Knick Knacks & Wood

The Christmas season begins for me on December 1st. Always has. On that day, my parents pulled out the Christmas with Conniff album and woke my brother and me with the dulcet 70s sounds of Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus. Without fail, that album delivered the first sounds of the season — an angelic host heralding the arrival of the Holidays.

The tradition continued when I went to college, my parents calling me at some ungodly hour to play Jingle Bells over the phone lines. And it continued into adulthood, my brother and I entering into a competition to see who could call the other first … There was one pre-6am call from him that I will never forget.

I have Christmas with Conniff on my iPhone now, and have provided CDs to my kids and both nieces so that the next generation can take the tradition into the future. And yesterday, my college son received three phone calls, mine the earliest, to wish him Happy December 1st. And yes, Christmas with Conniff continued its reign.

24232118_10156078070728746_2992581248180690404_nI answer the phone Happy December 1st. That’s the day the Holiday Magic begins for me. And yesterday, I awoke my family with Conniff and donned my Disney Princess Santa Hat, along with my holiday Joy sweater and festive pink tights, to greet the Christmas Season my way.

I like Tradition. And December 1st also became my chosen day of Decoration. Now, when I was at Albion, I awoke my Flatmate Nina with a decorated room. Easy. One room. When I moved out on my own after college, I decorated my apartment and tiny tree on December 1st, making that my tradition. Again, small space done easily. Now, a few years later, I have 7 boxes of decorations and a house of many rooms and three stories to decorate.

It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. I play music and really get into it. But, no matter if I pack the items away by floor, there’s never a formula. I have to dust as I decorate, putting items away as I pull others out. And it takes time and creativity. But the tradition continues … Happy December 1st …

Yesterday, though, I looked around afterward and felt underwhelmed. I don’t know if it was my mood or the work and fatigue of spending 5 hours on this very physical decorating project. Maybe it was the photos on Facebook of others’ homes and their Christmas style that seemed so glorious and festive. But, gazing around, I felt like I hadn’t done enough.

That’s a theme of this season, I’ve discovered. We race around trying to create the perfect Christmas experience. We seek to capture that elusive Christmas Spirit we know we once had but that seems harder to find. When we don’t feel we’ve created it, something seems … off.

So, when I looked at all the photos of homes with candles and greenery, fireplaces decorated with glass bulbs and light, I felt as though my decorations paled in comparison. They simply created clutter in an already cluttered up space. I had failed Christmas 101 and it was only December 1st. How would I create the Magic when I’d already missed the mark?

Okay, I don’t have a fireplace mantle. And my 7 boxes of decorations feature few candles and no greenery or glass bulbs. Instead, most of my decorations are handcrafted. Mr. Eckert, a dear family friend, made many of them. He carved beautiful wooden angels, nativity scenes, reindeer, wreaths, a puzzle piece Christmas tree and other seasonal favorites. Then there are the creations my kids made, including Christmas trees crafted from cloth hearts, styrofoam cup bells, tissue paper wreaths, and cut out gingerbread men made from sandpaper. I have a few festive Santas, a collection of Boyd’s Angels, a small Dickens village set up on the piano, and various cards with messages of meaning that I display in picture frames.

Yet, my home didn’t smell of pine and didn’t give off that golden glow. So, I felt a rush of failure. My Christmas looked messy and not at all like the Victorian Ideal I had in my mind.

But … the greatest gift of Christmas was Homemade. A baby. The truest gift of Christmas came out of Love that arrived not at some super-sanitized hospital ward but in a dirty, cluttered stable. The first Christmas was messy and involved Shepherds and starlight. So … maybe my Handcrafted Cluttered Christmas decor was in line with the messy birth of a baby a long time ago in a stable in Bethlehem. Imperfect look but full of an inner light and great love.

My Christmas decorations are items handcrafted with Love … wooden knick knacks and cross-stitch Angels, Santas and 12 Bears of Christmas, projects that took many hours to create and that are beautifully framed. And Nonnberg Abbey in the Dickens Village, along with so many Eckert creations, remind me of friends and family who touched my lives and retain a special place in my heart for always.

So then, I looked around again. Wooden Angels line my windows, my diffuser emits the beloved Young Living Christmas Spirit oil, and cross-stitched Christmas socks hang from nails on doorways. These are the works of Heart. My home was decorated with heart. And, when I let go of the ideal and stop seeking to create perfection … when I truly zone in and remember that Christmas was created to show the Love our Father holds for each of us, imperfect beings that we are …  If I can just remember not to seek the perfection of a Hallmark kind but instead reach out to others in Love …. well, perhaps I can finally capture that elusive Christmas Spirit and allow its healing light to Sparkle through my fingertips and touch others.

