Month: June 2017

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So. This is 43.

Yep.

Forty-effing-three.

Those older than me will tell me how young that is. Those younger than me will cheer me on, like I’m some sort of minor disease survivor – and then mentally push the number down to a place where it can’t touch them. It is so far away, right?

Right.

One of my favorite people called me a few weeks ago, on my birthday, to wish me a happy day. Her words were perfect: “Happy Birthday! I want you to know you’re still relevant.”

She is brilliant. And honest.

We had a long conversation about this number (she will be turning the same age in a few months) – and we are, as many before us, incredulous. Forty three. I want to slap it away from me like a mosquito, but I can’t. It’s a bite that will itch for days, maybe months, maybe perpetually until forty-four kicks it to the curb and slithers into place.

My friend and I laughed over the absurdity. We talked about the not so distant days of being “the young girls in the city.” We discussed how women before us forewarned that at a certain age, we will become invisible.

And we laughed at our arrogance in ignoring it.

“Listen,” I said, “We are intelligent women. We are fully capable and deserving of where we’ve gotten, because we’ve worked hard. But let’s be honest, there have been times, we have gotten by – when maybe we shouldn’t have – due to some sparkle.”

And then we both laughed at the honesty of it.  And, now, the impending end of it.

That party is almost over.

My little brother recently got married. He is nearly a decade younger than the rest of us siblings. The weddings on rotation in my age group are long gone and so I hadn’t been to such a celebration in a long time. It wasn’t until we arrived at the reception that I realized, “Wait. We aren’t the young people at a wedding anymore…” 

When did this happen? WHY didn’t I pay attention?!

I once read an article years ago with actress Ellen Barkin. She was discussing the  inability of so many to age gracefully, the plastic surgery that ends up erasing the proof of life imprinted on our shells. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Stop! Stop doing this! Find something else you like about yourself. This is not all you are made up of.”

Find something else you like about yourself.

I have chanted that on repeat over and over in my head whenever I see a new web of lines around my eyes or a soft spot on my body that was once defined.

Find something else you like about yourself. 

It’s so easy to say – and so hard to do – when you’ve spent years defining yourself as young and… sparkly.

Every birthday, especially in these last few years, has been a gift. I have looked at each year as pure luck that I am still here and so grateful for it. I am not defining my forties as The End.  Not by a long shot! I am saying there’s a shift happening. And I’m feeling it now more than ever.

Call me vain (I am!). Call me superficial (I can be!). Call me whatever you want (trust me, I’ve been called worse!), but this is how I’ve been feeling lately. And I know I’m not alone, because I’ve seen a few articles floating around affirming the same inner struggle.

There are other things I like about myself, Ellen Barkin. I swear there are!  But I’m just having a tough time letting go of a part of myself I enjoyed – and appreciated – that is slowly fading.

And that’s ok. I’m human. We’re all human.

Except maybe you, Gwen Stefani. Seriously, there must be a limitless tap of virgin blood in your house somewhere. HOW are you doing it?!

So. I promise to maneuver this stage as gracefully as humanly possible – and truly try to like as many other things about myself as I can.

(But I’m not above a little Botox… I ain’t going down without a fight.)

xo,

Jen

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The first city I moved to was Milwaukee. It was small – and manageable. It was also very likely the best decision I ever made for myself, because it was the one move that pulled me out of a spiral of self-destruction that lasted for a good decade.

I moved around a bit in the city and my third apartment, a studio in a high-rise, was a place I still think of often. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but one wall was floor to ceiling windows. At night, I would lay in my bed and look out at the skyline – a sea of lights twinkling under the heavy, dark blanket of night – and I never felt alone. There was life out there. I didn’t have to be involved in the life that moved around me, but I knew it was there. And there was something deeply satisfying in knowing that it was in reach, whenever I wanted to touch it.

Two years later, I moved to Chicago. I was in a terrible relationship and the thought of sitting idle for one more moment made me want to crawl out of my skin. I don’t even remember telling him that I was moving. We were still together. He was the type who endlessly considered the pros and cons of jumping. I was the type that jumped without thinking at all.

