Turn the Page

May 12, 2019

My son turned 20 today. At 6:18am.

First of all, the fact that I have a 20 year old floors me. I wonder if my parents felt the same disbelief when I turned 20 …

One minute you’re holding them in your arms, a tiny, wiggly baby incapable of doing anything on their own. Then, you’re walking them to school, holding their small hand securely in your own. Then, before you know it, they start driving a car and … graduate.

Thank heavens I have a portrait in my attic that keeps Me young … 😉

Yep. Jarod has officially ventured into his third decade … Twenty is kind of a transitional age. Not old enough to drink but old enough to vote, be drafted, and begin Adulting …

Grad 1My son’s senior year was a very emotional time for me. And for him, as he himself understood and expressed in his final ROHS video “I Will Never Forget.” So many  “lasts.” It was a year full of ceremonies and endings, wrapping up his first 18 years of life. Tying up his “childhood” with a neat, tidy bow and a graduation ceremony at Freedom Hill.

“Freedom” Hill … oh the irony.

Summer weekends were dominated with grad parties and college planning. Then, before I knew it, we had packed up his most treasured, worldly possessions and loaded them in three cars — with the help of a color coded spreadsheet he created — to caravan to Wayne State University.

No, he didn’t choose a college in another state. But, I promised to treat this move as if he were 3-hours away, guaranteeing him the freedom and independence he had shown himself ready for.

He was starting a new chapter in the book we had been writing together for 18 years.

Jarod was excited — and so ready. And I was happy for him. Really, I was. But there was this part of me that felt a loss so deep that the pain was indescribable … a sense that my compass was losing its true north.

The move was easy. And he was so happy … quickly hanging posters, placing photos and settling in. But I cried as we drove away and spent many hours just sitting in his room, missing him.

But then a strange thing happened. Calls came in. Texts to just say Hi. Successes or 75DB7A24-B67D-4E4C-9FD3-D5420D86F2DEchallenges in classwork that he wanted to talk about. With me. Invitations for coffee or outings to the Hilberry to see a play and get dinner. To quote a song from one of his childhood favorite Disney Channel movies, it was “the Start of Something New.”

The conversations changed and a New relationship began. No, he didn’t crawl on my lap or need me to hold his hand while he walked to class. But he still needed his Mom. He still wanted to share moments of his life with me. And something new and wonderful began to take shape.

Oh, I miss my sweet little boy. The last bite thief, Barnes and Noble song and dance kid, and his “this is my good idea” proposals. But I treasure the opportunity to get to know the Man he is becoming as he meets the challenges of Adulting.

There are still special moments … calls where he shares what’s going on, times he asks me about recipes as he prepares meals in his apartment, outings to Barnes and Noble and weekends when he comes home and says, “I just wanted to come home and be with you, Mom.”

We turned the page together. And though I look back at the memories that play out in my mind like films, we now have new chapters to write as our Story Goes On.

It’s far too easy to look back and miss the Now and all it delivers. But from someone who’s still featured in the script, I can honestly say the plot twists, scene changes, and character developments in the continuing adventures of Jarod Clark are a great read.

There are really no beginnings that can happen without an ending. Sometimes you have to leave behind something precious. But, if you release your hold, you might just discover that what you thought you lost, wasn’t gone at all … just transitioning or transforming.

And, there really is another Chapter in the book you started all those years ago with your child. Many of them, in fact. And this new book in the series is as good if not better than the earlier editions. I promise. It’s impossible to predict or see that story since its still in production when our children stand on the precipice … that stage … to take their diploma or drive off to college or move away to begin their lives.

So…

Breathe and Turn the page.

And for heavens sake … don’t put down the book now. There’s so much more in the coming pages. Celebrate those moments from the earlier chapters. Relive them and smile. But keep in mind that the story goes on.

What I’ve learned in the past two of Jarod’s college years? The diploma, graduation and departure to college is by no means an ending of my special relationship with my son. The continuing adventures … and the fact that Jarod wants to share His Adulting with me … that’s priceless.

Turn the page …

                                                                                                                        Jenni

And P.S. For those of you without kids or for anyone not here yet who experiences changes as relationships ebb and flow … just keep turning the page. What you think is an ending, may just be the start of something new …

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My Sock Drawer Is Messy

I don’t live in Perfect.

But, I don’t live in Good Enough, either.

Somewhere along the way — in my formative years — I inherited my Dad’s neat-nick habits. Everything has a place and there’s a place for everything. I like and maintain a neat and clean car, a neat and clean desk, a neat and clean house, a neat and clean kitchen, a neat and clean refrigerator and cabinets.

I clean my home weekly. I appreciate vacuum lines on my carpet and non-sticky floors. Dust makes me nuts. Counters are wiped down regularly and bathroom mirrors are streak free. We have a cat, so making sure the litter box area is swept up and cat hair is vacuumed supports my sanity.

During my workout this afternoon, though, my personal trainer Jillian Michaels mentioned that there are those of us who are too obsessed with “being perfect.” We’re hard on ourselves when things go awry or don’t happen in that nice, planned structured way we want them to. We’re critical of our looks, our bodies, our weight, our homes, our lives, our friends, our performance, our significant others … and so on. And that criticism holds us back. Makes us give up too quickly. And, it keeps our minds, spirits and bodies from achieving their personal potential.