Christmas for me is created with Knick Knacks and Wood. But each piece tells a story … each decoration means something. Just like the many people who’ve played roles in the theatrical production of my life over the years. And yes, they will get dusty and yes, they do create clutter — people and things. But life is full of clutter, dust and distraction. It’s choosing to honor your own traditions and let go of an ideal of perfection that helps you find the Magic, the Love and the Light that sets this time of year apart.

Happy December 2nd …

                                                                                                     — Jenni


The Gratitude Game

In the days before Thanksgiving, social media features “Thankful For” messages and images. As we prepare for the inundation of TV ads promoting everything from chocolate diamonds to the purchase of a new Lexus for that ‘special someone,’ Thanksgiving has always seemed the simple holiday where you gather with friends and loved ones and just spend time eating and talking. However, in the wake of the loss of a friend of mine to a horrible battle with cancer, my first thought that comes to mind is deep gratitude for my Health. And I stall there.

Things are different today, with this loss so fresh. Facebook featured photos and tributes to her yesterday which made me smile and cry at the same time. And as the Rain concludes its day of cleansing my view and the sun can be seen from my window-filled room, the moments in my life in which I give thanks play like the iTunes photo library which somehow automatically begins on my PC without any direction from me.

I find gratitude in the littlest moments that many may overlook or take for granted. Of course, I am grateful for my Family and Friends. And my Faith. These three Fs define me. They are my rock and source of strength on good days and bad. But see, that’s something that I recognize … sometimes the greatest moments came about with a mix of grey or darkness alongside.

Life is a blend of these things. It’s not all Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice. It’s complicated and messy. And the things I am most grateful for and treasure most are like a blend of sparkly white snow with dead fall leaves intermixed into their drifts.

I am grateful for my Cat … well, Paige’s cat who shares her time and love with me too. Ellie wakes me around 6:28am daily. She snuggles at my feet each night and utters her soft morning purr to tell me it’s time to rise and shine. To be honest, I’m so used to this morning ritual that I’m conditioned to wake up moments before that purr-alarm. I look forward to our morning snuggle.

I am grateful for my Theatre moments. So many come to mind … I’ve had a Bountiful stage career so far. I’m grateful for moments on the Mountain, in the Rabbit Hole, at the Piano and on the Footbridge. All night cast parties and even the rough go in the ER, which showed me how much love comes from a theatre family. I’m grateful for a voice teacher who helped me believe in myself and Charles Dickens, who didn’t finish one of his books and brought me Moonfall and a love story that shaped my life. I’m grateful for Oscar Wilde and a few brilliant farces that gave me fun costumes and introduced me to new friends with staying power. I’m grateful to cake wars and a clever director with a vision and hope for a little story. I’m doubly grateful for a Hat Shop and some Drowsy moments. And for I’m grateful for a poem written once upon a time that captured a journey. I’m grateful that there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed up in your philosophy. And I’m grateful that Shakespeare and theatre have touched not only my own life, but my kids lives — altering them is such incredible and awesome ways.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m grateful to all the friends I met on the stage … princes and husbands, girlfriends, cousins and directors, sisters, fairy tale characters and children of my heart. People who’ve come and gone, but left footprints on my soul and those that are still around and sharing life off the stage with me.

I’m grateful for my husband’s amazing voice — which so many people have been able to enjoy — and the devotion he shares not only with his family but with the Swim Team and Boy Scouts. I’m grateful for his cooking talents, his tech support and his love, patience and encouragement. And I’m grateful his Lions have won a few games this year!

I’m grateful for the people who touch the minds and hearts of my kids … a lovely girl who shares time, a love of music and film and a talent for filmmaking with my son.  A girl who makes him happy and smile, yet keeps him thinking and on his toes. I’m grateful for a trio of girls who have known each other since kindergarten and are bonded in such a joyful, dramatic way. I’m grateful my daughter found her voice and loves using it. And, I’m grateful for the teachers who shape them and help them discover and celebrate the best of who they are, especially Mr. Conrad, Miss Jen, Miss Claire and Mr Pavlovich.

