Marie

 

I was a little girl.

I remember her,

in a cold hospital bed.

I can't recall her face,

what it looked like then.  

In my mind I just see me,

standing by a bed of white sheets.  

Then later,

I'm standing beside her coffin.  

That's all I can see.  

The first person you lose leaves a mark.  

I never knew her, 

but I know my Grandpa

so I feel like I know her.  

I love hearing her name,

Marie.  

November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month.  The disease runs rampant in my family tree.  My Grandpa's mother, Marie and his sister Iona suffered and were lost to Alzheimer's.  There are many others in our family who died from the disease.  Who will be next?  My greatest fear is losing my daughter.  My second greatest fear is missing out on her life.  I faced those fears with a pen in hand.  I wanted to do something with the worry inside of me and the pain of this possibility. I wanted to do whatever I could to help bring this struggle to light.  Somewhere Over the Black Narrows was born from facing these fears.

 

Dollar.

 
 

Lucky day.

A walk in the sun.

Beach combing with my loves.

My first whole sand dollar!

Ripples in the water

on a sleepy afternoon.

A coke and a coffee,

TV and nothing to do.

Blankets and pillows

and a puppy to pet.

The stuff of life,

these things,

so sweet and simple.

 

KINDERGARTEN.

 

I'm a mess,

a blubbering mess.

She's my baby,

my buddy,

my joy,

my torment,

my daughter,

my partner in crime,

my kindred spirit,

my wanderer,

my world.

Tomorrow is such a huge milestone in her sweet little life.  Kindergarten.  I feel her independence grow every day.  She's always had a mind of her own and for that I'm grateful, but it's all happening so fast. She may be ready but I'm not.  I'm so blessed to have been by her side every step of the way up to this point, so grateful for these past 5 years and I'd do it all over again, the screaming, the crying, the feeling of "Can I really do this?" all over again.  We experienced so much life together, so many firsts, so many adventures, so much joy right along with the crazy.  She reminded me how important it is to see the world like a child.  She's taught me so much.  I hope I've helped her too.  From now on, I have to share her with so many people, entrust her to strangers that don't know her heart like I do.  Breathe in, breathe out. Let's do this Emma, let's jump. It's our new adventure. You got this girl.

 

ME.

 

I'm a fiery soul.   

I'm a beautiful mess.  

I'm complicated and confusing.  

I'm emotional and exhausting.  

I question everything.  

I want more, dream of more.  

I'm a lion most days.  

I speak my mind.

My heart is full.  

I cry a lot.

 

MARMIE.

 
IMG_4390.jpg

You didn't want kids.  

But when I came into the picture, 

you sacrificed your dreams for me.

You chose life

and you gave me one filled

with love

and chaos. 

 

Now that I'm a mother

I see what's most important.

No matter what happens

with my projects

or with the brewery,

family comes first, always.  

 

In this day and age,

the art of motherhood

is looked down upon,

but I know that really,

it's the most beautiful art of all.  

 

Marmie,

you are the artist I truly aspire to.  

I love you to infinity

and beyond.

 

BREWERY.

 
I’m going down this lonesome road
To see my fate or victory
God must help us there to win
I’m coming back and I don’t know when.
— Bill Monroe

People told us.

They looked at us with knowing eyes and they warned us.

We nodded our heads like we knew somehow, but we didn't.

 

Starting a business is the scariest thing we've ever done.

In the thick of it now, I see what they felt for us.

They had been there, these small business owners.

They went through hell and back to get their dreams up off the ground.

They knew what we didn't at the time.

 

It's a forest of firsts and it's dark and gloomy

and the government, instead of helping you, sends you dancing through

hoop after hoop after hoop.

You realize then you're crazy.

You're crazy for starting your own business.

 

You throw up,

you fall on your face,

you watch money fly out the door

and you throw up again.

You wonder if you really wanted this.

 

And then you pick yourself up.

