JEN'S ZEN ~ Dad-given

 
 

I set up my first email address while in college.

Unlike our children of this cyber-age who receive a social security number and email address upon birth (kidding, but marketing-minded folk are finding the idea brilliant), I’m of the generation who doesn’t breathe technology but must learn and take notes from my kids about how to post on Instagram. You, too?

My first email address was lifeisgoodj@yahoo.com, which I used right up until last November when I added jen@feelthesewords.com. But a first is a first, and mine was lifeisgoodj in honor of one of two simple phrases my dad has spoken throughout my life.

Simple yet powerful, they’re phrases and words that I now use, thanks to him, and speak to my children in hopes of offering the same Dad-given gift I’ve received, and offer you here.

 

Life is good.

 

Spoken after a great ball game when I was a kid, where I’d batted a triple, or in a moment of stillness, stargazing while camping … at a grand time like celebrating my graduation from NMU, or precisely what he said to me while holding his firstborn granddaughter in the hospital room: Life is good, kid.

He doesn’t use the sentiment as an end-all about life; it’s not his statement toward whether the glass is half-full or half-empty all the time. Rather, he speaks it when life is, indeed, good. When life is moving along, and something worth noting—something worth taking a slight pause at—warrants a: Life is good. 

 

Life’s tough.

 

After an embarrassment of the kind only uttered to parents or a poor decision that resulted in a poor outcome … telling him of a friendship painfully ending, one I thought would be life-long. When it’s difficult, when life hands out situations that have no black and white answers, when we have to eat dirt, he’ll say: Life’s tough, kid.

Again, he doesn’t speak this to say this life is always hard, that life is one big letdown. He speaks it when life is, indeed, tough—when something bad enough worth taking a pause has happened—and warrants a look in the eye and a: Life’s tough.

 

The other day, taking a country drive with the kids for no real reason, a red-winged blackbird flew up from the ditch in front of our van. A common bird, not a rare sighting, but its dark wings and brilliant band of red fluttered right in front of us, offering a split-second vision of undeniable beauty.

Can two phrases become a framework for all that is Life, and teach one how best to acknowledge it? Hard to say, but my Dad-given gift is more than go-to phrases. It’s that, through these two simple phrases, he taught me to notice.

He gave me “Life is good”, and the ability to recognize and celebrate the moments, big and small. And—like my grandma who said she had no use for a person who couldn’t say ‘shit when they had a mouthful—he gave me “Life’s tough” to recognize and accept when times are flat-out hard and the ability to face it, own it, rather than pretending that dark and difficult don’t happen.

As that red-winged blackbird flew away and that fleeting moment passed, I said—just as my daughter looked at me and spoke the same—“Life is good.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Life is good, and life’s tough. Thank you for showing me to recognize both. And to all of the Dads in my life and yours, thank you for your Dad-given gifts and all that they continually give.

JEN’S ZEN

 Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 … Breathe.

JEN'S ZEN ~ Moms

She was 4 years old when I met her, he 2.

I was 19. (Can that be, as she is now 23 and he 21?)

I often wondered what qualified me to be, or what could prepare me for being, their stepmom. I later realize that nothing qualified me and nothing could have prepared me for the role, which exists—and, personally, has grown into something beautiful—but was never intended. No two people have a baby together while daydreaming of who their child’s stepparents will be someday.

And yet, as some 1,300 stepfamilies form every day, according to the Stepfamily Foundation, stepparents must each learn to find their way through this unplanned, uncharted territory—much like parenting, and much not.

Likely these women and men who step into stepparenting with big hearts and little experience feel as I often did: unqualified and unprepared. Now at 38, and a stepmom for nearly 20 years, I know a bit more than a bit about the journey. Someday, I’d like to write a book for stepparents, the book that I longed for back when I was 19, back when I struggled to figure out who I was exactly to these two beautiful children who already had a loving dad and mom.

----

She’d fallen while playing in the yard.

“Mommy!” she yelled high pitched and shrill, “Mommy!”

