All posts by Jennie L

About Jennie L

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Teaching high school English has taught her many things, including how to sing the parts of speech, and break up hall fights, but perhaps most important, spending her days with words and writing continually reinforces their power. Give her a beach, some dark chocolate, friends and family and she'll be one happy girl.

Passion: Under Water


I’m teaching Hemingway in class.  A Farewell to Arms- where war, love, food, nature, and alcohol litter the pages.  Selling the plot to a bunch of 17- year- olds was quite easy. Like I said, war, love (or let’s be honest, sex), food, and alcohol. But I know, and hopefully they will too, it contains more.  Nuances, often unspoken, unseen, but felt. Maybe their young hearts are too fresh to grasp or understand it in its entirety, but, maybe not. Hemingway’s sentences are short, brave, and true. Then there are long parts of serene scenes of nature and of leaves falling and of clear water and it is usually crisp and clean and followed by a manly scene with shrapnel and blood (and of course a lot of the conjunction and thrown in for good measure). I’m drawn to his lack of explanation at this time in my life.

A few days ago I put Hemingway’s “iceberg theory” on the board for the class to discuss:

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.” – Ernest Hemingway

The dignity of movement.

That phrase held me captive.

Movement and stillness.  I have been on the move and felt as if I have not had a moment to breathe, to dive deep; to just be still lately.  And ironically, because of the reliable tide and current of the days I’ve felt stagnant.

Some critics say that Hemingway’s omissions created distance from the characters, and lacked a sufficient amount of action. Distance and insufficient action is one way to put life lately –it’s easy to live on the surface.  But I think the depth is there. Sometimes forgotten, but there.

It’s made me think that to stop and get to know a new person, or unearth new scriptural meaning,(or to even take time to read them at all), or to take the time to ask new and refreshing questions to friends and our Heavenly Father is to believe in the dignity of the underneath.  The underbelly.  And sometimes searching requires ugly dive gear and sacrifice.

I’ve begun to see that though it is simple, to exist solely on one-eighth of potential and possibilities without believing more exists, depletes passion and gratitude.

The dignity for me also comes in believing the movement below awaits discovery – directing the course of the visible.  While not always seen or acknowledged, it exists.

Later, that day I found some waves drawn on the board with the words “go under water”.

I am going to try and take that advice, while marveling at the dignity of the seen and unseen.



Our Binders Full of Women

diana barrysI hovered over my desk and turned on my computer. Too busy to sit, I became a frantic bird and flitted about from one thing to another, never finishing the item at hand. I walked back and noticed the homepage had skipped to a different site. Thin legs sucked into dark denim glared at me.

The caption ‘how to wear boyfriend jeans 18 different ways’ taunted viewers in bold block letters.  Do I really need an article to tell this to me? And 18? Come on. I thought. But I clicked anyway.

I looked away, and thought back to the weekend.  My college roommates had planned a short get-a-way to California.  This was no small feat: jobs, babies, and husbands were left in order for 5 girls to travel from 4 different states for 3 days. We run 13 years deep, and have known each other through boyfriends, break-ups, unfortunate fashion fads, heartbreaks, marriages, moves, wishes, and defeats.  We are women now, but laugh and relax as the clear-eyed, open-hearted 18 year olds we were when we walked through the doors of college life.

The rarity and blessing in the lack of competition, drama and the ease of support, transparency and laughter is not lost on me.  In moments when I forget there is divine construction of people and events in my life (which happens mostly in dramatic dating woes and familial angst), I remember these women and how I’m wrapped in their stories, and they in mine, and am brought back to a warm knowledge in the strength and holiness of my associations in all realms. I’ll just say they are my Diana Barrys and leave it at that. Continue reading

Everyday I’m Hustlin’

This is for my hustlers.

hustle beats talent

hustle good things happen

Aside from the urban hip-hop feel this white girl gets when saying hustler, there’s not much I like about the word.  I’ve seen a lot of quotes and thoughts lately that want us to hustle for the dream, hustle to survive, and hustle to make it happen.

Questions that inevitably pop into my mind when I read about the hustle -hustle- grind are, what is the dream I’m hustling for, does survival really require hustle, and just what does make it happen mean?  What is it?

I just can’t afford to buy into it anymore.  My reserves are low and the hustle flow is not regenerative.

