Monday, December 30, 2013

Auld Lang Syne and all that jazz ...

After the rush of a crazy month, the final days of December slow down. They seem very dark and the rush of traffic is more a murmur as people settle in their homes and begin the reflection leading up to "the New Year." I consider this time of year the healing time we need after dashing about fulfilling wishes, attending parties and events, and merging our work lives with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.

But I too pause, set some resolutions and reflect. Mostly, I think about the people who have come into my life over the year and the places we have traveled together. There is a saying that Flavia used on a card I bought many years ago that springs to mind ... "Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Others stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same."

She doesn't say what happens to those people who "stay for a while" and leave the footprints on our hearts. I figure there are those that leave footprints and disappear while others hang around ... either in the direct spotlight or in the wings. Depends on the relationship and the other stuff that life brings us. 

I found myself really thinking about those people. The ones who have stayed and walked with me and still walk with me ... even those who have moved out of my life either due to distance or just the ebbs and flows of the world in which we live. No matter. I realize and celebrate that their mark is still a part of me. That their influence -- may it have been short-lived or still happening -- is a living, breathing part of me no matter what.

Many years ago I met a friend that I think of at times like this. Her name was Amy and we attended a week-long yearbook editing camp at Ball State University. We were room-mates in the dorm. Victims of a blind assignment that luckily worked out very nicely. We attended classes together and hung out all week. Afterwards, we became "pen pals." (Obviously this was before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) For a long time we wrote letters very regularly. She lived north of Chicago. We even met up once at Water Tower Place for lunch and shopping. But as time went on, I began to look differently at our friendship. I mean, when would we see each other again? What was the point of keeping in touch year after year? All these letters, but no face to face. And suddenly, the whole thing seemed kinda pointless. I stopped writing letters. Soon, I lost track of Amy. I have no idea where she is or where life carried her. But, she left a footprint on my heart...

I soon realized that I gave up on a friendship. I sabatoged it all by myself. I gave up on a friend. I decided that the distance and complications were more significant than the value of a good friendship. Yeah, it needed more effort. And I gave up on it. So, when I figured that out, I vowed to not allow that to happen again. If Dr. Seuss were to phrase it, he would say "A friend is a friend no matter the miles away ... A friend is a friend no matter the time that you play."

There are a handful of very special friends in my life. People who know me for all the sparkles, glitter and also the dark, dusty edges. People who know they can be who they are with me as well. I am selective and cautious, I guess, in choosing my dearest friends. Those I trust implicitly. Probably most of us are. I enjoy my time with these special individuals ... however long apart or regular that time might be. I think they know they can count on me. 

But I'm also a self-professed gypsy with friends near and far. Some I have nurture from high school days and others from my days at Albion. A few I only connect with on-line or in letters. But they are no less dear. I also love the stage and perform at venues all around town. I gladly drive the miles to embark on a theatrical adventure. I make new friends in every production. I renew friendships. I continue to strengthen those that are part of my every-day life.  I treasure these relationships though life, distance and other stuff may prevent us from spending lots and lots of time together. I consider them friends. And I value the footprints they have left on my heart. Oh sure, some came and went quickly. But others ... well, others retain a position of honor in my memory ... on my heart.

So, as the resolutions flow amidst the champagne tomorrow night ... and we sing "Should old acquaintance be forgot," I pause for a moment to reflect and remember. Though time and distance may keep physical beings apart, the soul and the heart can preserve a beautiful relationship. Just takes a little effort. And a little faith.

It's just another New Year's Eve, but I find myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude for each of you who walk -- or walked with me over the past 47 years. You left footprints .... see ya soon, I hope. But if not, you know where to find me.
                                                                                                                                  -- Jenni 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I've Got A Little List ...

It's that time of year, and I've got a "little" list. But as I begin, let me go back one day ...

Yesterday, I launched myself into life. Do you ever do that? One minute you are restful amidst flannel sheets and the next minute you discover yourself navigating traffic with a travel mug of cold coffee in your hand? Well, that was my day yesterday. I rushed from one errand to the next, checking my watch to ensure I'd make the many critical appointments. Enjoying little since something else demanded my attention two steps ahead. Inevitably, I didn't pick up my daughter at school, was late getting my son to swimming and nearly late to my daughter's ballet class. By the time I collapsed on the couch, it was nearly 9pm. And as a reward for my desperate efforts all day, I treated myself ... watching the Winter Finale of Scandal.

So much to do at this time of year. So many things to remember. I, like many people I suppose, feel like a whirling dervish. When did this happen? And where did the joy go? As Cindy Lou Who asked in Jim Carey's "Grinch" movie ... "Where Are You Christmas??? Why can't I find you?" I pondered this last night. And today I began differently.

Today, I awoke with a festive song on my iPod. Think Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra were crooning It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. That was one of my Granddaddy's favorite songs. So, before I "launched" into today like I did yesterday, I took a deep breath and imagined a Christmas Eve service at my childhood church where I stood next to him and sang that song. I could hear the organ. I could see the stained glass windows. I could smell his pipe tobacco.

Today, I ventured into "my room" and sat on "my chair" to begin my morning by reading a few passages from the Simple Abundance book by Sarah ban Breathnach, a journey to authenticity which I've been undertaking all year long. I drank my Gingerbread Latte. I turned on the Christmas tree. I absorbed her simple words of wisdom. And, I smiled.

