Saturday, February 27, 2010

In My Own Little World

Tonight, my daughter's choir hosted a madrigal dinner where they sang all these madrigals I remembered singing in high school choir. All the girls were going to be wearing these cute costumes. I remembered that I had a Renaissance Fair outfit in my closet and decided that I'd wear it tonight. Even though none of the other parents or guests would be in costume, I wanted to pull mine out and get all gussied up.

I checked with my girl first of course...I didn't want to seem too weird - but there were plenty of other adults in costume also, they just had "parts" - she was totally fine with me being myself. She's pretty great that way.

So this is who I am. I dress up in costume if given half the chance. I always, always, always think there's something better out there. I sometimes hear background music to my life when it doesn't exist in reality. And I almost always believe people. That last point - the always believing people part - well...that sometimes causes me problems. But that is, perhaps, a topic for another post.

And then I came home and watched my Ally McBeal DVDs. Specifically, I watched the episode when The Biscuit tells Ally that she probably imagines things (you know, like judges bursting into song and dancing babies) because she has such high expectations for the world and she knows it will never live up to her expectations. So...he suggests that she's decided to just stay in her own little invented world. Because the made up world won't let her down.

In other words, I came home from one of my classic Jenn-in-her-own-world experiences to get lectured by John Cage about the fact that I have so many Jenn-in-her-own-world experiences. And I began to wonder about how maybe there are parts of my life where I need to be happy with practicality. Don't get me wrong...I am practical in many ways. I work hard, I'm professionally pretty successful, and I do lots of extra stuff too. But I don't want to be practical. I think that, deep down, I've been just doing the practical thing because I figured that eventually my own little world would come true.

I guess the truth is that there are parts of life where a person has to be totally practical and, you know, accept that fact. Seems obvious, right? Well - when you're wearing a costume it's not as obvious as one would think it should be.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Strong Life

The title of this posting is a bit of a misnomer because, I'm not necessarily living my strongest life at the moment. I will say, however, that I am living a much STRONGER life than I've ever lived before. I'm a bit behind on my "Literary Ponderings" postings and have yet to post about the Buckingham book - but it really made a difference for me. It took me through the necessary questions to figure out - "what is my strong life?"

It turns out that the key consideration I needed to ponder was: what makes me feel the strongest? (What gives me the most joy? What do I want to do no matter what?)

There really are only two answers to that. One is writing and the other is acting.

You see, lately I've really been trying to figure out what I need to do professionally to find total fulfillment and it dawned on me that perhaps that isn't the path that offers me what I need from a "life fulfillment" standpoint. Don't get me wrong, it's an important part of my life and I need to be as fulfilled as it is humanly possible for me to be from 8 to 5...BUT...for me perhaps it isn't as important as I've been making it out to be.

Writing and acting. Once those memories came into my head, I knew that no other life experiences even came close to bringing me the kind of joy and completeness I find on stage or wrapped up in my story.

It can be tough to find this strength - acting is a bit tricky at this point in my life, but I'm here to tell you that for the last two days I've woken up 30 minutes earlier so that I can write first thing in the morning. I know, it's just something I've done for two days...but it's been a great thing. I've felt as if I'm doing what I'm really supposed to be doing during those dark thirty minutes.

Society expectations continue to pop into my head, of course. I find myself wondering whether I can make this into a "career" - whether I can support my family - when that's not even the point. I pull myself back and remind myself that all I'm supposed to do right now is listen to my inner voice and simply write the story of a character who's taken residence in my soul.

The acting might be a little bit more tricky, but where there's a will....

As I drove my daughter to choir practice tonight, she told me that what she really wanted more than anything else in the world was to act. She said (with tons of passion) that nothing made her happier.

I told her that I understood exactly how she felt. I think that during the drive home, I'll tell her how great a gift it is that she knows what makes her feel such joy and that she should do whatever she can to pursue it in life.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What I Learned from Figure Skating

Not how to be graceful and lovely. Obviously.

But what I did learn is how to get up off my butt and keep going, even if a medal is no longer in the cards for me. As discouraging as it might be for me to try for something over and over without getting where I want to be, I have to admit that's NOTHING compared to how it must feel to fall in front of millions of people while pursuing an Olympic dream.

Seriously. That's totally intense.

When I was younger (I'm ashamed to admit this) - I used to wonder why those people kept going after falling down. What's the point, right? I mean - there's no way they'll be on the podium to get Gold, Silver or even Bronze.

