Through A Glass, Darkly

Several years ago, I performed in a Joyce Carol Oates play entitled “I Stand Before You, Naked.” (Now don’t go off on a tangent here. It was not a nudest piece!) The script featured a series of monologues — the stories of some serious screwed up people.

I recall the essence of my own monologue, the story of a repressed, socially awkward woman who had begun writing to and formed an attachment with an emprisoned serial killer. She — I — married him and defended him during my stage time, despite his horrific crimes. Though I don’t remember the other stories and characters, they were all seriously … well, let’s just keep this G-rated and say “messed up.”

One thing I recall very clearly is that despite our screwed up psyches, we uttered our truth without subtext. We had no filters and no layers. We were who we were and we didn’t need to apologize or hide. We showed our truest selves without shame.

But in today’s reality, many among us have learned to be Tentative, with layers and layers keeping others out.  They are layered to hide feelings and thoughts in case others don’t like them. Some of them — it might even be you or me — are like an onion, hiding truths so deeply we become a mystery even to ourselves and battle warring emotions and desires. Some among us speak in half-truths, hiding genuine feelings or thoughts from those who might not like what we think, believe or have to say. From those who might dislike or judge us. Layers become an M&M protective coating, sheltering us from cruelty, unkindness and an unforgiving world.

Some say what is expected. Correct responses and rapid agreement prevent discord or arguments. It’s easier to avoid conflict. Some even manifest this thinking in layering the clothing they wear, mirroring their complex psyche. Their appearance to the world hidden along with their deepest thoughts, beliefs, idiosyncrasies, uniqueness, quirkiness, etc. They fear — like middle school students — they won’t be accepted if they don’t go with the flow and keep their heads down.

I don’t know when this begins in our wacky society. People put it all out there on Social Media yet hide behind technology in doing so.  As children, we are uninhibited, spouting our thoughts without subtext. We like or don’t like. We want or don’t want. Very simple. But somewhere along the line we meet Fear and Judgement in a dark alley, they whisper doubt into our ears and we begin to hide … to layer.

How much simpler it would be if we were authentic and genuine with each other. There would be better understanding and less buried subtext.

When I prepare for an audition, I review character lines and break apart monologues. And you know what I look for? The subtext. The feelings, thoughts and words not written but spinning around in the back of a character’s psyche. For nothing is as black and white as it appears on the page.

Oh, I know some of our layers are designed to protect others. And I’m not for a moment suggesting we let it all loose without regard for the people who surround us. I’ve read posts about letting go and caring for ourselves above all else, without consideration for those in our path or surrounding us — the people who love and are connected to us in some way. I honor the idea of self-care, I really, really do. Yet I can’t embrace or get behind the  “damn the torpedoes full speed ahead”  approach that blasts and shatters esteem or relationships with people in our paths in our effort to get our truths known. We need to display a bit more regard and grace than that. Can’t we find a way to be true to our deepest needs, beliefs, thoughts, ideas and selves without dismissing the needs thoughts, beliefs, feelings and ideas etc of others as “their problem?”

My faith-based upbringing can’t support unkindness. I truly believe we can find ways to speak our truths and peel back the layers without hurting another. Kindness is crucial in our world. It’s a Golden Rule.

Perhaps the beginning of all this layering goes back to the origin of our species. No, I’m not talking Darwin but Genesis. Adam and Eve once walked in the garden naked and at ease with the world. But a little bit of extra Apple-infused knowledge and they discovered deceit, the seduction of overthinking, and the doubt of acceptance. And they hid.

So here we are. Layered up. Onions.

It’s the pitfall … the thinking of Admiral Jessup in “A Few Good Men.” Remember the scene? When pushed he exclaimed to the courtroom: “Truth? You want the Truth? Well you can’t handle the Truth.”

Perhaps we can’t handle it, bluntly spilled out like blood from a knife wound. We’re not equipped for it after years of following scripts and tip-toeing around societal expectations and norms. We fall back and hide subtext along with our authenticity and deepest thoughts. We wouldn’t be loved if we spoke them. We wouldn’t be accepted. Heck, we may have buried them so deeply that we aren’t even sure what they are anymore.

But one day, I will know, even as I am known. For now, I see Through a Glass, Darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know, even as I am known (1 Cor. 13:12).

