Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gift

As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve, not yet 5:pm. With so much reflecting which naturally takes place this season, this time of year, plus what has been happening around these parts anyway, I feel bursting with things to say, while also cautious and hesitant, so I hope whatever comes out is accurate and well-taken.

When there are so many things to say, where can I even begin?

I think the thing I’m feeling most right now is gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude. In a time and place in life with the potential to feel alienation, I feel surrounded, even when I’m lonely. Even in a time in my life when I know I face losing friends for one reason or another, I feel supported.

Friends have reached out with words-- messages of encouragement, of concern, of love. There have been so many questions (asked and, I’m certain, unasked), and I’m glad to have had them directed my way, even though sometimes I don’t have answers.

Friends have also reached out with strength-- their efforts have provided sustenance in every way. They have fed my mind and body and spirit, reminding me of my value and capacity when I am unsteady.

And I haven’t even mentioned what they’ve done for my kids. When friends have stepped in to help my kids, especially in ways I haven’t been able to? That’s when my heart has been the most full.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what Christmas means, this holiday we celebrate. The birth of Jesus Christ. I don’t talk about this a lot, as my feelings are very strong and I tend to hold them close, but as I write this out, I hope what I say is accurate and well-taken.

When it comes to stories of Jesus, I usually find myself thinking of Mary, his mother. In many moments I’ve felt an affinity with Mary, a kinship of reverence and adoration that quickly overcomes me. In works of art, in study of scripture, and in reenacting for film, my esteem for her continues to grow.

Just a few days ago in church I was in a class where we talked about Jesus’ life, about Mary (and even a little about Jesus’ siblings, a likelihood…I mean, right? He was Mary’s firstborn, so…). My mind was taken back to a day of filming for Young Jesus Teaches in the Temple. I will never forget thinking about Mary that day, looking for her lost son in a busy marketplace and finding him in the women’s court of the temple. The mixture of relief at having found him (and is there a better place to have found your child than at the temple?), and frustration (probably?) of having to have looked for him for so long: a conglomeration of feelings with which any mother is well-acquainted. I think of Mary’s life a lot.

Right now, though, I’m moved with the impression to talk about Jesus, about my relationship with my Savior. It’s Christmas. Even though these are ideas to which some of my friends might not subscribe, I feel strongly I should share.

I love my Savior. This year I have learned to lean on Him more than ever before. In ways mostly private, I have felt an unspeakable support and love. When I’ve had questions, it’s through Him I’ve received direction.

By living the way He taught, by living His gospel, I’ve come to know more about myself, and about my life, been strengthened and reminded of my value and capacity. Any time in my life, but perhaps this year more than ever, when I’ve found myself afraid and confused, I am and have been steadied by my Savior.

At the core of everything I do is my children. I have felt the influence of the Savior as I’ve worked at being the best mom I can be for my children as individuals and as an ever-developing dynamic. When I see my kids come to know their Savior in their own personal ways, it fills my heart to overflowing.

Maybe when you think of Jesus you think of an adult on a cross, or a 12-year old boy, or an 8 lb. 6 oz. baby. Maybe you think of a carpenter, or a prophet, or a really nice guy with good ideas on how to live and treat people. Tonight, I want you to know that I love Jesus Christ. I know that when I live His gospel I’m happier and more at-peace, and more myself. I love Him. Through Him, I become better—over and over and over again, it’s a gift I don’t know what I’d do without.

In a very real way I’ve felt my Savior’s love through the acts of service I’ve witnessed in the past weeks. There are some who I’ve thanked, some who I have yet to thank, and some who I cannot thank because I don’t know who they are. The kindness of friends, even in the form of strangers, has brought to me the peace of the Christmas season because it’s brought me closer to my Savior. Whether or not that was the intention, it was the result.

Thank you to my friends, known and unknown, for what you’ve done this season and beyond. It will not be forgotten, and gratitude fills my heart. It reminds me of what the Savior does for me regularly, in ways I’m recognizing more and more as time goes on.

Merry Christmas. 


Nativity by Brian Kershisnik

Monday, December 08, 2014

American Education Week

Public Education, and in particular Educators, are part of my heritage. I'm the daughter of a teacher, the granddaughter of teachers, niece of teachers. My kids attend public school (I even go to school, did you know that?). Naturally, when I was invited to attend an event in November for American Education Week, I jumped at the chance.

November 19th was Education Support Professionals Day. ESPs are those who we see at schools in other capacities than in front of a classroom of students, those who are critical for the success of students. Teacher aides, secretaries, janitors, food service workers, bus drivers -- their roles are integral to having a school run well, and November 19th was the day to let them know their hard work hasn't gone unnoticed.

