Category Archives: Life Stories

A Positive Message For Millenials: Life is Messy. But I Believe in You.

There’s been a surge of posts against millenials. If your social media feed looking anything like mine, you saw this woman dissing millenials shared by multiple people. It’s fine. We’re used to it. Heck, we’ve been the butt of people’s jokes or blamed for all the world’s problems since the early 2000’s. We’re entitled, yet we’re broke. We’re budding entrepreneurs, yet we have no work ethic. We are paving the way of technology, yet we don’t know how to cope without our phones. We are the future, but we’re terrible people.

And you wonder why our generation has such high anxiety. 

merida

Well, I have something to say about that.

GET OFF OUR BACKS!!

I am a part of the generation defined as millenial. And you know what, I work damn hard. Since college I have worked anywhere from 1-3 jobs at a time so that I could pay all my own bills. And I know a lot of other millenials who are busting ass too. Sure there are some that give our generation a bad rap. But I’ve also met, even managed, my share of busy-body boomers and let me just say, you’re not a peach to be around all the time either. 

So to my fellow millenials who are trying to pave their own path in a pessimistic world, let me share with you what I’ve learned coming down the pike so that you can know in your very gut that you are seen, you are worth listening to, and you will survive all the crap people say about you on the internet. And most importantly, I believe in you.

i got you

Truth: Life is messy.

No matter how old you are, that’s a fact. We’re led to believe that as we age, we get wiser. We expect that things won’t be as difficult to figure out in adulthood– that we’ll be more confident in our abilities, that we’ll learn to love our bodies and wish we hadn’t shamed them so much when we were young. And while all that is true, we absolutely gain perspective and experience, life can still be just as confusing as it was before.

Life is messy, even as an adult.

robert downey jr

We all deal with setbacks in our lives. Didn’t get in the program you wanted to, didn’t win the contest, didn’t get the job, didn’t get the boy/girl. We don’t know when these hardships will hit us. We don’t know how we’ll respond. We just have to do our best and hope we come out stronger.

When we are in the midst of a dilemma, it feels all consuming. We lose sleep worrying about the what if’s, we stress eat all the chocolate in the house. But once we’re past the unknowing stage of things, it turns into the Lord Voldemort of life lines – “that period that shall not be named.”

I, like so many millenials, believed that by the time I turned 30, I’d “have it all figured out.” That is just not the case.

But what I have learned is that’s completely ok. 

So don’t let the negative things they say about our generation dictate your life. You are the main character in your own story.

harry potter

Remember You Can Always Start Over

start again

One of the most positive things to come out of the millenial generation is our abundant optimism. My parents’ generation was hard set in the belief that you worked for one place until retirement and that was that. For millenials, that’s just not the case. We are the generation that exemplifies multiple careers and life experience. We change our jobs, we take time off to travel and we work from home as needed. We are paving a new kind of entrepreneurship and that’s fucking exciting.

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

mean girls

That expectation to “have it all figured out” is the greatest barrier to actually doing so. Who cares if the girl next to you makes life look easier? You never know what others are dealing with when they leave the office. You never know what the story of a relationship is except the one you’re in. So don’t spend your time imagining impossible scenarios around you that make you feel less than. Be hardcore. Be your best self.

Never Stop Learning

hands

Think about your favorite teachers and mentors you had in school. What made them inspiring, trustworthy and encouraging? I bet one of their skillsets was listening to you and treating you as someone with valuable ideas and talents. Reflect that back into the world. Never stop learning from those around you, whether it’s an older coworker who’s been in the business longer or your five your old niece who colors outside the lines. Being open to the things others can teach you, will help you be a better listener, learner, and teacher too.

Live in the Moment

fred

It’s far too easy to beat yourself up over age timelines. You know you’ve made them. “By the time I’m 30, I will…” It’s great to set goals, you should do that. But don’t forget to live in the moment. Your goals need to be realistic and manageable. Wanting to be a famous singer by the time you’re 25 isn’t going to happen if you’re going to school, practicing intermittently, and too scared to sing on stage. You’ve got to do the work now that will pay off later. The good part? That means making mistakes. Yes, make them! Try new things, push yourself, and learn to strengthen your skills. 

Take Stock of Your Successes

katy perry

I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at accepting compliments on my work. I want them, sure, but I’m also my own worst critic and quick to downgrade the successes I’ve had. One of the best things I ever did when I first started blogging was to write down three things I had learned or accomplished each day. It was too easy to focus on what others were achieving and pressuring myself that I wasn’t good enough. By recording my learning moments and accomplishments along the way, I changed my focus to how much I was growing and that I was headed in the right direction, even if I wasn’t getting there as fast as I wanted to. I was still making progress, still moving forward. Don’t be your worst critic, be your best advocate.

