Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, December 29, 2008


Before two weeks ago, I’d never heard the word Staycation. But I saw an article on 2008’s newest words being added to sites and dictionaries, and Staycation was on that list.

Clever, I thought. And so true. This year happens to be one of those years where we debated for quite some time about what we wanted to do with the remainder of our vacation time. Traditionally, we drive south, stop to get over-stimulated at Disney World for a day or two, and then continue down Florida as far south as we can go. Once we’ve parked our minivan in a condominium parking lot, the car doesn’t move for the rest of the week as we soak in sun rays, stroll endlessly on the beach, dig bottomless craters in the sand, and just overall live as five beach bums subsisting on Fruit Loops and hard-boiled eggs. But the mindset changed a bit last Christmas-time as we weathered five of the seven days on the beach in winter coats. Though the cold snap brought bucket-loads of sand dollars and starfish, we decided that this year might be time to consider a break. A break from the break, that is. So, we’re on our first intentional Staycation.

CNN.com says a Staycation is an “alternative to pricey, stressful travel,” and defines it as “taking time off from work to enjoy life at home.” Wikipedia says that though Staycations may cost less money than a traditional vacation, they may make keeping up with email and catching up on work more tempting.

This two weeks of our Staycation, we have done much more of the little things around the area—family activities like snow tubing at a local ski resort, visiting Santa (not sure if the line was fun, but the experience was perfect for our youngest at least), and touring the nearby Museum of Natural History. Adding in other fun things like dipping the night away with friends at a fondue restaurant, watching movies, and sporting away many afternoons at our Lifetime with racquetball, rock climbing, basketball, and swimming, we’ve had a memorable time with plenty of fun for all. Sure, having an iPhone makes keeping up with email easy (and convenient), and since I’m a writer, I still write at least a couple of hours each day. So, I guess I could say that Staycation has provided a relaxing atmosphere to do what needed to be done as well. A win-win in my mind.

I will surely remember this Christmas 2008 as being one of the best, and Staycation certainly has something to do with it. Though my toes are looking forward to sand and surf, this time staying at home for vacation has been enjoyable and relaxing—a great Staycation for all.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Last Sunday, the sun shone bright though the weather here in Ohio was frigid and snow covered the ground. At church that morning, the stained glass windows glowed with an exceptional brilliance. Certainly the sun and its effect on the blanket of snow had something to do with the blues and reds and yellows and purples blazing in living colors and etching an imprint into my mind. But also, the beauty of the light coming through the glass felt significant because of our Pastor’s sermon. He mentioned that in a day when the dark comes at us in the form of diminished bank accounts and home values, and the dark advances in the gloom and doom of the job market and a recessed economy, we are ever more in need of the Light coming to us at Christmas. The gospel of John begins with the Light—“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” What good news for us and in our times!

Somehow, in the beauty of the stained glass, a connection can be made to life—maybe that we were created, each of us with a different hue and cut to offer the world. But when we join our lives and work together to bring light into the darkened world, a beauty of a new kind can be seen.

Several years ago, we thought as a family that we’d like to help a child in need, so we did some research and found a fantastic website that connects ordinary people with children in need, World Vision, found at http://www.worldvision.org/. We decided to cut back on a few things like Happy Meals and other trinket toys and use that monthly money toward supporting a child. When that child wrote us his first letter and sent a photograph, we were hooked. Barton in Kenya became part of our family. When World Vision gave us the chance to send an extra monetary gift for Christmas, we decided to cut back on the things we could get for ourselves and share some of that money with Barton and his family. Later, when we received a photograph showing how they’d used that Christmas gift money to meet their immediate needs, we were stunned. Not only had Barton’s family purchased a cow, but also two goats, a pair of work boots for the dad, a set of school clothing for Barton, a bag of rice, and a new stack of school books. We still have the photograph, along with the others from years in between, hanging on our refrigerator.

This Christmas season might be different than the rest. Sure, money all around is tighter for most. And the darkness seems to be getting the upper hand for many. But when we take our small and insignificant lights and put them together, the impact we can make on the dark is enough. Enough to make a difference in the world. Enough to bring new light into another’s life. And sometimes, from a simple gift, we can gain the gift of a whole new perspective and experience the immense joy of giving. Like a stained glass, the simple gifts, when added up and combined together, can change the landscape of the world.

Thank you in advance for sharing your stories in comments of the joy you found by sharing!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Great Books for Giving

Shopping is not my favorite thing to do. In fact, I think I’m not a very good shopper. These past twelve years, I have to admit I’ve wholeheartedly adopted Brian’s shopping method: have a list, find the items on the list, buy them and get out … quick. I tend to go as long as possible without setting foot in a store besides the grocery, and the mall comes in absolute last. So this shopping season, I’m spending my time on things I enjoy (being with the family, writing, entertaining) instead of things I don’t. And the shopping is getting done in quick spurts.