Now I know that the intent behind the words is probably rooted in good intent.  In deeper values and ambition than the side effect of feeling of less it creates.  At least, that’s what I’m finding it creates in me.

I have a friend who runs.  You know that friend who is way too energetic and covers 10 miles in the time it takes you to eek out half that distance.  Ya, that friend.

I make her tell me the story about how she stopped continually training for marathons a lot. She was about half way done with a long training run and stopped.  Picture Forest Gump’s abrupt halt after months, years (whatever it was) of constant running.  At least that’s how I picture it in my mind. She said something inside of her was wearing down with years of training and in an instant a switch went off inside of her and she thought to herself mid run coming down the canyon, “why are you running, and who are you running for?” And that was that.  She called her sister to come pick her up and her constant training and miles to be covered ceased. She said in looking back, the joy had stopped, and she realized she had been mindlessly running for months because she was a runner.  Her identity tied her down to the label. But she had changed. The hustle told her she had to run – she had to be fit – she had to be working, running, striving toward a goal.

A result.  A measurement. She had to hustle.

For her, running and pounding the pavement was cold and lifeless.  For others it is an escape that enlivens.  But the point is, she didn’t want to hustle just because she was supposed to.

Brené Brown, psychologist and researcher, uses the phrase “hustle for worthiness”. And that’s just what the hustle becomes. Somehow it has become a hustle for worthiness. True worth can’t be found outside yourself. Not in the goal to go and grab, or the hustle to hurry and secure your perfect job or status as amazing wife, mother, lawyer, teacher.

You are not the hustle.

I know there is a part we can’t escape, and I don’t yet know how to stop the hustle completely, but I’m working on reasons why to find stillness and worth inside my story instead of outside.

So don’t hustle darling.  Let’s be still and know, ponder, sit, say no, walk in the grass, turn off the phone, read, and do whatever that thing is that brings a little bit of peace instead of pandemonium.

What false messages do you find in the hustle? How do you manage everyday life with the counsel to be still and know?

Inside Out

Outside looking in:

That first night my nose and cheek pressed against the cold block wall. I turned over and back and over again. The cinderblocks were bright white and surprisingly clean. As I shifted on my squeaky twin bed I felt a lump in my throat. I was sharing a room for the first time in my life. With a stranger. Not only did I choose to do so willingly, but I actually paid for this. I believe my exact thoughts were, why did I come here?

I was a nervous freshman at BYU who felt so different than the people walking around campus. A fraud. My internal dialogue gossiped inside my own head. I thought who am I?….I didn’t pray with my family, and I’d never even read the Book of Mormon straight through. And plus, my idea of fun was not cramming together in a tunnel to sing hymns. Nerds. I felt restless.

An Inner Calm:

That first week I walked into my Book of Mormon class. The teacher was tall with broad shoulders. He wore a suit that actually fit and his shirt was crisp and white. He smiled, locked eyes with every student and shook each hand. Double handed style. I remember thinking, I like this guy.

What that class and teacher did for me is too overwhelming to simply say in words. But that is exactly where the enlightenment came – words.

One of the first things we did was memorize part of a talk by Ezra Taft Benson“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of the people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”

The teacher said he wanted to work from the inside out that semester. He was laying the groundwork and practicing what he preached. Little by little, the internal message cracked my heart open. The authenticity of this message and the teacher’s vision lead to different words running through my heart and mind about where I belonged and what I believed.

He challenged us to read every day. To write every day. To ponder every day. To be still every day. And to do it imperfectly. To just try. To change our habits. These ideas were my bricks. Foundations. Necessary and sure. Concrete and true. An intent only working from the inside out could create.

My religion changed in this class to an uplifting hope instead of a damning fear.

These words became a mantra of sorts. The phrase from the outside in would echo in my head during walks to class, or when I felt like a small unnoticeable dot in the sea of Cougars.

I had fought and still fight against working from the outside in. The enticement of profiles and of trying to be and look and project and do and open and seem causes narcissistic fits of disappointment.

I have come back to this quote time and time again, and it is usually in those very fits of disappointment where I have lost my center of gravity. Where the words, and His words have become mere acquaintances instead of kindred friends.

The twisting and turning and coming head to head with brick walls and self-doubts originates from looking at things from the outside in. From counterfeits and false intents. But it is all so easy and alluring.

