Raindrops On Kittens

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About a year and a half after I had launched a business and officially became an “entrepreneur”, I met JB. Well, that’s what I call her, however, she does have a real name, but I’m not going to use it yet. JB was one of my customers and we became friends, or should I say pen pals? Anyway, she made a customer inquiry one day and the rest is history. Her emails were witty, clever and funny and after a few exchanges about products on my website she had piqued my interest. Who was this quick-witted, sarcastic woman on the other end of this email dialogue and what was her story? I wanted to find out more, so I asked a few questions and she obliged, giving me a window into her life and ultimately into her beautiful soul.

Aug 28, 4:29 PM

JB:

I have two blogs.
And they’re rough.
One of them has a few light pieces but the focus of the blog is recovering from anorexia.

The second consists of only a few pieces. They’re more recent. They chronicle my journey back from the darkness of being raped last year, the subsequent pregnancy, and my decision to keep the baby. I know…I just changed the mood of these emails.

Also, I stabbed my husband 86 times with a screwdriver when he left the toilet seat up ONE TOO MANY DAMN TIMES.
No. I didn’t. Not yet. (Destroy this email. Plausible deniability). But now things seem a little less Lifetime movie, yes?

Daughter of a comic.
Far too fertile woman.
Killer etch a sketch artist.
If I could only watch one movie for the rest of my life it would be The Princess Bride.
I can talk organic and clean food with the best of them but if given the chance would eat white bread and marshmallow fluff sandwiches every day of my life.
I can’t resist buying art supplies when they’re on sale. I’m not an artist. At all. (Except of course, for the aforementioned etch a sketch).

That should quash your desire to get to know me. 😉

And there it was, this soulful connection that transcended formality or for that matter, secrets.

From that point forward she had my personal email and I had hers because she was always burning the midnight oil and so was I. What resulted within the next year was a random but recurring email conversation. It felt good to share some gritty, honest vulnerability with one of my kind, a woman, a mom, a new friend, who was as genuine and vulnerable in return. When she wrote, I felt both empathy and pain laced in the words on the screen. She was unknowingly a lifeline and a voice of reason for me across many miles. However, the most astonishing part of this story is her story.

Late one evening, once everyone in my house was tucked in bed, I began to follow up on overdue work when JB popped up on my computer screen. I knew it was her because the subject line always read “Raindrops on Kittens”. Because, you know, she was a master at clever prose and always trying to make me smile. Tonight she was replying to my latest email from a few days prior…

I’m not sure I’d inspire you if we lived closer. I’ve been in the same pajama pants for three days now and I’m sleeping under a huge pile of clean clothes that I’m too tired to fold. So far, TIME hasn’t called me for their Woman of the Year cover but I expect it’ll be any day now.

Things are hard right now..in so many ways, but if there were no other people on earth, the six others in this house who love me provide more than enough fuel for me to keep climbing forward.

Scars. Yeah, I’m getting to be a regular Frankenstein’s lady monster. If I’m going to be scarred like this anyway I should at least be getting a boob lift and tummy tuck out of the deal. Hey! One day I’ll work for you and you can get an insurance plan that covers those. They shouldn’t be considered cosmetic surgeries. They should be under the category of repairing the damage. Work on that!

She was navigating life post the aftermath of a devastating violent rape and she often shared sad, tough moments through email, some were harder than others to read:

JB:

My dad passed away about an hour ago. I don’t know what else to say about that..

KB:

Oh, Jennifer. I’m so incredibly sorry. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. ❤  XO

JB:

First picture of the 7 of us.

It took a funeral.

One is looking off in the distance, another is making a face even though he’s been told to STOP IT a hundred times, and by the time we got a semi-decent shot, the baby had fallen asleep. Perfect.

Days later…

KB:

I was just thinking about you!!!

How are you doing? My heart hurts for you and I just kept saying little prayers that God would wrap His arms around you and hold you tight.

 LOVE this picture. Can’t even!!! You have a beautiful family and it appears they have your personality 😉

Will write more when I can focus. It’s like a zoo at this office today.

XO and an extra XO because you need it.

And then a few weeks later….

JB:

Just checking in. Are you okay?

KB:

Yes 😉 thanks for checking in. Tired, have one eye open today, worked until 2 last night. Worked all day Saturday as well and had to be at the office early this morning. Been a long week and weekend but the upside is I’m still here, I have everyone around me that I love and I just have to keep pressing on! Your video was gorgeous by the way. What a sweet tribute to your friend. I’m so sorry for your loss. So much pain, so many people who just can’t seem to find their way.

I hope you’re feeling better. I need an update soon 😉

XO
 
JB:

I’m fine.

