Nesting : The Birds & Me

There’s a Mourning Dove or “Love Dove” nesting right outside my front door.

I had been hearing her sweet cooing for a few weeks, and as I walked outside yesterday, she came rushing and flapping toward me in full mama protection mode. I was a little frightened by her to be honest. When I came back and saw her peacefully resting in her loose nest of twigs and branches, I understood the former commotion.

Our Love Dove’s two-week incubation seems like a drop in the bucket compared to my current 9 month gestational journey.  However, as I continue to see her everyday, I can’t help but notice the symbolism of motherhood soon to be hatching upon our home.

I have a self-admitted wandering spirit.  It’s something I love about myself that has been cultivated through years of travel and living abroad. But it’s also something that can leave me feeling unsettled, craving constant newness and change.

On any given free weekend, I am typically filling up the calendar with short road trips, adventures, or new happenings in our city. I don’t let the grass grow under my feet for too long, or whatever they say.

I always day dream of moving to a new city or raising my kids as cultured Europeans with my husband’s family in Holland. We talk about the small loft we would share and the important work we would do, the people we would meet and the amazing food we would eat.

But right now, in my third trimester of incubation, I am content. More than I ever have been.

I have this innate feeling of wanting to be home and stay close to home. I want to be here in Carlsbad, working and fiddling around the house. It’s such a foreign yet content feeling.

I have always had this fear of “settling down”. The phrase inherently feels opposite of the way I want to live my life. Who wants to simply “settle” for anything?

But maybe with the growth of new life and a change of seasons, I’m not as afraid. My husband reminds me that we will always travel, and that we will never lose our sense of adventure. We will just have to hire a bigger rental car.

I think I’m nesting too. 

Fire & Ice : A Writer’s Muse

Mother Nature rules the roost on this island. She decides when Geyser will explode into the air, when the next volcanic eruption will transform the land, when the tectonic plates will shift and when the northern lights will dance. I felt small and insignificant, figuratively and literally next to the dramatic and fierce landscape, at the mercy of Her. A risk taker, enjoying a land that emitted a quiet, impending doom.

I couldn’t help but notice geometric patterns tagging the landscape; an ikat rug amidst the frozen lake, leopard print covering the mountain side. The bright colored roofs on a gloomy day made me giddy with childlike wonder and enamor.  The vibrant street-art filled the otherwise boring walls with a funky personality of opinion and depth. The volcano formed scenery reminded me of agro crag from Nickelodeon’s GUTS. Tales of mischievous elves and the hidden people ran through my mind as I gazed into the mountainside, feeling confident of their presence.

The dramatic landscape and the feeling of unpredictability in this country fosters raw, vulnerable art. A transformative aroma in the air, a feeling begging for fresh thought and nurtured ideas.

Iceland: the perfect setting for a writing retreat.

As I arrived home and unpacked my suitcase labeled ‘heavy’ by airport staff, the only thing I found left untouched was my little green book, Brave Enough, by Cheryl Strayed. She was scheduled to attend our writing retreat in Iceland, and of course, sign my book, but much to everyone’s disappointment, had the stomach flu and couldn’t make it.

The writers were reassured with an Icelandic saying, þetta reddast, meaning it will work out.

This little book represented a theme for my week at the retreat. What I thought would be my experience, was something quite different. Something more, defined not just by one person but an entire country, like-minded friends, authors and mouth-watering brown bread.

Self-discovery as a new writer was my heart-tugging purpose for attending the retreat. Looking back, a quite lofty goal. I have been seeking direction and clarity in my new full-time pursuit as a freelance copywriter/blogger/newsletterist/non-fiction short story teller, and this seemed like the perfect setting for exploration.

Wednesday to Sunday in the small, big city of Reykjavik were dedicated to writing, workshops, receptions and tours. I was intimidated by all of my accomplished co-writers, legitimized by their published work and extensive background. Were they nervous like me? Were they undercover introverts who love their alone time but also feel rejuvenated by fresh conversation and connection?

I knew I would have to explain myself as a writer and this made me a little anxious. As if someone was going to discover that I wasn’t actually a writer? In reality, being surrounded by so many honest and vulnerable people was a huge relief. These were my people

When I explained my current situation of career ambiguity (like some kind of a prognosis) to a man of 60-years, he just nodded his head in understanding and agreement.  He explained that he has done all types of writing in his career, and that was the best part about it. You don’t need to have just one formula.

One of the novelists, Adelle Waldman, recalled her humble beginnings saying, “I used to be just a girl with a word document.”

Maybe I’m in that phase.

I captured so many other important, tasty bits of knowledge throughout the retreat. Here is a small sampling:

  • If something disturbs you, write about it
  • Be humble in front of the world
  • You have an idea, now find the story
  • What is something you are too afraid to ever write about. Write about that.
  • Don’t mistake the good feeling of finishing something, with actually being finished
  • Emotional responses are not your friend
  • Writing is the only art form where you can inhabit the body and mind of another human, real or fake
  • Open yourself to condemnation and shame, and trust in everyone’s humanity
  • Know the difference between a confession (deep/dark) versus a revelation (how something changed you)
  • Ask yourself the question, “Who am I really?”
  • Be brave in your writing

I am brave. I am brave. I had to be brave traveling alone at 22 weeks pregnant. Brave to be vulnerable and true in sharing who I am. Brave to take the leap into a career of the heart.