***

Life is and always will be messy.

The good news is we have the power to shape our perspective on it. We don’t get to choose when setbacks come or how they’ll hit us. We don’t get to choose what society says about our generation. But we have a choice in how we respond. And with any luck, and a lot of time, all the junk we go through will just be “that period that shall not be named” and we will be bigger badasses for it.

Hey Millenials! You’re awesome! 

awesome

3 Lessons Learned From the Listen To Your Mother Show

I can’t believe it’s been a week since show night already. I was working on the La Crosse production of Listen to Your Mother for six months. How can it be over already?

If you haven’t seen the bombardment of social media posts I’ve been doing about Listen To Your Mother (instead of blogging regularly), then you probably aren’t following me on social media, and you should because I like you.

Listen To Your Mother is a live, storytelling event that gives motherhood a microphone. The last shows have taken the stage, making the collection of 500 some unique, truth-telling stories, take place across 41 cities in North America.

That’s pretty cool.

It has taken me awhile to fully process what this show and its aftermath have meant to me. I’m still exhausted! But in the best possible way. Kind emails and handwritten notes are still coming in thanking our team for a beautiful, magical night of storytelling, for voices being heard and diversity represented. For making them laugh – so many laughs. And also for the tears.

So many inspired souls have said they’re going to audition next year!

And final numbers are in, so I cut the donation check for YWCA La Crosse today!!!

Here’s what I can sum up for you.

3 Lessons Learned From the Listen To Your Mother Show

1. Attitude is Everything

LTYM 2016 cast

The 2016 LTYM La Crosse Cast

When I first had the itch to apply and bring LTYM to my city, I had an entirely different production team and charity lined up. I also had a different job. When things went from bad to worse at that job (sometime I’ll tell you about it), no one was willing to put in the work anymore. But I KNEW this show could be amazing. I KNEW there were stories out there that needed to be told.

So, I did it myself.

I lined up a new production team, one that believed in the power of story like I did. And I found a new charity, one that said yes instantly and supported me from staff to director to board member. And I wrote up an application I hoped would make it really, really hard for the national team to say no to.

Channeling my energy into something that was positive and making a difference in the community saved me. Working on this show encouraged me to make big changes in my life because we all deserve to feel heard and appreciated and energized.

2. My Husband is Proud of Me

LTYM shot with hubs

The hubs, out to dinner, meeting the cast for the first time after our tech rehearsal. 

Let me tell you the ways my husband supported me. And, I’m warning you in advance, I’m going to get mushy about this.

In the beginning, it was advice on production stuff – venues to look at, performance things to think about. It helps he’s a musician and very familiar with locations. Then it was social media shares with the obligatory “Here’s this thing my wife is doing”. 

Next he went and offered to play live, acoustic music in the lobby for show day! Because he saw how hard I was working and wanted to support me in the best way he knew how, he helped make our debut show a little more special – a little more like a fancy night out on the town.

But folks, what really made me tear up and get “the feels” so hard was his response to the show. You see, I didn’t come home from rehearsals and talk about the show. I probably mentioned how many things I had to do for the show (more than once), but I didn’t tell anyone about the stories we shared. That magic and trust needed to be saved for show night. So, my hubs was that guy who got roped into attending because his wife was the one running it. Storytelling is not exactly “his thing.”

The reason I know the LTYM show is a gamechanger of a production is because it gets people talking. And my husband started talking and sharing his thoughts with me about the show and the stories he heard. And not just that night, but all week long.

My husband is not a big talker. He does not often share his emotions. Not many guys do. But after watching the show, my husband told me he saw me making a difference. He called me a rockstar. He had thoughtful, personal things to say about the show’s stories. He said he was motivated to make changes in his life. And he told me he was proud of me.

*wipes eyes, blows nose*

I told you, this one gave me ALL THE FEELS. I am so grateful for his support.

3. Perspective: Your Girlfriends’ Gonna Give It To Ya

LTYM production team

The LTYM La Crosse Production Team

When you work with talented people, you up your game. When you collaborate with them, you make lifelong friends.

I am eternally grateful for the amazingly cohesive production team that agreed to work with me without fully knowing how much work it would, in fact, be. I admired these women before the show production started, I have deep respect and awe for them now.

From start to finish, this group came in fully understanding the special-ness of a LTYM show. They appreciated and honored every story we heard in auditions, they put in countless hours of time away from their own families to work on the show and get to know our cast. They found local sponsors, made food for the cast, and helped make this show come alive.

