Dreaming Out Loud

May 7, 2020

Growing up I was convinced I was going to be the next Mariah Carey.  Actually Mariah Carey meets Celine Dion meets Whitney Houston.  All my idols rolled into one.  Despite being incredibly different, I loved these artists.  Their ability to tell a story in 3 minutes and 30 seconds, their commitment to each note, and their angelic voices soaring into the stratosphere suspending time and space.  I was transfixed and filled with such immense joy when I played and sang along to their music (tapes and CD’s to be exact, I’m dating myself here).  Hairbrush in hand, I was committed.  I practiced for hours in my Southern California childhood bedroom.  I knew every word.  My top favorites were Mariah’s Music Box album, Celine’s Power of Love and Whitney’s brilliance captured on The Bodyguard soundtrack.  Ironically I have yet to see the movie, but still remember every song from the track.   

I had my entire life planned out and it only involved singing.  Any chance I got, I signed up and sang.  Starting with musicals at the ripe age of 5 years old.  I had been bitten by the bug.  The interesting twist is that I was also incredibly shy, although painfully might be a better description.  Spending dinner parties behind my Mom’s legs and the infamous story of hiding during one of my early birthday parties because I didn’t want all the guests “looking” at me.  As a mom now, I can only imagine how my parents must have felt trying to convince their little one to join her own birthday party.  Despite the shyness, I came to life when I was on stage.  My first real taste was in 5th grade when I was cast as Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” at my elementary school.  I had never experienced such joy and all these years later I still remember the feeling of singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the rush I felt from the crowd’s applause.  Beaming under the bright lights, I knew in that moment this was what I was meant to do.

Fast-forward many years and by the age of 18, I had been the lead in several High School musicals and even a straight play.  I had sung in the advanced choir since my freshman year as well as many solos and was even asked to sing a solo at my graduation.  I was so proud to have been accepted as the youngest member (I was 15 years old) of the cast for the Santa Barbara Civic Light Opera production of, “Meet Me In St. Louis.”  At $100 a week, it was my first paying gig and I was thrilled!  

After high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to be accepted into the esteemed Cal Arts Summer Program in Valencia, CA, where I spent the entire summer practicing my craft.  In the fall I attended the music program at Cal State Northridge and was one of only a handful of first year students to be invited to sing with the Northridge Singers, a very competitive, advanced choir.  I was a small fish in a very big pond.  My chops immediately were put to the test.  The bar was high as learning intricate harmonies in lightning speed was the expectation.  At CSUN I learned discipline in a way I had never experienced before.  With them, I sang all over the world and even shared the stage with Barry Manilow, Russell Watson and Barbra Streisand at venues including the Kodak Theater and the Greek Theater.  One of my favorite memories was singing in a centuries old, cobblestone church at the center of a village in Wales, England.  It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been to and the acoustics were incredible.  Singing in Hawaii wasn’t a bad gig, either.  

I loved CSUN.  The friendships that felt like family, the supportive music department, my brilliant voice mentor, and my sweet boyfriend (turned husband of almost 13 years!) were the best parts of my life.  And yet, I knew there was something more.  My big dream was bigger and the Music Industry program at the University of Southern California was calling.  Having not been accepted into SC the first time I applied (while in high school, the music school told me they wanted me but my SAT scores weren’t high enough), it felt that much sweeter the second time around to not only be accepted but USC I also received a half tuition scholarship as well.  So off I went.

USC was like my grad school.  I loved it and dug in.  Side note, I also discovered my love for college football.  My hubby still laughs that upon acceptance I didn’t know USC had a football team! I built friendships, learned the industry and memorized every word of the Fight Song.  The glory days of Coach Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart (the darlings of college football at the time) were the backdrop of those years.  Running up the score by 40 plus points was a regular game-day occurrence.  It was truly a magical time to be a Trojan.  

The years after college included songwriting and recording with various producers, singing shows around Los Angeles (a couple of my favorites were the Viper Room, Room 5 and the Knitting Factory) as well as the National Anthem at Home Depot Stadium for the Galaxy at Staples Center for a Clippers game (those players are so much taller when you’re standing next to them!).  During those whirlwind years, I was blessed with one of the best gifts of my life.  My best friend asked me to marry him.  

Three years into our marriage, our first baby girl arrived on the scene and my life was forever changed.  The big dream of singing, writing, recording and traveling all shifted.  Being home with my baby became my heart song.  I knew what the music life looked like and made the choice to press pause.  Instead of singing to crowds, I was singing to her sweet baby face.  I can’t tell you the exact moment that my heart began the shift, only that it was a gradual process.  Maybe those are the best kind. The ones that sneak up and almost take your breath away.  Of course, there was some sadness.  This life that I had been dreaming about since childhood was changing and this new one, completely foreign.  My life plan hadn’t included marriage or kids.  Instead it was filled with images of stages, bright lights and colorful costumes.   

And yet here we were.  

I had interned for producers in college and seen the toll first hand of busy, music industry driven parents.  I watched their child look to the nanny for guidance, support and help with homework.  It had stuck with me somewhere in my subconscious.  The very opposite of my hands-on and very present mom who juggled the book-keeping at home for several family businesses with my Dad all while putting my brother and I first.  She might just be the strongest, most capable person I know.  I hope I can be half the mom she is.  I grew up seeing many women work outside of the home and raise incredible, hard working, well-adjusted kids.  Can it be done? Absolutely!  It just wasn’t the right fit for me at that time.  I knew I couldn’t both parent and have a music career the way my heart was pulling me.  

The years flew as more babies joined the fold.  With three little ones underfoot, the days were nothing short of action packed.  As they got older and the fog of babyhood was lifting, I started to miss being creative.  Sharing stories, like I once had in music.  Pouring my heart into songwriting.  Letting my thoughts flow freely and easily.  With a decade of parenting under my belt, I had stories to share.  Wisdom I wish I knew back in those early days.  Life lessons you can only gain by walking through the fire and coming out the other side.  Strength earned by almost losing my husband to illness when my two older daughters were only 3 and 1 year olds.  Living with and learning from my own battles with anxiety and depression.  Parenting girls in an era where the pressure to fit in is so loud that it trickles down to my nine year old.  

As a result, Seeking Roses was born.  

I didn’t see it coming.  Like how summer creeps in and suddenly the days are blazing hot and filled with sunshine.  But once the idea came, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Obsessing might be more accurate.  Waking me up in the night to sift through ideas and topics.  Mixing the practical with the whimsical.  A place to share stories that had been passed on to me and shaped by my own experience as a mama of three and wife of a decade plus.  

We all have stories to tell, passions and unique creativity inside of each of us.  I love that.  The world wouldn’t be the same without each of us in it.  

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  I hope we can share some stories, perhaps a few laughs and maybe even some tears too.  Life is messy and unpredictable.  The only constant is change.  One thing I do know is that we are better together.  Welcome, take a peek around.  I am so grateful and incredibly excited that you are here.  

OX, Jen

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