Indie Kindred: The trailer is here.

Email readers: click here to see the video.

Are you ready? The Indie Kindred trailer is here, along with a website. And the Coast to Coast Summer Tour is coming together, with dates and cities coming soon.

If you're as excited about this project as we are, here's how to show your love and support in 30 seconds or less:

These small things help more people find and learn about this project.

Sharing this kind of work feels like wearing one's heart on the outside. Thank you for being good companions for my journey--your encouragement means more than you know.

When Being Seen Is An Inside Job

Photo by Bella Cirovic,

Photo by Bella Cirovic,

Almost two years ago I sat in the office of a wise woman whom I had never met with my friend Kate by my side. When she asked what brought me there, I said, I'm a girl without a mirror. And then she told me who I am. It was so uncomfortable and unbelievable to sit under her gaze and hear her words that I squirmed in my chair and tried not to let her words just roll off of me like raindrops on an umbrella.

I tried to receive her words and tuck them into some pocket of my heart so I could carry them with me as a small reassurance or reminder until my vision could catch up to hers.

There are very few of us who can't use a good mirror from time to time--people who see us and tell us the parts we have difficulty seeing for ourselves. That day something transpired with Kate as my witness that felt almost holy, but it was really the beginning of a journey and not an arrival point. Since then other people have seen me quite clearly, and their words have been a balm to me.

It's true.

But taking on and using the words of others has not been true. Not because they weren't good words or they weren't the truth, but because I wasn't ready to be seen that way. Because I wasn't ready to see myself that way.

And this is the part of my journey that has been most arduous--the part for which I've needed companions who are not afraid of the dark. Companions who would be mirrors not once for me, but for months and for years.

When who you are becoming breaks all the rules in the world from which you've come, the job at hand is not just to have words for who you are but to construct a new interior world in which who you are can be welcomed and not feared.

And that is not a one-day job. That is a two-years-from-being-seen-to-writing-a-bio journey, at least for some of us. Even with the best of friends and soul care professionals.

This has weighed heavily on me in recent days, as websites and people pop up around the internet promising big things in the way of sexy web copy, skyrocketing sales, and the kind of just-around-the-corner success that will Finally Make You Feel Okay as a Human Being. ThIs I know: Those who bathe their web copy in super-steroid adjectives like bodybuilders who can't stop flexing are not my people. And it's too bad, because some of them share some helpful material from time to time, if you can, as Phyllis says, duck the hyperbole.

I woke up one day last week at 5:20 in the morning with words pouring into my head. I sat up and grabbed a piece of paper on which to transcribe them, and that's how I was able for what felt like the first time to express clearly what it is I do.

It didn't happen because I hired a copywriting rock star. It happened because of all of the hundreds of parts and pieces of this long journey, which strung all together finally landed me onto a safe shore.

It happened because when I told my friend Aaron I wanted to make a movie, he didn't look at me like I was a crazy person. Because my NYU film-prof/mom-friend-from-school thought it was really amazing that I'm a self-taught artist and not really ridiculous. Because my therapist says I haven't really fallen from grace, just because I've fallen out of an old paradigm which had nothing to do with real grace. Because Bella caught something in her camera that I could finally see as something real outside the fantasy of my mind. Because my friends take me seriously even when I don't. It's the mysterious and divine way in which a hundred moments combine and converge to knit your heart together in the places in which is torn.

There is no 3-step formula for this kind of transformation. The kind that says I will let myself be remade, I will say good-bye to something past and raise my head and open my eyes while I step into something new. There is only encouragement and guideposts and inspiration and companions along the way, and this is the bedrock foundation of everything my friends and I make and do together.

In commercial terms, it's like the worst marketing ever.

So we don't even try to make it fit through the commercial machines. We do it our way, without hyperbole and promises. And we invite you to come along.

Check out what's new on the site about what I'm up to right now. And if you want, drop me a line and tell me what you're up to. I won't think you're a crazy person--I will think you are amazing. Really.

