Travelin’ Light (the only way to fly)

When I was in 2nd Grade, our teacher read a novel outloud to us every day.  My favorite was “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeline L’Engle. Mrs. Baldridge developed voices for Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Whatsit. She made the story come alive. I was captivated, and I also became obsessed with reading any book by L’Engle I could find.

Thankfully, my school library had her entire YA canon. Over the years, I moved from Meg Murray to Vicky Austin. By the time I was in 7th grade, I had read “A Ring of Endless LIght” at least three times. That was the year I met the author herself.

She was the featured speaker at Women’s Institute, a retreat sponsored by the Episcopal Church Women at Camp Mitchell, high atop Petit Jean Mountain. My mother let me skip school to attend. I sat in rapt attention as she spoke, and I stood in line with middle-school timidity to get my well-read copy of “A Ring of Endless Light” signed.

I honestly don’t recall my interaction with her — I was star struck! But the inscription on my book stuck with me all these years:

“To Jennifer: be a light bearer.”

It’s a loaded assignment. Does she mean “bear a light into the world” or “bear heavy things lightly?” I’ve never known the true meaning, but I can honestly say over the course of my life I’ve tried very hard to do both.


I look back over the course of this blog’s life, and I love my writing. Well, most of it. I have to admit I’ve struggled recently with what to write in this space. My posts have been few and far between. I’m the first to admit my most recent posts haven’t been all that great. It’s like when Eminem admits in Not Afraid: “Let’s be honest that last Relapse CD was ‘ehhh…'”

My best writing is borne out of heartbreak, struggle and searching. Isn’t that always the case? I mean, you can’t sing the blues if you don’t have some serious shit to manage. Much like the blues, my writing seems to  work best when I’m facing my demons, owning my story, healing my heart and trying to figure out how to move on. It doesn’t work as well when the lyrics to the blues song are: “I found my groove … My kids are great … We love our life …. And all is straight.”

I have been hesitant to write life is good right now, and I’m not convinced my writing is any good without a tinge of drama.

Today, on a 3-hour road trip, I tuned in to Season Two of Magic Lessons, a podcast by Liz Gilbert. She’s the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and most recently “Big Magic.” I dig her insight. This edition of the podcast focused on a woman from England who has known her whole life she wants to be a comedy writer. And yet, she convinced herself this wasn’t serious art. To be taken seriously, she maintained, she needed serious subject matter. So instead of writing comedy, she got a PhD in Holocaust Studies and did her dissertation in crimes again women.

So, Liz being Liz levels with her (I’m paraphrasing here):”What the hell, sister, seriously? You have a gift. And guess what? If the whole world majored in pain and suffering, it’d be a pretty bleak place. So write your comedy. Make people laugh. Bring some joy to the word. It’s a public service. Do it!”

Later in the podcast, her guest Sarah Jones (I hadn’t heard of her. Ya’ll. Google her. Amazing.) says, “What if joy were your only metric for success?”

Woah. What?!

I turned off the radio and drove in silence. How could this play into my life and, by extension, breathe some new life into this blog?

What if, ya’ll?

Most of my writing up to this point has been heavy. Many people have reached out to me after reading my blog to say: “Me, too.” “Wow.” “Yes!” “Thank You.” I deeply appreciate their support. It was never about gaining followers, and I’m still genuinely moved by such responses.

I made a connection with people by being honest in a vulnerable time. Doesn’t it follow that I could now entertain and inspire with how far I’ve come and how silly my world is these days?

So, what if my only metric were joy? What if I began bearing witness to Madeline L’Engle’s charge to me all those years ago? What if I bore things a little more lightly and brought a little more light into this world?

If my only metric were joy, this is where I would start:

I’m obsessed with “Hamilton: The Musical.” I quote it constantly and break into hip-hop lyrics at the drop of a hat. My kids are tired of it. My coworkers are baffled. Seriously, the other day, a coworker commented on another’s cute new pants and I said, “I think your pants look hot. Selig, I like you a lot. Let’s hatch a plot blacker than the kettle callin’ the pot.” They looked confused. I felt triumphant. I feel I should be comped tickets for such a feat. Sadly, the Broadway fairies have not come calling.