We’re focused on something that cannot be achieved.

Perfection.

Well, I don’t live in perfect. And as neat as my home is, there are still places where it’s messy … where I’m messy. And when I look too close at those places, I can make myself crazy.

I jump around with Jillian, swinging that kettleball and doing my best to achieve toned arms and that super flat stomach. But, I’m not there. Yet. So, I keep working out. It’s a process. When I’m doing jumps or lunges, my breath comes quicker and my heartbeat races. And I’ve been working out 5-6 days a week for over … well, let’s not talk age okay … a really long time. I’m in shape. But not Jillian Michaels shape.

Exercising supports my mind and my spirit. It supports my health and my body. But, if you think I’m going to give up the occasional beer, basket of fries or delectable slice of chocolate cake to achieve that super flat belly, well … not gonna happen.

‘Cause, I don’t live in perfect.

I guess that’s another reason why I’m drawn to yoga. Yoga isn’t billed as an exercise … it’s a Practice. I practice yoga. And, I don’t perfect it or strive to be perfect when I’m on my mat. There are times I’ve lost my balance. Times I’ve literally fallen over. There are poses I just can’t do. Period. I may never be able to stick my leg straight out and grab my toes. I may never be able to hold crow pose on my arms for longer than a moment. I may fall in King Dancer. But, I can still practice. I can still try.

Yoga … the Firm workouts … Barre3 … Kettleball Circuit Training … each of these workouts help me align my body, mind and spirit. I will never master them. Some days on my mat are better than others. Just like some places in my home or projects on my desk or blogs in the Corner are neater or stronger or more structured than others.

Just like some relationships in my life are messier or more challenging or more inspiring on any given day. We don’t live in perfect. We are all works in progress. And to place the pressure of perfection on any aspect of our lives is to court certain doom.

Yet … I don’t live in Good Enough. I can’t look at a relationship or a project and be satisfied if I don’t offer my best. But, I can let go when I know I’ve done all I can. I’ve accepted that there are some things beyond my control. Some people with whom a relationship is too difficult, some projects that may never be completed, some dust under the bed I can’t reach … a drawer full of socks that never seems to be organized no matter how many times I dump it on the floor and reorder it.

But, if I’ve offered my best … that’s all I can do. And then be brave enough to let go.

No, I don’t and never will live in Perfect. I fall on and off my mat. It’s part of my Journey. As neat and organized as I may seem, there are places in my life that are just plain messy.

I’m okay with that. Jillian accepts me as I am. My yoga instructors support me despite my imperfection. Each time I come to my mat, I work out and I work in. Heck, that’s what I do daily. I wouldn’t want to change that … I’m still in process.

And if what I offer isn’t good enough for someone, well, they can move to Perfect and leave me be.

                                                                                                                    Jenni

Coffee with my Cat

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve needed an alarm to wake me. No, I have a cat. A sweet torty with sea-green eyes and an orange heart on the top of her velvety soft, furry head.

Ellie. Well, Elena Marie — a blended name inspired by Catherine Zeta-Jones strong-willed Elena from The Mask of Zorro and the playful Marie from The AristoCats. Of course, I typically call her Miss Ellie … a throwback to my devotion to the evening soap opera Dallas.

Anyway, Ellie is my first cat. Technically — as my daughter regularly reminds me — she’s HER cat. But, Ellie isn’t waking her up early in the morning …

Now, I didn’t know much about the personalities and habits of cats when we adopted IMG-0078Ellie. I have two dear friends with cats that I spent lots of time with. I did some research about the needs and habits of cats. But there were definitely areas of non-disclosure and things I just did not know … such as …

Torties are Talkers. And, Ellie is a Chatty Cat.

She sleeps at the foot of the bed most nights, curled up at my feet. On cold nights, she prefers the warmth of my husband and sprawls out to claim her space. But, at around 6:17am, she emits this rumbly purr — kind of like the sound a young child makes when they want out of their crib.

It begins softly and becomes more insistent when I ignore her, like an alarm clock tone that gets louder and more frequent before you slam it off. But, unlike an alarm clock, Ellie doesn’t come with a snooze button.

So, there’s this purr … which I translate as all humans translate their animals’ sounds into human words … to mean “Up?”

Sometimes I feign sleep. But Ellie is pretty clever. And insistent. The purrs grow in frequency and they get louder the longer I delay. When I finally agree to rise and shine, she sits up and stretches — languidly — as though I’m the one dragging HER out of bed saying, is it that time already??? I give her a scratch on her head and she leaps from the bed to sit near my slippers. Waiting.

We have a routine, Ellie and me. She bounds down the stairs at my side and sits at the mat at the front door. This is her “ask” that I turn on the Kitty TV and initiate the required screen time. Doesn’t matter the season or temperature inside or out. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, it’s the same demand. Doesn’t matter that the house has plenty of windows with similar vantage points. It’s Door Time.

