The Talent Show

My mind has been thinking about Whitney Houston and her daughter all month. It reminded me of a moment in time when one of Whitney Houston’s songs taught me an important life lesson. I decided to share it here. My thoughts continue to be with her family.


When I was twelve, my friends and I got together and decided we were going to perform as a group in the school talent show. After much deliberation, it was decided that we would sing “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles. We practiced at every snack and lunch break.

Now, here is where I need to insert information about my singing voice. All of us girls were in the school choir. It was offered during lunch break on select days. This was before the time when schools actually had to give kids time to eat. The choir was run by this horrible old woman, whose name has long since escaped me. She would walk down the aisles while we were singing and pick on girls. “You,” she would screech, “you’re out!”

The girl would run away in tears never to be seen again.

She was Simon Cowell, before Simon Cowell was Simon Cowell.

One day we were practicing a song for a performance that never did take place. I truly believe she just pretended there would be a recital just to torment us. I noticed she was coming down my row. My stomach churned.

“Who is making that racket?”, she cackled.

Oh, I knew in my heart it was me. I could just tell. My heart started pounding and my hands became sweaty. So, naturally, I stopped singing and began lip syncing. I thought if I stopped, she would just keep going down the aisle. But she didn’t. She had all ready announced that someone was singing poorly. She had to save face. Or maybe she was just itching to ruin a young girl’s day.

She stopped short of me and said to the girl on my left, whose name was Lisa (name changed) and she happened to have a beautiful voice, “It was you! Get out!”.

Poor Lisa. She had thick gorgeous hair down to her waist. She was a nice girl and I have always felt guilty for not being the one kicked out of choir. Don’t feel too sorry for Lisa, though. She later went on to marry the most beautiful boy in high school.

All right, so us girls were breaking out on our own. We were going to sing a song the old woman hadn’t picked. So, we practiced for two weeks. And the day before the big talent show the principal informed us that he would not approve our song. Apparently, because the lyrics said “I watch you when you are sleeping,” it was too much of a sexual risk for the school. So, what were us girls going to do? Well, the teacher happened to have a Whitney Houston tape and thought it would be a fantastic idea for us to sing, “The Greatest Love of All.” Whitney Houston was really big at the time and being out of ideas, we all agreed.

No, wait, that is not what happened.

I agreed.

My friends, being the socially smart kids that they were, backed out. They decided it was way too risky (as in social suicide) to get in front of an auditorium of not only our peers, but EIGHTH GRADERS, and sing a song we had not practiced. Not me, though, I was in it to win it. I had committed to doing the talent show and I was going to do it. I stayed up an extra two hours that night memorizing the lyrics.

Being the talented girl that I am, I can still recite to you every word of that song to this day. Maybe, because I am smart, but probably because the terror ingrained itself into my head.

My mother took me shopping for a new outfit. It was so pretty. It was a kelly green striped shirt with a matching poofy kelly green skirt. I would probably wear the same outfit today, which probably does not bode well for my fashion sense.

I was ready. My hair was sprayed into a glorious fan shape on top of my head. My imitation Keds were gleaming white. All set!

I remember stepping in front of the whole school and the sound of Whitney Houston’s voice blasting out of the speakers. They had handed me a microphone, but all you could hear was Whitney. So there I was. The eighth graders were the kids closest to the front, because they got prime billing. And I could see their pores. And I could see them snickering. I just sang away and no one could hear me. Which would have gone swimmingly, had the teacher not decided it was too much Whitney Houston, and not enough Jenni. And she turned the sound down. My voice screeched across the auditorium, I could hear it ringing back to me, and it wasn’t good. And it was very loud. But I kept going. I finished the song and hurried off the stage.

I was mortified. I was angry at my friends for “making” me go up alone, but I was mostly disappointed with myself. But then something amazing happened. After the talent show, one by one, three lovely eighth grade girls came up to me. “You were so brave.”. “You did great!”. “I love your outfit.” Each kind word was music to my soul. My embarrassment became not quite as painful. I began to feel pride that I had done it. I hadn’t done it well, but I had tried.

Every now and again, I like to remind myself of that seventh grade moment. A moment when I conquered my fears and reached for something. Of course, to this day, if that song comes on the radio, I turn red and immediately change the station. But it wasn’t all bad. Most moments in life aren’t… Thank you Whitney.

