Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Compassion: Greater Than A Word in the Dictionary

You’re driving down the road. The Cadillac in front of you isn’t certain which lane to choose. The median seems to be a sort of PacMan trail. What is your response?

a.       The Muttering begins. I mean seriously why does this guy have a license. Pick a lane already. Then you accelerate quickly to pass the driver and note that it’s an older man which further fuels the the internal vent on the stupidity of drivers nowadays.

Or do you …

b.      Slow down. Recognize that the snow banks surrounding the road make the lanes seem a bit like a 1 ½ lane tunnel. After all, you’re gonna get where you’re going eventually. Enjoy the music playing on the radio and relax.

You’re in line at a coffee shop. The individual at the front is ordering for the Entire office and everything seems to be a special order. How do you react?

a.       Seriously? I just want a cup of coffee … How long is this gonna take? Couldn’t they have waited ‘til the line was shorter?

Or do you …

b.      Make conversation with someone standing behind you. It is what it is. Just need to chill out and wait your turn. 

You’re running a meeting or routing a communication. An individual tells you that you’ve done something that – in her opinion – isn’t right. You’ve messed up. What do you say? More importantly, what is your inner dialogue?

a.       Do you get defensive? Do you apologize? Do you take it to heart? Do you bite your tongue at the moment, mouthing something insincere, and then complain as soon as she’s out of hearing? Do you hold onto the criticism? Do you let it ruin your day?

Or do you …

b.      Accept her opinion, graciously respond and let it go? Do you try to learn something from the encounter? Do you remember that we are all of us imperfect despite our best intentions? 

Are you an A or B? Really … honestly?

When the Oscars aired on television earlier this year, a quick glance at Facebook the morning after reminded me why I was 30 days sober from that site. Comments about the dresses and breathing during songs and cracking and speeches … It’s toxic. It’s so easy to criticize in a place where you are just a picture on the page, isn’t it? But do we honestly believe that the proclaimed anonymity of a written “comment” gives us some type of permission for arbitrary remarks and unkindness? Typed words can still cut as deep as those spoken face to face.

Go ahead. Let your fingers do the walking and "Post" something mean and snippy on Facebook. Do you feel good now? Vindicated? You don't see the hurt in someone's eyes as they note the "Comment." Does that clear you of your responsibility?

What happened to compassion for our fellow man? To understanding that our view of reality -- a situation, a person, a project, an idea, a performance a ... whatever ...  is not the only one or the absolute "correct" one? What happened to respecting choices and decisions and opinions and ideas and religions and relationships that exist whether we agree with them or not? 

When did it become all about me? My inconvenience … my self-righteousness … my wants, desires and needs. When did my ideas, opinions or wishes become more relevant than someone else’s?

And what happened to Tolerance and Compassion.

Dickens’ once wrote: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.” It was a beautiful commentary on selflessness and compassion from the novel A Tale of Two Cities. Today’s audiences might note its origination in Star Trek Out of Darkness. It was also used in The Wrath of Khan and probably numerous other projects. It denotes sacrifice. It highlights the importance of looking beyond ourselves and our own personal agendas/needs/wants to a world of people in need. It inspires us to be greater than ourselves ... to be more understanding, loving, giving, forgiving and compassionate.

In those moments when we are "inconvenienced" or tempted to look at someone judgmentally, we don’t know what’s happening with them. We can't possibly understand their lives or experience or challenges. We can rage. We can disconnect. We can be cruel. Or we can choose to embrace compassion. 

I may not always get what I want. I may be denied and rejected. I may be criticized and inconvenienced. But when it happens to me, I can choose how I respond. I can choose to resist the urge to climb on the bandwagon and point out the flaws. I can look at that remark on Facebook and my flashing curser with all its destructive power and log out.

Or not.

My definition of compassion can be found very simply in the book of Micah, Chapter 8: God has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but Typed or Spoken, our words possess the power to build up or tear down. When presented with the option, I want to choose to look around me with compassion. To curb my tongue and fingers in favor of recognizing that diversity and different opinions exist. And that's a good thing.

A or B …. Where do you find yourself? Where do you want to be?
                                                                                                               -- Jenni

What Did You Say? (Listening to the Muzac Part 2)

I was driving home from a meeting the other night. It was raining pretty hard and I was singing along with my iPod, as I tend to do. Then all of a sudden I realized that I had missed my turn.