Then, while I pour that first cup of coffee — which of course I make the night before and set a timer — she waits by my side, purring if I’m too slow — before scampering into the sun room and launching up to her favorite perch for morning “scratchles.” Only once she’s well loved, does she sit up and demand that a window be opened so she can smell the outdoor air. If it’s cold and I open the window, her front paw does a little shake — a hurt so good kind of wiggle.

It’s a structured and very specific routine. Trust me, she has me well trained. It’s as if SHE were the Event Planner and I her minion. Like my kids were in their earlier years, Ellie is an Early Riser.

I’m not complaining … well, not most of the time. There are days I want to dive into my pillows and ignore her. There are days I do. But, my early moments with Ellie are truly some of my favorite times of the day. Reflective. Quiet. Deeply spiritual. Thankful thoughts and journaling begin our day. I read my devotions as she sits with watchful eyes and her tail curled delicately. I pray. I write. I read. And, we play too, before she moves toward the kitchen and asks for her breakfast.

I enjoy my Coffee with Ellie.

Something Ellie has helped me learn … Love is not Finite. An animal … Special or new friends … a first or second baby … something or someone additional in your life … and there is still room for them. Love for them. Appreciation and value and joy with them. Even when you think you’re settled and comfortable in your existence, there is still more Love to share with special people and pets. They may come into your life unexpectedly, but they secure a place in your heart and you wonder how you ever existed without them in your life. You can open yourself up in ways you didn’t realize you could … and discover incredible joy.

You love them. Deeply. Rising to be with them when they purr, bark, tweet or hiss. And, in the case of two-legged friends and family members, responding to a call or a text when they reach out to you. When they want to spend time, catch up, talk, grab a drink or coffee or get together. When they need you.

During those early mornings of Coffee with my Cat, she offers me Lovey eyes, telling me how much she too enjoys our time. And in those moments, I know she doesn’t just want food, she specifically wants this time with me. That she loves me. Treasures me. Values me. And, that I’m important to her.

So, I rise and shine. Love isn’t finite. Even at 6:17am.

— Jenni

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Glass Houses

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.  John 8:7

I was raised on a golf course. My father was a terrific golfer — still is. Every summer, my dad would play on his Thursday and Saturday afternoons off. When I was little, my mom would take my brother and me to the Valparaiso Country Club pool. But once I started Junior Golf, I’d spend those summer afternoons hitting range balls or playing golf with my friends.

My dad was my teacher — along with several course pros and my dad’s cousin Sam who owned a course in Martinsville, Indiana — and incidentally coached the IU girls golf team.

Yes, I had plenty of teachers and I became a pretty good golfer, joining the VHS Golf Team and earning a 3-year letter. Along the way, I hit lots of golf balls, practiced my putts, spent hours trying to master chipping and get out of sand traps. Oh, it didn’t hurt that there were several cute guys working outside the pro shop that I could flirt with, er, hang out with as I waited for my dad to wrap up his golf days. 🙂

But, I digress.

My dad watched golf on TV too. In my house, we all had our favorite players.

But in those days, our favorite players remained in the TV. Oh sure, there were articles about them in Golf Digest that my dad read. But, he read more to learn tips than to learn about them.

Enter Tiger Woods — who incidentally was also tutored and guided into golf with the help of his dad — and the game literally changed. Maybe it was the uniqueness of his game or his amazing talent. I’d be naive to ignore that he was one of the few African-American golfers to hit the scene so dramatically, though I dislike thinking his rise to fame was due to skin color. More likely, it was that Tiger was just an incredible talent who arrived on the scene in the era of expanded press attention and amidst the full onslaught of “social media.”

He won match after match. Media attention exploded from all angles. Along came endorsements. His image and name were associated with everything from sports equipment to Buick to fancy, overpriced watches and clothing lines. To this day, he’s one of few golfers to wear his own line of clothing on the course.

But, amidst all that, he was truly just a guy who enjoyed the game of golf and was good at it. He wasn’t much of a public speaker and didn’t do great in post-match interviews. He was a guy who made golf his career — and succeeded brilliantly in a manner few had achieved.

And then, the glass tower shattered and for many he fell from grace. Suddenly, he was the news headliner with a murky story that had nothing to do with golf. In those moments, a media-made hero came crashing down as the public peered into the cracks of his personal life and found him lacking, passing judgement and shunning him in disapproval.

In those moments, the mighty Tiger was discovered to be human after all.

I didn’t read the articles. I avoided the news clips. I didn’t listen to commentators who threw stones at him from their lofty, perfectly coiffed seats.

See, to me, he was a golfer. No more heroic than any celebrity that I enjoy. I had not placed him on a pedestal. I simply enjoyed watching him play golf. His personal life was no concern of mine. The personal challenges he encountered did not make him less of an athlete. They only made him more like me … flawed and real. Besides, his personal stuff was his to deal with … not mine to judge.

We all live in Glass Houses. I’m far from perfect. I make mistakes and poor decisions. I allow my emotions and passions to exceed what some might consider their “proper setting.” They are mine to wrestle with — mine. And, I’ve never claimed to be perfect.

Tiger never claimed that either.