Layers. Subtext. Onions. Perhaps that’s why peeling onions makes us cry. There’s a lot inside an onion. Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes you can only take a little at a time. But, as a Curious sort, I have to try to peel …

— Jenni

Advertisements

What’s In Your Backpack?

Many people think of January 1st as launching the “new year.” Why people choose a dreary midwinter date as the reset button and line it with resolutions, I’ll never understand.

For me, the “New Year” arrives in September with back-to-school days and the beginning of the fall season, where life speeds up after the lazy days of summer. When darkness holds sway a bit longer in the morning. When the days grow crisper and the sky is painted that silvery blue color.

I’ve always enjoyed the back-to-school prep. With it came shopping for new clothes, new shoes, that carefully selected first day ensemble as well as … school supplies!

In Elementary School, I recall going to Hooks Drug Store to buy the required yellow cardboard supply box — you know, the one with the school bus on the top where we put our watercolor paint set, crayons, and all important #2 yellow pencils.

In Junior High and High School, we ditched the yellow box in favor of a backpack and a decorative 3-ring Mead binder — the cool location to store notes from your many classes. It was expertly organized with the flick of a folder and even held lined paper.  And who could resist the 4-color Bic pen where you could select your writing color with a flick of the Bic! Yet still, the teachers required those yellow #2 Ticonderoga pencils.

In College, I chose college ruled spiral notebooks. Albion had a terrific selection with the gold school crest on the cover and matching pocket folders. No longer did I receive a “supply list,” so I selected my own writing tools: Uniball .5 micro rollerball pens in blue, black, green and red … and #2 Ticonderoga yellow pencils.

Those #2 pencils have served me since grade school. My kids have them on their supply lists and generously allow me to sharpen them at the beginning of every school year. There’s a therapeutic feeling from transforming dull pencils to a super sharp state, spinning the crank on the handle (no electric sharpener for me!) and feeling the resistance as I take the lead to a poke your eye out state.

Even though my school days are behind me, I buy myself a new set of pencils at the beginning of every school year. Mine aren’t necessarily Ticonderoga #2 yellow though. My style varies. This year, I picked up a set of navy pencils with silver stars from Barnes & Noble. I use them, along with my blue .5 uniball pens, to write lists, log thoughts and ideas in my journal and even track knitting rows and additions to my calendar and Franklin Planner. I’m particular about my writing instruments.

A few years ago, I gifted a teacher friend a set of super-sharpened pencils and a notebook to begin his school year. He too found delight in these staple items we traveled with since childhood. So, I’m not alone. The #2 pencil brings joy to a writer’s hand.

See, we tell our stories with such tools. And, no matter the hype January receives, we truly begin our stories anew each fall, reinventing ourselves with an empty notebook or on blank sheets of lined notepaper that wait for a #2 pencil to document our discoveries and adventures, our thoughts and ideas, our reports, experiments and observations.

Okay, my son may opt to take notes on his Mac, but he won’t leave home without a set of .7 PaperMate Clear Point Pencils and Pilot G2 .7 black gel pens. (.5 is to fine. .7 is just right!) My daughter requires a new set of colored pencils each September along with color coordinated, matching pocket folders and notebooks. To tell their stories, they need the right tools.

So to heck with January 1 and making resolutions on a gloomy mid-winter day when I’m recovering from holiday extravagance or a late night NYE party. The weather has turned here. Change is upon us. Whether you have kids or not, a new Chapter begins with the crisp air and shorter days. Can’t you feel it? Why not take the time now to reflect … to set intentions. To plan. To write down your hopes for the days ahead.

What will you craft on that blank sheet of paper? What do you dream? What do you long for? What do you want to change? What are you trying to let go of so you can move forward? What no longer serves you and can be left out of the next chapter? What is priceless and must travel with you to complete the next phase of your journey?

Will you use colored pencils or colored pens — or perhaps even watercolor paints  — to craft your story? Will you write it with a pen — Blue or Black? Or a #2 pencil? You decide how you express your creativity and your truth for this “new year.”

The school bell tolls. And it tolls for thee. So determine what is important to you, decide what you want to say, select the tools to help you create your story … and begin!

What will your new year bring?

                                                                                                                       — Jenni

 

 

 

Back to the Classics with Rachel

A few years ago, a friend shared with me his Classics Challenge The idea was to read books written no fewer than 50 years ago in select categories, which he assigned as the year progressed. I was very diligent the first couple of years but, I have to admit that I wavered a bit lately. Not sure where I am on the 2017 Assignments, Ron, but I’m back with Gothic Fiction/British Fiction/Woman Writer/Suspense/Classic Made Into A Movie.