Today, I hand-wrote messages on a small stack of Christmas cards. I actually went to the store, selected a few cards, and wrote messages. Did you ever do that? I used to ... long, long ago when my Christmas tree was 3 ft tall and placed in the window of my Lafayette Court Apartment. When I only decorated, cleaned and maintained a small space -- when it was only me. Before the dreaded 8 pt. Arial Narrow Christmas letters were discovered where we learned we could actually cram in 365 days of information on one piece of stationary, some of us wrote notes in real Christmas cards. Not that the photo cards aren't real. But I miss actual "cards." And Truly, I do love seeing my kids friends and hearing all about them in these photo cards. BUT, I miss the handwritten notes and signatures. Not only were they shorter ... but they seemed a little more heartfelt. (No offense meant to you lengthy-letter writers. But right now, all the received cards are stacked in my messy kitchen waiting a quiet moment for perusal. I typically read the long letters AFTER Christmas.

Today, I will ring the bells at the Royal Oak Post Office for the Salvation Army. I coordinate a day for the Chamber to do this every December. And, for the past 4 years, we have been blessed with sunny, not-too-cold days. I wear my pink Disney Santa hat and ring the bells for an hour shift. I smile and speak to everyone who walks thru those doors. Yes, I smile the whole time and LOVE this day. It reminds me of the true meaning of this season. One year, a nun gave me a St. Christopher medal. Last year, a gentleman stopped his car to give me a warm cookie and hot chocolate from Brueggers. For some reason, the very idea of ringing the bells feeds my spirit.

Perhaps that is what changed me today. After yesterday's frenzy, I remembered to pause this morning instead of launch myself from the sheets. I remembered  to ask for the Grace to "make it." And I chose to find a new way to reflect joy to the world.

This Christmas, I pray you find a way to do a little of this too. The "Gifts of the Season" don't come in wrapped packages ... These simple gifts are Smiles, Hugs, A Touch, Encouragement, Kindness, Gratitude, Goodness, Consideration, Patience, Gentleness, Thoughtfulness, Joyfulness and Love shared freely. And I really don't need a list to remember to find those.

Merry Christmas to All ....
                                                                                                                  -- Jenni

Thursday, December 5, 2013

This December ... KISS

It's cold and grey outside. On a day such as this, wouldn't it be nice to gather around a fire with a few friends and "hang out." Oh, but that's not be. At this time of year, we all become White Rabbits, rushing about with a pocket watch knowing we are running out of time and soon will be late for that very important date.

I don't need a calendar to tell me the month. It's December ... hustle and bustle is happening outside my window. Someone is ringing the bell for Salvation Army donations at the Post Office and people rush in and out. Some of them pause. Others of them seem harried. There seems to be more traffic on the roads and the line at Starbucks extends outside the door.

What is that? Oh ... yeah ... the "holiday season" is upon us. And with the rush of cold comes this frenzy. People seem frantic. Rushed. Pressured. Tense. Distracted and Stressed. No one strolls casually at this time of year. The pace is fast ... so are the heart-rates.

Gotta get it done. Gotta get it bought. Gotta shop. Gotta wrap. Gotta plan and clean and decorate. Gotta make a list. Gotta find that gift. Gotta ... gotta ... gotta .... Just typing these words makes my heart skip a little faster.  

I hardly think the idea of a Happy Holiday Season was to give yourself a panic attack. Why then do we choose this course of action ... this crazed, frenetic behavior? (Yes, we do choose it.) Is this rush truly the key to making our loved ones' eyes sparkle and showcase that good feeling holiday magic?

Consider another option ... Stop wherever you are, take a deep breath, sigh it out and remember this December to KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid ... er, my daughter would tell me that is a not nice word so let's go with Silly. Keep It Simple Silly.
  • When you decorate, take your time. If it takes a few days, so it takes a few days. 
  • When you wrap, put on your favorite holiday movie and pour yourself a nice beer or a glass of wine or my personal holiday fav ... Bailey's with some Peppermint Schnapps. Drink it in a festive glass. (I'm sure there is an easy non-alcoholic version you can makeshift with similar ingredients. I just personally enjoy the "leaded" version.) Sit on the floor and enjoy placing those gifts in fooler boxes, wrapping and writing messages.
  • If baking is your thing, make it fun. I bake with my kids. It gets messy. I put on my iPod Christmas Mix and let it happen as it happens. M&M Cookies. Peanut Butter Blossoms. Sugar Cut Outs .. Oh, and I have one friend who is an amazing frost-er. Her talent is impressive. So I invite her over to frost sugar cookies ... and chat, catch-up and laugh. While I get the baking done, I also enjoy a spontaneous grown up play date!
  • Shop local. Shop on-line. Me, I seek surprises for the special people who give me so much all year long ... and I buy off lists as well. It's a mix. But, I do a little at a time and think about it as I go. I try not to be a reactionary or aggressive shopper. (You will never find me at Wal-mart at 4am -- no matter how good the deal!)  I have a passion for seeking the "Special Gift"... you know, the one I find when I'm not truly looking. I think about the person and then add my own elfish magic. It makes the shopping fun for me. Apply your own "tricks of the trade." Just take the stress out as far as you can.
  • Be kind to yourself this month. Here's something I do ...I pause a bit during the shopping or decorating or what-evering for a little "me" time. I watch the kids visiting Santa. I enjoy a Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks. I gaze at the windows at Tiffany's -- no, I don't go in. Or, I enjoy a decadent treat. Try that. And remember to breathe.
  •  If it doesn't get done, it just doesn't get done.
Me, I would rather have a hand-written card than any fancy box. A small gift picked out based on something I might have said during the year in conversation -- or chosen because it reminded them of me or made them think of me. Perhaps that is true for most of us. Personally, I do all I can to gift from the heart and that takes me being in a good, non-whirling dervish mode. I find joy in selecting a special item ... I don't want to just buy anything. I want to give something ...

