Speaking event in Utica, NY on May 3rd!

I am thrilled to be speaking at Mowhawk Valley Community College in Utica, NY next week. It's open to the public and I'd love to see you there!

I'll be talking about things like:

  • my life growing up in the film industry
  • what it's like to have your first kiss be on screen in front of 60 crew members and your mother
  • what happened when I walked away from Hollywood at age 22 with zero plan for what came next
  • my experiences with issues like anxiety and depression
  • ways to manage stress, deal with your inner critic, and figure out your authentic path
  • and probably my dog, because she's awesome and I love her

It's going to be a great evening with lots of time for Q&A and hugs if you're into that kind of thing. I'll also have both of my books available for sale and a signing.

See you soon!

Get your tickets here.

(Want me to come talk at your school? I would love that! Send a request.)

That time I met Barbara Bush and her running shoes

As a twelve-year-old Canadian, I really didn't know what I was supposed to wear when I met the First Lady of the United States.

Had I known that she was going to show up wearing running shoes, I think I would have felt much better about the whole thing.

I had acted alongside the spectacular Jessica Tandy in "The Story Lady" a TV movie that exulted the joys of books and reading to kids. The role was tailor-made for me, the pre-teen nerd who frequently walked into walls because she could not put her book down. The show got some attention, and it inspired Mrs. Bush to create The National Story Lady Project, a nationwide project to foster inter-generational reading. And when the invitation for the program kick-off party arrived, I was rather embarrassed to find it was it was me, and not the First Lady, who was on the cover.

My mom and I, plus the writer and producers of the movie, went to the White House. I don't actually remember what I wore, but I'm sure it was full-on-preteen-circa-1991 glory. I would be surprised if lace gloves were not involved. We stood around a very flowery room and drank tea with the First Lady and pretended this was just what we did on Monday afternoons.

Barbara Bush was very kind to me and sweet about my role in the film. I was trying to pay attention to her, but I could not stop staring at her shoes. She was wearing a beautiful suit, accented with white sneakers (were they Reeboks? I'm pretty sure they were) that had the word “READ” on them in puffy gold paint. They were incredibly dorky and wildly endearing and they were the best things I had ever seen.

I wondered if she had done that herself or if there was an official White House bedazzler. Was this a career I could grow up aspiring to?

We drank tea from tiny floral china cups and I learned how to eat finger sandwiches without dropping the saucer. There were photo ops and Mrs. Bush gave a little speech about the movie and then my mother and I just stood around awkwardly for a while, trying not to touch anything. Neither Mom nor I ever felt comfortable in fancy situations. We were the kind of family that went camping for vacations and considered dinner at Sizzler to be only for extra special occasions. So, we passed our uneasiness back and forth, while we stood below a larger-than-life-size painting of Jackie O in a gilded frame that probably cost more than our house.

But I kept thinking about Mrs. Bush's shoes. Even in the midst of all the secret service and crystal chandeliers and crustless sandwiches - she was cool and normal and maybe even kind of like me. All while wearing those awesome shoes.

I presented the First Lady with a book, which seemed like the right thing to give someone who had all those libraries. It was a book I loved, by an Indigenous Canadian author, since I assumed the White House library wouldn't already have that one. She later mailed me a thoughtful thank you note, which must be somewhere in my basement.

I wasn't very political when I was twelve. I knew that the Bushes were Republicans and we were Democrats and I knew those things were different. But I also knew that the only thing I cared about was that the First Lady of the United States had smiled kindly at me, had lit up when I gave her a book -- and had rocked out the coolest shoes I had ever seen.

Thank you, Mrs. Bush. Rest in peace.

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The sergeant and the wren: it's about the little things

My badge reads: Lisa: experienced cat socializer

It has paw print stickers all over it.

I expected to walk dogs when I started volunteering once a week at the no-kill shelter. I saw myself as firmly Team Dog. But they needed help with the cats so I went to help with the cats.

I soon found that I had a knack with the...um..."difficult" cats. The ones who take a chunk out of your arm if you make eye contact. The abused, traumatized, aggressive felines. For some reason, I can touch the cats no one else can get near. I can take the wild-eyed maniacs and turn them into the cuddly lap sitters that everyone wants to take home.

I don't have very many valuable skills - but I am the Asshole Cat Whisperer.

Last week, I finished my shift whispering at the asshole cats and I was leaving through the lobby. There was an older gentleman standing at the front desk of the shelter, holding a tattered cardboard box, shaking his head vehemently.

"No, I can't, I have to go back to work."

I walked over to eavesdrop, leaning on a nearby wall and pretending to read a text.

"Well, sir, because he is wild, we can't legally take him. He needs to go to the wildlife rescue center. It's an hour away, so it's really hard for us to find people who want to drive all the way out there."

The man looked frustrated as he stared down at the box in his hands.

"What's in the box?" I piped up.

"It's a bird. I found him stuck to a glue trap. He's okay, I think, but he's got glue all over his feet so he can't stand."

He opened the cardboard box for me. A tiny little brown wren lay on his side, breathing hard, but breathing. His feet were a tight, sticky ball of toes. When the bird saw us leering at him, he began to flap and flop around. We quickly closed the lid.

The man looked at me. "I found him in that glue trap and I couldn't just leave him there. I couldn't stand to see him suffer. I was a sergeant in Vietnam...I've seen enough suffering. I couldn't leave him there."

I teared up and thanked him for his service and agreed that I was also anti-suffering. Of course I'd drive the bird to the wildlife center. The man introduced himself and held my hand with both of his.

"You can call me Sarge."

We needed to put the wren in a sturdier box for transport but the front desk woman said she couldn't legally touch the bird.

"Can I legally touch the bird?" I asked.