I’ve been honest with my kids, too. I’ve shown them my flaws and shared my struggles. I’ve shown vulnerability and apologized when I’ve made mistakes that affected them. They need to know I’m not perfect and that I don’t expect perfection from them either — just courage and kindness, the strength to be true to themselves and the confidence to reach out for help or support when they need it.

I was saddened to see Tiger struggle with the judgement of the masses as well as his health and back. And I was thrilled last weekend to see him find victory on the Masters stage and earn one more green jacket. The Tiger I watched play had been brave enough to find the help he needed and grow from the struggles he faced. And, perhaps along the way he even discovered a little more joy in the game, coming from behind in so many ways to regain that place on the leader board.

Jesus said: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone …  John 8:7

We’re all works in progress. We all stumble at times. Luckily, most of us don’t have the media outside our house filming our darker moments. Yet, if we’re honest, we all live in Glass Houses. At least, I know I do. So, throwing stones is not part of who I choose to be.

I’m just glad to see Tiger has found his way back onto the course. Watching him play is an experience — and wow, did you see those putts — and that he’s faced down whatever demons he needed to face to get back to the game he so clearly loves.

Far from me to throw stones from my glass house.

Bravo Tiger. Well played.

Jenni

 

 

Soften the Focus

Do you recall a day when things didn’t go right for you? Maybe you didn’t get the job after multiple interviews? Or perhaps there was a time you didn’t get cast in the role you worked tirelessly preparing for? Or a gym hour when you were one of the last to be picked for that elementary school team?

Or a day when things just did not go your way at work?

Or a yoga class when you were trying to gently move from Majorette pose to Airplane to King Dancer and you fell over?

What was your initial response?

Okay, I’ll go first. It was: What’s wrong with me?

Ever do that? Ever think that? Something doesn’t go your way and you immediately turn on the judgement meter and begin listing your inadequacies, mistakes or faults?

A few months ago, I had a really rough day at work. I was as low as I could get, so I reached out to a friend to share some tears and wine and perhaps find some much needed consolation. She pointed out something to me … something I had not accounted for in my self-flagellation. She told me to stop judging myself so harshly and give myself a break … to be Kinder to myself.  And, as this was the year I was focused on Kindness, her remarks shed a light on something I had truly failed to consider.

In all these scenarios, something went awry. But my response was pretty consistent. It was to point the finger at me and create a litany of my failings — because clearly I must be the problem. Clearly, I wasn’t talented enough or clever enough or good enough.  I was to blame. I needed to be fixed or to be better.

Why do we do that? Take in the blame or the shame? Why do we consciously allow ourselves to feel “less” because of other people and situations?  Why do we judge ourselves harshly when someone fails to value us as we want to be valued — or when we fall short of some goal or ideal that we’ve set for ourselves.

We need to Soften the Focus — especially in regards to how we view our selves.

I don’t know about you, but I’m frickin’ amazing. I’ve done some awesome stuff in my first 52 years. Of course, not everything has gone my way. Not sure I would have appreciated the wins as much as I do if I hadn’t taken a few hits. But still, if another person fails to recognize my exceptional self, well, it’s their loss.

We need a Cybil Shepherd approach to ourselves.

Those of you who recall the hit series Moonlighting (circa 1985-1989) know what I’m referring to — the soft lens used for all of Cybil Shepherd’s close up camera work. It blurred the lines, romanticized her look, and softened everything about her.

We need to give ourselves that same Soft Focus — to honor what we offer and release the judgement when something doesn’t go the way we’d hoped or planned.  We need to be our own cheerleader. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a friend like I did that day — a friend who reminded me to Soften the Focus and be kinder to myself.

See, I am enough. And You are enough. And if there are those who don’t recognize our magnificence or if something doesn’t go the way we had planned, well, we need to find a way to let that go and move on.

On the mat in my yoga-speak I’d say, Breathe in Compassion and Exhale to Release the Judgement. And if I happen to wobble or fall over while moving from Majorette to Airplane and King Dancer, well, I’ll just Breathe in some Compassion, dust myself off, and get back on m9308fa559b7b1040b42a3fd94be3e2fey mat. It’s just yoga. I need to put it in perspective

It is our mind that creates the struggle. A pose is a pose. A day is a day. A win is a win and a loss is a loss.  Offer your best and let go of the rest. Soften the Focus. It’s just life. Put it in Perspective. And Bloom where you’re planted.

– Jenni

 

 

 

 

Find Delight

I took my son to a play last night. The particular theatre we attended does not typically offer “plays.” They traditionally feature only musicals.

Now, I love musicals. Heck, I’ve not only seen my fair share of musicals but I’ve performed in quite a few as well. They are easy to settle into. Audiences can sit back and be entertained as they await the next song and dance or musical number.

My son and I agree that plays take more effort — more of an investment at least mentally. I mean, you can’t download the soundtrack before you see a play and familiarize yourself with the plotline thru song. With a play, you have to get more engaged — truly listen and invest yourself in what they actors are saying and doing.

Big fan!