It stands to reason, I’m a pop culture junkie. I quote movies and books constantly. I sing all the time. Music is like oxygen to me. I don’t care if it’s rap, hip-hop, disco, pop or country. I like good writing as much I love catchy hooks. It all moves me. I’ll throw lyrics and quotes at you until your head spins (as witnessed by the title to this blog post!), so just try to keep up. I don’t think this makes me less of a professional or undermines my intelligence. It’s a layer. And it’s me.

I also cuss … a lot. I’m not sure why. I know better. But there is something cathartic in working “motherfucker” into a sentence to express intense emotion. I mean, not in front of board members and VIPs, of course. Although there have been accidents. Again, it’s a layer. It may be the brown, scabby layer of the onion you peel back and throw away … But it’s still part of the onion. And the onion is me. You got that metaphor, right?

I love to tell stories. I’m lucky writing is a major part of my job description, but I’m honestly funnier in person. Just ask my brother. He thinks I’m hysterical.

It’s bat shit crazy around my house most nights. But we have fun.

My daughter spent the majority of the night singing the words to the Pledge of Allegiance in Latin to the tune of “Little Cabin in the Woods.” My son has emerged from his serious state and laughs more, smiles lots and talks my ear off. I’ve gotten more hugs from him in the last month than in the last year put together. He’s a different child. I believe it’s due in large part to his new daily environment and in no small part to the fact I’m finally listening to him and not trying  so hard to control him.

As I said in my intro to this blog, there is so much of my story that’s yet to be written. When I wrote those words almost two years ago, I thought my story would be an award-winning drama. I joked about the day I’d write the screenplay and Reese Witherspoon would produce and star as me. It would cause weeping and wailing. We’d win an Oscar for Best Drama.

Now, I have a feeling it’s a comedy. Reese may still play the lead role, but it will be the “Legally Blonde” version of Reese, not the “Mud” version. The next few chapters are going to be lighter, funnier and more joyful. Sure, there may be fewer raw life lessons imparted, but maybe those of you who are on your own journeys to happy can catch glimpse of what’s in store for you.

It’s time for me to be a light bearer. I’m ready. Hope you are, too.


But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. – B. Franklin

… and school. – J. Pyron


My son goes back to school tomorrow. My daughter starts Wednesday. It’s the first time in many years they’ve not gone to the same school.

When Charles was in 8th grade, we agonized over the decision of where to send him to high school. He shadowed at other schools, but ultimately, we decided it was best for him to stay at the small Episcopal school where my mother teaches, where we know the families and where we felt he’d receive the best education.

Shortly after 9th grade began, so did his complaints. It’s too small. Everyone is in my business. I don’t like it. When can I leave?

I didn’t understand. He was playing two varsity sports. He was making good grades. He had good friends. He was never without something to do on the weekends. What was wrong?

The complaints continued sophomore year, which ended up being the hardest year of his life thus far. Surprised? Me, too. I would have thought the year his father and I separated and divorced would have earned that ranking. But he and I both agree, it was last year.

I tried to get at the root of it, to dig into what was troubling him and pinpoint the reasons he wasn’t happy. One night, I said, “I’m worried about you. You’re just so unhappy.” He looked at me like I was crazy, “I’m not unhappy!” he insisted. “I just really hate school.”

One day, he got in the car after school. “Today was another horrible day,” he announced. “How so?” I asked. “They all are,” he lamented. “Can I please just leave?”

There is nothing worse than knowing your child is unhappy. Unless it’s knowing he’s unhappy and not having a clear understanding why. It was at that point I quit trying to understand, and I tried to just listen.


I’m not sure why it took me so long to understand. After all, I’ve been there.

In 9th grade, I followed the majority of my female classmates to the all-girl Catholic high school. I had lots of friends. I went to football games. I went to dances. I had plenty to do on the weekends.

But in the school building, I wasn’t happy. Something wasn’t clicking. My chest felt tight and my adrenaline rushed when I walked through the door every morning. The curriculum bored me. Everything felt homogenous. My grades started to slip. I grew defiant.

