Friday, July 19, 2013

540 E. Harrison Street

I have a chronic case of Hurry Sickness. It's been documented by family in countless conversations and communications. It's been noted by my children. It's a part of me ... that whirling dirvishness that finds some twisted pleasure in spinning like a tornado instead of blowing gently about like a breeze from the ocean.

However, in the summertime I have discovered a cure. In the early mornings I sip my coffee a bit more leisurely at ease on the patio. In the warm afternoon air, I savor the bliss escaping with a good book. In the evenings, I take a walk and listen to my iPod. I find pleasure in seeking out warm weather tunes that play as I clean or cook. In July & August, I withdraw from the busyness symptoms. The hurried pace of my life is replaced by more solitude and silence. By simple pleasures enjoyed with family and friends. By an ease that can exist uniquely amidst warmth, sunshine and the drama of summer storms.

Perhaps this is a result of summers spent with my grandparents. The unhurried pace of life at 540 E. Harrison Street offered a completely different experience. There I was content to walk and talk with my grandfather and to help my grandmother with the from scratch meals she prepared in an air-condition-less kitchen. There reading a book outside as I sat in the clover and watched the bees was the best way to spend an afternoon. There afternoons at the park were followed by leisurely meals at Poe's Cafeteria where we visited with all the relatives and friends my grandparents knew from that small town in southern Indiana.

I listened to records and played with toys. I didn't spend a lot of time inside as I recall and little to no time -- except for the treat of Saturday morning cartoons -- in front of the television. Laptops and Smartphones were non-existent. But picnic lunches after church and singing during car-rides bring a smile to my heart portable DVD players and a Nintendo DS will never touch.

At 540 E. Harrison Street, we spent evenings around the oak wooden kitchen table playing games -- a card game named Liverpool Rummy could take 3-4 hours. And after lights out, my brother and I would sneak downstairs and sit outside the swinging wood kitchen door and listen to our parents and grandparents laugh and talk. My grandfather would smoke his pipe on the back porch. Popcorn would be made on the stove. I remember the meals ... my grandmother would make these amazing green beans ... homemade beef and noodles ... fried chicken ... and PIES. Oh how I miss her pies.

None of this could happen without a leisurely pace. Without an unhurried life. Without an empty cloth calendar whose only purpose was to show the days ... there was no lengthy list of to do's or places to rush to. From scratch cooking and simple pleasures ... they need time devoted to them. They deserve time. And the benefits we receive when we devote to them are immeasurable.

So in late July and August, I honor the memory of 540 E. Harrison Street by knitting, reading, relaxing with my family and friends, walking, talking and just plain slowing down to notice the stuff I can sometimes get too busy to notice other times. And, perhaps someday the 540 E. Harrison cure will expand into other months of my life. I would like to be a breeze instead of a tornado. There is always the possibility I can find an easier approach to my tornado tendencies ... anything is possible.

Wanna join my at 540 E. Harrison Steet ... just for a little while?
                                                                                                                                                                         -- Jenni

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Words To Say ...

There is a woman who stands outside the Post Office every day, collecting money for the Royal Oak Animal Shelter. Rain, Sun, Snow ... doesn't matter. She's there. She has something she believes in and stands outside sharing her mission with anyone who cares to listen. Or donate.

I walk by her a lot as I travel around Royal Oak for work or to yoga or to shop or eat or whatever. I smile at her. I exchange a few words. I don't necessarily donate money as I walk by every time, but I do make eye contact and speak. I don’t even know her name. But I recognize that she has something to say as she stands there and I want to let her know I honor her stance.

The other day, I attended a church service led by a dear friend of mine who is now a retired minister. He has been and will always be a mentor of mine. I would sit at his feet anytime I could and listen to him preach. I would gladly debate, discuss, and exchange perspectives ... learning along the way. During the church service ... it was a Methodist service by the way ... he mentioned both Buddism and Judaism, honoring the words those religions have to say in his own message. He has always had an amazing, reflective and open mind. He has always had words to say that are worth hearing.

Many of us have words to say. I choose to say them on "Jenni's Corner." Like the girl in Beautiful Creatures, I see words all around me. Poems. Stories. Quotes. Ideas. They have power and energy to connect or disconnect. No ... that isn’t exactly true. The words don't have the power. The way people hear and interpret and respond to the words GIVES them power. I know many people who post blogs or commentary on Facebook or other Social Media. Sometimes, their words result in people removing themselves from their mailing lists or un-friending them. Such a strange concept. But it’s just an example of the Power of Words.