Favoring her leg, she ran … to me.

 

I knelt down and wrapped my arms around her,

holding her as she cried out for her mom:

“Mommy, mommy, I want my mommy.”

 

In her cry, she was asking for her actual mom, and I remember thinking how much I wished I could somehow transport her mom there, how I literally wanted her mom there, too. Your daughter is hurt, you would know what to do here. I’m … not … I … don’t.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy,” she cried as I held her, trying to calm her down while also realizing that her cries were actually echoing my own, but it wasn’t her mom that I needed—I wanted my mom. She’d know what to do here, she’d have the right words to say.

But there we were: a 19-year-old and a 4-year-old in a driveway, a brand new stepmom and stepdaughter on our own, holding onto each other and craving not only our actual moms but the essence of a mom.

 

The comfort and safety.

The assurance and

gentle guiding.

The calm in the storm.

Mom.

 

“Let’s take a look,” I said, wiping her cheek with the sleeve of my shirt.

Her little knee bloodied and scraped, her face hot with tears, I held her, smoothed her hair, and became very aware that while I was not her mom—I was holding someone else’s daughter in my arms and a little girl who never intended for me to be in her life—I could still help her, and comfort her, and be there for her in the best way I knew how.

And with that, I took her inside and bandaged my first scraped knee as her stepmom.

--

To the moms, the stepmoms, the birth moms, adoptive moms, grandma moms, dog moms, cat moms, auntie moms, pregnant moms, foster moms, grieving moms, multiple moms, second moms, moms-in-law, alive-in-spirit moms: Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms.

JEN’S ZEN

Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 … Breathe.

JEN'S ZEN ~ Weighty

 

They hadn’t seen each other in a while.

“Wow. You’re like, so much bigger than us,” says the girl to my daughter, standing with two other girls.

I wanted to jump in, to say something (anything?) to protect her, but I didn’t have to.

My daughter responded:

---

*Note: To even begin to discuss what I’m going to touch on here is to know, deeply, that I’m skimming the surface of something that cannot be contained in a single blog post. It’s too vast a topic, one nearly untouchable with words as it is felt so intensely within: body image, self-love, weight. What is it actually like to be my daughter—your daughter, our daughters—a thicker-framed girl? How is it, really, learning about your body in a society where double standards and mixed messages (love your body, get skinny, love yourself) are the norm?

What does it feel like parenting our children, these tenderhearts who look to us to make sense of the senseless, to guide them through rocky terrain riddled with stereotypes and ignorance? What happens to our girls that creates grown women who—telling me their memories of dressing room horrors, backhanded compliments and “jokes” that were never funny—have tears, years later still, in recollection?

And, please, someone tell me, are there ways to prevent this?

“Weighty” is a difficult topic. I’m going to tiptoe in. I’m going to gently open the door, just a little bit. Venture slowly with me …

 

Now, if you haven’t read “Sisters ~ Part 1 & 2” it will be difficult to understand the frazzled state I was in that particular evening, my inner psyche done, drained—sisters. (You can’t either, then, throw me a high five or a fist bump at the simple fact that I was, indeed, at dance class with both sisters, and I was standing, ok? That was impressive at that very moment.)

On the outside, however, I was just a mom in the dance studio hallway, watching my kiddos through the glass window. Having no idea the ball of nerves that she was speaking to just then, another mom, who also worked at the studio, says to me about my oldest daughter:

“She does really well in dance …”

“… she throws her weight well …”

“ … you know, my daughter is a bigger girl …”

“ … for more than 12 years now, she’s always wanted to dance …”

“ … at some points, we even tried to, kind of, like, persuade her to try this or that … sports, more for her frame … but she’s always said, ‘I’m a dancer. I love to dance.’”

She pointed to the collages on the wall behind me, varying years of the studio’s dancers, and pointed out her daughter to me here, here … And over here, through the years.

 

Her daughter.

Her larger-framed, beautiful daughter who loved to dance.

Her daughter who dared and defied and literally pirouetted against the grain.

