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by Jennifer on November 10, 2009

As you know, these last few weeks have held some big changes, and I’m still trying to get my bearings. I don’t like writing a sorry I haven’t been around much lately post, but these days I feel less like the author of this blog and more like someone who stops by every now and then to water the plants and collect the stray newspapers from the end of the driveway. (Don’t pay any attention at all as I dust things off around here and open some windows.)

That will change – soon, I hope – when  things in my life settle a bit more. It’s not even just that. When there’s so much to say, and much that I can’t say, I’m finding it hard to sift through all the words, like a cookie tin full of colorful buttons, and to choose the right ones. I do miss you all, and your words, and will catch up when I can. I know you understand, but that doesn’t ease my guilt about not visiting you. (Plus, there’s all the missing…)

But, I do have some exciting news to share…

At long, lovely last, the kirtsy book – Kirtsy Takes a Bow – will be released this month!

One of my essays will appear in these pages, and I feel so honored to find myself in such wonderful, talented company. Edited by Laura Mayes, the book is beautiful. I hope you’ll pick up a copy when it hits bookstores in another week or so, or you can find ordering information and some images of the book here.

Here’s what you’ll find:

Kirtsy Takes A Bow: A Celebration of Women’s Online Favorites is an artful collection of writings, photography, tweets, websites, online stores, and other creations — the inspirations of more than 100 social media leaders, entrepreneurs and artists.

This new book artfully represents the dynamic movement of inspirational works that are making the web the definitive forum of our time. The result is an absolute must-have book for any woman who wants to know just what is happening on the Internet and for any man who wants to know just what women are up to.

There will also be a book tour, with eight cities scheduled so far. You can find details about the events here, and if your city is on the list, I hope you’ll come out to meet the local contributors, Kirtsy founders, partners, editors, and friends. I’ll be attending the Washington, DC event on Thursday, November 19, and would love to meet you if you’re in the DC area! Plus, there will be wine. Now you have to come.

I’ll be giving away a two copies of the book in the next couple of weeks, so look for those details in an upcoming post.

Have I mentioned that I miss you all? xoxoxo

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Happy.

by Jennifer on October 27, 2009

The first weekend after we got to Maryland, I took the kids to see the ocean for the first time. I think they liked it. (Ocean City…)

Before. Still dry.

Before. Still dry.

So much of her personality in one photo.

So much of her personality in one photo.

Sweetes soul I know. But if his friends ask, hes a total badass. (See, honey? Mamas lookin out for you.)

Sweetest soul I know. But if his friends ask, he's a total badass. (See, honey? Mama's lookin' out for you.)

Surfboard optional.

Surfboard optional.

Dear Ocean, Well be back.

Dear Ocean, We'll be back.

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Stripped away

by Jennifer on October 23, 2009

iStock_000000451694XSmallThis move was a different kind of move than I had always planned. Instead of taking everything we owned, I left a lot of things behind. The move happened pretty fast (though a lot of things had been packed for two years, in the end it was quick and dirty), which left little time to linger over each thing. Instead, I performed a quick triage. Keep. Toss. Sell. Give away.

I knew there wouldn’t be room on the truck for most of our furniture, and we wouldn’t be in our own place again for a while, so we could take only the things we really cared about. The kids’ beds and dressers, my favorite chair, my desk, a few small pieces. It was hard at first to separate emotion from practicality, to take away the layers of memory from each thing. To see a sofa, and not the place where the kids would curl up to watch TV. To see a kitchen table that could be replaced and not see Elle and Hunter’s heads bent over their homework, or the small streaks of paint that Elle had left on it, or to remember the early days when Hunter was small enough to walk underneath it without bumping his head.

For years, I’ve meant to refinish that table, to start over with just wood and sandpaper and brush and stain. But when it came time to move, I gave the table – along with several other pieces of furniture – to a young couple who had just gotten married and were setting up house. I knew they didn’t have a lot of money, and he’s in the Army, about to deploy to Afghanistan for 15 months.  When I saw all of the furniture loaded onto their truck, I had tears in my eyes. Not because I was sad to see it all go, but because it felt so good to pass along some of the goodness that’s been showered upon me these last few weeks. It felt exactly right.

Of all the things I gave away or left behind, that table was the only thing that I thought of later, wondering if I should have tried to hold on to it. I imagine that its new owners will refinish it now and give it a new life. It may yet see many years of homework and paint and PlayDough and comforting meals.

Here, in this lovely neighborhood where we’re living for now, I walk along the sidewalks in the evening and find myself watching the snapshots of life in the squares of windows. The curtains framing the scenes inside. People eating dinner or watching TV. The pictures on the walls. The furniture that fills the rooms.

Because I love the history of things, of houses and antiques and places, it takes  a great effort for me to remind myself that those lovely houses, and those pieces of furniture, don’t really tell the story – certainly not the whole story – of the people to whom they belong. No more than that kitchen table tells our story.

