Happy Birthday Jen

Even though I really, really should be knitting, I should also really, really be training (I’m behind) and so a few weeks ago when Jen and I decided how we would celebrate our mutual birthdays (hers today, mine Saturday) we decided that what we would really love was a long ride – punctuated by a lovely lunch.

jenis40ride 2014-06-12

This, in a nutshell, is why Jen is an awesome friend – and has been for the last ten years.   Jen is, in a completely non-traditional, non-acquiescing way, a yes-man – or a yes-woman, as the case happens to be. You think something might be possible if you try hard? Jen will say yes. You think you could create change if only you could throw some smarts and commitment behind it? Jen says yes. Jen thinks that if you really try… you can do almost anything.* You just have to say yes. You want to combine training and celebrating? Yes.

I’ve got a habit of taking things on in a big way, and I can be a little difficult.  If I decide to take something on, then maybe you better look out. Once I get it in my head that something is doable, or something should be done… once I have it in my teeth?  Usually I make everyone around me crazy with the tenacity for that thing, and not all relationships can stand up to the way that… frankly, I expect a lot from people. This can be my best, and worst trait.

Let me be perfectly clear about this next part.  JEN MAKES ME LOOK LIKE AN AMATEUR. A total rookie in the tenacity department.  You think I have commitment? Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Jen.  You need something done? Call Jen. You need someone to take a stand? Right this way to Jen’s desk.  You need someone to stick with something far, far, far past any reasonable point of hope and still hold a candle out for the possibility that everything will still be okay?  Dudes.  I’ll text you her number.  Jen is just about the most spiritually sturdy person I’ve ever met, and to boot, she’s a really good knitter.

A few years ago, I was struggling with a life problem.  It was big, and it was complicated, and I was not at all sure what the right thing to do was, and although there were many decisions to be made, I found myself incapable of making any of them.  No matter what choice I contemplated, I could see the upside, or the consequences, and I was so worried about making the wrong choice,  I couldn’t make any choice at all.

I was on the phone with Jen, and I was completely paralyzed.  I was Queen of the good ship “what if?” and Jen said something that has changed a very great deal about my life.  She said that I shouldn’t be so worried about making a decision.  She said that I just had to do my best, and then she said this.  “The great thing Steph, about making a choice, is that if it turns out to have been the wrong one, if you blow it completely… you can just make another one. There will be consequences, but you can always change directions once you know more.”

That one sentence changed everything. If I made a wrong choice, by wool, I would just make another one, and her sure sense of faith in my abilities and her certainty that commitment without flexibility was a complete pile of crap made it possible for me to see my way out. I chose, and she was right.  I was smart. It was the right thing to do, and if it had been wrong – I would have fixed it with another decision.  Jen had the whole thing by the neck.

That’s the way it is with her. She’s strong to a fault, she’s a mother we could all aspire to be, she’s strong, funny, and she eats commitments for breakfast, while safeguarding all the relationships that she holds dear.  I wish you could know her, and she’s the most amazing person I could have chosen to do the bike rally with. The day we decided to co-lead a team, and throw the weight of everything we know how to do behind the bike rally was (whether the rally knows it yet or not, since we as masquerading as normal midldle aged women) was a great day, and I still feel that way even though we rode really far today, and we’ve got a really long way to go.

Today is her birthday.  She’s 40, and as someone who’s in a position to know, I can tell you she’s a lot more than she was at 30, which is such a wonderful thing, considering how made of awesome she was back then. I know not many of you actually know her, but if you’ve got a thing for strong women, who are trying to change the world a little bit, she’d love to be closer to her bike rally goal.  (That link takes you there.)

jenis40 2014-06-12

Happy Birthday Jen.  You’re awesome.

(PS. Thanks for somehow making camping on the rally fun.  I swear I won’t take dpn’s on the air mattress this year. Sorry about the way that went down.)

*I feel like in saying that Jen is a yes-woman, that I should also point out that if I’m totally off the mark, she’s one of the only people who can stop me, and isn’t afraid to tell me if I’m crazy, which is sort of a lot.

76 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Jen

  1. And you forgot “she makes cute kids.” She makes cute kids — though I remember her holding out Fenner and saying “Look at her! Could I possibly have had any less genetic input?”

    She’s so great I don’t even mind that she has a family cabin. Much.

    • A cabin?? Really??? Do you think she’d adopt me? I don’t eat much ….. oh, who’m I kidding ….. I eat tons, but I’d (maybe) do the dishes after!!!

