Why can’t the bridge be pink!?

Dear Readers,

I am constantly amazed at the things I learn from my daughter.

A few months back I talked about how I have learned to better appreciate nature because she loves it so much. I wonder if she will love camping (Daddy would love that!) and then I will have to get over my loathing for that one too!

Vivienne has recently discovered the joy of drawing and while it’s not my strength, it’s something I like doing with her. I am an artist, but drawing is not really my jam.

I can’t tell you how much fun it is to discover how much she loves it. I have no idea where she gets it and that’s fun too. It’s a mystery I don’t have to solve, and it’s fun to wonder about it.

When she was first born, a lot of people I love got me “adult coloring books” and they sat there gathering  dust I didn’t really think of coloring as something I was going to do despite having it suggested as a method of relaxation.

As it turns out, I like to color and she does too. For her, it’s more about going to a page and making shapes and then turning to the next page, but it’s also about picking her colored pencils to choose what she will color with next. I really enjoy watching her deliberate and decide which color she will use next. I like to imagine her thought process and then it hits me, she probably doesn’t have one, she is probably responding to the color that “speaks” to her and then she just uses it.

I was struck by how quickly my mind was moving to “but the bridge needs to be brown” – I try my best to be intentional with the things I say to her so thankfully I didn’t say it, just thought it, and then just as quickly said to myself, “Who says the bridge should be brown or gray or really any other standard bridge color?” – Why can’t it be pink? The answer – NO reason at all.

We have so much power in the things we say to lift or lower, to limit or expand.- Professor Haston

I could have completely diminished her choice and stifled her creativity based on my own limiting beliefs about bridges.

Yes, I realize that bridges as they occur in nature are not typically pink, but she doesn’t know that yet so why would I take away her joy in making things any color she wants? Not to mention avoid caring about the coloring inside the lines. Who came up with that anyway? Seems like a good time to give that one up too!

Creativity is known for solving problems so in a way, this is the beginning of her starting that process. How cool is that? I am just happy to be along for the ride. Teach me, sweet girl. Color that bridge any color your heart desires.

What color is the bridge for you?

Think About It.

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Join me? Stop Posting Perfection!

Dear Readers,

This is one of my favourite hashtags, I came up with it about 2 years ago after realizing how much we are all posting perfection and putting our best life and times on social media and while that’s the nature of the beast, I decided I wasn’t buying into that idea any more. It’s definitely going to take more than one hashtag or picture to accomplish this, but most movements start small, right?

There is nothing wrong with taking a pretty picture or posing for selfies, but don’t get so caught up in the picture you lose the person.

There is hope.

I am starting to see more REAL posts about miscarriage, breastfeeding, and the occasional “unedited gym selfie” so let’s build on that. Join me, be interesting, be real, be vulnerable, be YOU.

You can “show” your best life or “live” your best life.

Think About It.

 

 

It Only Takes A Minute, To Go The Extra Mile. Take it!

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Dear Readers,

It only takes a minute to go the extra mile. Sometimes not even a minute, just a few seconds.

Of late, I have been struck by several acts of “extra” from others.

About a month ago, my good friends Gab and Julia came to visit and not only did they meet with us while pressed for time, they brought a coloring book for Vivienne, definitely a kind gesture from very kind people, just seeing them would have been enough and that was a lovely “extra mile” thing to do. Thanks Gab and Julia!

This Sunday, while we were at Costco, we had a nice encounter with one of the clerks. Jeremy is actively teaching Vivienne to thank people who serve us, and I love it. As we were leaving the store, he had her hand the checker our receipt, and instead of just checking it and marking it, he took it from her and he drew a pink flower on the back of the receipt. Thanks Jonathan, you helped make her day special.

At work, we get lots of free food and snacks, already a great experience right? Two weeks ago, I mentioned to Kimberly (one of our servers) how much I liked the white cheddar chips and yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk, she brought me a bag to enjoy. Thanks Kimberly!

This Sunday, my husband and I went to a nice restaurant to celebrate our eight year anniversary and I mentioned it to our server, Oscar. He lit up and gave us a free dessert, and offered to take pictures and really made it a boutique experience. Thanks Oscar!

It is our anniversary today, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my husband who takes going the “extra mile” to a high art. Thank you, Jeremy!

I am thinking a lot about the extra mile right now, because someone who I love deeply is suffering from cancer and he is fighting it and has a great support system and we all know that isn’t always enough, I am thinking about that because, Joe, is one of my fathers of choice, and this relationship is characterized by multiple instances of “extra mile” walking.

