The Empty Nest Chronicles – June Edition

My husband and my younger son often make plans that involve our two families without first checking with me and or my daughter in-law. That’s why my daughter-in-law and I check in with each other whenever there’s even a hint of a plan in the making.

The first plan involved all of us getting together for a few days in our home. Remember, our grandsons are 2, 5 and 8. Then it changed to a few days in their home. I was okay with either option but felt it would be less stressful and less mess in their home than in ours, even if it involved packing our clothes and driving a few hours to their home.

As it turned out the “few” days grew into 8. The location was to be our home. And our son and daughter-in-law would leaving us with the kids for one night. I remembered how it was when my kids were growing up and my husband and I wanted time just the two of us. I was originally okay with a “few” days of us all together in our home. But 8 days seemed like way too much. I truly love my younger son and his family. But 8 days??????? I immediately thought about all the cooking and preparation involved. 8 days = 24 meals. What with the dietary restrictions so prevalent in our family, eating out wouldn’t be an option. And the mess that 3 young boys could make.

My daughter-in-law’s parents live in a house way too small for anything longer than an overnight visit. Last fall they took my son, daughter-in-law and the boys on a vacation in a hotel for a week. I would love to do the same thing but my son and his family prefer my home to a hotel. It’s their home away from home. They call it their “lake house” even if we don’t have a lake. Could I be honest and tell them that 8 days was too much to ask of me?

I called my daughter-in-law who told me that she had hoped to stay even longer but was unhappy it wasn’t working out. I was happy it wasn’t going to work out.

When I told a friend that my family was coming for 8 days, She said “Wow you are so lucky !”
“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking about all the work involved.
“Well, your daughter-in-law is so comfortable with you that she’s willing to spend 8 days with you! Wow!”

The more thought about it, the more I realized my friend was right. I am genuinely lucky. I have 2 wonderful wonderful daughters in law and I love spending time with them. And they do help out.

What can you learn from this? There really is no right or wrong. It all depends on your perception of the situation. I could have let myself be completely bummed out about the hassle of having my family with us for 8 days and all that that entailed. Or I could look at the situation from my friend’s perspective to see how lucky I really am.
So many of parents complain about being estranged from their families, that they never get to see their children and grandchildren. When and if their families do stop by, it’s usually only for an hour or two on the way to or from someplace “more important.”
So the next time you find yourself agonizing over a family gathering, remember that it often takes an outside perspective to help you find your way. There’s more than one way to look at a situation. It’s all up to you.

There are 7 takeaways for you to learn about family dynamics, especially when it comes to family gatherings over vacations or holidays:

  1.  Spending time with your family can be a blessing or a hassle.
  2.  Members of your family each have their own issues.
  3. You have your own issues.
  4.  There’s more than one way to look at a situation.
  5.  Different people see things in different ways. Getting input from a non family member can change the way you see the situation
  6. Family is part of who you are. Life is way too short to lose the connection.
  7. Do what ever it takes no matter what to get your family to love and include you because no one should have to die alone.


The Empty Nest Chronicles – May Edition

The ringing of the phone startled me. I was in the middle of struggling to finish that day’s New York Times crossword puzzle. It was 7:00 a.m. Who could it be? Probably too early for a crank call. Should I check caller ID? Had to be something important,didn’t it? Could it be the call I’d been been expecting for the past few weeks?
Taking a chance, I answered the phone.

“Mazel tov! Mazel tov!,” said a male voice, but not the one I hoped to hear.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Of course,” said the voice.

It took me a moment to realize I was speaking to Shloime, my daughter-in-law’s father. He went on to say that our eight-year-old granddaughter had just called with the good news and asked him to call us.
For half a second, I felt put off. Our older son and his family live half way around the world. Even so, didn’t we deserve a direct phone call? Then I remembered the times our son had called us after a new birth and had asked us to relay the good news to his in-laws.

“What’d she have?” I asked, my fingers starting to tingle. That same thing happened after each of my sons was born and it continues to happen after each grandchild is born. The arrival of each one is super special for me.
“She had a boy,” said Shloime. “After all those girls, don’t you think she was hoping for a boy?
And I’m pretty sure I know what they’ll name him.”

Too excited to continue the conversation, I couldn’t think of much to say other than “Mazel Tov.” But I did wonder why Shloime was so sure he knew what our new grandson’s name would be.

