Sunday, August 30, 2015

On Fractionated Coconut Oil ... and Life

Last week the server at work began to experience a personal crisis. One minute I'm typing along using files from the shared i:drive. The next minute all I could access were two documents in the 2014 Community Awards folder ... not much use as I was working on the 2015 event.

To make matters worse, I lost Internet access and email access. Wi-Fi- sputtered and I couldn't access email on my phone even with my own personal data! Talk about Frozen in place. It absolutely threw me.

Now, we KNEW the Server was failing. Our technicians were due to upgrade and make necessary enhancements the next day. Good thing, right? Well ... sort of. Their arrival and work in our small office was nearly as disruptive. I still couldn't get anything done. One minute I'm typing up a press release and then the next I'm ejected from my desk to "upgrade my email to Office 365" -- a program that I'm gonna need to sort through and figure out come Monday.

So, there I sat with pencil and paper, writing out "stuff" without actually having "stuff" to look at. Talk about disruptive!  I was fractionated and unable to do much but meander and plan for the next week ... when I hope all goes back to "normal."

Life is like that ... fractionated ... divided, separated ... broken up by changes in technology, people, health, responsibilities and so on. It's not necessarily or always a bad thing ... fractionated. It just breaks things up. It alters the flow.

As all this "work" stuff happened, I was trying to connect with a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Texts, messages, calls ... but no face time. As human beings we crave connection. Rick Springfield got it right when he sang We all need the Human Touch. Loneliness, feelings of isolation and confusion are rampant in this country with people relying on technology, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and "social" media to keep them close to each other. All this has an impact though ... at least it did on me. The disconnect meant I was not grounded. I felt I'd lost my joy and my sparkle, leading -- I must admit -- to a bit of depression and moodiness.  It happens ... when I feel disconnected from people I care for.

See Facebook posts and texts are no substitute for the Human Touch. At least not for me.  I need to look into eyes and touch others to feel connected to them. I need time to talk face to face. As I contemplated this fact, lyrics from an old Olivia Newton-John song kept playing in my mind:  You don't need no psychiatry, come on baby you can talk to me. Cuddle up on the couch with me, we can talk on night for free ... 

Talk. Touch. Time. Eye contact ... that truly gives me Energy, Joy and fosters Creativity, grounding my Spirit and nurturing my Heart. Gonna go out on a limb and say that I don't think I'm alone here ... 

The other day I walked by a woman waiting for her car outside of Jax in Birmingham. I had just had a wonderful manicure from a dear friend who started her own business about 18 months ago -- a business which has become one of the Top Spas around. The Beach House Day Spa and my friends Michele and Lauren save me oodles in therapy! Time there gives me the human touch as well as time to talk, laugh and share. And as I was feeling fractionated, I really needed the human touch, eye contact and people who "get me" and genuinely care -- people who also share their own challenges, thoughts and joys with me. It's a two-way street with active listening!

Anyway, back to the woman. She had on a beautiful bright pink dress. It looked truly stunning on her. So I took a moment to compliment her. The look on her face ... the way her eyes brightened. Well, it was as though a rush of energy shot between us. I could almost see that energy. I watched her stand a bit taller and smile as she thanked me for the compliment. It took nothing but a smile, eye contact and a few words from me. But the impact on her ... it was powerful. I don't know where it went from there, but I suspect it might have touched others in her path that day.

We're so busy. We're so self-oriented. We're glued to posting our Status using a program that gives us no emotional support. But the benefits for reaching beyond ourselves and our keyboards/smart phones to touch others is immeasurable. I'd rather Talk to you than Message you. Look in your eyes. Hear your voice.

About a month ago, I began to experience a resurgence of an anxiety issue I'd had in the past. It seemed unrelated to anything going on in my personal life, but it affected me quite dramatically. As a Type AAA control freak, I sought ways to banish this "drama." Quick fix other than turning to prescription meds. And I began to learn there was another option.

Unbeknowest to me, there was an entire world of Essential Oils out there that worked cooperatively to aid the mind, body and spirit. There are oils and combinations to counter headaches and migraines, sore throats and sleep issues, anxiety and focus. There are oils that work to enhance creativity -- I'm actually diffusing two now that seem to be having quite a positive impact on a creative block I've been suffering lately. 