Is that a category?

rachelI have wanted to read Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel for some time. Not sure why I haven’t pulled it off the shelf before now. I adored Rebecca and have read it multiple times. Frenchman’s Creek intrigued me and I also liked both Mary Anne and Jamaica Inn. But when I saw this title in New Releases, I was confused … I quickly discovered it was the new movie release edition, featuring none other than Rachel Weisz of The Mummy and Runaway Train fame on the cover. (For those of you purests, the 1952 film starred Olivia de Haviland.) Now that I’ve finished the book, I have the new movie on my to watch list.

I adore gothic fiction with its eerie shadows, candlelight and hints of subtle machinations just out of my line of sight. As a teen, I read Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt with abandon. So, this novel had my name written all over it.

The plot is told in first person by 24-year old Phillip Ashley and is exceptionally well-crafted. You glimpse where it is going, but instead of a straight paved path to the denoument, you have one set in Cornwall in an undefined year with dirt laden roads and carriages, exotic plant life and the sound of the surf pounding against rock. At least, that’s the imagery that I imagined.

Like Girl On A Train, the story is told by an unreliable narrator. Phillip is naive and has led a sheltered life, raised by his much older cousin after both of his parents are tragically killed. No, we never learn what happened to them. But, when the tale begins, seven year old Phillip and cousin Ambrose (age 27) have just gone to see a hanged man. The tale trapped me right there.

So begins a gothic Daphne du Maurier tale. Her books are resplendent with vivid imagery and description. Every word selected with the intent to ensnare you and leave you questioning your senses. She was meticulous with this creation.

Phillip and Ambrose have lead a very solitary bachelor life somewhere in Cornwall sometime in the 19th Century. The author admits to choosing to be purposefully vague with time and location. Ambrose apparently has some health issues so he travels in the colder season. And during one of his trips abroad goest to Italy, meets a distant cousin of his, Cousin Rachel.

It is clear quickly that Ambrose is fascinated and drawn to Rachel. His letters to Phillip become less frequent. And Phillip, like a petulant child, takes great dislike to this interloper. As you can probably surmise, Ambrose eventually marries Rachel. Then, begins the intrigue. Ambrose falls ill, hinting in a hastily penned letters to Phillip that perhaps something is rotten in the state of Denmark … er … Italy. Phillip races to his aid only to find he is too late. Ambrose is dead. Rachel has shut up the villa and disappeared, and his only access to information is a seemingly sinister “lawyer-type” named Rainaldi, to whom Phillip takes an immediate dislike.

Now, strangely, Phillip and Ambrose — though cousins — bear a strong resemblance to each other. Just keep that in mind as the plot grows gothic-er.

Of course, Cousin Rachel asks permission to come visit Phillip, who is determined to hate her and malign her face to face. Encouraged by his childhood friend — the very wise Louise who is the voice of reason throughout the novel — he prepares to call her out. But, upon meeting her in a chilling scene set in her “boudoir” where it is uncertain if Cousin Rachel sees his face or the shadow of her former husband, Phillip immediately finds himself attracted to this woman … an attraction that turns rapidly from infatuation to possessiveness and jealousy.

Rachel charms everyone on the estate … everyone but Louise who glimpses something more sinister in her. But, she’s the only one. Now, I’m not one to malign a woman. Women are too quick to turn on each other. And Phillip’s obsession and possessive tone make it impossible to define beyond reasonable doubt of Cousin Rachel’s true motives. Is the atraction mutual? Is it genuine? Is there something spinning behind her brown eyes, her lace veil and well-tailored mourning attire? Hard to truly say for certain. But, less I give too much away, there is an inheritence, which dear cousin Ambrose neglected to provide to his wife. And Rachel captivates everyone like a clever spider weaving a web.

“But a lonely man is an unnatural man, and soon comes to perplexity. From perplexity to fantasy. From fantasy to madness.”

Cousin Rachel is fascinatingly crafted. Even Daphne du Maurier admitted her attraction and confusion regarding this chimera of a character. Is she wicked? Is she simply doing the best she can to survive in a male dominated world? Is she manipulating everyone? Does she genuinely care for Phillip? Was there a murder in Italy? Is Phillip sucker-punched or does he see love and intrigue where there is none? These are questions I leave to the reader to determine an answer to based on their own reading of the tale.