How I Met My Husband


I originally typed in, “Ho I Met My Husband” and quite honestly I sometimes (I just spelled sumtimes, so gather what you will from this ongoing statement) think my typos are my brain’s way of communicating the truth of the matter.

I was working at a bank, that shall remain nameless, and I had just been promoted to New Accounts. This pretty much entailed me running over to the account floor from my teller station when the call came that they were too busy. My new promotion came with a tidy no-raise.

One fateful day in September of 1998, I received a call from, hmmm, let’s call her Carla (which ironically might be her actual name as I have long forgotten it but that sounds familiar), that she was swamped and needed someone to help her in New Accounts. I, being that someone.

Let’s get to what I was wearing, since that is the most important not-important part. I always tried to wear a pencil skirt to my work. The skirt was to be as tight and short as I could get away with. Of course. I was twenty one and wanted to exude some sort of professionalism. It just was not the sort of profession I probably thought I was showcasing. That day I was wearing my favorite lime green suit. It was actually citron and it had a permanent pen line right across the butt that I had never been able to get out. However, I refused to stop wearing it. I just assumed no one would notice.

I sat down at my least favorite desk. It was right in the middle of the floor and could be seen from all angles. To this day, I prefer to sit in corners, my back to a wall, so I can face out and see what is coming at me. My exposed back, having nothing whatsoever to do with a black line across it, made me feel frazzled and exposed. Plus, I felt a heavy burden in New Accounts. I, myself, did not bank with this particular bank. I was burdened with some of their practices. I felt by opening an account there for someone else, I was partaking in their sins. It made me feel bad.

I gathered my necessary items and nervously stood up. There was a line of people waiting. I went to the board where the first name was written and I called that person’s name. The first part of the name was a name that I had loved in high school. I once had a crush on a boy strictly because he had this name. It would be a name that I am glad I pronounced correctly, because it is one that I now say every day.

The young guy grinned at me when I called his name and followed me to the desk.

I remember asking him if I had pronounced his name right and him telling me that I had. It would be the first thing I would ever say to my husband.

He sat down across from me and we began the procedure of opening his account. I would later learn that two days before he came to that bank he had moved to that town. The day before he had sat in that chair, he had been in a car accident in front of the bank, the bank where I worked, and while he had waited for the police to come to the scene of the accident, he would decide that he would come back the next day and open an account at that bank. And I would later learn that when he came home from the bank the day I had opened his account, he would exclaim to his visiting relatives that THE HOTTEST GIRL (yes, I am using all caps here. No apologies) had just opened his account.

But sitting across from him in that chair I knew none of his past or his future.

I studied him as I asked him the routine questions.

He was wearing a faded green thermal henley shirt rolled up at the sleeves. His hair was brown and his eyes matched the green of his shirt. It would not surprise me when later in the year, I would stand in his green bedroom and learn that the color that he wore and decorated with was his favorite and always would be. He had perfectly full lips which would one day kiss me in such a manner that I would crave them forever. He had his shirt tucked in and his pants were rolled. I remember them as being terribly unfashionably pegged, but my husband reiterates time and again that they were just rolled. And so we will give him the memory credit here. His shoes were Vans. There was something rugged about the way he was dressed. An air about him that spoke of the outdoors. He was different from the typical California guys that I had grown up with. I now know that this is because he was from Oregon. An Oregon boy who would never quite get used to California and would always long for the land he once knew. But at this moment, the moment we are meeting him, he is simply dressed like a boy from Oregon. We do not yet know his heart. We do not yet know the struggles of his soul.

I remember holding my breath as I waited for the screen to tell me if we could proceed with the opening of the account. So many young people I had previously seen come in had been denied this step. It was always embarrassing for both me and that person.

He was approved.

I then asked him his occupation. His age. His marital status. His address. His previous address. His phone number. His debt. His income. All routine questions from the bank. Not routine questions that you get to ask a suitor.

Seriously girls, if only all women had access to the kind of information I had access to before I started dating my husband…

He answered all of the questions. I remember being impressed with his career because he was so young. I had never met anyone his age that was so confident, secure, and sure of themselves before. It was dissettling. So, of course, I assumed he was lying. It is sad that that seemed more logical to me than the idea that a young man could have his life so well organized and together. He wanted direct deposit and I signed him up for an account that would be free with direct deposit. But being new at New Accounts, I also remember blasely thinking, “We’ll see if this actually works.” It wouldn’t. A month later I would see him at a pool hall where he would approach me and tell me that he had been wrongly charged and get my phone number.