Oh you may scoff all you like. But my son had a migraine Monday, so I administered the recommended blend of essential oils. Well, I've never seen such a rapid transformation. He is typically out for hours -- sleeping in the dark with horrible light sensitivity. And, when he finally awakes, he throws up and moves slowly. Well, the correct formula of oils saw him up and about and out with his friends within 30 minutes.

With essential oils, you break some of them down to allow them to go further or create a "blend."  Fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil ... all aid these potent alternative tools cooperatively to allow them to last longer or even work better.  Sure, there's no medical backing but if you consider that in "olden times" (and I'm not talking about when I was a kid) most medicinal treatment derived from plants. There is a lot of supporting documentation about this option. Google it ... I dare you. (Better still, call me and I'll tell you more!)

Anyway, fractionated coconut oil is my preferred carrier oil (that's what it's called) to use with my own oils. And it helps me and my own experiences ... 

Back to the office and the technological drama ... back to the struggles with time and to do lists and people I couldn't connect with etc etc. Life gets fractionated. People aren't always there to get us through. People can't always make time or find time for me ... or for you. Sometimes, we are on our own and sometimes we feel disoriented, lonely or even sad. 

That is life. So you have to find something deep within yourself to push thru. When things get fractionated -- and they will -- we have to change our own inner dialogue. We have to change the message we're telling ourselves and get out of our self-created "rut." We can decide not to fall apart or lose our joy based on the behavior of a server or a family member or a friend or a challenging project or a tough yoga pose .... or (fill in the blank).  We have to remember that whatever is happening it is not permanent ... it will change. We can decide not to allow it to fractionate us ... 

We possess the power to change how we look at Life and its many fractionated moments -- not good, not bad. Just broken up at times.. We can decide to select a new outlet or project. Call a different friend. Workout. Bake. Create a new playlist and pump up the volume. Unplug and go camping. We can even reclaim our joy standing up on a friend's speed boat and feeling the wind rushing through our hair as the stresses or sadness or to do drama flies out behind us to be absorbed by Lake Michigan.

My Granddaddy used to say: Life it do get tedious. Well, Life it do get fractionated. How you deal with it ... what essential oils and blends you add to your life ... what projects or other people you find to get you through fractionated days ... that's what counts. 

That's living with joy, purpose and discovery. Continuing your adventure and choosing to respond instead of react. That is your tool to counter loneliness, drama or crashing servers. 

You can't always get what you want (said the Rolling Stones) ... but it you try sometime, you just might find ... you CAN get what you need. And that's pretty damn cool and empowering ...
                                                                                                                   -- Jenni

Monday, August 10, 2015

Whooo ... are ... you???

Curiously this morning, I'm thinking again on the nonsensical yet very earnest story of Alice in Wonderland. Alice is my favorite character in literature. I admire her questioning nature, her determination and her willingness to leap into the Rabbit Hole fearlessly. I love her desire to explore and accept what happens to her. I love that she is Curious. I've read both her stories repeatedly. And ... once upon a time I sought a way into her looking-glass myself ...

In Lewis Carroll's nonsensical world, there resides a caterpillar. He is now, thanks to the cleverness of Tim Burton, known as Absalom. And his voice echoes in my head -- sounding, not surprisingly, very much like Alan Rickman. And his key question applies not only in a nonsensical land to Alice, but to each of us. No matter whether we are 3" tall and standing beside a mushroom or 6' tall walking down the street, we must consider a very personal and sincere question, as only we can answer it genuinely ...

Intriguing and not easily answered, is it?

Hamlet examined this very question in one of his many contemplative monologues, lamenting: What a piece of work is a man ... How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust??

Bringing us back to The Caterpillar. Whooo ... are ... you? he asks in his breathy tones. The answer, even for Alice, was more complicated than she first realized. And, so it is with each of us.

Whooo ... are ... you? Perhaps you are many things, making the answer elusive. Mother or Father ... Wife or Husband ... Significant Other ... Lover ... Actor ... Athlete ... Writer ... Director ... Traveler ... Explorer .. Poet ... Doctor ... Lawyer ... Indian Chief? Perhaps you have a job ... or career, in the home or outside its four walls. Perhaps you have a hobby or a passion. Perhaps you like to garden or dance. Perhaps you teach or guide others at a school or other facility. Perhaps you are an animal lover or retired after many years in the work force. 

