YES! 

So, it's been over a month since my last blog - I apologize for that. Normally, I like to try and post something every couple of weeks, but things have been a little nuts lately - and, to be completely honest, I just haven't been feeling a whole lot like myself lately.

For at least a couple of weeks, I wasn't sleeping well - strange dreams, waking up in the middle of the night, not being able to get back to sleep, etc. You can say it was mercury in retrograde, the super moon, or a million other possible reasons but, the bottom line is that - when push comes to shove - I was, very simply, back to feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Yep - not good.

I REALLY don't like that feeling.

Not so much for myself, but more so for those I love who happen to be around me.

When I get uncomfortable in my own skin, I get - well - I get clingy, needy, sensitive (way OVERLY sensitive), and I feel as if the thoughts I'm having aren't even coming from me or my own mind. I feel as if nearly every thought gets hi-jacked by some depressed, anxious, negative borderline crazy person who just can't get a grip on the truly important things in life.

Yes, I REALLY don't like feeling that way.

Sooooooo, what did I do to get out my (no doubt) self-imposed funk? Well, nothing fancy, really. I went to Target. Yep, that's right - I went shopping at Target. Believe me, I didn't go there with the intention of going on a big old shopping spree to make me feel better, either. I actually bought (and spent) very little. I got a new set of sheets, a new shower curtain and liner and, some re-fills for a couple soap dispensers around the house and - most importantly - I bought 'Yes!' - the new Jason Mraz album.

Now, anyone who is even somewhat close to me, knows what a HUGE Jason Mraz fan I am. I've been following him, his career and his music since I first heard his song 'the Remedy (I Won't Worry)'  on the radio back in 2002. He has provided a pretty compelling (and accurate) soundtrack for my life and I couldn't be more grateful for his willingness to go where other artists wouldn't even dream of going. He's an honest writer and he's unafraid to express himself - as well as how he sees the world. I'm a huge fan and he's just one of those people that I'm grateful to be walking on the planet at the same time he is.

So anyway, as I popped the new album into the CD player in my car, I prepared myself for what I feel is the pure 'awesomeness' that is Jason Mraz. What I experienced was SO much more. I can't explain to you how the album has made me feel, but what I can say is that the album knocked me squarely out of whatever 'funk' I was in. Within the first few minutes, I felt completely uplifted - as if someone had 'righted' my 'wrong' thinking and gave me my equilibrium back. It was (and continues to be) an incredible experience and I am VERY grateful for it.

My question for YOU is - who is your favorite artist? Or, what is your favorite album? What  kind of music, no matter what kind of mood you may be in (or what you may be going through),  makes you feel like everything is going to be alright?

I'm a firm believer that music has the power to heal people - body, mind and spirit/soul. I am grateful it is a part of my life, my journey as well as being part of the very fabric of who I am.

Very much looking forward to hearing who your favorite artists, or what your favorite songs are, and why!!

Much love always,
~Jen

There's only ONE Rule..... 






After today's recording session, I've come to the conclusion that there is only ONE rule in life....and that is that there are absolutely  NO rules!!

This new album is absolutely pushing me way 'outside the box' creatively, not to mention way outside of my comfort zone personally. It's challenging me to think BIG and be open to brand new possibilities that I never would have considered before.  I'm being given to the opportunity to work with world-class musicians who have a heart and spirit for music (and life in general) that inspires me each and every session. I'm surrounded by some of the most humble, down-to-earth, people who unconditionally support both me and my music. I couldn't be more blessed - or grateful.

All of this is giving me a safe environment in which I find myself taking all kinds of 'risks' - which, as it turns out, aren't really risks at all. If I've learned one thing throughout all my years of writing and recording thus far, it's this - there really are no rules when it comes to making 'good' music. Everyone has a different opinion as to what 'good' music is anyway - so, really, how can there be rules to follow when it comes to something so subjective?

Sure, I can take all kinds of classes on songwriting and music composition, I can take lessons on any instrument and learn to play 'better', I can keep my voice healthy and strong by studying with a great teacher and learning how to sing 'properly' in a healthy way, etc, etc. I can do ALL of this and become the 'best' singer/musician possible.....I can spent countless house practicing and perfecting my playing or singing technique and the bottom line is this....

