Work out

I’m living my life in different ways these days. When you’ve done things the same way for so long change can feel all kinds of ways—liberating, terrifying, exhausting. Change can feel like failure. It can often feel like the worst decision you’ve ever made.

I am trying to stop and extend myself grace as these feelings arise. Sometimes they come in gusts. Sometimes I inhale them and they nestle in dark places. I’m a few months into (local) nomad life and already I find myself yearning for the predictable. For a living space indefinitely mine and a something that gets me out of the house and structures my days.

I am stretching places that are tight and rigid and it’s painful. Pain is manic. It is the herald of real and fake urgencies. It is a sage, a trauma response, a healer, a deceiver. It is never to be ignored and always to be studied with the rigor of a theologian. Its scripture is misconstrued more often than not.

I’ve never been one to fear a stranger or an unprecedented social encounter. But the voluntary nomadic life–only three months in–is unearthing a slew of doubt and panic that’s been kept at bay for years. And it makes me want to run like hell back to stability. And I could easily do so. But I gently remind myself this was my choice. And sometimes things we choose come with pain and stress (ideally, not for the long haul). And sometimes we have to sit with that. And, even worse, we have to do something about it. Because that’s the whole reason we chose this in the first place. To DO and to DO differently. And to stretch and strengthen those muscles we forgot we even had.

So I’m sitting with the panic AND vigorously texting Airbnb hosts AND negotiating like I’ve got all the damn options in the world. Because even if it’s a dumb idea, it’s the best idea. And it’s the best idea because it’s mine.


Today I got the call that no one ever wants to get. That my friend died. “Our friend” as my friend Laurel said when she called to tell me the news. “Our friend Scott took his own life yesterday” is what she said. And the world began to spin. Who was Scott and who was she and maybe you dialed the wrong Jenn and this was all a big misunderstanding. Because the Scott I know is not dead. That’s impossible.

I cried, I slept. I woke up still thinking this wasn’t real only to find news of his memorial service and a Facebook post from his mom confirming the horrible news. My sweet sweet Scott. It couldn’t be. It can’t be.

Scott who drove the church van in college to pick us up from the dorms on Sundays. Scott who I reunited with many years later when he moved to New York. Scott who came over with flash cards to help me learn all the psychotropic drugs i needed to know for my social work licensing exam (I passed with flying colors). Scott who became my travel buddy and fellow adventurer. Scott who I’d go months without seeing but spend a week together in Barbados like no time had passed. Scott who just a few months ago emailed me about his new dog and wanting to have a car in New York City and which insurance did I have. Scott who let Julie and I party with him at the gay clubs in Rio de Janeiro.

My heart is broken and his must have been too and I had no idea. I love you friend. You made this world a better, more beautiful place and I hope you found your better place though I wish you could have found that here with us.

life in the right lane

Just getting nestled in to my new work-from-home life over here and trying to process the rapid-fire amounts of information coming at me every minute. I’m currently sifting through such questions as:

  • What is this new life?
  • How long will it last?
  • Are things really that bad?
  • Is it bad that I don’t mind not going anywhere?
  • Should I learn a new skill? Take a class? Start another blog?
  • Start a consulting business?
  • Or just relax and be a couch potato?
  • I want to give money…but to who?

Umm yeah…so, clearly there are a few things to sift through. This new life rhythm has, however, brought some real moments of clarity. Like realizing how exhausting my commute and schedule are. And how it feels really nice to work in my own home and enjoy the quiet and the comfort and the space to be with myself and my thoughts a bit more. I’m just a slow-paced Texan in my soul and it’s times like these I remember how much I’ve had to adapt and adjust to the pace of this city. My friend Kate posted this beautiful poem on Instagram the other day that I keep going back to.

I hope the pandemic ends but I hope these new beautiful ways of connecting do not.

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Celebrating a King

Martin Luther King day is the only Monday holiday I’ve ever felt inclined to celebrate or actually give thought to as anything outside of an extra day of weekend indulgences.

As one who always felt a passion for the civil rights movement and for black American people and communities, growing up I felt a blind love for Martin Luther King Jr. I didn’t know many details about him or his life or even his work. I just knew he stood for something I cared deeply about. And, for me, that was enough. For white folks growing up in white circles who wanted to have some sort of connection with black people and black history, Dr. King was really all we had. He was our access point. His writings were allowed in our curriculums and textbooks, his picture acceptable for our classrooms and school hallways. His Christian-ness and non-violent tactics praised in church communities. I carried my devotion to him proudly. It (regrettably) took many, years to move past my sheerly symbolic love for Dr. King. It’s been a beautiful gift getting to know this man I always loved from afar. So today, on this day of remembering him and the spirit he left us, I thought I’d share some memorable parts of this journey.

