Wednesday, August 14, 2013

live a brave life

I don't need another bracelet, but I couldn't pass on this one!

What does it mean to live a brave life? There are as many answers as there are people in this world. For me, living a brave life means doing the things you have always wanted to do but were too scared to do. Or too insecure to try. Or too busy to get started. To live a brave life is to live a life we want. A life we choose. A life dedicated to our authentic self. Life is too short to be doing anything less.

But to get to that authentic, brave life, sometimes our lives have to shatter so we can put it back together in a more genuine way. 

We all have the image we have created of our lives. We see the image that is currently the reality of our lives. And around the reality, we often construct images that we imagine or hope might happen. Inevitably, the glass in front of that image forms fractures. That’s just the way life goes. Things go askew—they don’t go quite as planned. But, we continually work around the fracture. We work to make the picture just right by fixing the fracture and moving on.

But most likely in everyone’s life, something happens that goes beyond a fracture— your life shatters. Your entire picture, the world you always knew, shatters around you. You cry, you get angry, you give up, and then you finally start to piece together a new picture from those fragmented pieces of your life. The thing you might not have considered when glass was raining overhead is that the new picture you are about to create has the potential to be much better than the original. You have to gather the fragmented pieces that were your life and you have to look long and hard at each individual piece. You have to decide: Do I want this piece in my new picture? You keep some shards of your former picture, you incorporate the pieces of your new reality, and you toss the rest. 

Before July 27, 2011, there were fractures in my life, to be sure. Failed relationships. Agonizing decisions about school and work. Overcoming weaknesses and developing a set of core values. But the image I had of my life remained fairly intact as I worked around the fractures. 

Then my life shattered. At the age of 32, nothing could have prepared me for the words: “We got the test back and your tumor is cancerous.” With those words, all I ever thought about my life crashed down on me. I sat crying on the green metal bench on Swede Alley, under a warm Park City summer day and rustling aspen trees, while employees at Main Street Pizza Noodle took their break on their back stairs. The beauty of the day was harshly juxtaposed with the words coming from the nurse practitioner’s mouth. Only 9 days before, she had breezily told me: “98% of lumps are nothing and you’re so young, you don’t need to worry.” So I didn’t. She had gone to a lot more medical schooling than I had, so I trusted that if she said I would be fine, I figured it would be fine. 

After all the non-worry, however, there I was, on July 27, sobbing uncontrollably, barely able to speak. And mostly all I could think was: “My life is over.” 

I cried all the way home. I cried all night. And I cried with each person I had to tell. Because when you say, “I have breast cancer” and you’re 32, people can’t believe it.

I thought nothing could be okay after that. 

Of course, those who know me well know I can be a bit dramatic (okay, okay...a lot dramatic at times!). Of course my life was not over—it was never in much jeopardy, really. Breast cancer can be very treatable. I had surgery. I had tests. I had radiation. I was exhausted. I have to take drugs for 5 years. But overall, medically, it was not as aggressive or as bad as it could have been. 

And so here I am, 2 years after that diagnosis. That shattered image I had is still being put back together in a thoughtful, sometimes slow, process. But I look at each piece that I find lying around me. Many pieces have been tossed. I decide which pieces will fit back in my life. Life, as it turns out, isn’t over, it’s just beginning. It might sound cliché, but this is why I believe life is too short to put that image back together exactly as it was before it shattered. Life is too short to be timid. Life is too short to be unhappy. Life is too short to be scared. Life is too short to let insecurities rule. 

Let’s be honest, though. I cry sometimes for that image I had before, when I wasn’t worried about cancer coming back (because cancer is always hanging over my head, ready to disrupt what I have created). I cry because cancer has invaded the lives of many people I love. I cry because the reality of me having a kid is considerably less than I could have ever thought it might be. I cry because my body is kind of mangled. But I think about the things I have done since that day, and I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. My life will most likely shatter again, as I assume we all will have a few life shattering moments.

But, if our lives never shatter, how will we come to ourselves? Each time I pass the month of July, I am grateful for the opportunity to live my life. Live being the key word.

