Friday, July 19, 2019

Road Tripping

I’ve never been much of a road trip kind a girl. Growing up Hechtman proved to cement that sentiment as my dad professed that driving down to Wrigley Field or Soldier Field
constituted not only good ole family time but a road trip for sure! Who could argue, before he decided to splurge for parking passes it felt like we were driving for days! To make matters worse, we had to listen to the pregame show on AM something or other and the conversation was down to a soft whisper.
Truth be told, we did spend time road tripping one year, driving all the way to Rockford to Wagon Wheel Resort. It was an epic trip which ended with me having roughly 7 stitches under my chin. Apparently; we didn’t have goggles for me to see when to start reaching my arms under the water in the pool. I looked up a little too late
I’ve taken two road trips in less than two weeks; my back is sore and neck……well that’s another story.
We headed out to IU/Bloomington for orientation not even a week and a half ago. I asked Jay to drive, as my second road trip was going to be solo and after the please and thank you and thank you again, he picked us up and we headed for a quick bite before going on the road. With music selections of the Grateful Dead, Phish and Pearl Jam, a delish lunch at Rhapsody, we were on our way. Noah was uncomfortably settled and laying down in the back seat with a pillow and headphones.
Not easy for this 18-year-old kid tipping 6’0”/6’1” recovering from ACL surgery, but he’ll manage. We made it in time to enjoy a great meal and a little music at Crazy Horse. The ride back was good, we bypassed the city for 294, listened to some good music and were thrilled to get out of the car.
My next road trip would come less than 72 hours later, as I repacked and got on the road this past Friday heading up to Minocqua for visiting weekend.
Road tripping is not for the faint of heart. If I’m alone, is it really considered a road trip or is it just me in the car for 5 hours listening to music while driving fast enough to qualify for Nascar?
I’m not a book’s on tape person. During the workweek I listen to talk radio, Howard Stern and music for the short drive. When I’m “road tripping”, I love to play music. I have a very diverse musical pallet, and love increasing the volume with the windows and sunroof open. It’s the next best thing to a good therapy session and easy to have a good cry while driving well over the speed limit.
The drive up was good, I mean I’d rather be in the dentist chair, but you know what I mean.
Five hours in the car with no stopping (I had cut up peppers, cucumber and a few hard-boiled eggs already peeled!) is long. I do my best to gaze at the display as infrequently as possible and am always surprised by how much time has passed.
I don’t like chatting much on the phone and really enjoy my alone time in the car. Five hours really did seem to fly by, and to be honest, it was about 4 hours and 45 minutes. Might have been my best time yet๐Ÿ˜Š
I started thinking about when my older brother Jeffrey went to college. He went to Cornell his freshman year. It was a campus I wish I had had the opportunity to see in person. School was starting for me & Jimmy so we couldn’t tag along for a free trip. Maybe school wasn't started for us, but whatever the case was we certainly weren't invited! I believe my Grandma Syl was staying with us. Actually; that was better than a free trip because she basically let us do whatever we wanted.
My parents were taking Jeffrey. Amms Limousine Service was picking them up and I saw the black car pull into the driveway.
Time to go.
I was in my bedroom, looking through my white mini-blinds and I started to cry. To this day, I don’t remember if I went downstairs to say goodbye however I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t want to give my brother a hug goodbye. Let’s just say for argument sake that I didn’t. It was so upsetting to me that he was leaving. Even though we experienced our own unique sibling rivalry growing up, I couldn’t believe this was happening.
We were the original Hechtman 5 + J.J. (our dog). We were the Jay, Judy, Jeffrey, Jennifer, Jimmy and J.J. We all had blue eyes except for our dog, remember???
Somehow, I hadn’t prepared for this goodbye. I hadn’t prepared for Jeffrey not being around anymore. I still needed him, my big brother. I knew Jimmy was happy he wouldn’t have to witness our insane fighting anymore. I knew our parents were thrilled we had outgrown that behavior for something more “mature”. I knew J.J. was for sure going to miss him. No longer would there be four bedrooms to visit every night. There was a rule in our house which was made soon after we adopted her from the Lambs Farm. We had to leave our doors open just enough so J.J. could come in and visit each and every night. You know we hardly followed that rule and got woken up numerous times by J.J. as she scratched the inside of our doors to get out.
She knew the rules. She also knew that she would have one less room to visit.
I’m preparing for another goodbye soon as another road trip is on the horizon. It’s time for Noah to move on, the world at his feet. An opportunity awaits on the gorgeous campus of Bloomington, IN. How are we here? I remember the day he was born…just like it was yesterday. He was just learning to crawl.
Life seems to go by so much faster these days……this year has been no different. Life seems to go as fast if not faster than I was driving this past weekend. We see so many people writing how time goes by “in the blink of an eye”, or “time flies”. I find myself being more aware of how fast time goes by when I think about how long my dad has been gone. It’ll be three years this August 16th.
I know this goodbye will be the same but much different than when I was looking out of my bedroom window many years ago. It’ll be the same because it means that nothing will ever be the same. No more Hechtman 5+1.
Time for me to hold onto the hugs, time for me to remind myself that my mothering isn’t over it’s just changing. Time for me to tell him again how much I love him; how much I believe in him and how I will always be there for him. I want him to know how much he is loved and that he matters. Finally, I want him to know I’ll always be a phone call away…….
I think he knows, at least I hope he does.
See you on the road my friends,
Xoxo, Jennifer

