morning moi
blurting, Jené, process

Humility: Not the First Thing

Here is a video in which I share some thoughts on the proper place of humility and why my screensaver is crazy-blinged out and all about me! I could say more about some of these points, could expound and discuss; but this is a start. Tell me what you think!

Please send clarity, speed, and energy as I am coming up on the home-stretch of finishing The Oat Project. Thank you for being amazing examples and inspirations!

Love and hugs, Jene’

p.s. Here it is, embedded for your convenience.

Hunger, pie-sated

Back to Life: Weeping Salaams with Hugging and Wailing Dancing Spinning Gratitude and Pie

Hunger, pie-sated

Hunger, pie-sated

It was February 2012. I was about to launch the serialization of my book, The Oat Project. I got a call from family saying my mom was in the hospital. She had beaten cancer twice since 2008 but had struggled in the year before with “maintenance” chemo. She was having intestinal difficulties from the chemo. When I got there, she was her usual cheerful self, though wan and exhausted. My stepdad was in the room, too, and after chatting for a while about how the chemo was affecting her tummy and how it’s normal but difficult, the doctor came in.

He held a clipboard and looked up once or twice while speaking to my mother, though my memory is fallible on this. His words fell into me like ink in water. We can’t do anything about this. The cancer has wrapped itself around and throughout your intestines. We can’t operate. The chemo might help but probably not. We must release you from our care. We can’t do anything for you. As I write these words, I am back in that room as a wave of cold hit me from head to toe, and then a wave of hot, and then the ringing in my ears so I couldn’t hear for longer than fifteen minutes. I did not hear what Mom said, though it seemed like she had heard the doctor differently. She was so chipper.

That day began the battle lost on December 4, 2012.

That day, my ability to write waned with my mother.

That day, I ceased feeling hunger.

The day she died, ten months later, I ceased remembering my dreams.

After my sister-in-law died a week after mom and my brother almost died, in a wreck on the way home from burying Mom, my body’s energy, its fire, the ability and need to vigorously move, to do my customary sprints, weights, and yoga, felt buried in the dirt as well.

So from the end of 2012, I moved only enough to maintain the bare minimum of everyday life, with my house and even kids; I did not dream; I had to force the writing; I was not hungry.

I have tried several times to “move through” it, to “jump-start” myself, to “hunker down” and “make an effort.” But it never worked. I was just broken, for good.

Last August, at almost exactly the moment I was asked to run The Bookman, my energy began to return. I have needed every bit of it to learn how to manage the store, but scrabbling it together has also created energy. Being at the store has been a gift of purpose, a chance to meet others’ needs instead of being truly needy myself, and simply fun. Soon, the writing impetus was back, with the certainty of finishing the entire, whole book instead of going back to serialization. So I started in earnest, in wholeness, on it (still going).

And then, about six weeks ago, I felt an odd sensation in my midsection. I truly didn’t recognize it. I was hungry. I have been managing my body’s sustenance for these three years with logic. But knowing “I need to eat” is very different from hunger. Real, healthy, normal, non-grief-stricken hunger is back.

And then about four weeks ago, I began to wake recalling my dreams. They have always been vivid, and I have always remembered them. Whole stories, in color, my whole life. But since December 4, 2012, sleep has been like a dive into darkness…or death. Muffled, black, no texture or life, not bad or evil, but not good either; nothingness. But one morning, I woke remembering a very usual-for-me dream, a nice one, even. And it’s continued since that day.

And then last week, I ran stair sprints for the first time in two years. Mind you, my head hurt all day, but even that was normal upon a return to it.

It is as though my body has reasserted itself, remembered or decided it is alive. Healing is still happening, and it’s still taking everything I’ve got to be a mom, run the store, and finish the book. But there’s an ease in the energy; it feels renewable. Finally. I have no words to express how profoundly thankful I am for all of those who have walked this path of grief with me. No words. It would look like weeping salaams with hugging and wailing dancing spinning gratitude. Family, children, friends, in small ways and large, you have helped me come back to life, to resist the grinding pain of grief and mortality, to choose messy, inconvenient, exhausting, lovely Life. I hope in some small way to help in ways as profound. Thank you, again and forever. And now, for pie.

book news, excerpts, process

The Worst Victoria Secret’s Experience Ever: An Excerpt from The Oat Project

JJ017Note: That photo up there was taken post-tattoo, post-book, long after the moment below happened. In the following, I was just trying to do and finish the project, feeling like I sucked at everything, trying to do what I said I would do, all amidst the core of being a mother. … Huh, kindof like this moment now, plugging away at finishing the whole book, for you, for me, for all of us. (Okay then, she says to herself, if you did it before, you can do it again; keep going.) Enjoy, lovelies. Love and hugs, Jene’

Clothed for Clubbing

I had to go to the mall. I hate the mall. But a friend who often went clubbing recommended a store there for club-worthy outfits. I needed a bra, too. A real bra! Not for breastfeeding! Victoria’s Secret, here I come! Having and raising our kids had felt like a time-warp. I couldn’t remember how to be pretty, with only a vague movie-driven idea of what to wear to go dancing. My body had not been my own for years. What am I doing? I don’t even know how to live.