I'm looking around to get my bearings when I notice a small grocery-type store to my left. It's familiar, somehow though dark at this time of night. But the name lit up in the rain catches me off guard. My throat constricts for a moment. Then I look around and discover where I am. Emotions flair as I begin to accuse the Universe of yet another cruel joke. Once again it finds my weakness and toys with my emotion.

"Aw come on ... really? REALLY?" 

The words fly from my lips before I can stop them and my heart races.

That was my initial response. I found myself annoyed ... okay, I was mad. Hurt too. There is nothing like pressing on a wound. You know the feeling. Ever happen to you? Something unexpected comes along and triggers a wave of feeling? Well, at that instant my emotional state blocked the clarity of any message sent my way. I heard one thing ... and I felt that the Universe was once again playing with me. Antagonizing me. A little torment for Jenni ... hit her when she's down.

But then ... a little tickle as a new concept arose way back inside that "little black box." It caused me to pause and reconsider my response. See, it was a discovery that maybe what I heard and what it was actually being said were two different things. Perhaps my initial response ... my initial interpretation of the Universe's cryptic communication method ... was incorrect ... wrong! Perhaps there was something more here that I missed and needed to hear at that precise moment. Perhaps the Universe thought I was ready and open to a little something more ....

"What did you say?" I asked. (I really did ... spoke out loud to the air and everything.)

With a little help from a friend who helped me break through the static mumbo jumbo these types of communications typically exhibit, I decoded the message. I opened my heart to what it had to say. And as I came to terms with the fears in my heart I also came to terms with the knowledge that my automatic response almost caused me to miss a key truth entirely. 

See, the Universe wasn't toying with me. There was a method to the madness. And because I chose to listen, I actually got it.  I really heard it then. What I took to be a moment of torment actually turned into one of those "ah-ha" moments of discovery ... realization. A confirmation that I was in the right place. And I opened my heart to some thoughts I'd neglected and discarded.

Here's something I've been learning during a period in my life where I've existed without a firm plan, agenda, goal or intention (something that drives me nuts but seems to be necessary for my soul right now.) Events in our lives rarely follow a to-do list.  Like the people who surround us, they are unpredictable no matter how well we plan. They don't typically follow my scripted outcome preferences. They don't always happen the way I have them designed. 

Why, then, would I ever think that the Universe might communicate with me in a predictable pattern? It just isn't that simple. Since words I want to hear rarely come to my ears the way I mentally draft them, why would any of us expect the world to flow by anything but its own rules.

But, if you are open to it, the Universe DOES communicate. Angels do send messages. God is actively reaching out to each one of us ... listening, holding, and sometimes even nudging us to miss our turn to learn something .... discover something ... recall something. It may not happen the way we plan or want it to happen. But there is a Force out there that knows what it's doing.

There's only one Director in my life and I'm learning that it isn't me. So I stand in the elevator, listening to my selected Muzac -- oh yeah, sorry Universe but I'm going to at least control the playlist! -- and await the next cue. No matter what it is, I'm pretty sure it won't be the one I was anticipating, expecting, planning or scripting ...

The Universe follows its own rules. Might as well enjoy the ride and wait for the next message ...

                                                                                                                 -- Jenni

Dedicated to KL.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Time In Between

I do not believe it is an overstatement to say that many people spend time waiting for ... Something. People tend to turn their gaze to the future and look forward to ... Something Else. But in that looking ahead and beyond -- in that constant state of anticipation for what is to come -- we remove ourselves from the moment at hand and anything it might offer or teach or bring to us. We squander the "Now" in favor of the "Not Yet." 

Saturday during yoga class, our instructor Suzanne's words brought this all to mind. The stereo wasn't working so there was no music to distract us or pull focus. She spoke simply and calmly for the 60 minutes of class, reminding us to stay "present." In other words, she guided us to remain in the moment and offer the best we had of ourselves right then.  Not in 10 minutes ... not after the intense flows wrapped up and we rested. Not when we rolled up our mats and got on with the day. But during that current moment happening with whatever it might be bringing us.