  2. I wish you would write an open letter about me for my birthday one day 🙂 What a glorious toast to your lovely friend, and it only shows up how very lovely you are, as well. Happy Birthday to you both!!!! <3

  3. Pingback: Happy Birthday Jen | Yarn Buyer

  4. Happy birthday to you Jen! (and you know what they say – life begins at 40!) Hope it’s as awesome as you are! ;o)

  5. What a beautiful letter to your friend, to your touchstone, to someone you clearly love and respect very much. We should all be so lucky to have a “Jen” in our lives.

    Happy Birthday to Jen (and early happy birthday to you!)

  6. First off, happy birthday to you both. I spent my 31st birthday on the Great Victorian Bike Ride, and it really is the best way to spend your birthday!

    Secondly, that is brilliant. If I stuff up everything, I can still fix it. Everything can be sorted, no matter what.

    Thanks Jen 🙂

  7. Happy, Happy Birthday, Jen, from someone who knows someone who knows someone who is lucky enough to be your friend!! May you ever ride strong and far and make it back home again safely!

    Thank you, too, for a perspective I will now take to heart!

  8. A truly lovely, lovely post. Tears in my eyes, both for the amazing person and your friendship, and for the wonderful message about making another choice if the first one doesn’t turn out great… Since moving my mother to my town over a year ago, I have questioned the decision almost daily, because she is steadfastly unwilling/unable to adapt to her new life. Though I know it was the right thing to do, my mind continues the debate, and “there is no health in (it)” (1928 Prayer Book). I beat myself up constantly, trying to figure out how to make her happy, “still trying to win” (Princess Bride).

    “There will be consequences, but you can always change directions once you know more.” Brilliant. We made the decision, and it kinda sucks that she is unwilling/unable to adjust, but she’s here now. Going home isn’t possible. But I can decide how I go forward, and the change in direction I’m going to make is to change my expectations.

    I see now that I had a best-case scenario in my mind and it was unrealistic. It was also completely out of my control (horrors!). Thanks so much for the clarity and the permission to change my direction.

    And Happy Birthday to Jen today, and to you on Saturday! Waiting for a little better cash flow to express my intense admiration with some rally support!

    • I am responding because I am so sorry that your Mother is not adapting well to her new surroundings. I would like to suggest that you seek out a caregivers support group in your area or online, they can be of immense help both emotionally and with suggestions. Is it possible for your mother to be in touch with old friends by e-mail, phone or letters? My Mom loved getting cards. You are doing one of the hardest jobs you will ever do. Take good care of yourself.

      • Adele, how sweet of you to respond. I hesitated to post my note because it seemed too me-oriented… thank you for caring.
        I encourage her to communicate with the friends she misses, but she simply doesn’t do it. “I’ll think about it” is her usual response to any suggestion.
        A support group might be of help, and I have a number for one now. The one I tried previously was not helpful, but it just wasn’t the right fit. Will try again.
        Thanks again for reaching out! 🙂

        • After 12 years of my mom living in an apartment in my house, we bought her a small house and moved her into it. It was within site of my house and in the same town. It took her over 5 years to stop being mad at me and only when I moved into that one bedroom house to take care of her for the last months of her life did she admit she loved her little house. Be patient, I hope she comes around and realizes you did the right thing. If your heart is at peace with it, and you know you did the best for her, it is all you can do.

    • I hesitated to respond because this is a very close and personal issue for me as well.

      My elderly mother (89 last month) is currently in a nursing facility because she has fallen twice and had two fractures in the last few months. We are facing the very real possibility she may never be able to return to her semi-independent apartment in an assisted living situation. She does not want to do this. I must try to dry her tears, allay her fears, and be sympathetic while making choices for her overall well-being all the time.

      I have found that the best we can ever do is to accept the current situation and do the right thing for this moment. When things change, as they inevitably do, in the next moment, make a new choice for the next right thing for now. Trust that your higher power, how you understand it, will take care of the results.

      The Serenity Prayer helps a lot:
      “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

      The soothing, centering peace of knitting helps me too. And fellow knitters who understand and care.

      Stephanie’s post touched me deeply, too.

      Peace be with you.

      • “The wisdom to know the difference”…
        that’s the hardest part of all, isn’t it?
        And if you haven’t, might you want to have your dear ones screened for depression? Moves are hard, and they don’t get easier as you get older, especially, I would think, if it wasn’t your choice.