Because if it did, it wouldn’t speak of just the good memories, it would have to tell all of it. It would have to say that most of the time there were just three people sitting at a table meant for four.

So the table – along with so many things – is gone now, and all that the three of us can call our own fits inside a 10 X 15 storage unit. But that’s not the whole truth, either.

In starting over as we have, we’ve left behind so much that wasn’t really needed, the most significant of which was the idea of a life that couldn’t ever have happened the way we hoped or imagined. I gave up what would never be, while putting to rest what never was. It was the only way to make room for another set of possibilities, other dreams, ones that will find their foundation in this new reality.

I hope that my children will come to know someday that what we have left now, what is truly ours, is what is real. The love of our family and friends, this new life that we can make into whatever we want it to be. That our comfort or our happiness isn’t tied to that table or to the other furniture, any more than the wind is tied to the earth. The tethers that hold us in place, that keep us grounded, are the ones that tie us to the people we love.

And though there are days when it feels like we’re starting over from nothing, days when I have to be gentle with this bruised pride of mine, when I’m scared that I won’t be able to manage what’s ahead, when I can’t believe that I’m starting over at this point in my life, I have to remind myself how lucky we really are. Because when everything else is stripped away, we’re still left with more than enough. Something solid and true, something blessedly, perfectly, unfinished.

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Bold

by Jennifer on October 11, 2009

Not long ago, on her Facebook page, my sister posted these lines from Whitman:

Long enough have you dream’d contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, nod to me, shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

Walt Whitman, from Song of Myself

What she didn’t know was that this is one of my favorite passages.

I left her a note.

“Did you know that I’ve had this memorized for at least 15 years? (Ah, if only I knew it by heart…)”

You know how it goes. Some lessons take longer to learn than others.

Some things you learn in no time at all, like tying a shoe or riding a bike. Others take weeks, months, years. And sometimes you realize you knew it all along, that you always knew what to do if you would just let go, to realize you have a longer stride in you, bigger steps than the timid ones you’ve been taking there in the shallows.

So you walk out farther, and if the bottom drops out, you swim like hell. Well, I’ll be damned, you maybe say to yourself. You always knew how, didn’t you?

And then you look around and realize you’re not out there alone, not even close. Around you, ready to hold you up, are all the people you love and who love and care about you.

People who would give their time and strength and hearts and resources to stand beside and around and behind you and say We’ve got your back.

And they’re looking at you, and you can’t quite figure out how to describe that expression on all their faces. Part love, yes, and encouragement. But there’s something else, too.

The name for it floats somewhere in the back of your consciousness, until you can see it clearly.

Belief.

You want to feel what they feel, that certainty that everything will turn out, and you do, in moments. But it’s been so long since you knew anything for sure, that you don’t even remember how it feels.

Until the word steps forward and gives a crisp salute. Present. Accounted for, it says. Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.And then, with a wink, Did you miss me?

You think, god, yes.

Soon, other words join the first, soldiers showing up for duty. Humility. Hope. Gratitude (so much, immeasurable amounts of that). Courage. Strength. Gumption. Honesty. Friendship. Possibility.

That last one – possibility – is the newest recruit, and stands shoulder to shoulder with belief. Turns out, they’re from the same hometown.

Which brings me to the news I have to share.

The first part of it is that I have finally moved. But…not to any of the places I’ve mentioned here as possibilities. Instead, we landed in Maryland, and it’s exactly the right place for us right now.

The other part of the news is that only three of us made the move, just me and the kids. That’s also exactly the right thing for us.

I couldn’t have done it at all without the seemingly limitless help and encouragement and time that my friends and family offered us. It’s not a comfortable place to be, needing as much help as I have to make this move and to start over. But I am so overwhelmed and grateful and filled to the top with love for everyone who helped me make this happen.  At every turn, there was someone to put a gentle but firm hand at my back to keep me moving forward.

I will never be able to say a big enough thank you.

So, we’re here, where fall is starting to show itself, a show I haven’t seen in six years. I couldn’t have timed this better if I had tried, really. And now, something old becomes something new, and I have to figure out how this new life will look. I only know this, that it will be better than what was, and that’s a lot to know. More than enough.

Oh, about that thing I said to my sister, about the Whitman lines? About having it memorized, but wishing I knew it by heart?

This was her response, and it made me laugh:

“I am totally stealing that line.”

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Over there…

by Jennifer on September 17, 2009

I’m excited to tell you that today you can find me over at Blog Nosh Magazine! They’re featuring one of my favorite posts, and I’m so honored to find myself in such wonderful company there.

If you don’t read or subscribe to Blog Nosh yet, you’re missing out on fantastic writing and so much interesting content. So go, read, hang out there for a while (because you won’t be able to stop yourself) and then subscribe.

A huge thank you to Jennifer Doyle for making my post her Editor’s Pick for today, and for all the lovely things she said. (You can find her gorgeous writing at Playgroups Are No Place for Children.)

Post featured on Blog Nosh Magazine

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