personal growth

Doesn’t Everyone Lie on Their Driver’s License?

The weight on my driver’s license is a lie—a complete fabrication that may have been true at one time, but it’s just speculation at this point.  I renewed my license and picked a weight I could live with.  I didn’t go crazy, but there was a good thirty-pound difference between reality and what I wanted to believe.  I knew the man taking my picture wouldn’t dare challenge my creative license.

Now, to complicate things further, my bank is nosy and asks what the weight on my driver’s license is every time I pay a bill online.  The answer is the lie I used two licenses ago—a good twenty-five pounds less than the current lie.  To be fair, I really was all those weights at one time, just not on the days I visited DMV.  Everything else on my license is true—my eyes are blue and I’m a donor.  Generally, I lie a little, but not a lot (unless you count each pound, then yes, I lie a fuck- ton).

I never struggled with my weight during my teenage years.  I thought it was perfectly normal to see one’s ribs.  I don’t remember thinking much about it.  My mom was a great cook when she was so moved, but I mostly ate free lunches at school and cereal for dinner. Usually just one or the other.  My tummy was too nervous to eat, anyway.  Growing up in fear and uncertainty tends to do that.  Now when my tummy is nervous, I eat past that shit.

I didn’t become all-consumed about my weight until my first year of college.  My tummy grew accustomed to the three meals per day offered in my dorm.  Did you hear what I said?  Three meals per day!  That was two meals more than I usually had.  As an added bonus, my boyfriend took me out to eat on the weekends.  I had won the lottery. My prize was fifteen extra pounds my freshman year.  I gained another fifteen by the time I got married the end of my junior year.  I was still skinny—my dress size was still in the single digits, I wore a bikini on my honeymoon, and the weight on my driver’s license was true.  My first baby and twenty extra pounds came along after graduation.  I gained even more weight after the second baby.  Looking back, I would love to be that weight again.  I gained more, lost some, gained it back and then some. 

My body changed. There was a lot more of me. Things that were solid now jiggle and sag from added weight. I keep trying to push my tummy fat up to my boobs, but it doesn’t work. I mean, if I’m going to be overweight, I should at least get to have bigger boobs. No such luck. My butt has a shelf my cat lounges on when I’m trying to get ready in the morning.

Having grown up without much food, I make sure I have plenty around.  I over-feed my pets, house guests, and myself.  When I feel bad, I eat. When I feel good, I eat. It’s my reward for making it through dark times.  I recently realized my reward was hurting me, so I’ve made some changes.  Starbucks, Dairy Queen, and food trucks miss me, I’m sure. My goal is to get to the weight on my driver’s license. 

No more lies.

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From Snow Skis to Wheelchair

Me and my Superman, Mark V. King

I’m sure when you woke up this morning, you took a deep breath, swung your legs out of bed, and started your day. All on you own, without thinking about it, without worry. We take our breath for granted. We trust that our bodies will do everything we need it to do to keep us alive. That’s not true for everyone. Imagine you are 16 years old, no worries in the world, loving life, hanging out with friends, and being adventurous. Imagine going fast – skiing, riding your motorcycle, driving. Now, imagine your 16 year old body dropping to the ground unable to move or breath on its own. In an instant, Mark King’s life changed forever. An accident left him with C-1 quadriplegia and dependency on a ventilator because his body doesn’t do what it needs to do on its own to keep him alive. At the age of 16, he was given one hour to live in 1980. That was almost 40 years ago.

He is Superman, if Superman needed a ventilator to breath. His super powers are defeating the odds, inspiring others, helping people understand how to talk with people with disabilities, and advocating for those with disabilities. He has helped shape the services and supports available to those living with disabilities, has testified in front of the Oregon State Legislature, has served as a Commissioner with the Oregon Home Care Commission, and now serves on the Oregon Disabilities Commission. He lives his life with compassion, generosity, and humor. He chooses to live. What’s your excuse?

Mark tells his story in his newly published book, From Snow Skis to Wheelchair, available now on Amazon. Unless you are a robot, you will cry (or try not to), laugh out loud, celebrate his victories, be inspired, and never take your breath for granted again. And that 16 year old boy, he was a little troublemaker.

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It’s a Little Bit Funny, This Feeling Inside

I was so excited to see the Elton John biopic, Rocketman.  Months seemed like years.  I wouldn’t say I’m a fanatic.  I don’t even know all his songs, but the songs I do know and love move me.  When I was a teenager, I confiscated my parents copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and sat in my room listening to my favorite songs from the album over and over.  I didn’t know about Bernie Taupin then. I just loved the songs and Elton John’s beautiful voice, and when I listened, I didn’t feel so alone. 

There is a scene in the movie where Bernie is listening to Elton bring Your Song to life.  I sat there and cried.  It wasn’t Elton, it was the look on Bernie’s face when his creation became so much more that moved me to tears.  His poetry was given life and he knew it would be shared with the world.  As I writer, that is my dream.  I want my writing to be part of the living.  They knew they had created something amazing.  It’s eternal. Every generation knows it.

