Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thankful on Paper - Week Three.

It is a good thing that I am participating in Thankful on Paper or I would not even be writing!! Sorry for the lack of posts, I have been fighting a cold and that means that free time = sleep in my world this week because I do not even have the time to be playing the sick game!!! All that to say is that I am thankful for Thankful on Paper…moving along…

This week I would like to tell you about my Grandparents, in particular, my Grandmother. Last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to central California to visit my Grandparents. The visit was for an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of their arts foundation (the photo above is us at the event). The foundation was really the brain child of my Grandma – she believed that if she could find a way to provide free arts education for the underserved in her community that it would help decrease gang activity and crime and increase the chances of these kids graduating high school and furthering their education. Her thought was “build it and they will come”, so 7 years ago they broke ground on a facility that would allow them to have a ‘home base’ for the classes that had been taught for the previous 3 years. There were many skeptics as to whether the community interest would support such a project, but they have since been proven wrong as today more than 400 kids participate in 45 classes each week! There are countless success stories of the kids whose lives have been changed and this event was a showcase of some of those stories. As I sat there and listened to each person share I was overcome with emotion. She has given her life to these kids and they just adore her.

In that moment I felt so grateful to have been given such an amazing role model! She has shown me that there is pay off in following your passion and in serving others. A little over a year ago when I decided to leave my business to go into nonprofit, I had no hesitation as to whether or not it was the right choice. I could not explain how I knew, I just did. And now I can see why – it is what I have been shown through the incredible example that my Grandparents are. They have worked very hard for what they have and they give of it freely to help better others lives.

One of the students that had graduated the program was sitting at our table for lunch and he was telling us how he started at the foundation as a shy 7 year old and now he is in college and teaching acting classes at the foundation. He said that my grandmother was his angel and that she had truly changed his life. And that is just one example of thousands.

As she gets older and fights for her health (she has Parkinson’s Disease) I hope that she sees what an amazing legacy she has created – one that will keep giving and changing lives long after she’s gone. She inspires me to be a better person and to give to others freely. This trip also made me realize how fragile life really is and that I should take every moment that I can to spend quality time with my family and friends and to tell them that I love them frequently!

I am truly blessed!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankful on Paper - Week Two.

So this week’s Thankful on Paper installment comes at you a little late, but better than never!

Tonight I get to go to dinner with my sweet niece (this is us at Mary Poppins last year) and her best friend and as I was looking forward to dinner I decided that I wanted to share with you why I am extra thankful for my niece Jessica. She was the first of my nieces and nephews to be born and I became an auntie at the tender age of 10. Even at that age, I knew that being an auntie was a very big deal…after all, I had to be a good role model. I was always so excited when we got to visit and would hold her as much as I could – she was like a doll to me. As she got older we would play dress up and make-up, she followed me everywhere and I loved every second of it! Through grade school, junior high and high school we became closer – I was the cool auntie (obvs) and at some point they started calling me AJ (short for Auntie Jenny, of course). So ‘AJ’ would come and do her and her friends hair and make up for homecomings and proms and we would hang out and they would fill me in on all the school drama.

As I mentioned in my first Thankful on Paper post, I am focusing on people who have helped me embrace crazy as my superpower. How does this apply to my niece who is 10 years younger than I am, you ask?? Well, she has given me the opportunity to be there for her, she has confided in me, she reached out to me and I consider that an honor. Now that she is all grown up she has given me the chance to share with her my struggles and my mistakes and has shared with me how she can apply those things to her life and that absolutely makes me believe that my crazy is a superpower!

Jess, I am so proud of the woman you are becoming and I am honored to be your AJ. I love you so very much! Thank you for being you!!! - Love AJ

Monday, November 8, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

Turns out, I am not the only one who has superpowers. I would like to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to brag for a moment…yesterday I had the pleasure of cheering on the love of my life as he completed his first half iron-man triathlon in Las Vegas. For those of you who do not know the insanity that this entails, please note the following: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run…all at once, as in back to back, as in OMG this is a different kind of crazy all together. He finished the race in 6:23:37. That is 6 hours, 23 minutes and 37 seconds of working out, of pushing one’s body to the limit, of focus and determination – I am so impressed and so proud.

Life has been throwing him a few curve balls lately and rather than freak out or resort to self-destructive behavior, he has funneled that negative energy into training and bettering himself. It is inspiring to say the least.

Here are a few photos that I took during the race:

The first photo is him waiting at the swim start (he is in the top corner chillin like an otter, with the green goggles and grin on his face), then the next is the mass start (700 racers) and the last one is him coming in for the finish (he finished quite close to the front, it was awesome!). I was quite pleased that he had green goggles and a beard, it made it easy to pick him out as I watched from the bridge!

This is at the bike start line. I love that his race helmet says laser...duh, he looks laser fast in this photo!

This is the beginning of the run, I thought he looked really good given the fact that he just swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles on a very hilly course, but he told me later that he was spent. Can you even imagine working out that hard and then being like "ok, lets go run a half marathon on a hilly course!" ?? Rockstar!

I didn't get a photo of him finishing because the camera ran out of batteries (MEH!). I tried a cell phone photo, but apparently was so excited and jumping up and down so much that I took a photo of the fence (lame), but this is us getting back to the hotel. He showered and headed straight for bed -- we ordered room service and hung out. It was a perfect end to such a great day!