Monday, February 25, 2019

Will You Be There.....

Will You Be There…….
I remember asking my doctor about having kids, to be clear, I remember specifically asking “how do I know if I can get pregnant”? She smiled and laughed and told me to “have fun trying”. We were lucky as it didn’t take long for Noah to arrive and then a little over two years later Rachel joined her brother.
I remember the three of us leaving the hospital back in October of 2000, me riding in the back seat staring at Noah. I had loved being pregnant with both kids, I thought it was so cool that a baby was growing inside of my belly. I loved saying that my body wasn’t mine for the next 9 months and all I wanted was a healthy baby with 10 fingers and 10 toes. I felt so strong when I was pregnant even when I felt so tired and just wanted to put both of my feet up. I kept going, kept working, kept doing. I didn’t know any other way.
I remember telling my dad that I was pregnant with Noah, I don’t think I looked him straight in the eyes for fear he would realize the news wasn’t due to immaculate conception!
He thanked me both times for great planning as Noah was born in October and Rachel in November and I wouldn’t be on maternity leave for the entire tax season, just the beginning:)
The drive home from the hospital didn’t get underway until the sun went down, and I remember how dark it was while we made our way to our apartment in the city. It was just the three of us as we walked in the door, no nurse, no parents and really no idea what we had just gotten ourselves into. All of those books that attempt to prepare you for parenthood seemed like a distant memory. This was on the job training at its finest.
It seemed like seconds before all hell broke loose, Noah was crying, he needed to be fed and needed a diaper change. The trifecta all within what seemed like minutes of us walking in the door. It was like the blind leading the blind and we were just hanging on doing our best to survive the first 24 hours of being parents. I vividly remember calling the nurses station at the hospital, crying and begging them to tell me what they did to stop Noah from crying. Did they wave a magic wand? Show tunes? Please, I begged don’t keep it a secret and tell me what the heck did I need to do?
I called two of my friends who lived close by while I sat on the front stoop, crying and laughing as I shared my story of the frantic phone call to the hospital. I knew it would all be okay, eventually. We were new parents and needed to go thru the unspoken initiation just like everyone else. I still joke that no one ever died (not that I know) from parenting. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger right? Well I’m here to tell you that I’m pretty damn strong!
I think I was an okay mom, going thru each day changing diapers, feeding and clothing both kiddos while they were young. I’d drop them off at the sitters, work a full day, pick them up and go home. It seemed alright, I did love the middle of the night feedings. I remember rocking with Noah while we lived in the city. It would be 2 or 3 in the morning and it was just us, rocking away. He slept in my arms and I would stare in delight at his precious face, cute hands and feet. He smelled so delicious and I loved loving him. I felt the same with Rachel, this time we were in the suburbs and I would rock with her in the living room with the same wonder. It was exhausting, yet I felt so blessed and grateful to be their mom.
It wasn’t a reciprocal relationship yet although it may have looked like that from afar. These little people depended on both of us. They showed their love by crying, screaming, melting down in the middle of the park or store or anywhere they pleased when they were little. They also showed love by blowing kisses, hugging us, and sometimes just throwing things at us. They were doing what little people do and we did what parents do and soothed them, or at least tried.
Sometimes it was an epic fail and that’s just the way it was. I knew they weren't going to be any more or less screwed up than anyone else on the block.
I’ve never not wanted to be a mom since I became one over 18 years ago. I’m an open book and speak the truth about my own personal struggles and parenting is no different. Being a single full-time working mom is no cake walk, but I have grown and gained more perspective over the past 15 years then I could ever imagine. I have come to truly love being a mom over the past few years as I have watched my kids evolve and develop their strong personality all while maintaining their old soul spirit and tender heart.
I understand what it means to be Noah’s mom and Rachel’s mom. It’s not from posting pictures or sharing silly stories, it’s not about them reaching milestones like no longer sucking a binky, or wearing diapers. It’s more than getting a driver’s permit, driver’s license or getting an award. For me, it’s about being there, being present. It’s about going to the ends of the earth and using my resources when they need support. It’s about staying home sitting on the couch when they need company but don’t want to talk. It’s about never hanging up without saying I love you and meaning it. It’s about crying your eyes out when you’re not sure if you made the right decision. It’s about letting them know I’m human but am strong enough to go on because that’s what I do.
I love being a mom, I love being Noah’s mom and love being Rachel’s mom. They have taught me how to be a better mom as they each need something different but ultimately, they both need and want to be loved and know that they matter, no matter what.
Take care my friends,
Xoxo, Jennifer

