For as long as I can remember I've been a dreamer.
I've dreamt of being a bestselling author with hundreds of titles to my name.
I've dreamt of being the next Steven Spielberg and having a mantel filled with Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes.
I've dreamt of being so many things and like so many people that in the process I think I forgot who I was in real life.
So today I came to a realization... dreams aren't good enough.
For so long I thought I had my entire life figured out. I thought I knew what I was going to do and I certainly acted like I had it all together. But the truth is, I was living so far into my fantasy world that when reality it, it really hit like a ton of bricks.
I've been so lost and confused recently. Just begging for a sign that things were going to be okay.
And today I think I finally got it.
So, just in case we've never really met, here's the lowdown...
I'm Jenni and I love to tell stories. Sometimes they're fictional novels or stupid little vlogs on the Internet. Other times they're poems hidden deep in my journal or photographs that end up posted on Instagram with 30 hashtags.
Stories are what I love and what I'm passionate about.
For the rest of my life I want to tell my stories and the stories of others. I want to take them and turn them into beautifully crafted books or short stories. I want to turn them into documentaries or films.
How much money will I make every year? No idea.
Will I always have enough to eat and pay my rent? I certainly hope so.
Will people love me and shower me with accolades and praise? Hmm...
Will I be happy? Absolutely.
And I think that's what living the dream is all about.
That's a wrap,
A few days ago I went with my partner in crime to see Disney's new movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet. Before I get into the meat of what I want to say, I'll save you the 'on the edge of your seat' feeling by saying it was great and I highly recommend it.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is the 'six years later' follow-up to Wreck it Ralph. Disney told the story of Ralph, the villain in a classic video game who got tired of being the bad guy. He met a cute little glitch name Vanellope von Schweetz and, over the course of the film, they become best friends and everyone realizes Ralph is actually a gentle giant with a job to do. It's a pretty basic movie that's cute, family friendly and I'm sure your kids will love it.
I expected the same kind of cutesy stuff from the sequel and in some ways I got what I expected. But this time Disney tackled some difficult topics like chasing your dreams, moving away from friends, finding your place in the world, and understanding your identity despite your circumstances in life. It got pretty deep and by the end, I was sobbing in the movie theatre.
In the car on the way home I continued crying my eyes out.
Something got extremely real for me at the end of the movie. I don't want to giveaway too much, but I will say that I saw a parallel between Vanellope's life and my own. Crazy, right? I somehow identified with a cartoon character. But I think if you watch, you'll either see yourself in her or Ralph.
She wanted something more. Something bigger and different and maybe unpredictable. She wanted to be someone special and do something that mattered. She was trying to find herself and discover her identity despite being a glitch in an old arcade game.
The ending was a sobering reminder that, despite our best efforts, change is inevitable. It's scary and it's sad, but it's necessary.
Final thoughts... Ralph broke the Internet but he also broke my heart, but I would go on the journey with him and Vanellope all over again.
And that's a wrap.
Today I was driving to work at the brick-and-mortar store that I'm one of the owners of and it hit me...
I'm a full-fledged adult.
That may be the scariest realization I've ever come to, but it came at just the right time. Just when I was feeling like I was lagging behind, not meeting my full potential, and missing something. Just when I thought I was incapable of adulting.
We all feel that way sometimes, don't we?
Like we missed the mark we set for ourselves.
Didn't quite live up to everyone's expectations.
Can't pay the bills.
Hate your job.
Hate your life.
Hate that you hate it.
Life can be a serious rollercoaster sometimes. And being adults we can hit our ultimate high and worst low all in the span of an hour. Sometimes life is sunshine and sometimes it just sucks.
I'm a pretty positive person when I try to be, but I also have to be real with you...
You won't hit every mark.
You won't meet everyone's expectations.
Sometimes you'll be late on the power bill or the water bill or the rent.
Sometimes you'll hate your job.
Sometimes you'll question who you are.
Sometimes you'll wonder which turn you missed to end up where you are.
Sometimes you'll hate your job and your life and everything.
But I promise you... It's going to be okay.
So clean those iPhone screens. Polish those selfie-smiles. Strap on your smart watch or Fitbit and let's kick some adulting butt.
We're in this together.
Up until last year, I'd never really dealt with real grief. I'd only experienced that passing feeling of sadness when an old teacher, distant relative, or friend of a friend passed away.