 

How I didn’t drop to my knees right there at the sheer emotional weight of all that had taken place in the last few hours, the soaring emotions and life lessons between sisters and Parenting through it all … How I didn’t hit the fetal position and bawl and wail out, “Yes, so much yes!” over her pointing out how stereotypes and stigmas are so ugly but rising above them so gorgeous, and … I’m not sure.

I managed to look at her, without bawling, and utter, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me.”

And from there, I proceeded to take my girls home from dance class that evening and drink 100 beers. (Kidding, kind of.) And I thought 1,000 thoughts about 1,000 different Parents and the issues we face… I thought of real issues, of seizures and sicknesses, cancer and starvation. I shuddered and prayed for them, and realized that it minimized the severity of “weighty” in the grand scheme of things… but not the reality of it.   

I thought about something a friend had said to me, “… as your friend who was that heavyset girl, who walked in total self-consciousness always …,” and about how I’ve got no concrete answers. But I’ve got to believe that the only way my daughter—your daughters, our daughters— will walk OUT of “total self-consciousness always,” as my friend and so many of us did (do), is to walk through it—talking about it and squashing it—together.

Are stereotypes real? Yes. Does society put pressure on our girls (women) to look a certain way? Yes. Is it bullshit? Yes. Is Serena Williams’ thigh larger than Taylor Swift’s? Yes. Does that matter? Do we need to acknowledge this and keep talking about it with our kiddos? Yes.

“I see the magazines working that Photoshop

We know that shit ain't real

Come on now, make it stop

If you got beauty beauty, just raise 'em up

'Cause every inch of you is perfect

From the bottom to the top.”

(Seriously, Meghan Trainor, *fist bump.)

 

And I thought about you, Parents, reading this right now, and how this blog could be “Weighty” or “Freckles” or “Stuttering” or “Acne” or “Birthmark” or “Too Tall” or “Kinky Hair” or any of the inside journeys we Parents guide our children through, hoping to equip them the best that we can for the hallways of school and playgrounds of Life. And how, with you, I know that I'm not the only one out here trying always, daily, in every way and at every angle, to build my children up, to have them inherently know and recognize and respect that human beings come in all shapes and sizes, beauty comes in all forms ... and that their most beautiful attribute will never be about their physical attributes, but always their heart.

---

“Yeah. Duh.”

That is how my daughter responded to the girl’s comment that she was bigger than them.  

“Wanna go play at the park?”


JEN’S ZEN

Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 … Breathe.

JEN'S ZEN ~ Sisters: Part 2

Everything in me wanted to tell little sister that she simply couldn’t come. This dance class was for big girls, and she didn’t belong there.

It wasn’t a lie, right?

But it wasn’t the Truth, either.

With each step I took—as nanoseconds raced, and time would not slow down, and the end of the hallway was nearing—the question became louder:

 

Why can’t little sister go to big sister’s class?

What was the real problem here?

 

I approached the end of the hallway. To my left, big sister sitting on her bed in tears, her angry, hurt eyes piercing into me. To my right, little sister curled on her floor, big eyes pleading with me. I stood in the middle of the hallway, and opened my mouth to them both.

---

“Look. We are always in the middle, okay? We are always better than some and worse than others. We’ll always do something better than someone else, and worse than someone else. There will always be someone to look up to, and there will always be someone to help along the way. That’s the way it works, that’s the way it is, and that will never change.

“Big sister, you don’t think little sister wishes that she could crack a home run the way you do, or that she could color the way you do? Create art on her walls like yours? Someday, maybe, but she looks at the way you color …”

“And the way you paint …” pipes in little sister, whimper-like from her bedroom.

“Better than some, worse than others, we are all in the middle, and we will all always be. So, should she stop coloring then? Because someone—you—are better at it?”