Friday, August 31, 2018


I am strong, I have a strong heart and I have a strong soul.  

I wasn't always this strong, or maybe I've always been deep down inside, but it was buried like a hidden treasure from everyone including me throughout most of my life.

I felt incredibly strong recently for one hour while taking a yoga sculpt class.  I got my body moving to the music, jumping, sweating and twisting  like I've never moved it before.  I felt so strong during that hour, physically, mentally and emotionally.  

I was so proud of myself, I forgot how good it felt to feel your strength.  I forgot how good it feels to put yourself first, make time to show up for class and do the work.  Boy did it feel good to feel so strong.

I texted two of my friends, sharing how great I felt and thanking them for silently cheering me on like an angel on my shoulder during that hour.  They were so proud of me, as I was for myself.

I took that strength into the grocery store, grabbed a bottle of water while I shopped and left with a few bags and headed home.  I parked the car in my spot, grabbed all of the bags and evenly distributed them between my left and right hand and started walking to the door.

I was still feeling pretty strong, pretty balanced and still proud but then something happened..........I lost my balance, fell to the ground, skinned my right knee and tore my leggings, but luckily my groceries were still intact, phew!  

Somehow, in that moment I didn’t feel so strong.  

I stood up, left the bags on the ground and walked in the door and called for Noah.  "Mom, why didn't you ask for help?"  

Me, "because I figured I was strong enough to carry them all"

Strength seemed to permeate the walls of our house while growing up on Millbrook Lane.  We were strong in our own unique way and demonstrated our strengths with such conviction.  Whether it was on the tennis or basketball court, golf course, in the art studio in the classroom, on the job or spending time with family and friends.  

Growing up Hechtman seemed to ooze strength.

I have worn my strength like invisible armour, my protective shield for as long as I can remember.  It’s my security blanket.  It keeps me safe, it reminds me that I will eventually overcome and carry on.  It keeps me going and getting up everyday.

Strength, whatever kind you possess, is inside all of us.  It's what helps us accept life's challenges head on.  It's one of the precious tools in our  "tool box" that is easy to grab but not so easy to use at times.  It will always be there, never needing to be sharpened or replaced.  

How will you use your strength this weekend?

Much love to you my friends.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Missing Someone

I’ve been missing someone lately, I’ve been missing hearing his voice and missing our conversations. I’ve been missing his laugh and I’ve been missing our lunches at Once Upon a Bagel and grocery shopping at Sunset. Recently, every time I step into these places the pain of missing him hurts so much that it’s made me catch my breath a few times.
I’m looking for this person in the aisles and at the check-out counter, I’m looking for his white car in the parking lot. I’m searching for his face sitting down and eating his favorite omelet but he’s nowhere to be found. I’m listening hard, maybe he’s here and if I wait just a minute I’ll hear his laugh…but he’s nowhere to be found and I know where to find him, but I don’t want to go there because then I’ll be reminded that it’s real.
Of course, I know he’s gone, I was there every step of the way up until the very end and after. I just thought if I missed him enough he would appear right before my eyes, like magic but that’s not how this works and I know it. I would give anything for a phone call with this person I’ve been missing, anything.
I needed to talk with this person so badly recently and he wasn’t there, I closed my eyes and listened for his voice in my head, but his voice wasn’t there. I read some of his letters he wrote me thinking maybe his voice would pop into my head this way, but it didn’t.
There was silence and then the feel of my tears because I knew he was never coming back.
So, I breathed and reached out to my other lifelines. I thought that would help make the tears stop but it didn’t because if this was a math problem adding up all my lifelines (I am blessed & grateful to have many) they would never equal him.
I’ve been going and doing and moving forward as best as I can, but this missing thing hit me so hard and broke me down. Somehow, I thought at this point my Teflon shield would have re-appeared, but it must still be in the repair shop.
I think I’ll call that repair shop and see if they can tell me when my shield will be ready…In the meantime, I’ll just sit with my feelings have a good cry and wait for that missing feeling to subside.
Much love my friends xoxo

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Finding Happy

The holidays have always been a tough time for me, ever since the fall of 1985 when my dad first got sick and then my parents separation the following spring.  For my entire life up until that evening on September 28th, 1985 I had a pristine (well so I thought) life, we were just missing the white picket fence.  Our family was Jay, Judy, Jeff, Jennifer, Jimmy & our dog J.J.  We all had blue eyes, I even pretended J.J. did because I thought it made our family sound even more cool:).

