Star-struck family sticks together

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A childhood of stories about Greek gods and their legends has, for one woman, become a hobby that extends to her two daughters and is one of many things that indisputably links the trio.

"We're extremely tight. We're all each other has," Jannie Brenner said.

The hobby they share? Star gazing.

But it's more than that. Brenner estimates that she has spent nearly $3,000 on equipment. She has two high-powered telescopes, one can be computer-directed, and Brenner is working out the kinks of its photography capabilities.

"I haven't quite mastered that yet," she said.

Brenner grew up in the Yampa Valley. Having a genius for a father, she said, opened the door for her mind to work in a variety of ways.

Her gaze drifted toward the sky when she connected the Greek myths he told with the constellations in the sky.

"The Greeks named their gods to the sky," she said. "I can find most of them, and so can my daughters."

Brenner's father, Milton Kitchens, lives in Hayden and always is referred to by Brenner as "a very brilliant man" with a variety of interests that he shared with her, just as she now shares her interests with her girls, Tawni, 13, and Taylor, 10.

Many are the nights that the three spread their sleeping bags on the top of a horse trailer to watch the night sky. And many are the night she has been awakened by a troupe of girls, over for a slumber party, breathlessly awaiting a constellation's rise expected at 3 a.m.

"My children and their friends inspire me, too."

That's the best part," Brenner said.

Finding constellations isn't as easy as looking up and pointing. What's in the sky depends on the month and the time.

But Brenner learned from experience.

"The best tool is a pair of binoculars," she said. "With them, you can do almost anything. Just look east."

The winter sky has the best constellations, but it presents a unique challenge.

"You try not to shake, because you can't move the telescope," she said. "I bundle up and look like the marshmallow man. It takes a lot of patience."

Viewing the moon is a good starting point and planets are fun, but Brenner really has an affinity for the constellations.

"They all have stories behind them," she said. "They're like old friends. I can tell my directions at night but not during the day."

Sometimes Brenner is up all night and working all day as she works to combine her hobbies.

She made one hobby into a business. Brenner does custom stained-glass work, sells stained-glass supplies and teaches classes occasionally.

"I couldn't afford to buy it all the time, and I loved it," she said about her decision to teach herself the art.

Her favorite designs are horses, and she loves to do cabinet fronts.

Brenner worked out of her home for four years, but, when her girls went back to school, she found herself craving adult conversation.

She's had to put her stained-glass business mostly on the back burner since she started work as a receptionist at Craig Chiropractic Clinic, but she still does custom designs.

Stained glass is one hobby Brenner's girls don't share with their mother.

But there are others.

In her "spare" time, Brenner is the co-owner and director of Gymstar, where coaches a youth cheerleading team. Both of her daughters are members.

"Cheering is the priority in my life right now," she said. "The girls make it worthwhile, to see their self-esteem grow and see the look on their face when they nail it (a move)."

She's been coaching the team since November and has high aspirations for her team.

"My goal is to get the cheer team to competition and see their faces when they succeed, because they will succeed," she said.

Sixteen girls are on her team, ranging in age from seconds to eighth-graders, though the team is open to kindergartners through seniors.

She's got another "team" at home, made up of three horses, four cats, one "very" large dog, two mice a fish and two bunnies.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or ccurrie--@-craig-dailypress.com.

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