I’m grateful for good books that take me on adventures, a trip to Disney and “Paris” with a dear friend; phone calls to Chicago that ground me, heal me and make me laugh; long conversations with my sister and brother and the times we spend together; outings with my sol-sister; coffee mornings with my Mom and times on the golf course or talks over beer at Muldoons with my Daddy. I’m grateful for breakfast at Walts with my Mom and Dad and girls nights out — or in the hot tub! I’m grateful for knitting nights and times I tried to learn pool and enjoyed thoughtful conversations. I’m grateful for the friends that were — far away friends or those with whom I’ve parted ways. Like the messy leaves in the snow, they are all part of me and I’m grateful for what we shared.

I’m grateful for Manicures and Mimosas. For Yoga and my instructors, Barre3 workouts that energize me, and Starbucks coffee. I’m grateful for sharpened pencils and blank pages in my journal. Holding hands. Long walks. My essential oils. A bench by the water. For nieces who share their dreams with me. For Alice in Wonderland and my adventurous, explorative nature. For Traverse City trips and walks on the beach. For Boozy-Boozy times and Boat trips. And the photos that remind me of everything past — good, bad, happy, sad, joyful, ugly, broken, healed, big, little …

Life is made up of all this. And as I think of my friend Kelly, who is surely singing in the heavenly chorus and how much she will be missed, I celebrate one special song we sang together.

Years ago, we were in a production called “Sweet & Hot.” Kelly sang all the lovely ballads while I performed the quirky numbers, learning to scat, sing on a bar — literally, and dress up like Lydia the Tattooed Lady. But at the end, we donned these beautiful dresses and sang an Acapella version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow to close the show. It was stunning and brought the audience to their feet every night. We stood together there in a tight arc and shared our love of music. And it was glorious. That is how I will choose to remember a brave, talented, beautiful, loving mother, wife, actress, singer and friend.

She’s over the rainbow now. And we mere mortals are left to dream and explore our philosophies about Heaven and Earth. So, as I enjoy a special Maxwell House Moment with my mom in the coming weeks, I will be grateful for ALL the moments I’ve experienced with some very special people, performing and rehearsing musicals and plays, working on knitting projects and enjoying conversations.  I’ll think of a father-daughter dance, a song my husband sang, holding my daughter’s hand as I walked her to school, long-talks and hikes in Ashville with my son, sitting and drinking hot cocoa while I watched the moon on the water as well the goodbyes said and losses experienced this past year, the tears shed and the laughter laughed, a power outage and a college grad party laced with photos and memories of times gone by.

And I’ll be grateful.

                                                                                                                                            — Jenni

The Start of Something — No

No, you didn’t get the job.

No, you didn’t get that role.

No, you didn’t do that right.

No, you need to come up with a different approach.

No, I can’t see you any more.

No, it’s not good enough.

No, that’s not what I want.


Recently, my son went off to college. To say things changed around my house would be an understatement. So much of the past year was wrapped up in his Senior Year activities, ceremonies, events and “lasts.” Packing him off to school was an adventure. And it left an empty bedroom and a quieter calendar. My daughter hasn’t ramped up to the busy schedule yet. She’s in the tween years where she spends more time in her room than with her parents. And my husband is rehearsing one of his favorite roles in a local musical theatre production.

So, I’ve got time on my hands. And since I’m a restless spirit that likes to be physically, mentally and emotionally active, I don’t sit still very well … or for very long.

I had an idea about how to fill those hours — a project that would present me with a new challenge and a more active schedule. So, I tossed my hat into the ring. Sometimes, though, the answer is not yes. And our best laid plans do not come to fruition. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing; it’s just what it is. And as humans when we encounter a stop or a detour sign, we have to figure out what to do. It is interesting time for me. And, in the midst of it, I stumbled upon a quote I’d written down once upon a time …

quote 2

Not sure where I found that quote, but it stuck with me. I keep a journal of quotes that resonate and reflect on them from time to time. As I’ve had more reflection time lately, I was browsing the journal and this one got me thinking.

How many opportunities in my life — in your life — have begun with the word No? Perhaps you applied for a job, but it didn’t come thru. I recall wanting this one job SO BADLY. The application process was delayed and another interview came through, landing me an offer. I debated … do I hold out for something I think I want that might come through or let go, trust this new, unexpected opportunity and move forward. I closed my eyes and jumped. And my time with Magic Line, Inc. was seriously the greatest six years in my career. It was a time of growth, learning, discovery, accomplishment, success and joy. I planned an event at the Palmer House Hilton, for goodness sake! Anyway, that position defined my career direction and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.