“No …”

“Big sister, you aren’t in that dance class to beat out anyone. You are in there for you. To do what you do, and improve where you need, and enjoy what you are doing. Are you better than some, worse than others? Yep. And if all that you can see is that someone is better at something than you, then you will always feel …

“You see little sister achieving at something, and that hurts you? That takes something away from you? Okay, I’m your Mom, I recognize your hurt—but here’s where I’ve gotta stop you, I’ve got to teach you, both of you.

 

“If you go around feeling outshined

by somebody doing something better than you,

then You. Will. Never. Shine.

You will never be able to see your own light,

because you’ll always sulk in someone else’s shadow.

 

“You see? You will miss out on growing and being able to see all of the journey, not just yours but all of the people around you trying to be the best that they can be. Better than some, worse than others, and growing … Little sister, you are better than some and worse than others, and growing, right?”

Nod. Yes.

“Big sister, you are better than some and worse than others, and growing, right?” When I asked her, and locked eyes with her, I could see … that … she … was … growing—I didn’t give her a chance to respond.

“Now. You two are sisters, bound together by our family and God. I’m getting in the van. Who’s going to dance class tonight?”

---

And I suppose I’ll never know exactly what took place between the two of them after that. Me? I spun around, and high-tailed it straight to the van. (Just breathe ...)

They came out of the house—together—and the three of us went to big sister’s dance class.

And, oh, did they shine that night! It was a soul-stretching kind of night, and a dance class of high fives and giggles between sisters, growing ... and learning.

Sisters.

 

JEN’S ZEN

 

P.S. Not many responded when I asked, “What would you have done?” Can’t blame you—agreed—it was a long walk down a short hallway of Life, no doubt. But one wise mama of sisters who I’m blessed to know offered this on FB, I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did: “Not sure. My girls still fight. Sarah broke Crystal’s nose once. They are still also the best of friends.”

P.S.S. Because life is stranger than fiction, and more Brutiful (right, Glennon? Life is both beautiful and brutal, Brutiful?), something else happened at that dance class that night where my sisters danced from their hearts, together. Something … weighty.

Keep your eyes open for JEN’S ZEN ~ “Weighty”.

JEN'S ZEN ~ Sisters: Part 1

Every step down our hallway felt like I had lead weights strapped to my ankles.

My brain was screaming out for that Book of Parenting—the manual that I could turn to page 867 and read, “What to Do When … ”— that simply doesn’t exist.

What to do when each of my two daughters were in their rooms at the end of our hallway, each crying, each upset, and with each step I took I was closer to potentially making matters worse.

Who do I speak with first? Do I go into the room of big sister, or little sister? Either way, I justify one and further hurt the other …

---

At that time, both girls were enrolled for the first time in acrobatic dance classes, a blend of gymnastics and dance. My oldest daughter was in the intermediate class based on her age, and my youngest was in beginner dance earlier in the week. Both seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. But my youngest, whose immune system simply would not activate that year, had begun missing classes.

One evening, the dance instructor said to me, “You know, if you ever want to bring her into the intermediate class, just to keep her skills up, you can.”

This seemed like a no-brainer, and with very little thought I gathered up little sister (who was feeling better by that time later in the week) and big sister into the van to both attend big sister’s dance class, together.

And it happened.

While big sister enjoyed acrobatics, she also had to work very hard to train her larger-framed, thicker-built body to perform cartwheels and flips. On the other hand, little sister—built with long legs and arms, and not much else—seemed to have a natural ability to propel her body through the air.

As big sister strived, little sister performed with ease.  

Where big sister struggled, little sister sailed.

“Wow!” the girls in my oldest daughter’s class commented. “You’re so good at …” They fawned over little sister. “I wish I could do a cartwheel like you!” And as I watched little sister gleefully lap up the attention of the big girls, I watched my oldest daughter sink, deflate.

What does it feel like to see someone achieve with ease

the thing that you struggle with?

And what does it feel like when the one who is stealing the show …

is your little sister?

All of 5 years old at the time, little sister rode home in high spirits, gloriously unaware in her youth to the hurt she’d inadvertently caused her sister. She’d simply had a blast! The big girls all thought she was so good. “I loved that class!” she exclaimed. “Can we go back again soon?”