He and his wife were unable to come to our wedding in 2011, so not only did they send us a wonderful gift, they gave us a priceless and unforgettable second honeymoon in Portland, Oregon.

Already special, it was even more meaningful because we were in the process of getting out of debt, and they were so proud of us, they wouldn’t let us pay for a thing.

Thanks Poppa Joe and Momma Mo’, you are so dear to us, and we love you very much.

Their middle name should be “extra mile” because it’s in EVERYTHING they do.

But back to you, my dear reader,

What can YOU do to go that “extra mile” today? Maybe you can notice the front desk at your job, introduce yourself and ask if you can get them anything, since they do that all day, every day for others.

(For me, that led to a lifelong friendship, I love you Dr. Keya Litt)

Maybe, you can notice the barista who makes your coffee and ask how they are doing, since they always ask you, right? Maybe it’s a friend that you can have some groceries delivered to because it’s one thing off their plate. There are opportunities to “go the extra mile” and be a little kinder every day. What can you do today?

It actually doesn’t take money or time, it just takes intention.

Think About It.

 

Artist to Artist- In The Moment with Jennifer Haston-

Dear Readers, This week we take a trip into the head, heart, and soul of, Me!

FOMOEntryticketsPreviously on the blog, I interviewed a few of my artist friends about what it means to be an artist, and it was so much fun, I wanted to see how it felt to be an interviewee, so without further ado, my artist interview with Professor Gab Peña!

The following is a condensed version of my interview with the artist known as Jennifer McKenna Haston. In the following paragraphs G is Gabriel Peña (me) and J is, of course, Jennifer.

G – Simple start, your name: What is it?
J – Interesting story. Jennifer Mckenna Haston is my name now. I was named “Jennifer Rose” for a soap opera star. When I got married it was important for me to take my husband’s name. I’m very proud to be Jennifer McKenna Haston. My name is a piece of who I was and a piece of who I am now. I always watch the credits at the end of a movie, to honor all the people who worked on it. It happens every now and again, I will see McKenna and I tried to shrug it off as “not my name any more” and my lovely friend (Dr. Keya Howard Litt) reminded me that I should be proud of that, even if not all of my childhood was something I want to claim, it doesn’t mean I have to throw my whole past away. There’s also no hyphen between McKenna and Haston, I legally changed it so that McKenna is my middle name. It’s all part of picking up your identity and deciding what it will be.

 

G –  What role does preparation play in your artistry?

J – Two things in equal measure-Improv and Preparation- which sounds counterintuitive- Improv was the first level of acting I learned about and I love the lesson of “permission to fail” and the sense of play you have in improv. On the other side believe preparation is key. Richard Robichaux (previous acting teacher) talks about lazy actor syndrome. I think many people believe actors are lazy so I want to show how actors are actually VERY responsible and hard-working.. There is so much planning and preparation involved in being an artist, you have to prepare to audition, (rehearse for said auditions) and when a casting director or agent asks you if you will consider nudity, you have to know your boundaries and know your limits. You can’t answer that honestly if you haven’t prepared what you will say when asked. In preparation, you find peace. If you’re not fully prepared you know it, you feel it. I’ve experienced it. When I showed up prepared to “play” for Richard’s (former acting class) it wasn’t a difference of night and day it was like a whole other country. The same goes for any audition or interview.

G – How do you define your artistry? You wear many hats, an actor, stage manager, director How do you identity yourself, what do call yourself?
J – Since taking Richard’s class I identify as being an artist. People know me as a director in this town (Austin, TX) and I make it clear I’m an actor first. So the biggest change, since taking Richard’s class, I’m no longer afraid to audition for lead roles. Richard’s class helped me put it in perspective, by saying, “I train leads, if you want to be Horatio, great, but I train Hamlet.” It also helped me clarify that I had a talent to offer.  It allowed me to treat this as a career I am committed to, not a hobby.  When I’m directing I want to be acting or if I’m stage managing I feel that desire to be on stage. But when I’m treading the boards there is no where else I want to be.

G – What was your first artistic love? Film, tv or theatre?
J – Theatre. In fourth grade they changed the name of the play we were doing so I could star in it. They changed the “boy” in the title to “girl” for me. That was it, I was hooked.