Anyway, immediately upon entering the theatre, we were all in. Not only do my son and I truly enjoy plays but this particular one resonated with us both in so many ways. The curtain was up and the set reminded us both of the Clue movie, which we both adore. Next, the Stage Manager is running about the set, hiding her face behind her hand because that ensures no one can see her. (Ah … Not!) And then there’s the Sound/Light Board, set stage right, with a highly visible, atypical tech guy scrolling his cell phone.

Fear not readers, no spoiler alert here. Suffice it to say that the entire evening was an absolute Delight.

We laughed from the beginning to the end. And, so did the rest of the audience. It was perhaps the best comedy I’ve seen in years — save  Tom Hanks in “Money Pit.” My cheeks hurt from laughing — it was that funny. Overall, the entire experience — since I knew nothing of the play when I walked in the door — was Delightful.

As a society, we need more of that. We need to seek more of that too. We need to be open to making discoveries and finding joy in unexpected moments. We need to embrace curiosity and offer up acceptance more frequently then judgement or disdain.

Too much time these days is spent dividing us from one another. Pushing us apart in an effort to position us as the smartest in the room. It’s as if we need to feel that our notions and ideas are the best — the correct ones. That there’s one way of doing or saying something. One correct approach.

Now I don’t know about you, but to me that seems short-sighted. It divides and separates us at a time we desperately need to find intimacy and connection. And, it doesn’t help us grow, learn, or discover that differences and new approaches might just teach us something new and lead us somewhere exciting.

So, I laughed with my son, and a thousand strangers. We smiled at each other, these strangers and me, as we walked from the theatre. And my son and I agreed that it had been a very long time since we’d laughed that much.

Delight arrives in many forms. It finds you in unexpected places, wearing faces you might not recognize upon approach. It can be a good book, a surprise gift sent to a friend — or received from one. It can be cookies baked and frosted to share with the people I love.

I find Delight in knitting nights with girlfriends and glasses of wine amidst tales of Kitty Interns and their antics. In yoga poses and pretty attire. In rehearsals and conversations that follow them. I find Delight in music and poetry. In organizing events and checking off lists. In a kind text or a soft smile and touch. In workouts with my cat. Over fries and beverages. In candlelight with a cup of tea or coffee. Heck, I even find Delight in caring for and cleaning my home.

The trick is — I find it. I chose to find it. I seek it and I treasure it and the people and experiences that come along with it. And last night at the theatre, I shared it with thousands of strangers.

So, what Delights you? I challenge you to find it and celebrate it. There’s too much going on in our world to lose sight of the joy found in the simple things.

                                                                                                              — Jenni

 

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Mat … aka Bloom Where YOU’RE Planted

I started a new job in August. Instead of a quick 3-minute commute, I have a longer drive, typically on the freeway. And, periodically, there are accidents or stalled cars or any number of random problems at the side of the road which cause slow downs.

As I pump the pedals, I feel that urge myself … the urge to glance over and check out what’s at the side of the road. It’s called rubber-necking and the fallout impacts everyone on the road, whether they look or not. The temptation is always to look … to check out what happened or see for yourself what makes this particular situation fascinating enough to slow down so many busy commuters.

In yoga class the other night, we were reminded to keep our eyes focused on our own mat — that glancing around and comparing our pose to that of our neighbors didn’t serve us. It wouldn’t make our poses any better, and it would distract us from our own work.

This gentle reminder made me think, as I am want to do, about how that applied off the mat. I found myself wondering why we spend so much time rubber-necking, looking at others and comparing our poses — or lives — to theirs. Seeking to find out what’s going on at the side of the road. What is it we hope to find? What is it we hope to gain?

I once took a yoga class where there were only two of us. Afterward, our teacher Marty mentioned how reluctant he was to lead a class with only two students … how in past experience such a session led to competition. I was stunned. It never occurred to me to compare what we were doing. The time I spend on my mat is about me, my work, my mindfulness, my focus and my spiritual and physical growth. Why would I use that hour to compete with someone else?

But, if I’m truly honest, I do it elsewhere. Most of us have areas where we’re competitive. Where we want applause or recognition or likes and comments or the feeling that we’re superior or special.  Perhaps, deep inside, we are all a little bit like Sally Field in her notable 1984 Oscar speech when she declared: “You like me. You really like me.” We too want to be liked. Noticed. Valued. Sought After. Appreciated. Desired and Admired.

Take Social Media for example. We post something on Facebook … why do we do that? We type something from the privacy of our own computers or phones or tablets for the world to see, like and comment on. We say something because it pops in our mind and we want to share it. And … to be noticed. We place a photo or a saying or a link on our “Home Page” so it is seen by others. And depending how many friends you have, it can be seen by a helluva lot of people.

Then, in so many cases, we sit back and wait for comments and likes and hearts and emojis to pop up.

Question: Once you’ve posted whatever it is you want to say, do you look at those comments, likes, hearts and emojis? How often do you check back? Do you wonder how many people liked your post? How many new followers discovered what you had to say?

Are you curious why some people liked it or commented on it, while others didn’t?

Do you look at posts by others and see all those likes, comments etc. and wonder why they attracted all those “friends” while your post didn’t?