Like the woman outside the Royal Oak Post Office, these are just people who believe in stuff and note their thoughts in print or by taking a stance outside a building, collecting money or raising awareness. Okay, there are some who use words aggressively and get “in my face.” Not such a big fan of those. I was always told you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and choose a gentler way to express my thoughts. But, they have words to say too. I just might opt to steer a little clear of them.

But then, with all the words flowing, do we listen? I’ve read that "we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” (Never knew that is an actual statement made by Diogenes Laertius ... just thought it was a saying my mom used with me.) But, if I’m honest, I recognize that I’m much better at speaking than hearing. The other day I was hanging out with a friend. He was speaking. Before I knew it, I cut him off. He smiled politely, nodded and listened. Truly listened. I could see in his eyes that he was truly focused on my words and that gave me pause … That discovery made me look a little closer at myself. I need to become a better listener.

If people have words to say, they deserve to be heard. Not cut off or interrupted. Not redirected. Not brushed aside or deleted. Not abused for the difference of their opinion. We won’t always agree. Debates may ensue. But listening to each other shows a respect that seems to be neglected as we bash people or delete Facebook comments that conflict with our own.

Ernest Hemingway stated “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Such an interesting and sad thought. Better still is Stephen Covey’s observation that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

Lauren Oliver, in her book Delirium, wrote “I've learned to get really good at this - say one thing when I'm thinking about something else, act like I'm listening when I'm not, pretend to be calm and happy when I'm really freaking out. It's one of the skills you perfect as you get older.”  

I can do that. Smile and be thinking something else. Talking on the phone and typing on my computer. But then I’m not really present for the other person. I’m not honoring the words they have to say.  If I want people to honor mine, the least I can do is honor what they put out there. And, I kinda wanna do better than just phone it in.

I guess I’m discovering that I selected the people who surround me for the intriguing people they are … for the uniqueness they offer whether I agree with everything they say, believe in or do or only a little bit of it. I assume that by honoring their thoughts and listening to what they have to say that I might become wiser through that experience.  Listening is an attitude that comes from the heart … an authentic desire to share with another human being.

So Yes, I have Words To Say … but I want to hear the Words You Have To Say, too.

So ………….. ?????

                                                                                                                        -- Jenni

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ticket to Ride ... When I Read ...

I have a book that fascinates me. I want to devour it. But ... at the same time ... I don't want to read it too fast. Instead, I savor each and every morsel and digest both the hidden and direct messages. From the very first words of the very first sentence, I was drawn in.

It takes place in Africa -- a place that has long held me in its thrall. When I read it, I'm there. Walking the plains. Feeling the long grass. Watching the golden sunrise sink into the lake in a burst of red fire. Smoothing the red dust from my skin. Climbing onto the veranda and gazing out into the landscape stretching out warm and wild before me.

In the book, I can become the heroine ... be she innocent or femme fatale. I can imagine the supporting cast and picture unique and familiar faces in the roles written for them. It becomes very personal as I journey into the pages. The real world fades around me.

The landscape and setting of this particular book captivates me ... drawing me deeper and deeper into the pages. There are times I'm convinced that I'll just disappear into a book someday. That my children will walk out onto the sun-porch looking for me but find only an open book where I once sat.

I'm grateful that a book can take me on an adventure ... on a journey that I've long wanted to take. Not every book can do that, but there are some that truly transport me. The images in my mind are strong ... the book seems to call my name and beckon me to open its pages. To return to it.

I've heard it said that a book can be a Passport to people, places, ideas and experiences. New ones. Familiar ones. Characters on the pages become friends that beckon me to follow them. Quotes from characters litter the pages of my journal and influence conversations and essays. Become fuel for my curious and busy mind. Books are inviting, using nothing but my mind as the transportation device, exercising my imagination and senses. For a few dollars -- or with a waive of my Library Card -- I discover myself taking the most magnificent journeys ... experiencing fascinating and magical places.

Movies can't do that. TV shows can't do that. Those mediums specifically show me how to imagine something. Define the character visually. Tell me what he or she sounds like. My imagination takes a holiday.

But with my book, I imagine the scenery with only the words as the catalyst. With my book, I pack up only the people or items I wish -- or leave them all behind -- and experience Africa.
Wanna go with me? ... pick up a book. I'll find you ...
                                                                                                                        -- Jenni