The kind of grief that feels heavy for a moment, but then you see a puppy or flip on the TV and you can breathe normally again.
Last year my grandmother passed away and I had my first run in with real grief. But with my mom and my granddad, my two best friends in the whole world, by my side, it never felt like what I've experienced recently.
On August 10th my granddad was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
On September 6th he passed away.
During that almost-month I felt every single emotion on the human spectrum. If feelings were colors I would've been a full on rainbow. It was constantly up and down and all around. I couldn't tell if I was coming or going, but I knew everything was okay because he was still here.
And then he wasn't.
That's when grief ran me over in its semi truck. And let me tell you...
I cried and I cried. I punched things. I felt his loss more deeply than I've felt anything in my life. I could feel the emptiness in my house and in the world around me.
I've had dreams where he's still alive and then I wake up to find that he's gone. Never coming back.
I'll be writing something about him or looking at his picture and all of a sudden I'll start bawling.
Little things remind me of him and sometimes it's funny or refreshing. Other times it feels like someone's jabbed a knife through my neck and I'm gasping for air.
Like someone's plucked out my ribs.
Like my heart is being squeezed tighter and tighter.
And then I'm fine again, just like I am right now.
It's a strange thing and it is different for everyone. I'm a prime example that it can be different with each loss you experience.
Some cut deeper than others.
I want to remind you of something that I needed to hear during this season of pain...
It's okay to hurt. It's okay to smile. It's okay to cry and laugh and cry and laugh. But it's not okay to avoid that grief. It's there whether you like it or not.
The only way to face it is to feel it.
Hey. I know you're scared. I know it feels like the walls are closing in on you and there's nowhere left to run. But you don't need to run, because you're safe.
Right here. Right now. You're okay.
I promise that people aren't staring at you. Most of them don't even know anything's wrong, but even if they do, so what? They're probably too consumed in their own turmoil to pay attention. But remember that you're not alone.
It's okay to reach out and tell someone that you feel like your world is shattering. It's fine to say that you're not okay and you don't know why. There are people in this world who won't judge you. And if none of those people are in your life, I am. So reach out to me.
You can say that you hurt. Like a knife has been thrust into the deepest part of your being, twisted and jabbed further and further until it's stuck. And every time you breathe you're reminded of that searing pain inside of you.
You can say you're angry at everything and everyone for serious things and for stupid things, too. Because sometimes those stupid things matter the most.
There are moments when it feels like you're losing your grip on reality, but trust me when I say that everything you feel is much too real. But you're alive. You're here. And even if it doesn't feel like it now... you are okay.
The words don't feel right in this moment, but this too shall pass. It may be days, weeks, months or years. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
It's okay if you can't make it to that light on your own. You were never meant to.
Talk to someone. Release some of the weight on your shoulders. This load wasn't meant for you. Jesus died so you didn't have to carry it anymore. But some days we forget, don't we?
Some days we forget that the horrible mistakes in our past have no weight on our eternity.
Some days we forget that those who wronged us and the hurt they inflicted are not our responsibility.
Some days we forget that we're merely human, and we can only bear so much.
Today I want you to remember.
It's not just little kids that need a hand to hold. Because life is hard and doing it on our own is painful.
Feeling hopeless and worthless and messed up and damaged is not okay. You are none of those things. You are a light, hope to many. You are worth more than all of the stars in the sky. You are a fearfully and wonderfully made, son or daughter of the living God.
You are enough.
Satan loves nothing more than to mess with your head and convince you that you're too broken to carry on. He'll isolate you and do everything he can to push you off that cliff.
But you are a warrior.
Stronger than you think and so much mightier than you'll ever know.
Your story is not over yet, so don't you dare close the book.
I've been going to church for as long as I can remember and I've experienced a wide-variety of denominations and churches across the world.
In these churches I've listened to hundreds (probably thousands) of sermons and worship sessions, met tons of preachers and elders and church-goers, worked on media teams and in other areas, and thought (a few times) that I found my home in [insert church name here].
However, it wasn't until recently that I learned what a 'church home' really is.
When my family moved back to Florida after twelve years away, finding a church was a challenge. We tried several over the course of the first few months and none of them felt right. The worship felt off and like we couldn't get into that 'Holy Spirit zone'. The sermon didn't hit home or wasn't real enough. The people weren't warm and fuzzy. We just weren't clicking with a church.
