Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

New Year is a time when most people (as I understand it) feel all inspired about new beginnings. I must admit that has never been the case for me. New Year has always struck me as a slightly bummer-esque time of year.

BUT....

this year feels different to me. I am all ... (I don't know...)... hopeful, inspired, full of faith in myself....

it's weird.

But good!

So, Happy New Year, dudes...and namaste! (Oh - did I mention that my yoga class this evening was part of what made me feel all gooshy and inspired?) Ok, now it's back to Elf (family movie night...you know...not exactly the wild New Year's Eve... but it's ok). :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remember the Alamo






Today we took a day trip to San Antonio. My husband suggested that we do that so that the kids could see the Alamo and I was totally into that idea, since my early childhood was spent there and I tend to forget that my kids have sort of missed out on San Antonio things like the Alamo, the Riverwalk, and Pancho Claus.

My youngest (my son) was complaining about being forced to visit the Alamo until we told him the story and his dad pointed out that he'd be able to see actual bullet holes in the walls. Well. Enough said. He had no hesitation after that. As a matter of fact, I'd printed out some lesson plans about Texas history and read the story to the kids on the drive down while they colored pictures that went with the lesson. My daughter colored a lovely picture of a Tejana from the period while my son illustrated a blueprint-type picture of the Alamo grounds with bullets and dead bodies. (I kid you not.) At least it's educational...

The rest of the day was a sort of pursuit of my childhood memories. I insisted (although no one seemed to mind) that we eat at Casa Rio, where I remember eating as a child and devouring their corn tortillas with butter and salt. I did so at lunch today, while we watched the ducks swim by our table. (You can see the view from our table - after we devoured our food - above...)

After lunch, we took our kids to the children's museum because they are museum afficiados and then we allowed ourselves to be completely fleeced by paying $40 to go up to the top of the Tower of Americas. I do remember at least one very, very nice birthday dinner up in the restaurant and to me, as a kid - it was the ultimate elegant dining experience - so I didn't really mind taking the kids up there. I'm sure they'll remember it.

We were all a little tired and cranky by the time we stopped at Wendy's on the way home (ok, ok...it was mostly me that was tired and cranky...) but it was a good vacation day, even with the emergency work stuff I had to handle on my Blackberry while we were at the Alamo. [Ironically, I was on the phone with the company's outside counsel - who was in Switzerland on vacation...it was a transcontinental interruption of family vacations to handle work emergencies.]

At any rate - at the risk of sounding overly mushy (as if I could fool any of you into thinking I'm NOT mushy...) I must say that today reminded me of how proud I am to be a Texan and the fact that from the beginning, our state is one that was a confluence of so many cultures. When you look at the list of Alamo heroes, you see Irish, Scots, Americans, Germans, Mexicans and native Texans. All of them fighting together for freedom. It's darn inspiring. So - to those of you who might be reading this posting in another state...I know that when many people think of Texas, they aren't necessarily thinking of an open and inclusive society...but our cultural roots are as expansive as our sky and there are still plenty of us who know it and are determined to teach it to our children.

"You sound like a teddy bear girl..."

That's what this very nice Disney lady told me on the phone the other day, as I was finalizing our ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) for our trip to Disney World. She confirmed our reservation for the Biergarten buffet in the Germany section of EPCOT, then she suddenly asked me: "Are you a teddy bear girl? You sound like a teddy bear girl to me." I laughed and admitted that, actually, I do still sleep with my bear. She said: "I thought so. It's something about your voice." Then she told me I just had to check out the Steiff bears on sale in the Germany section.

My bear has been through a LOT with me. One of my dear readers became my best friend during my Freshman year of college (a rather rough year, in many ways) and she gave me this bear. If memory serves, he came from Vermont and was very, very fancy looking and beautiful when he first came into my life. He is now very "real" - like the Velveteen Rabbit - and I honestly can't sleep unless I'm all curled around him during the night.

He doesn't have a name, but I think I'd grab him before any other material possession if I ever had to escape a fire or other disaster.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

History as a Companion

It's 8 a.m. and I woke up from a night of vivid, interesting, and moderately disturbing dreams. Between all the childhood memories that come up for me during the holidays and the operetta my subconscious performed in my dreams last night, I have a really powerful mental picture in my head this morning.

Obviously we all have our own personal histories. Our own baggage, you might say - although I tend to think that my history is much more active than an inanimate object. For me, it's as if my personal history is a person standing right there with me, who sometimes takes my shoulders and points me in a particular direction. Maybe even shoves me towards that direction.