Don't get me wrong. I can rush thru that list as easily as the next guy. I can check it off and get it done. But, I'd rather not. I'd rather remember what this season means and enjoy time with the special people in my life than have them rush about trying to grant me a "wish" in the form of a package. My WISH this holiday season is for a call ... a text ... a note ... a handwritten letter ... a "Hey, I was thinking of you wanna grab a beer/coke/coffee/snack ... " An experience ... time with the people I treasure.

KISS. And if you want to interpret that literally, that's okay too. :)  Take a little time this season and share some joy and love with the dazzling people who surround you. Pretty simple. Not silly. Just remember, when everything seems to be spinning around you, take a deep breath ... sigh it out ... and KISS.

Mistletoe optional :)
                                                                                                                                   -- Jenni

Friday, November 22, 2013

Connect with a Good Book

Last night I went to a play about Connecting. Okay, so it was actually a play centered around books. About reading. About hardcover, old, second hand books and a woman who spent over 20 years corresponding with a bookshop owner and staff in England. The play was "84 Charring Cross" and it was directed by a dear friend of mine at a local community theatre about 25 minutes from my home. But the underlying theme of this play is about Connecting.

It's a true story about a woman named Helene Hanff from NYC and a Brit named Frank Doel. She wrote to him requesting books. He sent them to her. And though they never met, they became friends, bound together by a passion for books.

Before the play began, I read the bios of the cast and crew. Each of them identified their favorite books. Some of them read them over and over again -- like comfort food. I found myself intrigued by their choices ... by what appeals to them and their imaginations. And I found myself pondering my favorite books and why they stand out in my mind.

All this from a play. As the actress spoke her lines, requesting different books and describing their textures and pages when they arrived, I found myself aching to hold such a treasure in my hand. Escape into those pages and find myself transported into other lives. Go on adventures and travel to places I've not yet explored.

You see, I love books. I have favorites. For me, books reflect my mood and my selection is entirely emotional. I like recommendations. I am fascinated by learning and making discoveries I might not have found had it not been for the advice of another. In fact, one of my favorite reads was found completely by accident ... I saw it sitting in a friend's knitting bag and was intrigued. I went to the library immediately and pulled it from the shelf in a kind of awe. And I have since recommended it to many other friends who have been transported in those pages.

Unlike Helene, I prefer fiction, though I am trying to expand my scope by reading outside my normal comfort zone with two non-fiction books currently in process. But I cannot wait to cozy up with Elizabeth Bennett and watch her discover the truth of her own Pride & Prejudice. I rage at Catherine and Heathcliff on Wuthering Heights. I cry with Mrs. de Winter as she tries to find her way in the shadow of Rebecca. Oh ... I recently traveled on an unforgettable adventure in Africa with the help of Deanna Raybourn's Splendor in the Grass ... discovering a passion for Whitman along the way. I met Angels with Lauren Kate's Fallen series and reveled in magic with Deborah Harkness' Discovery of Witches ... something I have enjoyed with Harry Potter and am continuing to explore with Emily Croy Barker's new fascinating read (in which I'm currently immersed) A Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic.

I have to admit a passion for Egypt that began with Allen Drury's God Against Gods and Return to Thebes and was further expounded in my travels there with Amelia Peabody, thanks to Elizabeth Peters. And my mind races as I remember nearly twenty books of adventures in Shannara guided by Terry Brooks and the drama of possible futures with The Hunger Games, The Selection and the Delirium books. Kate Morton's Forgotten Garden, the discovery in that knitting bag, has led me on numerous trips ... including a read I could hardly put down called The Distant Hours. And I thank Diana Gabaldon and Susanna Keasley for fueling my quest to find a way to create a Time Travel portal myself.

But that all began with Alice and her trip down a Rabbit Hole and then into the Looking Glass. That book remains my favorite ... for all its nonsense it launched a quest into the unlimited nature of my imagination. It continued with Dorothy and her many travels to Oz. With Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars (I'm reading book 3 now!) With Julie Andrews and Wangdoodleland and Jane Langston's Diamond in the Window, both of which I introduced to my kids and re-read regularly myself. I have been dreaming of discovering such doorways into my books and dreams for decades.

But I digress. I began by saying how the play I saw was truly about connecting. Books connect us. Stories draw us together. We all seek a good story. If you are like me, you long for adventure and surprises. Perhaps you too are curious about what you might find around the corner ... through the Looking Glass. A book will take you on an adventure and connect you to things that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+ can never facilitate.

A book can become a conversation piece ... a discussion over coffee, or in Helene and Frank's case, a series of letters that connected them across an ocean and created a deeper friendship than either of them may have realized at the time.  My friend who directed it helped connect these actors to each other ... and bring the story to life to connect with an audience. An audience who sighed and laughed and was saddened when it realized Frank died before Helene could get to London and meet him face to face.

The story connected us all. Engaged us in a way stories have a tendency to do. In a way television cannot and all the gadgets and apps in the world will never be savvy or smart enough to do.

My children read. I raised them to love books. My son prefers to read on his iPad. My daughter has several books "in process." Just like me. My books are stacked on my nightstand and beside my chair in the sunroom -- my place of escape -- near a cozy blanket. I have a Nook as well that I love to use especially at night and take places when I travel, since I never know what might appeal to me at the time. I have old books and new books. Paperbacks and hardcovers. I continually seek recommendations because the books you read fuel the conversations we can have later. They teach me things. Give me new information and ways to relate to the people around me. The connection between the book and me evolves into the connection with you and me. And I revel in it.

So when I escape into a good book, I'm connecting with people I don't know yet and old friends too. And I'm going to connect with you too. Never discount the power of a book. It brought Helene and Frank together across an ocean. It can bring us together across a table.
                                                                                                                     -- Jenni

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Kindness in a Coffee Shop

I love Starbucks.