We also had the help of our national LTYM team. All of whom are amazing mentors who know HOW TO RUN A SHOW that stretches its performances across a continent!

When little things seemed big or something made me worry, these women had my back. They responded quickly and succinctly and put everything in its place. They believed in me and one another. They support the kind of world I want to live in. I’m so proud to work beside them.

***

So, when next year Mother’s Day rolls around, run don’t walk to the nearest Listen To Your Mother show near you. Apply to bring it to your city. Audition. Get inspired. This show changes lives. 

Overwhelmed? Try Out These Self Care Tips

It’s entirely possible I’ve taken too much on.

Well, I’m not admitting anything, I’m just saying it’s possible. 

I’ve been having a tough go of things at the day job, and in my attempt to focus my energy on the things that I love, I’ve said yes to a multitude of projects and commitments.

I now find myself busier than ever with a full-time job, part-time freelance assignments, rehearsals and show dates with an improv group, a once-a-week adult storytelling class, a twice-a-month writers critique group, and oh yah – I’m directing and producing a Listen to Your Mother show this spring and auditions are in less than a week!

You can understand why my main hobby right now is drinking coffee.

world's largest mug
Hobbying like a boss. 

My days off were out of the ordinary this weekend, so I tried to plot out some time to relax.

You know, in between 2 radio interviews, 2 improv shows, a six hour shift tabling for the health clinic I work at on VDay – One Billion Rising, and one of my writers group critique sessions. 

I did manage to spend Valentine’s Day Eve with my main squeeze, also known as He Who Says Weird Things While Sleeping. We stayed true to our tradition of watching a very un-romantic movie together. For example, past Valentine’s films have included Tremors and Silence of the Lambs. This year we watched The X Files (1998 movie). 

Anyway, enough about my crazy week, because I’m sure you’re all just as swamped with projects, commitments, running little people places, and whatnot as well.

Here’s a few of the things I managed to sneak in so I achieved some self care time. 

holding up a dozen books1. Audiobooks

Most of you know I’m a huge fan of audiobooks and it’s the only way I get so much reading done. I listen while I get ready for the morning, while driving in the car (even though I only have a 15 minute drive), and while I get ready for bed at night.

It is not unusual for my husband to find me sitting on our bathroom floor just listening to a good story. It’s my zen moment at the end of the day.

2. Take a bath. 

I know baths aren’t for everyone, but I sure love them. They are so relaxing to me, and I did manage to sneak one in. They are also a great time to listen to an audiobook!

3. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. 

For me that involved watching a few episodes of Felicity on DVD. I watched while I ate my lunch or folded laundry and enjoyed an old favorite show.

BTW, Felicity and Ben are broken up right now…again, and Noel is trying his very Noel best to move on, but it’s not going so well. Javier, on the other hand, is still my favorite. 

***

That may not seem like a lot, but in their own way, each gave me a little escape and some relaxing down time.

And I did just run across this gem of a blog post, and wanted to share it with you, my fellow busy bees.  23 Way to Treat Yo Self Without Buying or Eating Anything

How are you practicing self care this week, friends? 

 

 

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful? My Awkward Moment Told in Gifs

Image-1 (1)“There’s a hole in my pants,” I realized, about 20 minutes before I was going to speak to a group of twentysome middle school students. 

About STDs. 

“There’s a goddamn HOLE! In my pants.” 

Naturally, I did the only thing I could do at that point.

I texted a friend ala Margaret Cho-style, as in “YOU ARE NOT GONNA BELIEVE WHAT I JUST DID!”

Let me backup.

I am transitioning to a new role in my job. I’m leaving my basement-located office work for the wide, open world of sex education where you get to say things like “Have you seen my uterus?” and that’s not considered a personal question. Also, the air smells like puberty about 80% of the time.

My colleagues and I are now learning the material for the multiple talks our clinic provides, and we were each given a focus talk to prioritize.

Guess who got STDs??!!

jerri blank what are you looking at

I mean I PRESENT on sexually transmitted diseases.

Anyway, I arrived at the middle school, checked in at the office and since I was there early, excused myself to use the restroom before heading to class.

It was there, in the bathroom, when I noticed I COULD SEE THE FLOOR THROUGH MY PANTS!

jerri blank shocked

I was wearing a brand new pair of dress pants I’d purchased the week before and not worn yet. The seam below the zipper had unraveled and created a diamond shaped hole, through which the orange tile floor was all too crisp and clear.

oh fudge
Oooooooooh, fffuuuuuuuuuuudge.

Only I didn’t say fudge.

Like anyone in a serious situation, I immediately took inventory of anything I could possibly use to fix this major wardrobe malfunction.