I remember a happy life growing up on Millbrook Lane.  I remember how much our home was filled with friends and family, laughing, playing and just hanging out.  I remember my older brother’s friends coming over to play basketball and I would wind up playing jacks with them in our laundry room, it had the best jacks floor!  I remember being on the phone once when we got our second land line and my older brother picking up his phone and giving me the 5-minute warning, it didn’t matter that I had just dialed my friend and expected to be on for hours. 

I remember Jeffrey and I fighting before my parents had even shut the front door when they went out on the weekends.  I remember my younger brother sitting with our dog J.J. on the stairs watching as my brother and I fought.  I remember talking with my younger brother’s friends on the phone when they called for what seemed like hours before Jimmy even realized they were on the phone.

I remember the holidays, both sets of grandparents would come over to our house or we would go to my Grandma Syl & Grandpa Sam's apartment behind what used to be Great Godfrey Daniels in Skokie.  There must have been 30 people that fit into their apartment.  I can smell my grandma’s matzo ball soup now, she made it so well.  When I close my eyes, I can see every detail of their apartment including the yellow kitchen table & chairs and the smell of her soup.

I remember all of it and I remember that everyone was happy because we were all smiling and laughing.

Once my Grandma Syl passed away the spring of 1987, the holidays never seemed the same to me.  Well, truth be really stopped once my parents split up but who's keeping track??  She was the glue, the matriarch and brought it all together.  She brought the laughter, the love, and most importantly the everlasting feeling of being happy. 

I remember for the first time in a long time not feeling happy and could feel it from my head to my toes.  I didn't know what to do about it........

I’ve learned a lot about happiness and being happy over the years.  I know that happiness is a choice even when you feel like your life is not what you expect, or you feel like happiness is for everyone else but you……believe me, I felt that way back in 1986 when my family was falling apart.  I also felt that way back in 2003 when I chose to start a new life as a single full time working mom with my kids who were 11 months and 3 years old.   

My dad, the patriarch of our family, helped me understand how to find the tools to get to happy and I didn’t have to travel very far.  The tools you see are inside all of us, we all come fully equipped with a tool box.  It just takes some of us a little longer to figure out how to use them all๐Ÿ˜Š

My road to happy and finding the right tools at the right time hasn’t been smooth and at times seemed insurmountable.  It’s taken work and time standing in front of the mirror, but it’s a work in progress just like life.

I’m happy for my life today, all of it.  I hope you can find your happy this year my friends.  Xoxo, Jennifer

