andrea.  The cousins.  Her and her kids stayed for an impromptu chinese delivery dinner and ice cream.  The kids piled into my bed and watched a movie.  We were three adults, five kids, three dogs at the dinner table.  It was perfect.

Nothing is normal.  Everything is different.  But here's the thing: the good moment mean so much more.

Too Tired To Think

Tonight I'm exhausted.  I don't have much to say.  Been thinking of Jonny all day.  Stories about him.  Good times.  Times passed.  I'm not sad all day, not at all.  Just foggy.  Thinking.  Missing.  Here's a pic of us that I always loved from his graduation at Dartmouth.  I posted about it on LLL.  Click here for a link to it.  He was psyched to have made it on the blog;) Jonny's Graduation

Positivity Begets Positive Energy

Me and Jonny

Me and Jonny Today is a day I needed to search for the positive.  I needed to keep trying to find it because the world felt heavy.  Things seemed to be working against me.  I was tired.

We started the day way to early.  In the middle of the night actually.  I was up twice with the dog and once with Bar before she decided to come into our bed at 4am.  I didn't get much sleep between then and the hour Richie gave me a 7a.

That hour made us all late for our days.  Both girls late to school.  It was Bar's first day.  Traffic on the way to SoulCycle.  No spots and the garage was closed.  I walked into my most important and necessary class of the week 6 minutes late.  That class though put me back on a better energy level.  Then rush to shower and pick up Avi from school.  I had exactly an hour with her to spend some "special time".  Sushi and candy.  Candy for her and of course Bar, but most importantly my friend Conor who had surgery yesterday.  Spending some time with him was on the list for later.  Then a conference with her Kindergarten teacher.  Her then me.  Drop her off.  Speed to Conor's.  Quality time with him while he's laid up in bed.  Rush home for dinner to find that Richie has decided to stay in the city with friends.  Hence last minute alone evening with two kids (one extremely cranky from no sleep), our dog Sophie (the easiest of the bunch), and a very very brand new puppy who needs to go out every 20 minutes.

Bar needed to be held most of the night.  As does puppy Ellie since we're trying to avoid accidents in the house.  Bedtime came late because no one wanted to go.  Finally I put Bar to bed, the puppy in her crate, and started to read the first out of two books to Avi when I hear Bar screaming at the top of her lungs.  I mean really wailing.  I give it time, maybe she'll lie back down and drink her bottle and fall asleep.  No luck though.  In fact the puppy hears Bar and starts crying.  So I have a screaming 2 year old, a crying 8 week old puppy, and Avi telling me to keep reading.  She just cannot go to sleep without me reading to her and then lying with her.

Bedtime took an hour and a half.  Writing this post I realize there is a long list of other things I should be doing.  Filling out forms for Avi's school, getting the puppy's papers in order, getting all our bags ready for the morning, music research, responding to emails, emptying boxes, organizing my home, laundry...

And all of that is overwhelming alone.  But with the weight of Jonny gone it feels like just too much.  So I ignore whatever I can afford to for the minute.  Procrastinate.  And blog.

Thank you all for listening.  Thank you all for the amazing emails and love you've sent my way in so many different forms.  Thank each and every one of you who sees me and asks how I'm doing and then immediately recognizes how difficult a question that is to answer.  Thank you.


Silver Lining

Silver Lining Here's the silver lining:  Well, if there is one...  And I want to be the person who always sees one...

Moving to Scarsdale, and the burbs in general, I had my preconceived notions of what life would be like.  I was sure that life, interesting, stimulating, artful life was over.  I was worried about raising my girls in such an affluent area.  Nervous they wouldn't see real life...

But through this terrible time, I've grown to love this community.  I've seen how loving and strong and warm the people are.  How tight knit the community is.  How they care for their own.  The amounts of people alone that have come out to support my family and in-laws in particular is astounding.  And that doesn't begin to speak of all the things they are doing.  It's truly heartwarming.

It's funny where you find comfort when something like this takes you by surprise.  When everything is flipped upside down, nothing is what you would have expected.  In the blink of an eye your life is forever changed, shaken out,  and none of the puzzle pieces match back up.

I have found some of the new loves of my life in friends of Jonny's, their parents, and even old friends who I had lost touch with and came back to console me.  People who have been through similar things seem to understand me.  People I never would have imagined getting back in touch with.  There is an inherent empathy.

I feel blessed.  I do.  To have all these new and old people back in my life.  Close to me.  Helping me.  Silver lining.

And while my everything has changed, I've had a change of heart in regards to Scarsdale.  I think it will be a lovely place to raise my children.  If the people who live here are capable of giving so big, I know my daughters' hearts will be in good hands here.

Some Things

Jonny Glamour Shots

Jonny Glamour Shots Today was another day.  Each day feels like another that went by.  I had strong moments and weak ones.  Ups and downs.

Here are some things...about me, Jonny, life:

  1. We got another dog.  We haven't told too many people because we don't want any judgement.  Don't judge us.  We love her already.  And needed some new life around here.  Something for Avi to voraciously love.  And she does.  She is sheer sweetness.  Her name is Ellie.
  2. I don't know if you knew this about Jonny, but he worked at the cafeteria at Dartmouth.  He certainly didn't need to.  But it was a good job for him.  My father-in-law wanted him to work.  I worked throughout college. It's good for you.  It was good for him.  He wore that hair net with modesty and integrity.  Always a smile.
  3. At kaddish tonight, there were a lot of people.  Lots of my in-laws' friends.  As we all gathered around to start the prayer, Bar picked up a picture of Jonny.  They are all over the house.  These silly glamour shot looking pictures from his senior year.  She held it up so the adults four times her height could see.  She had a huge grin on her face.  Standing there in the middle of some 25 adults she turned around and showed everyone.  Ending with my father-in-law.  "Do you know who that is?" he asked her.  Confidently she replied: "Das Jonny."  Everyone yesed her a bit.  Then she looked at my father-in-law again: "Jonny, he fall down.  Stairs."  A quick breath left the room.  Everyone was silent.