Friday, November 4, 2016

What's On Your F*ck It List?


I'm addicted to TED Talks. I was listening to a series of TED talks today in my car, and it was about men and women who had near death experiences. After they survived their ordeal, friends and families encouraged them to create a "bucket list" of things they wanted to do, places they wanted to go, and things they wanted to accomplish before they really hit the proverbial bucket. And many of them did. After having gone through two major surgeries myself in 2015, I thought that maybe I, too, should create a bucket list of sorts. I mean, life is really short and it can change in an instant; I, of all people know this.  But while I tried to create a bucket list, it never felt "right". It almost felt overwhelming. I compare it to New Years resolutions. I rarely if ever actually succeed at whatever resolution I make, and then find myself stuck in a self loathing cycle of feeling like a failure. 

Then I heard another TED talk called the F*ck It List.  Instead of creating a bucket list of things you want to do before you die, you create a F*ck It List of things you want to let go of and stop doing in order to live a more fulfilled and mindful life. I love this idea better! You make a list of things that you don't want to do anymore; things that don't really serve you~ things you just.don'  It can be anything: social media, blogging (ha! just kidding), friends (are we "friendly" or are we friends?), control ( I am not God), envy, fear (remember, f*ck off fear?), worry, doubt, insecurity, coloring your hair (how much of my life have I wasted doing this so society finds me acceptable?), squats (do squats really serve anyone??), checking your phone (I would love to throw my phone out the window), shopping (will another pair of shoes really make me a better version of myself?), makeup, eating kale (I'd rather eat cardboard), the scale (weighing myself has never served me~ and I doubt it serves you), a career that no longer makes you happy, People Magazine (mindlessly looking at pictures of celebrities I'll never look like), diets and fitness routines (I'd rather walk and do yoga). Seriously, the list can go on and on. Anything you don't like or want anymore. Anything~ little (like squats) or big (like resentment you need to let go)~ that's blocking you from living a more fulfilled life.

So I ask you to close your eyes, and think of one thing you really don't like to do and want to let go of. The first thing that pops into your head is what you should start letting go of today. Let it go, and then let it be. If you found out you were going to die one year from today, what would you let go of? What would you want more of?

Life is fleeting and you only get one chance to do it right. Life doesn’t come with a do-over. It doesn’t come with an endless string of opportunities or a giant eraser that cleans the page. There is no second chance.

Life is not a just series of meaningless daily occurrences. There is more to living than purely existing. It’s a wonderful, terrifying, incredible, impeccably imperfect journey, and you only get a one-way ticket. Life isn’t a round-trip affair.

So when the time comes, whether you are 35 and diagnosed with incurable cancer, or a hundred and two, celebrating your birthday with three generations of family and friends, and someone asks you, “What would you have done differently?" I bet your answer would involve a lot of "letting things go that didn't serve you or make you a better version of yourself". I doubt your answer would involve eating more kale or coloring your hair more. And after you ask yourself this question, will it be too late?

You don't have a lot of time, so make your time count. Humble yourself and mend your fences, let things go that you don't like, do things that matter, take more road trips and eat more ice cream, and spend your remaining days with the people you love the most.

Thursday, September 1, 2016



The minute I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor in April 2015, I went completely numb. It's almost as if you are having an out of body experience. I was there, but I wasn't there. I found out while holding the hand of my then eight year old son. I knew I had to hold it together for him and I had to remain calm, and since it felt like I was having an out of body experience anyway, that was actually easy to do. I will admit I was a little scared, but mostly I was pissed. Pissed at God and the entire universe. I'm not someone who takes their health for granted. I don't smoke, I don't do drugs, I eat fairly well, and this happens. In that instant, everything changed, and nothing changed. It's weird. The months following the diagnosis were a blur. I lost my mom unexpectedly 15 days after I was diagnosed. When it rains it pours, right? Between visiting different doctors and different hospitals, all of whom were telling us a different way to treat it, I was just going through the motions mostly annoyed that not one doctor could agree on the best way to deal with it. We finally decided on a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who assured us that it was a very slow growing tumor, and they were 95% sure it was benign but wouldn't know for sure until it was removed and that chances were that  after drilling through my skull, that my face would be forever paralyzed.