As I waited at the finish line for him to come in, I got all teary eyed as each person crossed and then totally cried when he came in. Watching people achieve such great accomplishments gets me every time, but more so, at that moment was reminded that I am the luckiest girl alive to have such a wonderful man in my life…for more reasons than I can count.

We are headed home today -- yay road trip! Hope you have a happy Monday friends and I hope you are encouraged to accomplish something that seems impossible this week -- I certainly am!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hello Penelope, old friend.

Penelope is a friend that I have known for a long time, in fact, she was probably in my life even before I knew she was. She’s super fabulous. Everyone loves her. She’s stylish, witty and excitable. She thinks she could take over the world and make it a better place in like a week and she will convince you that is the case and you’d probably believe her, like for reals, she’s that convincing. Penelope knows me better than anyone else. Most likely because she is me: Penelope is Manic Me.

Now before you go getting all concerned and think that in addition to the long list of things that I deal with, I also have multiple personalities let me explain: My fantastic friend Tanya (who I introduced to you yesterday) was with me for the months after I was officially told that I am crazy on paper. As I have shared before, once I got past the initial shock of seeing the word BIPOLAR in print next to my name, I settled into the idea that I finally had an explanation for the years of awfulness that was my insides. Suddenly I knew that the fact that I would be crying about the state of my life and the world one hour and then deciding that I was going to sell all my things and move to Africa to help save AIDS babies the next and then back to crying for those AIDS babies the hour after that, was rapid cycling and can be a symptom of bipolar…

It’s an exhausting symptom in case you were wondering and one that I dealt with a lot (even now sometimes). The process of trying to keep it together so that I could interact with people and not blow my cover was tiresome to say the least. So in trying to explain to Tanya just how I felt, she decided that we were going to name my Manic Me and my Depressed Me and thus Penelope and Matidla (or Penny and Tildy for short) were born. It was the easiest way for me to tell her where I was at any given moment without having to go into a whole long explanation. Although I am sure she could decipher based on the fact that I would either be weeping for no reason or wildly telling her a 30-minute story about a 5-minute interaction that I had with someone at the gas station that totally changed my life, but nonetheless, it was certainly a more fabulous way to tell.

I bring Penny up because she’s been hanging out with me for the last week or so. You see, for the last 5 years right around the time that we “fall backwards” for the time change, I have noticed that Matilda gradually sneaks into my world and before I know it, I have lost 2 months to the sleep monster that I become when Tildy is around. I am very sensitive to season changes (even the pretend ones in LA). So this year when I felt it happening a touch early, Dr. John and I decided that the best thing to do would be to preemptively take an anti-depressant for a week to prevent said occurrence. The thing about taking anti-depressants as a bipolar person is that they work really great to get me out of the dumps, but then there is no ceiling for my anxiety and the next thing I know is that I am not sleeping and hanging out with Penny. But the luxury of being nearly 6 years into this game, is that I know this will happen and can take measures to regulate.

So that is where I am – regulating. This fall/winter I am going to try a light therapy box and see if that helps Matilda stay away, that way I won't have to incorporate another pill into my life and that makes me – all 3 of me – happy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thankful on Paper - Week One.

Let me start by saying that there are a MILLION people that I am SO thankful for in my life and so deciding on who to write about was quite the task for me. I made the choice to write about people who have had a significant part in my process of embracing my crazy as a superpower.

So, for my first week of being thankful on paper I would like to tell you about my dear friend Tanya. I moved back to LA from Phoenix at the very end of 2004 at which time my life had fallen apart: I had just been diagnosed, a relationship had ended, my career (if you could call it that) was hanging on by a thread and I had no clue what I was doing with my life. I was quite blessed that my mother insisted that I move in with her while I got my medication under control and had some time to figure out my brain before I had to go back into figuring out everything else on that list (and more).

Enter Tanya. She and I have known each other from my speech days (did I mention that I got trophies for talking in college?? Like real actual trophies. For talking. She helped me do that. It was awesome.). When I say that we spent every waking moment together for the better part of a year, I would not be exaggerating (which is shocking for me, I know.). Now you may read this and think ‘cool they were BFF, good times’, but that year was one of the hardest years of my life and I was the hottest mess that I have ever been (which is saying a lot) and Tanya was there every minute.

She was there when one moment I was cooking dinner and the next I was crying over boiling water (its upsetting, duh). She would go with me to the beach and we’d read InStyle and Vogue and watch the surfers and I’d show her a cute pairs of boots then burst into tears. She loved me through the 2 months that I was up and down hourly as my new medication started working (believe me, it was not pretty.). She helped me name my manic self and depressed self so I would have ways to express where I was (more on Penelope and Matilda later). She helped me plan my quit drinking party, she ate chocolate chip pancakes with me, watched bad TV with me and she loved me for every bit of crazy that I was and am. And for that I am so incredibly thankful.

My dear Tanya, you are a true friend and I love you very much! Thank you for encouraging me to embrace the crazy! I am SO thankful on paper for you and I do not know where I would be without you! All my love, J.


And thank you to Rachel for coming up with this amazing idea -- can't wait for Thankful on Paper Week Two!!!!