My Cousin Rachel will draw you into its suspenseful, darkly woven pages. Unlike Jamaica Inn, it is not overdone. At least I don’t see it that way. And, as I type with the movie soundtrack playing over my phone, I find myself very satisfied with the book. Oh, Phillip’s whining and self-centered outlook wore on me while Louise’s words ring with wisdom beyond her young years. But, these differing views served to blend the lines between what was real and what he thought was real.

“There are some women, Philip, good women very possibly, who through no fault of their own impel disaster. Whatever they touch, somehow turns to tragedy.”

But is any of the Tragedy Cousin Rachel’s doing … or does it occur in the mind of a spoiled, self-centered man who knows little about women with exception of their role in fulfilling his own whims and meeting his personal desires? Ah, therein lies the rub.

I happen to like characters like Rachel — women who refuse to be defined or dominated, who turn occurrences to serve them or their needs. Women who know how to work a room. Women who are clever, playing life like a chessboard. Women who leave you wondering exactly what they want and who they truly are. Like du Maurier, Ambrose and Phillip, I fell for her charms. But, like Louise Kendall, I watched fascinated as her actions played out with artful finesse.

And that is why My Cousin Rachel remains a classic tale that will leave you riveted and wondering until that final sentence and perhaps even afterward.

– Jenni

 

 

the not knowing.

A friend and I have a favorite bar. When we go out on a girls night, it’s our go-to spot. Truffle fries to die for. Planned to met there for drinks last week. Googled to check specials. The site read: Location Permanently Closed.  Huh???

Watched a sequel to a mini-series I’d enjoyed. Discovered the majority of leading roles had been recast. Spent most of the premiere episode on-line trying to figure out what the hell happened to the original cast. No answer to be found.

I hate that. Not change. That’s expected. It’s the not knowing that gets to me. The unexplained closing. The recasting of roles. The friend who fades from my life with little more than a text. The silence from people, apparently offended or upset but perhaps just busy, without knowing what I did or could do to salvage or strengthen the relationship. The emails or requests that go unanswered. The messages left with no returned call.

I’m a curious sort, I’ll admit. And a Type A — okay AAA — organizer. I like things tidy.  I follow-up with thank you notes. I save photos and memorabilia. I keep connected to the people I care for. I even write letters, stamping them with a 49.5 cent stamp and sending them out in the mail. I enjoy closure when a project is finished and ticking off tasks when it is in process. I don’t leave anything hanging …

I did poorly in my Chem class in high school because the experiments didn’t do what they were supposed to do. I ended up with 102% error — which is highly unlikely but I did it anyway — and my Chem teacher Todd Bennethum just shook his head at my results. Even he was stymied. Why? No one could tell me. Gotta say, I didn’t love that class.

We all form expectations, relying on a logical flow. We press a button, the TV turns on. We log into an app, certain info pops onto our screens. We nurture our kids, we anticipate love, listening and respect in return. We form a connection with special people, we expect kindness, caring and authenticity and we give it.  Oh, we run into problems with all of the above at times. But we keep Tech Support on speed dial and talk through things with people important to us.

I once read that to maintain a successful relationship, three things are key.

  • Unconditional Acceptance
  • Rose-Colored Glasses
  • Lowered Expectations

In other words, accepting the people and situations in our lives for who they are and what they offer without going all cray-cray. Looking at the people and seeing the best in them, not creating glaring issues or dwelling on flaws or slights (imagined or otherwise). And lowering our expectations and avoiding unattainable ideals to set up people and relationships for success.

Okay. Gotta be honest. When it comes to people, I do have expectations. But I keep them simple. Perhaps asking for kindness, communication, a call back, a timely (doesn’t have to be immediate) response to a text, invitation or message, a “touch” or face to face time every now and then is unrealistic and places too high a demand on them. Sorry.  I ask no less of myself! But … since I am that Type A — okay, AAA — person, perhaps it could be suggested that what seems simple, common courtesy to me is a demand to others.  But dammit, when I care, I care deeply and I want to spend time with the people who matter most. If they choose to be my friend, I’d expect nothing less. And if they need something from me, I hope they know I’m here for them as well. But, the not knowing when people drift away leaves me wondering what I did and if I could have done something differently.