At Odyssey Elementary School in Woods Cross, I met up with Christiana Campos from the National Education Association (NEA). She introduced me to NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and KUED's Mary Dickson. Together, we visited with the women who work in the cafeteria (and who told us they're not offended by being referred to as Lunch Ladies). We washed up, and put on hair nets (yes, really) and gloves, and got to work.



It was taco day, lucky kids. I hope they liked what we made for them.

The women we met in that cafeteria are very smart and hard-working, and I think any of us would be lucky to have our kids eat what they were preparing. I don't think I've ever seen an elementary school cafeteria with such a colorful variety of healthy food available in a salad bar-type setting.



The school itself is wonderfully functional, with a commons area that turns into the cafeteria when needed with portable tables.


Celebrating ESPs reminded me of how grateful I am for the teachers and leaders in my kids' lives. My brother's wife was fundamental in helping to teach my oldest child how to read. At that time, over eleven years ago, my brother's wife wasn't even my brother's wife yet...but she was an Education Support Professional at a local elementary school.

What are some of your favorite memories of, or experiences with, ESPs?

For more on events from this year's American Education Week, check the hashtag #aew2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Girl Lux

Last week I attended a maturation program at an elementary school with my daughter who is in 5th grade. Each time I attend these presentations (she's my 3rd daughter to go through this at school, with Mom by her side) my mind is flooded with memories of my own experiences at that age.

I think I was one of the first in my grade to wear a bra, and I have distinct memories of long and hot days in 4th grade-- hot because I wore a sweater (a thick, itchy sweater that made me sweat even in winter) every day to avoid even the possibility of anyone seeing the outline of my bra through my clothing. Still today, when I'm not careful (or if I'm tired) my posture reflects how I held myself during those formative years. I cringe to think of it, and though I've worked proactively to help my girls not be ashamed of their bodies, I know that some of it simply comes with the territory, particularly during puberty.

One of the demonstrations the school nurse did for the audience of 5th grade girls and some parents involved a trick. "Let me show you a trick," she said into her microphone. The trick, of course, involved grabbing and holding a pad in your hand, by your wrist or up your sleeve, so as not to be noticed by ANYONE. Because HOW EMBARRASSING to have a period. (The girls in the room all giggled and/or groaned; I wanted to hug them all and tell them it's okay.)

Look, I can't pull my feminist pants up high enough to ensure that All Girls Of The Future will never feel ashamed when their bodies do exactly what they're meant to do. Still, I champion any cause that makes it easier on them, physically, practically, and/or emotionally.

And this is why I'm really excited to tell you about GirlLux.

Girl Lux is a company started by Melissa Ovard to help girls be more comfortable and confident as they adjust to how their bodies are changing. Their mission is to offer underwear and sportswear that are high-quality, stylish, and age-appropriate. They are a woman-owned and women-run company with the goal of empowering girls with products that make them feel beautiful, inside and out. And? A huge part of what they do is work to keep girls safe: they've committed that you will never see any pictures of their products modeled on girls on their website.

One of their awesome products is the Pocket Pantie. It comes in a cotton/lycra blend brief, or a girl short style. It has a small, interior pocket, sewn in just below the waistband, which is just big enough to hold a wrapped liner or pad, and discreet enough to not be noticed or bother a girl while she's sitting. When she goes to the bathroom, if she finds herself in need of any supplies, she's got what she needs without having to carry her backpack into the stall with her.

Another cool product is their Debut Bra, a smarter version of a training bra. Made in soft, stretchy fabric, it doesn't have a back clasp, and is available in five skin tone-matching colors so as to be less visible under clothing. It fits AA/A/B cups and is machine washable and can go in the dryer.


My own daughters have worn these products, and here's what they like about them:

Pocket Pantie/Girl Short:
"It's thin, soft, and comfortable."
"They're so soft and comfortable!"
"It's stretchy, comfy, and I love having the pocket."

Debut Bra:
"It's soft, comfortable, thick and stretchy."
"It's soft. I like the fabric, and love the colors."
"I like that it's so comfy and stretchy. It made it so I could move around more."

Pretty awesome, right?

If you're as excited about this product as I am, go to the Pocket Pantie Kickstarter and give what you can. I wish on All The Stars I would have had these products when I was my daughters' ages. Let's get this company going, their work is valuable and important. There's not much time left-- it ends on November 2nd, so go there now!


Disclosure:
This post was made possible by Girl Lux. Join their Pocket Pantie Kickstarter to help girls feel confident and prepared no matter what! You can follow their progress on Instagram and Facebook and share it with your favorite teen and tween girls.

#spon

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Thank you again

Each year when I write about Taylor I wonder if it's too much, if people are sick of it, if they think I should just let it go, drop it already. But I write anyway because it's helpful to me.

And each year I am overcome by the support I receive and feel from friends and strangers far and near.