Your beliefs affect who your are. Your values too. Your goals and your hopes. Your deepest longings and desires. Your habits and addictions. The music you listen to and the books you select. All these things shape who you are ... all these things add depth and pieces to the puzzle that is you.

There are so many possibilities and responses, leaving the Caterpillar's question floating in the air. 

Are we who we want to be?

Are we who others need us to be?

Or ... are we both? And did we set aside who we are for the ease and comfort of others ... or the ease and comfort of ourselves.

In the 1970's, Sally Field played Sybil, a woman with multi-multi personality disorder. She had so many personalities even her therapist, played by JoAnne Woodward, didn't truly know them all.

On the popular HBO series Game of Thrones, we meet a man with many faces ... Jaqen H'ghar. He can be all things or no one. And his true face and motives are as unclear as why our favorite characters seem to die off all too quickly.

In these "dramas," we catch glimpses of a deeper truth ... the complexity of human nature. We are each of us a Sybil, with many characters lurking inside and awaiting a chance to come into the light. Based on the situation we find ourselves, we become the personality and character that fits the occasion.

We are each a Jaqen H'ghar, sometimes showing our face and other times hiding our true selves and donning the image our immediate situation needs -- the one we select that depicts the image expected or required. Sometimes we hide our true face, fearing rejection or misunderstanding. Perhaps it becomes habit to show only that persona that fits the expectations of others or our current situation, hiding away those darker elements of our personality or sharing them only occasionally and selectively. Sometimes we choose to play the role that goes with the flow and causes the least amount of discord in our lives.

Whooo ... are ... you?

That is our greatest secret, isn't it? And some people keep that answer close to the vest, showing only the merest hint of its complexity to others. Some of us try to control it, manage it. No matter what words are uttered from our lips or what actions we perform, only we know what is natural, what comes from the heart, what is part of our performance and what is authentic.

Then, no matter what and who we think we are and what we think is right or best for us, if we are open to it we can be surprised and discover unexpected elements inside us. We can still be shaped and grow based on the words, ideas and invitations of others .... 

For example ... 

The other day, I auditioned for a beautiful play based on a book that I read and adored. I prepared and met with a friend prior to the audition to read through the script.  We were auditioning for different roles and hoping to have the chance to perform together. Then when the auditions began, the director flipped us ... seeing us in the opposite roles. After months of preparing for one part, suddenly we looked at the script and roles differently. We were surprised, yet the challenge of finding ourselves in this new light, helped us discover something new -- something exciting. Something enchanting in itself. 

Providence? All I realized is that you have to be open to live fully and find delight where you might have once found fear.

Of our true selves, only we know. And every now and then, someone touches our lives to shed light on aspects of us even we didn't know were inside. The trick, I've discovered, is to be open to the surprises that greet us each day ... to make the most of those moments and embrace life ... to be unafraid of leaping down the Rabbit Hole or into the Looking Glass and meeting our own White Rabbit and Blue Caterpillar. 

In the immortal words of The X-Files, The Truth Is Out There. You can either hide your Light (or your Dark) or leap into the Rabbit Hole, embrace each moment and person that touches your life with two hands, and continue the journey to truly discover Whoooo You Are ....
                                                                                                                           -- Jenni

Monday, August 3, 2015

On Summertime and Shakespeare ...

For many, it's Summertime and the living is easy ...

Summertime ... That all-too-brief time of year here in Michigan. The time when people explore relaxation on their boats, on their patios, on a lawn chair. Even the chores are lower-key ... mowing a lawn, weeding a garden, watering plants and flowers.

Kids are off school. People flock to the beach or go camping. It's a lazy time of flip flops, slip on sneakers, shorts, t-shirts and sundresses. 

Not so for my son and me. It's the middle of Summertime but our weeks are anything but easy. We don't lounge on the patio. We aren't taking leisurely walks or bike rides. We aren't on a boat or at the beach. And we aren't in chill out mode. In fact, our schedule is slammed.

Strangely, though, we don't mind. As odd as it may sound to you, there is a rhythm to our Summertime and a joy that arises from the often hectic work we choose to do.  

What, you ask, might that be? Can a crazy schedule in the summer elicit a feeling that All's Well? Heck, in the Summertime, most people agree that To Be busy is just not To Be. To find a calendar filled with commitments and deadline must be a Comedy of Errors. Surely an over-scheduled calendar sounds like A Winter's Tale. Measure for Measure chill-axing in July and August is the thing to do.