A couple years ago, I auditioned for a play. I thought it was a good fit and I went prepared. Didn’t get the part … a friend of mine was cast though. As we drank beers and ate truffle fries together after the “casting call,” I remember a few tears of disappointment slipping out. But, there was another show and another role that I had been preparing for at the time as well. Another part that intrigued me. And, as I brought my A-game to that competitive, challenging audition, something clicked and I got the part. Gotta admit, I had more fun in Don’t Dress For Dinner than I can type on these pages. And I’m as grateful for the No as I am for the Yes and the friendship that evolved with my director Rachel.

The No’s come. They come in various forms and ways. Sometimes they are presented in a kind, understanding manner. Sometimes they are delivered crisply over the phone or by text, letter or email. Sometimes they come face to face. Sometimes they occur in the silence of an unreturned call or message.  Sometimes you want to ask questions, but you’re stopped short. Sometimes you just never understand why you get them. But, you have to go on. I’ve quoted The Rolling Stones before. Think you know what I’m saying …

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes … You just might find … You get what you need.”

Sometimes it takes a No to propel us forward. Sometimes a No gets us to the next better thing … or to the right thing seven things down from that. It’s not always formulaic, and it doesn’t always happen immediately. But, we learn from Nos. We evolve from Nos. We grow sad and strong from Nos. We mourn and we lament when we get them. We rant and rave as well. But we change from Nos. A dead end is a dead end. We have to turn onto a new path when one road closes. We can’t just stop and curl into the fetal position … well, okay, we can. I have. But only for a little while.

Life is full of Yes. Life is full of No. And sometimes to get to a Yes, you have to experience a whole lotta No. I like to think — I choose to believe — that each No offers an opportunity for growth and a gentle push onto a different path that I might not have chosen should the word Yes have come. That I need both in my life to help me become the best Me I can be. I  may not always like to get them, but a No is necessary to shape my character and help me simmer for a while. To make me stronger … get me to the next right place.

With a No, my life does not end. I am not broken, destroyed, lost or set out to sea to drift along the currents.  I am simply taking a path that has redirected me to something better … something different … something … New.

– Jenni

wrong things






Dear World,


No, I mean seriously — and I’m not trying to be unkind — what the heck is wrong with you?

My daughter sat me down yesterday to interview me about five events with “historical significance” in my lifetime. Criteria required large-scale impact and change so getting cast in a play, swimming with the dolphins, my wedding day and the birth of my kids were not eligible. My first thought then, of course, was the Apollo 11 Moon Landing on my 3rd birthday. (Yeah, okay, do the math. I’m good with it.) But from there, the events were all tragic ones for our country and our world.

Since when did shootings, bombings, taking hostages, self-righteously threatening lives, and flying planes into buildings ever solve problems? I’m not trying to belittle anything. Just breaking down the topic to get a better grip on the mindset in our world today.

Bombings at an Ariana Grande concert and shootings in Vegas … what did they get anyone but death and sadness? What did they say? What did they accomplish? When did demonstrations etched in violence ever solve a social issue? And who believes Hate and Unforgiveness allow humankind to move forward emotionally or physically?

We need to find a Release for our intense anger, festering resentment, fear, frustration, sadness, intolerance and anxiety. But we need to choose a Healthy way to express our thoughts and feelings — one without guns and bombs. A Healthy way to move past differences. A Healthy way to get our point across. A Healthy way to foster change when change is needed. And, we need less Blame and more Acceptance.

I think back to an Historically Significant moment that was NOT during my lifetime, thank you very much, but that I studied in school. Rosa Parks decision to sit at the front of the bus. She didn’t shoot the idiots who wanted to send her to the back. She didn’t even shout obscenities or threaten to seek out and harm their next of kin. She sat down, quietly. And that incident started a ball rolling with more power than a gunshot.

One of the other incidents I mentioned to my daughter was Watergate. No guns there. This was something she hadn’t heard of. To me it is historically significant because that event originated our distrust and scrutiny of the White House and our leaders. Watergate turned the tide on the power of the press, for better and for worse.

The others I selected, you ask? The Assassination Attempt on Ronald Reagan, the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Paris Bombings. I thought of Columbine and the many school shootings. I even thought of the Assassination of John Lennon and the deaths of Prince and David Bowie, all life altering historically significant events to me.  Sadly, I came up with very few positively focused occurrences that altered life as I know it, with exception of our country’s election of the first African American president which to me defined Hope in the future of mankind — no matter your politics.