I've tried all kinds of coping mechanisms throughout my life regarding my history. I've tried to run away from my history (but there's no way I can ever be faster than it). I've tried to ignore it and pretend it's not there (but then it's even easier for history to push me in a certain direction, because I'm not paying attention). I've even tried to turn around, look history straight in the face and deconstruct it intellectually (although it wasn't a wasted effort, the intellectual deconstruction didn't accomplish what I'd hoped - which was to make my history disappear).

Finally, this morning, I have an image of what I need to do and the answer seems pretty obvious to me now. History is with me - no matter what. That's not a good thing or a bad thing. If I'm willing to simply acknowledge my companion, but not let myself get pushed around by history, then life will be so much better. Sometimes history pushes me in a good direction. (The reason I'm out to save the world is due, in large part, to my history.) Sometimes history pushes me in a direction that is pretty bad for me.

But my history is a part of who I am and I won't pretend it's not there anymore. I'm going to listen, consider, and then decide what I'm going to do. If I feel those historical hands on my shoulders, pushing me in a certain direction, I'll reach up and lift the hands off my shoulders so that I can think more clearly. I might end up going in the direction history pushes, but I might not.

You know, I got my B.A. in history (and minored in philosophy). So it's about time I figured out how to deal with it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Everything I Wanted and More...

1. Red Luggage
2. Very stylish Liz Claiborne computer bag
3. Mama Mia!!!!
4. Lots of fancy body lotion, etc.
5. A book all about Disney World so I can plan our trip!!!

Woo-hoo! I was completely spoiled, as you can see from my partial list of Christmas gifts. Now...if only I wasn't SO TIRED.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How I Spent My Christmas Eve...



My mom (a.k.a Marmi, a.k.a. the woman you'd never guess was 62 years old...) found this crazy ball for the kids to play with and when I got home from taking the kids to Desperaux (see the "Latest Movie I've Seen" section of my blog), we found this waiting for us in the driveway.

Now - technically - this is a kids toy, but after watching them roll down the hill in it a few times, I figured I just had to give it a shot. Man...it took some courage for me to tolerate the maniacal laughter of my precious 2nd grade niece and 3-year-old nephew as they rolled me around in it.

But it was good for me!

And you would just die laughing if you could have seen my wacky static electricity hair afterwards.

Nothing like celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus by rolling down a small hill in a big ol' Bucky Ball. (And then blogging about it hours later, with a Jameson's in one hand...after setting up all the stockings for the kids.)

Have I mentioned that Life is really crazy and a bit of a wild ride (that occassionally makes me moderately nauseous) but is still really good? Remind me of that "good" part when I get all angst-i-fied on my blog in another week - ok?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays to All...

Today was my last day of work (well, my last day of having to go into work...we'll see how I handle my Blackberry addiction during the upcoming week) until next Monday. All day long, I kept thinking how ready I was to get home and start baking -- now my chocolate pecan pie (my eldest's favorite desert) is in the oven, I'm sipping on a glass of red wine, and am planning to go to a yoga class tomorrow morning for the first time in Heaven knows how long.

In short, life is good.

I'm definitely glowing from all the Hallmark-y, squooshy, family goodness that one sometimes feels during the holidays. Here's the trick of it, however - it's really easy for me to feel that way when I'm in a quiet house (aahhh...quiet) and my rambunctious kids are 2 hours away in Waco. They are just so loud! So here's my holiday goal: patience. Preferably, permanent and persistant patience. (Yes, the alliteration is intentional.)

I hope that all of your little Christmas dreams come true and that you are filled with love for your fellow men (and women). I'm sad to say that many of you won't have the joy of enjoying my homemade pies, fudge and herbed cornbread stuffing, but until I can figure out how to share my once-a-year cooking skills via Blogger, I suppose you're out of luck. Bummer. I'm sure your moms, brothers or other family chefs are almost as good as me so you won't be completely out of luck. (hee, hee...)

As for me, I'm kind of hoping for a copy of Mama Mia for Christmas. I already got a great popcorn set from Williams-Sonoma from my husband (yum, yum, yum, yum, yum) and I picked out my own gifts for him to hand off to the kids to give to me. So I figure I'm all set.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's my party....