I looked around every day at my classmates and friends who were happy and wondered what was wrong with me. Why wasn’t this clicking? Why couldn’t I find my footing?

One afternoon, my mother found me crying on my bed. It had been a miserable day. I looked at her and said, “Don’t make me go back there. Don’t make me stay.”

They didn’t. I started sophomore year at the public high school near my house. I felt lighter, hopeful, and happy. It turned out be an excellent move.

The buzz of the crowded hallways energized me. I loved being in classrooms where not everyone looked like me or thought like me. I loved the variety of classes offered. I found my footing in the Drama department and my passion in the Journalism room. I graduated in the top 10% of my class, and the friends I made are still the ones who know me best – and love me anyway.

I found my place. It was a good fit.


I buried all those memories of my “lost year” of high school, but they resurfaced when I took Charles to register for his junior year at Little Rock Central High.

The hallways were packed with kids and parents. I was nervous, unsure of how to navigate the lines, fill out the forms and not miss anything. I looked over at my son, hoping he wasn’t feeling the same way.

His smile was broader than I’ve seen in a long time. He kept waving at people he knew, hugging and laughing with friends. He suggested (twice!)  I sign up to help in the front office, so I did. He wanted spirit items, so I forked over $70 for a hat, two shirts and a tumbler with the LRCH logo.

As we left the building, exiting through the massive wooden doors and walking down those impressive, historic stone steps, he said excitedly, “That was so much fun!”

He is leaving a school where everyone knew his name. Where each classroom had no more than 15 kids in it. Where his graduating class had only 50 members.  It’s an excellent school. I will miss it for him.

His new school has 2,400 students. He’s a number now, but he’ll soon meet teachers who’ll learn his name. He’ll sit in class with kids vastly different from him.  He’ll learn so much from them, and hopefully be able to share a thing or two himself. He’s taking Debate and a computerized business applications class, on top of four AP classes. He’s playing baseball.

The best thing yet? he’s actually looking forward to going to school tomorrow.

We’re in for another year of new experiences and changes. Does it ever stop? I suppose not when you have teenagers.

Here’s to uncertainty. To new. To revolutions and revelations. To a good fit. And, hopefully, to happy.

central steps


I did something I’ve never done by myself before – something I wasn’t sure I could do. I bought a car.

I’ve learned to do a lot of things by myself in the last 14 months. Here is a partial list of the hurdles I’ve cleared:

  1. Changing batteries in fire alarms, which requires standing on a tall ladder, holding my head at just the right angle and uttering a few choice curse words;
  2. Replacing the line in a weed eater, which requires several trips to the hardware store, asking the guys behind the counter many stupid questions, bending over the apparatus with my mouth held just so as I thread the line … and uttering a few choice curse words;
  3. Using the aforementioned weed eater to “mow” the small fenced area in my backyard a real mower can’t navigate. This requires curse words and bandaids, because I always manage to slice up my shins, but I can weed whack the shit outta some stuff, ya’ll;
  4. Purchasing and replacing air filters, which is fairly easy but gross; and
  5. Rolling the trash and recycling bins down the hill to the street, which is also gross and which requires balance and precision so the bin does not roll down the hill faster than you’re willing to walk.

Point of clarification: Yes, I have a teenage son. Yes, he helps with most of these things. However, I am trying to ensure he doesn’t step into the role of adult too soon. One of the first things I said to him after his dad and I separated was I didn’t want him to feel like he had to take care of me. He can help me – he should and does – but I want him to know I can manage it all just fine on my own, thank you very much.

Until now, though, I hadn’t made a big financial decision on my own.

I did some research online and decided what I wanted. I called the credit union where I had my loan to find out what they would loan me and at what interest rate. I was determined to not incur a monthly payment more than my current payment. I had a plan.

As I worked up my courage to test drive cars, I almost asked my boyfriend to go with me. Then I thought about asking my brother … or even my dad. Finally, I said to myself, “Self, are you crazy? Why do you need a male escort to shop for a car?”