G – Is there a particular type of show you love doing?
J – I have to say musicals. I love to sing any chance I get. I had a singing lesson earlier that was amazing and it’s a chance to be creative in my life right now, my instructor is amazing and I love singing so much more now that I have been working on getting better. I have auditioned for “The Voice” four times, and each time, I feel like I get closer and closer, and that’s because of Cara. She is wonderful! I am better in her air, it’s as simple as that.

G – What is a piece of advice that you would give others interested in the arts?
J – I’m gonna borrow from Michael Shurtleff’s book “Audition” and say, “make sure this is something you have to do”. Knowing what your limits are is so important. It’s important, if you want to pursue it, to ask yourself “why?” If you want fame or to make a lot of money there are easier ways to do that. If you want to be part of the family of artists, however, you have to know why you want to do it.

G- Wby do you do it?

J- I do it because I love honoring stories. Because I love learning. Because it opens a place for me that I just don’t have otherwise.
G – Critique/Feedback comes up in the arts, what is your relationship to it?
J – I’d love to be say, “I love feedback, it’s great, it’s amazing, I have no problem with it and crave it” but I will tell you, criticism is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life, it’s only in the process of preparing this TEDX speech (in the last 2 years) I’m getting better at hearing it and applying it.

G – Can you tell me about that work, what it’s about, what it means to you?
J – Sure, It’s about communication.  I see TED as applying a mix of artistic skills. I am going to try hard not to get emotional here and likely fail miserably, which is fitting, because when you think about something as important as a TED talk, you SHOULD get emotional, you SHOULD be invested. My Ted Talk is about communication, and when I think about communication, I think about my daughter. She’s been struggling to communicate with us. I think about the visions I had for her and me talking and talking which is still in the future, and it’s not now. I am REALLY struggling with the “not now” part of that.  I figured that at almost 3 years old, she’d be talking a mile a minute now and she isn’t, that’s the reality. I mean you always have expectations around your kid, and I have come to realize, she DOES communicate, with her eyes, hands, and sign language. It just looks different from what I envisioned.  Something I’ve said since she was born was that she was born with her own timeline. It’s a good lesson that everyone has their own timeline. I think it will make it so much richer when we do have those conversations in the future. I didn’t want to be a mother for a long time because of my traumatic childhood, but now, I cant imagine my life without her and being a Mom is so wonderful and awesome and hard and awesome and hard and awesome and it’s exactly different every day.  Circling back to communication, …In society I think we’re lacking in communication. There are digital detox camps. It’s an acceptable addiction. People don’t look at each other in restaurants, they’re in their phones, and understand  though I’m speaking about this, I really struggle with this personally. We’ve substituted digital connections for real connections.

G – Okay Jennifer, time for the speed round: Greatest artistic strength? Greatest Challenge? Favorite Artist? And, lastly, any final thoughts you would like to leave us with?
J – My greatest artistic strength is my willingness to learn. Something I want to do better is dancing. Being a strong triple threat. And, aw woman, my favorite artist is…most consistently, Kermit the Frog. The heart of Kermit is what I connect to. He’s the one to pass on good news or to prop up those who need it. Jim Henson said Kermit was the best parts of him. He’s an incredible character because he is more than felt – Kermit is an amazing idea brought to life.

G- Final thoughts?

The final words I want to share…that I hope my legacy as an artist, mother, and friend is that we all have a story to share. My blog title is “Nobody has a voice like you”, truly truly you should use YOUR voice. Your words have value and the thing you say or write could touch someone to make their own art.

What can you share today that might inspire artistry in someone else?

Think About It.

Let People Miss You, just a little.

Dear Readers,

This past week, I have had not one, not two, but Four friends reach out to say they miss me and let’s make some plans.

Since I am normally the instigator of said plans, in fact, some of my friends have gone so far as to say, “You’re the hub, if you didn’t get us all together (for some occasion) it would NOT happen.

I used to take a lot of pride in that, even calling myself the “self-appointed cruise director in any given situation” and after sone reflection and some time, I have come to realize, that is a truckload of pressure to put on a person.

Especially when I realized, it was self-imposed, no one asked me to be the “hub”, I CHOSE to do that.

Today marks exactly one month at my new job, and I love it. It’s new and exciting and different and hard and awesome all at once. I have been working and intensely focused on getting good at my new job, which I am still in the process of doing. A by-product of that is I have been working so hard at the new job and savoring my newfound family time,

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I have not really made the time or effort with my friends, as in the past, and much to my shock and delight, they have sought me out, and it feels pretty nice to be wanted.