I find myself reviewing conversations and moments. Did the words I said register the way I meant them? Did the letter I wrote make sense? Did something I do offend? Did I misunderstand something? And, did all those times we spent together, sharing laughter and making memories resonate somewhere to remind my kids, my family, my friends and those who’ve chosen different paths that don’t include me that I cared … that I still do? Did they know how I felt? And, did I even matter to them?

And then there comes a time when you get an answer. And you know.

Last weekend, I attended the wedding of a very dear friend. She played my daughter on-stage twice and a piano student of mine another time. We had many stage moments and backstage fun. I watched her grow up to become a beautiful woman. We wrote letters. I sent her care packages and notes when she went to college. And we connect every now and then face to face.

I’m close to her whole family. Her sisters were also in shows with me and played very special roles in my life onstage and off.  And her parents were in those same shows, sharing fun and laughter, climbs up the mountain, post-show Labatt’s Blue Light, and even 6am tequilla shots after a really long cast party complete with the hair of the dog morning after walking tacos. Too many memories and times to list. They warm my heart whenever I think of them.

20604400_10155736400168746_5148786179390014193_n.jpgBut, many of those memories were made nearly 20 years ago. Time passes. You wonder if all those warm fuzzy thoughts that you found so significant were only special to you. And then, you are standing at a wedding reception watching the Father Daughter Dance when you recognize the music playing is a song from Music Man and that the voice singing is your own. This song plays for all to hear from a show you shared with the bride — her voice joining in for the final duet — and her dad once upon a footbridge. A song that connects you forever and reminds you they they love you and treasure those memories from River City, Iowa too. That you mattered and still matter. And you have your answer. Your heart grows two sizes in that moment. And all else fades away.

So I don’t know why The Pour House closed. Or why they recast The White Princess. I don’t know why my Chem experiments were riddled with errors or where that radio DJ I liked so much went.

I don’t know why some relationships get severed or fade out and others stay strong with minimal maintenance. Once in a while, you realize you did “touch” someone out there. It can happen at a wedding reception in a completely unexpected moment. Or, you reconnect with friends from Cooks Corners who message you on Facebook. You reminisce about times past with people not seen face to face for years. And then there’s that priceless moment when you find an answer to a question that’s been driving you crazy about handling and paying college invoices thanks to a little help …. ahhhhh! Bliss.

So that’s life, I guess. The not knowing why or how far your presence has seeped into the corners of another. The not knowing why you didn’t get the part or why you don’t get a reply or phone call from people you once thought of fondly. The not knowing why some friends move away yet still shine a true light reflecting a continued presence in your life while others you thought were strong sputter out in the non-nurtured darkness. The not knowing if all the lessons taught, adventures shared, trips to Barnes & Noble and outings with your kids — and the time spent talking and discovering together — ever resonated with them and or will guide and support them as they step out the door on their way to college.

The not knowing … I struggle with it. Not sure how to deal with it. Still figuring that out.

— Jenni

 

Enough … Enough Now

I bought a new car today.

Well, technically, I didn’t buy it. I leased it. And, I didn’t actually drive away in it today, but I signed all the key papers. All that’s left to do is set up the insurance, payoff the old and turn in the keys. Then, a new Oxford White 2017 Ford Escape SE will be mine.

My new car to-be doesn’t have all the bells and whistles. But it has the ones most important to me … sunroof, 9-speaker sound system, large touch Sync screen and oh, a backseat cupholder — very important to my daughter. It doesn’t have leather, heated seats. But, it does have a super cool remote start that works from my iPhone. Bottom line, I gave up a few niceties to get myself into a vehicle that suits me better.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. A push button start would have been nice. Platinum White would be have been cool too … just that hint of shimmer. But, it’s not necessary. It’s a car. It takes me from here to there, and I’ll get there in style. But, I’ll also get there able to enjoy life along the way. I sacrificed the push button start for the joy of a manicure or spa day, night out with friends, vacation, college payments, and adventures, experiences and outings that a higher car payment might have curtailed.

Before I made this change, I walked on the Dark Side. Took my Edge in for a repair and was handed the keys to a 2017 Escape Titanium that had all the bells and whistles. Have to admit that I was dazzled and enjoyed the seduction. Opened the sunroof wide, cranked the stereo, and thrilled at the ease of that push button start. Glorious! Yet, that trip helped me to discover what I really wanted and what I could live without.