Given this year’s floundering economy, the publishing industry has come up with a few catchy campaigns to get people to buy books as gifts and bestselling book lists are easy to find. For me, Amazon is my top book source because of its infinite selection of books from which to choose and for their free super saver shipping offer. Amazon is almost a pain-free shopping experience.

To me, Books make great gifts because 1) they’re easy to wrap, 2) they’re easy to buy, and 3) they make great keepsakes when the giver signs inside the cover. So, to start some ideas flowing for great Books to give as Gifts for the 2008 Christmas season, I’m jotting down a few of my favorites and the link to buy them:

For kids:
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney: A great classic story with beautiful illustrations; one of my lifelong favorites
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin: Hysterical read every time

The Gold n’ Honey Bible: We’ve all learned so much from this well-written children’s Bible storybook
The Doppleganger Chronicles by G.P.Taylor: A great new illustra-novel that all kids will love
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: The all-time classic favorite at our house … can’t read it enough!

For adults:
Leadership Promises for Every Day by John Maxwell
Ordering Your Private World by Gordon McDonald
Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors: Both Brian I loved this historical fiction novel—right now it’s bargain priced at Amazon for $6.99!
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner: One of Publishers Weekly’s favorites for the year
The One Year Mini for Busy Women by me, Jennifer King: Not that I’m biased as the author, but I have to be J: For the busy woman of any age

Happy (Quick) Shopping this year!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Road Tripping and Finding Thanks

This past weekend, we ventured on a road trip. Just like the old folk song goes, “Over the meadow and through the woods …” Well, that was us this Thanksgiving. We went over the meadow and through the woods to share some of the holiday weekend with relatives. We’ve made the same journey so many times we can almost predict what comes next before it even gets there. Like the gas station lady at a small town gas station lining I-75 who greets everyone with a twangy, “What’s can I do fer ya’?” I always love the accent, thick enough to substitute for molasses. I grew up with it, and somehow though I’ve lost most traces of a Southern accent, I’ve never lost the fondness for it. And then the next words out of her mouth as she glanced at our license plate: “Where’s you from in O-Hi-Ya?” Apparently, everyone she meets from “O-Hi-Ya” is from “Cin-cin-a-ta”. Yep, that’s where we’s from, too.

Every time we reach the top of the Smoky Mountains and the spectacular views, we cringe. Not because we’re afraid we’re going to fall off or we’re afraid of driving it, but every time we pass that way someone in the car is dying to find a bathroom. Of course, there is no respectable bathroom for miles up there. But memories of taking one of our then-toddlers onto the side of the road to do his business has left a deep groove in our minds. We’ll just say that particular time we had to leave the pants and the underwear behind. On this trip, it was just our dog who could hardly wait for a place to pull over. If it’s not one, it’s another.

At our destination, the noisy yet graceful Sandhill cranes greeted us with their nightly antics on the Tennessee River. The current economic times and other strains of life feel much smaller when I can taste a bit of Nature’s beauty and the cycles it has sustained over time. I love time spent out in Nature.

On the way home, we were all excited to be back in the car. Of course, the dog lit up our drive with regular emissions of her specialty blue fog. Instead of the in-car DVD being the anticipated entertainment, a jar of 34 river snails captivated the attention of our boys for the entire six hours. And though embarking on a new adventure to another part of the country is always fun, we were thrilled to see the Cincinnati skyline from the cut-in-the-hill … home again. What better time to have a fresh sense of thanks than during the holiday that inspires gratitude?

This season, I know I am truly thankful for our family and our health—and that Together is a wonderful place to be.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Backdoor Rose

Yesterday, I found a beautiful surprise waiting outside our back door—two perfect unfurling white roses. Since I love roses and have planted dozens outside, rose bouquets are common at our house in summer. But now that the seasons have passed into late fall and our Ohio weather has dipped for weeks into hard freezes, a backyard rose is a rare and miraculous treasure. That this rosebush, tucked along the relative warmth of the house, has withstood the harsh weather is amazing in my mind—but of course, I love it!

Tough times aren’t hard to find these days, and we all are weathering some things not quite as lovely as we’d want. But even in the midst of disappointing news and tough circumstances, those two beautiful white roses brought an untouchable peace, perhaps from knowing that the One who makes the roses bloom despite harsh weather can also bring beauty out of our hard days.

When I set out to be a writer, I don’t think I fully comprehended where words go … but I thought maybe I had something to offer, and so I wrote. It didn’t take much time to figure out that whatever I might write would be taken in different ways. I don’t see myself as having the answers, and certainly don’t see myself as being perfect, but instead see myself as simply a person who, like everyone else, has a story to tell. The process of telling my story is surely flawed, but my simple hope is that my words will be authentic, and a real telling of a journey. My writing is a telling of the view through my lens—what I see, and the hopeful attempt to catch the beauty that happens by.