That is not to say they didn’t make the effort before, but rather, I didn’t give them the opportunity to do so. I have had some fairly frank conversations with my friends in recent years, asking that they do some of the reaching out. It’s nice to know they were listening and now making the effort.

It’s easy to get “busy” and “like” a post on Facebook or Instagram, how hard is it to pick up a phone or shoot a text over that says, “I miss you, let’s make plans”

When you read that just now, who did you get a picture of in your head? Reach out, I bet they are thinking of YOU too.

Think About It.

Being New at Something is Hard!

Dear Readers,

Do you see yourself in the photos above? Well, I do.

I am the “new kid” at my job and while it is great to learn new things. it is also frustrating, mainly because I am new and don’t know “all the things” like I did at my old job.

Right, it’s a new job, therefore newness and uncertainty is baked right in, no waiting!

I decided to write about this today because I keep seeing a commercial from Rosetta Stone about learning a new language and it so completely encapsulates that feeling.

If you haven’t seen it, I will tell you, the voiceover talks about “to get good at something, no shortcuts, no secret passwords, you have to be pretty bad at something for a while and that’s the first step to being even a little bit good at something”.

That’s how I feel right now.

It’s been so long for me to be COMPLETELY NEW at something that I TOTALLY forgot how it feels.

My good friend Alan reminded me it’s a little bit like when I became a Mom. Wayyyyyyyy harder than I thought it would be, and I definitely walked into that one with eyes wide open, and it was still hard.

Every single day, I pick up a new facet and that builds on to the next, then to the next, and I am confident it’s all going to come together any day now.

i will say it helps to know that this is a lot like when I learned French.

i really struggled at first and thought about dropping the class, but my professor made all the difference. He was dynamic and interesting and deftly maneuvered between French and English and I thought, “I want to do that” and for a while I did.

When in the middle of difficulty, I find it very encouraging to head back to my “greatest hits” of things I have done that scared me, but I did them anyway.

Here are a few-

So, what are you attempting to learn or do that you have never done before? Maybe you are learning a new language? Maybe like me, you started a new job, with new responsibilities and are struggling. If so, take heart, dear reader!

Remember, at one time, EVERYONE was NEW at something and they sucked at it even more than you do, but they kept going and you should to.

Think About It!

 

Progress not Perfection… Really? Really.

Dear Readers,

Last week I made a post about the importance that of connection.

Ideally, that means ALL the time, but as I pointed out last week, we are so busy with life, work, school and you name it, you are probably busy with it!

So the goal is 9 minutes a day with your child partner or both.

The first three minutes when they wake up.

The first three minutes when you pick them up from school.

The last three minutes before bed.

I got really excited about this because it sounded easy.

”Beware things that seem easy, they will actually challenge you the most” – Professor Haston

So I am here to humbly report the failure to achieve perfection of this goal last week. To steal a phrase from my improv days, “I FAILED”

And, I did make progress. Not the first day,  I had plans so I only got to see her during one of those times, I had dinner with my family, so I was able to “Mom” “Wife” and “Friend” YAY! Jeremy cooked and I thanked him and helped him feed her. Tuesday I was super tired from the day so I did not do anything to make those three minutes special with husband or child. Wednesday, I had an unexpected (hello life!)) errand that I had to run and that caused me to just have bedtime and We read her book and tucked her in so progress.  On Thursday, when I picked her up from Dad’a work, (he picked her up from school) I asked her how her day was and asked, “Are you ready to go?” and I waited and from the backseat, came a decidedly strong, “GO”

Great moment!!!!!

All this to say, I made progress last week, and it’s hard. It may seem like I am being hard on myself, but really I am not. I am saying what happened and what I want to be different about what happened.

That’s gathering data, and experimenting with better ways to connect with the people who matter most.

For example, today, I came home and totally forgot about those three minutes right when I got home. I had battled traffic and was not in the greatest of moods so I changed into my mommy clothes and came back out in a far better mood, so THEN I was able to connect better with my family.

Better connection to others starts with you being more in tune with you.

Before those all important three minutes, check YOUR emotional temperature. Are you filled up or do you need a little extra self-care before giving to others?

Put another way, the first time you do something, you are pretty much guaranteed to suck at it. So “embrace the suck” (like Brené Brown says) and do it badly, but don’t let that stop you from ACTUAL progress in the pursuit of perfection.

Think About It.

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(Above- Child dismantles room instead of napping) she is quite pleased with herself)  Definitely not perfect…