Monday, January 15, 2018

Progress

Now that I'm 40 and all grown up (hah), I'm trying to get a better grip on my time. I've always been fairly good with time management, but over the last couple of years it's become progressively more difficult, which may or may not have anything to do with the demanding TIC (Toddler In Charge). But when one aspires to write a bestselling book while simultaneously advocating for social justice and debunking archaic and ill-informed conservative viewpoints on the LGBTQ+ community, one needs to get a better grip on time management.

One of the things I need to do to make this happen is to make myself accountable to you fine people. If I write about it, you expect it. If you expect it, I need to make it happen because I am a woman of my word. (Those of you who knew me in a past life, I was not always this woman. But I am now. Promise.)

And so, I blog! VIVA LA BLOG! It pains me to look back upon my archives to see how loftily I started and how far I fell, judging by the number of blog posts per year. Last year was six, by the way. Pathetique! But, day by day, I'm writing what I need to do in my day planner and praying for the strength and endurance to make it happen, even when Cranky McGrumpyface won't sleep for fourteen hours. (He's super cute, though, don't get me wrong.)

If you pray, please do that for me. If you're a good-viber, a pleasant-thoughter, or anything else positive, I'll take that, too. I have a message I need to get out of my heart and onto paper and it actually IS a matter of life and death for some. I believe in God, and I believe this is my purpose. So, if you see me online, feel free to say, "HEY. How's that book going? And what are you doing on social media?"

Thanks for that. I appreciate it. Now, go love one another. Because, contrary to the Hokey Pokey lyrics, THAT is what it's actually all about.

Until next time,
Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Another New Year, Blah Blah Blah


It's the most promising time of the year. We have that motivated sense of being able to do anything! Accomplish those goals! Achieve those dreams! Lose that weight! Read those books! Purge that house! And, sometime around February 1st, we lose our steam and begin to think that we are fat, lazy failures who can never finish anything. At least, that's how I've felt the last 25 or so New Years. It's like a honeymoon phase, a whirlwind of excitement and possibilities. And then you look at your resolutions one day, and they look at you, and instead of snuggling together you just nod in mutual disdain and go your separate ways.

Whoa. That escalated quickly.

Listen, though, it doesn't have to be that way, right? We KNOW it doesn't have to be that way. But if we sit in our isolated little cubbies and don't walk this path together, then it's just going to keep being that way.

So, here's the Journey. Get on it. Share it. Talk to each other. Talk to me. Talk to yourselves. That's okay, we do that all the time. (Don't ask yourselves questions and then start fights with yourselves when you don't give you the answer you're looking for, though, that's a bit awkward.)

It's about goals, yes, but it's about community and support and encouragement. It's about loving ourselves, and others, exactly where we are, and going the step further to inspire each other to be the very best that we can be. That I can be. That you CAN BE.

It's not a new month. It's a new YEAR.

What do you want to accomplish? Because you can.

We can.

Together.

--Stephanie Jean

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dreams: Delayed But Not Dead

Keep Following Your Dreams!
People used to ask me when I was slinging coffee for a living, "How are you?" every day (without really caring, it's just something they said to their barista on the way to their coffee order with barely a pause for me to answer before they went into their half-caff mocha with a pump of caramel and two Splendas but blend the Splenda with the chocolate before the espresso.) And every day I would reply, "I'm living the dream."

Dripping with sarcasm, of course. It was not, in fact, my dream when I received my degree from the University of Michigan to ever sling coffee. My dream was to write. But the thing about writing is that you need to sling coffee to pay for that dream because it's not often that dream pans out as lucrative enough to pay the bills that come with having a dream.

I'm forty. You probably already know that, as I doubt this is your first time reading the blog. I'm still not "living the dream" that I have always had. And maybe I never will. (And maybe that's why La La Land resonated so much with me that it left me sobbing at the end. No spoilers, I promise, and this has nothing to do with the love story because my love story is the best one there is, thank you.) But I still live with the very strong hope that anything can happen in the future if I put my all into it. That bestseller is lurking inside of me and it just needs to get from my brain onto the paper into the hands of someone who believes in it like I do so that it can someday get into your hands and the hands of all your friends and their friends.

This hope that I have, though, isn't without merit. When a started dating this extroverted introvert somewhere around a decade and a half ago, we told each other our dreams because that's what you do when you fall in love with someone. And we decided that our purpose was to help each other make their dreams come true. In a couple of days, one of those dreams will come to fruition.