This year was no exception, and I thank all who reached out, in word or thought, whether or not we've met before It's not uncommon for me to get an email or fb message along the lines of, 'You don't know me, but my friend directed me to your blog...' and I hope you all know that's okay, not just in October but any time. If there's anything, any good thing to come of loss, it might be the companionship in shared tragedy, making the burden seem lighter.

So, thank you. Again and always.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Something Next to Normal

Almost a year ago the UVU Theatre Department put on a musical called Next to Normal. It ran the same time as In The Heights, so I didn't get to see it.

Never have I had so many people say this to me about a show: "It reminded me a lot of you. You should see it."

The department did another run of the show in February as they prepared to take it to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. It was during this brief run of the unedited show that I got to see it. 

I was wrecked.

Here is where I give major spoilers about Next to Normal, but SorryNotSorry, I've got to talk about it. I also need to mention that if you haven't seen the show, or listened to the songs, and you internalize that stuff like I tend to do: potential trigger warning. I mean it. 

When I went to the show the only things I knew were:

- It was going to a national competition.
- People said it reminded them of me.
- I should be prepared to become emotional.
- Ben and Zoe were in it.

That's it. 

And when it begun and at the very beginning I saw a mom talking to her son, before it was even revealed, I knew. I just knew, and the tears began. 

He had died. 

She was imagining the conversation. 

The show deals intimately with mental illness, and while some parts of that show aren't applicable to me and my situation, many parts are very, very close. 

On assignment I've been listening to the soundtrack for the past two weeks or so, and it's been cathartic. 


Maybe we can't be okay
But maybe we're tough and we'll try anyway.

This is the first year I won't be able to visit my son's grave on his birthday. I'll be out of town. Last year I was able to make strides I never thought possible in the realm of what I was capable of doing during Taylor Week, but I was still able to go to the cemetery on his day. This time it will be new, another step. Like having your child run to the neighbor's house for the first time, a small test of what looks like independence but is really growth.


I don't need a life that's normal,
That's way too far away. 
But something next to normal 
would be okay.

I went on Monday. Brought flowers, took pictures, and then quietly and almost frantically, began weeding around the headstone, trying to brush the dirt and bugs off, realizing I wouldn't be able to get it as clean as I'd like. My tears temporarily stained the stone. 

14. He'd be 14.



I'll wake alone tomorrow.
The dream of our dance is through.
But now until forever, Love, 
I'll live to dance with you.







Taylor Week:

Monday, September 29, 2014

Smells Good

People who know me know how important smell is to me. 'Duh, Jenny,' you say, 'smell is important to everyone.' Okay, but hear me out.

Smell is SO important to me.

A few days ago I filled out this What's Your Ideal Work Environment thing, and smell was the first thing I wrote down.

Things have to smell GREAT. One of the best smells in the world to me is when something smells CLEAN. This is one reason I don't buy sausage (it stinks up the place), and when I buy bacon I pay more for the precooked bacon because it doesn't stink up the place as much.

One of the highest compliments you can pay me is to tell me I smell good. I remember when my brother and sister-in-law walked into my house after months of not being here and said, "Yep, smells like clean laundry." Another time I was told, after living in my house for over 8 years, that it still smelled new. Recently I saw a friend I hadn't seen in a while and when he hugged me he said, "Oh, your smell! I remember your smell! Your clean clothes smell." AND, I kid you not, it's not uncommon for people to say to me after zumba class that they can't believe I smell like clean clothes after all that sweating. I promise, it's true.

Have you heard of olfactory memory? How certain smells are closely tied to memories? I believe it.

Some of my favorite smells:



Downy Unstopables
Clorox Cleanup (reminds me of when I worked the closing shift at Remedez)
Gain anything (I use Febreeze with Gain scent)
Yankee Candle Clean Cotton or Fluffy Towels air freshener
Method Pink Grapefruit all-purpose cleaner
Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Rosemary hand soap
Coffee (but not coffee-scented stuff because it doesn't smell like coffee)
Chlorine

Different times of year I'll add different things to the mix. Like, from now until the end of the year, anything with the right blend of spices is perfect. I really like this Spice Market candle from 719 Walnut Avenue.



My kids are more into sweet smells, fruity smells. It's funny, it carries over for them, too-- my daughter is using these Pumpkin Pie Diner wax melts from Glade in her room. A holiday smell, but sweeter (too sweet for me, anyway).



Another daughter likes to plug in Febreeze Noticeables in Toasted Almond (a blend of almond and caramel). I like the almond, but the caramel is too sweet for me (just right for her).

What are your favorite smells? I'm not asking because that's what some bloggers do at the end of a posts, I really want to know. Do you know why you like those smells?








Note: I was provided some product and compensation for this post. All content is original and honest.