Holiday Bustle and Dreams That Come True

blog_black bag.jpg

Lots of holiday bustle over here--but the very best kind. I'm in this very serious nesting-kind-of-kick as Thanksgiving approaches, giving the apartment some love (and getting happier and happier in my space with every minute), gathering food and having my mind just a little bit blown when I realize that visitors will arrive tomorrow. Creating clearings for rest and play and love.

We're also bustling here at Jen Lee Productions with a holiday special like we have never had before, just for those who have requested our catalog or to keep in touch in some other way with our offerings and happenings. You can go here to make sure you're on the list for our virtual postcard going out on Friday, and there's a couple days left to tell your friends.

I am feeling a sacred quiet and like my heart is busting out of my chest all at once when I think about the way you read along, journey alongside and support us as we make the good things of our dreams. It's been a landmark year: around this time last year we released Telling Your Story, then The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls. At Christmas time we were wrapping up The Iconic Self, then in the spring we introduced you to Ritual & Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care and Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery. The Gift of This Moment carried us into summer, with a CATALOG to hold it all together.

I still get that wobbly-knee feeling, just remembering how vulnerable it's been to take so many close-to-our-heart dreams and to make them real. To order boxes full of vision and to have faith they would be greeted with kindness and even open arms.

It's because of your encouragement, your belief and support that we've been able to do this. You literally make our dreams come true, and for that we are truly thankful.

Conflict, story and real life with Christiane Fröhlich

Maybe it seems unlikely that a Brooklyn storyteller and a German conflict researcher would find each other online and become fast friends, but that's pretty much what happened. Christiane Fröhlich has been one of my touchstones and anchors for many years now, and our friendship runs the spectrum from paradigms and theories to everyday life with work, partnership and parenting.

I am thrilled to introduce you to her today on Retrospective, where she shares the story of how she followed her areas of interest and magnetism and found passionate work that influences and informs politicians, educators and decision-makers throughout her country.

Click here to listen as she shares about:

  • seeking peace close to home
  • coming from a post-war personal family history
  • completing a PhD thesis as a new mother
  • building an urban community, and
  • pioneering a career as a freelance conflict researcher

You can make our day.

Until we have more reviews and ratings in iTunes for Retrospective, it will be nearly impossible for people to find it through the iTunes search process. Please take a moment to rate and review it now. (Reviews can be brief: a word or a sentence will do.) If you've enjoyed these interviews, it's the best way to lend your support. (Thanks!)

The Nameless, Faceless Abyss

Hula's photos on exhibition with others at The Impossible Project

I remember years ago, before I was online, teasing my husband (a computer guy) about the "imaginary friends" from his IRC channel (this was before chat rooms). I knew they were real people, out there, somewhere, but even though he knew those guys for years and felt close to them, when he referred to them by screenname in casual conversation it just lacked the weight of reality for me.

And then when I started writing in this space (circa 2005), it was really a subversive act for me. The code I lived under then was a lot like: Be [nearly] invisible and make us look good. There were things I wanted to say I didn't believe in anymore in regard to groups we were involved in, but there was no one to tell and it wasn't good to get caught trying. Then there were many things I didn't believe anymore. The nameless, faceless abyss of the internet was for me then a place I could send what thoughts I could eek out--out of my head, into the ether.

I saved my most personal stories for the stage. For many people, THIS would be their idea of a nameless, faceless abyss--but not me. I may not be able to tell you on any given night who is in those rooms, but I can tell you who isn't, and sometimes that's just as important.

But here in this space, it's been hard to keep ahold of my sense of who is in the room. The nameless, faceless abyss is not so helpful when you stop hiding and start hoping that someone is listening. Hoping that when you choose courage, it matters, and that the "mattering" will counterbalance what it costs you.

When I got the idea for the new 2012 Catalog, it was such a strong intuitive hit that I felt compelled to protect it from my reason. I wouldn't even calculate the cost of it, or give that reason-voice any ammunition to shoot the idea down. I couldn't even tell you why I thought it was important--I just kept insisting that it was, and that we wouldn't understand why until later.

