Our big road trip visiting family and friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin came to a close when we landed home last Monday evening. The trip had it’s share of ups and downs. The downs are why I have not posted anything on this blog since our return. I, for lack of a better term, needed a “vacation from my vacation”. I realize that is utterly a “first world problem” but given my emotional/mental state after this two week journey, it is 100% true. I assure you, however, that there were more ups than downs.
It is so absolutely flipping awesome to be back home again in my happy bubble in Colorado. Back to our own comfy cozy bed. Back to my wonderful microwave that pops my popcorn to perfection with one small tap on the “popcorn” button. Back to counting bunnies on my (mostly) daily strolls around our neighborhood. Back to my weekly volunteer gig at our local food bank, where I have the pleasure of directly helping those in need while not being responsible for navigating the day to day trials and tribulations of my clients’ lives (as I did as a social worker in Wisconsin for years). Best of all, I’m back to blogging.
Time spent in the car traveling through Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin provided me with ample opportunity to do some personal pondering. I took stock of the varied life experiences I’ve had and how they have informed who I am in the here and now. That said, here is a by no means comprehensive list of lessons learned during my life as a girl and a woman. These lessons, in small and sometimes big ways, led me to become the 50 year old creative writer/optimist/politically aware and engaged/spiritual/feminist/truth-telling broad/hot mess I am now.
First lesson learned: There are truly good guys out there-you just have to be patient. And I deserve respect, dammit!
Moment: I was the girl in college who, thank-the-good-lord, chose to not stay with and/or marry the boyfriend who referred to my breasts as “clangers” (as in “hey honey, your clangers are looking fine today”). I shit you not. I met Hubs in the nick of time.
Second lesson learned: It’s okay to look like a fool. And you feel better about yourself if you resist the impulse to run away, crying in shame. And it’s okay that you just gave your fellow Zumba pals a funny story to tell over margaritas later.
Spoiler Alert: I may have learned this lesson from a goofy lady who annoyed Bob Barker.
Moment: I was the woman who at 40-something decided on a lark to join a Zumba class. Probably 2 classes in, I tripped over my own feet while attempting to keep up with a fast paced number, landing ever so gracefully on the floor with a thud. Shortly thereafter, I popped back up to continue the dancing festivities. I think this was the moment I decided to stop caring if I looked like an idiot in public. I imagine I may have looked a little like this:
Third lesson learned: God is among us.
Moment: I was the UCC’er (United Church of Christ) who experienced the most spiritual moment of my life when, at Hub’s and my one and only year of attending Lay Academy, our group was re-baptized under a sunny blue October sky in Wisconsin while singing the hymn “Here I am Lord”. The connectedness to the spirit and humanity in that place was palpable. Growing up, and as a young adult, I could not have imagined myself in this scenario.
Third lesson learned: You can survive the ultimate embarrassment of your mother doing this:
As a pimple faced, awkward 14 year old with a bad perm, I miraculously survived this epic mortification. Even in spite of the knowledge that all of my high school classmates got to watch it when it aired during the school day (it was a moment of civic pride for our small Minnesota town), I managed to keep my head held (somewhat) high. Thankfully I got to stay home with my family for a private viewing. I am ever so grateful my mother’s 15 minutes of fame happened in ye olden times before the advent of social media.
Fourth lesson learned: At the core of true friendship is kindness.
Moment: I was the 13 year old girl who desperately wanted to follow her big sister’s footsteps and be a cheerleader (Go Agates! Yes, that was our sport teams’ name. You can only imagine how much crap we got for that). My best friend, Therese, was also trying out for cheerleading. When she was picked and I was not (mind you, I had the voice and enthusiasm but absolutely no other cheerleading skills such as doing the splits or a cartwheel, so this shouldn’t have come as a surprise), she offered to decline the position in order for me to snatch it and bask in the glory of the cheerleading life. I refused her offer. To this day, this may be the single most kind thing another human being has done for me. Did I mention that all of the girls trying out made the team but me? We had a small high school. Don’t judge.
Fifth lesson learned: Choose your friends wisely, and treasure them always. And cancer sucks the big one.