Let me transport you to my Summer for just a moment. Picture this ... the Moon is full and the stars twinkle. Leaves rustle easily on lofty branches in the night-time breeze and the heavens are my office ceiling. Street noise fades into the music of cicadas. The smell of popcorn wafts thru the air along with the fresh scents of suntan lotion and mosquito repellent. Around me, sounds of children's laughter blends in to tones of iambic pentameter. I'm in a park ... my Summertime office. But right now this park is far from "typical." My Park is decorated with tents and bleachers and fire flies ... with  scaffolding that climbs upward, lighting "trees" and speakers.  

There is a stage in this park. Wooden. Artistic. Different every year. It blends in to its environment, quiet ... until a troupe of actors emerge to utter words in its open air arena. And the park ... the green space of picnics and frisbee golf ... is suddenly filled with blankets, lawn chairs and hundreds of people. They come every summer to my Park to experience the words of the Bard as they were meant to be heard .... in an open air space where trees and stars form the only roof. Why do they come, you ask? Well, to hear Shakespeare. And the event would be Shakespeare in the Park. 

It's a crazy season we have, my son and I, since we signed on for Shakespeare in the Park nearly 10 years ago. Starr-Jaycee Park is our office and my now 16-year old son -- who has two years with the program on me and is happy to brag about that fact -- is working there even more than I am. He has the desire to support this program with his time and gifts too. He's passionate about it and has been known to do work he never does at home while in the Park. And when it happens to rain, he will run about covering lights and equipment just like any of the adult staff. 

To Be busy with Shakespeare in the Summertime is a blessing and something that has sparked my passion since I first became involved. See, I don't sit well. I like challenges. I like to be busy. My son feels the same. When he was little, he used to say that the two weeks of Shakespeare in the Park were "the best part of the summer."  10 years in, I play various roles in the company -- though oddly none on the stage -- while my son handles sound design. My spotlight is welcoming patrons to the Park, coordinating fundraisers, managing the playbill, and a host of other odd jobs the company founder sends my way. I'm passionate about sharing the shows, the youth education opportunities and the company with others. At a time in my life when I was honestly floundering, Shakespeare called and I'm so glad I answered. 

Oh there are times when it's a bit too busy. Isn't that always the way it is? Either you have too much time on your hands or you are rushing about. It's either To Be or Not To Be ... but 

This program gives something to me, to my son, and to others that I have never before witnessed. My daughter looks forward to KidsAct! acting "camp" every summer. And the passion it creates --the people and friendships that are forged because of it -- well, it's like nothing else.

A Light in Yonder Window broke for me ... it was Shakespeare in the Park. And I am so glad I climbed through that balcony and took a leap of faith to become part of it. I give it my heart, soul and time every summer. And it repays me in the smiles I see on others' faces, the reviews applauding sound improvements noted in the newspaper that light up my son's eyes, and the joy I get hearing laughter and applause as the words of the Bard come to life every year.

All the world's a stage and we are merely players. So go forth, my band of brothers, once more into the breach. Explore Shakespeare -- or whatever joy or passion may beckon you -- even if it means your Summertime won't be easy. 

I stood the other night outside the "theatre" and took in what this special group of people that I am a part of worked together to create. Moonlight shone on the stage, cicadas and the sounds of traffic echoed behind me, actors in lovely costuming decorated the stage and an audience brought the park to life. Yep ... despite the rush to get there, grabbing Taco Bell, Slurpees or McDonald's en route and in between productions, the disruption of family life, and the hours necessary to make this program happen ... it is so worth it. 

My son and I discovered the joys of genuine inspiration and passion in Starr Jaycee Park with Shakespeare Royal Oak nigh on 10 years ago. We come to the Park because we love what we do and we love to do it. What began with one man's vision continues to grow and touch lives and hearts and minds and souls 15 years later.  I invite you to stand in the moonlight and take it in ... 

Discover what inspires and creates passion for you and it won't matter if your Summertime isn't easy. Buy a ticket. Don't sit on the patio and allow the summer to pass you buy. Find your Park like I found mine ... 

To Be ... or Not to Be. That is the question ...
                                                                                                              -- Jenni