One day Joanie B. found her way to a restaurant in the mall and met a lovely lady who told her about a church that, coincidently enough, was also in the mall. Weird, right? She came home and told me all about it and, despite my reservations, we attended our first service a few weeks later.
And that was one of the best decisions we ever made.
I remember walking through the doors of Emerald Coast Worship Centre and it immediately felt different. People were happy to be there. Smiling, hugging and shaking hands. We felt welcomed for the first time in a while. We were in a mall, which was super weird for a while, but you get used to it.
Worship was incredible. The Holy Spirit was freely flowing and I don't think I've ever been more connected to Him than in those moments.
The sermon was raw, real, and hit home, just like it has every week since then.
I can't remember the last time I WANTED to go to church. I'm a Christian, but somehow church had become a habit or a chore that I had to do on Sunday. I had to drag my butt out of bed and just get there. With ECWC, I truly wanted to be there. We started going on Sundays and Wednesdays. Then we went to our first Monday staff meeting. I guess you could say that's where things got interesting...
If you know me, then you know I tend to be a pretty closed-off, introverted person. However, Emerald Coast Worship Centre does something to me. God does something to me when I'm there. On that first staff meeting, mom and I had the worst day leading up to it. We were sad and angry and just completely rundown, but we went anyway. THANK JESUS THAT WE DID!
That night, which now seems like a lifetime ago, I met the most incredible people. I didn't know then, but they would soon become family. People I want to spend time with all of the time. People I involuntarily spill my guts to without a second thought. People I want to laugh with and cry with. People I hope I can introduce you to someday. For now, they'll just be A, J, and C. Some of the best people, maybe the best people, to ever walk into my life.
From that day on it was clear, Emerald Coast Worship Centre, the church at the mall, was my church home. My family's church home.
A place where I feel safe.
A place where I'm connected to God in ways I haven't been for a long time.
A place where my tribe was born. Where my life changed. Where everything changed.
So, if you're in the Fort Walton Beach area, come on down to ECWC! Service starts at 11 on Sundays and 7 on Wednesday nights!
Everyone's different, so I can't promise it'll be your home, but I can promise it'll be an experience you'll never forget. I know I won't, not for as long as I live.
Stay tuned for more posts about ECWC and maybe one about A, J, and C! It's only been a few months, but there are already a lot of stories to tell. They're probably reading this right now (HI GUYS!) so hopefully they let me really introduce them (they're super cool!).
Until next time...
Hey... remember me? It's only been three months since we last spoke, but somehow it feels like years have passed. I've been in the same place the entire time, but I'm definitely not the same person.
I've come to believe that life is like a pendulum. One minute you're down, the next you're moving forward and becoming a better version of yourself, and then the next you're right back where you started. I've basically experienced all of that in the span of four days. But I think that might be a story for another time.
This post is about something that keeps running through my head. I first heard these words while I was in the shower. The place where all great ideas begin. I heard it again while in a meeting. Again at a church service. And then at least four other times since then. That tells me it needs to be shared.
So this is what depression looks like. Or maybe it's just what being human feels like sometimes. I'll let you be the judge of that. And to whoever needed to hear this... I hope you're doing all right. I know it's hard. I live it, just like so many people. I've hidden it and exposed it and hidden it again. I've been ashamed and then unafraid to share, but the shame always creeps back in. The point is, if you need help, get it. If I can help you, reach out. I'm always here.
IF DEPRESSION/SUICIDE/SELF-HARM OR OTHERWISE IS A SENSITIVE TOPIC THAT TRIGGERS YOU IN ANY WAY, PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE READING. KEEP YOURSELF SAFE, SANE, AND HEALTHY. HAPPIER POSTS ARE COMING!
∆ ∆ ∆
Every step is a marathon,
Adding one more pound to the weight of the world on your shoulders.
But still... you trudge along.
Your brain feels like it's going to explode inside your skull.
Your lungs are collapsing inside your chest.
You're drowning. Not breathing.
But still... you smile.
Every person, best friend or not, is the enemy.
Their judging you.
They never cared about you.
Why would they?
But still... you laugh.
Every moment is a wasted one,
Because nothing you do is good enough.
It'll never be good enough.