It’s time to be Brave, people. It’s time to take a stand against this trend. It’s time to grow up and express Kindness and Courage over Hate and Intolerance. It’s time to Forgive people who hurt us. It’s time to let things go instead of hanging on to prejudice and the past. We may never see eye to eye on some issues. I may dislike what you have to say.  But pulling out a Gun will not solve the bigger problem. And stoking the fire of Hate will not build bridges and help us move forward.

Pretty sure if the Founding Fathers knew guns were going to be used to arbitrarily, they might have clarified the “right to bear arms.” Clearly mankind has some issues with self-control. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Yeah, yeah I know that. But rapid fire machine guns in the hands of the public. Not sure I get the need …

Anyway …

I’m going to take a stand. I’m moving forward. I choose to Forgive and Let Go of past hurts and unkindness, past grievances and slights. No, I may not choose to renew relationships that have damaged or affected me in negative ways. But, the slate is clean. The past is the past and I will no longer allow it to frighten me or hold me back. I won’t walk on eggshells.

We all have people and occurrences that have caused us pain. It’s not just Vegas and Columbine that spread Hate. But we can choose our response. Choose our actions. Choose to rise above or move past them. The misguided individuals who shot up schools, bombed a Paris subway and concert, shot up San Bernadino, Las Vegas and the Orlando bar, and flew planes into the Twin Towers were angry and chose to punish innocents in a violent way. Their message of Hate was clear. But, what else did that action say? What can we do in the face of so much anger? What positive changes occurred in response to these acts of violence? I can’t think of any. Except that it brought people together, made us aware of the power of hate, and invited us to choose another way.

But, did we?

That’s the world in which my kids are growing up in. That’s the world where people argue on Facebook through “social media” and belittle others on television. That’s the world where teachers can’t punish or correct students without worrying that angry parents will confront them. That’s the world where every day I send my daughter to school and I get to worry about what might happen to her there.

One day, Paige’s kids will interview her about five events with “historical significance” in her lifetime. My Hope is that her answer has more Moon Landings, fewer shootings, more tolerance and appreciation of individuality, and less violence.

Dear World … get it together. If not for me, for the next generation. Put away the guns and the hate. And start building the bridge to Forgiveness and Acceptance.

— Jenni

Give Elizabeth a break

The following being a thoughtful commentary regarding Poldark

Okay empowered women who follow PBS Masterpiece Theatre’s famed and quite Exceptional series “Poldark,” Stand Down!

I’m here today to delve into the character of Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan. Yeah, I bet you women who have stumbled upon “the Corner” picture yourselves as a Demalza or a Caroline. I prefer to see myself that way too. But, let’s give Ross’s first love a minute of our time before we condemn her. She’s been through a lot. Yet during the three seasons I’ve watched this acclaimed historical fiction, I’ve heard very little in praise of her, excepting that she’s beautiful. Sadly, she’s the object of disgust, disdain and dislike.

But is that fair?

Sure, we relate to the fighter Demalza. She raised herself out of the dirt quite literally and now holds the key to Ross Poldark’s heart. Well, most of it at any rate. Delmalza has a fiery spirit that matches her fiery red hair. She’s been through a lot and we love her for it. She’s strong and creative and resourceful and she’s quite fiesty too.

If not Demalza, we want to be Caroline. Wealthy, beautiful, spoiled, exceptionally well-dressed — love the hats — and very clear about what she wants, Caroline seems to have it all. Well, at this point in the series we hope she does what with the love of her life Dwight Enys, M.D. emprisoned in France.  (Um, is it too late to say “spoiler alert” for those of you not caught up to episode 3, season 3? Sorry.)

But it was Elizabeth who first captured our imagination in the opening moments of the series, before she broke Ross’s heart and we got mad at her. She was the picture of the ideal romantic heroine. Lovely long brown hair. Sweet smile. Naive. Charming. Bred like a true lady of 1783.