        • Thank you all so much!
          Yes, knitting does help – I call it my non-prescription Valium – and yes, the Serenity Prayer is also very fitting. Jen’s “make a new decision” was just a wonderful eye-opener!
          There are so many emotions involved in caring for your parent – it affects every facet of your life, I think. Though Mom is in an assisted living facility, and I’m confident they take good care of her, it can still eat my brain…
          I appreciate you all chiming in and offering your experience and support!
          Onward!!!

  9. Jen must really like the bike training, she seems to really be smiling alot this year in your photos. Happy 40th Jen! You look alot younger. And Happy Happy in advance to Steph.

  10. Oh my goodness! That was a lovely post!! You’re very lucky to have such a significant bond with someone so special.

    Happy birthday to both!

  11. Happy Birthday, Jen! And you, too, Stephanie. Thank you for the introduction to her–you know how some people, you meet them, and you instantly know you’re in the presence of a friend? Jen already feels like one of those and I have no doubt it would be so in person. Go Jen!

  12. My daughter is the one I turn to if I need someone who is willing to tell me “no”. BTW, there are no bad decisions, only the choices we make and the lessons we learn from them.

  13. Jen sounds like an amazing person. I especially appreciate her shared words of wisdom, as they where exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for sharing what a wonderful person Jen is!!

  14. “The great thing Steph, about making a choice, is that if it turns out to have been the wrong one, if you blow it completely… you can just make another one. There will be consequences, but you can always change directions once you know more.”

    Crumbuckets, I’m nearing 50 and still trying to get this. I fall too far on the Thomas Jefferson side of that line: “Delay is infinitely preferable to error.” I’m allergic to decisions. I keep trying to find that ill-defined middle ground, and it keeps shifting away under my feet.

    That said … if I DO ultimately make a decision, it’s pretty much watertight. I just wish I could make more of them more quickly.

  15. Happy birthday, Jen! Happy early birthday, Stephanie!

    I wish you both safe rides, more than your goals in funds raised, and lots of knitting time.

  16. I love, love the bit about just making another choice if the first one doesn’t work out – there’s an 18-year-old in my house who needs to hear that. Thanks, Jen (via Steph) for those words of wisdom! It’s not often that a birthday gift comes *from* the birthday girl.

  17. How lucky you are to have a friend like Jen, and how lucky she is to have a friend like you!
    Happy Birthday to you both!

  18. This is a most beautiful post. And a most timely one. I turned 40 on June 3 and I have been paralyzed by a scary decision. (Unhappy now. Could be unhappier after. Big change. What to do?) If I can keep the sentiments here ringing in my brain, I might just be able to take a leap. Thanks for sharing Jen’s awesomeness. Happy birthday, fellow June babies.

  19. Happy Birthday to both of you. What a lovely post you’ve given us today. thank you too, for the words of wisdom from Jen,

  20. While Jen’s words are wise I can’t help but point out the caveat. It only applies when the choices one is making refer to oneself only. One cannot be so cavalier about the impact of choices in others. If one is considering divorce, for example, and moves forward with the decision and there are children involved, one cannot undo it if it turns out to be the wrong choice. The children suffer as they never had a choice. So, while Jen’s words are wise, they should not be interpreted simplistically.

  21. Hi Steph! We’re sometimes blessed with people in our lives who just “get us”. We don’t have to explain, we don’t even have to justify, we can just be. Jen sounds like one of these people in your life. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JEN!!!! x

  22. There’s nothin’ like a soul-to-soul, heart-to-heart long term girl friend. You both are so lucky to have each other. Here’s to your sharing many, many, many, many more life events together!

  23. Thank you so much for this statement – “The great thing Steph, about making a choice, is that if it turns out to have been the wrong one, if you blow it completely… you can just make another one. There will be consequences, but you can always change directions once you know more.” – I don’t think that it could have come at a better time. Funny how things pop up when you need them.

    Hope you had a wonderful birthday, Jen!

  24. Jen sounds like an amazing woman and like you and her have a great friendship. Those types of friendships can be hard to come by sometimes.
    Happy birthday to both of you!
    Btw, I think the rest of your fans will agree with me, you are a pretty amazing woman yourself.
    Have a good one.