But still... you play along.
If they ask you how you're doing, don't you dare tell the truth.
They'll think you're crazy.
They'll never speak to you again.
You're always fine.
Perfect little princess with everything together.
Straighten your tiara.
Everything is fine.
The world is spinning faster than the speed of light,
But in slow-motion all at the same time.
It feels like you're dreaming,
Yet nothing could be more real.
The road is too long.
The voices are too loud.
The weight is too heavy.
You can't keep going on like this.
You can't make eye contact.
You can't breathe.
You're drowning and no one knows.
Because you're fine.
Until you're not.
Because now death is knocking on your door,
And all you want to do is answer it.
If only you didn't wake up,
It'll all be over.
You would finally be fine.
But the world wouldn't be.
You are valued beyond belief. The world would not be the same without you. The ideas presented above are lies from the enemy. Lies that are told in the pit of despair and destruction. And often times we can't discern it for ourselves.
Talk to someone. It's hard, believe me, I know. I've had to take my own advice. I still do.
But please know that God created you for a purpose. This world needs you. I need you.
Yes, you read that right... I'm writing a play! It's something I started during my last year of college and it has been pushed to the side and pushed to the side for months (and now over a year!). So, I finally decided to pick it up and get to work.
It's based on a monologue I wrote about my mom's battle with breast cancer and it's turned into this Our Town-esque cancer story. All kinds of cancer. Breast, childhood, cervical, mouth, and more. It's kind of dark, but not so dark you'll leave the theatre depressed. It's real, so I'm gathering as many stories as I can. If you have experience with a certain type of cancer or know someone who as, please feel free to shoot me an email with your story. I'd love to hear it and incorporate bits of you and your loved one into this project. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line CANCER SUCKS INQUIRY.
I have a few bits and pieces written so far, and I'm challenging myself to write one scene a day. It doesn't sound like much, but it sure feels like a lot at 11pm. Here's a little taste of the tone:
No kidding. Why don't you tell that to the tumor eating my brain?
It's a rare fella. My odds of survival are better than winning the lottery but not by much and I'd sure rather be playing the Powerball than the 'will cancer kill me' scratch off.
I don't wanna die but when you spend almost every waking moment with a headache or a needle in your port or puking your freaking guts out, death becomes prettier every single day. Oh, and that load of crap they feed you about how it's okay to lose your hair because you can wear wigs...
So, there you have it. That's a small portion of my childhood cancer section, and I'm really excited about it. I think this could be really powerful and impactful in a way I've never experienced before.
If you want to support this endeavor, first of all, just pray for me. I need lots of prayers. This is a meaty task and one that means a lot to me and to other people. I need these stories to be true to life. I need cancer patients and survivors to identify. I need it to make people pay attention. So please pray. HOWEVER, if you want to support the endeavor financially, then you can become a patron for Positive Note Network. That's basically where you donate a monthly dollar amount via Patreon to support our videos and other creative endeavors.
Here's the deal... When I reach $500 per month, I'll be able to take more time to write on my new play, CANCER SUCKS, and make sure it gets the time and attention it needs to become successful.
If you are one of the patrons who contributes to that $500 each month, you'll get some samples of the play over the process. Drafts no one else will have.
If you are the sole contributor of the $500 each month then you'll receive credit in the dedication and all promotion of the play. You'll also have your own story included in the play.
If you're into it and want to give, here's the link: www.patreon.com/positivenotenetwork
Here's what we're working with:
I've got to be honest... at first glance this looks like a complete trainwreck. Let's see where we get with this. ALSO I'm thinking of making this a video series where I give myself 5 minutes (3 minutes?) to plan a story and write it out here on the blog. Thoughts? Let's do it...
The car sputtered to a stop and Shawn banged on the steering wheel.
"You stupid piece of, crap!" He yelled as he creaked open the door.
He kicked the door shut and flailed his arms as he kicked aimlessly at the dirt. He stopped, looked around at the seemingly abandoned desert and finally threw his hands up in defeat. His hands patted along his pockets searching for his phone. He pulled it out and pressed the home button.
"Well isn't that just fantastic?" He stared down at the phone, gritting his teeth. "So glad you're useful," he huffed as he chucked the phone into the brush. "So glad you're useful!"
Just when he was ready to feed himself to the desert wildlife, he sees blue and red lights coming down the road. The car pulls alongside him.