You can’t always get what you want, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones sang. But you can get what you need. What I needed was a car that better suited who I am. And today, I made that happen.

I’d driven the same car for 13 years before I made my last change to a 2013 Ford Edge. In preparation, I did research. I took test drives. I looked around. Then, only after much discussion, I went to the dealer, got the car and features I wanted, and drove it home.

But, it never truly fit me. It was always a little too big. I pulled in and out of parking spaces, adjusting to find center. Backing up and turning was awkward. And even on the road, I found myself a little closer to center than I should be. It was a great car — is a great car. And I will miss the heated leather seats and larger trunk. I’m glad I had the chance to drive it. To learn from it. That car and I had some great times, and I made many memories during our miles together. Laughter. Travels. Outings. Conversations sitting in it. A wrong turn on the way to Fisherman’s Island. Anyway, lots of great times took place in our 4 years/49,121 miles together.

A random rental helped me discover what was truly important to me for the next chapter in my travels. This car decision happened fast. I trusted my instincts, though. And I’m so very glad I did. The 2017 Escape is similar to my 1999 CR-V. The style and size fit me. Sitting behind the wheel feels right. And I look amazing driving it 🙂

Yeah, I gave up a few options at this time in my life. But the way I figure it you can’t always have Dom Perignon or Jameson Irish Whiskey. Heck, sometimes don’t always need a Blue Moon. It’s okay to drink Tea with a friend … as long as the company is good. As long as you feel you truly fit where you are. Connected and Authentic. You don’t have to have all the trappings to enjoy time. Life is only as complicated as we choose to make it.

We all have wants, desires, hopes and dreams. We fight and adapt, explore and adjust in our efforts to survive and find our truth. I wouldn’t trade a mile of my journey. This experience gelled that for me. And though I’ve had to give up some things I truly enjoyed and wanted along my road, sometimes it is Enough to have had them for a time … and Enough Now to drive with a few fewer options.

So on Friday at Noon, I’ll begin a new adventure. Not sure where it will take me. I’m curious. But in those famous Love Actually words: “Enough … Enough Now.”

Let’s see where I Escape to next …

— Jenni

 

 

 

 

18 Going on College

Baby 1When my son was born, my mom gave me a poem which I placed in a photo album that I carried in my purse. It held all my favorite photos of him during his “early days.” The first photo displayed was the very first picture of Jarod and me taken. The photo where I met him and held him for the very first time.

Eighteen years ago.

In preparing for his Graduation Party, I pulled out this little album, along with photos I’d set aside of him during the years before digital — you know, the days when you printed photos and duplicates and kept negatives? You might even say that Type AA me has been planning his Grad Party since he was born.

I’ve had fun looking back at the photos and pulling out artwork, stories, paper plate awards and items I’ve saved over the years. But, I keep returning to this poem.

IF I HAD MY CHILD TO RAISE OVER AGAIN

If I had my child to raise over again, 

I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.

I’d do less correcting, and more connecting,

I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.

I would care to know less, and know to care more.

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.

I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.

I’d run through more fields, and gaze at more stars.

I’d do more hugging, and less tugging.

I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.

I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.

I’d teach less about the love of power,

And more about the Power of Love.

                                                                                  — Diane Loomans 

grad-1.jpgLooking back on the 18 years of motherhood that took us to the “Grad Party,” I know there have been good moments, exceptional moments, challenging moments, fun moments, tearful moments, triumphant moments, devastating moments and thoughtful, reflective moments. And all of those moments have taken us right here.

I didn’t spend a lot of time finger painting, but I spent a lot of time with Jarod reading and playing at Barnes and Noble, traveling with him on his fire truck up and down streets and playing trash truck at the park. He helped me learn my Chicago choreography, dancing right in our driveway. And, we played together to draw and write his first story about Jack the Caveman. The Santa visits with Starbucks, Opera Theatre outings and Royal Oak Brewery dinners when dad went fishing were our playtime.

I know I did my share of correcting. All kids need boundaries and guidelines. But I like to think that it was the moments of Connecting “In The Park” during the “best two weeks of the summer” (his words) with Water Works, collaborating for the Community Awards, planning his first film showing at Emagine, rehearsing together in GPT’s Joseph and watching Bones side by side on the couch with “grapes” will stand out in his mind.