Hand soap. Paper towel.

“This bathroom is useless to me! I have nothing!” 

Leo crying

I debated my options. My limited options.

frank choices

“That’s it,” I thought. Only thing I could do was teach the class. I was going to have to make the best of the situation.

mean girls

I had worn a top that was a little longer that day, and had a tank top beneath it.

I stretched and pulled and yanked that tank top as low as I could get it to go.

Then I walked in front of that class like…

awkward gifHeeeeeeeey!

And for the duration of the 40 minute class, I kept my legs well crossed and stood in the shadiest corner of the classroom I could find while still being able to point to the front screen as needed.

When it was over and I packed up, I got in the car like…

kip yes
Nailed it!

*****

Soooo, how was YOUR week?

 

Why I’ll Never Be a Teen Model

I am not a photogenic person. I never have been. I simply don’t have one of those faces that effortlessly looks amazing all the time.

I have one of those faces that requires work. It is great for making really awkward faces. I have a big nose, that scrunches up when I show any kind of emotion, and I have gigantic teeth. No, literally my teeth are so big, I’ve had NINE removed, and I still have a full set of teeth.

You may be thinking, “That’s…a fun fact. Thanks for sharing?” 

You’re welcome.

Those selfies you see on my instagram account probably required like 20 or more shots. My photo collections from trips I take or events I’m involved in are all staged. You will not find candids, because when people try to take candids of me, they look like this…
That is a real, undoctored photo my husband took of me while storytelling.

And I was telling a funny story! Why do I look so…so…annoyed? 

Have you ever watched America’s Next Top Model, that show hosted by Tyra Banks? She’s always telling the girls to smile with their eyes, she calls it SMIZE. Well, if the photos from above are any indication, the only contest I’m going to win is for the smier – I can sneer with my eyes, you guys. Or maybe it’s smudge? Cause I’m judging you with my eyes. All I know is, look at that epic scowl, folks?

Master-level-ninja-force-facial-attitude.

And that’s why I’ll never be a teen model.

Also I’m pretty sure there’s an age clause in the contract that requires the model to in fact, BE a teenager. But I haven’t looked into it, who knows? 

How do you feel about photos of yourself?
Do you know how to smize or better yet, smier? 

Join Me for the #WomenKickAss Twitter Party!

Hey Dudes and Dudettes,

I missed you all last week!

I was pooooooooped after three nights of improv shows, and my parents were in town, so needless to say, I rested.

The improv shows were a blast and I’m looking forward to continuing on. I had no idea how physically challenging and tiring improvisation actually is. When I looked at my knees on Sunday, they were covered in purpley-brown bruises that still haven’t gone away. I think it’s because I spent my weekend as a guinea pig, a circus monkey, and a hunchback. Basically, if you need a creature that crouches, I’m your girl!

(Pretty sure that’s not how famous works.) *shrugs*

Here’s a few pictures from the show, courtesy Chuck Charbeneau.

improv circus monkey improv judging faces improv menopause opera

Anyway, here’s to the next exciting adventure coming our way! 

I’ve joined forces with the Artemis Film Festival and kindred spirit, August McLaughlin, the host and creator of Girl Boner for the #WomenKickAss Twitter Party!

We’re working to end sexual shame by creating dialogue. August and Dr. Megan Fleming will be leading a non-explicit Q & A, and I’ll be hosting Sex Trivia with prizes from Good Clean Love.

For example:

What body part besides the genitals and breasts enlarges during sexual contact? 

Any guesses? It’s the inner nose. It’s made of the same erectile tissue as the penis. 

twitter-party-fb-post-r1

It’s all happening this Thursday, October 29th at 7:00pm PST. Just follow along using the hashtag #WomenKickAss.

You can find out more about the event and listen to August’s podcast free here. I make a cameo at the end. 🙂

But if you need yet another reason to attend, here’s me personally inviting you to twitter party with us.

So what do you say? You in? 

Sign up for the party on Facebook if you like too! 

My Serendipitous Run-in With Keanu Reeves

I met Keanu Reeves last week.

By now, if you read my blog, or follow me on any social media account, you’re well aware that my husband and I have been hosting a Keanu Reeves themed movie marathon all September long called #Keanuthon. I’ve been live tweeting the films with friends and followers every wednesday.

#KeanuthonBonus

So when we serendipitously ran into and MET Keanu Reeves last week, I guess people wanted to know the story.

To begin, we unknowingly kicked off #Keanuthon on his birthday. 

Some luck!

And on the sunday before we were to watch Speed, my husband and I decided to go hiking. This usually doesn’t end well for us as you’ll see here and here.