...and I'll wear my hat if I want to! We had a good time last night and I'd bought this hat at Target a month or so ago - this was my first excuse to wear it. I told my mom I was so excited because it really was my first ever "grown up" party which I hosted - complete with a pricey trip to the liquor store to buy wine. :)
So much fun!!
Well - I'm freezing right now and simply MUST get into the warm bath or I will die of hypothermia. So I shall go defrost.
No kids (they're in Waco with Mom and Dad), cold weather, and jazz on the stereo...aahhhh......(I might even take a nap.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jenn the Jeweler



One of my friends signed us up for an earring-making class last night and it was great. The only really crummy downside was that by the time I got home for the day (at 9:15 p.m.) my kids were already asleep. But I made two different pair of earrings and was quite proud of my loop-making abilities. (Fun Fact: the only thing you really need to know about making basic earrings is how to make a loop out of metal sticks.)

The picture at the right is my celtic-inspired pair. I also made a gold cloisonne pair which should match my new blue silk dress beautifully. (I get to wear that again on Tuesday evening - we're going out to dinner for Mom's birthday dinner!)

So here's something I remembered as I was driving home from my jewelry-making class last night: as a teenager I read this book about a girl who came to America from Ireland and she learned how to make jewelry while she was over here. I always thought that sounded completely cool - to be able to express yourself artistically with metal and stones. Of course, that is not really a future career path for me because my ADHD and impatience would NOT be a good match for the fine detailed work required for legitimite artistic jewelry work.

But I'm more than happy to shell out $11 every now and then to create a few earrings. And I'll even call myself a "jeweler" when I do it - at least on my blog!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lessons the Hard Way

Have you ever noticed how, as humans, we tend to learn our lessons the hard way? It's a rather dependable staple of literature, to tell the truth. What would we have done without the hubris of Antigone (I always loved that story) or the tragic mistakes of Romeo and Juliet? It would be awesome if I was able to learn things without messing them up first (often quite royally, I should point out) but the lessons just don't seem REAL until the truth hits me upside the head like a baseball bat. [WHAM!!]

It's especially bittersweet, as I look back on my life and consider my choices (or my lack of choices because of inertia) and then look forward to the lives of my children. I feel that ever-present parental ache of wanting to teach my children what I've learned but I know that I can't. Not really. I hope they'll stand on my shoulders and reach past where I've stood, but I also know that some of my biggest mistakes will be repeated. Perhaps with a slightly more artistic bent or a different twist...but they will probably be repeated. It's the way of the world.

Finally, however, (after 37 years) I understand that my life is interesting (and I am interesting) only because of the slips and falls. Think of it this way....we're all walking on a forest path and it ain't smooth. You've got your boulders in the way, you've got your rickety rope bridges spanning chasms, and you've got those annoying tree roots that creep out of the ground to trip you up. (Got the picture yet?) Eventually, and inevitably, we will stumble. But as we are lying face down in the muck, we might notice a tiny red flower.

Without my own stumbles, I'd never have seen the flower. It doesn't mean the stumbles were ok - as a matter of fact, some of the bruises might never go away. But there's still a beautiful thing in my life that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

So...I guess that's why we learn things the hard way. Sometimes we can't see what we need to see unless we're flat on our stomachs, with battered elbows and knees.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Exercise (or lack thereof...)

It is warm outside today - borderline hot. I'm aware of this fact because I finally got off my patooty and went outside to exercise. There's always an excuse for me not to get moving - this week it's primarily been because I've been fighting off allergies or a mild cold. But the truth of the matter is that once I got out in the sunshine I felt really good (even though my stamina is not at all what it was a month ago in terms of moving my muscles).

Tomorrow it's supposed to be really cold, I believe. And my evenings this week are CHOCK FULL of activities so I don't have a prayer of making it to the gym except for the 5:30 a.m. classes. This time of year is fun but completely insane and it really throws my exercise patterns for a loop - especially if I'm always looking for excuses to avoid exercise in the back of my mind.

Tomorrow is the 4th grade choir concert (dinner with in-laws before the concert), Tuesday evening I think we're free but I'm almost afraid to check the calendar in case I find out that I am sadly mistaken, Wednesday evening I'm joining a work friend at Nomadic Notions to learn how to make earrings (should be fun and therapeutic for me), Thursday evening is Christmas with said in-laws and grandmother-in-law (an amazing and wonderful woman) and Friday evening is neighborhood caroling with the Girl Scout Troop. Somehow during my spare time, I need to prepare various appetizers and desserts because we are hosting some friends on Saturday night for a low key holiday party. Whew!!! It's enough to make me want to run and hide under the Christmas tree.