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

One Year

I have a confession to make, something I’ve been keeping to myself for just over a year now since my dad has passed away. Well, maybe I’ve shared this with my therapist and a few dear friends but you get my drift. Hard to believe it’s been over 365 days already, seems like yesterday. So, clichรฉ to say, I’m not a big fan of using them but it is true, painfully true. How could a year have gone by already?
All the details leading up to his last day on this earth are so clear and vivid in my mind, fresh as a newly painted wall or an open wound. I’ve closed my eyes so many times over the past few months especially while my kids were at camp and could have sworn that I was back at Highland Park Hospital or University of Chicago Hospital visiting with my dad, laughing, eating (of course) and just hanging out talking about life while either a Cubs game or CNN was on tv in the background.
One of the conversations we had last summer which took a few father/daughter visits and a handful of phone calls to finish had to do with his funeral. It was really a beautiful conversation, sad of course but so very special. One of the two saved messages from him on my phone which I hope never gets deleted are him telling me who he wanted as his pallbearers. As you know by now we talked about a lot and this was an important detail. As we said to each other……it’s business๐Ÿ˜Š
My brothers & I decided that we would go in reverse birth order for the eulogies……Jimmy, me & then Jeffrey. I tried to convince Jeffrey that me going last would be best as I was sure to bring the crowd (and what a crowd it was) to its knees with stories only I could tell.
Jimmy’s words were filled with so much love you could feel it. I hadn’t prepared anything on paper, I started writing a little the night before but it didn’t seem real so I stopped. I was on autopilot; my mind was somewhere else and I figured I would just wing it.
It was my turn……I walked up and looked at all the people. So many people from every stage of our family’s life from even before my brothers and I were even born. It was overwhelming to see and so incredibly beautiful. I started talking but the next thing I remember is stopping to the sound of someone falling and the entire room went quiet. I froze. What was happening and why now? I need to finish.
It turned out a someone passed out during my eulogy, I ran to see who it was then ran to the “family room” to get damp towels, brought them to my dad’s nurses who happened to be sitting near the person who fell. The paramedics & fire department was called and took her to the hospital. It was a case of Vasovagal and thankfully she was ok.
I didn’t get to finish. Before I blinked Jeffrey was finished with his eulogy and we were walking out of the funeral home into the limousines and heading to the cemetery. I couldn’t catch my breath, I didn’t get to finish I kept saying to myself.
I would joke (what else was I to do?) the rest of the day into the first night of Shiva up until the last night of Shiva how I would be in therapy for 500 years because I didn’t get to finish. I would also joke that of course it had to happen to me, the middle child, the invisible one. It would never to happen to anyone else, ever.
I was having the hardest time processing not being able to finish during my dad’s funeral. I didn’t know how resolve it but knew I had to somehow do something. So, as I made my way thru my daughter’s 8th grade open house a few weeks after my dads funeral with teary filled eyes I decided I was going to start writing as soon as I got home.
I needed to get the words out and that’s how it all started putting “pen to paper” as real writers would say.
I am and will continue to be incredibly grateful, appreciative & humbled by all your kind words, hugs, smiles, tears, words of encouragement and support. I am also even more grateful to those of you who have been honest enough to tell me when I am sharing too much. All of us have our own stuff going on in our lives and sometimes too much sharing and too much detail is just too much to bare.
As always, much love and tons of hugs to all of you my friends.

Monday, July 17, 2017


Change, it’s part of life especially here in Chicago.
I love the change of seasons. I especially love the warmer weather when I can throw on a dress, a pair of shoes or maybe flip flops and walk out the door. One of my favorite things to wear any day of the week. I love the summer when my kids are at camp and I have time to myself. I spend less time grocery shopping, more time relaxing and more time eating al fresco with friends!
The transition this summer from a full house to just me has been a bit different, more emotional and filled with a lot of tears.
I’ve had a lot of changes lately. A combination of changes, a mixed bag just like our weather. Between moving from a house to a townhouse, working on closing out our fiscal year at work, starting a new fiscal year, and finally my younger brother and the rest of The Hechtman Group staff moving offices from one building to another. This last change has been the heaviest.
While my brother moving offices wasn’t a “direct” change that affected me in terms of packing up my desk, it affected me on a deeper more personal level. It was the preparation of saying goodbye, an end of an era and closing the door for the final time to my dad’s office. I could no longer stop by to visit, close his door, sit in his chair and have one of our talks. I could really use one of our talks right now.
I underestimated the pain & sadness this goodbye has had on me.
I have spent most of my life going to my dad and then my dad & Jimmy’s office (1993) ever since I was a kid. I used to stop in when I was growing up in West Wilmette, my dad’s office was never more than a mile away. Whether it was across the street from Great Godfrey Daniel’s in the “Balcor” building or the office on stilts at the corner of Wilmette Avenue & Skokie Blvd (the office I worked at for over 8 ½ years) or the office on Old Orchard Road just down the street from the Cook County Courthouse. I always had a place to visit.
I learned so many things walking through those doors over the years. I learned even more when I worked for my dad and brother many years ago. I learned how important it is to say “good morning” to everyone in the office even if you first walked in late in the day. I learned that no task is ever too small or irrelevant when your last name was on the door. Whether it was shredding pounds of paper during tax season, feeding the fish or working on month end financials, everything mattered. It mattered because it helped keep the wheels of the business moving forward.
I have taken all of those lessons with me as I have moved forward in my life both professionally & personally. But one of the things I have learned the most has come from the inside and cannot be taught and my dad oozed it..... and that is pride.
My dad couldn’t have been more proud……this picture of my brothers & I had been hanging on my dad’s office wall for as long as I can remember. My dad loved his kids and was proud of each one of us.
So, a new chapter awaits without my dad just down the hall to reinforce his teachings, tell a story he’s told a million times or come up with a reason to get a medically prescribed ice cream soda from Homers. I know the next time I visit my brother the legacy that has been left by my dad will be deeply absorbed into the new space. It has to right?
Take care my friends. xoxo, Jennifer