You look at the big picture and you see it clearly again.

You tell yourself that all the sleepless nights

and the many cups of coffee will pay off in the end.

You believe you can do it though you feel inadequate.

 

You come around your team and you talk and you learn

and you lift them because we're all in this together.

We believe in the dream.

We're here to see this brewery come to fruition.

We're going down this lonesome road and we're gonna get this done.

 

I feel so blessed to have this opportunity.

I feel sometimes that it's not real, that I have to pinch myself to wake up.

But we're bootstrappin' and we're plowing away.

This thing we're doing is something really beautiful.

These stories we're telling with our beers

lift up our local people and our new home on Chincoteague Island.

We're giving back and using our little business to help change the world.

 

One day soon we'll open up our doors

and our hearts will crack wide open.

I hope you'll be there.

We'd love to meet you over a pint on our porch

and swap a story or two.

 

Artists, Writers, sometimes what you're doing is kind of like punching a bear.  It's not possible.  It's stupid.  It's ridiculous in all actuality.  But don't let that stop you.  People might not understand and that's okay.  They might wonder why and that's okay too.  Break those boundaries and you'll discover you're helping pave the way for other crazies following behind you.

 

LOVE.

 
...I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you-especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly...
— Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre)
 

From the time I was little, I was a hopeless romantic.

I knew I'd marry young.

I knew I wanted to be with someone as wild and free as me.

 

The funny thing though about "happily ever after" stories is that they're all crap.

They don't tell you what it looks like afterwards.

They don't tell you that marriage is tough and it takes a lot of hard work.

The world however is happy to tell us we should base our decisions about love,

on feelings,

and I just think that's a load of shit.

 

There are some days I would like to use Josh as a punching bag.

There are days when I don't feel any love for him.

There are days when all I can think about is him and when he gets home,

I let him know.

There are days when I wonder what my life would've been like,

had I not married so young. 

There are days when I wonder if I could ever be whole without him.

There are days I question what that handsome man sees in me.

There are days when I feel more than I could ever express.

There are days when I feel numb.

 

Feelings come and go like the wind.

If we lived our lives based on that, we'd screw ourselves over in the long run.

In the last decade of marriage I've learned that love is a choice.

It's a choice you make every day, in spite of how you're feeling, happy or sad.

Some days it comes as easy as breathing

and other days it's infinitely more difficult. 

And all that growing together has taught me more about love

than any book ever written

or any story ever told.

 

I'm going to bed tonight the happiest I've ever been.

Not because everything is perfect but because everything is imperfect.

And beautiful.

My life is in constant motion right now.

Everything is changing and it's scary as hell.

But looking back on the ten years I've been married to this man

and promising again to love and hold him for many more years ahead,

I see the big picture.

How far we've come and where we're going.

And I can't imagine this life without him.

I love him so.

 

Cheers to a live worth living,

to celebrating milestones

and dreaming dreams.

 

Cheers to hard work,

to loving your lover

always and forever.

 

Cheers to you realists

to you romantics

and everyone in between.

 

Artists, Writers, I found so much wisdom in Madeleine L'Engle's reflections on life, work, marriage and family.  The Crosswicks Journal series is one of the most intimate pieces of personal discovery I've ever read.  I still go to it often.  I feel as though she's there beside me, speaking to me as a friend over a cup of coffee.  It's a true treasure.

 

MOVING.

 
We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a stranger, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”
— Madeleine L'Engle
 

We're heading to Chincoteague.

The boxes are in the back and I've got my feet up on the dashboard.

The Joker is playing on the radio as loud as we can stand it.

The wind is flying in my face

and my hair is a mess.

 

I'm still in my pajamas.

I want Chik-fil-a for breakfast

cause my stomach is growling,

but I'm afraid to drink coffee on the road.

I didn't sleep a wink.

I'm excited and nervous and I don't know what else.

 

I look at Josh and then at Emma

and I know our lives will never be the same again.