Last summer I saw a quote on a marquee sign in a Wyoming town, which I think sums up all my ramblings:
“Life is good. So live it.”
My July 2013 Escape: Mirror Lake explorations!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

without gps

I have this old, worn and tattered atlas. You know, an atlas, that piece of paper with roads of different colors showing freeways, state roads, and dirt road and green indicating national forests and little dots representing cities. My atlas is becoming an antique, in that no one, apparently, uses atlases anymore--and I did purchase it in approximately 2007. But I love my atlas. It's been across the country and back (and then again). It's traveled on adventures in Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware. In California. In Colorado. And all throughout Utah and Idaho. There is something I love about maps. There is excitement and hope in a map. You can plot your route as best as you know, but there is always the unknown as you start and as you travel. And isn't that how life is... hopefully we have some general sort of idea of where we're going. But the greatest beauty of life is taking that general sort of idea and then experiencing the unexpected turns and vistas along the way. 

Before I started my latest travels to California, I was teased a bit about my atlas and my lack of GPS. Now, don't get me wrong, GPS is great--it's nice to not be continuously lost. But sometimes, it is pretty great getting a little bit lost. Or at least traveling off the well familiar road. There is something freeing to be able to take a road that looks interesting. Or being able to stop and investigate when you see something crazy. No auto-mechanical nagging voice telling you to turn right or turn left or make a u turn as soon as possible. Because you might just discover this crazy, random collection of structures that could easily be from some hippie commune experiment. (Whatever it is, I am still thinking of it nearly a week later.) 


Freeways were built for a reason. Travel is quick these days and you can make good time on a freeway. In fact, on the freeway, you are almost compelled to make "good time." Even if you see something that looks interesting, if you are on a freeway, you are more likely to keep on going and continue on the road well traveled. The road less traveled might add more time to your travel, but sometimes it makes that journey a whole lot more interesting. Why follow the path everyone else takes? Why not strike out without GPS every now and then?

An atlas gives you the big picture. A picture of what is around you. But until you are there, in the midst of it, all an atlas provides is a hope or a vision. Sure that little grey road looked harmless enough--who knew it would be a narrow two lane winding mountain road full of speeding California drivers? But that's the fun! Discovery. The Mojave National Preserve was once a large green blurb on my map. Now it is a place of cactus balls stuck in my feet, lizards falling out of trees, amazing blue sky, 117 degree heat, and beautiful open space.

This journey to California became a journey of discovery and rediscovery. I rediscovered my love of George Strait. I rediscovered my love of new adventures and open space and deserts. And I made a new discovery: I quite like old forgotten motels (and other built structures) along old forgotten roads. So even in the hum drum of everyday, I hope to still rediscover the things I've always loved (like writing!) and hopefully discover old and forgotten things with new eyes.

Friday, October 12, 2012


It will be a year I will be okay never repeating.

One year ago this week, I was having a complete meltdown in a very public space. (I have since had pretty memorable meltdowns at work, at home, and while being pulled over by the cops, but I digress) But on this day, October 12, 2011, I was sure my world would never be the same. And I was a little bit right. I thought my life was over and could never be good again. I was a little bit right (there's a lot that can always go wrong and a lot of things have changed). But I was a lot wrong, too.

October is a cruel month. I hate all the pink. But I love the leaves. I love the fall! I hate the reminders of finding cures, being a survivor, etc. I hate that breast cancer is used as a marketing tool. But I love that I have a birthday this month. I absolutely love that I have a birthday this month. For those who knew me "back in the day" (i.e college, which I realize is now becoming a distant memory), well, let's just say I haven't always loved my birthday.

I love that I am close to my family and can see my nephew play soccer, and take him to the museum, and build forts, and do science experiments. I love that I can be close to my amazing and inspiring mother. I love that I can escape to the mountains, the desert and soon the snowy slopes for a stillness I only find in nature. I love that I work in a museum in an amazing community. I love the new people I am fortunate to meet. I love that I have great friends who have laughed and cried through many moments of life. I love that I get to have great conversations with my brothers. I love that I have made monumentally bad decisions this year. I love that I can finally say that I am grateful for the things I have learned this year. I wouldn't want to repeat the specifics of it all. Ever. But, it is my life. And I love it.