Oh, I realize some of you out there are mourning the loss of The Coffee Beanery and Caribou. Royal Oak is definitely short a coffee shop these days. I am sorry about that since they have been hubs of activity. I too miss Caribou’s amazing Hot Chocolate options and the Coffee Beanery’s Cinnamon Holiday Blend -- a traditional purchase by my mom every December. But there is a magic inside Starbucks. 

I suppose part of the appeal is the aroma of the beans grinding and the specialty coffees. The sounds and energy bustling around that place. The varied personalities working, meeting, reading a newspaper, talking, laughing and making business decisions as they sit together at tables or in the cozy chairs by the fire. So much seems to happen in coffee shops. Today, though, I found something that I wasn't expecting.

My absolute favorite drink in the world is Starbucks' Peppermint Mocha. I try to hold off until December 1st to treat myself to this high-caloric delicacy. But today’s crisp air and wintery sky served as a catalyst and I found myself donning hat, gloves and my new winter white Olivia Pope wool coat and walking to Starbucks.

Walking in the door, I felt myself heave a great sigh as I took in the energy of Starbucks' highly energized world. Wonder of wonders, there was no line. Must have been a sign from the Coffee Gods that this was where I was meant to be at that exact moment in time.

I glanced up at the vast menu, knowing what I truly wanted, and allowed myself to make the request.

“A Venti Peppermint Mocha, please.” (No wimpy Tall or Grande for me today. Nope. I needed the full rapture only available from a Venti.)

The Barista taking my order smiled. It surprised me. I needed that smile. It was a friendly smile and I did a meditative action at that moment. I breathed it in. I absorbed the positive energy like it was a living spirit. And founding myself smiling back. It was as though his smile bestowed upon me a gentle touch. Welcoming. Encouraging.

Then he asked my name. They ask that these days and write it on your cup. I told him. Whenever I tell someone my name, they assume it ends in a Y. It’s not a big thing. It’s just going on a paper cup that I’ll throw away eventually anyway. People misspell my name all the time and I don't stress it. But … he didn’t stop there. He asked … “with a Y or IE?”

I was surprised. And I smiled again. “With an I,” I told him. "Thank you for asking."

He grinned and laughed, explaining that he wanted to get it right. By his action, he honored my uniqueness -- by simply noting my name, correctly spelled, with black sharpie on the red Starbucks holiday cup. Then he took my pre-paid Starbucks Card (something I am never without), rang up the astronomical cost for a Venti specialty coffee which by now was even more worth it, and smiled again.

I moved to the waiting area. Others came in from the cold. Some smiling ... some struggling with things I know nothing about. I found myself smiling at them. Sometimes people seem surprised when I smile at them -- like I did -- and then they brighten. We made casual chat as I waited for my coffee. A gentleman in a suit walked by me on his way out and complimented me on my coat. I smiled and thanked him, feeling stylish and happy that someone took the time not only to notice but to speak kind words. He smiled back and exited into the cold. Our encounter had ended.

The Barista called my name and with great awe I collected my very first Peppermint Mocha of the season.  I stepped back into the cold with lightness in my step. A little more ease between my shoulders. A gratitude that I found kindness today from strangers in a coffee shop. And that their simple generosity gave me something of great value. Something I guess I needed as much as I needed that Venti cup of coffee.

People need gentleness and kindness. Validation and appreciation. Genuine Friendship. The human touch. A smile. It grounds us and steadies us and keeps us strong. Moving forward. No matter what else happens today, the smile from the Barista and the words from a stranger will remind me that you can find and give Kindness anywhere.

When I smile at you, perhaps you will see the bright pink energy … my aura.  There are days its dimmer than others but I seek to keep it pulsing with light. Perhaps you will breathe it in. Receive the energy I offer willingly. Sometimes I run out, ya know. So, when you share your kindness with me, it sustains and strengthens. It brightens my light.

What is it Blanche DuBois said in Streetcar Named Desire? ….  “I’ve always depended on the Kindness of strangers.”

I am grateful that I can find Kindness in simple places like a Coffee Shop. From strangers. Sometimes it’s easier to get it from someone you don’t know. And to accept it. We like to project confidence. But there are moments... This morning at Starbucks as I glanced at rushed, harried faces, I realized the toll day-to-day living takes.  I observed and recognized that our spirits are fragile -- especially as the holidays loom ahead with their pressure, lists, demands and emotional implications. Our pace and the shifts and changes in our daily existence challenge us, leaving us ragged at times. So much benefit can come from the simplicity of a smile.

When I went to Starbucks this morning, I didn’t know I would gain so much.

Dear Starbucks ... Thank you for the Coffee. And thank you for the Kindness. I'll see you soon.

                                                                                                                                -- Jenni

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Episode That Changes Everything ...

Watching TV last week, I was captivated to discover that both The Good Wife and Hawaii Five-0 would be showing The Episode That Changes Everything. Just TV shows, sure. But life can be like that too.

Do you have days like that? The announcer would call it .... "The Day that Changes Everything" and there would be dramatic music following said announcement. Perhaps you lose something or fight with someone or watch a dream shatter. Perhaps you receive a disconcerting report from the doctor. It could be related to a job ...  a friend ... a promotion ... a spouse or a lover ... a part in play that you hoped to achieve ... a touchdown that would have won the game ... a basket that no one had made in ages  ... an award .... a low score on the golf course .... a bad grade ... It could be amazingly good, life-changing horrible or simply emotionally jarring.

Whatever the case, it is a day which shakes you up, throws you off balance and toggles your future. Your next steps are unknown as you gaze out onto a new path on the playing board.