At one point, we were in the midst of holding a rather difficult pose. During such times, it's very, very tempting to lose track of your intention (aka your mantra or goal that day) and anticipate what's coming next. It is tempting to long for that second where you can finally move into something different ... something easier. That instant when you flow to a new pose or even rest. So when she stressed the importance for us to focus on our intention and stay in the present, I had to adjust my thoughts and find something stronger inside myself in that specific moment. There was no music to turn my attention to. Just me standing on one leg arm in the air and my crazy, busy mind.

How often do you find yourself looking ahead to something else? Perhaps at work you anticipate going home and relaxing on the couch with a book or TV show. Perhaps that grocery list or chore list fills your mind. Maybe at home you look forward to getting out of the house with a friend. At a restaurant, you place your order and await delivery of your food. In the morning after a late night, you stare intently at the coffee pot hoping it will brew faster. At church you wait not-so patiently for the minister to wrap up his sermon so you can go home and take that bike ride or long walk. In the winter, you look forward to the green of spring. When spring arrives, you long for the warmth of summertime fun. After 12 weeks with kids at home, you long for the time they go back to school and the leaves change colors ... and so on and so on.

As an actor, I await the announcement of the newest season. I read plays and look ahead, planning what I might audition for. I prepare for an audition and look forward to the day it finally occurs. I audition and await the casting. I get cast and await the commencement of rehearsals and eventual performances ... or ... picture a flow chart here ... I don't get the part and start the process all over again. There is always something just ahead or a little bit out of reach to entice and distract me from the dullness or the overly challenging aspect of today.

It seems our attention is constantly tempted to look ahead to something beyond the "now." We are obsessed with the start of something new or different or more interesting or more exciting or more challenging or less challenging or at least more intriguing than what is currently happening to us. The Not Yet is always better, right?

In Slow Flow Yoga, we hold our poses for lengths of time. Certain poses are more difficult. There are a couple I must admit that I sort of dread ... I know they are coming and I find myself steeling myself for the instruction to move to a place I'm not really excited to move to. But, when I turn my focus into dread or looking ahead to what might come, I completely lose anything I might find in the "now."

It's okay to set goals ... to plan ahead. To dream. Like most people, I like to have stuff to look forward to. But, to do so at the sacrifice of the "present" causes us to miss out on all the benefits of the Time In Between the Now and the Not Yet. 

When I hold that challenging pose and focus completely on the current moment, I find strength and calm I didn't know I possessed. When I smile amidst the difficulties, I learn about myself and my capabilities. 

In today's fast-paced society, we want the good stuff now. But what if the "Good Stuff" is truly what is happening amidst the moments we neglect as we turn focus ahead to what is yet to come? Perhaps you can grow your career with the help of that challenging work project. Perhaps you can enjoy the coffee a bit more when you grind coffee beans and savor the aroma. Perhaps your spirit will learn something if you genuinely focus and listen to the minister's words. Perhaps you might see things you typically miss when you truly watch the change from grey to green and allow the warm-up to happen at its leisure.  Oh, it will whether you take the time to experience it or not. But perhaps if you take time to laugh and play with your kids during the "long summer vacation," you will realize what an ongoing adventure parenthood can be before time zips by and your kids move on and out.

My grandfather Willard S. Carmichael could often be heard to say, "Life do get tedious." But he would say that with a smile as he smoked his pipe and took his only granddaughter for a walk around the neighborhood. Amidst complaints of boredom, he would walk slower and point out a beautiful bark-free sycamore tree to that granddaughter. During the long-drive to hiking trails, he would lead his family in song. And it was these Times In Between that remain the most precious in her ... in my mind.

So, when life gets tedious or perhaps a bit more challenging than you'd like, do you turn your gaze Over The Rainbow like Dorothy? Is the anticipation of summer dulling your experience of spring and the simple elegance you can identify in watching your garden grow? Or can you find the best of yourself in the present moment? Can you resist the draw of the yet to come in favor of what the "Now" brings to the table? When you are caught in between the Now and the Now Yet, where will you turn your gaze? 

And what will you learn and discover if you stay present? Strength? Joy? Peace? Perhaps even something more that you didn't even know to expect or plan for ... The Time in Between isn't just a means to an end. It's the Now.