The recommended store was a dud. Nothing fit. Nothing looked good. I am old and fat and impossible. Despair walked me to Victoria’s Secret, but I determined to hope. After all, I was about to be in capable hands. I had no idea what my boobs had been doing, had felt for years like they were acting all on their own, with a life quite apart from the one connected to my chest. But the Victoria’s Secret people were pros. They could help me to the other side of Post-Nursing-Bra Mountain.

“Hi,” I said to a clerk. “I need to get measured for a bra.”

She frowned and said, “Our bra fitter isn’t here tonight.” She, looking all of fifteen with her raccoon eyeliner and pale lip-glossed pout, sighed and said, “I could make an appointment for next week.”

Panic rose. “It’s for an event, so I can’t wait a week. No one here can measure me?” I said. Are you kidding me? This is the Temple of Bra.

Her face looked confused now, but hopeful. “Well,” she said, “I could measure you.” She tried to smile.

You have to be over 17 to work at the mall, right? Exuding the confidence I knew she needed, I said, “Yes! Thank you so much.” How bad can it be? She fumbled for a tape measure and proceeded to measure me right there, next to the cash register, with all my layers of clothes still on—nursing bra included.

“34D!” she said, as though talking to herself.

“Really?” I said. That’s a nice number. I thought it would be larger, but I’ll take it. Sweet.

She examined her tape measure again and declared, “Yes. 34D.”

I suspected her method but figured she was the pro, so off I went to the 34D sale bins. Oh, such prettinesses! I spent over half an hour filling my arms with beautiful, somewhat practical 34Ds. In the changing room, I took off my shirt and hid my grubby, stretched-out 38E nursing bra under it and got to work.

Two bras in, I knew I must have misheard the clerk, blaming myself (as usual). Two more, I was cursing her. Maybe my boobs had changed after nursing our first two children, but I had only noticed it now, after Leo. They were like water balloons not quiet full enough to easily hold, like slippery gel tube toys that squirt out of your hand if squeezed too hard. When they filled with milk, it felt like the deep hum fluorescent gymnasium lights make when turned on. They were so big, they entered the room before me, taut and begging for release. But after Leo nursed, as he had done before I left on this expedition, they were definitely deflated. I couldn’t wait to return to a smaller cup size someday. It was only standing there alone, in a changing room at the mall, under pressure, in a hurry, nervous, that I realized how profoundly they had changed. Heck, I hadn’t ever paid attention to what they were like uncovered, and Jack never said much about them. Who is that person in the mirror?

The 34 band was tight enough to constrict my breath—though I could close the clasp! But when I tried to fit my boobs into the cups, the flesh would not cooperate, flowing over the sides and middle and bottom. I kept hoping, I did. I tried on every single one of the twenty or so bras I had gleefully grabbed. By the end of the pile, I burned with a hatred of bras. Of that neophyte clerk. Of the Victoria’s Secret system and their garish, foam-pumped-up store. Pink! I hate pink! Of my decision to even try. Why did I even try? Of my willful, rebellious breasts. Of myself. Of myself.

I could not muster the energy or calm or courage to find help, or to try on another size. It was all over. I had to get out of there.

From the cover of This Present Darkness, by Tim LaHaye

An Excerpt from The Oat Project


From the cover of This Present Darkness, by Tim LaHaye

JOURNAL 11.21.2012

Last night, I sat with my mom as she struggled through the worst night of pain thus far in her fight with cancer. Her abdomen was sore from throwing up, the morphine was not working well, and her thirst remained unquenched fearing more nausea.

I felt completely helpless. I could not feel the pain for her. So I just kept rubbing her hands, feet, and back. It was all I could do.

A few weeks before, I had run into my chiropractor at a coffee shop and asked him for suggestions on how to ease her pain. He showed me how to “pull pain off the body” via pressure points on the hands and feet.

Last night, as my mom seemed to barely breathe from one moment to the next, as I stroked her legs and feet, up and down, I recalled his instructions. So on the down stroke, I imagined my hands pulling the pain out, ending with squeezing the tips of her toes, pulling, almost snapping at the end of each toe. She said, “Ah, that feels wonderful.”