There are days that writing is hard and I can’t find the right words to string together. I have come to appreciate the lyrics of Your Song – “I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss. Well a few of the verses, well they’ve got me quite cross.” There have been more days than I would like to admit that I’ve sat in front of my computer feeling quite cross. When the words I struggle to write fit together just right, I know the “sun’s been quite kind.”

I found myself crying a lot during the movie.  It triggered me.  Elton felt unloved by his parents and uncertain whether he would be loved at all.  The ghost of that feeling lives inside of me and haunts me once in a while.  It used to be alive and well in every cell of my being, crushing and breaking me and drilling a space in me that will always be empty.  As a kid, I knew there were people who loved me, but feeling loved and being loved are not always the same thing. 

And then I found someone who truly loved me and helped me build a bridge over that empty hole. I can peer down into the darkness, but I don’t fall in.  There are danger signs all around it telling me to watch my step.  Sometimes I dangle my foot over the railing just to tempt fate, but then I stand up and walk over the bridge into my happy life.  As an adult, I know my parents did the best they could, but they were lost in their own black hole of brokenness.  And I am far from a perfect parent.  I have made plenty of mistakes, but I did the best I could do so my girls would never feel unloved.

Back to Rocketman.  I loved it.  It wasn’t perfect, but life isn’t either.  Elton put his broken, brilliant life on the big screen for all to see.  If we could all be as brave.  Thank you, Elton and Bernie, for keeping me company.

Family · Magic moments · Vacation

The Most Magical Place on Earth

My sweet Lori having the most magical time of her life.

I spent the last week in the “Most Magical Place on Earth.”  In three days, I walked a total of 19 miles and spent hours that felt like days standing in lines for three-minute rides.  My feet definitely did not feel magical.  If it were possible for feet to throw up, they would have hurled all over Disney World—Exorcist style.  And it certainly wasn’t magical walking around in wet underwear after a torrential downpour.

For me, the magic wasn’t parades, princesses, or pirates.  It wasn’t food shaped like Micky Mouse ears, the iconic castle, or the fantastic fireworks extravaganza. The magic was the pure excitement spread across children’s faces when they ran up to hug Micky or Cinderella and asked them to sign their official Disney autograph book.  These characters weren’t characters at all— they were absolutely flesh and blood real.  Seeing families in matching shirts with their official designation as big brother, little sister, mom, dad, or grandma was magical—bright red shirts with Disney script announcing their 2019 family vacation.  Listening to families laugh together while waiting in long lines was magical.  They transformed a frustrating, endless wait into time together as a family—laughing, reminiscing, debating which super hero is the best of all time.

The most magical place on earth is wherever my family is, whether it’s Disney World or home.  It was nothing short of magic seeing my youngest daughter after three long months away and finally holding her close to me; watching my daughters hug each other like their lives depended on it; seeing my daughter and her daddy watch a Blazer playoff game together in the hotel room; grabbing coffee with my Starbucks buddy; all the quiet moments; the laughter, even at my expense; standing in line together waiting to ride something amazing while wearing 3-D glasses; and knowing my family is happy and healthy. 

I can’t wait to spend time together as a family.  I’m not sure when I will get to see my youngest daughter again in person and hold her tight.  I know it will be magical when I do.  I better get our red shirts ready.



personal growth

Why I Write

I’m standing in front of you naked and showing you every wrinkle, sag, imperfection, and fat roll.  There’s no hiding behind baggy sweatshirts, makeup, or control top underwear.  I’ve given my secrets names and lit a candle so you could see the dark places within me.  I’ve exposed my soft underbelly and I’m vulnerable to your sharp jabs.  This is what it feels like when I share my writing, but I do it anyway, because leaving the words bouncing around my insides is more painful than the fear of releasing them.

I’m an emotional writer.  I want you to feel what I write.  I want you to sink into the environment I’ve created and live there.  I want you to feel angry, frightened, joyful, and hopeful. I want you to face your foes, fall in love, and breathe deeply after the wind has been knocked out of you.  I want you to forget you are reading a story.  You are the story.

I started writing as a kid.  It was my escape from the pain and fear I felt every day at home.  I would share my stories with my best friend, Adrienne.  She was my biggest fan. I wrote until I didn’t anymore.  I stopped after my dad read my diary out loud to me and I heard all the words I wrote in secret spill out of his angry mouth.  I knew the words hurt him.  My words became painful to see and hear so I kept them inside after that.  I let fear and vulnerability shut down my creativity.  I didn’t write again until I was an adult with a mortgage, two children, a full-time job, and overwhelming exhaustion.  I wrote here and there and stuffed the pages away.  I wrote on the back of fast food bags and napkins and left them isolated and hidden from the world.  I wrote a thousand words of nothingness and stopped before they became anything other than broken thoughts and false starts.

A dear friend presented me with the opportunity to submit a short story to a new online literary magazine called the Fictional Café.  It was accepted and became the first story published on the site.  All Things Buried is a story about hope in a hopeless situation.  I started writing it as a teenager and didn’t finish it until I was in my mid-life.  It was terrifying to share but it set me free.  I’ve been writing ever since.  Here’s the link to the story that started it all:  https://www.fictionalcafe.com/all-things-buried-by-jenny-cokeley-4/.  I hope you enjoy it and become the story.