In this season of economic hard times and high stress, my prayer is that my writing may be a surprise waiting beside the back door … a fresh perspective that may bring a glimpse of beauty and may help point hearts towards hope.
As always, thank you ... enJOY today,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jingling Bells

This week, I turn the big 3-5!
Whoa, I think.
Just like every other birthday, I think back to all the well-meaning people who tell me that it all goes by too fast. And every time I hear or think that, I realize the well-meaning words are true. So true. Who would think I’ve been out of high school for 17 years? Or think I’ve been out of college for 13? It does go by sooo fast.
It’s easy to wonder what if about the past … what if I would’ve stayed on and modeled full-time and made that my life’s pursuit? What if I would’ve chosen to work with my engineering degree and our house was built on double salary, not one? What if … All that brings is a higher level of achievement and fame, a fatter bank account, and faster cars.
Just about the time I start to feel overwhelmed with past what-ifs , coupled with vanishing youth and all the things society says we must do to preserve that youth (Botox, hair dye, etc.), I take a deep breath and begin to focus on the things that each day in my life has generously brought.
These are the pieces of life I treasure, for sure: baby steps and belly giggles, tickle torture and bedtime kisses, boisterous nightly family dinners and snuggling by the fire, handprint gifts and school-written letters, gathering shells along the beach and candlelight dinners in Paris.
What blessings these 35 years have brought!
And then I remember the spontaneous fun yesterday morning waiting for the bus, singing goofy renditions of Jingle Bells with the boys, jingling the bells on our Boxer’s collar while the snow flew in swirls outside.
True, the saying that Life is what we make it. The faster cars and bigger paychecks and fame and youth all fades. For me, that's not the stuff that matters much. I'll take Jingle Bells anyday ...
With humble gratitude, I look forward to the next 35 and the thrill of catching the blessings as they fly by.
Here’s to making every day a great one.


On Modeling and the Gap

Yesterday, I received in the mail the recent Frontgate catalog, a beautiful collection of high-end home things. Funny thing, though, I’ve done some modeling for them recently, which, given the turns my life has taken, is amusing in and of itself. Anyhow, several of the shots inside this particular catalog have a version of me there, including a new shot featuring a gorgeous set of cashmere loungewear.
Being me, it’s laughable to see the gap between what I experienced that day on set and what comes across in the photograph. And so, I have to share some of those things and hope you’ll join me in a laugh …
Picture this:
Walking up to the location, which happened to be a home belonging to a real-life family in historic Glendale, the four-legged kind of family member greeted me at the front steps—a 200 pound Newfoundland dog. He was super-friendly and wanted to play, of course. I smiled and asked him to sit, like I would’ve done with my own (much smaller) Boxer. Instead, this gargantuan Newfoundland confused “sit” with a two-pawed “shake”, and pounded his (wet and muddy) paws onto my chest. Lucky for me, the photographer happened to grab the dog’s collar at just about the time I should’ve fallen backward, and allowed me an escape inside.
Getting hair and makeup done while sitting on a preschool-sized Barbie chair in the girls’ play room …
Going back for hair changes about twenty times, all based on the modern-day ability for the office execs to see real-time photos, and give their feedback, interestingly, all the time, on any and every photo …
Delaying shooting for the cashmere slippers to arrive …
And constantly having to stretch my mouth to be more serious during the shots—it’s very difficult to keep a straight face through the Newfoundland pounding the door just beside the set, the photographer’s jokes, the constant feedback (and criticisms) of the execs calling the shots from their desks 10 miles away, and the unending adjustments to the cashmere pajamas and dusting of my face with powder.
But, all said, the shoots for FG are always top-notch, and the folks are always professional, and the cashmere is always amazing. It’s great to keep my feet wet in the industry, and a humbling privilege to be asked to do it.
These experiences are relevant for me, as a writer, because my first novels are written and loosely based on my personal modeling experiences in New York City and Paris with Elite Modeling Agency, which I might add were a LONG time ago. The fascination with modeling lies, I think, in the gap between what is seen and what really goes on. Great fiction for me is most powerful and engaging when exploring that gap between perceived reality and actual reality. So, tapping into those modeling experiences has been and will continue to be a rich ground for growing novels.
I love to hear comments and connect over the ether … Back to writing novel #2.

Monday, November 17, 2008

the View through my lens

I've struggled for a long time, wondering if I could write a blog. Should I? Would I? But today, I am attempting to answer the question.
So, here I am, writing my first post.
Writing and the business of words is astounding to me, as much as it is a love. For to write something is to simply compose an idea—whether it is a greeting card of 8 words, a note of 80 words, an essay of 800 words, or a novel of 80,000 words—out of the elementary 26 characters of the alphabet. And in the same way that those characters can be ordered into mish-mash, they also can be arranged into ideas that may change the world.
I find tremendous joy in working to arrange these simple letters into something meaningful. And the icing to the process is when the reader finds joy as well.
I look forward to sharing the process of writing with you in this blog, and to the privilege of sharing the View through my lens.I’ll see you again here soon.