That brings me back to why we post on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter to begin with. Is it simply to share a quick quip or photo with friends and family far and wide, or are we actively seeking to connect and communicate across the wires? Are we looking for love — or likes — to support our often lonely selves? And does this spur feelings of competition and isolation when our words, thoughts, ideas and photos don’t receive that sense of value from those in the virtual word who we call “friends” and “followers”?

The flowers in a garden — the roses on a large rose bush — do not look at each other and compare their blooms.

The stars in the heavens do not gaze at each other and say … hey, she’s shining brighter than me!

So why, in a world where a “cursor” that flashes annoyingly on a white screen, do we feel the need to seek likes and hearts on a “social” media site?

I’m guilty. I have posted blogs and quips and checked back to see my stats. I have a certain number of followers of The Corner. And there are times that I wonder why I don’t have more — why so-and-so doesn’t follow me or comment or like my witty repartee. Why does so-and-so comment on another post and not mine? Why don’t my stats go up, even though I have all these so-called blog followers?

It’s not pretty. But I’m being honest here. It’s something I’ve done. And I don’t like it.

So this year, I’ve refocused my efforts to simply to Bloom where I’m planted. To post my thoughts, quips, blogs, photos and not look back. To not scroll through other social media posts and wonder why I don’t have the Friends or Likes that another person has. Comparing myself to the other Rose out there, doesn’t make me Bloom brighter, bigger or better. No, just the opposite. It usually makes me feel inadequate, uninteresting, and dull.

Mary, Mary quite contrary … how does your garden grow? With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells and Pretty Maids all in a row. – Mother Goose

Nowhere in that nursery rhyme is it suggested that the Silver Bells, Cockle Shells and Pretty Maids are in competition. Nowhere does it indicate one is prettier than the others or that Mary has any desire for that to be the case.

There’s freedom and joy when I simply Bloom where I’m planted and find satisfaction in what I’ve offered — letting go of the rest. When I post something — a blog or a status update or a photo — it’s simply something I want to share. It’s something I want to say or offer for others to take or leave. So what if only a few people discover or read it. I’ve said it. I’ve written it. I’ve put myself and my ideas out there.

Of course, maybe it’s just me who has longings for approval, comments, friends/followers and likes. Maybe it’s simply my own insecurity.  But, I’m discovering at 50+ that I really truly don’t care if I’m the biggest, boldest bloom in the garden. I just want to Bloom.

I’ve figured out how to do this on my yoga mat. Guess that’s why I selected the word Bloom for 2019. I need to reclaim focus on my own path, words and growth and stop glancing around at others.

If the drivers on the freeway figured that out, I could get to where I’m going a lot faster.

                                                                                                – Jenni 

 

#Bloom and Grow in 2019

To me, the beginning of a new year is like a blank sheet of paper … a page in a new journal where —  with the help of my pokey #2 pencil or blue Uniball pen — I will write my thoughts and begin my story.

But how to write it … how to begin that first paragraph … it’s messy. So I have a trick to help me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve incorporated themes into my writing — gimicks that help me frame a message.

Inspired by a dear friend a few years ago, I began to do something similar to shape my personal direction at the beginning of a new year — to help me begin writing on that New Years’ Day blank page. I’ve chosen a Word to guide my year and to focus on, kind of like an intention during a yoga class that sees you thru the challenging poses — and steadies you thru the flow.  Two years ago it was Hope. Last year, I chose Kindness.

To commemorate these choices, I wore a Mudlove bracelet on my wrist — a daily reminder of my intention. It’s not a loose-fitting bracelet. And neither Hope nor Kindness were  loose-fitting choices.

As I thought about what I wanted for 2019, several words and intentions came to mind. 2018 was a transitional year for me.  After 8 years, I made a job change. Not only a job change, but truly a career adjustment from a part-time position to a fast-paced full-time event planning position in downtown Detroit. My simple 5-minute commute changed to a not so easy “20 minute drive” — heavily influenced by traffic and weather.  In the meantime — well, at the same time I started my new job — I also ventured outside my normal “theatre world” into a new group, memorizing oodles of lines and performing a comedic role in a completely new environment for me. I’m beginning a new dramatic role this month which will challenge me once again. I started new knitting projects, tried out different authors and books, read non-fiction!, expanded my exercise regime and even ventured into the streaming world of Apple Music! I spent less time on “social media” and more time actually socializing with the people important to me.

2018 helped me figure out who I truly was — and who I truly want to be. And to be me.  It helped me set boundaries and examine what I wanted my life to be — and who I wanted to share it with. It forced me to examine what I wanted and needed … and to ask for or seek it.  I found the courage to open the door and walk into the unknown. To turn to the light and to be kinder to myself.  To remember who I am … and to accept that is enough. In 2018, I put aside situations and people that didn’t serve me.  And I also learned that love is not a finite item … that we have more than enough to share and that this world desperately needs more of it.

I planted a seed in 2018. But it was struggling. It needed more light … a different window ledge. The seed took a while to take root. And I wasn’t always patient with that gentle seed. So I changed the dirt. I added some additional nutrients and provided lots of water. I took the delicate roots and relocated them to a different pot. And now, only hours after the completion of my first significant event planned at my new job and one day into 2019, I’m beginning to truly see that seed grow … to Bloom.