"No."

"Okay. Umm. Can you just close your eyes for a second?"

Somehow, the wren ended up in a sturdier box and that box went in my passenger seat.

img_0437

When we arrived at the rescue center, they were waiting for us.

"Is that our wren?" They asked me.

"Yes, he's a little feisty," I said. I explained that he had been flopping around in the box but he seemed to calm down when I played Death Cab for Cutie. I thought that might be helpful information for them.

There are millions of people in the world, doing small, everyday things to stop the suffering. Someone took glue off tiny wren toes. Someone else held open a door for somebody who was carrying a groceries. Or texted just to check in after that doctor's appointment. Or donated $10 to a cause they believe in. Or decided to not be the first one to let go of a hug. Each individual thing might seem like nothing.

But it's not nothing.

A moment of compassion is everything.

I put a seatbelt around a box and drove for a couple of hours. It wasn't a big deal, what I did, but it felt amazing. I did something tangible to make the world better - for one bird, anyway. And when the world feels overwhelming and the challenges feel insurmountable, the small wins become major victories.

Sarge and I worked together and in a teeny-tiny wren-sized way, we helped stopped the suffering.

——–

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Pausing for Memorial Day

13248501_10153529166202805_1753413512293648560_o (1) I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend full of flags and barbecues and beer.

I also hope you are able to take a moment to acknowledge the meaning of the day - a reminder to think of those who died serving this country.

I always had respect for American military holidays, but they felt a little removed to me. I am Canadian, I don't have family in the military and I'm not sure that I've ever spent much time with a veteran before.

Until last weekend.

I went to Texas to teach a writing class during a yoga retreat for vets. Expedition Balance is a non-profit organization based in Houston that helps veterans cope with post traumatic stress disorder. We gathered together and we did yoga, we wrote,  played games, watched movies, made art and cooked dinner. We did outdoorsy Texas ranch things like fishing and horseback riding and hiking and sitting around a campfire.

But what we really did was help each other find some balance and get through life. We laughed at dirty jokes and we cried when we were suffering and we hugged each other for a really long time.

And the Vets welcomed this civilian girl - this vegetarian who can't even watch war movies - and made her feel welcome and loved and part of the family. I made some wonderful new friends, and learned how to check my sheets for scorpions before going to sleep.

It's an experience that I still find fairly indescribable (I better figure it out soon, since the trip was research for my next book about anxiety and depression...) but to call the retreat transformational would not be hyperbole.

The true meaning of Memorial Day is a national day of respect for those killed in service. And I know that all of my new friends are paying homage to their friends - their brothers and sisters - who were lost.

But to think they need a special day for that is fairly ridiculous. I guess it's for the rest of us who get overwhelmed by the marketing and think that this weekend is about mattress sales.

ExBal is a small organization that I'd love to spread the word about. These retreats are absolutely free for the Vets, so they rely on donations. They keep their costs low, so even the most modest donation makes a big difference.  Please check out the Expedition Balance website and follow them on Facebook.

 

You Look Like That Girl: Goodreads giveaway!

I'm giving away five Advanced Reader Copies of my memoir - enter to win at Goodreads. (And friend me while you are there, so we can talk about books!)Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You Look Like That Girl by Lisa Jakub

You Look Like That Girl

by Lisa Jakub

Giveaway ends June 07, 2015.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

35

I will be turning 35 years old next month and I kind of feel like a failure. You see, I really thought I'd have a pet monkey by now.

Other than that, I feel pretty good about 35.

Since I started contributing to a retirement fund when I was 4 years old, I don't tend to put much stock in traditional timelines. Not much in my life has gone the normal way. I never wanted the things the other girls wanted. I would stare blankly when they said they wanted to have a million babies with some boy, and I would just think - some real estate would be nice. You know, somewhere for my pet monkey to play. 

I didn't even think I'd ever get married. But at some point, I told my boyfriend I'd like to have a little party in Italy where we got dressed up and all our favorite people were there and we stood in front of them and promised to love each other forever and then it was legally binding.

He took that as "wedding" and I went along because I love him and got a pretty ring out of the deal.

Many of my friends live very by-the-book lives and I wonder what that would be like. Sometimes I have a twinge of jealousy because it looks so comforting and socially acceptable.

For example, my job title is "writer" which makes me enormously happy, but it also carries the same seriousness as a small child who decides to call herself "unicorn." There are very few credentials required. Identifying yourself as anything artistic tends to be followed by a head-tilt and requests to prove and justify yourself.

Many of my friends have jobs like Program Administrator of Something Awesome or the Director of All Things Important. My business cards come from VistaPrint, where a friend recently ordered some that looked equally official...for her toddler to give out at play-dates.

It can be hard when everyone else seems to be doing things on some culturally pre-approved time frame. When the engagement party is followed by the wedding and then the baby shower. When the graduation is followed by the job and then by the promotion to the corner office. But some of us do things in a different order. Backwards or sideways or not at all. And that is okay, too. I don't think that anyone on their deathbed has ever said, "I'm just so glad I did everything in a timely fashion."

There are few things I can say with total certainty after my almost-35 years of existence, but this is one of them: as long as you're still breathing, you have the power to change your mind, reinvent yourself and follow that bliss. It's never too late.

A complaint about being "too old" for something deserves to be followed by a smack upside the head. I've had several friends die.

At age 19.

At 21.

At 32.

At ages that should be about beginnings, not endings. The idea of bitching about getting older - a luxury that my friends never had - seems obscenely ungrateful. So, I'll skip the jokes about celebrating my 29th birthday "again" because I'm proud of my age. I don't want to live my life by the numbers.

So, come on, 35, let's see what you've got. (I really hope it's a pet monkey.)

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