Have Courage and Be Kind

I was raised on The Wonderful World of Disney and my parents took us to see all the animated Disney films in the theatres. Disney wasn’t yet the corporate giant it is today, but the stories and characters fascinated me. Yes, as a little girl, I wanted to be a Princess. Part of me still does …

Back then, there were only three princesses to choose from: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Since my childhood, the Disney Princess Roster has expanded greatly, and I find something admirable in all of them. But those I personally relate to best are Belle and Cinderella.

Recently, Disney released live action versions of both tales. They were truly magical and showcased the reason I admire these two strong women. Belle reminds me of the importance of books, imagination and looking beyond an outer image to find and appreciate the beauty within. To not judge others or make casual assessments that destroy or define something because it is different. But I will address that in another blog.

It’s the live action Cinderella, starring Lily James and James Madden, that I focus on today. There have of course been many Cinderella productions, plays, musicals, ballets, and modern variations on the rags-to-riches tale. But the 2015 film touches my spirit and reflects the reason Cinderella has always been my favorite heroine.

In the film, Ella (the Cinder part comes later) comes from a loving home, but her mother dies early. Yet her mother’s love and wisdom gives Ella the strength to maintain Hope and eventually save herself. Oh sure, she gets a prince in the end and has a little help from a magical fairy godmother. But she chose how to deal with the life thrust upon her and find her own way out of the miserable circumstances brought on by her father’s unfortunate selection of Wife #2.

The message her mother gives? Have Courage and Be Kind.

When her stepmother oppresses and undermines her, turning her into a servant in her own home, Ella shows grace instead of defiance and makes the most of her situation, befriending both the servants and animals around her. Her life is full of cruelty and she could easily lose her spirit and despair. But in the end with the prince by her side, instead of repaying the aduse she took in kind, she maintains grace. She utters the stronger message, telling her Stepmother: “I forgive you.”

I’ve been cast as Cinderella in three stage productions and I treasure each experience. I love the dress of course. The transformation scene is one of the most magical moments in the story. But it’s this woman’s ability to find Joy and Calm in the midst of adversity that inspires me. She recalls and finds happy moments when all around her is selfishness. She has courage and is kind while the interlopers reject her. That is what I admire in Ella, the girl who deserves so much love yet sleeps alone by the cinders. She finds in herself a way to rise above it all.

Though I’ve played the role, I’m not sure I’ve always had courage or been as kind as I should have been. I have not always considered the feelings of others. I’ve not always been brave enough to hold my tongue, take the higher ground or walk away from a difficult situation. And, as a result, I’ve hurt people — sometimes even knowing the damage I might do I must admit. I’ve been selfish at times and thoughtless.

As I watched the film this morning, I felt inspired once again by the story to follow Ella’s mother’s sage advice. To be kinder and slower to take offense or rise to anger. To show courage in the midst of darkness and rejection or when I’m uncertain and alone. And, perhaps just as importantly, to forgive those who may have hurt me … no matter the cause or reason.

Disney’s Princesses offer valuable lessons that resonate with more than just young girls. A kinder more courageous world where we are gentle and gracious to each other despite our differences is something to Hope for. To forgive when we’ve been carelessly, thoughtlessly or even intentionally hurt … I’m a work in progress here. But, one situation comes to mind today. And my response is to echo Ella’s … “I forgive you.”

No fairy godmother or magic wand needed. Just Have Courage, my readers. And Be Kind.

— Jenni

 

Sugar & Spice

I packed away my daughter’s dollhouse today.

Sitting on the pink carpeting in her updated “tween”-styled room, I carefully removed tiny pieces of furniture and dusted them before placing them carefully in the box from which I had removed them nearly 9 years ago. Some of the pieces had come from my own dollhouse. Some were new to her. When it came time to pack away the tiny pink china dishes, I felt tears slipping down my face.

She’d once found so much joy in that dollhouse. We’d discovered it on a fluke at a garage sale. I’d planned on building her one, like my parents built mine. But we “renovated” this one instead, together selecting new colors, painting it, adding hardwood flooring, kitchen tile, carpeting and updated wallpaper, and finally decorating it with furniture. Her Lallaloopsy dolls found their home inside those walls. Many were still inside, lounging on dusty chairs and sleeping in the brass bed I treasured once upon a time.