Anyway...getting back to my lazy bones...I suppose that if I can get up Tuesday morning for the super early class (I've managed to do that for a number of weeks in a row now) and at least get out for one or two more walks during the week (or even the Thursday morning class...) then I should be proud of myself. Wish me luck. Right now all I can really think about is going to sleep tonight (zzzzz....) but, sadly, it's only 3:15 in the afternoon, clothes that need to be folded are covering my bed (thus blocking any attempt at sleep until that chore is complete) and we have 2 more social activities this evening before we settle down for the night.

Yup. Merry Christmas, guys.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rules

I spent half of my workday today at a CLE conference (CLE = Continuing Legal Education) and I simply cannot get one of the speakers off of my mind. He spoke about the perception of lawyers in society and it was actually a very liberating speech in many ways. If I really tried to delve into all of the aspects of it, this posting would try the patience of my readers, I'm quite sure, but during my commute home I realized that I was inspired to blog about his perception of our society's obsession with rules and laws.

It's difficult to summarize in a few paragraphs, but he opined that many of the same people who hate lawyers, hate the courts, etc are often the same people who are stomping their feet up and down as they say "There ought to be a law!" or "Why doesn't the government do something about this??" (he referenced Nancy Grace at this point of his speech but I've never watched her show so I can't opine about that analogy). He talked about the amazing number of regulations and laws that come down from all levels of government every month.

All of this talk about our society's obsession with rules really got me to pondering about my own views on rules [laws, policies, procedures, etc.]. It's a very complex and multi-leveled analysis for me because I am, at my core, a rule-based person in a number of ways. However, I think (although I'm not entirely sure) that these rules are often defense mechanisms for me, or at least "easy ways out."

For example - on a personal level, I'm always giving myself new rules about what I can or cannot eat, how I need to exercise, what I need to do....etc. It's not always a good thing because they often just become another reason for me to beat myself up.

I believe that my relationship with rules is even more interesting on a professional level, however. I've been a lawyer for 11 years now and I've been in-house counsel for 7 of those years. During that time, I've learned to appreciate the benefits of well-crafted (and clear) policies, bylaws, and procedures (and I've also learned how incredibly complicated it is to write even the simplest-sounding policies...because it's impossible to consider every contingency). I am the author of a number of polcies, procedures and bylaws.

I see the value of clarity - as a matter of fact, I simply ADORE clarity and crave it in the written word. I've also noticed first hand, however, the obsession many of us have with wanting to cover every possible base with policies and rules. For a number of years, I've really begun to dislike the sheer VOLUME of written rules with which we surround ourselves, especially in our workplaces.

Now - let me be clear. I'm a firm believer that companies should have a harassment-prevention policy and an ethics policy. And, of course, it's only fair that employees know what the rules are for getting reimbursed and other basic procedures. But we have a tendency as employers (and maybe parents too??) to assume that anytime something goes wrong, that means we have to create a new rule.

I realize I might be jeopardizing my future job security here (since no matter where I work, I'm often the one who drafts the rules and policies) but I have to say that I think we're taking the lazy lady's (note that I didn't say "lazy man's") road when we throw paper at each other instead of trying to communicate with each other about the key issues.

What would happen if, instead of making new rules and policies, we all sat down together and figured out what the core issues were? Including what might be going on in terms of employee spirit (or family spirit if we used the same concepts at home)?

I know. I sound like Pollyanna. And I also know that an employer could be sorry if it doesn't have a particular policy in place, especially if an employee later claims that he or she didn't know that it was against the rules to...(I don't know)....throw trash out the window onto a co-worker's head unless the rule was written in the employee handbook. But I've seen a lot of people change their attitudes once they're shown a little respect and held to a high standard. I can't help but believe that most of us feel infantilized when those in authority rely on mounds of rules and "gotchas" to control us. (I know I do.)

So go ahead, laugh at the irony that the expert policy-writer thinks there are way too many out there. But I would love to someday be in control of a place and make sure that my employees have a reasonable set of written expectations (for both me as their employer and for them as my employees) but also have a deep sense of self-worth because they'll know that it's a workplace where people are trusted and are honestly confronted (with face-to-face respect) if mistakes or even dishonesty occur.