Yes, my word for 2019 is Bloom.

When a flower doesn’t Bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows. Not the flower. (Alexander den Heijer). For a long time though, I was pretty sure there was something wrong with the flower. It didn’t grow. It didn’t Bloom.

But flowers — like people — must be tended. Petals are stronger than you think but they require love, light and caring to grow. You can’t bury a seed in the ground, leave it to its own devices and expect it to become a beautiful rose bush. No. Growing the most beautiful of flowers takes time and effort. And that rose requires Dirt and Rain and Storms as well as Sunshine.

I’m that flower. And I’m the gardener too. It takes effort to Bloom … and to help people, relationships, careers, families, friendships and talents Bloom. You have to Be Present. You have to make an effort. And you have to be patient, loving, nurturing and careful. You have to weed the garden. You have to look toward the light and dance in the rain.

Oh, and one more thing I’ve learned …

itjustblooms

But maybe that’s another blog for another time.

So, the word is Bloom. Now to get to work making the garden grow …

— Jenni

Fear Not! Everything I need to know I learned in yoga

Friday night was the Winter Solstice, otherwise known as The Longest Night. As I sat up late into the evening staring out the window — unable to sleep — thoughts, worries, lists and projects raced around my head faster than an Indy car on Race Day.

I’ve been waking up early. 4:30am to be exact. My cat loves it … the extra time with me seems to be high on her list in the early morning darkness. The last couple days, when I might have slept, she leapt from the bed and meow-ed with vigor. Saturday morning, I ignored her though. It had taken me a while to nod off. And I slept til a record-breaking 7:23am.

As I sat up Solstice night, gazing out my living room window. I thought of the Christmas Story … you know, the one from Luke about Mary, Joseph and the Baby. And the Shepherds. They too were up late into the night. They too could not rest. They too had a lot on their mind, all those crazy sheep blurting and meandering about, needing to be watched and guided all the time.

They were tired. They couldn’t sleep. And I bet they were pretty anxious too.

This time of year always heightens my anxiety. So much to do. So many plans and things I want to do, along with the stuff that has to get done. My new job is amazing, but brings an intensity that I’m still learning to balance. I remain calm all day long, only to come home with projects and steps left undone to taunt me. And then there’s all the normal stuff that needs to be done, and the Holiday stuff, and the people and relationships that fill my mind with words unspoken and limited time to be with them despite my best attempts and wishes.

Yep, I have one Michael Andretti car mind!

I don’t do therapy to help me manage my anxiety. I have … and I absolutely endorse finding support and help when you’re struggling. There’s no shame in reaching out — no stigma attached to therapy. But me, I’ve found another source of strength to help … to guide me down from the ledge.

It’s yoga.

In that spirit, I dedicate this post to those instructors — my yogi-therapists — who have provided me with so many valuable tools to get through the longest nights … Much love and gratitude to Brittney, Sarah, Matt, Rob, Emily, Becky and most of all Suzanne and Marty.

Do you remember that Robert Fulgrum book: Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten? Well, as I rolled up my mat after a MUCH needed yoga session Saturday morning, I realized the same principles applied.

Let me pontificate a bit … 😉

  1. Offer your best and let go of the rest.
  2. No matter how hard the pose is, the difficult moment will end. Really.
  3. And, that difficult moment IS really only a moment. I know it seems like forever in the middle of the night when worries dance around your head like sugarplums or when you’re trying to make it thru chair pose and your legs are shaking so hard you don’t know how you can hold it one more second. Yes, it seems like an eternity. But, that really hard pose — that really difficult “whatever” that is making you anxious — lasts only a moment.
  4. Be yourself. Do your yoga. No one is looking at you and comparing their half moon pose to yours. Seriously, they are just trying to hold the balance themselves!
  5. Child’s pose is always an option. Retreat. Restore. No one will judge you for that. A yoga mat is 24″ x 68″. It’s your Shelter. What you do there is about you and no one else.
  6. Breathe …. that’s really what yoga is about. No matter what comes your way … what pose is thrown at you or what challenge you encounter or what difficulty sends your spirit reeling. Just Breathe.
  7. Balance is difficult. Balancing is really frickin’ hard. On the mat. Off the mat.
  8. Accept yourself and what you offer. You are the best you. Release judgement and celebrate your amazing-ness.
  9. Be present.
  10. Close your eyes. Release. Let it go. Yes, you can.
  11. Choose your mantra — your focal message. Focus on it during the easy poses. Focus on it during the hard ones.
  12. Shaking in a pose is really just your body requesting strength.
  13. If it hurts … if it causes you to lose it, don’t do the pose. Getting upset because of a yoga pose is not worth it.
  14. You never really know what’s coming next. Each class — each hour, day, week etc brings the unknown. You may think you know what’s next in the flow … but you really can’t predict it. All you can do is Breathe and take one pose at a time.
  15. Know your truth. Honor who you are. It really is enough.
  16. You aren’t alone. The room is surrounded by people and a supportive energy. Accept its help when you need it. Offer your energy and help to others … they just might need it too.
  17. The real yoga begins when you walk out the door.