There are all sorts of fears out there. The fear my son has of monsters; the fear my other son has of public speaking; the fear of flying; the fear of spiders, small spaces, and of heights. Feeling hopeless is a kind of fear; anxious too. Control is a kind of fear~ one that I know well. The fear of someone drilling through your skull. The list goes on and on. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard I prayed to take away my fear, it remained. That prayer wasn't answered. One thing I have had to learn in the past year and a half is to say, "Fuck Off" to fear. I had the surgery in August and was a hot mess for the next 6 weeks, though my face was never paralyzed. It was during this six weeks, I learned that: 1) God had no intentions of taking that fear from me, 2) that I would have to walk through the fear step by painful step, 3) that I would need another surgery, and 4) that I needed to learn to tell fear to fuck off. And so I did. I had the second surgery, the spinal tap and the rehab, and I got up everyday and told the fear to fuck off. The fear fought back though (the little bastard), and it almost consumed me.

As mad as I was at God, I prayed and gave thanks everyday for what I did have and repeated the words, "Fuck You Fear." (note: I know the "F" word and God in the same blog isn't exactly holy, but this is my journey, and God knows me and knows my heart so keep your judgements to yourself please). Day by day, things slowly began to change. My body healed first, and then my mind, and now my spirit. Though I'm still the same person I was, learning to look fear in the face while saying, Fuck off, has changed me in a way I can't explain. I now look at fear in a different way. Fear has its purpose, but it's not to going to have any control over my life. Learning to say fuck off  has been refreshing. I am learning to tell my ego to fuck off when it tells me I'm not skinny enough, good enough, or pretty enough. I'm learning to say fuck off to what others think of me. I'm learning to say fuck off to those people who don't want the best for me. And I'm learning to say fuck off to the little things that used to stress me out. Even though those words might offend some people (which I totally get), learning to meditate on those seven little letters has been life changing for me, so if you don't like it, well.....fuck off.

"F" off fear

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What's Blocking You??

Okay, so maybe I don't do every picture you see up there on the right, but it sure feels like it on some days. I have tried to lose the 14 lbs. of weight that I've put on over the course of the past year, and have been unsuccessful. I started a new healthy eating program a few weeks ago. I started out on fire. I was motivated to exercise and eat right, and was ready to say to say ‘no thanks!’ to junk foods. Making healthy choices feels effortless, right?  But then, you hit a rough patch. A sleepless night, a sick kid, a weekend getaway, and other unexpected challenges  knocked me off track. Just.Like.That.  My "mojo" to lose the weight lasted all of 2 weeks. Suddenly, everything I was doing right, has morphed into a hot, frustrating mess. My motivation is gone. Exercise seems inconvenient and I'm craving all of those foods I left behind. “Pizza sounds sooooo good right now! I can skip the workout for just today.” And all of the sudden you’re 3 slices in and feeling guilty. Like the failure I am at this,  I keep asking myself, “Why can’t I stay motivated to lose weight?”

My latest venture: a personal trainer who literally shoved Beachbody and Shakeology down my throat at every workout. No.Thank.You. I was instantly unmotivated. (It doesn't take much to knock me off track, I guess). Truth is, I don't want to look like a body builder, or give up my wine or measure every piece of food that I eat (is that a carb?). Does that mean I'm destined to be 14lbs overweight forever?  I just want to be healthy and 14lbs slimmer. I know that sounds self absorbed. Will I ever learn to love myself just the way I am? I wish. Most days I feel like I suck. I have tried sooo many things over the years: P90X, 21 Day Fix, The Every Other Day Diet, health shakes, gluten free food, yoga, pilates, running, walking, and most recently, the personal trainer. Every single time, the weight slowly creeps back on. I'm down 6lbs., up 5; down 3, up 4. Honestly it never ends. I feel like giving up, forever, but then I look at myself, see something I don't like, get motivated, and start all over again.

In meditation today, we learned that subconsciously, we may be blocking ourselves from attaining the goals we have set for ourselves by holding onto anything that is troubling you: both big and small. So today we practiced letting go of anything or any situation that seems to be blocking your mojo; any forthcoming event that may frighten you; any person that you are, in conflict with; any negative feelings associated with those things; whatever you think is holding you back: grudges, pain, worry, grief, conflicts, stress, guilt, vulnerability, whatever. If your subconscious holds onto something you think you let go, you may be sabotaging yourself and not realize it. Once you practice this meditation, your mindset is supposed to change, and your motivation and self love will follow. So, I'll practice, and practice, and practice, that is, unless I become unmotivated. Every day is a new day to start over. So today, I dragged my unmotivated fourteen pound overweight self outside for some yoga. It felt good. It always feels good. If only it was always this easy. So here's my unmotivated (14lb overweight) self showing some vulnerability (something else I'm working on). I'm also not posting this in the hopes that people will say, "you're not fat" blah blah blah.  I never said I was fat, just 14lbs heavier than I was a year ago.  So, what's blocking you?