Life experience has (finally) taught me that it's not about winning. It's about not giving up and not being ashamed. There's no one who illustrates this better than the figure skater who throws everything he or she has into a jump and then ends up skidding across the ice in an undignified posture in front of the whole world.

I tell you one thing. If they can keep going then so can I.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Anger Smells of Ash

I live in Northwest Austin, Texas. I am a mom and work far away from my neighborhood although my children (naturally) attend an elementary school that is very close to my home. It is probably not necessary for me to tell you how frightened and out of control I felt when I realized that a plane had crashed into a building a few minutes away from where my husband works and my children attend school. As a matter of fact, I expended an enormous amount of emotional energy today simply trying to talk myself out of how I was feeling.

After all, I knew that not only was my family ok, but (miraculously) most of the people in the building were also ok.

My logical self-talk, however, failed to make much of a dent in how I felt. The best I can say about it is that it helped me retain a calm outer demeanor. For the most part.

By the time I drove home this evening, I'd seen pictures of the wrecked building on CNN. That was odd enough since I pass this building practically every single day. As a matter of fact, it's so close to my house that I've often thought how great it would be if I could find a JOB in that building so that my commute would be easier. Once it hit about 4:00 this afternoon - I started to wonder how I'd go home. Would I drive my normal path, which would take me right by the building?

I decided, once again, to attempt a logical approach. I watched the traffic reports. Truthfully - I figured that traffic would be horrible and I'd be forced to figure out an alternate route home. But - it wasn't. I kept waiting for MoPac to crowd but it was one of the easiest, smoothest commutes I've ever attempted. As I made my way to the top of the MoPac/183 flyover, my breath caught in my throat and I crossed myself as I saw the destruction on one side of the road and the countless, countless news vans on the other side of the road. Traffic was crawling for those few minutes (as I'm sure everyone was probably trying to process the fact that a national news event happened right around the corner from our homes) and I documented the view from my car.

The picture of the building is much less clear than what I'd seen on CNN, but what I hadn't seen were the rows and rows of news vans. And I obviously hadn't been able to smell the burning until I was on the overpass.

It was the smell that caught me off guard. My windows were rolled up, but the scent of ash felt like an assault on my nose and I was grateful that I was moments from making it home and seeing my children.

The ash and destruction were there only because a man was angry. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that  he accurately stated all of his grievances. I don't question the fact that people and organizations can be cruel, unfair, and heartless. I've seen it myself. Most adults have.

Perhaps I'll write more about this later, and perhaps I won't. I am called, however, to disagree vehemently with those who would glorify this act.

It is the rare person who will make it through life without suffering cruelty at the hands of another. Anyone who feels particularly victimized or put upon should, perhaps, take the time to consider the plight of children who are so abused or neglected that we can hardly bear to read their stories, or the plight of parents in Haiti who see their children starve before their eyes and would consider giving their children away to strangers in hopes that they might have a slim chance of escaping agony. Or, if one is feeling particularly religious, one could even consider the plight faced by countless true spiritual martyrs (not false ones) and prophets as they were maligned then killed for their messages.

Truly... Can anyone even compare his or her life with the atrocities others have faced? No. Don't even try to pretend that such a comparison can be made. I understand anger. I understand the feeling of helplessness and even powerlessness. I understand the torture of betrayal. But I refuse to understand how anyone can see another human being as nothing more than a political symbol. For anyone who glorifies this act, would you feel that way if your own child had been in the building today? Would you consider him a hero if your spouse worked nearby and didn't answer your repeated calls?

Perhaps there is no internet in the afterlife, but in case there is - I have this message for him: Because of your hatred - I drove through the smell of your attack so that I could hold my children, who were minutes away from your final insanity. If you had harmed my children, I can't even imagine how much I would want to hurt you. As it is, I find myself praying that I never allow my anger or sense of justice to cloud the fact that we are all God's children. Even you.

I choose to remain human. No one will ever make me into such a victim that I create new victims just so I will feel powerful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Bon Mardi Gras! (I think Mardi is a masculine noun, not a feminine noun - but for you Francophiles out there who are rolling your eyes in disgust at my poor grammar - just pretend that I added an extra "ne" to the end of the first word and we'll call it even. Ok?)

I always say that I'm sort of half-Catholic because I grew up in Corpus Christi and you can't help but soak in some teachings of the Church when you grow up there. Or maybe it's just me. Regardless, for most of my life (since I was about 13), I've found some way to acknowledge Lent. The last few years got a bit tough because for quite a while I was eating neither meat (not even fish) nor sugar. For one or two years I gave up alcohol (kind of annoying but not the end of the world) and on one particularly poorly-planned-out year I attempted to give up caffeine.

