Pinned Down, Pin Up: In a Keystone State of Mind

by Jenny Lee Stern

Too young. Too old. Too fat. Too skinny. Too tall. Too short. Too much. Not enough. Under qualified. Over qualified. Just…”not right.” And the list goes on and on. I would bet my Gucci tote on the fact that everyone reading this has, at least once in their life, experienced a feeling of inadequacy or rejection. In my business (that is, Show Business) it’s basically 50% of my job.

It was quite poetic, actually, that I made my officially Broadway debut “past my prime” in Rocky, the screen-to-stage tale of the relentless underdog who never stops fighting nor believing. I could have given up many, many times leading up to that glorious phone call from my agent. Perhaps I should have. The daily struggle of balancing the early years of motherhood with a marriage on the rocks (no pun intended) and pounding the pavement in New York City, forever a hustler, was pushing me to my breaking point. I felt like garbage. Thrown away. Unseen. Unheard. But I knew something was about to happen for me. I had faith, and I just knew. I pushed through. Prayed, persisted, and prevailed.

A novice songwriter, I often turn to the Bible’s book of Psalms for inspiration. A while back, I came across these couple of lines: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Wow. This sat with me so heavily, yet at the same time was so uplifting. Think of yourself as a stone or brick. Life is building this epic structure. You are crammed into a wheelbarrow with the rest of your peers.  The time comes for you. The mortar is spread. The builder picks you up, looks at you, and casts you into a pile over on the side. You sit there and stare at the hundreds of bricks that went before you, and watch the hundreds after you. They get picked up and get their place in the wall without even a second glance. You look at them. You look at yourself. You don’t feel any different. You don’t feel like you look any different…maybe you look even better! Why are you cast aside while everyone else is, well, cast? This makes NO. LOGICAL. SENSE. Right? Ah haaaaa.

You see, logic can be the killer of faith. Not everything is by the numbers. Not everything “makes sense.” Not everything is fair. If you are in a corner right now, if you feel cast aside, rejected, overlooked…you are not alone. And you are not over. Ya know what happens to that pile of stone over on the sidelines? That mess of rubble? Those misshapen, out of place, too big-too little stones? They become Keystones (Holla at me fellow Pennsylvanians!) in a bigger, more important project. They become a statement piece. An ornamental oracle. They don’t fit into the symmetrical, run of the mill wall! They are polished into precious jewels and in time the world will see the shining splendor their true purpose. Your precise placement has already been determined. All you have to do is keep working, keep believing, stop stressing and have faith. Steven Furtick, one of my favorite speakers, recently was quoted as saying, “Faith is believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

Didn’t get hired for your dream job? A bigger dream is about to be realized. Maybe a skill in a different field that you never knew you excelled at.

Dumped by the “perfect” guy? Newsflash: Nobody’s perfect and your forever partner is right around the corner, so pull it together, contour, and get out there!

Your kid didn’t get into his/her first choice college? He/She is about to cross paths with someone at “Fall-back School” that will change their life forever, for the better!

Don’t believe me? Sift through your Facebook page. The dorkiest outcast in high school now runs a billion dollar software empire, and the hottest jock is still working at the mini-mart and selling weed on the side after his football scholarship fell through when he busted his knees jumping over a fence on a dare the summer after senior year. Get out of the corner. And help pull up those other stones around you. These are the people that can help you live your truest life. And remember, some of nature’s most beautiful treasures are actually flaws! Pearls! Purple peppers! Wine! You guys, wine is basically rotten grape juice. Delicious, magical, rotten grape juice. Ponder that for a second.

Now stop pondering and hear this: (and yes, I will most certainly quote King David and Pink Floyd in the same essay): “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall.” Ya feel me? You have a place in the wall. In SOME amazing wall. We all do. Perhaps your place is still to be determined. That’s ok! If you are feeling out of step, ignored, or looked over: Good. It means you are about to rise.  Have patience. Because let me assure you, your place is and will be perfect, and it is marvelous in our eyes.


Wondering what to do with the thick stems of the broccoli after you’ve cut of the crowns and steamed them up and served them to the littles…? Let’s take something that normally goes directly in the garbage, compost, or down the disposal (just STOP- we all know you’re not “saving it to make stock” like Barefoot Contessa is telling you to do) and not only turn it into something DELISH but also double up on the veggies for the kiddos and yourself!

  • Broccoli, 4 bunches with the stems still attached
  • All-Purpose flour, 1 cup (sifted-this is important!)
  • Egg, 1 large
  • ICE COLD Seltzer Water or Club Soda, 1c
  • Seasoned Salt, 1 tsp
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.

Remove broccoli stems from crowns. Remove the thick outer skin of the stems with a good veggie peeler or pairing knife. I say “good veggie peeler” because apparently mine from the Dollar Store is not good enough and didn’t work, haha. Slice the ends off and cut into “fries.” Boil fries for 3 minutes and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Then transfer to paper towels or a clean kitchen fowl to pat dry.

Heat up about 2 inches of veg oil in a large frying pan. Prepare the batter.

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add seltzer, seasoned salt and egg. Mix well.

I test the oil with the handle of a wooden spoon. When bubbles form around it, its ready!

Dip the broccoli spears into the batter and carefully place in the oil. Small batches. I did about 6-8 per batch. Watch them and flip occasionally. Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a plate covered in paper towels and sprinkle with a little more seasoned salt OR kosher salt. Should be eaten right away. They come out like tempura so if the sit too long, they get mushy. But…that won’t be a problem because you and your whole fam will gobble them up in about 60 seconds. Serve with your favorite dippers: ketchup, ranch, whatever everybody likes. I made a spicy russian dressing with ketchup, hot sauce and light mayo. YUM! See? Something that thought it was destined for the trash has become the shining star of any meal. Viva Broccoli Fries!

-Jenny Lee,

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