Tag Archives: human condition

Firsts and Lasts and In Betweens: I Miss You, Jeni Flock

Truth be told, it was Jeni who made the first move.

Before I drew a wider circle, Jeni reached out to me. I didn’t know at the time the extent to which she was a boisterous extravert, a curious humanitarian, a mushy marshmallow heart linked to a wickedly smart and witty mind. But I was soon to find out.

She sent me a private message on an adult adoptee forum we were both members of. That message meant so much that I saved the email alert sent by the forum’s platform. Dated February 18 2010:

hmmmmmmm. not sure if you’ll take this in the way it’s intended….

i like you.  io REALLY do not want to like you, but i do.  that is all i have to offer right now.

oh….that, and i like your blog very much.

jeni

That was the first contact between Jeni and me.

The In Betweens

Once I drew that wider circle in Jeni’s adopted city of Atlanta, Jeni and I became fast friends. We’d talk on the phone about her latest conversation with the nail lady or share with me a chapter of the memoir she was writing (she was especially proud of this passage about forgiveness) or when she was in the depths of despair about the double rejection of her birth mom (Jeni once posted that Sallie said she wanted to be notified of her daughter’s death by email — what kind of person assumes she’ll outlive her daughter?).

lori holden, jeni flockJeni came to stay with my family on a business trip later that year. Along with her service dog, Gracie, we took my kids to a festival in the town square and at one point Jeni and I were able to duck into a tavern for a quick drink on a hot day — a salty dog for her and a mojito for me.

We could not stop laughing hysterically about the line, “An angry adoptee and an evil adoptoraptor walk into a bar….”

Oh, gawd, how I loved her laugh, her big, raucous laugh that vibrated through her entire being and was infectious to all around.

Ever generous, Jeni brought me a designer purse that visit, which I happened to be using at the time of her death last week. Being a practical sort, I don’t subscribe to many fashion rules, but I do know that this purse is a fall-winter accessory. I can’t imagine transferring my stuff into something more springy now. Ever (but I’m sure eventually I will).

big moose community church pillowThat winter, Jeni returned to Big Moose in upstate NY, near where she grew up. Jeni sent me a pillow made at a balsam bee at her church there. I wish it were possible to digitize the pillow’s balsam fragrance so I could share it with you. Smells like earthy love (not a euphemism!).

Jeni was not one to brag about her considerable accomplishments (except for one — she was going on 5 years smoke-free, and she did love to let us know the number of days via Facebook status). I found out about many of Jeni’s talents accidentally. She was a Japanese interpreter, having learned the language in school (I lived in Japan and lemme tell ya — hat’s off to her). While growing up Jeni was an accomplished ice skater and ballerina (if you are Friends with her on Facebook, check out this and this, but first prepare to pick up your jaw from the floor). She later was an impressive golfer, as you can see by the header she chose for her blog. And —  news to me this past week — Jeni was once a popular disc jockey!

I was really looking forward to reading that memoir she was working on. Jeni was a woman of greatness — great love, great loss, great breadth and depth of experience, great passion.

Speaking of passion, Jeni loved Gracie and all animals fiercely, and she was on a personal mission to teach the law regarding service animals to anyone who gave her a hard time about Gracie  (looking at you, taxi drivers and car-rental clerks). She campaigned relentlessly to open access to original birth records for all adoptees. She was known all over Facebook for reminding people small ways each of us can help the homeless (“Donation idea: when donating canned food, try to offer pop top cans. Not all homeless people have can openers.”). Jeni served as volunteer chef for awhile at a men’s shelter.

Jeni was a consummate connector. I don’t have enough fingers to count all the Facebook friends I have because of Jeni said to each of us, “You two are both awesome and you should know each other!”

Jeni and my daughter Tessa struck up a friendship. I have not yet told Tessa that her email penpal has died (but I will).

The Last

Our last interaction of significance was when Jeni declared she would cheer for the Broncos in the Super Bowl. “You were my reason for picking the broncos!!!” — she told me. I filled her in that we’d recently gotten a dog, and showed her a picture of Dexter in a Broncos shirt. She was so happy for us, especially for Tessa, whom she knew had been lobbying for a dog ever since Gracie visited us.

Jeni died March 18 or 19. I’m not sure which. If she were alive this morning, she’d tell us all via social media, “No texting in church.”

Oh, Jeni, what a bunch of happy memories you’ve left me with. I wish we’d made more. I didn’t know that would be our last conversation — that’s the trouble with lasts.

Jeni leaves a simple legacy: Be kind. Carry that thought with you today. For my friend, Jeni.

Some of us are sitting shiva for Jeni on March 27. Join if you’d like. And a fund has been set up to donate to Jeni’s causes: adoptee rights, an animal shelter, and a food bank.

Word

My fingers glide effortlessly over the keys. No one in the history of piano — including Ludwig van Beethoven — has ever performed Für Elise quite as  well as I am playing it now.

being my own heroI sit at the piano in our living room, right near our home’s front door, “sniffing the keys” (my piano teacher‘s phrase for playing with emotion). I am certain that a talent scout is about to walk up to our door — maybe he or she masquerades as a phone book deliverer so as to catch me being natural — and hear my piano brilliance, pluck me from my bench in our obscure town and take me to a Big Stage, transforming my life.

I have this thought every time I practice the piano.