At the end of our hiking trip, we decided to grab a beer and then get dinner because it was still the weekend after all, and beer is delicious.

Do you believe in signs? Cause this is the part where shit gets crazy.

The first bar we went to was near the bluffs we were hiking in, but when we got there we learned it was closed. Like really closed. The place was condemned.

Okaaaaaaay…

Our second stop was to a new brewery in town, which neither of us had yet tried. Also closed. (Not also condemned.)

At that point, we got out of the car and decided to walk around downtown and just bum til we found a place. So we find a bar we’ve frequented aplenty, buy our drinks and head upstairs for a table by the window.

Now, we’re in the bar approximately a half hour, chatting about our hiking trip, making future plans, blah blah blah, when I look across the street and start watching this guy standing outside a restaurant.

“You know, my contacts are a bit dirty, but that guy looks like Keanu Reeves,” I said.

“Oh yah,” said Joe, turning around.

We stare at the man. We watch him take a drag on his cigarette and run his hand through his hair.

“It’s uncanny,” said Joe. “Even his mannerisms.”

“Huh,” I agree, nodding.

We go back to talking about whatever else we talked about.

Once we finished our drinks, we headed out to get dinner down the block, but the Keanu Reeves lookalike was still outside. We started to wonder…

Joe suggested we cross the street “for a better look.”

Mid-street crossing I was in the mindset that this was just an extreme lookalike situation, and I bet he gets asked this all the time, but I’m going to ask for a picture because I’ll tell him about #Keanuthon and how funny it would be if I posted that I met Keanu Reeves (but it was just a lookalike).

Understand that at this point I’m walking up with full confidence. 

And when we’re 3 feet away…

*laughter* “That’s really Keanu Reeves,” Joe said. 

Everything after this happened SO FAST. I halted in my tracks. I thought Joe was pushing me forward, he thought I was pushing him forward. The REAL Keanu Reeves heads inside the restaurant and I hear Joe say, “We’re eating here.”

The entrance to the restaurant has a few stairs down to the floor and again, we’re pushing one another.

All Joe can say is “It’s really him.”

And all I can say is “BUT WHY???”

Why is the REAL Keanu Reeves inside a restaurant in my city when we’re in the middle of hosting #Keanuthon???

We walk further into the restaurant, past the bar, looking around for confirmation. Surely others are freaking out like we are. It’s KEANU REEVES, Duuuuuuuuuude!

Nothing. There’s no response.

The bartender directs us to the hostess desk for a table. We ask the hostess if we can sit in the bar.

“Can we sit at THAT table?” my husband asks. She nods.

You guys, we sat at the table NEXT TO Keanu Reeves!

There’s no chair for me, so I walk a few tables over to move one and slide it to our table, right next to Keanu – who turns and looks to ensure I have plenty of room to fit.

HOW SWEET ARE YOU, KEANU?!

We get our menus and we’re both acting like crazy people, giggling and muttering “BUT WHY?”

Joe keeps telling me to “make my move.”

I’m feeling like a creep, but I figure it’s now or never and I gotta just say hi and that I’m a fan and we’re hosting this marathon. (And that I’m NOT an axe murderer.) 

I literally turn in my chair and tap Keanu on the shoulder. He’s a foot away or less. He turns around, extending his hand, and says…

“Hi, I’m Keanu.”

HOLY AJF;AII$%@^%!!!

I lose it again. I’m laughing. I can’t believe I’m in real life right now. I’m shaking Keanu Reeves’ hand and laughing.

I pull myself together enough to say that I’m a fan and that, it might sound crazy, but my husband and I have been having this movie marathon with all of his films and we’re live tweeting his movies.

I also show him the #Keanuthon poster I made on my phone so he believes me. 

“You’re doing what?! That’s crazy” Keanu said. “What films are you watching?”

I read him the lineup.

Keanu: “Constantine! Nice!”

Jess: “That’s my favorite one!”

Keanu: “You should do one of the weird ones. You should watch A Scanner Darkly.”

Jess: “Ok. This is just so crazy. Could we get a photo? No one’s going to believe this.”

Keanu: “Yah, let’s get a photo.”

More Examples of How Lovely Keanu Is

I introduce Keanu to my husband and we ask a friend of his to take our photo. Afterwards, I’m totally ready to slink away. I’m stunned and fangirling and don’t want to take up any more of his time. I don’t even look at the photo, I’m just grateful for what has happened.

KEANU TELLS ME TO LOOK AT THE PICTURE AND SEE IF I LIKE IT!

It ends up looking really hazy for some reason. I show it to Keanu.

“Let’s take another one. Here we’ll move this way. Jess, you get in the middle.” Keanu is allowing us a second photo op and he remembered my name!