So, I went by myself. I drove the SUV I picked out online. I loved it immediately. I was honest with the finance guy about my less-than-stellar credit and steadfast in my commitment to not pay more per month than I was already paying. And you know what? I got everything I wanted, including a much lower interest rate than my credit union was willing to give me.

One more hurdle cleared – and it was a big one!

There’s a scene near the end of “St. Elmo’s Fire” when Billy visits Wendy in her new apartment. She’s finally moved out of her parents’ house and is starting life on her own. She tells him:

I got up last night to go make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And it was my apartment. And my kitchen. And my refrigerator. And it was THE BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’ve ever tasted.

So, without further ado … meet Wendy.


Okay, so this isn’t really Wendy. It’s been too rainy to take her picture. But this one looks just like her.

I got her with my salary. And my marginal credit. And my smarts and courage. And she is THE BEST car I’ve ever owned.

There’s a lesson here, of course. When is there not? As Glennon Doyle Melton writes all the time on Momastery, “We can do hard things.” If we have to, we can even do them by ourselves. We may slice up our shins with a weed eater (figuratively and literally, in my case), but we never know until we try.

What’s the hard thing you’ve been thinking about doing by yourself? What’s stopping you? Go do it. I promise it will turn out to be THE BEST (fill in the blank) ever.

What A Long, Strange Trip: Advice for the Newly Divorced

My daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 18 months old. Almost immediately, two people from my professional world reached out to me to share their own stories.

Both Susan and David were parents of teenagers who’d survived brain tumors as toddlers. I leaned hard on them for advice and comfort, referring to them as my “Brain Trust.” They taught me to find the strength within me to make it through appointment after appointment, test after test, seizure after seizure and surgery after surgery. Most importantly, they taught me the power of the phrase “me, too.”

During Emily’s first round of surgery, David sat with us in the waiting room. He looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re a member of the club, now. It’s not one you’d ever thought you’d join, but here you are. You know what it’s like to have child with a brain tumor. And one day, you’ll do for me what I’m doing for you. We pay it forward. It’s what we do.”

I never found the opportunity to do for another parent of a child with a brain tumor what David and Susan did for me. But as it turns out, I’m now a member of a different club: the newly divorced. Again, not a club I ever thought I’d join, but here I am. Turns out, we pay it forward, too.

One of my good friends is in the process of divorce. She’s still a few weeks away from filing, however, she and her husband have made the decision to end their marriage. She’s on the same roller coaster I rode in 2014.

I’m trying to be of service to her. I listen carefully. I answer her questions. I coach her through the lows and laugh with her during the highs. Like my “brain trust” did for me, I’m trying to show her that she’s stronger than she thinks she is – and that quite often the most powerful words are “me, too.”

For what it’s worth, here are the bits of advice I’ve been giving my friend. None of it is groundbreaking, but sometimes it helps to hear what worked for others.

Get to therapy. I don’t believe anyone can go through such a dramatic life change without professional help. I was lucky enough to find a counselor with whom I clicked early in the process. She calls me on my bullshit when it surfaces, helps me build strategies to change and grow, and cheers me on when I’m successful. It’s a powerful relationship, and I’m grateful she’s been by my side.

Sing. I’m going to have to insist you try this, even if you think it’s silly. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good singer. Just find an anthem and sing it. Loudly. Over and over and over. In the last few months of my marriage and early days of my separation, mine was “Landslide.” It’s this line that got me:

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing ‘cause I built my world around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older, too.

I sang it in the shower. In my car. In my office. At a friend’s karaoke Christmas party. I wasn’t picky.

Anyway, just sing. Find a song that makes you cry when you’re bottled up (“Wasted Time,” by The Eagles). Find a song that makes you stop crying when the dam breaks (“Survivor,” by Destiny’s Child). Find songs that paint the picture of the life that you want (“The Way I Am,” by Ingrid Michelson).

And then call me. We’ll do karaoke.