I remember watching her play, moving and speaking for the dolls and creating magical stories only she understood.  I remember the many times she asked me to “play people” with her, and we sat down on the floor and imagined together.

The dollhouse, Lallaloopsies and American Girl dolls have been left alone for a year now. I was in Denial for a while. Hopeful that the days of her exploring the extraordinary, captivating widths and depths of her imagination and “playing people” were not over. But, as I removed dusty furniture and dolls, I knew that time had passed. And I was seriously weeping when I carried the dollhouse to the basement and placed the boxed up furniture on a shelf to save for Paige’s children to discover.

I’d been through this once before, as my son transitioned away from his once coveted Webkinz and Club Penguin membership. He packed his childhood toys away himself, though. One day they were in his room; the next they were in a box in the basement. It’s a Toy Story 3 moment — a film I truly cannot watch as I sob every time.

286592_10150290105123746_6489319_oThough endings come and the days of dolls conc, I know I will have new treasured times to share with Paige. No, she won’t climb on my lap and snuggle — she’d crush me if she did! And she won’t ask me to play people or share a tea party with her AG dolls. But, we’ll share tween dramas, iTunes downloads and boy problems, friendship struggles and pointe ballet performances. What’s ahead, I truly don’t know. But, we’ve already shared the fun of picking out a dress and styling her hair for her first middle school dance.

There will be many Sugary moments in the coming days, weeks, months and years.  Life is like that. The discomfort of Spice as relationships twist and turn and sometimes fall away is hard to endure. Endings are difficult. Sometimes you don’t see them coming. They sneak up on you, unexpected. One moment you’re immersed in sweet Sugary playtime and experiencing incredible joy. Then, the story changes. You reach the end of a book without realizing it. Some experiences — like childhood — can’t last forever, no matter how many stars we wish upon.

As I packed away Paige’s childhood treasures, a part of me was packed away too.  But, having been here before and made it to the other side with an amazing 17-year old soon to graduate and go to college son, I know there’s Hope. My daughter and I have always been close. And though her Tween to Teen years may present a lot of Spice, I know there will be Sugary Joy and Special Memories along the way.

And, for the record, after I cleaned out, vacuumed and dusted her room, I settled down on the floor to change all Paige’s American Girl dolls into Spring dresses and enjoyed a tea party of my own with them …

— Jenni

The Kindness of Strangers

In my spare time, I’m involved in community theatre. I have been performing since the age of 3 when I played an Angel in my church Christmas Nativity play and tried to steal the scene from the Baby Jesus. Since then, my passion became the stage.

16298804_10155079499963746_8308319323543457934_nCurrently I’m playing a role in a comedy entitled The Red Velvet Cake War, written by the authors of the famous 80’s sitcom The Golden Girls. Set in Texas, the play centers around three “unique” cousins and contentious — albeit comically crafted —  family relationships that lead to a cake baking battle and a family reunion wrought with challenges. It’s very funny, very silly, and filled with crazy characters that — despite their Texas drawls — probably resemble someone you know.

Comedy is tricky. During the 10 weeks of rehearsal, you receive little feedback. The director and stage manager hear the same jokes day after day. You work your lines and try different variations along the way. But you wonder as you approach opening night, will people laugh? Are we funny?

Last Sunday, as my friend and fellow cast member Kathleen and I departed the stage door, a sweet older lady in a wheel chair stopped us to say, “Thank you for a wonderful afternoon that gave me so much joy. I laughed and laughed … I really needed that.”

Now, as much as I crave delving into the crazy nooks and crannies of the characters I create, I needed to hear that. As much as I enjoy the creative process and the rush that comes from standing in the spotlight, I needed the validation. And this one woman who I’d never met before — this stranger — gave it to me.

I think many people are like that. Perhaps that’s one reason social media thrives. We post photos on Instagram and Facebook, comments on Twitter, moments on SnapChat and Blogs on our web sites. And then we wait to see who Likes, Follows, Comments, and Views our stuff.

Let’s be honest, ya’ll. Don’t you Look at your posts after you put them out there to see what response they received? How many times do you check for Notifications to find out who liked that Facebook photo or commented on your post? As human beings in the midst of busy lives, we crave connection and a reminder that someone out there cares and notices us. And, when a total stranger bestows upon us a gracious look, a thoughtful remark, or a gentle hug, that is powerful.