If I don't play, sing or write, with my entire heart and soul, there is little to no chance that the music I'm creating is going to impact or uplift anyone. And that's not why I, personally, got into music and songwriting in the first place. I started writing and singing because I've always had something to say. Thankfully, music and songwriting have always given me a safe place to go to express whatever it is I've needed to say.

Each album that I've written and released (and there have been 4 thus far - please go to http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/JenStackpole to listen to and/or buy/download them all), has been a snapshot of my life at that time. All the songs I write are autobiographical and capture where I've been and how I've been feeling at any one given time. This new album is no different - and, in many ways, it's challenging me to dig deeper and open my mind and heart more than I ever have before.

All that being said, my entire point to this blog is this - just like in music, there are no rules in life. Please don't ever try to fit yourself neatly into someone else's definition of who he/she thinks you are, or should be. Just be YOU. This world needs you to be your own wonderful, glorious self!

So, don't worry that you're going to be breaking any rules by living your life the way you're guided to live it...there are no rules, so you're off the hook.

Much love always,
~Jen

the Beginning 

     So, here I am at the end of another long and involved studio day. Frank (my producer) and I were incredibly productive, not to mention wonderfully blessed, by the fruits of our labor today. For as great as the day was, I sit here at the end of it, feeling drained. It's been a rough week so far - and it's only Wednesday. I'm not saying this to elicit sympathy and I'm certainly not complaining. Life is life and life is good. I am simply....expressing.

     I am finding that's what I 'do' - I express. ALL.THE.TIME. I can't help it. It's in my very nature and it seems as if there's really nothing I can do about it. I've spent most of my life trying to change that - trying to NOT express what I'm thinking/feeling, in an effort to make sure I don't 'rock the boat' or upset anyone else. However, the older I get, the more this type of behavior feels inauthentic to me. If there's one thing I really struggle with in this life, it's feeling as if I can't be authentic.

     It really bothers me when I feel as if I don't have a safe place to go to express something that I might be thinking/feeling/experiencing/attempting to process. This is one of the reasons I enjoy writing so much. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, a blank piece of paper ALWAYS gives me a safe place to go to express myself. There's no judgment there, no hurt feelings, no misunderstanding, and a blank piece of paper will never try to 'fix' me. It will never tell me that what I'm feeling is 'wrong' and it will never say to me 'Well, you know Jen, you really shouldn't feel that way.' No, that blank piece of paper simply holds a space for me to dump my garbage, share my joys, talk about my fears, express my excitement or shower it with my tears. It's like a big, warm hug when I need it the most - and I'm finding that I'm needing a lot of big, warm hugs these days.

     So, tonight is a new beginning for me. I've decided that I am finished apologizing (to myself and others) for how I may be feeling at any given time. Human emotions can be tricky; they can be downright ugly sometimes and mine are no different - but that's just it - they're mine and they're human. Part of my journey as a songwriter and artist is to feel things as deeply as possible - and then to channel all that emotion into different songs. Not every song is going to be a happy one. So, why would I expect (or even want) every emotion to be a 'good feeling' one?

     In all honesty, some of my strongest and most powerful writing has come from some of my most painful experiences. I am finding that to be true of the songs for this new album as well. The song Frank and I were working on today deals with the loss of a close friend - and the guilt/shame of feeling as if I could/should have done more to help him while he was alive. Another song that we've been working on recently deals with a situation I struggle with on a daily basis. Some days I'm fine with it, some days I'm not. Such is life. One day it feels as if the sun is shining brightly and everything is in perfect Divine order, and the next it feels as if the sky is falling and the bottom's dropped out.

     This is where my new beginning is - finding a way to be okay with myself on the days that I struggle. I'm not going to lie -  I feel as if I've had just about all I can take so far this year - and it's only June. That being said, I absolutely KNOW that the Divine is at work, ordering every step and situation perfectly. I will never let life's ups and downs shake me from knowing that there is always a higher truth and purpose being served.

     All that being said, I will continue to express myself each and every step of the way.

     I pray that you will do the same on your journey.

Love Always,
~Jen

What If? - part two 

Today has been a truly awesome day! It was a day completely full of music, fun and creativity - all in the presence of some of the most incredible people on the planet. I am one extremely blessed (and grateful!) girl.