I have watched my 46-year-old husband (who evolved from the 31-year-old man I met so long ago...) work a number of jobs since we first got together, all the while maintaining a strong force in local theatre and remaining a loyal, wonderful husband and father. He got married very young the first time around and started having kids right away, so his dreams of getting his college education were somewhat delayed. So delayed, in fact, that he will be receiving his Indiana University degree this Tuesday night -- as President of the Student Government/Student Body at Indiana University South Bend. Over the last four years, he has worked harder and more passionately than I've ever seen a college student work while, at the same time, having a baby with me, tutoring, peer mentoring, becoming Editor-in-Chief of the Undergraduate Research Journal, bringing the Student Economics Club back to life as its President for a year, and so many other duties I'm unable to list them all here at this late hour. He's received awards and scholarships the likes of which I never even imagined possible. And did I mention that he's 46?

Why is this important?

Because he's never given up. There have been so many struggles over the last four years and at any moment he could have stopped, delayed it further or just let go of the dream altogether. Frustrations with classes, tragic deaths in our family, and the insanity of a brand new baby being born at our geriatric ages could have led to a delayed dream becoming a dead dream. But this man did not, would not, allow that to happen because he believed in something so strongly, wanted something so badly, that he was not about to let it go.

I am so proud of him that I don't have the words to adequately express it. He is an inspiration to me to continue following my dreams regardless of the trials that will inevitably pop up along the way, regardless of the naysayers, regardless of the odds.

Stephen Michael, I love you and I cannot wait to see the rest of your dreams come true.

"So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters and poets and plays...
and here's to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem." --Audition, La La Land

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Inspiration

As a writer, it's often difficult to find time to write. When I do have that rare nugget of time to write, it's often completely devoid of inspiration. Sometimes I'll sit down with an empty notebook (one of my favorite things in the world) and just stare at the page and the pen, willing something to come of them. One time I wrote random words and then, on the corner of the page, "Inspiration WILL come. Anytime now, clown." There are days when I want to get that quote made into a t-shirt so I can hide under my covers wearing it and waiting.

I don't feel particularly inspired right now. The baby is napping (after a bottle, Curious George, singing, and a drive around three subdivisions in our area.) The little dog is incessantly scraping at the back door and barking to be let in, which I can't do because then he will bark inside and wake the baby and then I will have to murder the dog. (What is that, caninicide? Is that a thing?) I'm eating pistachios and looking around the room trying to force something that isn't there.

These are the times when I question EVERYTHING. I've never wanted to be anything other than a writer in my real, grown-up life. Sure, I wanted to be a Scarecrow when I was four, a Solid Gold Dancer, a lawyer, a radio DJ, a singer, an actress... but there was one point at which I knew, beyond all shadows of all doubts, exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. And then I grew up and realized that I had to do a hundred other jobs to pay the bills while I wrote as a 'hobby'. I ask myself, is this what you WANT to do, or what you're MEANT to do? Are those things the same, or different?

There is an ember inside of me, gradually charring its way out. The idea is one that will help people and that, I feel, is what my ultimate purpose in life is. Writing is the medium through which I will likely achieve that purpose, if I do indeed achieve it. It's the most fleshed out in relation to my other abilities and it's the thing I enjoy most out of everything I can do. To what end, however? How will I measure that success? It certainly won't be monetary. I can't imagine a life in which I don't have to weigh the pros and cons of Walmart versus Aldi when it comes to groceries because I've spent that much of my adulthood trying to save money and build a better life. All the while, the better life is around me just waiting to be grasped and it has nothing to do with how much money I can or cannot save for the future.

The success, in my opinion, will be measured in a life well-lived.

But what does that look like, exactly? Well, there is no precise picture. I imagine that helping people will be its own reward. Seeing a smile on the face of someone I care about or, especially, on the face of someone I don't even know. Having someone ask me to help them write something or to edit their work. Having someone come to me with a problem they feel safe talking with me about. Thinking about money as 'just money' and giving it when I have it to give.

A life well-lived is a life focused on others.
My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, my friends.
Strangers. Prisoners. Homeless. Hungry. Violated. Addicts.
Anyone. Everyone.

I think it's time to get started.
Stephanie Jean

Friday, April 7, 2017

Life Without Fear

Without going into much detail (maddening, I know)... I'm going through something right now that could be the most fear-inducing experience of my entire existence. Yet, for the first time in my life, I am not freaking out. I am remaining calm, collected, and doing what I always tell other people in my situation to do: I'm trusting God.

I fully realize that I don't talk a lot about God on the ol' blog anymore. I don't hide my beliefs, I just don't typically flaunt them or attempt to force others to align themselves with mine. I have friends from a variety of spiritual and non-spiritual backgrounds, and my 'ministry' in using this forum is not to recruit others to my point of view; rather, it is to help everyone, regardless of their beliefs, along their own path. So this story is my current story and, leaving out details for now, I'm going to present it as-is.

Something scary happened to someone I love. Then something REALLY scary happened to compound the first scare. And right now, I'm in torpor -- waiting to find out whether the final outcome is going to be good or bad. You, faithful readers, know just how much I suffer from anxiety and fear, so when this kind of trigger pops up, I typically lose my ever-loving mind.