But what happens on the inside eventually manifests on the outside. The light. Or the dark. When your insides turn on you, look in look in look in. Look into His words. Look into your purpose. Look into your questions. Look into your self. Frankly this is the only way I’ve found peace in the windy outside that blows opinions, heartbreak, and fear.

So when you feel like you’re in that slum, look in.

What does looking in mean to you?  How does one work from the outside in?  What keeps that inner calm and focus when all around us we receive messages seeping into our inner thoughts?

Interesting Stuff

I have always been pretty quiet. The child who observed. I watched. I listened. I day-dreamed. I aimed to please. Oh the pleasing. I have moments and memories full of details down to the white Keds my babysitter always wore, the time my grandma braided my hair on the deck and started over at least a dozen times while talking about the trees, and the neighbors who never turned their lights off, and of course there’s that one time I wore a black waffle mock turtleneck in 9th grade that I thought looked great, only to have John-What’s-His-Name ask if I borrowed my brother’s shirt. Turned out this John kid was way more right than I cared to acknowledge.

These memories live only in my head.  And they don’t resurface until prodded – like when I am writing a blog post that needs details about observations.

How many moments must be settled far beneath the surface- long forgotten?

For someone who didn’t feel the need to explain, narrate, or even open her mouth much, it’s a little bit funny how much I’ve depended on words in my life.

I recently read a story that has stayed with me. In fact it has been resting in-between my heart and head, the place where the meaning and gravity of something hasn’t quite the strength yet to be born in voice.  But it’s there, and you know it has struck you for a reason.

Marina Keegan, was a young writer who died five days after graduating from Yale.  She was an observer and lover of words, and is acclaimed for her literary talent and “uncanny wisdom”.  One particular detail is what has been resting inside of me.  Professor Anne Fadiman shared a portion of Keegan’s application for admittance to her class:

“About three years ago, I started a list. It began in a marbled notebook but has since evolved inside the walls of my word processor. Interesting stuff. That’s what I call it. I’ll admit it’s become a bit of an addiction. I add to it in class, in the library, before bed, and on trains. It has everything from descriptions of a waiter’s hand gestures, to my cab driver’s eyes, to strange things that happen to me or a way to phrase something. I have 32 single-spaced pages of interesting stuff in my life.”

I would love to read those 32 single-spaced pages. These are reportedly the basis for Keegan’s published essays. And I love that she found writing down the details important enough, meaningful enough, and interesting enough to document.

The thing is, I think words get lost in the mire and mud of life and that is why we don’t write. At least that’s why I think I don’t.

Monotony is a thief.

It steals the tender mercies and moments of gratitude out of overwhelming schedules, to-do lists, and straight up boring tasks. It also gets in your head and asks, who the heck wants to hear about my day?  Well maybe no one cares about your status update on how great your burrito was, but somewhere in the cloudy land of social media and reality, details matter.  Thoughts matter. Candid observations matter.  A thought you’ve had the last few weeks matter.  And while people may not care to read them, you might one day.  And, they just might care. It just might matter to them too.

I have a slew of random notes here and there but I’m not consistent or organized. I shrug off the value in the little tiny moments of day to day. I need to remember to make it simple.  It doesn’t have to be a grand scrapbook or long composition. Line by line.  Here are a few ideas to help see and record the “interesting stuff”:

–         I love the journal app Day One. When you’re on the run you can snap a picture, type a few lines, and it tracks the day and time and will create an end of year time line for you.


–         Create a private Instagram feed just for you.  When you upload a picture, write your thoughts and comments surrounding the moment.  Many companies are now creating simple beautiful books of your Instagram pictures and comments below you can print off when ready.


–         Kick it old school and always keep a notebook handy. Keep it in your purse, in your car.  Write when the moment strikes you, or else it will fade. Plus, handwriting is great. On that note, if you love to be digital, but miss good old fashioned doodles and handwriting, take a look at Mod, an awesome app to merge the two.

–         -And let us not forget blogs.  A place perhaps to digest the above and combine.

Here’s to writing down the moments, random though they may be, to find truth, to clarify, to reflect, to remember, to find yourself, to find God, to take back Monotony’s lies of insignificance.

What do you do to record and give voice to the little things in life?