It will take work, but I'm confident that I can do it. Give me a ring in a few years if you want to work in a place like that! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Great and Glorious Friends

I have some truly magnificent friends. How on Earth did I get so lucky???

Within 24 hours:
- one of my friends supported me through my own trauma even though her mom had 1/2 of one of her lungs removed this morning because of cancer
- another friend taught me how I could put my hair up on Saturday night when I go to my fancy, schmancy party
- another friend listened attentively as I told her I knew who her soulmate was and that I was trying to figure out a way for them to meet
- another friend shared her heartrending story about losing a child and inspired me by her ability to continue seeing the miracles in life
- and my Mom, probably my biggest cheerleader of all, spent a good 30 minutes on the phone with me during my commute, telling me in every way she knew how to "go for it!" in regards to career stuff

This is all within one day and it doesn't even count my sweet kids and the hugs and kisses I get as soon as I walk in the door.

My cup runneth over, as they would say in the churches I attended as a child. Now it's my turn to share the love.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why Having a Blog is a Pain (...but is still worth it)

1. It's front and center to me and the rest of the world (ok, that was presumptuous - to the 4 people who read my blog...) that I still haven't seen the movies I want to see. Every day when I log onto my blog and see that Twilight is the last thing I saw, I just cringe. (I need a life!!!!!)

2. It's also front and center how slow I am at reading non-fiction books.

There are other downfalls, I suppose...but it's worth it. I really like this form of therapy. :)

Here are the benefits:

1. It's a good way to express myself.

2. It forces me to think about things that I might not normally consider.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Silver Bells



City sidewalks, busy sidewalks (well - not so busy in this picture), dressed in holiday style.

As a child, I simply adored the song "Silver Bells." And my favorite religious Christmas carol was "Go Tell It On the Mountain" - I was in heaven this past Sunday because we sang a very rousing version of it during church. I was swaying, dancing and clapping to my favorite hymn. And yet, after I leave church I somehow fail to hold the spirit of Christmas as close as I should.

We were at the Hill Country Galleria this evening for dinner with my in-laws and I can't even begin to imagine how much time it took to get lights on every single little branch of every tree. It was very beautiful although I must say that the stores seemed unusually deserted for the middle of December. The economy belies the glitz and glamour, don't you think? (sigh)

The truth of the economy reminds me that I've let myself get carried away with consumerism yet again. I suppose it will be a struggle for me during my whole life. Why is it that I let myself get all excited about shoes and dresses and fancy shopping bags when really - everything that matters is walking down the sidewalk right in front of me?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I wore the coat!



I wore my mink last night! The kids spent the night with my parents and we went out to Jasper's so I wore my snazzy new gold shoes and decided to pull my mink out of the closet too. I have to admit....it is a very cozy coat. Mom knows best!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My First Moonshine


We went out to Gonzales today to celebrate my sister-in-law's dad's 70th birthday. It was a fun country barbeque and my kid brother had a surprise for me. He came up with this styrofoam cup and said: "Hey, try this." I asked what it was and he wouldn't tell me but it smelled pretty good - like cider - so I gave it a try.

It even tasted like cider!

I asked him what it was and that's when he told me it was moonshine. Then, because he thinks his big sister doesn't know very much about the seedier side of life, he explained that it was 180 proof, illegal liquor. ("I know what moonshine is!!" I crabbed.) I was so surprised that it had a good taste. If I've ever wondered what moonshine tasted like (and I don't think I ever have) I think I would have guessed that it tasted like gasoline. But this honestly tasted like sweet apple cider. Mmmmm... BUT I stopped after just about 4 tiny sips because it was obviously some serious stuff.

And in case you're wondering, NO my brother didn't make it - he got it from someone who got it from some lady in Kentucky. (If I remember the story correctly.)

I tell you what - there's nothing like going out to the country for a barbeque (even if I am a vegetarian and didn't eat any meat) and drinking a few sips of moonshine out of a styrofoam cup. Good times.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jenn the Vegetarian

I've been a vegetarian for 5 and 1/2 years now (almost to the day, come to think of it) and my Vegetarian Times magazine showed up in the mail today (love it, love it, love it- just hate that I don't have enough time or motiviation...mostly the latter...to cook up these awesome recipes). This inspired me to blog-i-fy about the things I like and DON'T LIKE about being a vegetarian.