I am 10.

~~~~~

As I searched for my Word for 2014 (2012’s was Write and 2013’s was Speak), this memory, long buried under more  than a bit of embarrassment, arose.

And I see that in more subtle ways, I have still been waiting for someone — a hero to my inner helpless and waiting young, small girl — to pluck me from where I am and take me to someplace better, bigger.

~~~~~

I wasn’t a fan of this song when it first came out. In fact, despite its ubiquity on the radio waves late in the summer, I didn’t really pay attention to it until this.

I watched this video over and over after the start of the school year, verklempt with emotions I can’t quite explain (peace, acceptance, harmony? in a high school??) — and not just because Tessa’s birth brother makes an appearance at 3:30.

I began tuning into the song. And, trite as it sounds, I am drawn to the line,

I went from ze-e-ro | To my own he-e-ro.

~~~~~

I have had many heroes and helpers in getting my book published and launching my speaking career. I won’t list them for fear of inadvertently omitting someone. Helpers and heroes in my life, in my passions and pursuits, I have them galore.

My book came out in 2013, which is still a pinch-me thought. It was a long slog to turn me into a published author and a public speaker. In some ways, these accomplishments are a pinnacle of my professional life, achievements of a dream that prior to 2008 I would not have dared dream.

But it happened — pinch me! Against all odds the stars aligned and I now hold a hard copy book in my hands. I now get up on stages to teach people how to parent with a heart that’s open to their child’s yearnings, able to listen to the whispers of that child’s heart.

And yet after these pinnacle accomplishments, my life is much the same — which is not a bad thing. I had a good life before and I have a good life now. But I have not been transformed as a blogger. Things are not easier booking myself as a speaker. I’m not suddenly able to make a living doing what I’m passionate about (but I’m open to that possibility).

I realize that all these years later I’ve still been waiting for someone to pluck me from my corner of the world to a Big Stage. I thought it had happened in getting first an agent and then a publisher. I thought that being plucked in this manner would  transform my life in a big way, much like my childhood fantasies of being discovered on my humble piano bench would magically transport me to Carnegie Hall.

In my heart of hearts I have spent decades waiting for a Hero, a plucker to take me from my little pond to Put Oprah on hold, please. I’m talking to Ellen now and will have to call her back.

Just about as silly a thought as the one about the talent scout/phone book deliverer.

I wish to shift my mindset. In 2014 I acknowledge that I am my own hero. I am all the archetypes, actually. Everything I need I hold within. Everything I need to release I hold within me the power to. Whatever is to come my way shall come because I will realize that in addition to all my very real external heroes (you know who you are), I am my own hero. I am not small and helpless, waiting on a piano bench for someone more powerful to notice me.

I don’t plan to roar, exactly. I desire no big “look at me” moment. Instead, I seek an inner change, a subtle shift in the locus of heroism that has been off-center my entire life. I wish for that little girl on the piano bench and this big girl at her keyboard to further move in to her self-authority.

When that happens, a hero’s roar doesn’t even need to be that loud.

How might you be your own hero in 2014? Have you picked a word for 2014?

Image courtesy vectorolie / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Perfect Moment Monday: Meltdowns and Mirrors

I’d had some bad news. I hadn’t slept much the night before, worrying about all the changes that would ensue as a result of a conversation I’d  had. Though I know that somehow, things will be all right again time-wise, money-wise, family-wise, I allowed myself the luxury of feeling defeated, just for one day.

It took me two extra hours to get out of bed. The kids didn’t have school that day and they let me stay in bed, though I was too fretful to sleep.

I remained cranky all day. Never at them, but by virtue of snow and cold and proximity, they were forced to marinate in my foul mood. By late afternoon, I got out-of-proportion mad at about some cheese left on the counter. With a sharp voice I yanked both of them from what they were doing to my side in the kitchen, berating them for their carelessness. They dutifully (and fearfully) came to remedy the cheese.

And then I crumpled.

reflected in the eye of a childThey knew what was going on. They knew the situation. They had their own anxiety about it and about what it will mean for them. They were not surprised when my face broke, my voice broke, my tears fell. I remained standing in the middle of the kitchen and they moved in to support and comfort me. I’ll never forget the look of concern and love in their eyes as they looked up at me.

Usually our roles are reversed. I am the strong one comforting them, drying their tears, reflecting to them their own resilience, the knowledge that they will rise to the occasion they are dealing with and come out all right.

Tessa and Reed were so full of composure, compassion, strength, mastery. They told me everything will be okay, Mama.  They said We’ll be the grown ups for awhile. They added We’ll take care of the kitchen, Mama. You just rest now. You’re just having a bad day and things will be better soon. And they sweetly sent me to my room to take a nap. They looked up at me with wide, winsome, innocent yet knowing eyes and reflected to me myself. The good parts of myself.

It was the perfect time to see that, and the perfect manner, as well.

~~~~~

Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  • Follow LavenderLuz.com.
  • Write up your own Perfect Moment and post it on your blog (or other site).
  • Use LinkyTools below to enter your name (or blog name), the URL of your Perfect Moment post, and a thumbnail image if desired. (**NEW: you can now put LinkyTools on your own Perfect Moment Monday post. Just click Get the Code Here and add the code to your own post.**)
  • Visit the Perfect Moments of others and let the writers know you were there with some comment currency.

With your Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog (in the post, on the sidebar, or both).What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of?

The next Perfect Moment Monday event will begin May 27 (Memorial Day).

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net