Soooooo, long story short, that’s how we got this baby.

Jess Witkins Meets Keanu Reeves

There you have it. That’s how I met Keanu Reeves. And he was wonderful. As he always is

(Oh yah, I did ask him why he was in town and he was here for S & S Cycles – there was a conference or show going on and he’s into motorcycles. So I wished him a great trip. And a belated happy birthday.)

With that said, #Keanuthon is going strong with a bonus feature this week.

Today at 4pm CST we’re watching A Scanner Darkly (requested by Keanu Reeves). 

This is “one of the weird ones.”

It’s an animated movie set in the not too distant future and tells the story of an undercover cop who gets too close to the world of mind-altering drugs. Reeves costars with Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder.

Fun Facts: 
  • the filming of this movie took 23 days, while the animation took 18 months
  • Robert Downey Jr wrote all his lines on post-it notes and stuck them around the set so he could read off them, then they were edited out during the animation process
  • In Arctor’s kitchen there is a drawing of a head in a box next to the phrase “Time to thaw Walt out!”. This is a reference to the urban legend that animator Walt Disney had himself cryogenically frozen.
  • This is the highest-grossing digitally rotoscoped animated feature, grossing $7,659,918.

Also this week…

We’re watching The Matrix on wednesday night at 8pm CST.

Co-starring Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving, Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a computer hacker who’s about to learn about multiple realities.

Fun Facts
  • It took the actors six months of training and four days to shoot the opening action scene
  • In the first half of the movie, half of Keanu’s lines are questions, averaging roughly one question per minute
  • For my literary nerds, the room that Neo is in at the beginning is room 101, and is a tribute to George Orwell in 1984, where room 101 is where a prisoner gets placed to face their worst phobias

Tune in and live tweet with us using #Keanuthon to follow the fun!

#KeanuthonBonus

30 Questions Before 30

I turn 30 next month.

I’ve moved on from childish behavior like eating Cheetos for dinner. Now, I am a sophisticated adult who eats Cheetos for dinner…with a glass of wine. And with better clothes, because I shop at Stitch Fix.

Afro Hair 4

Thanks for the “fashion advice,” Mom.  NOT.  

I’ve surpassed the emotional roller coaster that this new decade has been inducing. I’ve let go of “do this by the time I’m 30” deadlines. And now, I’m looking forward to it. I think 30 is going to be a great year.

I still feel the need to document my life thus far though. A lot of change and growth, and loss and love, has happened in my 20’s and I want to acknowledge it. I’d been thinking of doing some kind of 30 facts before 30 post, when lo and behold, blogger pal, Liz from Be. Love. Live shared her own 31 Questions theme. And since she invited others to join in, I’m doing just that.

Here’s 30 Questions Answered Before I Turn 30.
  1. Where’s your cellphone? If not in my hand, then it’s right next to me. I have a problem.
  2. Where’s your second half? After making us a scrumptious breakfast this morning, he is out for a run, letting me work in peace.
  3. Your hair? Is messy. I let it air dry. But the color is my natural red.
  4. Your mood? Excited. It’s going to be a good day.
  5. Your plan for today? To catch up on writing assignments and then go hiking with my bae. 
    Out for a Stroll
  6. What’s the best you know? Best I know of what? I know I like red ales and Leinenkugel’s Red is a great one. I think David Sedaris’ essay Six to Eight Black Men is the funniest thing I’ve ever read. I think sharing that story about that time I pooped my pants has made more people come forward and share their own shitastrophies, and that makes me like each of them a bit more.
  7. Your dream last night? I didn’t dream last night, or if I did, I don’t remember it. But last weekend after Joe and I binged watched Season Five of The Walking Dead, I dreamed that I was out scavenging for food and shelter all night long. I was exhausted the next morning.
  8. Your goal in life? To publish my book, and to make people laugh.
  9. The room you’re in? The kitchen, at the table by the window. The most common space I write in, and where Joe often catches me.
    Writing
  10. Your hobby? Blogging, reading, hanging out in coffee shops, doing improv, talking in weird voices, shocking my mother…

    worlds largest latteHobbying like a boss. 