[Important Note to Readers: This is NOT, I repeat...NOT, an attempt to convert you to the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. As I have repeated until I am blue in the face, I do not think it is morally wrong to eat meat. Carnivores do not offend or upset me. The vegetarian lifestyle is just the right spiritual choice for me. Ok - now that my legal disclaimer is out of the way...]

What I like:
- the flavor of the food (this is generally accentuated by the fact that I don't eat sugar, so I think my palate is more sensitive to subtle tastes - but veggies and grains really do taste great)
- not eating animals (again...not a judgment on others...just what's right for me)
- the health benefits (as long as I stay away from my nemesis: FRENCH FRIES - those greasy seducers are out to get me if I'm not careful)
- living in Austin (a very vegetarian-friendly town)

What I DON'T like:
- the fact that it takes a little bit more thought to figure out what to eat (i.e. how to get my protein so I don't pass out) because I really hate to THINK about food
- when people assume I am a "judgmental" vegetarian (coincidentally, this is what I always hated about being a Southern Baptist - people often figured I didn't dance, didn't drink [ok, I didn't but only because I was underage] and thought everyone else was going to Hell...whatever...SO not true...)

Now...if you will please excuse me...I am trying to figure out where I can get agave nectar so that I can make "Tofu Cutlets with Cilantro Pesto." Yum. (Uh-huh. It is yum. I can hear your snide comments out there...)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Surprising Silver Linings...


Sometimes you think something is going to be really crummy but it turns out to not be so bad after all - or at least it has some surprising silver linings. When I took my new job, back in April, what I was dreading the most was the commute. Instead of living a mere 3 minutes from my workplace, I had a much longer commute - at least 45 minutes each way.
But as it turns out, I kind of enjoy the drive - especially in the morning. It's even more fun now that I have my snazzy red convertible. You might be surprised how therapeutic it is to sing at the top of your lungs, while driving down the road. Today, when I was almost home, I snapped this picture of myself with my Blackberry. (Don't worry - I was going pretty slowly - traffic crawls...)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The definition of angst...

Early on in my blogging days (many moons ago...or at least one...) I mentioned that I would find a definition of "angst" and bring it forth because, as most of you who know me personally are well aware, angst and I go hand in hand.

Well - I finally came across a great definition of angst in my "Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life" book and I decided to keep my blog promises and post it here. At first the definition kind of depressed me because it seemed so inevitable - as if angst had to be a part of our lives. But then I realized that if I accepted this definition - it meant I wasn't as crazy as I thought I was! (And that is always excellent news.)

"Angst is the German word for anticipatory anxiety or dread that accompanies the human condition because the threat of annihilation is palpable and present from our first to our last breath. Our fragile estate floats over a great abyss, and no matter how diverting our strategies may be, there is no day in which we do not know this simple fact. An acceptance of this angst as normal is healthy; its denial is pathological, and will sooner or later result in some life-estranging behavior, or worse, the trivialization of the journey. The task brought to us is to live our lives fully, in the presence of the threat of annihilation."

Sounds pretty intense, right? But I really like the message of this book - which is that we're not failures as humans if we are sad, or anxious or even if we fail. (Because we will, of course.) We are supposed to LIVE and LEARN. When we have negative feelings, we're supposed to experience them - not cover them or hide from them. What a challenge but it's so freeing to hear the message that we are not failures if we are sad or if we aren't sure what to do.

In short - I can't recommend this book enough. Although I borrowed it, and need to return it to my BRILLIANT sister-in-law, I will be buying my own copy. I'll leave you with one more quote, which really touched me:

"...the goal of life is not happiness but meaning....Life is not a problem to be solved, finally, but a series of engagements with the cosmos in which we are asked to live as fully as we can manage."

Oh - and on that note - I did write my grandmother. Thanks for the moral support.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I live with penguins.



Seriously, people. Either my family is a group of penguins, posing as humans OR they are waging a campaign to slowly kill me with hypothermia.

MY HOUSE IS SO COLD!!!! (And those of you who don't live in Texas can just be glad that I'm not in your state, complaining about the weather, ok?)

I was shivering and turning blue this evening, when my warm-blooded husband laughed and said that he and the kids had been home for a few hours today when he finally went upstairs and noticed that it was 65 degrees in the house. 65 Degrees!!!! They hadn't even noticed. They were just going along their happy way....chilling down the house for me, presumably.

You'd think that at least one of my kids would have received my tendency to turn blue at the fingertips whenever the temperature dips below 70 (you think I'm joking but I'm NOT...), but no...I guess it's a recessive gene. Lucky for them.