So, I decided that I'd like to expand on some of the thoughts and ideas that I touched on in my last blog, 'What If?' In it, I questioned why we listen to the negative voices in our minds that tell us that we can't (or shouldn't) do certain things. We are so very quick to believe in and accept what we THINK are our limitations, but when someone pays us a compliment, we try to tell ourselves that whatever was said couldn't be true, or that the person who said it is somehow biased (or maybe he/she even 'wants something' from us). Why are we so quick to believe something negative and limiting about ourselves, and we're even quicker to dismiss it when someone says something positive about us and our talents?

For the record, I struggle with this myself. I am very quick to accept the thought that I'm not a good singer/songwriter or performer. However, when someone acknowledges what he/she see as my talent, I am even quicker to argue or resist in some way what is being said. I tell myself that the person giving the compliment is just being nice, or that he/she is biased and doesn't want to say anything to hurt my feelings.

Soooo, my question for you is this - do you have someone in your life who unconditionally loves, accepts and supports you? Someone you could consider your own personal cheerleader. Someone who encourages you every step of the way - no matter what you get involved with. Well, what would happen if you simply BELIEVED what that person says about you? No resistance, no arguing, no judging what he/she is saying - I mean, quite simply, you just take his/her word for it that you are wonderful and talented - and that the world is a much better place because YOU are in it. What would your life looked like if you chose to believe the GOOD things that someone you love and trust says about you? What if, for just one day, you chose to listen to (and believe) ONLY the good things that you're being told - and you simply just dismiss anything negative that crosses your mind? What would happen to you? How would your life change?

My choir director in college was this type of person for me. She was my own personal cheerleader and was just like family to me the entire time I was in school. She believed in me even (and especially) when I didn't believe in myself. She would pick me up and dust me off whenever I tried something that didn't work and, and, whenever I was struggling with something, she was right there beside me, telling me that I could do it (whatever 'it' was at the time didn't matter - she believed I could do anything).

I loved and trusted this woman SO much that, one day, I actually chose to start believing her. I knew that she saw something within me that I couldn't see myself. I felt that, if she cared enough to believe in me, maybe I could trust her and start believing in myself...even just a little bit. This made all the difference in my life. Thanks to my trust in her all those years ago, I have been able to step outside of my comfort zone countless times since then and do many things that I never would have believed possible.

I am still very close with this woman to this day - and she is STILL one of my biggest cheerleaders! I am so very grateful for her loving presence in my life. I can honestly say that I wouldn't be who I am today without it (or her)!

So again, I am going to ask YOU - what would your life look like if you chose to start believing YOUR biggest cheerleaders? What if those people see something within you that you can't see within yourself? What if they are RIGHT that you're wonderful and talented - and that you can do anything you put your mind to?

We all get to choose what to believe (about ourselves and others) - I'm just suggesting that maybe - just maybe - it's okay to believe the GOOD stuff.

What If? 

Okay, so, here is something I don't understand....

I know we all have limiting voices in our  minds/heads, telling us why we 'can't' (or shouldn't) do all sorts of things....but my question is, why in the world do we listen??

I mean, let's think about this for a minute....

Who ever told us that we're imperfect, or somehow limited in some way? Who ever told us that we couldn't go after something we want and actually get it? Who ever told us that, if we tried at something new, we probably wouldn't be any good at it? Who told us that we're not talented enough, good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, skinny enough, or any of the other millions of 'enough's' that we always seem to fall short of?

I have a very dear friend who happens to be an incredible musician - but, somehow, he has allowed himself to believe that he's 'just not a good guitar player.' (He IS a good guitar player, by the way - an incredible one actually, but good luck telling him that!)

I see this happen time and time - and time - again...we suddenly develop a passion or level of excitement for something we think we'd like to try. Maybe someone has inspired or encouraged us to finally sign up for that painting class we always wanted to take. We register for the class, buy whatever materials we need, show up on time (or maybe even a little early because we are THAT excited!) and, as soon as we pick up that brush, the voices start...

'What am I doing here? I'm not an artist!'
'I've never held a paintbrush in my life. I don't have the slightest idea what I'm doing.'
'I'll never be any good at this. I should just quit now.'
'What made me ever think I could do this?'