Big sister, on the other hand, fighting back tears, seethed under her breath at me, “Why did you do that to me? Why did you put her in my class? You know how people go all gooey over puppies, but don’t over dogs? Tonight she was the puppy, Mom, and I was just the dog. I don’t ever want her at another one of my classes! Never, Mom! Never!”

I’d have been fine with never. Truly. I hadn’t known quite what would happen in that dance class that night, and I was absolutely fine, fine, fine with it never, never, never happening again.

And, yet, more sickness for little sister. More missing school, more missing dance and the big recital was quickly approaching.

“Jen, can you bring Hope into

the intermediate class this week, please?” the dance instructor asked.

“She needs the practice.”

---

Every step down our hallway felt like I had lead weights strapped to my ankles.

Big sister had revolted, “No! You said you’d never put her in my class again! I don’t want her there! NO! This is NOT happening!”

Little sister, who didn’t quite understand why attending big sister’s class again was a big deal but who gathered quickly that she was not wanted there, melted into a puddle of hurt feelings and crocodile tears, “Why is she being so mean? Why doesn’t she want me there, Mama?”

Each of my two daughters were in their rooms at the end of our hallway, each crying, each upset for different reasons. My heart broke for each of them, for different reasons.

What is the right thing to do here?

Tick tock, tick tock. Intermediate dance class would be starting soon.

Must make a decision … and hurt one or the other.

Every step down our hallway felt like I had lead weights strapped to my ankles.

What do I do here?

JEN’S ZEN

 

Look for “JEN’S ZEN ~ Sisters: Part 2”. But as we’re all Parents here, and we all face impossible situations that often have no right or wrong answer—and the Book of Parenting simply does NOT exist—can I ask: What would you have done?

JEN'S ZEN ~ Hope

“She’s a feisty one,” they told me.

“She’s a fighter.”

“You’re going to need a strong name for this one, Mom.”

Pregnant with twins, I’d gone into premature labor at 34 weeks and four days—far too far away from 40 weeks full gestation—but there was no stopping this. We’d already been there, 10 days prior. The meds (and the scary, made-my-body-shake-uncontrollably shots to boost lung growth of my two babies not yet ready to be born) had bought us time, but not enough time.

My son entered into this world less than three hours later at 6:50 p.m., premature but healthy. As the contractions came again, even more powerful as my body worked to bring down a second baby, I heard it in the air: breech. Yet, through 10 long minutes of me fighting the instinctive urge to push through waves of intensity as the doctor who assisted our delivery struggled to flip, turn and manually get a hold of our baby, my daughter was born breech at 7 p.m., premature but healthy.  

“She’s a stubborn one,” our delivery doctor told me.

“She’s a fighter.”

“You’re going to need a strong name for this one, Mom,” the nurses said.

 

Twin B, as she was called, continued to prove her grit through the next 48 hours. A strong name would be needed, yes, for our small but mighty one who had presented herself to this world in her own feisty fashion. A name for our spirited one who initially required respiratory assistance, but breathed independently in less than 12 hours. Our quick study, born just shy in gestation of knowing how to suckle in order to eat, who learned how and then fed expertly.

I’d find myself gazing at our newborn little girl, thinking of all that I hoped for her. I hoped that she’d grow to be strong of body and mind. I hoped that she would find happiness, and that she would know joy, love and true friendship. I hoped that life wouldn’t knock her down too hard, and I hoped that she’d always get back up. I hoped that she’d never lose faith, and I hoped that she’d never lose hope.

 

And I came to realize that what

I hoped the very most for her was that she—

in the face of anything

and possibly even despite everything—

would always hope.

 

“So, have you decided on a name yet?” a warm and friendly nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Her name is Hope.”

“Oh, that’s beautiful!” she gushed. “I don’t know, though,” she joked. “I thought you’d go with something stronger for this little fighter!”

I smiled at the nurse.