Just need to touch base with you every so often to make sure you haven’t worked yourself into the ground or been checked into the hospital for a psychotic episode from the breakneck pace you’ve been going.

I’d need to know where to go, where to get my hands on a janitor’s uniform, learn how to pick locks..springing someone from a psych ward is no mean feat.

But once we hit that beach in Acapulco and had Cabana boys bringing us fruity drinks on the beach….what was I talking about?

Right. Don’t burn yourself out. Anything I can do from here..that sounds lame but..name it. You might want to read this twice to get the full gist. I’m not sure with only one eye open that you’ll get all the subtle nuances.

The cheeky and random back and forth banter about life and work and tough decisions and kids and family and death and surgery and hurt and happiness and courage and love and just f***ing getting through the days…well, it was healing. The deep down in the darkness of your soul kind of healing.

I was in the midst of losing a battle, while she was waging a horrific war and we found each other at the perfect moment in life. It wasn’t a coincidence. It was the exact time for our souls to collide, while both armed with enormous emotional artillery that’s often acquired while doing what many women do best; muscling through life with a smile pasted on her face (because that’s what we were taught to do) and telling herself, I refuse to show or share the pain or disappointment or whatever sh** she’s going through.

Oh, I’m not advocating emotionally highjacking your soul to make it through the days by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s where we both were at the time. That mutual state of mind (and heart) brought us virtually together all those late nights. Life was turned upside down like Raindrops on Kittens or Whiskers on Roses, but that was okay because we were sorting it out, soul to soul, sister to sister, one email at a time.

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JB will be featured on SFH in the coming weeks, however, for now, I wanted to share how we became friends.  Her story is gut-wrenching and beautiful and she’s courageous and bold. I’m honored she is going to allow me to share a small piece of her story on SFH and my hope is that you will be forever inspired and forever changed.
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Life Around Her Table

Chef Karista Bennett Serves Food for the Soul

kbennettThere’s no doubt that what makes Chef Karista Bennett of Karista’s Kitchen, happy is food! However, when you take a moment to peek inside her soul, you see that food is just the beginning of her amazing story and what she views as her real path to happiness.

Karista Bennett began her food journey in 1999 when she realized her cooking could “probably cause a slow and painful death”.  At the same time, she was longing for a change so she began researching ways she could make a difference and decided to enroll in culinary school. There she discovered her passion was now her purpose and a new door opened to the magic and joy of inspiring healthy, delicious food for all families.

When you take a trip through Karista’s website, you’ll find it gloriously peppered with beautiful images of real food, friends, and family along with fun vignettes about each recipe posted. They are the small window’s into her food journey and into her warm soul.  But as beautiful as her life appears on the pages of the site, it took a devastating turn when her oldest daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“This literally stopped time for our family, all we could do is focus on helping Alex through this and getting well.”

Her daughter, Alex, thankfully, recovered but Karista and her family would never be the same. Her focus on food as a healing element for the body strengthened along with her resolve to inspire home cooks to use local, fresh, organic and sustainable foods. The result is not only amazingly delicious recipes on her site, but foods and ingredients that are healing to the body and inspirational insights that are healing for the mind, and the soul.  Karista has taken the online culinary community to a new level and her beautiful story will soon be available for everyone to read in an upcoming book this fall. But for now, here’s a little inspiration from Chef Karista Bennett.

What makes you happy?

Chef Karista: Peace, the quiet, walking in nature. Beautiful food that tastes so good it causes a soul-filled joy. The little things in life-like a text from one of my daughters asking about my day, an unexpected snuggle from my dog and teaching home chefs how to cook.

How do you create your own happiness?

Chef Karista: Gratitude. Every day I think about three things that make me grateful. I admit, some days that is harder to do than others. But I always find something. Whether it’s a break in the PNW [Pacific Northwest] spring rain so I can walk my dog without getting drenched, or find fresh kumquat at the market when I wasn’t expecting it. Finding gratitude and appreciation in every day helps me keep “the happy”.

What is the one piece of advice you’d offer to women everywhere about finding and keeping happiness?

Chef Karista: I once heard the phrase, “trade expectation for appreciation” and it hit me…when we expect things to go a certain way and then they don’t, we feel serious disappointment and unhappiness. But, when we trade that expectation for appreciation and simply appreciate the moment, even if it’s not where we want to be, we keep our spirit lifted and find the happiness we deserve.

 

A Sash and a Tiara

An afternoon text from my daughter…

Daughter:  MOM!

Daughter:  MOM!

Me: What? You ok?

Daughter: I just found out I have to cheer on my bday!!