Now, to take my real-life bravery and translate it into my writing, and my pursuit of new writing opportunities. My challenge and purpose is clear.

We were treated to a small Skype session with Cheryl Strayed at the end of the retreat. It all worked out. And I left with so much more than a signed book.

A soul brimming with creativity, motivation and bravery.

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Photo Credit: Lucy Rogers

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8 Ways to Embrace the Single Lady Life

I love that my family shares my passion for writing. I think we all learn from each other and each have our own stories to tell. Here is another humorous blog post from my littlest sister Michelle Lynn Loftus.

  1. Enjoy every day and do what YOU want. You have no one else’s agenda to abide by. While I am looking forward to the day that I can have someone else’s agenda intertwined with mine, now is the time to cherish whatever each day brings and to ‘do you’.
  2. Make people feel bad around Christmas. Before you judge me, I only mean make your mom feel bad, and by bad, I mean, milk out an extra gift if you can. Think about it, if you logically explain that you are saving her money by not having a boyfriend to buy a gift for (unlike your three sisters) she might come to the natural conclusion that you deserve a little somethin’ somethin’ extra. Double whammy.
  3. Be bold. Put yourself out there, chat with random people, do some eye flirting, have fun with all the fish in the sea. You spend a lot of time swimming around, so you might as well have fun while you’re at it.
  4. Don’t wear makeup if you don’t want to. While you may think you should always be prepared to meet The One, he’s gotta see you without that extra layer at some point, so enjoy the natural-ness. Disclaimer: I’ll probably wear makeup as infrequently when I do have a boyfriend, as when I don’t.
  5. Hangout with your friends, be the “yes” girl to new experiences, go travel, have slumber parties and go to happy hours that last all night. I am very excited for when I do get to spend the night next to my person, but in the mean time, share those nights with other people you love.
  6. Go on blind dates. If nothing else, you’ll leave with a great story to share.
  7. Enjoy your AM routine. Whether that’s waking up and working out, sleeping in, sitting on the pot for 10 minutes or calling your mom. Do your thang girl because you only have yourself to please.
  8. Be the best 3rd wheel, 5th wheel, 7th wheel that you possibly can! Seriously, I’ve been all of these (maybe even a 9th wheel) and now is the best time to focus on and enjoy the people who are actually, physically present in your life.

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22 Weeks : 10 Days in Iceland

As we made our descent onto the harsh landscape of a country inhabited with a mere 300,000 people, I couldn’t help but feel like we were landing on the moon. Accurately named the land of fire and ice, this country already had a grasp on me.

After much anticipation, 10 upcoming days of Icelandic adventure, a writing retreat, and a baby-moon were upon me. Here is a small taste of my experience traveling to Iceland while 22 weeks pregnant.

International travel as a baby bean carrier felt amazingly out of whack, but at the same time, so normal, because it was still me, doing my favorite thing in the world.

Far outside of my control and comfort zone, I quickly realized that the real Mother Nature rules the roost on this island. 

My anxiety level was certainly higher than on a normal trip, unsure of so many unknowns and wanting to protect my baby. I had a few rough nights of heart-racing insomnia that left me questioning my strength. This led to anxiety about having anxiety and not wanting to put extra stress on my baby. Anybody?

I quickly turned those thoughts into a positive mantra, arming myself with a new sense of purpose and double the amount of strength with my baby on board.

“I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore.” – Elizabeth Gilbert.

With pickled shark plaguing the menus, I knew I was in for an interesting week of eating. We as Americans, or maybe me as an internet reading informant, seem to be significantly stricter on pregnancy diet than other countries. No lunch meat, no unpasteurized cheese, no raw eggs,  the list goes on. No such rules exist in Icelandic culture. I cheated a few times, and gave myself permission to be ok with it. Hunger and nausea usually won the battle when there was nothing else to eat!

Bean, will you forgive me?

Natural, geothermal hot springs sprinkled the landscape. While my feet enjoyed a dip, my doula and I decided it was best to avoid a full plunge, despite the tempting relaxation of a mineral bath.

The obvious travel and pregnancy discomforts did not go unnoticed. Constipation when traveling, constipation when traveling and pregnant – nothing else needs to be said on this topic. The tired feelings came creeping in sooner than usual, as I was unable to master every hike and city street like I would normally attempt.

As if in perfect harmony with my need for reassurance, bean was moving around inside of me like a wild, fist-bumping banshee the entire trip. While laying in bed one night, watching “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, my husband felt bean kick for the very first time. His reaction and disbelief were priceless, slightly creeped out yet unable to get enough. We laughed and cried in a magical moment imprinted on my memory forever.

Despite the challenges, and missing out on a couple of experiences, it was worth it. It’s always worth it to jump out of my comfort zone and come back built up with an even greater layer of strength and bravery.