We're starting over.

We're leaving dear friends

and hoping for a warm welcome where we land.

 

I know this next chapter will be flat out crazy.

It'll push us to the brink.

We're as ready as we're ever gonna be.

Let's do this.

 

Artists, Writers, I'll be busy unpacking, working on the next installment of my story and helping with the family brewery startup.  So I'll be gone for a little while.

Don't you love hearing people tell stories?  You'll love them on The Moth.  

 

FEBRUARY.

 
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
— Marcel Proust

For the past few years, I've been taking January off.  

Of course I go to work,

but I make a conscious effort to rest my mind and my body.  

I put no pressure on myself to get any projects done.

I sit.

I reflect.

I sleep more.

 

The holidays are always so crazy there's never time to make

"New Year's Resolutions,"

at least none that actually stick.

I like traditions.

So I made a new one.

 

February Resolutions.

After I've had time to think and process,

after I've given myself a break,

I take a day to write stuff down.

I focus on what I want to do instead of what I want to change.

 

Here it goes:

"This new year I will finish up the next segment of my story.  While I'm over the moon about it, my mind is wrapped around other projects related to the zine.  AND I'm going to allow myself to go off the beaten path and see where it takes me.

We're starting a craft brewery and building a new home on Chincoteague Island.  I never thought this day would come.  While I'm grieving the life behind and moving ahead into the exciting unknown, I'm going to be gracious with myself.

I'm not going to let fear take me down.  I'm not going to let what people think stop me from doing what I know is right and beautiful.  I'm going to take up ideas and run with them.  I want this year to be a turning point in my art, my writing, my life.  I'm gonna learn to draw.  I don't think I have a gift for it, but I don't care, I'm going to try.  

I want to speak out on behalf of those who are fading from this world because of Alzheimer's.  I want to figure out what else I can do.  I want to gather artists together to be a force for change, to help get the word out and help get funding to those who need it.

I am going to take time for myself, to rest, to eat healthy and exercise.  I'm going to take my husband out on more dates, once a week.  Once a month I want to do a special project day with my baby girl where we choreograph a dance or build a greenhouse or something.

In 2016 I'm going to look for the good in people, even in the assholes.  At least I'm going to try.  I'm looking at the big picture today and I hope I can see it months from now.  I'm not gonna let the Muggles get me down."


Artists, Saul Bass is stellar.  He's known for his iconic movie posters and title sequences, but I treasure his art in "Henri's Walk to Paris" (a picture book->>notice I didn't say children's book<-he illustrated.)


Writers, make sure to give hugs and loves to all the people who have supported you and who continue to support you.  Without them, really it's all meaningless.  Our tribe, our family should be at the forefront.  

 

MESS.

 
I am fascinated by people’s flaws and delusions: all the messy bits of human nature we all try to pretend we don’t have.
— Hattie Morahan

It's just before midnight on the eve of Christmas Eve.  

My baby's in bed and Emma is too.

The tree is crushing me...I told him it was too big for our little home.

Projects and papers are strewn about the floor.

Clean laundry, dirty laundry and books are stacked in piles, everywhere.

I'm a mess.  My hair is tangled.

I'm typing and I don't quite know what I'm trying to say.

 

I carry a pen behind my ear and sharp opinions on my tongue.

Never focused, I'm always juggling thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams.

I wonder and ache and question everything, that's me.

 

Tomorrow morning I will clean and set a mouse trap.

I will drink my coffee in shorts.

I'll play some records and dance atop the old wood floor.

I'll puff on my pipe though there's nothing to smoke.

I'll wrap and I'll write and I'll hope for the best.

I'll sit with my Em and pass the time of day.

I'll hug my hunny and welcome my family when they come.

They'll hold me and greet me and take me as I am.

 

The greatest happiness in life is that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, in spite of ourselves.
— Victor Hugo

 

Remember, especially during this holiday time...that we are all different.