Like Blanche DuBois from Tennessee Williams Streetcar Named Desire — a role I’ve always longed to play (hint hint) — I too have “always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Sometimes, these strangers give me the best gift of all. Recognition that I gave them something. For me, it’s not simply the creative role and character development, the applause, the on-stage/off-stage friendships formed, the cast parties, the footlights, the Aqua Net, the costumes, and the roles that fuel my passion. It’s knowing that somewhere out there is somebody who needs a moment of escape. A moment to not think about the challenges of their life or the world today. A moment of laughter in the darkness where I am their light.

I’m an artist. And like most artists, I need validation. I like it when I have a friend out there in the audience to support and celebrate my passion for performing. And, I like to know if what I’m putting out there resonates or gives joy.   I’m pretty sure many people feel the same way. We need the kindness of strangers — and the kindness of friends and those we walk through life with — to let us know we’re on the right path, support us, and applaud our efforts.

In this show, the laughter feeds my spirit. The smiling faces I see as I leave the theatre tell me I’ve given them something. And that gives me great satisfaction … as do the Likes and Comments I receive on items I post on social media that my friends take time to notice.

But to those people in the dark … those strangers … Thank you …

— Jenni

on my yoga mat

When I roll out my Yoga Mat, it’s not just about exercise. Rolling out my mat begins an emotional, physical and spiritual journey every time.

I started practicing Yoga about five years ago. Like many in today’s society, I was battling some anxiety issues. My doctor suggested Yoga might help. At first, I practiced at home using DVDs, which were surprisingly inspiring. Then, one day, I found a Groupon for The Yoga Shelter where my practice truly began.

There are various ways to practice yoga and many “flows.”  I prefer Slow Flow, which is exactly what it sounds like. You slowly move from one pose to another, building strength in lengthy holds and breathing patterns along the way. Lately, though, I’ve become a little more adventurous and tried out Fusion, which combines Slow Flow with some faster “flows” that you memorize and process on your own. But mostly in yoga, I try to Not think or control, since that’s one of my personal challenges.

When I began classes at the Shelter, I found myself fixated on the music and how it made me feel. I downloaded music I heard into my Yoga Mix. Now, I don’t notice the music as much. But I do gravitate to specific teachers — Brittney, Marty and Suzanne — and find their classes the best fit for me personally. See, for me, yoga is more than exercise … it’s a transformative experience. The teachers guide you in poses, yes. But they also help you set an Intention at the beginning of class, and guide you through the hour. They help direct your thoughts and both your physical and spiritual exercise. They present ideas that flow with you as you practice.

Today as part of the class, Brittney mentioned the 3 Cs of Yoga. And, during the next 60 minutes, she explained them. Concentration, Consistency, and Cooperation. You Concentrate to remain present, prevent your mind from wandering and to build focus. You practice Consistently to become stronger emotionally, mentally and physically. And you Cooperate with your fellow yogis, adding your energy to the room and inspiring each other.

cropped-img_8686.jpgBut for me, there are 5 Cs. Next comes the Calm … in a difficult pose, I shake. Sometimes I even fall. Sometimes balancing is too difficult. Sometimes I can’t do a specific pose. Instead of becoming impatient, I work on cultivating a Calm response, And that’s something I seek to take from my mat into the world after class … a Calm response when stuff doesn’t go my way, when I struggle or when I fall.

And next I work on one of the most difficult things for me.The Fifth C. Reliquishing Control and Letting Go.

Ask anyone, they will tell you that I am a Control Freak. Giving up control makes me Nervous. I mean, how can I be sure my son will finish that project if I don’t check in and get regular updates? How can I tell if my daughter is ready for her test if I don’t ask? How can I know the showers will get cleaned if I don’t remind my husband? How can I get that invitation to the party, play or event if I don’t show my interest and convince them I want to be there? How can I be sure I’ll get a call or text if I don’t reach out? How can I get the part if I don’t prepare? How do I know what’s going on if I don’t ask? How do I know things will go the way I hope they will go if I don’t do something to make it happen?

See, Letting Go is pretty much the most difficult thing for me. I’m sure Idina Menzel’s famous tune is known to all. Well, it’s my Theme Song. I have an Elsa watch and three charms on my Pandora bracelet reminding me to “Let It Go.”  I have songs on my iPhone focusing on Surrender. I use essential oils like Release and Surrender to encourage that peace somewhere deep inside me that will finally allow me to do just that.