One of the most liberating things about this year has been that I have (hopefully) discarded the tendency to look into the future too far. Or think in terms of the way things "will be." Or "should be." Or even "could be." I am still very hopeful, but this photo is what it's all about. It's just about the journey. It is the one million small things along the way that make the journey what it is. It is the views from the trail that make it worth sharing the story. Sure, the view from Angel's Landing is amazing. But no one tells the story of when they are hanging around at the top. The story is in the harrowing experience going up (and coming back down!). It's the sheer drop offs that people who hike it talk about. As it should be. But equally noteworthy to the harrowing drama is the time you take a nap on some random red rock, soaking up the sun. A nice summer evening eating Aggie ice cream. Hiding in the same places over and over again just because your nephew wants to play hide and seek and there's only so many places you fit in your apartment. Sitting and just talking with your mom. These are the million things that make our lives--from the harrowing to the humdrum. It won't matter what happens in that future we all seem to be so worried about, because the point is really in the journey. 

My health is great. It was a rocky year. But one small moment after another, I am realizing for all the things that I had to let go of this year, I am turning 34 this month.

And I am really excited about that!

Monday, August 29, 2011

i guess we always have hope

At various times in my life I have always wanted just a little glimpse into the future.

I wanted just a glimpse to help me in my decisions. But my present day, the one I am living in 2011, was once just the future of a starry eyed freshman. And for all the good that has happened in my life, I am grateful Jenette of freshman year at Utah State wasn't able to see Jenette of today.

Tonight, as I breezed past Moen Hall in just a few seconds, I remembered that freshman year at Utah State . It was a turning point in life. Previously, life had generally been dictated by the decisions of others--where to move, what food was around, where to go on vacation, etc. Moving away meant decisions became mine, for better or worse. From that day forward, it was up to me to decide. The decisions of others still played a role, often very important ones, but I could always process the results of those decisions knowing that someone had made a decision.

Since then life has always fallen into those two categories of decisions--decisions of others and my own decisions. Often decisions of other have hurt me. Sometimes my own decisions prove to be devastating. Other times I make good decisions and life turns out wonderfully. And often, the decisions of others have blessed my life immensely. It has always been about managing those choices I make and those made around me.

But there is also an option I hadn't thought much about...things that happen that no one decides. They happen through God, or the universe, or mother nature, or the human body, or science--what have you. When these things happen, it is hard to know how to proceed, and I find myself wishing I could see into the future. But in the moment I wish for that, I know I don't want it to come true.

On one hand, I think freshman Jenette would have gained a lot of confidence knowing that she would find a career she loves, go to grad school, live in Washington, DC for a short time, and work at an incredible Museum. Seeing into the future would have been a confidence booster. But on the flip side, if I could see the things in the future that aren't so positive, the sickness and heartbreak, I would be devastated. Knowing such things were ahead, how could I have even moved forward with any confidence?

And that leaves us with hope. Because even in the midst of heart breaking sadness, we can hold on to hope. Maybe the future is going to be no more brighter than it is at the darkest moment, but the hope that perhaps it could be bright again gives us some strength. And when things then turn out better than we could have ever imagined, what amazing joy we can feel. And if things don't turn out how we would have hoped, we can look to the past, knowing we had strength once before, and look to the future, again, with hope.

Monday, April 25, 2011

transition times (with the option of hope)

As a history nut, the past fascinates me. Unfortunately, I also can get a little obsessed with it as well (generally this happens with my own past). As I have begun to feel more comfortable with my new job, I have found the fun in getting to know the past of Park City. And how I wish I could have seen those days! Don't get me wrong, Park City of today is a fun little place to play, but I really wish I could have seen it then. The booming mine town. The early days of skiing. Saloons. Red Light District. What's not to love?! But lately I have wanted to see the Park City of the 1950s and 60s. Probably not the most exciting time in the towns history, needless to say. Some called it a "ghost town." Mining still happened, but was not the glory days it had been. Skiing hadn't taken off. It was the transition time. If you have been to Park City today, you know the quaint ski resort town with fun Main Street, teeming with restaurants, galleries, and bars and mountainsides of outdoor fun. Goggle it, if you haven't been there, and you will see a resort town dream. But at the Museum, we have some great pictures of a dilapidated, run down Park City, where paint is peeling off buildings and you can almost picture a tumbleweed rolling down the road. This is the Park City I am currently obsessed with.