But at that moment, what I told him was, “let me know if you get charged and I will take care of it.” Of course, I didn’t mean it. He smirked at me and I remember feeling irritated and displaced that a guy with his pants pegged rolled would be so cocky. Especially one who was so obviously lying. It would only be later that I would learn, this boy never lies… Except about eating candy bars.

Then he did the unthinkable.

My heart sank when the cute, but cocky, twenty five year old guy across from me did not want the free checks. The free checks that were free and practical and a good financial choice. For some reason, I felt very strongly about those free checks.

What checks did he want?

He wanted… Looney Toons.


Looney Toons… Playing sports.

I do not remember the rest of the conversation. I remember ordering his checks and being unsure if the order went through. But I was not too concerned. At that point, the guy had lost some of his appeal with his check making decision.

He stood up to leave and he grinned at me. I remember my heart racing in my chest and being annoyed with myself because I could not understand why I was feeling this way towards a dishonest boy with pegged rolled jeans and looney toon checks.

I watched him walk out of the bank. I watched him walk through the parking lot. I watched him stand next to a beat up old van and I assumed wrongly that he had gotten into it. I assumed wrongly about a lot of things that day. I turned to call another customer. I thought about the boy with the green eyes for the remainder of the day.

Less than six months later that boy and I would share the same last name.

But that is a story for another day.

I will tell you, that boy turned into a man who only orders the free checks.

His marital status has changed.

He now does drive a beat up old van.

But his pants are no longer pegged.

Overheard In September 2014


This is usually the monthly post in which I chronicle snippets of conversations I have overheard in the month (last month’s post can he found here). Today my post is going to be about just one conversation. It touched me. It deserved its own post and not to be scattered amongst sillier conversations.

The other day I went to Costco (it seems like every time I go there something profound happens). I had not gotten out much in the month of September due to me being a blubbering mess. But we were quickly running out of paper towels and toilet paper (see blubbering mess). I could live without those. But then we ran out of butter. And things got real. So we made our way to the human zoo.

I sat in the food court while my husband went to purchase our food. I am not going to lie. Part of the reason was to people watch and people listen. I sat down but quickly realized that my back was to the action. I got up and moved so that my back was against the wall and I settled down to watch the people coming in and out of Costco. I like to see what people have in their carts. The carts tell so much more about the person’s story than the person would probably ever tell you themselves. One time we saw a man come out with nothing but Sensodyne Toothpaste and a watermelon (now that is probably a fun story).

“I like to watch the people coming out of Costco, too,” a friendly gravelly voice said to me from my left.

I looked over and the robust elderly man sitting at the table next to me smiled.

“It always scares me to realize that these people could be a jury of my peers,” he continued. I laughed. I had never thought of who would be my jury before. I just assumed I would not get caught never do something to warrant a jury.

We spoke a little bit about that. About the weather. He informed me that he was going to turn eighty one in a few days.

“Eighty one just doesn’t have the same ring to it as eighty does,” he said. “I have been blessed with good health. I would love to live, with a good quality of life, mind you, to see ninety three so that I could watch my oldest great grandson graduate high school. Now wouldn’t that be something?”

It only occurred to me later, as I contemplated this conversation on the way home, that my grandmother also would have turned eighty one this year. I was all ready crying from what will come further down in the conversation, but that realization broke my heart a little more.

He spoke with great pride about his grandson, whom he was meeting later that day, because he was borrowing his truck. Without going into detail, the grandson is following his dream and will be making it a reality later this year.

Then he said, “My wife would have loved to see all of this. She passed away last June. We had been married for fifty eight years.”

My eyes filled with tears at the depth of love I could feel coming from the tremors of his voice.

He proceeded to tell me their love story. They had been happily married. Their home was full of books. “Over a thousand,” he said with pride, “and all of them, hers. Back in our day, women did not continue their education. It was her biggest regret. So, what she did not learn in a school, she taught herself in books. We had books by so many different philosophers. I cannot even pronounce some of their names.”

My husband had joined me at this point in the conversation. The man looked at us and asked if we were married (I had made meatloaf the night before and had forgotten to put my rings back on). We explained that we were and he said, “I hope that you two have the same longevity of love that my wife and I had.”

He continued, “My friend’s wife passed away a month before J. He is all ready dating. I could never date again. I am afraid no one will ever compare to J. She was beautiful, smart… She knew everything. I would never find someone as amazing as her. Would you like to see her picture?”

“Yes, of course,” my husband and I both said.

