As teenagers, she would drive us to Annapolis in whatever beat-up old car she was able to buy with money she earned from weekends bussing tables. And we would spend hours looking through CD's at Tower Records before we decided which ones to purchase, my choices leaning towards 60's folk, hers metal or punk.
We were different from each other but united in a sense of othernesss. We didn't want to be like other girls, like normal teenagers. We didn't dress like them or watch the same movies. We didn't want what they wanted, and we wanted everyone to know it. I think all these years later we have both held on to that feeling, the feeling that we aren't like other moms, wives, women, but also the feeling that we don't want to be.
Back then, we spent untold hours sitting at the end of my parents' pier, drinking illegally procured Boone's Farm, imagining what our lives would look like one day. Jen's goals were art oriented, mine more academic. Both involved more exotic locals than the rural, turned suburban county our families were both from. I'm fairly certain neither of us ever imagined anything close to our current paths.
Last week, I found myself semi-aimlessly driving country roads with her yet again. This time in a mini-van packed with kids. And we were still talking about what adventures await. Still taking pride in our perceived sense of otherness. But our conversations now don't take the same emotional stakes as they did 17 years ago. Now we have a better sense of the ending. We know that we both found happiness.
Jen has found her place in this world. She is living her truest life on a farm in the foothills with three kids, two dogs, two cats, ducks, chickens, a parrot, a big messy garden, and a greenhouse bursting with heirloom herbs.
She has a "real" job to pay for health insurance and then comes home to make art before her kids get home from school. A few weeks ago her first children's book was published, and now she's saving money for her next dream: her very own gallery. A place where all the art pariahs can find a space to be.
Jen has drive. She has determination. She finds the time for what she loves while mothering her kids with her whole damn heart. And if you're feeling sorry for yourself because you can't seem to manage to do whatever it is that you want to do, a conversation with her will remind you it's time to get to work.
Go buy her book A Night Under the Circus Tent because it's equal parts sweet and weird, because your kids will love it and you'll be happy to read it over and over again. And buy it because you want to support dreams backed by hard work. Because you want to support a mom who is doing it all, and doing it all so well that it makes me ridiculously proud to call her my friend.
Places to find Jen and her art:
Oh, and if you do buy her book and you want to go a step or two further to help a sister out, tag pictures on the social medias with #jenpoteetcircusbook and give her a review on Amazon.