On days like this, whatever shakes your world can just be too much. The project is overwhelming and you aren't up for the challenge so you sit and sob at your desk. The bill is larger than you can pay.  The health forecast is bleak. The ache in your heart is too intense to refocus on anything but the pain. The number of items on your to do list is too vast to embark upon. The sum total of the demands from your kids would make a math teacher cringe. The housework that needs to be done is endless. You don't know what to cook for dinner and your cabinet seems bare of anything appealing. And -- on top of it all -- it's grey, cold, and rainy ... The planet seems to shift. And suddenly you are shaking .... lost.

Now what?

I've heard it all ... Buck Up, Get Back on the Horse, Rise to the Challenge, Just Do It. But what if none of those seem to fit? What if today, you stall ...

Ok. Stall. Break down. Cry. Disconnect. Take time. Create Space. Assume Child's Pose or the Fetal Position in the corner and lock the world out.  Venture off on your own as long as you need to ... just remember to breathe.

Believe it or not, it is OK to fall apart.  No, the pieces may not go back together the way they once were. Sometimes superglue isn't the answer. Some things can't get fixed. Sometimes, you have to remodel. Adapt. Cope with what comes or doesn't come next. Restructure a new you ... a new something. But, first you have to allow the old one to collapse. Accept the things you may not change. And, ya can't build on a damaged foundation. The Episode That Changes Everything may be the lead in for a whole new story line. You may not be ready for it at the moment. But as everyone knows, The Show Must Go On.

Ready or not, here it comes.

Mr. Rogers used to say "It's okay to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you." He knew what he was talking about.

As Alexander noted in the brilliant children's storybook Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day  "Some days are like that, even in Australia." That's no work of fiction. That's truth. Oh, somewhere deep in side, your recognize that things will shake out. It's not cliche -- it just takes time. The only thing constant is change. You know you have to lose sometimes They tell me when I lose then I eventually appreciate the stuff I win more. (Yeah, okay. But I'd rather not lose.)

A friend of mine posted this thought on FB: "As I look back on my life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better." Brilliant message. I can embrace that. Sometimes I just need a little time to mourn first.

No, sometimes things just don't flow the way you'd like. Sometimes you have to fight the waves and work harder against the current. Not every day is a Margarita and floaty in Key West. Some days, you swallow too much salt water. Some days, you get discouraged. Some days, you just can't grin and bear it. Some days it just hurts too much. Some days, the Episode That Changes Everything plays despite your best efforts.

What works then? A book without any emotional intensity. A simpler TV show that doesn't remind you of anything you are going thru. A craft project to focus your energy. A workout. Cooking. Baking. Cleaning. A round of golf. A run or a brisk walk. A sand volleyball game. A swim. Playing the piano or guitar. Yoga. Just something ... anything to distract.

On days like this, it would be nice if someone would reach out. Wouldn't it? Watch the Episode play out by your side. You know, just a random call. They were suddenly thinking about you. You suddenly popped into their mind. Oh, a little alone time is good. Time to find your ground. But watching it play out with someone close to you helps you get thru the whole show. On those days, give yourself permission to show your weakness and cry on a shoulder.

Unfortunately, people don't have ESP so you might have to venture beyond yourself to find that shoulder. And most of us don't show weakness well so we end up trying to manage the "episode" alone. Then we dry our eyes and add more concealer, going back out in the world when we feel smashed and shattered into millions of tiny broken shards.

buck up. 
get back on the horse. 
rise to the challenge. 
just do it. 

And no one knows. But you. That it was the Episode That Changed Everything. Up to you. Go in. Reach out. But you will get thru. And next week, there will be a new episode that makes you laugh, cry, celebrate, or grow. Your choice to watch or change the channel.

                                                                                                                                                 -- Jenni

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What Would Our Founding Fathers Say?

I voted today.

Yep. Took my daughter to the polls, reminding her about the importance of making your voice heard and about the fact the once women didn't have this right. I would like to say that I vote in every election but there might have been one or two I missed. But, it is my intent to exercise my right.

Yes, I was familiar with the candidates and the issues ... the proposal and charter amendments. And I cast my vote. I got a sticker and I wear it proudly. My daughter got one too. Wearing it today may remind her about the importance of casting her vote in the future. I'd like to hope that my leading by example means something to her.

Did my vote today matter? I don't know. I'm a bit disillusioned, I'm sorry to say. Not trying to criticize the process since I believe every voice should be counted. However, I have to wonder if this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

We the People ... in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. I learned that on "Schoolhouse Rock" as a kid. Remember those Saturday morning cartoon segments? I can sing it. Not sure if I could recite it without singing it. It fills me with pride. And then I think about our society. Our debt. The debates about who deserves healthcare and who doesn't -- and who should pay for it. The clause that enabled our Congress to take home paychecks when the rest of the federal government was without income during the recent "shutdown."

I think about a Proposal that was written and voted upon today in my home-town. A Human Rights Ordinance that is supposed to ensure that all human beings have equal rights. A proposal that will "prohibit discrimination based upon actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status."

Huh ... I'm sorry. I thought that was already clear. I thought the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, along with the many Bills of Rights, accounted for that freedom. That discrimination was looked down upon in our civilized society. Obviously I am wrong. But I find myself wondering why we need a Human Rights Ordinance when we've already been there and written that many times before.  Didn't work the first time, apparently. So what ... people will respect this law more since it's new? The old "unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" applied only to 1 in 3? 

And, by the way, how do you enforce "perceived discrimination?" 

The Bible tells us to Treat others as we'd like to be treated. Guess no one pays attention to that either -- it's not legally binding and comes with no timely punishments. So we need an ordinance to legally enforce us to stop discriminating. I don't get it. People are people. Can't we remember to play nice? Do we truly need an ordinance to tell us to play nice? If the other laws, bills and amendments before didn't work, why will this one.