The list goes on and on...that voice is relentless in making sure that we don't forget just how inadequate, imperfect and limited we really are. It won't stop until it has convinced us that we really don't belong there. That voice will do everything it can to get us to put that paintbrush down and just go home.

Do we ever stop to ask where that voice comes from? Or, even more importantly, do we ever stop to ask why in the world we EVER entertain what that voice is saying?? I mean, who ever told us we have to buy into all that limited, negative thinking anyway?

What if just for a moment, we stopped listening to that voice altogether? What if, just for a second, we opened ourselves up to the possibility that the voice we've been listening to for so long, is wrong? What if that voice is, not only wrong, but is actually lying to us - on purpose - in an effort to distract or derail us from what we're actually being called or guided to do?

No matter where this voice has come from - whether it has come from well-meaning parents who tried to protect us from life's disappointments by warning us not to get our hopes up about things, maybe it was our 3rd grade teacher who told us we'd never be able to sing, maybe it was a fellow student who told us we were ugly - no matter where that voice has come from, we are completely free to NOT listen to it any time we want. We simply need not buy into it. We are ALWAYS free to make another choice.

So, the next time that voice rears its ugly head and tries to make you second guess yourself (and/or your talent), please feel free to question it - or, better yet, just not listen to it at all.

Much love always,
~Jen

Update and just because 

Okay, so it has been a LOOOOOOONG time since I blogged about anything. In my, very admittedly weak defense, life has gotten more than a little bit crazy and out of control over the last several months. That being said, I really have no excuse. There is ALWAYS time to write and, well, I just haven't done it in a really long time. I didn't make it a priority - until just recently - as in, over the past several weeks. So, here I am, writing again - it feels good - and I am grateful.

I've missed staying up a little too late, writing feverishly, fearlessly pouring out all my thoughts and emotions onto a piece of paper. A blank piece of paper is, without a doubt, the safest place I have ever known to go to in order to pour out EVERYTHING I am thinking and feeling. When writing, I never stop to think about how the page might react to something I might want/need to say. I don't stop and think to myself, 'Uh oh - maybe I shouldn't say THAT. How is the page going to react when I pour my heart out in that way?' I never think, 'What if the page doesn't like me....'. I never entertain the idea that a blank piece of paper could reject me - or reject whatever comes spilling out onto it from my pen.

I simply just....write. And write. And write. Sometimes a song comes out. Sometimes a poem. Sometimes a story of some sort. Sometimes nothing. And sometimes something will come out that would make absolutely no sense to anyone on the planet other than me - and SOMETIMES it doesn't even make sense to me!  I just sit and write - for the sake and joy of writing. I learned several years ago not to have any desired outcome when I sit down to write. It's my job to knock at the universe's door (that lovely blank piece of paper) and to be open to whom/whatever shows up.

So yes, I'm back into writing again - and I am VERY grateful for that.  As my life has shifted and changed greatly over the last several months, writing remains my one constant. I am blessed to have it and I vow to never take it for granted again. Like an old friend that I haven't seen in a very long time, my writing has welcomed and embraced me as if I never left. However, I know that I left - and I won't do it again.

Someone very close to me just recently asked me to promise that I would never stop writing again - no matter what. I made that promise to him (and to myself) - and I will keep it.

All that being said, it's time to sign off for now - I have a date with a blank piece of paper...

Incredible!!  

Please take a few minutes to watch this video - it's incredible! Another powerful example of 'regular' people doing extraordinary things!! Thanks to my good friend, Melissa Pasquinelli, for sharing this with me!! :-) 

Inspirational Story Alert!  

I'm officially on a mission - I absolutely KNOW we live in a kind, loving, decent, wonderful world! If we would only open our eyes to the goodness that's all around us! So, that being said, several times each week (sometimes each day), I will be posting inspiring stories of 'regular' people doing amazing things. If you feel inspired or moved by a story I post, I would ask that you please share it on your page as well. Thank you!!! Love always, ~Jen :-)

Georgia Family Donates Cancelled Wedding's Reception to Homeless
http://abcnews.go.com/US/georgia-family-donates-cancelled-weddings-reception-homeless/story?id=20344600
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