We are not the same.  Love your people, love the lot of them.

Don't ask them to be someone else.  Don't tell them to improve.

Love them just the way they are.  It's up to God to do the changing.

It's up to us to do the accepting.

We all have our own mess, don't we?

It looks different from person to person,

but it's there, sitting on a sleeve

or tucked in a dark corner of a heart.

 

So embrace your people, the weirdos and the bitters.

Embrace the drunks and the wanderers.

Embrace the ones who you will never understand,

the oddballs and misfits.

Embrace the wonder of the season,

to LOVE without condition,

to LOVE with abandon,

to LOVE a mess of a person, a beautiful mess of a person.

Artists, Writers, you have yourselves a merry little Christmas!

"Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace..."

 

HOME.

 
The closer I came to the bridge, the free-er I felt. One by one each fear and worry fell from me. And I was me, again. Around the bend the island stood still across the waters.
— Him

 

I think it's possible to be so connected to a place

that it consumes you.

It speaks your name and calls to you in the dark.

It whispers sweet secrets of longing in your ear,

of adventure on the horizon.

 

Like gravity

it pulls you,

grounds you.

Without it you float

up into a dark expanse,

watching a world move round beneath you.

 

I have a place like this,

where my spirit feels free

and I am home.

 

My bare feet

sink into the sand

and I am sure of who I am

and who I am becoming.

 

All I have to do is cross the bridge

and I'm there

and it's magic.

Artists, appreciate your fellow creatives, the unknown and undiscovered.  I love David Butler's sketches (like the one above) - he calls himself the "Bridge Hunter."  I find myself moved by his work and his obsession.

Writers, what is the place or places that have hold of you?  If you don't have one yet, then keep searching, keep moving, it may find you.

 

FADE.

 
Of all the seasons, winter is the most conducive to the great art of dormancy. This art requires an appreciation of semi-consciousness: the beautiful and necessary prelude to sleep - a special pleasure in itself that is all too often neglected, under-valued or looked down upon.
— Michael Leunig
 

Everything's changing,

all around me.  

I feel the Fall, fleeing.

I hear winter whispering in the trees.

 

I'm walking in the night

and my bones shudder

and I turn the corner.

 

I'm not so sad, 

watching the colors fade

and the leaves fall.

I'm finding that I need the brown

and the quiet darkness.

 

I'm fading.

I'm falling headfirst

into the gloomy days of late...

 

Catch me please,

if you would

and let me rest in your arms

by the fire.

 

Let me be.

Let me be.

Let me be.

 

And I'll fade.

I'll fade slowly,

into you.

Artists, Writers, rest.  Take some time and fly away.  Take some time and be, just be...with yourself, with your love, with your family.

 

MADNESS.

 
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
’Oh you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
’How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
’You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
— Lewis Carroll
 

For my daughter's first birthday I threw her an Alice in Wonderland party.  Not because it would be whimsical or lovely, but because she's mad.  And she's mad because I'm mad.  I'm mad because my mom's mad.  We're fiery, stubborn and spunky creatures.

We're creatives.  Throughout history you will find that madness lies within the souls of artists.  And all of us are artists.  Some of us don't think we are.  Some of us don't believe we are.  Some ridicule the artistic desires inside of them.  

Art isn't only for the eclectic, but for the linear too.  Art is for everyone, inside everyone.  We have the capability to create through word, through relationship, through desire, through coffee, through story, through the quiet moments of the day.  

We ride high.  We ride low.  We are all mad.  Some of us wear it on our sleeve, some hide it deep inside.  We wake up, put our face on and walk out into the world.  We are judged.  We are put into boxes.  We are sorted and counted and pushed onto conveyor belts.

 
It’s the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it.
— Andy Warhol
 

But what if in the fog, we wake up?  

What if we did the things we were created to do?  

What if we moved mountains?  

What if we stopped.  