The Time in Between helps us discover who we truly are. If you settle in there, what might you find? I mean, why squander the present in favor of what may never come anyway? And if and when Something or Something Else does come, who says it's better than what we have right now? 
                                                                                                                     -- Jenni

Monday, April 14, 2014

Disconnected & Disoriented

Last Saturday, my cell phone broke.

Sincere apologies to my 8th Grade English teacher Mrs. Gordon from Valparaiso's Thomas Jefferson Junior High for using the passive tense. That reflects a subtle intent to avoid my own role in the demise of said Motorola Razor. But seriously, it had been locking up and sending out shut down reports more often than this year's school district. The slight tapping on the screen Saturday at 11am was my frustrated attempt to get it back on track.

I didn't know my fingernail was so strong ... 

Anyway, last Saturday, my cell phone broke.

I was on my way out with a friend when the unthinkable occurred. So I couldn't do anything immediately. There I was downtown Detroit with no way to communicate with the outside world. No way of knowing if someone was trying to reach me. Nothing I could do at that moment would inform me if I'd been messaged on Facebook or texted by my son. What if someone new was following me on Twitter? What if my daughter wanted me to bring home milk or some other grocery item, how would I know? How annoying is that? What if someone wanted to make plans? NO one calls my home number. I don't even check my messages on my home phone. No idea why I keep it except I've had that same number for 25 years and I can't bring myself to part with it. My kids don't even use that phone. I'm pretty confident only telemarketers realize I have a land line. But, anyway, there I was ... disconnected and discovering how completely reliant I was on an item that fits in the palm of my hand to foster, nurture, preserve and protect my human encounters.

This once state-of-the-art device linked me with friends, family and possibilities. But it was now a useless paperweight displaying a screen the shade of a newly acquired bruise. I looked at it confused and discovered how quickly I became distracted, wondering if someone had called, emailed, messaged or texted. 

It was completely disorienting and disconcerting. And as I looked at this defunct electronic device, I realized how dependent I was on an item that charged me monthly for data and air-time (I mean, those aren't even tangible, measurable things!) I wondered if I would need a 12-step program to help me deal. I didn't know how to adjust to suddenly finding myself cut off from the world. And if I did....if this little device had so much power over my mental state ... perhaps disconnection might not be such a bad thing. Like pulling off a band-aid, a quick tug is best.

We all carry these portable transmitters in our purse or pocket or hooked to our belt and they make us globally accessible 24/7. We can be reached in our cars, in our kitchens, and even as we carry out our trash. People walk down sidewalks scrolling phones, eyes glued to a screen instead of noticing the people or places they walk by. They sit in restaurants with friends -- on dates -- checking email and texts. Our phone is a constant companion, held securely within the palm of our hand to keep us on call all the time. 

At a bar one evening, I watched a group of 20-somethings -- both male and female -- oblivious to each other as well as the scantily clad waitress trying to sell them various "shots." Every single one of them was engrossed in something on their phones. They didn't seem to notice each other and weren't talking. Their fingers were too busy typing or scrolling. 

Our smartphones have the power to disconnect us from the human experience.

I am guilty. I was distracted by my phone while I was out with a friend! What does that say? This gadget is more important than real-time relationships? Why would I spend my energy worrying about whether someone was trying to connect with me when at that very moment I was disengaging myself from an actual connection?

It was a harsh discovery. So I took a deep breath and slipped the damaged phone into my purse, making the choice to enjoy my the time outside. The Detroit River ... Corktown ... some underpass that was beautifully graffiti-ed. I enjoyed the laughter and the conversation ... the chance to look around and discover places I'd never seen and talk with my friend. I opened my eyes and enjoyed a full day without my cell phone to undermine that time.

I survived 6 hours on Saturday completely disconnected from the "virtual world" and instead connected with the real one. Okay, I did eventually get a loaner from Verizon until my new phone comes in. And I did breathe a sigh of relief to have an htc in hand (quickly checking messages and texts) to keep me accessible to the people I care about. But my dependence on phone (a piece of technology designed to keep me connected to the world yet fundamentally doing the very opposite) almost caused me to miss out on a real-life moment. And in making that discovery, I wondered how many people were like me ... allowing their "smartphone" to disrupt their own human encounters as I had almost done.