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Simple Ordinary Joy

Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments~ often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we are too busy chasing down extraordinary moments~ Brene Brown

We've traveled quite a bit this Summer. We make it a point to travel as often as we can. I believe wholeheartedly that you should pour your money into experiences and not "things".  Every year we try to provide some sort of adventure for our children to enjoy. We've done things like indoor skydiving, kayaking trips, parasailing, zip lining through the forest in Florida, air boat adventures, snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, feeding alligators, surfing, fishing excursions, boat trips, hiking adventures, and more. As fun and extraordinary as these moments have been, it never ceases to amaze me how much joy I find in the simple ordinary moments (like the one above when Owen found a frog during our evening walk). Just walking with him brings me joy.
Joy is what makes life beautiful and fills our life with light, and if you can find joy in any situation you are in, you've got it made. There is an assumption that only extraordinary moments can fulfill us and bring us joy, but that's not true. Finding joy in the ordinary is the key to real happiness. You can choose to find happiness or you can choose not to. The choice is all yours. How do I find happiness? Through gratitude and being present. I choose to look for, be open to, and embrace joy~ not just while traveling, but I find joy by simply watching my children, listening to the birds (with my right ear), and feeling the sunshine on my face. Might sound corny to some, but it's true for me. Being present and mindful has opened doors of joy to me, and can do the same for anyone.
As Robert Brault once said, "Enjoy the little things, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things." The choice is yours.




Image result for these are a few of my favorite things images

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

I can't believe it's been almost a year since you passed. Your birthday is quickly approaching. It's so weird that you're not "here". I think about you more than I ever thought I would and I grieve you more than I ever imagined. Last year on your birthday, we talked and talked, and you were fine. Seven days later you were gone. Forever. What a turning point that was in my life. I feel so lucky that I was alone with you when your spirit left your body. It was such a surreal experience.  I'm thankful I got to tell you everything I needed to before you left, and I'm forever grateful that I could be there for you, and with you, when you took your last breath. I've seen death before, but when you died, in that moment, I actually felt a piece of my soul, the piece that connected us, leave my body. It left me with a gaping empty hole in the middle of my soul. It was in that moment, I realized for the first time how truly connected we were.

It's so weird that life simply keeps going after someone dies. I walked around in a dense fog the weeks following your death, though I pushed through for Logan and Owen's sake, and very few noticed how much I struggled~ except for Owen that is. You know how in tune he is with me. Logan, on the other hand, was very matter of fact about your death. "Grandma's in heaven, and we'll be with her again soon. Remember, a thousand years is like one day in heaven mom, remember?"  Ah, the faith of a child. I often wonder what you're doing up there, over there, or wherever you are. Is Jean Rose there with you? What about Janet? I know how much you longed to see them both. Can you see us down here? Are you able to visit whenever you want or do you have to ask permission?  Did Peter meet you at the pearly gates? What's Jesus like? So.many.questions. Thank you for visiting me in my dreams by the way. I will forever cherish them and long to have more.

I sensed your presence the other day. It was so real. Owen was playing a song on his recorder and I was sitting where you usually sit in our living room. All of the sudden, out of no where, I could feel you. I could smell your perfume that you wore years ago. It was like you were sitting there right next to me, watching Owen and listening to him play. I actually asked Owen, "Do you feel that? I think Grandma's here. Do you smell perfume? I feel her!" That's how most of this year has been. I feel like you are closer to me now than you ever were on earth. I was really good at pushing you away when you were alive, and now that you are on the other side, I can't do that. You have the upper hand, and you show up when you want to, and I feel you when you do. I can't push you away, and I actually love that.

Facebook reminded Kate the other day that you have been friends for x number of years. I thought you would get a kick out of that. We still have your Facebook page opened and I still have your number on my speed dial on my phone. I sometimes still call it just to see what will happen. Nothing does of course, but that doesn't stop me. It's little pieces of your life that we hang on to. If you were here, we would probably talk about what's happening with my boys, school, the ups and downs of puberty, John's upcoming graduation, and how Barry Manilow is coming in concert to Warren. I will forever think about you whenever I hear Barry, Neil Diamond, or Air Supply. You would ask how I'm feeling and how I'm sleeping, and you would pray for me. Your faith was always stronger than mine. The kids are off school today. We most likely would have driven into Warren to see you and bring you lunch like we often did.  I would tell you all about Graduate School, and you would tell me how proud you are of me. I'm sure Owen would have brought his recorder to play for you, and you would have loved every minute of it. Logan would show you his new phone, and you two could learn to text each other. How cute would that be? I would tell you that I would see you on Easter at Michael's... only this year, I won't.