Now that was bad.

I even thought I'd planned it out so well. For weeks ahead of time, I weaned myself off of caffeine. I got myself down to one cup of coffee a day by the time Fat Tuesday hit, but from Ash Wednesday on, I was incapacitated from headaches. My boss at the time (a very wonderful lady whom I miss terribly) kept telling me that God did not intend for me to be in such pain for His sake.

Hmmm. Have I ever mentioned how hard-headed I am? I have? Well, then you can imagine my headache-induced reaction to such unsolicited advice. Yup. And she didn't even fire me.

Finally, my husband used some sort of theological argument (which escapes me at the moment) to convince me that by allowing myself half of a cup of coffee each morning, I would be in a better position to worship during Lent because I wouldn't be rushing home in excruciating pain after only two hours of work every single day. He had a point - so for the rest of that particular Lent, I gave up all but 1/2 a cup of coffee every morning.

This year, however, because of lifestyle changes, I have all sorts of Lenten options. I'm eating meat again (because I had neither iron nor B12 in my blood) and I even allow myself the occasional sugar-laden treat nowadays. (I know. I'm insane.) So this year, I decided I'd be somewhat traditional and give up meat (but I'd continue to eat fish). This is going to be interesting. I was a vegetarian for six years and it was kind of hard to start eating meat when I changed my diet a few months ago. But now...truth be told...I'm all used to my meaty diet and it really does feel like a sacrifice to go veg-head again.

So in my book this is a real Lenten sacrifice. Plus - by giving up meat - my little squares of Ghiradelli dark chocolate are safe and sound. Nice....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mission Statement

So, here's a newsflash - in case anyone out there is curious....

Although it's very therapeutic (and possibly cathartic, depending upon your particular life history) to take the steps necessary to come up with a personal mission statement, one should be prepared for the insanely frustrating and incompetent feelings which rise up in oneself upon the realization that:
1) one is not following the mission
2) one has to convince other people to give her a CHANCE to follow her mission
3) nobody seems the least bit interested in giving her that chance.

Meanwhile...the clock is ticking.
Tick, tick, tick.

At this point I've found that my logical brain knows the right things to say to try to keep me going but my snarky heart is just getting more and more annoyed with the whole process. (Snarky heart. That has a bit of a ring to it, doesn't it?)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Artistic Dating

The other night, when I came home with my Starry Night, my husband told me that he really wanted to take one of these painting classes with me. It just so happened that I'd made arrangements for my kids to hang at the Y last night. The original plan was to hit a wine bar, but on second thought, I decided to sign us up for a class. I was particularly excited because in this class we'd be painting the 360 Bridge - a very Austin-y sort of thing to paint.

As I mentioned before, I think these classes offer a real chance for self-discovery. It's so fascinating to see how different people interpret the exact same thing and how everyone's painting looks different, even when the teacher is giving identical instructions to each person.

Case in point - check out our two pictures. I think it's pretty obvious which painting was created by loosy-goosy me and which was created by my much more structured husband.

We decided that although my trees, clouds and water probably look more realistic, his bridge is a heck of a lot better. Plus the cables on his bridge are all at the same angle - unlike my cables which seem to be subject to varying gravitational forces, depending upon where they are on the bridge.

He's able to draw straight lines, you see, whereas I seem to be physically unable to do so. However, the swirls and activity of nature make a lot of sense to me. (Remember my wild and active tree from Starry, Starry Night?)

I told him that someday we should do a painting in which I paint the natural background and he puts a manmade structure on the top layer. It struck me that that's the perfect analogy for marriage when it's working the way it's supposed to work - each person brings his or her skill to the table, celebrates what the other person is able to accomplish - and before you know it, you have a beautiful creation.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Love, Jenn, and Repetition

 I'm sitting here at the local coffee shop, waiting for my daughter's choir practice to end, and I realized that I wanted to blog about Valentine's Day and how much I adore this particular pink holiday. I wondered whether I'd ever blogged about it before and figured I should check so that I didn't cause too much deja vu out there in the blog-o-sphere. (Because, Lord knows, I NEVER repeat myself.......)

It turns out that I have blogged about Heart Day and how much I adore it. I suppose that's a risk one runs when one's blog has been going on since October 4, 2008. (According to my "Edit Posts" tab, that's 309 posts, although some of them might not be live for viewing since there have been a few I've never activated. Now you're wondering about those censored ones, aren't you? hee, hee....)