"Need a ride?" The officer asks.
"You're not gonna kill me, right?"
"You never can tell." The officer smiled.
Shawn walked around the front of the car and hopped into the passenger seat.
"Where you headed?"
"Anywhere but here."
The radio cracked and a partially muffled voice came through the other end. "We've got a 211 at Charlie's. Who can respond?"
The officer looked toward Shawn who nodded. "Yankee 17 responding." He clicked the radio back into place and started driving faster down the road.
"What's a 211?" Shawn asked hoping for something dangerous.
"Someone called in a robbery at Charlie's, a convenience store in town."
* * *
Shawn stared out the window for what seemed like five minutes, but when they parked the car the clock on the dash said it'd been almost fifteen.
"You stay in the car. Got it?"
Shawn nodded and the officer left the car.
"Yeah right." He hopped out of the car and snuck across the street to get a better view. It didn't seem like a big deal. Just a few cops, the store owner, and some broken glass.
Shawn leaned against the building and heard a crash down the alley. He glanced over his shoulder into the darkness. His inner voice told him to stay put, but it didn't win. He followed the sound.
Inching farther and farther down the alley he thought about what could be waiting for him.
The robber with some stolen cash. Maybe he'd share.
The robber with a gun. Maybe he wouldn't shoot. But maybe he would.
The robber with some stolen cash and a gun. Maybe he'd still share or maybe he'd shoot. Either was okay with Shawn.
"Hello?" Shawn whispered as loud as he could.
"Hello." A young woman emerged from behind the dumpster.
"The robber?" She held up a pillow case. "Yeah. Yeah I am."
Shawn looked her up and down. She was thin, almost frail and her eyes said delicate flower not armed robber.
"Are you going to arrest me?"
"Me? Heck no, I'm not a cop. Are you gonna shoot me?"
She held up a gun. "I've never shot a gun."
"Why'd you do it, then?"
"My mom, she's really sick. I've been working two, three jobs, anything to help. It hasn't been enough. I thought... I don't know what I thought."
"Yeah, I get it. Life isn't fair."
"Can you help me? I don't know how I'm going to get out of this one."
He felt around in his pockets and pulled out a box of matches. "Let's distract them, just for a while, with a small fire."
"You really think that'll work?" She smiled.
"Only one way to find out." He lit the match and tossed it into the dumpster. "Run."
They ran down the alley, over a few streets, and he lit another match. They repeated the process three times until they were almost a mile away. They tucked themselves into a park and Shawn laughed, breathing heavy from the run.
"You did it. Thank you."
"That's the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me." He peeked around the hedge to make sure none of the cops had followed them to the park. The coast seemed to be clear except for a black car parked along the curb. He couldn't see anyone, but the windows were tinted pitch black. Seemed okay to him.
When he turned back to the girl, she was holding the gun between his eyes. He chuckled.
His eyes glazed over and he fell into the grass.
The girl stood from the ground and walked toward the street to the midnight car.
"You got lucky," the man said.
"You're the one that got lucky. You found him." She tossed the pillowcase and gun into the backseat and stepped in the car.
The couple drove away, leaving Shawn dead in the bushes and a police uniform burning in a dumpster a few blocks away.
Yesterday was the first Thanksgiving in 12 years I've spent with my entire family (literally... the entire thing). We gathered up our dishes and made the very short drive to my Aunt's house where we spent the next few hours eating, laughing, holding babies, and catching up on all of the things we've missed.
I was expecting to feel awkward or out of place. I was expecting to be asked uncomfortable questions I wouldn't have answers to. I was expecting to be ready to leave after thirty minutes.
I was wrong.
After twelve years it's hard to know how you'll feel when you're surrounded by family. Turns out, it feels pretty darn great. I'm ready for next year.
This post was short, but it's just an appreciation for the family I didn't know I missed this bad. You're all amazing and I'm super blessed to have you in my life.
If you didn't do this yesterday, reach out to your family. Tell them you love them. Tell them you appreciate them, you're thankful for them. In twelve years you'll realize those things if you don't realize them now.
It's been 12 years...
... and now I'm home.
This blog is a glimpse into my crazy life as a twenty-something female entrepreneur navigating life as the co-owner of a mother-daughter business. Things get pretty insane, but we make it all work.