My inner eyebrows raised in surprise. It felt wonderful. A technique based on an Eastern religious understanding of the body’s chakras and chi had worked when the acceptable Western medicine failed.

I kept rubbing and thought of the 80s, post-Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, of the paranoia that swept the evangelical church in an intense shift from fighting evil metaphorically and inside of ourselves to battling literal demons infesting every bad thing, from illness to mere discomfort. A lady once told me she’d prayed to God to defeat the demon keeping her from finding a parking place close to a store. We were told to “take up the sword of Christ” against demonic forces in constant conversational prayer with God and His Spirit.

The 1960s’ rise of the Age of Aquarius with its Eastern philosophy, religion, and mysticism philosophy was part of the Devil’s plan, to be battled and stamped out as thoroughly as possible. Energy healing, with its chakras and meridians, was strictly forbidden. Christ, after all, was a Westerner.

I’m not sure when the shift to even marginal acceptability began. Was it scientific studies proving acupuncture’s efficacy? Or a prominent Christian’s testimony? A conspiracy? Or was it the slow crumbling of the wall between church and pop culture? The tethering of the church’s fortunes with the modern youth culture? The “weakening of faith” integrating Eastern philosophies in pop culture via a million references inside church over the years?

However it came to be, in 2012, my mother–a former conservative evangelical preacher’s wife, a faithful evangelical Christian–did not balk or pull her feet away when I told her I pulled off her pain on a technique based on the dreaded chakras and meridians and chi. She was thankful for it.

So though I had been out of the church seven years by the time of the project, the intensity of the struggle against the powers of darkness embedded in my thinking as I came to adulthood in the 1980s still tinged how I viewed energy work.

I had heard it worked but had never considered it for help with pregnancies or depression and panic. I didn’t think of my body that way. And though my belief in a demon-riddled world had waned with increasing doubt of the devil’s (not evil) existence, it seemed more mumbo-jumbo than science. So, the fear remained.

denver botanical garden 120
Jené, process

The Spiral of a Party: On Friendship

denver botanical garden 120Last night, as I stood at the stove at my own birthday party and created, stirred, and spiced the soup, I listened to all of you (my children included) talking, laughing, connecting. You thought I was fussing over a dish, but hearing all my people meet and love each other as much as I love you all was one of the true gifts of the party. I am in awe of who I get to call Friends, new, long-time, and in between. Thank you, thank you.

Spiral: the perpetual dance of chaos and order = life, moments, parties, friendships, love.

Some of you were there in spirit rather than body because of all the brilliant schtuff to do in our little city last night (how I wish I could’ve split myself in half to go to all of it!). I felt your presence, especially whilst dancing. Thank you for that certainty.

Some of you didn’t come because I didn’t make my deadline (emphasis on the “my”). What you should know is where I am right now: at the computer (at my store), The Oat Project doc open, DOing it. Making my house clean for guests was another of the true gifts of taking the time to have a party…the ability to stand at the home desk and look upon loveliness instead of the messy results of being so busy = the space to finish the book. Thank you for your tenacious, patient, love and support, even when you’re frustrated with this process.

And I needed to reconnect, have been isolating for so long–for so many reasons–needed to remember, with these stronger, grief-tempered emotional muscles, my part in a community. Thank you.

This is the last push. The Last Push. Y’all won’t be seeing me much for a while, as I’m heading back into the lonely/rich place of manuscript only. See you on the other side, and thank you, so deeply, thank you, for your love, care, and the impetus/inspiration to keep writing. You make my life. Love and hugs, Jene’

blurting, Jené

A Birthday Poem


Fundamental, by Jene’ Jackson on her birthday, today, as she drove home down Colorado Avenue after writing all day.


pungent as the cut onion’s night after night spray in kitchen curtains

pervasive as the toddler’s goo griming the minvan seats

tenacious as the smoker’s film of brown on bedroom walls,

Perhaps each love,

each foray into the land of the heart

each attempt, short-lived or long,

leaves its residue,

coats the inside of the wholehearted with lighthearted joy,

rosy, curious, prismatic,

Ready for the next foray, in this life or that,






book news, events, Jené

Life: 0 to 60 in Fourteen Seconds Flat

WIN_20140810_173524You know how Life can go from 0 to 60 in fourteen seconds flat? I’m clocking in at 74 with an eye on 90. Before I tell you why, thank you, so very much, for walking through this life with me, for supporting my efforts as writer/photographer/singer/speaker/etc=Artist. I’m still going! Some changes have zoomed into my life lately. You’ll see an Announcement about The Book soon, but the biggest change is this: I’m now managing partner of a bookstore!