On my yoga mat is where I do a lot of my work. I meditate before class. And there, I remain calm and even laugh a bit at myself when I fall out of balance. There, I am learning to Let It Go. There if  the pose doesn’t go the way I’d hoped, I can remain calm. On my mat, I concentrate, practice consistently and cooperatively share my light with the class.

So Brittney, there are 5 Cs to Yoga. And it’s the 5th C that causes me the most challenge … and keeps me coming back to your class to practice again and again and again.

Maybe one day, I’ll get it. But for  now, I remain calm and just keep practicing …

Namaste.

                                                                                                                                   — Jenni

The Mystery of #ThrowbackThursday

Assigned by the #ClassicsChallenge2017 to read a children’s book, I opted for my one of my preteen favs: Nancy Drew. I have a few if the yellow 1960s-70s editions in my personal library. I’d hoped my daughter would read them one day, along with the Bobbsey Twins who also delighted me for many years. She wasn’t really interested in the “classic versions” of either of these books. There are, apparently, more modern editions of the titian-haired sleuth’s detecting.

lilac-inn

I chose The Mystery of The Lilac Inn, originally published — believe it or not — in 1931. And curled up under a blanket with a cup of tea in hand, this book was a delightful throwback to my foray into mysteries.

Nancy — as always — stumbles upon something that seems like a ghost and turns out to be nothing like what you think it might be when the adventure begins. Her canoe is overturned by a puzzling jostle, leaving her wet and bedraggled on a trip to visit her dear soon-to-be-married friend at Lilac Inn. No sooner does she arrive but, diamonds disappear, cabins mysteriously burn, a strange impersonator steals her charge-plate and secret rooms are discovered. Of course Lilac Inn seems to be Haunted and no one finds that at all surprising. Just the way things are in Nancy Drew’s world.

I think what I enjoyed most about Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twin books is the cliffhanger at the end of every chapter. For a long time, I know I transferred that strategy into my own writing (and wished — wish? — to twist it into my own life too). Chapters always wrapped up with crashes of thunder, flashes of lightning, wicked villains wrecking havoc, Nancy or a friend hit on the head or exciting discoveries that encouraged the reader to turn that next page.  I have to admit that I secretly longed for these kind of exclamation point, exciting occurrences in my own life.

Nancy Drew mysteries always wrap up in Scooby-style. The darn titian blond (just what IS that color and who in the 30s had it naturally?) solved the crime in classic style while sporting some pink sheath dress and wrapping the culprit up neatly for local authorities. I’m so glad local authorities honored the insight of a young woman in the 30s! And that her Dad encouraged her and never seemed to be too concerned that his daughter was always getting roped into danger. These were never a straight-forward crimes either. The mysteries somehow generated more loose-ends than a string bikini and more characters that popped in and out than I could keep track of neatly. But somehow Nancy figured it out. Kudos and Bravo, I say.

But back to that Cliffhanger Chapter Closer thing. I think that was my favorite aspect of any Nancy Drew mystery. That writing method certainly made Nancy’s adventures  more compelling. Can you just imagine your own life including a Gasp! or a Hidden Passage! or a Kidnapping! or a Criminal Mastermind closing in!

Our daily lives don’t often include an Exclamation Point! when we wrap up a chapter. There are times I wish it did though. I’m adventurous, like Nancy. And it sure would add a little more excitement to the day-to-day routine. Pretty sure Nancy never got bored or restless ….

Maybe that’s why after all these years, I still enjoy Nancy Drew.

 — Jenni

 

Dear Lady Chatterley … It’s Me Not You

First assignment of #ClassicsChallenge2017 was a banned book. Cool right? A chance to read something that once upon a time was forbidden. I selected DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “privately published” in Italy in 1928 but denied to the masses. When Penguin Books tried to release it in 1960, it was subject to an obscenity trial. (Double coolness!) So, when it officially hit the shelves, the PR alone helped it sell 3 Million copies, billing it as a notorious story about a physical (and emotional) relationship between a working class man and an upper-class woman. Class integration and explicit descriptions of sex as well as the use of then “unprintable words” made it the Fifty Shades of its time.