I was the bride who had the good sense to appoint the best possible personal attendant in my dear friend Gail. She arrived armed with necessities such as safety pins and kleenex. She was a skilled wedding dress hoister-upper while I peed and smoked a cigarette to calm my nerves in the bathroom at our wedding reception. She passed away from cancer 5 years ago and I think of her often and miss her so so much. Cancer is such a cruel fricking bastard. This is why I will support political candidates who believe in financially supporting medical research. I wish everyone could have a friend as special as Gail was to me.
How about you all? What moments in the timeline of your lives contributed to the life perspectives you have now?
Okay, get your mind out of the gutter, you heathens.
Because I believe that 2017 is indeed the Year of the Woman and that it is beneficial for the future of humankind to lift up all the smart, strong, funny, talented, kind, generous, and powerful women I know or have yet to meet and that it behooves the vagina owning creative writers of the world to follow suit, I’m going to give a loving shout out to a specific group of broads that all have one thing in common: they are all named Jennifer.
I think it’s pretty fair to say that I’ve never met a Jennifer I didn’t like. So there’s that.
Jennifer Lawrence: She is the actress I wish to adopt as my younger sister. She is, I believe, naturally funny. She is not self-obsessed though IMHO she is her generation’s finest female actor so she may just be acting as if she’s not self-obsessed. She’s that good. Either way, I suspect that 88% of the time she is the funniest person in the room. That’s why I like Jennifer so much. And just today I saw on t.v. that she earned herself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for 2018! And then there’s this:
Jennifer Aniston: I think that she is the chick you’d want as your best friend. She would totally alert you when your shirt is buttoned incorrectly or when you have kale in your teeth. And she would serve you kale in her on the patio of her seaside mansion because she cares about your nutritional health. She would be such a good influence on me. And she has wicked comedic timing. Have you not seen the movie Bad Bosses? Her performance is hi-flipping-larious.
Jenny Lawson: I’m including her because she is truly yoo-ni-que. I am currently in the middle of reading her book “Furiously Happy” which I am enjoying tremendously. Through her authentic, hilarious writing style, Jenny embraces her weirdness in a way that inspires me.
Jennifer Garner: To me, she is totally the All American Girl Next Door. I can’t imagine there’s been harsh words spoken about her. And if someone did speak harsh words about her, I’m sure there’d be an army of Jennifers that would gang up on them and beat some sense into them. It seems to me that she always picks movies to be in that have a heaping helping of heart in them, like Valentine’s Day and Juno. And let’s not forget what is certainly one of the best chick flicks ever: “13 Going on 30”. Plus she totally kicked ass (back before she was hugely famous movie star), in the t.v. show Alias (of which I was a huge fan).
Jen Sincero: I have mentioned her in previous posts, and because I admire her so gosh darn much I’m not letting this blogging opportunity pass me by. Now I’ve read my share of female penned self-helpy type books (and will continue to do so for the rest of my livelong life no doubt), but Jen is the real deal people! Her “You are a Badass” book came into my life at just the right time. She writes as if she is sitting down right across from you, bursting with enthusiasm to impart what she has learned about her place in this world of ours and firmly but nicely commanding you to get out of your head, grab life by the cajones and be the best you that you can possibly be. She Sin-cerely (get it? ha!) wishes the best for all of her readers. And I think I can assume for humanity in general. That is how she rolls.
I love this commercial. The actress playing the teacher is so relatable. She is like your next door neighbor, who is single and bought her first house which she is fixing up with the help of her parents and younger brother who still lives at home. And I’m sure she lives in Wisconsin, because that is where nice people like her live. She is hard-working, earnest, kind, smart and an overall sweetheart. And I’m naming her Jennifer. And I truly hope she has the kid-free vacation of her dreams.
Then there are the Jennifer’s I know in real life. There’s the Jennifer who was my first boss after I became a certified social worker. She used the word “savory” when talking about food one time and I thought that was cool. She was super organized and had a very fair way of explaining opposing perspectives to me which did not put me on the defensive. She was supportive and encouraging and a great sounding board. Terrific qualities for a management position. There was Jenny I used to work with who was a hard working single mom barely making ends meet, who had such a big heart for providing care and attention to the developmentally disabled clients on my caseload in my first case management job. There is my super smart younger cousin Jennifer who is a single mom who works as an attorney in Minnesota. I’m sure that there are more Jennifer’s out there that I already know or have yet to know, but instead of racking my brain trying to recall each of them, I’ll leave you with this….