In With the Bookends

When I see my friends post pictures of their young kids in matching outfits, I think it’s pretty adorable. I imagine one of the most fun parts about having kids is making them wear ridiculous things. Want to know what’s less fun? Being part of the sibling pair that has to wear a matching outfit. 

Sissy and I weren’t immune to this. Attending a wedding and wearing a dress that shared a flower pattern with my sister’s dress may be my earliest memory of my independence being under attack. 

As we got a little older and developed our individual style, we’d sometimes share clothes, but would never dream of getting ANYTHING that matched. “Don’t copy me!” with a “Don’t boss me!” retort were common mid-90s refrains – set to a Luscious Jackson soundtrack – that I can still hear in my head today.

Here’s the thing about matching with your biological sibling, even if you’re not wearing similar clothes, you’re wearing similar DNA. Whether you like it or not, you’re matching. You can’t get away … Read the rest

In with the Giant Pupper

Dear Charlie Choochootrain,

Several times in the three years since adopting you, I’ve considered how much easier life would be without a 120-pound animal in my house. The freedom that comes from not having dependents has always been attractive to me.

However, as I think over the past year, I don’t know the person I would be without you. Not only was I learning how to do life alone, but I was smacked with doing it in isolation during a pandemic. You were my main source of social interaction and affection.

At first, the pandemic was fun. We went on so many walkies, took “Rs in the Car” with loud tunes, and played games between my web meetings. As the months passed and heaviness piled on, it became less fun.

There were days when I’d retreat to the floor and cry. You’d lumber over and put your paw on me. Sometimes you’d heap your heavy body onto my lap and peek over your shoulder while I used your back as a giant Kleenex. Your insistence … Read the rest

In with the January Music

It’s the time of year when I listen to Tegan and Sara. Do you have music you listen to at certain times of year? And I’m not talking about Christmas music. Or Halloween music – is that a thing?

Certain months require specific soundtracks. Elliott Smith = October. My Brightest Diamond = November. Blonde Redhead = April. 

One of my favorite Tegan and Sara songs is, “Are You Ten Years Ago?” Not only do I love the frenetic vibe of the song, but I’m asking myself that question lately. “Seriously Jenna, are you 31 right now?” 

Elements of life feel like déjà vu: recently out of a significant relationship, living independently with freedom to find my footing and spend my time selfishly. Even people from ten years ago are reemerging. Familiar restless energy courses through me, begging to know where we’re headed next.

Maybe we’re all on a ten-year loop of repeating patterns, hobbies and fears? I have nearly two decades of journals stacked in my closet, and pulled one from ten years ago to … Read the rest

In with the Fictional Federal Agents

I think about Jack Bauer often. Like a lot. Lately the world feels like a place where he would thrive.

It’s been nearly seven years since “24” went off the air, and he still pops into my head almost weekly. And don’t try to sell me on that “Designated Survivor” crap. I sat around waiting for him to torture and kidnap people and grew more disappointed as each episode passed. I don’t like my Kiefer level-headed and diplomatic.

When the world gets Jack-Bauer-level weird…like it has the past couple weeks (or months or years), I try to remind myself of the things we can control. Things like the simple actions we take as we move around the world. Things like kindness.

When I say “kindness,” you have a definition that pops into your head. A vision of what it looks like and how it feels to receive kindness. While you and I may have adjacent definitions, I guarantee they’re different. Each of us has a different vision, and I love that about us.

Kindness can mean … Read the rest

In with the Eyeball Books

I generally hate reading. I love the idea of reading a book, and have a tower of them next to my bed, but am not compelled to open and consume them. Audiobooks – very yes. Eyeball books – very egh. 

In my college Comparative Literature class, a fellow student/pal was giving me a hard time and announced to everyone, “Jenna is a book hater! She hates books!” It’s been like 20 years and I still remember the scene. I can hear his words and see my TA’s face melt into disappointment as she wrinkled her forehead and said, ‘Jenna…why?” The hurt on her face would make it seem like I killed a member of her family.

Fast forward a couple decades…My bestie has made a tradition of giving me books on birthdays and holidays. You might think, “Wow, what a terrible friend to give you books when she knows you hate reading.” On the contrary. She knows how much I hate reading and gives me books in spite of this. She knows exactly when I … Read the rest

In with the Bold

As part of my winter solstice ceremony, I wrote four pages of things I wanted to release from 2020. Disappointments, bad memories, behaviors that no longer lined up with the person I’m becoming.

After two hours of sun salutations, meditation and writing, I ripped the four pages from my notebook, took them outside and flicked my lighter onto their bottom edges. The flame started small and brightened quickly. I threw the flaming pile onto the ground and watched it disappear. I stared as the embers twinkled and faded. When the very last ember burnt out, my chest deflated in relief. Two seconds later, one of the embers re-lit itself. 

You know that feeling when you’re walking away from someone after a hard goodbye and you turn around to look at them one last time? That’s what my flaming pile did to me. That last ember of 2020 turned its head, gave me a half smile with sincere, regretful eyes and walked away.

The things I gripped too tightly, the closure I never received from … Read the rest