A few months ago, a dear friend who is also the owner of The Bookman said, “Ya wanna run my store, Jené ?” And it took one and a half seconds to say, “Yes, thank you.” That scared him a little, lol, but I knew instantly this was the right thing to do, for him and his wife (we call her Mrs. Bookman), for me and my kids, and for our future. It’s a strong base for all the writing and art I am doing and have planned, and it was a gift from heaven as an income. You will soon see announcements for author/writer/reader events as I change some things around and tweak things and try stuff…be an owner, in other words. You can find updates on incoming books, events, and photos of the two resident cats here. And I would love to see you all in person at 3163 W. Colorado Ave, from 10-7 Mon-Sat and 10-5 Sun. :)

Going from unemployed to being The Boss who grapples with Excel has required massive amounts of energy…energy that has not been present in my grieving body for over a year. Most days of the first few weeks at the store, I just fell into bed after getting home in the midst of grinding fatigue, but now, I’m slowly adjusting to the physical fortitude it takes to “do retail” and be walking, talking, and helping people for 9 hours at a stretch. And if you’ve been waiting patiently and impatiently on The Oat Project, know this: I have grown stronger and it has been a boon to the writing. No announcement yet, but it’s coming (translated: I’m writing).

Back in May, I was honored to once again be asked to tell a story for The Story Project, a local bi-monthly event that is broadcast on 91.5 fm and the Pikes Peak Library District TV channel. I told the story of three of the gifts and lessons from my mom’s last year alive.When I watched it, I was shocked at how calm I seemed. Sharon Friedman asked me to tell that story, and I worked so hard on it with absolutely no progress until two days before the event. I had not been able to make it through the entire thing without breaking down sobbing until what you see there, that night. December 4th looms on the horizon right now, the 2-year anniversary of Mom’s death, and you can read her eulogy here. Both the Story Project videos (May 2014 and the first one from February 2012 about love and the dunes) are archived on YouTube. You can find them here and here.

I’ll leave you (and get back to the writing) with this: While working on the book, I’ve come across the origins of several beliefs/mantras/theories now embedded in my life. From seven years ago! One of them (mentioned in the 2012 SP video) is “The heart is a muscle.” I hope you find opportunity to use and exercise your heartmuscle every day of your life. May you find the courage, build the strength, and rest in the grace of wholehearted living. Love and hugs, Jené

Mom and me, circa 1982
Jené, process

Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom and me, circa 1982

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday, mamadear, on what would have been your 69th. I’m sitting here about to watch an Agatha Christie movie, whom you loved, eating beets then pecan shortbread, which you loved (as do I), end-of-week tired from work you would have been so happy to know I was doing.

The kids are with their dad, whom you loved like a son. And we’ll honor you together tomorrow, honor your joy and fun and intelligence and life. But all day today, as I ran the bookstore (you would have loved it!), there’s been a quiet place spinning inside of me, of gratefulness that I was blessed with you as my mom, of pain in missing you as my best friend, of hope that somehow you can see how life is evening out a bit for me, of longing in so many colors and shades and intensities.

Sometimes, I feel as though I failed you in not being more proactive and forceful in helping you beat cancer. I should have been stronger for you, less afraid of offense on all sides and more true to my bossy self. I should have been less afraid of your disapproval. The irony is keen that grieving you is what it’s taken to finally not give a crap (saying “crap” instead of “shit,” just for you) and just be my true self.

I wish I could have been at your grave today, to talk and say hi. I would have brought you one of those unabashedly big feminine birthday cards and underlined phrases in it, like you always did for me. As I am often late (making up, you always said, for your having me three weeks early, lol), I’ll get there soon.

Thank you for being such an amazing person in my life.

I miss your smile.

I miss hearing you sing.

I miss your foot rubs.

I miss seeing you eat a piece of pie in seven seconds.

I miss holding your thumb.

I miss your cornbread.

I miss seeing your eyes sparkle under waggling eyebrows and seesawing shoulders when being bawdy. Like this: 316237_10150427173037612_95438223_n

I miss dancing with you.

I miss your love for my children.

I even miss your certainty that the Rapture would happen soon and those horrible sweatshirts that seemed to contradict your marvelous style.

I miss hearing your vision for things you wanted to do and change and discover.

Thank you for showing me what it looks like to have graceful strength, to be responsive, and to keep an open heart. I love you. I miss you.