Yep, and there’s the rub. Elizabeth was raised to be exactly the way she is. Lovely. Elegant. Eye Candy. The Trophy Wife. She was raised to smile and grace the arm of her husband. To have babies and be dressed by staff in fine gowns. Whereas Demalza can milk the cow, make the cheese and prepare a nice meal, Elizabeth can only sit down and charm the table with a nod of her head and gentle smile.

e7Let’s take a field trip to Season 1/Episode 1, shall we? Do you recall the scene of her discovery that Ross — her childhood sweetheart who been shipped off to the Colonies to fight in the American Revolution because he was kind of a despicable, rabble rouser — was Not dead as she had been informed. He was alive and well. And his timing in letting her know was impeccable. He showed up at her family engagement dinner where they were celebrating her engagement to cousin-not-as-handsome-not-as-dynamic-but-not-as-difficult-either Francis.

Ouch. Burn.

Well, at that first moment Elizabeth was very much ready to throw it all out and go off with Ross. But Ross learned that he was penniless with no resources save a messed up estate. What could he offer the gently-bred Elizabeth? Pretty much nothin’ but his undying love. And as wonderful as that might be, it wouldn’t feed or shelter them. Yet Elizabeth was aware of his situation and would have gone away with him anyway. If he asked, that is, which he did not. She waited to see if he would come a calling. She sat prettily in the garden, expecting him to declare his love and take her away. But her mother told her to grow up and realize that Ross had nothing to offer but debt, leaving Elizabeth confused. Hopeful … yet confused.

And, then burn of all burns, Ross didn’t come to her.

Okay, those of you out there who think she should have gone racing after her man, I am totally in agreement. But we are talking 1783. And women like Elizabeth were bred to wait. They weren’t bred to tear across the estate and throw themselves into the arms of their great love.

Strike One against Elizabeth. And it was her upbringing and mother that guided the day.

Now we fast forward to Season 2/Episode 6 and look at Elizabeth home-wrecker. We all remember that tumultuous bedroom scene. Elizabeth had been struggling since Francis’ death. And Ross had been helping her. Yeah, I know all you liberated ladies are saying, she needed to take care of herself. Again … duh! upbringing. Elizabeth wasn’t raised to run a mine or plan to support an estate. She was raised to look good on the arm of the guy who did.

e15And don’t tell me you didn’t want them to have their moment. The sexual tension since Episode 1 had taken us there. Oh, we were conflicted. We love Ross and Demalza. But this thing between Ross and Elizabeth had been simmering for years. And so “it” happened. They wanted it. But … guilt and regret hit Ross. So he bailed on Elizabeth. Not even a morning after phone call or a thanks but I’m thinking we made a mistake and should go our separate ways/it’s not you, it’s me conversation. He just slunk away and left her hanging.

And, unfortunately, Elizabeth wasn’t raised to live on her own. So don’t blame her for turning to the only guy who seemed to care a damn about her. Sure, she probably knew George Warleggan was a first rate jerk. But, he could pay the bills when she couldn’t. She was trapped. He gave her an out.

Strike Two. Attempted home-wrecking and the marriage to George pretty much took her out of our favor.

Now here we are at Season 3/Episode 3. Elizabeth, who we have to accept was not raised like Caroline to think and act independently, is convinced that Ross has abandoned her. She doesn’t comprehend the notion that Ross is acting to protect everyone by stepping away. Her mind is not positioned to think past her own needs. George uses that to manipulate her further, dragging her away to watch him “serve” the bench.

Elizabeth watches, hopeful at first. But, she is not naive enough to miss his abuse of power. And it clearly disgusts her. She’s trapped and has no one to help her. And she’s struggling already with the knowledge that her new baby is probably Ross’ kid. Something Ross and Demalza already know but somehow George has missed — which is best for the poor boy.  And her spirit, what little there was of it, is now officially shattered.

Enter the doctor with the tincture. I figure it was probably laudanum. In the same way Cersei Lannister drinks wine to dull the senses in Game of Thrones, Elizabeth turns to laudanum and sinks away into a blissful medicinal peace she cannot find in her self.

Now, I’m not advocating wine, drink or drugs here. And I’m not saying Elizabeth and Cersie have anything else in common, saving a need to escape their self-created prisons. This medication was prescribed to help Elizabeth take the edge off. She’s probably going to abuse it. We will most likely see that going forward.

Strike Three. Poor weak Elizabeth.

We hold her in disdain. We want her to be wiser and stronger and more resilient. We want her to dismiss George and tell him he’s a jerk. But, she wasn’t raised that way. She was raised to be exactly who she is. And it shattered her. And that’s sad.

So, as we watch her fall apart, have a care. Be kind. And give her a break.

                                                                                — Jenni

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

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