And...although those of you who were around last year already know this, I simply must repeat myself.

I love Valentine's Day. I love Love. I love pink, I love lace, and I love hearts. Roses are absolute heaven for me and, although it almost always gives me a headache, I simply adore champagne.

Having said all of that, when I am honest with myself (and I've made great strides in that direction), I must admit that I see romance very differently as a 38-year-old than I did in my younger years. (You know, like when I was 35 or 36....) I understand now that the evidence of my great romance is tucked into bed every night and shipped off to elementary school every weekday. Although I didn't marry someone who is into hearts or champagne, he is most assuredly into love. Correction....he is into Love. That capital "L" stands for loyalty and laughter and sometimes (because he decided to hook up with me) it stands for ludicrous situations.

Don't get me wrong. I still need to occasionally be swept off my feet. As a matter of fact, just last night I reminded him that my 40th birthday is a mere year and a half away AND I am one of the few individuals who has never been inside a limousine. Wouldn't that be a nice surprise for my 40th birthday, I asked.....?

He agreed that would be a pretty good idea. If I'm still a-bloggin' in my 40's, I suppose we'll see if I blog about a limo ride. Regardless of whether I'm blogging about a limo, motherhood stress, job stress, artistic angst, or all of the above - as long as I'm still blogging about Love, then I know my life will be complete.

I hope all of you enjoy your own loves - as they dance, crawl, jump, whisper, or holler their way into your hearts this weekend.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Little House on the Prairie

What a great evening we had tonight. My daughter was working on a recycling science project (she has to make something out of discarded materials) and she wanted to sew a purse out of an old shirt. Since she'd be sewing, my son wanted to learn how to sew as well. (By the way, in case you are wondering, those are my 6-year-old's hands next to mine. Yup - they are just as big as mine.)

Now - let me just say upfront that I am hardly the best person to teach anyone about sewing. My mom (bless her heart) spent plenty of time with me as I grew up, patiently teaching me the art of sewing. It did not take. I was able to make one dress for myself while I was in high school but she had to be right next to me the entire time, coaching me through every step. So I'm not sure that really counts. Luckily, the basics stuck with me enough so that I can at least teach my kids basic stitching.

Back to my son.

I let him pull out a piece of cloth and showed him that we needed to turn it inside out to make a pillow. Then I taught him a simple straight stitch and pointed out that the stitches are supposed to be small and even. (I also told him that I would always get impatient and my stitches would get bigger and bigger.) Well, this really isn't surprising to anyone who knows my son, but it turns out that he's a great at sewing - probably because he's really great at concentrating and doing detailed work. He was in heaven - he just loved watching his pillow come together and, much to his sister's annoyance, he kept trying to coach her. (I told her later to cut him some slack because, as a kid brother, he goes through life thinking she's better than him at everything. It was great for him to find a natural skill that just fell into place for him so quickly.)

I was happy as a lark because for about an hour, I was sitting on the couch between my two kids as they both sewed on projects, lending a hand whenever they needed it. Needless to say, I felt as if I was Ma Ingells from Little House.

Ok, except for the fact that we had Mythbusters on our flat screen TV the whole time. And "Pa" was snapping pictures with his Nikon.

[In case you're curious (this shouldn't be a surprise either) my daughter's stitches did not resemble her brother's detailed work. As a matter of fact, they rather resembled mine.]

Monday, February 8, 2010


You guys who know me, and know what this post is really about will probably laugh - or cry - or both, to read this. But I've discovered today that there can be true liberation when you are convinced that you know how your life is supposed to go...when you are almost positive that you know the next path you are supposed to take - and the door is shut before you arrive at the threshold.

I thought for sure that I was going in the right direction and that my plans would fall into place. Instead, they simply fell apart. As I told a friend, however, the most important thing is that I come home and love my kids because, really, that is the ONLY thing that matters.

I've done that and I feel so There's no other word for it. I'm not trapped and, as a matter of fact - right at this moment - I have more joy than I did yesterday, before I found out I was about to start all over again. I have joy. I think that's because I have a dream. It might not be an MLK-Jr-worthy dream but it's mine and I'm not letting go of it.

When it comes right down to it, I think I could only find this joy after trying and trying and trying (for about a year now) to pursue my dream and discovering all the ways this dream is not meant to be. I'm a wee bit hardheaded (ok, guys, those snorts of laughter were just uncalled for...) and this is the path I had to take to finally realize that I'm not in control.

Sounds scary, right? To not be in control? I've lived my entire life in mortal fear of giving up control. I've tried to control my diet, my exercise, my sleep, my relationships, my thoughts, and even my soul.