And then requests came in, and I started handwriting each address, and I felt some place inside of me exhaling. I wasn't in here alone. And with every house number and street name, you--my "imaginary" companions--crossed some threshold in my consciousness and I could start holding the reality of you. You have names like Mallory and Deanna and Pen. You live on streets with names like Foster Avenue and Sycamore Square Drive. I imagined the catalog showing up at the post office in towns called Granite Canyon, Wyoming, or Wilmington, Delaware, and also making its way across oceans to India, the Netherlands, throughout Europe and Australia and New Zealand.

I had no idea how much I needed to know at least a fraction of who is in this room (and that anyone is here at all). Maybe we all need these reminders of one another's reality and humanity, these moments when we pause to imagine whole lives unfolding behind every avatar and screenname. I'm seeking more of these personal connections all the time, and I'm so thankful when you reach out and say: you're here. We're together. And it all matters.

(Now you can get new posts in your inbox: subscribe here.)


Yes, he's funny. But the side of Andy Ross I love most is when he's thoughtful and true, as he was in our latest conversation for Retrospective. You can listen here, or in iTunes. Andy is a comedian, writer, storyteller and the host of New York's popular live show, Real Characters. He is also the World's Greatest Wedding Dancer.

How to Feel Crazy and Still Make Things

I feel like I only do two kinds of blog posts any more: project posts (videos, podcasts, books we're making) and posts in which I confess to barely keeping the crazies at bay. Lately I've been thinking of dividing it all up into separate streams, in which case all that would be left in the "Journal" category would be these little check-ins I throw out to illustrate that I don't have everything together, regardless of how all the project posts might make it seem.

Remember when we were little and we used to swing on swingsets? Our family had the small, wobbly versions in the front yard, and then in 5th grade my friends and I had a really tall one on the school playground with long chains and you could go so high. For two weeks straight, we played a game where the girls would wear slip on shoes (usually dress shoes) and swing, and once we got going really high we'd kick them off to see how far they would fly and the boys would chase after them and bring them back.

I'm thinking of that giant swing set this morning because there are these times when I can trust myself, really trust myself. And I can listen for what I should say in an email or what wants to be made and I can feel the stretch of shooting my toes up to the sky. But then the chain reaches as far as it will reach, and I get pulled back.

"Oh no, I totally blew that email. Why can't I write emails like regular people? You know, the ones who always know what to say and always come off sounding so sane and normal." 

"I can't believe I thought my photo was good enough for a full-page spread."

"I got it all wrong."

"It's a disaster."

Back and forth, more like whiplash than rhythm. Pride and shame. Celebration and fear. Elation and debilitating insecurity.

This is how it feels to me: making things. I think it's also why promoting anything is such a struggle for me--I just can't get those proud, celebratory, elated moments to last. One minute I post something, the next minute I'm dying to take it back down. 

A few things help:

Making work with other artists. This gives me emotional distance from some of the parts and pieces, because when it comes to someone else's words or images or layout or design, I am the shoe flying off the foot of the little girl on the swing. There is only the joy of flight, with no chain to yank me back. I love their work through to the end, and it's easy for me to tell you how much I love it. I do feel responsibility, though--that never goes away. I want to do their work justice with whatever form we put it in. There's still so much vulnerability involved in the process that I can only do it with people who are safe places for me.

Staying connected. I talk to my friends every day. When I feel like I'm drowning in doubt, I say, It's gonna be okay, right? This happens so frequently that in the end it's like a verbal tick. Yes, everything's going to be more than okay, they say. It's this funny call-and-response that's like being rocked in a rocking chair. Their swing is going forward when mine is pulling back, and because I trust them, it comforts me. 

Learning the art of gentleness. I'm just trying to love that girl on the back swing. To get her someone to talk to when she needs it, people who will help her look after her wellness, a teddy bear to hold, a Masterpiece Mystery to watch, a cup of cocoa or peppermint tea to soothe her nervous stomach. I'm trying to schedule days off for her, time to lay down and rest when she's not feeling well, and permission to have days that feel more crazy than sane, more fearful than brave.

And somehow, by some miracle that I cannot yet explain, things keep getting done. Something is finished, and before the day is over the next adventure is born. And so I make things. And so I swing.