And ... What does this need for a Human Rights Ordinance say about us as Human Beings? I may be naive and idealistic. I believe that people make choices but we are fundamentally good and want to do the right thing. And while not everyone out there is my best friend, I do honor their individuality ... their right, guaranteed by the work of our Founding Fathers ... to express their individuality as they choose.

I don't know about you, but it makes me sad. I have lots of different friends. Some of them are just like me (poor things.) Not many thank God. I like them as, well ... them. I like their quirkiness or thoughts that vary from mine. As an American in a country founded on the ideas of Freedom of Religion and Speech, I admire and celebrate their uniqueness, their talents, their ideas, their activities, their preferences and choices ... these all provide me with the possibility to learn and grow as a human being. They are themselves. We are not a society of clones and Big Brother. People can decided who they are meant to be. No, I don't want all causes shoved down my throat. No, I won't agree with everything. BUT, I do honor the fundamental right to choose a cause and an opinion and do with it what you will.

Don't you? Don't you believe in individuality? Don't you celebrate the right of a person to be who they are? Don't you think it's tragic that we need an ordinance to force people to accept that people are people and deserve to exist discrimination-free?

So, I voted today. And I felt a bit sad afterward that I had to vote on Human Rights. That there are people who don't feel they have Human Rights. And that 237 years after the Founding Fathers struggled to establish a nation of Individuals with Human Rights and Choice, we still haven't accomplished what they fought and bled for. 

I voted today. Did you?

                                                                                                                                  -- Jenni

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Too Much Tech?

I was talking to a friend the other day who had just set up a Twitter account. I was asked if I had one...if I tweeted or twittered. (Is Tweet a verb or a noun? He, She, It "tweets." Huh ... Guess it's a verb. Then Twitter must be the noun). 

Anyway, I smiled and said Yes, I have one. I'm "out there." No, I don't use it. If I'm really, really honest ... I have no idea how to use it, what to post, why I need to use it or want to use it or what following someone means in a non-stalker sense. Following someone seems weird ... having someone follow me just freaks me out. My son has a Twitter account. I have one to keep up to date on his ... um, tweets. But I really don't have any desire to, um, tweet anyone else. I don't even know what to tweet. Do you want me to follow you? Really? 

I get texts from my kids' schools ... reminding me about Drama Club meetings, play rehearsals and late start days. Informing me that a new weekly update is available from the principal -- this is riddled with important stuff I need to know that I won't know if I don't get out there and read it. PTA information, Drama Club Booster Meeting minutes and school event party plans are sent to me by email. My bank sends me an email and a text if my account is near to an overdrawn state and to let me know my statement is available. Bills come with email links. My family calendar is on Google.

Yesterday I called Walt Disney World to see if I could schedule a breakfast with Chef Mickey. The registration was automated. I was given options and spoke to an attendant -- a non-living and breathing entity created with key-strokes by some programmer. I didn't get my reservation. None available. The friendly automaton even checked different days in the week. Very thorough. I was given the option of speaking to an attendant only at the very end. I opted out. I was tired.

Am I the only person overwhelmed by technology? OMG ... am I becoming my parents?  I log in my daughter's reading at a Reading Rewards Web Site. I check my son's grades on-line and receive notification on-line when they are ready. My friends text or FB me to make plans. I note all activities on the Google calendar linked to my phone and computer. And I'm exhausted by all the apps I have to own and understand.

I need an app to navigate me to a business and an app to guide me around Walt Disney World's fast pass options. I need an app to check FB and pay my bills. I need an app to calculate the right tip and help my daughter with her math. And as I click and scroll and strain my eyes trying to find just the right information, I become more and more disconnected to the people surrounding me.

I text instead of talk. My son rarely uses his phone to actually speak to another human being. He texts or tweets or instagrams his messages and moves. Emails replace letters, taking us further and further out of context -- out of relationship. Remember when your parents set phone limits 'cause you talked too long on the home phone to a friend after school? Not a problem anymore. The conversations texted are short and succinct. Mundane. They really don't say anything. How do kids "relate" to each other? What will this trend mean?

I watch people on the streets as they walk around. Their heads are down and they always seem to be scrolling thru their smart phones. It is truly a wonder they are not hit by cars or do not collide with others. If they did run into another person, I question if they'd know what to say. Has human contact de-evolved so much that Touch has been replaced by Tweet and Text? When was the last time you called someone to set up lunch or a meeting? Or, did you message someone on FB? Was the entire meeting conducted thru instant-messaging or a conference call?

Not so very long ago, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. Do any of you remember Hal? We aren't that far away from Hal. The way we communicate is dominated by Hal's descendents. We are quickly becoming completely reliant on tech. And, sadly, out of touch.

I don't want to scroll, tweet, text, FB or email. I want to look into your eyes and speak to  you. Look at a piece of paper and read something NOT on a screen. I want to do less logging in and more writing down with a pencil and paper.  The amount of things I need to do electronically to just keep up with my kids, their activities and my life is completely overwhelming. My heart races and my breath catches as I think of everything I need to log into just to stay on top of THEIR lives -- let alone my own. Then, I gaze at my planner nostalgically ... that thing I used to write stuff in ... and I look at empty file folders that used to serve as a resource for information from schools and doctors and shake my head.

Maybe I am becoming my parents ... "I remember when ..." But, I'm not sure I remember when I last actually spoke to you or saw you ... Why don't you call me or ... crazy thought ... stop by for an actual face to face before I completely forget how to talk.

Logging out ..................

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Curiouser and Curiouser ...

"Who Are You?" the hookah smoking caterpillar asked in Lewis Carroll's mixed up tale about a little girl tumbling thru a rabbit hole into a convoluted yet shimmeringly brilliant land.