Of course, I'm not suggesting you bang your phone with a super-strong fingernail (or steering wheel) to break said dependency. But, if 6 hours "out of network" is the only way you can truly enjoy "connecting" in a face-to-face non-technological way, perhaps you do need to explore a 12-step Addiction program ... 
                                                                                                                           -- Jenni

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Taking Off The Training Wheels

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a personal adventure. I took a trip with a friend. Not "just" a trip, but a trip out of the United States. A trip that required me to stop postponing the hassle and expense in updating my passport. A trip to a place I hadn't heard of before she selected it at the end of January. A trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

I will be the first to admit that I've led a rather sheltered life. Mexico is the only foreign country that has hosted me. Oh and Canada. I'm pretty much a domestic traveler. So when my friend suggested Punta Cana in the DR, my response was a resounding "Huh? What? Where?" Not a very enthusiastic one, at first actually. But then, the day she mentioned it to me was frigid, blowing and snowing so when she told me it was sunny place in the Caribbean ... warm with a beach, I was all about it.

So, I got that passport photo taken and completed the application. And then I called the Post Office to make the appointment necessary to earn the United States approval to leave the country. My passport arrived into my hands in record time and I was good to go. Guess the U.S. was ready to enjoy a few quiet days without me. Packed light ... shorts and t-shirts, bathing suits, sundresses, flip flops, suntan lotion, my iPod and about 5 books. 

Okay ... kinda light. 

We arrived in Punta Cana at about 9pm. It was pitch black. We climbed down the stairway onto the tarmac and took a tram to the receiving area, where we paid $10 to enter the country. We collected our luggage (well, I collected my hot pink Guess suitcase tho' my friend's luggage was "misplaced" for a bit ... delivered to our hotel later that evening, much to her relief) and we boarded a shuttle to our resort. 

Now here is where it got real for me. I am an adventurous spirit. I like new experiences and places. I enjoy trying new things. Okay .... wait ... stop ... reverse ... I'm gonna make a confession here. I like to think of myself as adventurous. I like others to think of me as daring and creative and fearless. I want them to see me as brave. I can be that ... some of the time. I can project that and make you believe it's real. But ... I gotta tell you ... it doesn't always come naturally to me. I can very happily cling to the training wheels ... hide in the corner and stay silent. I like it there. It feels safe.

But here I was ... primed for the adventure of a lifetime. My heart was pounding in my chest as I boarded that shuttle ... no idea what was in store for me next.

You see, sometimes I make a determined choice to force myself out of the safety of my comfort zone. I want to choose adventure ...  challenges ... opportunities I might be tempted to shy away from. I take a few moments and give myself a little pep talk. And then I leap.

But, I have to admit I was a little nervous boarding this shuttle in the darkness and glad there were others from the good old US of A on board. I was a out of my comfort zone and weary from the travel. But then ... I gazed out the window at the palm trees and rustic manner of life in the DR and discovered the magnitude of stars surrounding me. 

Stars are everywhere, I know. But these stars were different. The constellations were in different places that close to the Equator. And in that darkness they were so bright. I couldn't stop staring. I was like a kid in the candy shop, nose pressed against the window. They were brilliant. Unlike my home in metro Detroit, there are fewer lights to block them. So, they seemed huge and numerous, glittering in the deep, deep dark navy sky.

During the day, I explored the resort. I did yoga and aerobics on the beach. I watched the crazy peacocks. I took walks on velvety sand. I swam in the salty azure blue sea, waves leaping over me ... splashing, nurturing and caressing me with soft warmth. I tried new foods (mostly successfully), President beer, European style coffee and various "specialty drinks." I napped. I read. I walked. I floated and swam. I danced. I reached out and took every moment by the fist to make the most of these 4 days in the Dominican Republic. I was gonna be Brave, darn it. I wasn't gonna "miss a thing" to quote Aerosmith.

Pretty good. I mastered the fear, I went, I explored. That earns good marks, yes? But that wasn't quite enough. I had long dreamed of swimming with the dolphins. So, I took another deep breath and leapt, booking my trip.
On the day of the excursion, I boarded a bus with a Spanish speaking driver. I was the only person on that bus. Just me. I rode out through rural Punta Cana into the wild and "rustic" overgrown area that was known as Dolphin Island. I was the first one there ... alone with people from a culture I knew little to nothing about. Then others arrived ... couples from other countries who kept commenting on how Brave I was for undertaking this adventure all on my own.