My college friend Carlos knew of my love for Dr. King and he excitedly gifted me a shirt he’d received at an MLK day event. The shirt bore a giant picture of Dr. King’s face and I couldn’t have been more pleased. I wore it often, most especially on his holiday every year.

Me and my summer camp bestie Lauren


I started grad school for my Masters in Social Work. One of my first group assignments was to present about the organizing movements of the 1960’s. We read aloud from Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I’m sure I had read it before but never had I really ingested its weight. For those of you unfamiliar, this is one of the most eloquent, highbrow “clap backs” ever written, and to white, Southern Christians at that (which, I have to admit, gives me a little extra satisfaction).

But King’s words were more than that to me, particularly at this time in my life. I was learning (and confused by) what it meant to be radical, what it meant to stand for social justice–reconciling my fairly straight-laced, conservative, southern, religious upbringing with the east coast “liberal” kids around me who wore rainbows and went to marches with their parents. As bizarre as this sounds coming from a blonde haired white girl, I realized that Martin Luther King was someone who “looked” like me. He dressed like the men in my family. He carried a brief case like my dad. He went to church. He quoted the Bible. He was tight with his family. He was from the south.

And yet his words were biting.  Scalding. Berating. They sounded polite. But they were fierce and unapologetic. They were unaccepting of the current state of affairs.  MLK was a radical freedom fighter disguised as a middle class suburban dad. He was probably the closest I’d come to someone who “looked” like me doing the work I wanted to do and saying the things I was too afraid to say. He gave me more courage to be myself in a place I’m not from—to celebrate my roots as a source of pride and not something to hide; to use my aesthetic and my person as a tool, a point of connection; to be unashamedly mainstream and unashamedly radical. Dr. King gave (and continues to give) me the courage to be “both” and “all”.

At the end of grad school, I had the honor of being selected to go on a civil rights bus tour culminating in Jackson, MS, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. We stopped at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN where we watched a powerful short film called “The Witness”. It documented Dr. King’s final days and hours before his assassination through the eyes of Reverend Billy Kyles, who bore witness to King’s last moments. Watching this film affirmed for me that Dr. King’s work and his power were real, not something I had just made up as a naïve young white girl. Even those closest to him saw something of a divine prophet in him. Says Rev. Kyles about witnessing King’s final speech: “He was so overcome we had to help him to his seat. He had preached himself through the fear of death.”

The museum sits at the site of the former Lorraine hotel in Memphis, TN where Dr. King died. My two colleagues, Stan and Lizzy, and I found a seat outside directly across the balcony where he was shot outside room 306. Stan had ordered peach cobbler to-go from a famous local spot. As we traded bites, we were gifted a beautiful sunset and Stan noted that the spirit of the ancestors were with us in this moment. We all agreed that if Dr. King had any say over how he was celebrated, sunsets and peach cobbler would definitely be a the top of his list.

The Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN

MLK’s room and the balcony where he was shot







The Religious Upside Down

In case it wasn’t blatantly obvious by every single one of my blog posts, I had a super evangelical phase, which happened to be my entire adolescence and collegiate career. I did all the things—weekly Bible study, inner city ministry, church retreats, Christian camp counselor—the model Bible belt-er I was. Then I moved to New York City where Satan and “The World” (Christian-speak for the evil, secular world) got their claws in me. I kid (but really that’s what some people think). I grew up riding that sweet wave of evangelical enlightenment and in the salad days of the Christian Right. The book collection (preserved by my mom) in my childhood bedroom and my CD collection (preserved by my Case Logic) prove it. I’ve got all the greatest hits of the era: The Left Behind Series, Why the Left is not Right (no, I did not make up that title), Lady in Waiting (again, real title), and the now-infamous I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I knew every word to D.C. Talk’s “Jesus Freak”, and every Michael W. Smith album.

A couple weeks ago I reunited with some old college friends and we talked about how none of that stuff moved us anymore—church, Bible verses, Christian books (do those even still exist?). And, in recent years and weeks that world we were so steeped in has all but burned to the ground. Indie Christian rocker Derek Webb cheated on his wife and divorced. “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” author, fun-killer and pastor Joshua Harris divorced his wife, quit the ministry and is now an atheist. Evangelical pastor Bart Campolo (son of other famous evangelical Tony Campolo) left the faith and now preaches the gospel of humanism. Christian singer songwriter darling Jennifer Knapp is now openly gay and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is not having it. Author Linda Kay Klein just released Pure, a book about the trauma in young women that resulted from 90’s purity culture. I think it’s safe to conclude the consensus on this brand of Christianity is: Over. It.

Enter 2019 and I’m living in a time warp. Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez get saved. Chance the Rapper is “Jesus is Lord”-ing all over the place and releasing tracks with Kirk Franklin. Kanye releases a Christian album (and tells his staff not to have extra-marital sex during production). Ciara and Russell Wilson’s sexual abstinence-before-marriage makes headlines. It’s like having a friend who just discovered wind suits and bought one in every color. While me and my peak-90’s Christians are still in recovery, being apathetic as fuck and writing entire books and podcasts to process said apathy, famous people found the Case Logic under my bed and think it’s the coolest shit in town.