I couldn’t sit still any longer, stagnant. Teetering on a balance beam between settling and the freedom from settling.

Chicago proved to be everything I wanted. Even though I didn’t have a large group of friends there, as I did in Milwaukee. I once again found myself laying in bed at night… listening to the sound of cars driving, horns honking, laughter and voices… all outside my door. And it never made me feel lonely. It reminded me of life. Again. Right there. Whenever I wanted to join in.

Two years later, I moved back to Milwaukee for a job. I missed Chicago though. And one day, two years after that, an old friend – who was now a recruiter – asked me if I knew anyone who’d be interested in a “dream job” in my field in Chicago. Without even thinking about it, I blurted out, “ME.”  And I landed back in the arms of my first true love: Chicago.

This time, I left for good the relationship that tethered me to misery.

Happy. Settled. Ready to stay forever… laying in bed at night, listening to the comforting sounds of chaos.

And then two years later….

What is it with two years?!

I sat in my office… lazily looking over a photo on social media of a friend’s friend. How cute is he? I thought. Divorced… with a beautiful little girl.

Nah, I thought to myself. Don’t start anything you can’t finish. 

And then my friend walked in my office, asking me what I was doing. I told her there was this adorable guy… was thinking about messaging him… she laughed and told me to go for it.

“No way! He has a daughter and lives in St. Louis. With my luck, we’ll fall in love and I’ll have to move to St. Louis. I am not moving to St. Louis!”

Quote. Unquote.

She laughed at how absurd that statement was.

***

So, here we are.

I left my first love (Chicago) for my last love. And it has been worth every second.

When you jump sometimes, you don’t land where you intended. Sometimes it leads you to a place you never, ever expected – or ever wanted to be. Or even knew you could be!

But, can you imagine if I hadn’t jumped? Hadn’t realized that what was, wasn’t enough? 

Oh, Ivy and Hannah – I hope you always know when it isn’t enough. 

***

I often lay awake at night now, listening to the sound of…

NOTHING. I hear NOTHING.

(I hate you, suburbs.)

But I am so grateful.

I jumped. 

I hope you all know when to jump, too.

xo,

Jen

***

Haley,

You are her memory of chubby baby arms, first words and endless kisses.
You are the vessel of her dreams, the keeper of her hopes, the carrier of her heart.
You are her child with decades left unfulfilled.
You are the greatest promise of her love, broken by an unfair pain.
You are the fire running through her veins to push her to keep going.
You are the light shining through a tunnel when she wants to give up.

You are no longer here.
But, you are always here.
And we have not forgotten.
Because of you.
Because of her.

***

It’s no secret that Heroes Like Haley is close to my heart. What crushes me is that participation in Haley’s annual run is down to one hundred people – down three-hundred people from last year. When Haley left this earth, her mother, my friend, promised that she would keep helping kids fight cancer in Haley’s name. Can you imagine being Haley’s mom? Fighting in your daughter’s honor every day… only to watch the participation dwindle and then to feel forgotten?

Life moves at a lightening pace and we all fall into the trap of glorifying “busy.” Or reciting excuses that only seem to satisfy ourselves…

Please, take one moment today and consider either participating in the Heroes Like Haley 5K (you can run virtually, like me!) – or give up Starbucks for a few days and sponsor my run (click here). Ten dollars, twenty dollars… whatever.

You may be less a few lattes for a week. But you’ll also be one more person who cares.

And to someone’s mama (and me), that may mean the world.

xo,

Jen

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Meet our newest little HERO….Savannah, the sweetest and most kind hearted little 8 year old girl from Island Lake. At 5 years old she was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor. It returned in April! In the exact words of Savannah’s mom, “We had just purchased our dream home in November to start a new life and now the tumor is back. The financial stress this is causing is very hard.”

A portion of net proceeds raised from this years race will be donated to Savannah’s family to help them pay their mortgage.