But on this trip, I had determined not to let fear get the best of me. So, as they praised my poise out there all on my own, I just smiled. It was MY adventure that way. It wasn't dependent on anyone else. I liked that. It was important to me.
Swimming with the Dolphins was a dream of mine and I was all in. So when we rode the boat to the dolphin area, I laughed as the spray hit me. When the staff said swim out to the middle of the compound, I swam. When the staff said hold on tight, I held on. When the staff said reach out, I reached out. I snorkeled with reef sharks and stingrays too. Words cannot express the rush of emotions ...

Excited and scared ... thrilled and terrified ... but overall ... Bliss.

My time in Punta Cana was amazing ... I blasted through the safety of my traditional comfort zone. I believe to grow we have to do that. To truly live, we must explore and challenge  ourselves to experience life -- all of it. We have to know when to try new things. When to take the bus even though we might feel that pang of fear. When we should hold on  even though our heart is racing. When we should let go. Life brings so many beautiful gifts our way. I don't want to miss them because I'm afraid of them ... of the consequences ... of the fallout ... of the experience.

So many people tend to spend their time anxious. They try to discover some secret knowledge to cue them in so they can know what will come next.  Prepare and plan every experience. They make lists of things to do and goals to meet. They have expectations .... things need to happen their way and meet articulated timeframes. They need to know what is coming.

If I'm honest, part of me is like that. It's safe. I like to look forward to things ... I like plans and goals. But what I've realized recently, is that so many unexpected joys have come my way from moments that weren't written in my planner. Shows not on my radar to audition for. People I didn't expect to love so much. Laughter and absolute bliss that arise when I've done things spontaneously. These joys came from surprise encounters or experiences and are some of my greatest times in my life so far.

But and this is something I'm only beginning to understand ... The only way we will truly know joy is if we Open Our Heart ... Release the Fear ... and Walk Into the Unknown.

My unknown was going to another country, climbing onto a bus all by myself and going on an adventure to swim with the dolphins. What is your unknown? Your fear? Can you let it go? Can you open your heart to what might come instead of working from a list? So much can be discovered when you take a few moments to just look out into the sky and notice the stars and wait, with your Open Heart, for unexpected bliss that might come your way. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss life. I want to open my heart. I don't want to be afraid of getting hurt. Oh, it isn't always gonna end well. I've known disappointment and pain from opening my heart, too. And I'm very sure I'm not done with pain. But I don't want to play it safe and miss life-altering, dynamic, exciting moments. On my journey, I have known incredible highs. And I hope there are more highs to come. But overall ... I've decided ... well, I guess I'd rather fall then spend all my time with training wheels on my bike.

                                                                                                               -- Jenni

Friday, April 4, 2014

So Long ... Farewell

I stood surrounded by words
embraced by spirits wishing to
share their tales ... their stories.
Immobile, hearing only my breath 
amidst palpable silence.
The eerie quiet
somber ... reflective even.
No laughter or common chatter.
No voices heard.
The very lack of sound shrieking volumes.
I moved so very slowly ...
as in a dream. 
A nightmare of no awaking.
Fingers touching empty spaces
and caressing bindings of what remained.
And as I wandered my thoughts implored ...
Would you have been a future friend?
a confident of my imagination?
But no response came.
Memories were conjured to my mind,
of faces and moments past.
People ... treasured seconds.
Eyes glancing up from an escalator ...
Smiles and warmth.
Treats and coffees ...
But we were Out of Time ...
The moment past. 
Warmth welled up behind my eyes
as I realized the finality.
Emotion surged.
Aching loneliness.
So very final.
A refuge ... a shelter ... a home.
Echoes of what once was so very clear
just as they had been.
I could hear the vibrations of voices .... 
words spoken ...
Feel a touch ... a hand ... a caress ...
See the smiles of yestertime ...
Everywhere ...
But these were all just shadows 
as the feeling of betrayal surged.
In a place that had once given
such love ... such hope ... such promises
of a better tomorrow.
So many will miss the welcome.
The refuge given by the simplicity of words and pages.
From bindings and stories.
Shortsighted choices condemned you, my other home.
And now my shop around the corner is no more.

                                                                              -- Jenni
                                                                              April 4, 2014