Well, that's it for now. I hope you read this and I hope in some way you know how much I love you. Do you get letters in heaven?

                                                                                         Until we meet again, Jen

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Body is B.A.D.A.S.S.

"Step away from the mirror.Your body is a miracle and you're missing it"
I recently started a pretty intense exercise program. I thought it would be a good way to zap myself back into shape after enduring the last several months. After getting through the first week of workouts, I was sore. Really sore. I walked with a limp after the first day because we had worked our legs so much. At first, I thought it was a cruel reminder to how out of shape I was, but at the end of my first week, the pain had subsided and I that's when it hit me. I'm doing it. Four months ago I was having my head drilled into for my second brain surgery, and now I am doing burpees and squats. I'm so proud of my body. I.Am.Healed. My body rocks. Our bodies rock.
The human body's mystery, complexity, ability, and untapped potential should inspire awe. The body is and always has been a miracle. We naturally know when we need to eat and when we're full, when we need to rest and when we need to wake. Our eyes naturally dilate when it's dark, our hearts just beat on their own, and we can give birth. Seriously, we can grow humans inside of us! I mean, have you ever thought about how amazing it is that when we cut ourselves, a scab naturally forms? Our bodies know just what to do. How amazing we truly are. Our bodies are incredible but we often miss out on all the magic that takes place on our insides every day because we place so much value on our exteriors.
It's easy to see why.  Look around. We're surrounded by photoshopped images daily, on T.V., magazines, or on good old Facebook (with all the photoshopping people do to their own photos.) God forbid someone see a wrinkle or a blemish. Often we mentally berate ourselves for how we look or don't look. For some of us, being dissatisfied with our bodies is something we've just learned to live with. If it's one thing I've learned since my surgeries it's life is short~ too short to care what other people think about the way you look. If someone passes silent judgement on the way you look, it says more about them than it does about you. Gone are the days of exercising to simply fit into my bikini. I've learned to listen to, love, and appreciate my body. What others think about my body doesn't matter. Now I exercise because... I can! My body can exercise and that in itself is a miracle. My miracle.
This body that has had over eight surgeries and dozens of scars is my body~ my temple. My body is a walking miracle. My body is a badass. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

The B Team


You often hear how hard it is to be a girl in our society, but you rarely hear people talk about how hard it is to be a boy today. While I may not be a boy, I can tell you as the mother of TWO boys, it's no walk in the park. I have found that it's easier for those boys that are naturally physically gifted with speed, size, or agility in sports. You know the ones:  they have amazing hand eye coordination, awesome aim, and are blessed with strength. These boys are popular and most boys want to be just like them.

There's a lot of pressure to perform at sports. We've all read articles on youth sports and the coaches and parents that are ruining it with the amount of pressure they put the kids under to "win win win." I'm sure I'm guilty of doing it at some point as well. I also understand that being good at some sports can help your self confidence, but what happens to the kids who have a love and passion for sports, but aren't as good? What happens when your kid is just mediocre at sports? What happens when your tween really starts to understand that he's not as good as some of his best friends are at sports and because of that they start to grow apart? How do I explain to my son that ten years from now, whether he plays for the A team or the B team won't matter, when right now, this is all that matters to him? How do I stop him from putting so much pressure on himself?

You see, I have two boys: one with the passion for sports and a mediocre skill level, and one with the natural skills but very little passion. Yikes. That doesn't help matters. It's hard for the brother with the passion, to watch the brother that has the natural skill. My son was born with a love of playing sports. Baseball, kickball, dodgeball, basketball, football, golf. He loves them all. He's anxious though, and the pressure to perform at any sport stresses him out. So much so, that he has performance anxiety before every game regardless of what sport it is. Take basketball for example. He loves the game and loves to play, but he gets so nervous to be on the court, to have all eyes on him, and to perform, that he mentally freezes up and most often misses the shot. His mind gets the best of him every.single.time. It's frustrating as a parent to watch. No matter how much we yell and cheer from the sidelines, no matter what the coach tries telling him, he can't hear us because the thoughts of, "I have to make a shot or the coach won't play me", or "If I don't play good today, my friends will be mad at me", drown everything else out.

At games when my son misses the shot, or strikes out under the pressure, I take a breath knowing that while he may not be the best best athlete, he's certainly not the worst either. He's a good person who is smart, kind, and genuine and will someday make a great husband and father. I have no doubt that my son will turn out to be an amazing man, but for now, it's just hard for him to be a boy.