Me: Is that good or bad?

Daughter: OMG MOM!

Me: What?

Daughter: I can’t believe I have a game that night! It’s my bday!

Me: Oh, wow, okay, well we can celebrate on the following night.

Daughter: Yeah, I guess so. But if I have to cheer on my bday I’m requesting a Bday Sash and Tiara!

Me: You go girl!

I can’t believe it took so many text messages to get to the bottom of this exchange but I’m sure any mom reading this can completely relate. I mean, I was in the middle of some intense work meetings and conference calls and then to get the proverbial panic text from my non-dramatic teenage daughter (not) about having to cheer on her birthday, well, you have to love motherhood at that moment, am I right?

Aside from my first inclination to be irritated, I was outrageously amused. When I had a few minutes to really review this text all I could do was smile and giggle at the wholehearted sincerity of her feelings. She was so definite about her value in the world. “I’m going to request a birthday sash and a tiara”, because, you know, if one has to cheer at a game on her birthday she’s going to damn well make sure everyone knows it’s her birthday! I loved this! I was all of a sudden, at the most inconvenient time of day, reading a text from my teenage daughter, who at such a young age, totally realized her value.  Not only as a part of her cheer team, but as a person. She had such self-confidence about how she wanted to feel on her special day.

In the scheme of things, this was a small issue, however, it was huge to her and it should have been. She deserved to celebrate and to let everyone know how excited she was to have made it through another year.

I remember closing my computer and thinking how much she had taught me in this single (although semi-panic ridden) moment.  I. Have. Value. We all have value but as moms, as women, we tend to press on without celebrating our value to ourselves and the world around us. I think it’s simply a part of motherhood, a part of our social norms, we do things without being thanked or noticed because it’s simply what we do. We have an innate need to be sure the ones we love are fed, clothed, cared for, feel loved, celebrated and secure. And yet, we fail to celebrate ourselves and each other.

What if we put on our own sash and tiara’s (figuratively, of course) and encouraged each other to do the same? I wonder, would we all feel more supported? I think so. I challenge each of you to post a #asashandatiara moment on social media and celebrate a fellow mom, and woman. Why? Because it’s time to feel, know and share our value with each other.

 

She Made Broken Look Beautiful

I read a poem several months ago that stayed with me, haunted me actually. I found it when someone I loved passed and I wanted to find a way to immortalize her life with one single social media image. This is not an easy thing to do, at least not for me. I hesitated to post it but I knew she was here somewhere, watching over us and most likely smiling at all the fuss we made. She didn’t like fuss, but I could feel her warmth and hear echos of her sweet southern voice carried on the breeze around me and I knew, this was it.

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She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible. She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings. ~Ariana Dancu

After pausing a moment from the daily chaos and noise, I had an opportunity to consider how blessed I am to have so many amazing women in my life. And she was certainly one of them.

I’ve felt compelled to tell a bit of her story ever since I read this quote because I admired her so much for the life she led. She was an angel with a broken wing but defied her life circumstances every step of the way.  She had such tenacity and she never really knew it. And something else, something we could all learn from her. She was always grateful. She would point out the bright side of life even when darkness was staring her directly in the eyes and challenging her spirit. I’m convinced her continual sense of gratitude was the key to her happiness.

She was born into a coal mining family in the Appalachians. Married at 15 and a single mother by her early 20’s. She kept herself and her family moving forward despite her circumstances. She went back to school, raised two sons and completed a nursing degree.

She was 78 when she passed and I bet she’s just as feisty, strong-willed and lovely on the other side as she was here on earth. I smile when I think about some of the things she would say in her charming, sweet southern accent, “life is what you make it baby girl, you just have to believe it’ll all work out as it should”. There was an innocence about her even at the end. Although, I’m not sure if it was an innocence or simply the way she chose to see humanity and the world around her. She was accepting of the parts of humanity she didn’t understand and proud of the things she had learned to understand. This was true throughout every step of her life.

She wasn’t famous or wealthy but she was a superstar in my book. Even when she was broken she pressed on; no complaints, simply gratitude for the opportunity to be more than what was expected or what life gave her. She divorced twice and married the love of her life at 75. She never lost hope or let age get in her way of living life to its fullest. Even when the Universe was heavy on her shoulders, she flew as gracefully as anyone I’ve ever known.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and we celebrated women all over the globe. It was heart-warming to see social media light up with tributes to my gender. Had she still been with us, she would’ve been right in the middle of it all, even if she didn’t know how to post on Facebook.  So, here’s to you my dearest Mimi, may your example of gratitude, acceptance, kindness and tenacity be evident in all of us who knew you and loved you.