Maybe I'm obsessed with this time because things were so uncertain there in Park City. It could have become another random ghost town. No one knew the future--they knew the snow was good, but they couldn't have seen the resort town it is today. Lots of people moved. Some stayed. And Park City was eventually reborn. My life is going through a transition too. It has finally hit me that I moved (I know, delayed reaction of about six months...), have a good job, and an apartment all to myself. So it's creating that new life. And truth be told I have always hated the transition time. I hate change. And then I dwell on the past. Nostalgia is easy. It is easy to spot the things you should have done to make things easier now. It is easy to remember the good times. It is easy to spot the diverging roads in your past that could have led you somewhere else. It is harder (for me, anyway), to look ahead with the option of hope. Hope that my life won't turn into a ghost town, but will instead be a resort destination. I have had a few major transitions in my life, and each time has found me fighting those transitions tooth and nail. But, in the end, I have always loved what transpired . So I'm sure I will love what happens next in my own little history.

P. S. Though I think I would love it more if it didn't involve snow in April. *Sigh* Spring in the Rockies is highly overrated.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

generation x

I have been obsessed with generations lately. This is due to a new traveling exhibit at the Park City Museum called Our Lives, Our Stories: America's Greatest Generation. This is an interactive exhibit, with 1950s kitchen and tv dinners (with a tv that plays commercials) and a 1930s soda fountain with a radio announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor. Along with all the fun little gadgets, the exhibit uses oral histories to tell the stories of the Greatest Generation. You won't find all the facts and world leaders of WWII, for example, but you read and hear people's experiences regarding this period of time. It has made for a great time for people to remember and learn about this time and important generation.

Here's our Museum's link about the exhibit:

Alright, so in my planning for school programs, tours, (and maybe some programming!) for the exhibit, I have been interested in all the "other" (not greatest, I guess) generations. You have the "Silent Generation" after the "Greatest Generation" (basically those born during the war, fought in Korea, etc.), then the "Baby Boom" which we all hear SO much about. Then, smashed between the Baby Boom and the oh-so-delightful "Millennials," we have my generation, "Generation X." I barely squeeze in by most accounts, it's true. But I am glad I do. Although the Millennial generation seems (or maybe likes to think it and promote as such) to be taking over, I am glad to be the kind of quirky generation between two monsters (population wise...of course).

I am glad I remember all that "grunge" music and Kurt Cobain. I am glad that we have this stereotype of being resistant against the norms and establishment. I am glad we have all those great movies from the 80s (though, to be fair, I discovered them after the 80s....I didn't have a tv when I was a kids, after all). I am glad I grew up without relying on all this technology (though I am glad people were always worried about our TV watching, etc.). I am glad I really loved Titanic when it came out, then retroactively hated it. I am glad I am one of those "latch key kids" ( parents were always there for me--but they are divorced). I am glad I watched Beverley Hill 90210 for a bit. I am really glad I had really bad hair and clothes. My thinking about right and goodness in the world was shaken by 9/11, but that only added to my growth and development into an adult (which I'm still not, I am convinced).

I am glad for all of these things, because despite the stereotypes, Generation X has adapted quite well to the world--I think. See, there is this station here in Salt Lake that only plays Gen X music. I listened to it for a few days straight because of this generation obsession of mine. There were some great flashback moments to music I haven't heard for awhile. But so much of the music is not good. So that's the beauty of life--we evolve. Stations worth listening to take the good from that Gen X and mix it up with the good stuff of today. Hopefully my life can take the lessons I learned and the good from my growing up and mix it up with what I'm learning today to create something really wonderful. The trick for anyone, I think, is to not get too caught up in any one stage of our lives. When that happens, life becomes less wonderful because we aren't discovering all of the great things in the here and now.

Okay, that's my ramble.

Oh, one more thing--remember Crash Test Dummies? Ha, ha... The lead singer Brad Robers was in (Or will be? I can't remember now) Park City. It's just funny to remember that funny song they had. I hadn't given it a thought for years, then I saw that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

tourism on a whole new level

So, I have been finding new ways to think about tourists since I now work in a Museum driven by resort tourism. It has been enlightening, and has caused me to readjust my thinking about my work in Museums. Tourists in DC are a bit different than tourists in Park City. And the local population that would visit the Museum in Park City has very different expectations than the population in DC. It is going to be a fun journey in planning educational opportunities for these diverse populations.

But mostly I am glad I am not in charge of one of the world's (soon to be) newest tourist attractions--Chernobyl. Yep. The Ukraine wants to turn this delightful spot into a tourist spot. Apparently radiation in some spots is returning to normal. So there you your next flight asap.