I worked from home for the first 10 years of his life, so a watch wasn’t needed much. But I watched him a lot. The 50 scrapbooks and stacks of photos will retain his story, whether he looks at them or not, and show how much I watched him with my heart and eyes.

Oh, I wanted to know what was going on in his life. Still do. But I know caring about him and his goals, dreams and hopes is more important than knowing every detail. He’s earned my trust and my respect on the path he’s chosen, my Thinker and Pretender, even during time he ventured off-road a bit in navigating his way. He’s writing his own story. I’m reading it. It’s suspenseful and comedic, and I’m fascinated.

We took a lot of hikes, especially in DC, Disney and Asheville. A lot of walks too. We flew kites on the beach and in the park. We jumped in the leaves and he danced on the stage at B & N, spending my birthday there at a Harry Potter book release party. It’s a night I will never forget. Pretending. Exploring. Experiencing.

We gazed at the stars, especially in Traverse City at the Pinestead Reef, his favorite vacation place in the world. I think he still gazes at the stars, though not with me as much as with other special people in his life. So, something about my showing him the power of the little moments stuck.

I still hug him. I tug a bit too, I’ll admit. I like to know what’s going on and where he is. But, he’s patient with me. This year’s Mother’s Day I worked with him and the special young woman in his life in the wee hours of the morning. He gave me this card … it told me how well he understands me and that losing my little boy isn’t easy for me. And it also told me that though change happens and little boys grow up, they still need and treasure their moms. That was a priceless message and brought tears to my eyes. So, a little tugging is okay as long as the hugs are more frequent.

Firm … well, I’m a bit like a brick wall at times. I believe in a firm hand, rules, honoring others, giving 100% and not phoning it in (“If you’re going to do it half-assed, don’t do it at all,” as my father-in-law said once) and mutual respect. But from the very beginning, I told Jarod he could be anything he wanted to be, if he worked hard enough. Anything was possible — is possible — for my Pretender. I was there for every play, every home swim meet and a few away ones, every soccer game (even in the pouring rain), every concert and film event. Every moment important to him, I was there. And, I’ve believed in him even in darker, more challenging times. You don’t Bury those. Those are part of what makes us. Every Mile Mattered, as Nicole Nordman sings. Every mile he’s gone through has brought him to the place he is now. The man he is today. And I love him for who he is today. If that isn’t affirmation, I don’t know what is. A firm hand with a gentle heart.

In terms of the house, well, I’ve definitely built self-esteem more. My kitchen craves a makeover and new counters. I pray my oven makes it through the party since the 7 and 8 on the electric keypad haven’t functioned in years. But, a job with flexible work hours, movie outings, vacations, cameras and film “stuff, suit and random clothes shopping — not to mention the Taco Bell lunches — are definitely the better investment.

As for the Power of Love, well, I’ve created 8 – 24″ x 36” photo boards (finding and printing over 500 photos in the process), gathered mementos and awards, sorted through drawers and closets seeking all the elements of his story so far, baked 3 batches of his favorite cookies (oatmeal scotchies with my secret ingredient) and prepped 14lbs of ground beef for the walking tacos. Plus, I have a surprise up my sleeve as well! My predominant love language is Acts of Service … so I’m pretty sure the Power of my Love is pretty clear. Over the years, I’ve shown it. I’ve acted it. I’ve spoken the words.

Oh, there are things I would do differently if I had to raise my child over again. I’d make some modifications and corrections. Select different words or make another choice for a few moments. I’m flawed and far, far from perfect. But, in looking at the man he is today, I’d say we did a pretty good job affirming and loving, playing and gazing, hugging and connecting.

Now he’s off to write his own story … This new chapter outside my walls is up to him. I pray the lessons, the faith and moments we’ve shared, and the examples and imperfections in my own life show him that it’s great to fly but that a few stumbles — as long as you get up and keep the Power of Love and Faith in your sites — will take you to the heights.

So, thanks Mom for the poem and to Diane Loomans for the good advice. I’ve raised my child with the Power of Love. Now, it’s up to him to take it from here …

                                                                                                                       — Jenni

 

 

 

the only thing Constant

I’ve held this post back for a month now. But, it’s been nagging at me. Reminding me that I should post it and get these words out of my busy, racing mind. That’s one of the reasons why I write, I guess. I have to. There are days I wake up and literally see words scrolling through my mind like the Dow Jones stock screen. They race by and repeat. Sometimes they get past before I can grab them and shape them into some clearer thought. Not sure why these particular words tell me their message is so important. But, they have a story to tell. And Writing is just part of who I am. Enough said. 