  25. Getting old is no picnic, as your mother is expressing. It is hard to accept loss of independence. As unwelcome as the role of grownup is, you are it now, and pleasing a parent has to be a bit lower on the priority list. Painful, but many old people do not make new friends readily, and so many of their old friends have died that their social circle is small. Can you write to old friends and ask them to write to your mother? Just getting started might help her. She is grieving the loss of her (longtime?) home and may be cheered by news from old friends and neighbors. My mom enjoyed newsletters from her church and other associations (sorority, bridge, retiree). Your own company may also help your mother–the two of you might create a family cookbook or photo album to help give her something to do. Not that busyness is a cure, but activity can give her mind a break from her sorrows and her heart a break from her mood. Sorry for rambling; I have a lot of elderly aunts and church friends and the happy ones seem to be busy with something.

    • Thanks, Kristina –
      Yes, it was her long-time home, and she misses it terribly, but quite often doesn’t really remember it. Dementia and memory loss make for a nasty situation, no doubt about it.
      Thank you for your suggestions, and yes, I agree that being busy would probably help her. So far (since Dec. 2012), she has resisted every activity and says she just doesn’t care to do ANYthing. We have just finished a series of counseling sessions with the therapist basically saying that there doesn’t seem to be anything that Mom is willing to try.
      What I’m taking from Jen’s good advice is the idea that the decision to move Mom here was the right thing to do at the time. Mom no longer agrees, and is unable/unwilling to cooperate in any feasible attempts to better the situation. So, I need to make a new decision regarding my own attitude about things, realize her limitations, and forge a new path forward that causes less stress, for both of us.
      Seeing that so many of you are also treading this path has really helped. Thanks again…

      • I’m there, too, with a father-in-law with some dementia living with us, He’s not so difficult but he is crazy about my our six month old son, and just wants to spend all his time with the baby. Add to that that I started back to work this week, full-time when I’d rather be part time, and I’m overwhelmed. BUT– I have a kind, kind husband who is insistent that I not try to do house, elder care, baby care, and job… cleaning lady and having some meals delivered plus his caring for our son lightens the load. I hope that your load lighteners, whomever or whatever they be, show up soon.

        It’s worth it to note that dementia is worst in the beginning. Once a person doesn’t realize that they can’t remember, the disease is less terrifying. I imagine it is humiliating to have to move in with your child and not be your own boss anymore. I do have my boundaries (pills on the floor equals moving out, no excuses, no second chances. Leaving the freezer open means we will no longer keep ice so the frozen baby’s milk doesn’t thaw and ruin. ) which he respects because they are about the baby.

        So… you have to take care of you AND you have to take care of them, too. And that looks different in different places. I think I had another point, but I’m too tired to remember it. Good luck to you! You are not alone!

        • Many hugs to Uptownknitting and Elizabeth — you each have a very difficult ‘row to hoe’, Wishing you much strength and patience, and the time and determination to look after yourselves, too!

  26. It’s awesome when we have a friend who knows when to help plant our feet back onto the ground and when to prop us up.
    Happy Birthday ladies

  27. Congrats to you, Ms. Yarn Harlot, and to Jen as well. Didn’t mean to sidetrack the compliments above! Best of luck on the great bike adventure. What wonderful memories you will have of birthdays and bicycles! One of the best blessings of advancing years.

  28. Jen is a remarkable woman, and you two have a remarkable friendship. May Jen (and your friendship) thrive for many more years.

  29. Oh, who could resist giving a birthday present donation to such a great person. I have a friend like her who is always up for anything.

  30. Happy Birthday Jen! And congratulations on the bike riding!

    Maybe a good karmic balancing gift would be an open letter to the recipient on their birthday (or, you could pull a Carl Castle and record the message on their phone!).

  31. I wish I had a person like Jen in my life. You are very lucky to have her. Her friendship sounds like a great treasure.

  32. How wonderful to celebrate your friend like that. She’s lucky, you’re lucky, and you make a great team in every sense. Happy Birthday to both!

  33. Happy Birthday to a dynamic woman! Changing the world one kilometer at a time! Jen, make it happen and enjoy.

  34. I think you are both the kind of people we need more of in this world. Just made my donation to Jen’s account. Ride on!

  35. Happy, Happy Birthday, Stephanie, and many more of them! May today be overflowing with awesome and then some!

    Many thanks for the gift of your writing and The Blog. I offer you what I can, in return, in the form of donations and book purchases. I hope that, someday, I will manage to be more than just ‘someone who knows someone who knows you’. Many blessings!

    PS: It’s all your fault that I knit. And have a stash. and want MORE stash. Thanks!

  36. Today is my 31st birthday and I’m rather proud to share a birthday weekend with two such amazing women! Your two posts today have very much inspired me. I don’t know quite what to do with that inspiration but I hope I have such an amazing friend a decade from now as you two have. 🙂

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