  11. Your fear? Bugs.
  12. Where would you like to be in six years? Celebrating the six year anniversary of you asking me that question. 😉
  13. Where were you yesterday evening? At home with the hubs, watching The Grand Budapest Hotel.
  14. What are you not? I am not coordinated. Please don’t throw balls at me.
  15. Something you wish? I wish I had some chocolate. Like now.
  16. Where did you grow up? In a small town in southeast Wisconsin.
  17. What was the last thing you did? Watch Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen: Toad in a Hole. This girl makes me giggle.
  18. Your clothes? I’m rocking my Dolly Parton tshirt.
    Dolly Parton tee
  19. Your TV? Is a host to many epic marathons such as #Keanuthon.
  20. Your computer? Is a multi-holiday gift from my husband after my old one died. It’s a MacBook Air, and I still don’t really know how to use it. For the love of God, why can’t I just double click on things??!
  21. The best thing you own? My journals. Those notebooks hold my soul.
  22. Do you miss anyone? I miss my family. I miss the members that passed on too early. I miss friends that are kindred spirits despite living across the country.
  23. Your car? Is a 2004 Nissan Sentra, and her name is Dionne.
  24. Something you’re not wearing? Socks.
  25. Favorite store? It is quickly becoming Etsy. And does Stitch Fix count? It is a store, but you don’t go to it, it comes to you.

    Where my book nerds at? Etsy is the greatest for gifts.Where my book nerds at? 

  26. Your summer? The highlight was our annual summer vacation and road trip to Tennessee where we ate copious amounts of barbecue, listened to lots of live music, and visited with friends and family. Additional highs include storytelling at the Old School Variety Show, co-hosting part of the Film Freaks series with the library, and joining an improv troupe.
  27. Do you love anyone? Yah, there’s this boy I like.

    It’s the one on the left. 

  28. Favorite color? Green and turquoise.
  29. When did you last laugh? I laughed watching that Hannah Hart video. Did you watch it? Go watch it. She’s so silly.
  30. When did you last cry? I cried watching The Walking Dead because some of my favorite characters were killed off. I won’t say who, but it’s sad.

Feel free to copy these questions and share your own responses.
Thanks for tuning in! 

*****

BTW

It’s mid-month of #Keanuthon and this week’s classic is Speed. One bus. One bomb. One Keanu to save the day!

Co-starring Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, and Jeff Daniels, Keanu plays a cop that has to rescue a group of strangers trapped on a bus that can’t go less than 50 mph. If you already feel like one epic joy ride isn’t enough, rest assured, there’s a Speed 2: Cruise Control – which takes place on a boat. Unfortunately, Keanu isn’t in that one.

We’ll be live tweeting the movie once again on Wednesday, September 16th at 8:00pm CST. Join me and friends or follow along using #Keanuthon.

Get ready for rush hour! 

Also this happened last night. What. Are. The. Odds? 

Jess Witkins Meets Keanu Reeves

Now, even KEANU knows about #Keanuthon. 

I Said ‘Yes’ For a Week, and Here’s What Happened: 5 Lessons Learned

I want to talk to you about…my schedule. It’s busy. I work as a freelance writer, am a board member for my nonprofit writers group, helped found and organize a monthly feminist education series, participate in a book club, attend twice a week rehearsals, and work a 40 hour day job.

You know what? I love it.

Say Yes to the Work

Working lunch. Working on writing assignments over dim sum.

Last week was really hectic for me. I had places to be every night of the week. But I think it was one of the best weeks I’ve had in awhile.

Here’s a little rundown…

Monday night started with a board meeting for my writers group. We are going to be hosting the Feminism on Tap gathering in October and since I work closely with both groups, I’m planning it.

Tuesday was a special treat wherein I traveled a couple towns over to meet with New York storyteller and filmographer, Jen Lee. A dozen area “makers” – artists, craftswomen, writers – gathered to learn about her latest collaboration, The 10 Letters Project, a correspondence documenting the creative process and how we critique ourselves. I was invited to attend because another writer and I were offered the chance to emulate the project.

I spent six hours on wednesday night at the public library for a back to back film showing of Johnny Guitar, the 1954 film by La Crosse, WI born director, Nicholas Ray. I was representing Feminism on Tap and co-led a discussion after each viewing. (And during the second showing, I ate pizza with some of the library staff and wrote one of my freelance articles standing up in the library kitchen.)

10 Letters Project

Jen’s book with fellow storyteller/writer, Tim Manley. Everyone who attended also wrote their own anonymous letters and got to answer one anonymously too. Very cool experience connecting with other makers.

I hemmed and hawed most of Thursday over whether or not to audition for an improvisation group, but the writer I met on Tuesday and will be working with on the local 10 letters project was in the group and invited me to go. I went, expecting an audition and nothing more. It turned out to be a two hour improv workshop wherein I became a monster, a pterodactyl, an overtired mother judging a fake gymnastics tournament, and I pulled (imaginary) gum out of a guy’s mouth. At the end of the two hours, I signed up for the next rehearsal.