What if we re-evaluated our health and happiness?  

What if we took a risk?  

What if we traveled to that country and met it face to face?

What would our lives look like then?  

 

If we embraced the madness?

I believe that beauty comes at a price.  

I guess the question is whether we're ready to pay that price.

I think we forget that "a bed of roses" conceals the thorns underneath them.  

Is it worth it?

Is the pain worth it?

I think so.  

 

We have no time to waste.

Our lives are but a wisp of smoke in the wind.

What the hell are we waiting for?

Can we please dive.

Can we please do this.

We have to.

But what is it?  

I don't know.

Only you know what it is.

 
Lost time is never found again.
— Benjamin Franklin

Artists, sometimes you need to read a "children's book," one filled with beautiful images.  Josh bought Emma & I "Her Idea" by Rilla when he knew I needed it the most.  Open it up and see.

Writers, Mary Pipher is one of my heroes.  She's a Therapist.  A Writer.  A Speaker.  But really, she's a World Changer.  I love her dearly.  Buy all of her books.  You won't regret it.

 

FEAR.

 
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -not absence of fear.
— Mark Twain
 

It took a week for me to keep up my courage and resist the fear.

I was physically sick for for the first few days.

I thought I was going to throw up round every corner. 

Every day I would walk past the posters I put up around town...

and I would have to tell myself twice, "Don't tear them down Jenna, don't do it."

 

I drank so much coffee throughout the week I was constantly shaking.

I cried into my pillow more times than is appropriate for a thirty year old.

This thing I've done has devastated me, emotionally.

I ripped open pieces of my heart and pinned them up and down the Avenue.

It takes some time to conquer the fear.

 

I'm here to tell you it's not one act of courage.  

It's a thousand whispers saying "I can do it."

It's a hundred acts of bravery.

It's the many choices you make,

in the quiet moments of the day.

 

It's not going to feel the way you thought it would feel.

It's not going to look the way you thought it would look.

It's going to be different.

 

Embrace the imperfections.

Embrace the madness.

Embrace the vulnerability.

It will take you into the dark 

and then back out into light.

 

The key is not to ignore the fear,

but to take it on, 

stare it in the face

and take it down.

 

It's time to get real.

It's time to buck up.

It's time for decaf.

 

Artists, if you're not following @brainpicker on twitter for daily inspiration, you got to.

Writers, get out of your own head and spend an hour coloring.  It really helps.  You should grab "Secret Paris" by Zoe de Las Cases, it's gorgeous.

 

COURAGE.

 
I’m a perfectly good carrot that everyone is trying to turn into a rose. As a carrot I have a good color and a nice leafy top. When I’m carved into a rose, I turn brown and wither.
— Mary Pipher
 

I went to a writing conference round this time last year and I came back depressed and dumbfounded.  It was put on by a small publishing company and it was there I realized that my writing didn't fit in any of their boxes.  What I was doing was different and weird.

I didn't write for a month.  Not a word.

After I got over the strange looks and rhetoric about how self-publishing (blah blah blah) is not the way to go, I gathered my wits about me and grabbed hold of some courage too.

I embraced my weirdness.  I embraced my mind and the wiry way it worked.  I pulled myself up by the bootstraps and continued on my own path.  

 
Art is what we call...the thing the artist does.

It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes art is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something human.

Art is not in ...the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist.
— Seth Godin
 

It was messy and nonsensical, but it suited me well.  I grew in confidence and became more diligent over the year.  By the time summer came around I was all hot and bothered.  I felt antsy, ready to put my story out in cyberspace.

Fear, however, drove me underground.  Thoughts kept spiraling through my head..."No one will read it.  No one will care.  No one will get it."

Then Nancy Belmont put up her courage wall on the Avenue in Del Ray.  I walked past that thing every day and read the words both my neighbors and strangers wrote on the board.  It moved me to tears.