“Funny,” I said. “I’m not sure I can think of anything stronger than hope.”  

In the face of anything  and possibly even despite everything …

 JEN’S ZEN

Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 … Breathe.

 

JEN'S ZEN ~ 12 Days of Christmas 2016

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

 

A backrub (plus he did my feet).

 

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

 

On the fifth day of Christmas,

my true love gave to me:

FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF.

Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a back rub (plus he did my feet).

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Six breakfasts in bed, FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF. Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Seven loads a’folded, six breakfasts in bed, FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF. Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Eight grocery trips done, seven loads a’folded, six breakfasts in bed, FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF. Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Nine Lifetime movies, eight grocery trips done, seven loads a’folded, six breakfasts in bed, FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF. Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Ten coupons he clipped, nine Lifetime movies, eight grocery trips done, seven loads a’folded, six breakfasts in bed, FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF. Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Eleven nights—no dishes, ten coupons he clipped, nine Lifetime movies, eight grocery trips done, seven loads a’folded, six breakfasts in bed, FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF. Four compliments, three date nights, two heartfelt talks, and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

 

Twelve cases of wine,

eleven nights—no dishes,

ten coupons he clipped,

nine Lifetime movies,

eight grocery trips done,

seven loads a’folded,

six breakfasts in bed,

FIVE MINUTES TO MYSELF.

Four compliments,

three date nights,

two heartfelt talks,

and a backrub (plus he did my feet).

 

 

The next twelve days are looking mighty-fine … *wink

Merry Christmas, Parents.

See you in the New Year!

 

JEN’S ZEN

Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting … 10, 9, 8, 7 Breathe.

 

JEN'S ZEN ~ Rebirth

Hello! I’ve missed you.

Strange times as we begin here again at JEN’S ZEN ~ Rebirth.

Like you, I’ve read too many political posts on Facebook. I’ve watched Trump give his acceptance speech, listened as Hillary spoke her concession. I’ve heard President Obama and the call to unify: the time is now (right after the anti-Trump rallies end) to come together. I get it. We all get it. Win, lose or in-between, emotions are running high, and many are fearful over the great divide that is currently the United States of America.

One needs only to be human

to feel the current mood of our nation.

When I chose Nov. 15, 2016, as the day to launch Feel These Words and bring back JEN’S ZEN, I knew we would begin again in the aftermath of the election, but I simply could not prepare for how these days right here would feel. I didn’t know exactly what would be happening in our homes as this blog came to begin again, the conversations we’d be having with our children.

I had planned to simply welcome you back, and give a special shout to those of you who’ve been with JEN’S ZEN since the beginning, since Great Lakes Bay Moms and “Shadow Work.” I wanted to tell you that Great Lakes Bay Moms, a group of dynamic women behind a regional parenting website, has scaled back efforts greatly and no longer runs articles or JEN’S ZEN. How it happened quickly and peacefully, and how the group was ultimately run by moms (who carpool, clean, load and unload laundry, change diapers and nurture while attending playdates, moving out of state, birthing babies) who needed to take a step back.

I wanted to explain to you that, as a freelance writer, I originally wrote JEN’S ZEN for Great Lakes Bay Moms, a writing assignment like many I take on in my profession. How I met the Great Lakes Bay Moms on assignment, actually, and wrote an article about them for a magazine. How I found myself enamored with their intentions, and joined them and their efforts. And how, at a meeting in 2013, I blurted out, “I feel like we need to offer something more [than a family-friendly event calendar], something personal …”

And JEN’S ZEN was born, though I had no idea at the time

that this blog would come to become

something very personal to me.

I wanted to share with you how grateful I’ve always been for your comments, shares and beautiful understanding. Creating a platform for parents was intended; the magic of resonating with all of you couldn’t have been planned. And I wanted to thank you. Writing JEN’S ZEN to and with you has reminded me, time and again, that this concrete-hard thing called Parenting is raw and real. And universal.