After I hung up, it came to me. In our tradition, babies are named in memory of those who are deceased. As of yet, no one had been named in memory of my Shloime’s father. So that’s probably who our new grandson’s name would come from. But we’ll have to wait a week to find out because in our tradition baby boys aren’t officially named until the day of their circumcision.

The name could wait but I couldn’t wait to share the good news.

It never fails that when people find out how large my family is, they are amazed and ask if I have any trouble remembering each grandchild’s name. The first time this happened, I was really annoyed but stopped myself from shouting, “Of course I remember each name!”

“Not a problem,” I now say, taking that question in my stride while recognizing how rare large families have become in today’s world.

I have to keep reminding myself that we’re all intrigued by situations that are outside our realm of experience. For that very reason, we tend to ask questions that may be perceived as naive or intrusive by those in the know.
My older son, who lives on the other side of the world, now has ten children; my younger son,who lives in the States, now has three. As the grandmother of thirteen, people assume I have a favorite.

“No, I don’t,” I insist.

“You sure?” they press me.

“Well…to tell you the truth,I do have a favorite. It’s whoever is sitting or sleeping on my lap.”


BJ Rosenfeld Interviews on NewsmakerTV

Imagine a Jewish mom caught in the position of not “being Jewish enough.”  That’s exactly what happened to BJ Rosenfeld had to come to terms with when her sons chose to become Orthodox and began rejecting much of what BJ herself lived in her own life as no longer acceptable to them.

Her journey to come to grips with the situation and create a loving, accepting relationship with her sons is chronicled in her book, The Chameleon in the Closet.

She speaks candidly about her experiences, including her closets, here with Jess Todfield of NewsmakersTV:

The Chameleon in the Closet Featured On Huffington Post

What would you do if someone close to you did not want you to write a memoir that involved him or her? Would you respect their wishes or would you forge ahead? And, if you did forge ahead, would their watching over your shoulder, metaphorically speaking, compromise what you really wanted to … [read more]

BJ recently spoke on Huffington Post about her journey to reconnect with her newly Orthodox sons and and find her way to an enviable relationship with them and her grandchildren. From changing her clothing to changing her own attitudes about acceptance and love, you can read more about how she did it here on Huffington Post.

Excerpted from “A Mother’s Love Versus Her Sons’ Religious Demands” by  on Huffington Post.

BJ Rosenfeld Answers 5 Questions About her Memoir, The Chameleon in the Closet

BJ Rosenfeld of Clifton Park and the author of  The Chameleon in the Closet: A Conservative Jewish Mother Reaches Out to Her Orthodox Sons, answers this weeks’ 5 Questions with the Troy Record’s Cecelia Martinez on her book and her journey to forge a new relationship with her sons despite the divide between her own Conservative Jewish traditions and her sons’ new Orthodox Jewish beliefs. [read more]

Chameleon in the Closet Reviewed on Amazon

The reviews are in!  On, that is.

The Chameleon in the Closet: A Conservative Jewish Mother Reaches Out to Her Orthodox Sons traces the universal journey parents take as their children try to find their place in the world. When her older son broke with his Conservative Jewish upbringing and plunged into Orthodoxy, BJ Rosenfeld was confronted with the challenge of accepting or rejecting his rigorous beliefs. Somewhere along the way… [read more]

Heartfelt and Wise

It is almost painful to read this mother’s account of reconciling herself to the changes her sons made in their lives. Not because of the writing–she excels at that–but because she does such an excellent job, her emotions are palpable. We raise our children with expectations–our own–and that’s the problem. When they’re young we steer their decision making. As they mature, we anticipate their steps into adulthood. Nothing prepares us for radical diversions from the road on which we initially placed them.

An amazing journey into one woman’s quest to serve her family.

Knowing little about the Jewish world, this book was a terrific journey as seen through the eyes of a Jewish mother trying to navigate the often turbulent path of being a parent. I laughed, and I cried as the author dared to be authentic to dig deep inside herself to share her feelings, her beliefs, her fears, her confusion, and her frustration, as well as her happiness, her laughter, and her pure joy in some amazing recollections of her life moments (sometimes all at the same time!)—all in search of love and compromise to attempt to find her place in the lives of her children. As parents, we cannot choose the path for our children; however we do choose our path as to whether we travel this journey together with them (or not). What a lovely and heartfelt story regarding one woman’s journey into herself as well as her learning about the intricacies of what her life means to be Jewish, and more importantly, what her life means to be a mother of her Jewish children and grandchildren. Thank you for sharing your example and your courage to love.