Tonight is a full moon. The night after the Solstice. I grounded myself today in yoga. I’m in a good place. But tonight, my sleep may still be is disrupted. The unexpected might hit me. And in the darkness of the night, my mind will bring a forest of dragons.

But tomorrow there is will be yoga. Last night, I went down to do some yoga on my living room floor. And I discovered my son was up too … he couldn’t sleep either. We offered each other a Hug of support and a smile. Whatever kept us up, well, it would pass. Eventually.

The Shepherds weren’t alone either that night outside Bethlehem. The sky filled with Angels … angels who had been there for them all their lives but chose to reveal themselves and their message that first Christmas Eve.

“Fear Not! For behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all the people …”  Luke 2: 10 (Note the Angels didn’t’ say “some” people or a specific people but ALL people.)

So,  I go to yoga. And I remember all I really have to do is Breathe. I don’t know what’s coming next. Just when I settle in to a pose — I LOVE Triangle — half moon, airplane, majorette and those balancing challenges come at me. My legs are shaking and I’m trying to remain calm. I wobble. I fall. But I can be brave … like the Shepherds. I can remember that even on the darkest night, Hope is vibrant and real. 15622378_10154940299278746_5524850999491036628_n

And I find calm. Or, rather, I choose calm. I’ve offered my best. Whether it’s good enough for someone else or this crazy world is sort of irrelevant. I can only be who I am.

So, maybe  I should say … All I really needed to know I learned in Yoga … and the Bible.

Namaste … and Merry Christmas.

                                                                                                                              Jenni

We Three Things

It’s December 1st. The day the Christmas Season begins for me — has always begun for my family.

When I was a child, my parents would put on the Ray Conniff Christmas Album, playing Jingle Bells at full volume to wake us with the message of “Happy December 1st.” This tradition has continued all my life, with my brother calling me as early as 5:30am to play this cheerful tune and wish me good tidings.

This year, my sister-in-law Marcy wins the prize, sending a YouTube version via email at 12:01am.

If I’m honest, in recent years this “most wonderful time of year” has stressed me out, spiking my anxiety and disrupting my sleep. Decorating is fun but leaves my space feeling cluttered. Purchasing the perfect, thoughtful gift means rushing around town in traffic or spending hours “plugged in” and scrolling websites. Baking means I need to workout a little bit more — and find the time to do that.

Last year to combat the Anxiety, I added a day that included ice skating to my schedule. Just 45 minutes on the ice (check out that blog!), with only the sound of my skates cutting the surface, did wonders for my mood. I had the rink to myself. It was lovely and peaceful. But this year, a full-time job (which I truly love) removes my free day from the equation.

So here it is again. And once again, I have a list … I make one and check items off as they are accomplished every year. Lots of things to do. I can feel the Anxiety dancing around me like a haze. But along the way to December 25, I don’t want to lose sight of the glorious truth of the season … a season of miracles, music, sparkly tinsel and lights, and the love of a Father sending his son to earth in a very simple way.

Yesterday, during my morning reflections and Bible study, I ran across a verse I don’t recall impacting me as it did when I read it against the morning darkness, with only my early riser cat for company.

“Offer to God thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me”. Psalms 50  vs 14-15

This stuck with me. I wanted to write at that moment. But other responsibilities were calling. So, here it is December 1st, I’ve awakened the family with “Jingle Bells,” and Lindsey Sterling’s new Christmas Album “Warmer in the Winter” is playing on my Rose Gold Blue Tooth speaker.

What stuck with me with that verse? The message of what God wants from us … Thanksgiving. He wants us to be thankful for not only our access to him and all he offers but to each and every thing that graces our lives. To Celebrate the Simple Gifts and the Fancy ones. To honor his role in our lives with gratitude.

Remember the Three Wise Men from the Nativity story? They brought Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to the Baby Jesus and his family. What if we did that every day? I’m not talking about gold or essential oils. I’m talking about offering up gifts of gratitude.

Thus inspired, I decided that I would model those Three Wise Men. I pulled out one of my Nothing Books, aka an empty journal, and listed Three Things that I’m grateful for. It’s amazing what beginning your day in the darkness with the light of gratitude can do for your spirit, your mood and your heart. I lit a candle — a three-wick candle — and celebrated my gratitude for three things to begin my morning and set me on the right path for my day.

Why don’t you join me this December? I invite you to write down Three Things every day that you are grateful for. If you get caught up in the “Greatest Time of Year” drama, anxiety, stress or blues, glance at that growing list … remember to be thankful for what the Lord brings into your life, not angry about the drama that he doesn’t make go away. Remember that he doesn’t leave us to walk alone through anything … the light or the darkness, the hills or the valleys. Remember that he sends us Shepherds to help us find our way, other sheep to hang out with, and a Star to shine light on us every day.

We Three Things … what are they for you today? I’ve made my list this morning and the sky is still very dark. But I see Light.

What about you?

                                                                                                       — Jenni

P.S. If you’d like me to add you to the Ray Conniff “Jingle Bells” wake up on December 1st, let me know 🙂