And now I finally get it. Lack of control is liberation. I'm free to follow my heart, and to be myself.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Starry, Starry Night

I went to Painting with a Twist tonight with a friend and we had so much fun re-creating Starry, Starry Night. I especially liked it when one of the teachers would come by and tell me how I should change my that point, there was this rebellious spark that came up and I would generally decide to NOT follow the suggestion. So my painting turned out much lighter blue with more of the pieces touching each other than the teacher's example but it was a GREAT EXPERIENCE. I learned a lot about myself (about what I see as beautiful and interesting) and I certainly gained a new appreciation for Van Gogh.

Here I am near the beginning of the process. And the picture below is the final product. I'm rather proud! I probably had one of the most active, "fire-like" trees in the entire class. I just put a lot of motion into my tree.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Tonight, I'm just going to recite from the inspirational scraps I keep on hand in my office. (Isn't that a great term? "Inspirational scraps?" Kind of makes me want to design a t-shirt with a related phrase. Maybe it could say "Inspirational and Scrappy." Anyway....)

For a few years now, I've kept pieces of paper when they've particularly spoken to me. Here's a picture of them on my computer...

I'm sure you're all dying to know what they say (since a Bberry picture doesn't lend itself to reading teeny-tiny writing). So here you's my wall-o-inspiration.

4 yogi tea ones: 
Your head must bow to your heart. (I handwrote "Do not lose yourself.")
Your greatness is not what you have, it's what you give.
Your infinity in you is the reality in you.
Your greatest strength is love.
Chinese cookies: 
Stop searching. Happiness will come to you. (My husband opened this and gave it to me. He said he accidentally got mine.)
You will soon be surrounded by good friends and laughter.
Dove chocolate wrapper, given to me by a friend at work: 
In life's winter, find your invicible summer.

I hope that all of my fine readers are duly inspired.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Step Back

Today felt like a "one step back" day, in many ways. Well - if I were perfectly honest (and what do I have to hide from the five of you, anyway?) - I would admit that it felt more like two or three steps back. The interesting thing is that nothing really bad happened to me - but I feel like it did.

I began my day with a trip to my orthopedist, who wryly informed me that my leg/ankle still hurt quite a bit because it was STILL BROKEN. [**insert visual of Jenn rolling her eyes**] He also told me that if the pain kept me awake at night, that I should TAKE MY PAIN MEDICINE. When I asked him if I could start swimming, he replied quite swiftly in the negative. He insisted that I must stay in my cast all the time for the next three weeks (except when I'm in bed). So...I wisely refrained from telling him that I've been walking around without it after my shower each night and that I was trying out some yoga poses on it earlier in the week.

I'm being good tonight. I didn't put it back on after my shower, but I got right in bed and started blogging.

I then missed a lunch with three women in a professional group I've joined because I ended up putting the lunch on my calendar for NEXT Thursday instead of today. Not very professional of me, was it?

Finally, I ended the day (this one wasn't my fault) by being griped at by my boss for missing a meeting that was NOT on my calendar. I remember accepting it, but for some reason Lotus Notes ( refused to populate my calendar with the meeting. That was a really fun experience.

So you see - nothing seems all that crummy when you see it in print but I suppose the collection of crumminess just wore me down a bit. During my bubble bath, however, I thought back to the Dalai Lama's book The Art of Happiness and how he recommends that in times of anger or grief, you find a way to be thankful to your enemies for something you've learned.

That by itself woke me up because none of the people mentioned above is my "enemy." (Most notably, not my wonderful doctor.) I mean - the truth is that I've got NO ONE in my life who even comes close to the enemies the Tibetans have. The lesson is still valid however. I could be grateful for the things I've learned from all of today's experiences (don't walk around on a broken leg, pay more attention to calendaring, and don't let someone else's attitude devalue your own sense of who you are) - You know what? I am grateful.

So, see world? I learned a lot today. Can I have a day off tomorrow, though? I'm pretty much maxed out on lessons for the time being.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Daughter is Brilliant

I bet 97% of you stopped reading when you saw the title so I'll make this short and sweet. Here's the down and dirty: she wrote a "Cinderella" story for school and read it to me tonight. I know I'm her mom and I love her, but really people....the story was truly engaging, so much fun, and she seems to have a natural ability to figure out a great cadence of dialog and a wonderful rhythm of action.

I know, I know - I'm her mom.

But this was so great that I was actually jealous of her. Probably won't be the last time, right?