He fumbled in his wallet. He was grinning wildly at this point. “When you get to be my age, you can carry whatever picture you want in your wallet and nobody can tell you any different. This is the picture I choose to carry around.”

He pulled out a wallet-sized black and white laminated photo probably taken in the 1950s of a young woman in her early twenties. Her blonde hair was piled high atop her head in short curls. Luscious lips grinned into the camera. A voluptuous bosom spilled demurely from a satin dress. She was beautiful. Even though the picture was laminated, it was obviously handled a lot. I held it gingerly in my hands. You learn something every day. On this day I learned that an elderly man had been walking around my town with an old photo laminated in his wallet more cherished than any other possession. And now I was holding it. You learn something everyday and sometimes life gives you a gift. Having someone entrust you with their most sacred item is the biggest gift of all.

I handed the photo back to him.

“She was so beautiful,” I whispered to him through my tears.

We sat and listened to the man’s life story. It was impressive. We spoke to him for over an hour. He talked of buying a leather recliner at Costco when his wife got sick so that he could sleep by her side and be with her at every moment. He has not gone up to the second story in their home in years. There was no need, because his wife could not take the stairs. When she first got sick, he redid the entire downstairs with his best friend who was a contractor. It was a great surprise to his wife and she loved it.

He has continued to sleep in the recliner even after his wife’s passing.

“I do not think I will go back upstairs. I need to redo my bathroom downstairs and put a shower in it. If my friend were still alive, we could do it together.” Then he chuckled, “Of course, I would have to remember that he would be eighty one, too. I am not sure what kind of team we would make.”

I did not get the man’s name. He sat and enjoyed a hot dog. The only thing on the table that he had purchased from the store was a bag filled with prescription medication.

We stood up to say good bye, “come back any time. I have a room here. I’ll be here all week,” joked the man.

I swept him up in a hug. This is rather hard to do to a man much taller than yourself. He felt solid to my body. He felt soft to my soul.

I feel fuller from my meeting with the man. I had no idea that there was love like that in the world. So often you hear the stories of long marriages, but you do not know the quality of the life that they led. But this man and his wife… They had it. They found the magic and they kept it. Alive. Even after death.

We left and my husband whispered in my ear, “I love you that much.”

My heart overflowed. But now my thoughts are filled with an elderly man grieving. Sleeping in a leather recliner. In an empty house. Holding a photo. Taken so long ago.

It is a gift. And I want to share it. Spread the word. True love really exists. Magic really exists. And it can be found at Costco everywhere, if you take the time to listen.

It’s The Little Things: Sporcle


Because it is Saturday. Because we all have laundry to do. Things to do. Let’s play a game instead! There is nothing like procrastination.

I started playing on the website, Sporcle, two years ago. Actually, two years ago, I exclusively played only one of their games. It was “Name The Countries Of The World.” I performed pitifully the first time, but after dedicating every last brain cell to the task eventually I was able to name them all in the time frame (I have been slacking and the last time I played I failed miserably). It is a great teaching tool, too. The site has many name-the-state-capital-quizzes. This is fantastic for children or for adults who, ahem, tend to forget things taught to them in the third grade. This is different than lessons purposefully forgotten, like sharing. I never had much use for that one.

The quiz I play the most often is the one below. I apologize for its too large size. There is not a quiz on the site to teach one computer coding skills. If you are on a tablet or smart phone, you can turn the screen sideways and it will fit. You can actually play that one below.

It is an entirely unnecessary quiz for a writer. The words are not likely to ever be forgotten, so there really is no need to practice them. However, it is more of a memory game at this point. I have to get all one hundred words each time I play. Sometimes I can only remember ninety eight. I slap myself with my Anthropologie receipts when that happens.

I also am a huge fan of anagrams. I have a good friend who I have flown on an airplane with a few times. We like to do puzzles on the airplane together. That actually is one of my favorite parts of the trip. We keep saying that we will get together to do puzzles without travel one day, but that never happens. We play anagram scrambles. There are a few on Sporcle that I like. Of course, those are one time play games. Once you know the answer to those, it is not really necessary to play it again.


Their baby name quizzes are fun, too. Although I am terrible at those. I am also horrible at most of Sporcle’s movie and television quizzes.

It’s The Little Things: Wasting some time while still getting your learn on (based upon this sentence, I still have a long way to go).

Have you ever played on Sporcle? What are your favorite quizzes? Do you challenge yourself?