I've found, however, that absolutely nothing ever comes of my fear or my worrying. I'm not saying that the bad things that I dwell on don't ever happen. Of course they do. But living in the fear and the worry itself does not change the outcome of what will be; it simply makes me miserable while awaiting said outcome.

If I change my mindset to one of positivity and joy and living in the moment, and if I rely on God to take care of my circumstances, trusting that He will provide the best outcome, trusting that He is hearing my prayers, and trusting that He wants only good for me... I will not only cope with the waiting, I will be content. Happy, even. And who doesn't want to be happy?

I recite verses: "Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you." "The LORD is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me." "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy." "For I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for harm, plans to give you hope in your final outcome." "For which of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to your life?" And so, so many more. And I declare that the good outcome I am looking for has already happened, and I live in the belief and trust that it HAS.

The outcome will be what the outcome will be. I choose to believe for good, without fear.

And I am happy while I wait.

Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Radio Silence

I find it interesting that, in the past 30+ days while I have been off of Facebook, I very rarely hear from people that I don't already talk to on a daily basis. What I mean by that is, with over 550 friends, you would think that people would call or text or email to check in. While I did receive a number of texts and calls from family members on my birthday, I can count on one hand the messages I have gotten from anyone else.

I'm not complaining, not at all. This actually solidifies my plan to disconnect from social media. I will be going back onto Facebook after Easter, as my original intent was to give it up for Lent. However, it will become a much lower priority for me. It will be more of a place for me to keep my photos and such, and less of a place for me to interact.

I have spent a great deal of time outdoors, even when it's been cold and wet, in the last few weeks. Morel mushroom season has already begun (and no, I'm still not telling you where my hunting spot is!) I've clocked at least 10,000 steps a day for over a week with the exception of one day in the midst of that time frame. I've had so much fun playing with the baby, visiting with family and seeing a friend or two, and trying to wrap my mind around the idea of going back to this 'virtual world' just seems... well, in a word, pointless.

Stephanie Jean

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Next Forty Years

I remember when I was a teenager and the daughter of a family friend was turning thirty. I thought how very old that seemed. I couldn't picture myself at thirty -- what I would look like, what I'd be doing, what I'd say or even where I'd be living. And being in my thirties for the past decade, I kept looking at forty sideways thinking, I know... you're on your way. I won't be ready for you when you get here. I'm too young to be so old.

I'm not sure what I expected as I turned 40 this past weekend. I knew the world wasn't going to end, of course. I knew it was just one more day past 39, and I'd already felt old for some time. But I realized that day that it wasn't the big monster I'd made it out to be, just like thirty wasn't.

The truth is, we never know how much time we have here. I might not even be halfway through my lifespan. I might have a heart attack tomorrow. There's no possible way to predict, so what's the point in trying? Why focus on how much time you may or may not have left? Why not, instead, focus on what you can be doing with the time you DO have, day by day?

I spent a great deal of my life waiting for The Next Thing. I've spoken of this before (well, written.) When I was in elementary school, I couldn't wait to be in high school because my brother was so cool and his friends were so cool and I wanted to be like them. I couldn't wait to drive. I couldn't wait to get out of my parents' house and go to college. I couldn't wait to be married out of college and move closer to my parents. I couldn't wait to get divorced and stop feeling miserable all the time. I couldn't wait to be single, to date, to have an apartment of my own. On, and on, and on. At some point, I learned that I regretted things so much more often when I couldn't wait to do them, jumped in, and then pined away for the good old days. The good old days before I had bills and responsibilities and pressures, before I had obligations and payments and expectations laid upon me. So I lived my life in this torpor between wanting the future and missing the past.

So I was never happy.

Do you know what I am now? Right now, in this moment? I'm happy.

Not because I have finally gotten to the place where I want to be, but because I have learned to enjoy where I am while I'm there. Instead of complaining that the baby never sleeps well, I'm taking advantage of this delightful nap he's taking by getting some things done I've been wanting to do. Instead of lamenting that we had to buy a new washer the day after we had to fix our garage door, I'm loving the fact that I can do my laundry and press a single button to lift my door up and down. Instead of wishing for the day when I can move out of this area to somewhere I can get good coffee and have pizza delivered, I'm finding joy in the things I CAN do while I'm here.

I'm thinking about the next forty years, but realizing that I can wait for them. I can wait, day by day, living in the moment, basking in the joys when they're here and scurrying past the sorrows when they're near.

As I look back, these last forty years went pretty quickly. My goal is to fill each moment with as much impact as I can so that, when I'm eighty, I can look back without regret and look forward to whatever the next forty will bring...

Stephanie Jean