Considering that much regarding JEN’S ZEN has been unplanned by me, I’m going to tell you that rebirthing this parental platform into our current election-sick times was not necessarily planned, either. And yet, I couldn’t be more grateful than I am at this very moment to be writing from the ground zero of Parenting again. Trying to muck through the mush in our minds, searching for something (anything) steady, JEN’S ZEN has offered me this, yet again. I sincerely hope it will for you as well.

At a time when common ground seems eerily scarce, this blog is coming full circle and beginning again on the same premise it began years ago: here in JEN’S ZEN, we are the same. Our nation may be reeling through differences and division, and you may have danced happily at Trump’s acceptance speech or sobbed during Hillary’s concession.

But here in JEN’S ZEN,

we drop all roles except one.

Here, you are a Parent.

Whether you go to work in pencil skirts or utility boots, suit coats or overalls, and whether you break glass ceilings or install glass windows — here, you come home to kids.

Here, you hold little hands of those who depend on you to guide.

Here, you look teenagers in the eyes and attempt to inspire truth and trust.    

Here, you answer tough questions, pave way for dreams, and whether you’re black, white, purple, poor, rich, gay, straight, vegan, Christian, Buddhist, all or none, you try your hardest to provide for your little ones in the best way that you know how.

It’s here, Parents, where noise is familiar and hard decisions are daily life, that we meet again in JEN’S ZEN. With and through — not regardless of — our differences, we’ll be doing what we all do.

Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting … 10, 9, 8, 7. Breathe.

JEN’S ZEN

GRATITUDE GIVEBACK: In honor of officially launching Feel These Words, I sought out nonprofit organizations via "10 Days to Launch: FTW" on Facebook who were interested in receiving a free writing service. Thank you to those who messaged and mentioned, and I will keep you posted on the future project with Hospital Hospitality House of Saginaw!

JEN’S ZEN – Shadow Work

Many moons ago, I worked in a restaurant with a manager who … noticed. 

If you were stocking salads, or prepping silverware or doing some little, behind-the-scenes job, he’d yell out across the back of the restaurant, “I see your work! I’m seein’ what your doin’! I see your work!”

These days, no one…notices. 

No one calls out across my home, “I see your work, Mom! I’m seein’ what your doin’, Mom!” 

I’ve come to call it Shadow Work, and I know you’re busy doing Shadow Work, too, because you’re a Parent, tackling the millions of details we juggle that never get acknowledged. But if we suddenly stopped doing them – ooh, our worlds would no longer work. Shadow Work.

It’s the shoes we move from in front of the door so no one trips. The bills we finagle so our children can go to this event or do that activity, the curfews we set because we care (and the attitudes we buffer for doing so).

It’s the two-step dishwashing dance – clean, use, clean, use – and the dentist
appointments we create.

The birthday parties we attend, and the presents we purchase and pretty to get them there. 

The playdates, the sleepovers. 

The bathroom counter wiped down continuously, the refrigerators stocked and the coupons we clip to ensure it. Unseen. Unnoticed. Shadow Work.

And sometimes, Shadow Work even looks like this: A friend of mine spotted her son looking forlorn and tired, standing by his father. She said to me, “Oh, why doesn’t he just pick him up? He just wants his daddy.” Mid-conversation, she got up and bee-lined to her husband and son. 

I knew what she was going to do
before she even got up. 
(So do you.)

Gently, she nudged her husband and made sure her son got what he needed in that moment … to be held and comforted by his daddy. Behind the scenes. Shadow Work. 

We spend our lives overseeing these matters and tackling these details, largely unseen. And it hit me one day that this thankless, merciless, unnoticed, behind-the-scenes work of parenting deserves a title. It deserves to be recognized, even if only by oneself.

So listen closely, Parents. For the days you forget all that you actually do or fail to recognize the importance of the Shadow Work you oversee in your own life…

I see your work. I’m seein’ what your doin’. I see your work.

JEN’S ZEN

— Because the damn dishes are never done. Laundry is a cruel joke. And because children are beautiful lessons in patience and counting. 10, 9, 8, 7 Breathe ...