Our pseudo lunar landing was complete. One small stamp on our passport and one giant leap in the memory book for our family.

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Tales From The “Baby” of Four Girls

We have a special guest blog post today by Michelle Loftus, my baby sister, who makes me laugh and smile every single day.

I can honestly say that I am who I am because of my God-given situation: having three older sisters and being the baby in my family. I have experienced more first-place medals, birthdays, break ups, and graduations than any typical 24-year-old, because whatever my sisters experience, I experience. While I didn’t always have such an optimistic perspective on sharing in my sisters’ experiences (I mean who really wants to go from a soccer game, to a water polo match, back to a soccer game all on their 10th birthday?), at least I got to wear my cool, new, bright blue sunglasses for the events. I have realized that I am better because of everything my sisters have endured. My three older sisters are each a role model to me in their own, unique way. They are my trinity personified.

Every birthday and Christmas list from year five until the ripe age of 14, I would ask for the same thing: a baby brother or sister. God was really looking out for me by not giving me that, because I biasedly think that being the baby is the best position of the family! You have older siblings as guinea pigs for your parents to test out rules on. You pay attention to every detail and learn from it. For example, if I got put on time-out, I would just take a nap and make the most out of it.  Being the baby has given me leverage to be the most [on purpose] annoying sister about how I’m my parent’s official “baby”. As much as it doesn’t seem like it, this is a big joke within our family, but I play the role well, enjoying all of the attention and perks that come with being the youngest of the family.

Being the baby of four girls, I quickly learned that life isn’t fair (arguably my dad’s favorite quote), no item of clothing is truly just mine, and that I need to speak loudly and extremely fast if I want to be heard. I learned how to handle criticism and grow tough skin. My sisters were right about a few things: braces were not my best accessory, bangs should never be placed on my forehead again, and zits will always be named and receive appropriate attention.

In later years I learned that whatever standard is set by an older sibling, will be the standard I want to reach. Each of my sisters set the bar higher than Everest.  I learned hard work through watching their achievements: working numerous jobs until receiving a [well-deserved] full-time teaching job, embarking on an 18-month journey [alone] to work in Australia and fulfill her adventuresome spirit, and being offered a professional job [and being loved immensely by the coworkers] before graduating from a Masters program.

They’ve taught me how to love, how to get out of a love that wasn’t right, and how purely blissful life is once you’ve found your soul mate. I was typically the first responder for  big relationship events, like  the first kiss, crying sessions after big breakups and my favorite, many three-way date nights.

Above all, the concept that gets me through all my days (combined with faith which is another blog in itself) is that I know my three older sisters and parents will always love me unconditionally. This isn’t because of who I am, but because of the people they are; endlessly selfless, loving, and supportive. Being the baby has given me confidence to be my truest self whether that’s acting goofy, impatient, laughing uncontrollably intermixed with snorting [slap happy], doubtful, hyper, talkative, etc.. I know that my family will always accept me and welcome me with the biggest hugs and hearts.

Being the baby has given me and will continue to give me perspective, gratitude, and boundless love.  

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How old is too old for the egg hunt?

I have a confession. I am 29 years old and still participate in our annual Family Easter Egg Hunt. The tradition began as young kids at my Aunt’s house and we never quite grew out of it. My sister and I are the oldest of 15 cousins. She just had a baby boy and I have a little bean of my own on the way. Until those babies are old enough to hunt, I still think of us as the “kids”. We decorate paper bags with our names and silly Easter drawings while all of the “adults” hide the eggs. They finally let us out like wild geese and our uber competitive nature takes over – especially now that lottery tickets and some light cash is at stake in those bright colored round treasures. We all walk away feeling satisfied (some of us more than others) and it’s a great ending to the day. Maybe I’ll just stay a kid forever.

Happy Easter and Happy Spring.

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New City, Old Me

I’m used to having someone by my side now. I enjoy the comfort of an arm to hold, someone to share things with and tell my weirdest thoughts to. Especially when that someone is my husband who I am my total and complete self around.

The 24-year-old Jenna who lived alone in another country had no such comforts. She lugged five grocery bags from the market to her studio apartment 15 minutes away every week. [I wonder if that will be my ‘I walked 5 miles in the snow up hill to school everyday’ story.] She took the city by foot, train and bus, empowering herself with strength and independence every moment along the way.  She found comfort in being alone and that became the norm.

At first it felt strange and lonely to have the week to myself in a new city;  exploring with a loosely mapped out plan of attack each day. But as I walked around the city of Portland on my solo mission, I was reminded of the freedom. I turned any corner I wanted without saying “let’s go left” or “what’s there to our right”. I walked with ease and to the beat of my intuition. I popped into the baby store just to look around. I quickly ducked into a café for a cup of tea when it started to rain. I talked to myself and had subconscious reflections on my life. I soaked up the interesting shops, random street art and eclectic people roaming the sidewalks.

If given the option, I would choose to explore with my husband every time and share in those experiences with him.  But this little week on my own was a sweet reminder of the independence and boldness I still carry with me.

What a refreshing reminder.

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