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A Little Ditty ’bout Mike and Jenny

Someone asked me this week how my husband and I have stayed together for almost 30 years.  There’s no secret or luck, my friends.  We invest in our relationship every single day.  There’s no resting on our laurels, phoning it in, or taking a day off.  We work at it, but it doesn’t feel like work because we enjoy being together.  We dig one another.  We genuinely like each other and find each other interesting.  We are fans of our relationship.  His face is my screen saver and he keeps a 29 year old picture of us in his wallet.  Don’t get me wrong, our relationship isn’t perfect. We are flawed human beings incapable of perfection.  I’m so grateful to be in an amazingly imperfect, loving relationship with my best friend.

Mike and I are opposites in a lot of ways.  He’s a calm, steadfast, neat, organized, rational saver.  I’m a little tornado, an emotional, impulsive, creative dreamer.   He’s a night owl who has trouble falling asleep.  I’m an earlyish bird who can fall asleep in a middle of a conversation.  He has a loud laugh that comes from deep within.  I laugh on the inside.  He’s not a huge fan of PDA, but I make him kiss me in the middle of Target anyway.  He keeps me grounded and I encourage him to fly.  He is a fantastic verbal storyteller and I’m a writer. He’s the driver and I’m the trusty navigator. We are strong and weak at different times so we are always there to catch each other when we stumble. He’s an optimistic ball of anxiety and I’m a deep pit of depression and pessimism.  He’s quick to forgive and I hold a grudge. But we love each other for our differences.

We are the same where it counts—our values and priorities, our love of home and family, and our love for other imperfect humans in this world.  We are kind and generous to others, as well as to each other.  We make decisions together (except when I spent $3,000 dollars on Mary Kay without telling him).  We talk it out after I try giving him the silent treatment. We are equals in our relationship and give each other 100%.  We are Team Cokeley.

Mike and I laugh a lot (when I’m not irritable and moody)—with each other, at each other, and through the most difficult, dark times.  We share inside jokes.  I cheese sandwich you, Mike.  A lot of our conversations are pieced together with movie quotes.

We understand romance isn’t always about grand gestures.  It’s also little things like holding hands in bed while watching T.V.; stealing kisses in the kitchen; Starbuck surprises; leaving a towel out for the morning shower; making sure we never run out of toilet paper; running errands together; and remembering to pay off the credit cards (except when I forget to pay Mike’s, but that has only happened a few hundred times).  Romance is about saying I love you every day, making sure there are kisses goodbye, texting during the day just to say I’m thinking about you (and your hot body).

So, you see my friends, it’s not luck, except for our incredible chemistry, but don’t worry, I will spare you the details (unless you want them, you perv).  

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If You Think I’m Sassy, Let Me Introduce You to My Grandma Shirlee

Every time I hear Tiny Dancer, I think about my Grandma Shirlee.  She wasn’t a dancer or even tiny for that matter.  She didn’t marry a music man or count headlights on the highway.  She did, however, have a pirate’s smile—a wonderful, crooked smile.  If you want to know where I got my sass, Shirlee’s to blame.  She was a short, strong, sassy woman who spoke her mind.  She was a feisty red head with a bit of a mean streak and a wicked sense of humor.  She was the leader of the tribe and the glue that kept the family together. She was one of a kind, that Shirl of mine.

My grandma was a lover of books; a Trivial Pursuit cheat; a dining room table pinochle champion; a wig wearing smoker with asthma; a hard worker; horrible housekeeper; and a fantastic cook. She wouldn’t hesitate to stab your hand with a fork when you reached across the dining room table.  Trust me.  She also had the biggest heart.  She opened her home to us when we didn’t have one; she helped raise her sixteen-year-old daughter’s little girl; she cared for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with such love, compassion, and dedication; and she gave people a million chances when they deserved none. 

My grandma passed down her love of reading to me.  Every week, we’d go to the used book store and fill paper sacks with romance novels she devoured.  I loved going with her and losing myself in a maze of books.  She always had one on the dash or her car and another stuffed in her purse.  “You never know when you’ll have to wait,” she’d say.  Maybe I became a writer because she loved books so much.  I wish she could have read my words.

Shirlee forced me to play cards with her and watch musicals for hours—Mame, Gypsy, The King and I.  I think she believed she was Mamma Rose.  I would do anything to be held captive by her again and play pinochle with a mixture of fear and enthusiasm.  That lady was serious about her cards.

I was holding Shirlee’s hand when she died.  I am so grateful I was able to share that moment with her. No force of nature could have moved me from her bedside.  I kissed her cheek and thanked her for being my grandma.  And just like that, my Shirlee was gone. 

Grandma Shirlee’s sassy, stubborn spirit and strength lives in me, my daughters, Shirlee’s daughters, and my sister. We are strong, independent women just like Shirlee. If you push us, we dig in deep. We pick ourselves up when we get knocked down – every single time. We just keep moving forward because we decide which direction to go. It’s the legacy of a red head with a pirate’s smile.