I’m not saying faith and belief are trends. At least, they shouldn’t be. And I’m all for people transforming their lives in positive ways. I just (perhaps naively) thought that a modern-day conversion would have an air of oh, I don’t know….the modern day. Are we really back to touting (heterosexual) marriage as our most evolved state and pretending Christian music isn’t bad and cheesy and watching mega churches jump to host the first celebrity who has a Jesus lyric and gospel choir on their album? Can I please get a witness? An amen? An explanation? At the very least, a meme of Kanye reading Lady in Waiting? K thanks.

And just for kicks and throwbacks…..



Dear (mostly straight, white) Men,

I don’t want to take care of you. I don’t want to explain feminism and sexism to you.  I don’t want to listen to you have diarrhea of the mouth trying to defend yourself every time you are confronted for your questionable behavior.  As for your “forgetfulness”, “good intentions”, “busyness” or whatever other excuses you’ve created in your whimsical, illusion-filled mind—no one cares.  Like really NO ONE cares and those things have nothing to do with the conversation (I don’t even need to know what the conversation is to know they have NOTHING to do with it).

Here’s the thing.  You have been raised and taught your whole life to believe you are “good”, that you are “better than”, that you not only have all the answers but that it is your duty to broadcast them (in a high volume, might I add) and lead all the ensuing discussions.  What you weren’t raised to do is listen.  In fact, you are so terrible at it there are many things–things that are the most important part of my lived experience in this world, things that are the deepest and rawest and realest pieces of me—which I will never ever share with you.  Do you hear what I am saying?  You do not get to actually have all of me and fully know me because of your stiltedness. (Which really sucks for you because I am awesome and deep and wise and just an overall really great human being to have in your life.)

Because I know that, in your current state, you cannot hear them–these specific pieces of me.  You live in a world in which most everyone defers to you—your physical abilities, your thinking, your words, your ideas, your opinions—and that has set you up to be a shell of a person.  You have not learned the fine art of self-reflecting, of acknowledging your capacity to hurt others, of making mistakes, of then saying you are sorry for said hurt and mistakes.  Do you hear what I am saying?  Most of your relationships with women are fake because they are playing a role that you need them to play.  How does that feel? –that your privilege drives people to be fake around you.

What you are good at is protecting yourself at all costs. And that comes in so very many forms.

There’s the you continuously trying to steer the conversation back to your intentions, which says to me “your perspective and your feelings on this situation must be mistaken. Let me explain to you what’s actually going on.”  Oh, and it also says, “ I don’t actually give a shit how you feel or what you’re saying because my number one priority is to make sure you still know I’m a good person.  Because this is actually all about me.”

Then there’s the “but my feelings are hurt too” and “what about this thing that happened to me?” which is just confusing because we weren’t talking about you. We were talking about me.  So, I’m not sure why that’s relevant unless, of course, you were once again reminding me that this is actually all about you (how silly of me to forget).

But you know what the irony is behind all these egregious, frustrating, self-serving behaviors?  For all the deference and accolades and unearned privilege you hold and wield, you actually feel really bad about yourself.  Which is why it’s impossible for you to look at your ‘stuff.’  Why it’s impossible to just say, “you’re right”, “I’m sorry”, “I hear you” or “I don’t understand.”

It would break you.

It would crush everything that you were taught to be as a man in this world and you would have a real crisis on your hands.

And do you know who your biggest inspiration will be in getting through said crisis?  Do you know who has felt crushed and stupid and worthless and at fault and broken?  Do you know who has spent most of their days feeling unnecessarily bad so that you could feel unnecessarily good?  Do you know who’s had to say, “you’re right” and “I’m sorry” to avoid being yelled at and embarrassed (at best) and raped and killed (at worst)?


While you were being groomed for an abundance of self-esteem and world domination, we were being raised to feel bad about ourselves our whole lives.  There’s always something to feel bad about—our bodies, our clothes, our face, our weight, our voice, our intelligence, our height, our wrinkles, our feelings, our opinions, our….well, everything really.  We have been made to feel bad by men and women alike.  We’ve felt bad at every stage and every age (this is starting to feel like a Dr. Seuss book) and just when we’ve crossed a threshold there’s a new hammer of judgment waiting on the other side.

It.  is.  Exhausting.

But it has made us strong.  Some might even say super human.  The kind of strength you (men) have never known and never had to cultivate.  The kind of strength that has to dig in deep places to survive and remember who you really are.

Because you are broken, I am broken.

And I’d hoped we could be broken together.

But I am running on fumes.