And what was Alice's answer? Do you know? Perhaps it's something you might respond. She said, quite guilelessly, "Why I hardly know. I've changed so much since this morning, you see."

Are you like Alice? Are you asking yourself: "Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle." Lewis Carroll would tell you to "Be what you would seem to be - or, if you'd like it put more simply - never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been or would have appeared to them to be otherwise.” 

Obviously figuring out who we are is more complex than I realized.

As I look around, many seem stymied and unable to answer the Caterpillar's very basic question, struggling to understand their hearts or their dynamic multi-layered personalities and ever-evolving idiosyncrasies. They seek counselors to help find themselves. They purchase Self Help books at dizzying rates. They complete quizzes at the back of magazines ... all in an effort to figure out who they are.

As I drove to work yesterday, I noticed a billboard that read: "It's time to be who you are." It was for a men's suit warehouse, but seriously ... what is that saying? Are people really scampering about being other than themselves? Do we sincerely seek to be less than who we are? Do we ignore our natures because of someone else's definitions? Do we choose to pretend or apply a fa├žade or assume the characteristics of a friend, movie star or another entity entirely?

Do you?

At Taco Bell, the seasoning packets give me advice. Everywhere I turn I'm told Keep Calm and Dance on or Carry On or "whatever on." I'm urged to Seize the Day while reminded by Shakespeare To Thine Own Self Be True. Alexander Pope directs me to Act Well Your Part, for There all Honor Lies. So many messages competing in my head. Is this supposed to help me define myself?

Do you KNOW who you are? How do you define yourself? By your job? Or your relationships? By the way you look in the mirror or the friends you have? By your activities or religious beliefs? By your hobbies or astrological sign? Me, I'm a "Moon Child" (aka Cancer the Crab) which means I'm Passionate and Loving, Intuitive and Imaginative yet Changeable and Moody ... and a bit Overemotional at times. Yeah, that's some of who I am but not all. 

I'm a lot of things. So are you. Do you embrace that? Do you know who you are?

I have always found myself fascinated by Alice. Personally, I prefer her journey into the Looking Glass, but then I've been trying to break through into the land on the other side of the mirror for years. But I digress ... Sorry ... Anyway, I relate to Alice's exploration of nonsense. After all, she's simply bored by a dull moment and curious enough to explore her imagination ... to boldly go where no little girl has gone before. Since she's not sure of her ultimate destination (I mean, Who IS?), she learns that any road will take her there. She only has to step forward into the unknown.

I'm a product of a loving family and good life. I'm also inconsistent at some moments and profoundly consistent at others. I'm adventurous -- an explorer at times. I'm a homebody content with a book or a knitting project and silence at others. My friends can count on me, though at times I do go off the grid. I'm many things to many people. But, I know who I am. I am me ... and that's all I know how to be. Many forces shaped my being. But, I'm content with how I'm turning out ... crazy work in progress that I am. When I look in the mirror, I smile ... except for those bad hair days or days when my make-up is just not right. But, then I shrug, Keeping Calm and Carrying On.

Like Alice, "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." On those days ... I have to admit that I have just a bit more fun. 

I have a lot in common with Alice. I get her. Curious ... restless ... adventurous ... imaginative ... able to slay the Jabberwocky and save Wonderland simply by knowing who she is and believing in herself. Just a girl surrounding by "mad people" trying to get that one cup of Tea!

Yep ... I can relate. Course, I prefer Coffee. But that's me.

Who are you?
                                                                                                                        -- Jenni

Friday, September 27, 2013

Glitter in My Veins

Some girls are born with Glitter in their veins. Some aren't. And ya know what, there are         Glitterless people out there who just want to shake it out of the Glittered.
I am one of the Glitter Girls. I like bling and hot pink. I like to be active and live a 3-D life to its absolute extreme.  I put myself out there, realizing that I will please some and not others. I write. I organize. I act. I create. I plan. I dream of going to Africa and Paris. I love hanging out with my kids. I enjoy sitting at a bar and chatting with a friend. I knit and read books of all types. I watch Scandal religiously. I treasure my family. I am intensely loyal to my friends and love deeply. I eat French fries and drink Blue Moon and Pink Grapefruit Martinis with sugar around the rim. I work out and love fun clothes and shoes. 

But, amidst my joie de vivre, I realize that along with the other glittered who share applause, laughter and fun with me come the nay-sayers who have opinions that differ from mine and may not like what what I do, create, say, act, dream, treasure, or eat. I must be aware that amidst my living out loud, there will be darts flying my way too.  Amidst great reviews are a few zingers.

I’m a creative Glitter Girl. Yeah, I will admit that I’m a bit fragile when I share my stuff. It’s scary to put yourself out, isn’t it? But, I do so anyway. To keep it buried under a rock in the darkness just isn’t the “authentic me.” My sparkle and glitter will win out and no matter that I go to ground at times -- retracting and retreating -- I’m comin’ back. Along my path, I will challenge myself, stumble, fly, rise and fall, laugh and cry, celebrate and wallow. But, what I won’t do is burst the balloons of others who are trying to rise and nurture their own sparkle. I refuse to sink to low levels and tear down others who are trying to claw their own way up the mountain. 

I refuse to undermine. I mean, as Hayden Panetierre sang, "It's a whole lot harder to Shine ... than Undermine."

Criticism and slashing takes place everywhere. In the Board Room, amidst friends, in conversations. It just happens. I get myself worked up at times when something rubs me the wrong way. I have been known to speak from emotion and challenge others. That should be okay. When I disagree or have different opinions, I just prefer to handle those moments with “the direct approach” and have a face to face to work through it and deal with it. Or, if it’s not that crucial, I chalk it up to differences in individuals and work thru it on my own. I mean, not everything can be a cause.