Love, Your Daughter

p.s. In May, I told this story about what you taught me the last year of your life. Thank you for setting me free.


book news, process

Forest Fires, Drama Queens, and Authenticity


This is an excerpt from The Oat Project, from the rock concert chapter. It may or may not make the final version (coming this summer!!!). Enjoy…and now, back to it.

It’s like World Wide Wrestling. What is that fake-fighting impulse? Do we all have it in one form or another? Like the forest needs fire to burn out the brush to make room for new growth, does conflagration help our lives grow? Do relationships need flare-ups? Do authentic people show their fiery moods? Does being “adult” and “mature” and “consistent” actually squelch authentic life, dumbing us down, allowing us to hide, curtailing growth? Might allowing a little more “drama” (however intensely I hate it), even when slightly manufactured, lead us to more authenticity?

"Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce"
Jené, process

The Gifts of Empty

"Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce"

“Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce”

The kitchen is where my inner science geek and slapdashing artist get to dirty dance…pure alchemy.

Cooking has always given me energy, yes; but it also requires a focus, effort, and sense of play that I haven’t been able to muster often over the last year and a half since my mom died. In the midst of not feeling like eating–let alone cooking–apples and cheese, toast, coconut milk lattes, sweet potatoes, and cheese & pickle sandwiches have been my stopgap foods.

Today, my cupboards and fridge were running to empty. This week, the single mom artist life, in between/on the cusp of the big launch/project, caught up to the food budget, so I’ve been eating what was on hand. Everyday, I eat pretty simply anyway, and while going through more of mom’s stuff (yes, still; empathy to those of you who’ve experienced it), rearranging and reorganizing my house, apples and peanut butter or a baked potato with cheese served well for meals most days. Today, there was an apple and peanut butter left, but I ran out of cheese and potatoes a couple of days ago and sweet potatoes a few days before that, and I was just a little sick of the apple thing. But as I organized and cleaned the kitchen, I came upon a few things long forgotten, shoved in the back of cupboards. One was a bag of whole oats. And that sounded good, so I made them for lunch.

But for dinner, I was at a loss. Out of bread (gluten free, alas). Out of cheese, out of chicken or fish, out of salad. I stood at the open fridge like a teenager.

I could eat a pickle. Or yet another apple with peanut butter. Or more oats.

I wasn’t going to starve. But that sense of play and taste sparked in me as I looked in the mostly empty freezer. I pulled out the gigantic Costco bag of green beans and threw some of them into a pan with thyme and–looking over at the spices I’d moved this morning–coriander. While those cooked, I pulled out the oats I’d not wanted, looked at them, looked back at the spices. Ah. I put about a cup of them in a bowl, added a forlorn 1/4 bag of finely shredded coconut that’s been in the freezer for close to two years, added a few shakes of curry powder and salt, stirred, and let it sit.

I need a little protein…hmm. I got a can of diced tomatoes out of the cupboard, pureed them, and in a small saucepan stirred them with a little garlic powder, coriander, and salt, putting it on a simmer. While it reduced to about half, I ate the now-done green beans. Then, I made patties of the oats mixture and fried them up. While they cooked, I put a big dollop of peanut butter in a bowl, blended in a spoonful of chili garlic paste, then incorporated the thick tomato sauce. If I weren’t out of coconut milk, a little would have been a no-brainer. By then, the patties were crisply done. So I ate…food, a meal, a meal I made.

And it was delicious.

And as I sat here enjoying the taste, I recalled all the dishes spun from nothing when I was out of most food and had to dig deep into the cupboards. My pumpkin soup. How we make hot cocoa (from being out of milk). So many. And now “Curried Coconut Oat Patties with Vegan Peanut Sauce.” So much yumminess made from empty. So much from nothing.

I thought of the past two years and work and relationships. So very often, I sit before the book’s manuscript, working hard, seeing the finish line so close, wanting to plow through it, and I sit there staring at it, feeling empty, with nothing left to give or say. And beyond the book, I’ve felt so drained of any emotions but grief and missing my mom that it feels like the power to love and be in people’s lives has been as fleeting and gone as food from those kitchen shelves.

But then, I looked at this meal I just ate.

It’s delicious.

And it came from emptiness. Those depths and forgotten corners, that space, yielded rich sustenance…and it tastes good.

And if this can happen, so, perhaps, even when I’m on empty, can I continue to write, create, and communicate…my job. And perhaps, even in the midst of the empty space, I can reach out, hug in, and continue to connect even more beautifully and authentically than I did in the midst of stocked shelves.

Empty may feel empty; it may even be empty.

But empty is not dead. And I am thankful for its gifts.