Friday afternoon I left work and headed to a dim sum shop where I finished my freelance assignments (due that day). Then I hit up the library book sale and came home with a bag of books just in time for date night with my husband.

Finally on Saturday, I attended the first rehearsal for the improv group, which started with a photo shoot for a newspaper article and show flyers. When I got home, my friend picked me up and we hit the shops so I could help her back to school shop for a family through the Salvation Army and find a wedding gift for her sister.

Wow. I’m tired writing this. 

It sounds exhausting. And it is a little, but in the best possible way. I’m a person that thrives on having lots to do. Too much time will make me bored and I will not leave the house or stop watching movies for days. You guys, I’m really good at watching movies! I can do it all damn day!

But here’s what this week of “YES” taught me. 

1. Saying Yes Leads to Amazing Opportunities

I made new friends and connections all last week. From future partners on events to kindred spirits in creativity. I’m looking forward to partnering with a new writer for our project, and through partnering at the library, I got valuable information about hosting film festivals that may lead to a future partnership. Whatever happens, the best part was it was all fun!

My book sale buys.

My book sale buys.

2. Saying Yes Gets You Out of Your Head

I can be a worrier. I overthink things. I love when I find something that takes me out of my head and makes me focus. I use to think only hard exercise could do this, but I was wrong. Improv allowed this. There’s no time to think in improv! I had to close my mind outside thoughts and completely be in the moment. I love making people laugh (that’s why I wrote a humor blog), but what I loved more and why I decided to join the group was because improv allowed me to get out of my anxious brain and just play. That’s a great life lesson.

3. Saying Yes Helps You Process Quickly

With a jam-packed schedule, I learned fast what parts of it I liked and didn’t like. I learned what my strengths and weaknesses are. I played a variety of roles – from the facilitator to the student – throughout the week. It helped me process where I am in my life journey and what I want to spend my time on.

4. Saying Yes Makes You Vulnerable

I was out of my element more than once last week, but I think that’s ok. I thought a lot about something a friend once wrote that moments in our lives where something big is happening cause us to panic about what we’re going to “give” of ourselves. What kind of impression are we going to make? What witty words are we going to say? But sometimes, those moments aren’t about us giving, they’re about receiving. What can we learn from this now? What am I listening to? What resonates? I took a step back a few times and reminded myself that I was in a “receiving” moment, and to enjoy the experience.

5. Saying Yes Makes Each Moment Matter

When time is precious and packed, then the things you’re doing with it have to be just as important. I’m glad I was able to still have a date with my husband and go out with a friend. You learn what things you’re willing to cut out in order to preserve others. Yes, I was busy. But I still spent quality time with the ones I love. In fact, I even called my mother. 😉

Tell me about a time you said yes and it led to something great. 

#WhatIf: A Strange List of Jobs I Almost Had

What if, in an alternate life, I was just like James Bond???

What if, in an alternate life, I was just like James Bond???

Do you ever look back on your life and consider the alternate routes it could have taken? What would have happened if you’d said yes instead of no to a question?

Maybe I’d be living in a different city, maybe I’d have lost or gained significant friendships, maybe I’d be driving a luxury car, and by luxury I mean one that came with cruise control…

I’m a storyteller and writer at heart. I often reflect on the choices one makes and the ‘what if’s’ had the choice been different. After all, that’s really just plot we’re talking about. How will the world around you change by choosing x instead of y?

My day job is in the process of transition and it got me thinking about the many different transitions my career has had to date. If I ignore actual position titles, and go by the tasks I completed day to day, then I have worked in the following fields:

  • professional alphabetizer
  • storage room cleaner
  • napkin folder
  • duster of knick knacks
  • pizza maker and garbage taker-outer
  • gift wrapper
  • sales auditor
  • bra fitter
  • coach and counselor for commission sales team (AKA: the shark pit)
  • latte maker
  • social media guru
  • sex trivia host

And that got me thinking to what I could’ve done in my career had a few application processes gone different. Imagine it, somewhere in an alternate universe, I am known as Jess Witkins:

  • district level lingerie manager
  • Catholic school secretary
  • organic farm office manager
  • grocery store deli worker
  • hotel night manager
  • bank teller
  • or if my father had his way, cake decorator  – which could work if y’all are in the mood for an “abstract” trend in the bakery business. God, remember that time I attempted to bake a tart??!

I can’t say I regret any of these “lost” positions. But I found it most entertaining to consider what life would have been like had I…worked in close proximity with nuns or spent eight hours shaving a honeyed ham.

Life would be very different. I might even pick one of these faux jobs and use it as a writing prompt just for giggles.

What about you? What alternate life would you lead had a past job application worked out?
Do we share a pension for habits and ham? 😉

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