June 2017 — Today I watched my daughter’s heart break. And it was devastating.

She’s in Middle School now — known in my day as “Junior High” — the time when Drama truly begins.

A few days ago, we shopped for a dress she could wear to her school’s Spring Fling. She was so excited about this event and found her “dream dress.” It was sweet and lovely and she looked beautiful. We sent a photo to her two BFF’s moms so they could share it with their girls. Best Friend’s since kindergarten, they had made plans to hang out during the dance.

But last night that all changed. And what changed that? It’s middle school, can you guess?

A boy.

Both of her friends now have “dates” to hang out with, leaving my daughter on her own.

She was heart-broken. Her best-laid plans to hang out solely with her BFFs  — just like they used to do and have always done — shattered with a phone call. Oh, she was happy for her friends. She’s glad they are happy too. She doesn’t want them to “ship” her and find her a date. She’s not at that point yet. She just wants it to be like it’s always been.

But, the only thing constant in our lives is change.

Being honest here — Change sometimes just sucks. Especially when it comes to the people in our lives. People ebb and flow in our lives, moving in and out like the tide. Gracing us with their presence one minute and disappearing into the shadows the next. Sometimes they leave us or choose others instead and that hurts. No way around it. It just does.

The cause varies. People move away. They find other friends or choose activities that don’t resonate with you and move on. They are busy. They get different jobs. They develop other interests. Relationships grow apart at times. People pull away for one reason or another. Sometimes you understand; sometimes it’s a mystery. And sometimes, distance, choices or some situation simply end a friendship. Cuts it on the dotted line and removes the tether that connects you.

There are relationships that sputter or fade out for a bit, returning rejuvenated later. Others are strong enough to weather the struggle, distance or infrequent face to face time. I personally have friends and family in other cities who I’m as close to today — if not closer — than when we were next door to (or in the same house as) each other. Thanks to “social media,” relationships can reconnect even after years pass! Heck, Facebook has enabled me to find friends from Cooks Corners, TJ Junior High and VHS and renew old friendships. But some run their course and the light dims or goes out.

Doesn’t matter. The future is unclear. Right now, my daughter hurts. Change hurts sometimes. It’s uncomfortable. It shakes things up. I don’t always like it. I’m a sensitive, sentimental spirit. As curious and adventurous as I am, I settle in and develop deep bonds with those I care for … as does my daughter. We are fierce friends and would defend those we love with swords blazing. We feel deeply. And we bleed when hurt.

But relationships can change over time … over seconds. Our needs, goals and hopes evolve as we do.  Change comes into our lives no matter how we may resist it.

Reminds me of this Flavia Quote …

flavia

But sometimes even footprint leavers have a time limit in your life — a limited number of pages of dialogue before their scene eventually plays out and they make a grand or quiet exit. They touch you, change you, revive you, encourage you, or influence you in a way that alters your mental, physical, spiritual or emotional state. And then they fade to black. La, the end. It’s not good or bad. It’s just what it is.

As I listened to her talk, I couldn’t help but recall moments like hers in my own life. Flashes like movies played in my mind of horrible days at Cooks Corners, TJ and VHS — even instances more recent. I remember times when my life encountered Change despite all my wishes that it would remain status quo. And my heart broke for her as it did when I first felt the pangs of Change rupture relationships in my life.

It’s not always bad. Change can usher in wonderful things. But, in its initial disruptive moments, all you feel is confusion and loss.

So, as I held my sobbing daughter, I didn’t tell her everything would be okay. I didn’t tell her to calm down. Yes, things were changing and different. So, I just told her to Breathe and Be Strong. That it might not be easy, but to take one moment at a time. To be true to herself. To love her friends and enjoy what they did share — not what they could not.

The only thing constant in our lives is Change. Whether we like it or not.

                                                                                                                                          — Jenni

 

Note to readers: My daughter and her friends have a solid friendship. They worked past this blip. Oh, the boys are still around. There are disruptions and disagreements. New energies that come along and they learn to deal with in their way.  But, because — bottom line — they care so deeply for each other and choose to keep their connection strong, I think they will weather the storm. Time will tell. But I have faith.