Read. I’m not saying everyone needs to stock up on “self-help” books, but it sure was helpful in my case. I craved books about empowerment, recovering from heart break, coping with change and forgiving yourself for your mistakes. I’ve come to refer to my favorite three writers as “The Holy Triumvirate:” Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle Melton.

Brene wrote “Gifts of Imperfection,” “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong.” Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Eat, Pray, Love,” of course. She’s also very active on Facebook, did a great podcast called “Magic Lessons,” and just released “Big Magic,” which I’m reading now. Glennon’s book is called “Carry On, Warrior.” Her blog is

These three women helped me get through the last year and learn how to start being the best me. And I have to say, I’m a much more interesting person these days. Well, in my opinion, anyway. And really, I’m the only one whose opinion matters. Which leads me to my next point:

Quit giving a shit about what other people think. This is a hard one. Especially if you’ve lived your life trying to measure up to other people’s expectations.

At the core of this is learning to love yourself for the messy, broken person that you are. It means changing the tapes that play in your head from negative, self-loathing phrases like “You’re fat” and “You’re a bitch” and “You’re a screw up” to kinder, gentler phrases like “You may not perfect, but you are enough” and “Hey sister, you got this” and “Whatever, you’re still fabulous.”

Once you make peace with yourself – and learn to trust yourself again – it’s much easier to quit worrying about what other people think of you. I would love to tell you I’ve mastered this. I haven’t, yet, and I’m not sure I ever will. However, I am much more comfortable speaking my mind and being myself these days. It’s nice. Most days, I really like me. Which is good, because my next piece of advice is to …

Be by yourself. I had the same conversation with different friends recently about the tendency to jump from relationship to relationship. One woman said, “It’s like I’m a monkey, swinging from vine to vine.” The other said, “Honestly, I can’t remember a time since 7th grade when I haven’t had a boyfriend or a husband.”

I thought smugly,” I am so glad that’s not me!” Then someone kindly pointed out that I’ve been divorced for a year and in a relationship for six months.

You may be tempted to file this one in the category of “do as I say, not as I do,” but I am going to go out on a limb and argue being alone and being in a relationship are not mutually exclusive.

Standing on your own two feet is important. Choosing to be by yourself for extended periods of time is important. Making decisions based on what’s best for you and for your children (NOT for your relationship) is important. Remaining true to yourself is important.

Here is a revolutionary thought: you can – and should – do all of these things while in a relationship. The danger comes when you swing from one co-dependent relationship to another, making the same mistakes you’ve made over and over without slowing down to learn from them.

I caution anyone who’s divorcing or recently divorced to give themselves as much time as possible to heal before jumping into another relationship. If you do jump, I encourage you to continue to do the hard work of healing WHILE you enjoy that new relationship. Just don’t become so entangled again that you forget who you are, where you’ve been and where you want to go.

Forgive yourself. You’re human. You’re going to screw up. And if you’re getting divorced, it probably means you’ve made a mistake or two.

Occasionally, I have a despondent moment where I say to myself, “Holy shit. I failed at marriage. I am a failure.” Nothing good ever comes from staying in that mindset, though, so I try to shake it off quickly. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Here’s a hard fact: not everyone is going to like you – or forgive you. Despite the apologies I’ve given and amends I’ve tried to make, there are people out there who are still hurting deeply from words I’ve said, decisions I’ve made and things I’ve done. Owning that sucks. Period.

You can’t make anyone forgive you – but you can forgive myself and learn from your mistakes. Tell yourself you’re sorry. Explain the lesson you learned. Accept your own apology. And then move. on.

Be patient. It’s dark right now, I know. You’re ready to be done. You’re want to stop hurting. You’re ready to become whoever this new person is people keep telling you you’ll discover.

You can’t rush this. Grief heals in its own time – not yours. Hold on tight. Hold your breath. The light is coming. I promise.

I thought I would be emotional when the anniversary of my separation rolled around. Instead, it was if an internal switch flipped and pulses of strength, relief, gratitude and confidence began to surge through me. My healing process isn’t over, but I’m so much better than I was last year, last month, last week or even yesterday.

Every day is new. Every day is a step toward a better you. Keep walking. You’re almost there.