I’ve blogged before about the polarity and divisiveness of Facebook. That’s a place where darts, harsh words and -- in extreme moments -- "salads" are thrown with careless abandon. Why people feel thru the anonymity associated with typed words on a computer/internet-driven network that they can be unkind, disrespectful and dismissive is beyond me. It’s hurtful. It’s mean. Heck, I’d even call it cyber-bullying. Who I vote for or support or want to be with should not be grounds for unkind "comments" or un-friending. Debate me all you want, but don’t dismiss or criticize what I have the right to believe in and do.

As a person with Glitter in my veins, I put myself out into the public eye. Sometimes I receive accolades. Sometimes it’s a dart. Perhaps it’s a barrage of tomatoes. But I’m not one to hide myself, my thoughts, my ideas and my activities under a rock. I wasn’t created that way. I do some good … I try to at least. I want to. Sometimes I mess up. But I can’t learn anything unless I go the distance. So I guess I’ll get just have to deal with a salad thrown at my face at times.  Um … If you want to toss stuff at me, could ya at least send along some Italian dressing?

When I was a kid, I learned the golden rule … Do unto others as you want them to do to you. I figured that meant, be nice to others. I teach my kids that. Thought everybody learned that but from the stuff I read on FB, guess that lesson was tougher to grasp than I thought. I just ask for kindness. Is that so hard? I also learned that only those without fault should cast a stone. Since I’m far from perfect, I’m not casting any stones these days. And, for those out there who aren’t perfect either and reside in a Glass House, I’d kinda suggest ya don’t throw stones either.

Rosalie de Castro wrote: I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.

Thanks Rosalie. I will join you on this adventure into the unknown amidst slings and arrows. If you look for me, I will be the one with Glitter in my veins who doesn't give up when a little tomato sauce comes my way. My Glitter shines thru me and doesn't fade or dim.

Do you have glitter in your veins? Don't be afraid of a few tomatoes. Just Let it Shine ....
                                                                                                                                         -- Jenni

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unplugged and Off The Grid

When the going gets weird or tough ... when the Going is too much, make the decision to Stop ... to Unplug ... and to Go Off The Grid.

When your world is rocked and the earth beneath your feet shakes like the Great San Francisco ‘Quake of 1906 …. Move cautiously away from shifting ground. Don’t make any big decisions. Don’t react … Retract.

When the demands coming at you are too much … Breathe and Quiet down. Retreat.

Life can sometimes give us more than we can handle. Something happens to "break the camel's back" and you look around in confusion, not knowing which way to turn. Something you weren't expecting blows up in your face and you're left wondering what the hell happened. To figure it out, look inside first. And step away from the flames.

Used to be easier … going off the grid. All you had to do was unplug your land line and you were “poof” …. Gone. But now there’s more out there to find you.
  • Turn off the cell … do not turn it on vibrate or airplane mode. Just turn it off. Put it in a drawer and let it rest.
  • Ignore Facebook. My kid tells me it’s dead anyway. So, don’t open it up. Allow your name to appear for others without the Green Dot for awhile. Resist the urge to check for messages.
  • Don’t Text or Instant Message or Tweet or update LinkedIn or post to Instagram or Pinterest. 
  • Unplug your land line … if you still have one.
  • Avoid the temptation to “surf” the ‘Net. Or shop on-line. Let your computer go quiet.
  • Don’t send emails. If you have bills sent to you by email, take care of them. But get off the computer. No mass emails. No lengthy chats.
When life sends you a roadblock or a redirect, it’s okay. You will get thru it. This is just the universe’s way to cue you to Assess what is truly important and Take some time for you. With the numerous electronic gizmos buzzing for your attention and response, your only way to go quiet and reassess your values and deepest needs is to go off the grid.

Decide what is important to you and to your happiness without the influence of the outside world or clamoring posts cluttering your mind. While you insulate yourself and nurture your bruised and tired spirit, here are some suggestions: 
  • Activate your imagination with a good book. Sit in your favorite chair with a cozy blanket. Light a candle or a fire in the fireplace. Don’t allow anything to distract you from this time.
  • Start a home project … perhaps something you keep putting off. Or clean your place from top to bottom – maybe even the windows or kitchen cabinets. Put on some music and get your house in order.
  • Go into the kitchen and try a new recipe. Cook a nice dinner or bake a decadent treat. Light candles on the table and pull out the fancy tablecloth. Eat on china for a change.
  • Take time to craft. Me, I like knitting. But there are plenty of options … quilting, crocheting, sewing, needlework, scrapbooking, painting, pottery, sketching etc. Choose something you love or try something new.
  • Instead of flipping channels, pull out a full season of your favorite TV show. (I’m choosing Scandal and a glass of red wine.) Select something that disconnects you for a while so you can get back on solid ground. Something that nurtures your spirit and makes you happy. 
  • Workout. Yoga is a great choice to center your mind and body. A long run or a bikeride gives you a chance to get outside and absorb Vitamin D and fresh air. Just do it, as Nike said. Whatever it is. Exercise is a great choice to get you back on track.
  • Write ... Buy a nice journal and jot down your thoughts. Write a blog or a story or get your ideas on paper.

Resist the urge to use Alcohol as your escape route. Going off the grid can be good for your soul but it isn't a time to wallow in booze.
It’s okay to Retract and Retreat. It’s okay to step away from people and posts and publications. They aren’t real company anyway. Instead of relying on them, look deep inside and find your own way to stay connected … both with yourself and the people you care about and who truly care about you. 

Go off the Grid when you need to. No excuse needed. And when you come back ... if you choose to come back ... take each moment one breath at a time.
                                                                                                                                -- Jenni