I knew I had to launch my story project.  I was afraid to undress my heart, but I was ready, too. So, a plan went into action.  "Somewhere over the Black Narrows" became tangible and real.  

I wanted others to be inspired to share their story...to write, paint, dance and brew up their own art.  We impact each other when we are open and honest.  Life change happens when we are make ourselves vulnerable.

Through this project I hope to raise awareness for Alzheimer's disease.  This is just one story and though it is very real to me, it is fictional.

Every victim, caregiver and family member has their own experience when confronted by Alzheimer's.  Every one of them has a story that is uniquely theirs and it is real.

I hope that we will talk about this in Del Ray, in Alexandria and all across Virginia.  I hope that the small talk in our town sends a wave of conversation across the nation.  We must speak up and speak out.  We must have courage.

 
You’re time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other peoples’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
— Steve Jobs
 

Seeds are planted deep within our hearts.  

Something stirs inside to make us move, make us act.

What do you wish you had the courage to do?  

Take the first step, write it down.

 

Artists, if you aren't following Seth Godin's blog, please do so now.  

Writers, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird has been a sweet oasis for me.

 

START.

 
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
— Arthur Ashe
 

This has been my mantra since 2008.

My whole life I've been a wandering.  I've moved from project to project, job to job wondering if I was ever going to find something that would stick.

I loved too many things, had to many ideas.  I was lost in my mind for years trying to figure out who I was and what I needed to do in this life.

*LIGHT BULB*

It went off the moment I walked into Black Cat Books (Manitou Springs, CO.)

I remember spinning around the inner room like it was made of magic.  The nooks and crannies drew me in.  My hands felt for the books like friends greeting one another on the street.  

I knew that my life would be forever changed.

I gathered up the courage to talk to Natalie Johnson and asked her for advice about how to start up a business like the one she had.

Something clicked inside of me.

About a month later I started selling books on the street corner of 12th and Clayton in the heart of Congress Park (Denver, CO.)

I called it "Becoming Someone" books.  

 
A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.
— Madeleine L'Engle
 

In 2010 I got knocked up by my hubby and we moved back to good ole' Virginia to be near both our families.  

For some reason, the song "Blackbird" became my little lullaby for the babe in my belly.  I sang it to her nearly every night.

The first thing I bought her was an old bookshelf I sanded and painted black.  I filled the shelves with books for every season of her life.

 
There are many little ways you can enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
— Jackie Kennedy
 

A few months after she was born, I was inspired to write again.  I started over.  I tried to be gracious with myself.  I dabbled a bit with some ideas, but nothing really came.  I gave up, again.

I started a new project, Blackbird Bookery and the Apple Boutique.  I sold my books and vintage goods in the Eclectic Nature Gift and Garden Center on the Avenue in Del Ray.

That was fun for a while, but things were changing in my own life and a new chapter was about to begin for both me and for the building.  I parted ways when Greenstreet Gardens purchased the property, though I love them dearly.

I started writing, again.  And this time, I kept on.  Not consistent or often at all at first, but I never stopped for too long.  I picked up my pen and my paper again.  Then, I picked it up again.  And again.  And again.

 
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.
— Anne Lamott
 

A character formed, then another.  They surprised me.  They took me down roads I didn't know were there, inside my mind.  I found myself living in two worlds.  It was exhausting.

Still, the story grew and connected itself to yet another dream, a distant dream of starting a brewery in the place we love most, our true home, Chincoteague Island.

I feel as though I'm finally growing into my own skin.  I am making mistakes and taking chances as Miss Frizzle would say.  I'm trying.  That's all we can do.  It's important to take risks and dive into the unknown, no matter how frightening it may seem.

I haven't arrived.  I'm somewhere along the road.  But it all started in that little shop and on that street corner, almost seven years ago.

 
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
— Audrey Hepburn
 

Start.  DO IT, now.  Something, anything.  

You have to believe.  You have to begin...

dreaming,

wandering,

hoping.