Despite the hype, I was left unsatisfied. But it wasn’t you, Lady C. I’m sure it was me. I wanted a little faster pace. Perhaps the timing was off. I’ve heard it said the attitude of the reader affects the response to a book. We all bring our life and our current state of mind into our reads. And in the slower pace of this current season of my own life, I found myself impatient with you. All your moping and whining turned me off. Oh, I know you aren’t happy. But, when you meet Oliver, it takes you so long to reignite your flame that I stopped caring. Maybe I’m unfeeling, but by Chapter 10, I really wanted to smack you. Bring on the action and the sex already! (Um, maybe I should have given this an R rating.) Anyway, the foreplay in this book teased me but left me unsatisfied and bored.

reading-a-bookWith Fifty Shades, I got average writing, but there was action. I’m not demanding and I don’t require instant gratification. I like to exercise my imagination. Yet despite initially interesting characters and some well-crafted observations that resonated, the tedious writing desperately called for a good editor. It left me with a plot that plodded until the romance was gone. Hence the break-up. I returned you Lady C, unfinished, to the Library.

Quick overview: Good opening paragraph (check it out!) Story begins with a woman raised to understand and appreciate her own sexuality. Dad wants his two daughters to enjoy a forward-thinking view of love, sex and womanhood. Then, the war happens and Constance, (the eventual Lady C) who has been sowing her wild oats in Germany, comes home and marries Sir Clifford Chatterley. He’s then shipped off to the War and comes home in pieces.

Fortunately — or unfortunately for Constance — they put the pieces back together but he is paralyzed from the waist down and … impotent. Newlyweds Constance and Clifford move North — away from the beauty of Yorkshire to his estate located in an industrial area. Clifford is full of himself and decides he will become a great writer, surrounding himself with people who give him props. Due to his injury, Constance struggles with his physical neglect. But it’s his emotional unavailability that breaks her further. Constance is bored and completely unstimulated. She meanders through her days, loses weight, and falls into depression.

Enter blue-collar guy Gamekeeper Oliver Mellors and we find out why the book was banned. The two breach that segregation of classes with a frank, never before so graphically presented sexual relationship. Constance violates class barriers AND further shocks readers by discovering she cannot live a satisfying life with the mind alone. She must also be alive physically. DH Lawrence flaunts the dangerous idea that real love can only be forged with a physical relationship — not simply one of the mind.

I recognize our generation prefers a fast-paced story. But I’m not typically like that demanding. And I didn’t mean to rush you, Lady C. I needed less moping and angst to connect with your story. Maybe, I should take you out again and try you as a Beach Read. Perhaps lounging and soaking in the warm rays of the sun in my bathing suit would make you more intriguing then you are in the dreary mid-Winter. Perhaps we will meet again. After all, you satisfied 3 Million readers in the ’60s, so there must be more to you than I discovered during our month together.

Because I could get no satisfaction and we just didn’t connect, I left you. My fault, clearly. Me, not you. I wish you the best.

                                                                                                                        — Jenni

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lush Life

A response to a writing challenge: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/lush/

During the transitional moments of our days, the moments where our thoughts stray or drift away from the mundane routine, we ponder and reflect on days past where it was simpler, easier, perhaps even better. We daydream and fantasize and glorify times and relationships that have drifted away.

It was better then, we say, during our Lush Life. The Magic of Christmas was always present. The rush of shopping was fun and done in lavishly decorated shops with the help of knowledgeable sales clerks. The gatherings with family and friends were rosy and full of great conversation. Our social outings were spontaneous and exciting. The good old days hold a golden glow in our minds.

Was it ever that way? Was it ever that good? When we only had 5 TV Channels and a record player — or AM/FM Radio — to entertain us, was life better? When our phone wasn’t a life-line to the world, did we have enough information? When we weren’t conditioned to post and check Facebook, Twitter, Messaging, Instagram and SnapChat every few minutes, did we have true friends?

When every news story didn’t begin with Trump said/Trump did/Trump tweeted, was our quality of life sweeter?

When we played outdoors more on swing-sets with neighborhood friends, disappearing after school and only returning for meals, did we live more fully? When the only way we could find our friends was to speak to them on a phone or face to face, were relationships easier to manage? Were we more connected? Did we nurture our friendships with greater respect and care?

Were we kinder to each other when we didn’t have texts, messaging or emails to  make us anonymous and make meanness easier?

Before social media made us unsocial and disconnected us with the people who matter most, condensing conversations and thoughts to a 140 character tweet, was that the Lush Life?

#IMissIt

via Daily Prompt: Lush