Do me a favor: Just remind me, if I'm ever tempted to take a job north of the Red River, that no amount of love or money is worth being cold all the time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Life Changes...

Whoa...how does this happen? I know I'm sounding like some old woman here (and, according to my children, I'm sure that would be an apropos description...) but how did time fly by so fast? I was hunting for some old (and I mean OLD) family photographs of our Irish ancestors for my daughter's school project and I ended up looking at toddler pictures of my girl. I tell you what...there were a couple of things that just jumped out at me about those ca. 2001-2002 pictures:

1. She has the exact same smile and personality that she always had.
2. She was really cute.
3. I was really un-cute at that particular point in time.
4. Oh - and I have no idea where those freaky pictures of our starving Irish ancestors went...no luck on that front.

Right now - she's across the street. We just let her go over - trusted her to do that. I suppose it's no big deal to let your 9-year-old cross the street by herself to hang out with a friend (even if you are a little weird, like I am...) but there is something about that happening while I was looking at these old toddler pictures that just hit me RIGHT IN THE HEART. It's good though - you know, it makes me wonder what my parents think as they see me come home for the holidays with my own (wild and crazy) crew. Do they remember me as a 3-year-old with curly brown hair? I bet they do...and I wonder if they compare me to my kids?

Everyone tells you to cherish the moments - because they go so fast. But what they don't tell you is that sometimes you just can't cherish the moments while they are happening - it's only after they are gone that you realize a beautiful thing passed through your life.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Here's our tree. If you know where our house is, you should drive by one evening in a few weeks after all our lights are up on the outside - it's so cozy and beautiful!

As I looked at the ornaments I've received over the years (primarily from my grandmother) and I pondered the book I've been reading ("How to Find Meaning in the Second Half of Life"), I decided that I am now strong enough to reach out to some family members who are not part of my life. It seems kind of obvious to me now that I really think about it, but I'm a grown up and can now make my own decisions about how to be in relationship with others. (What a wild concept, right???)

It's my experience that many people feel they can only choose between extremes on many issues. We can be super-religious or we can be atheist, we can buy into the smooshy Hallmark versions of holidays or we can go off into solitude during the holidays. I know that I have a tendency to see things in black and white. But...I'm a reasonably intelligent woman and I've decided that I can define my own life and my own decisions. I'm sure I'll slip up a few times on the way -- but in the meantime, I'm going to reach out and take some risks. As a matter of fact, I plan to write a long letter to my grandmother, telling her what happy memories I've had looking at these ornaments. As my blog audience, I'm counting on you guys to ask me about this in a few days - to see if I've really written (and mailed) the letter. Ok?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving




When I saw the football sitting on the table (after the boys had thrown it around for a while) with the flowers and the pies, it seemed like such a perfect Thanksgiving picture that I had to take it. I spent a good amount of my afternoon "stalking" the kids. They were having fun down the hill, in the woods, creating secret forts and it was fun to just eavesdrop on the kid conversations and try to catch glimpses of them through the trees. (That's why I'm standing on the chair - trying to get a better view.)
My pies seemed to be a pretty big hit - especially the chocolate pecan pie. But the highlight of my day was when I lying on the floating dock and I could close my eyes and feel the waves rocking it back and forth. Although later in the day, when I dozed off (in a bed) I kept dreaming that I was sleeping on the dock and was waking up right before I was about to roll off into the lake! (It apparently made quite an impression on my subconscious.)

Thanksgiving Stratego with Little General Patton



It's Thanksgiving Day and since the older girls were getting quite annoyed with the Kindergarten kid brother, I figured I needed to find something for us to do. As we walked into the living room, he pointed at Stratego and said: "That would make me happy." So we sat down and played a round.

I had totally forgotten about this game! But once I saw all the little pieces, I remembered playing it for hours as a kid, although for the life of me, I can't remember who my playing partner was. Maybe my own kid brother? My little boy had to remind me of all the rules. For games like chess, Stratego, etc. - he pretty much only has to hear the rules once and he has them down. As I was setting up my pieces, he advised me to surround my flag with bombs for protection. I can recognize good advice from an Army Guy when I hear it, so I did it. For the rest of my pieces, I just sort of stuck them wherever and ended up having my front lines completely decimated because I'd put a bunch of low numbers on the first two rows. As my son wiped me out, he just shook his head at me and said: "Mom, why did you put all your low numbers up front?" I laughed and told him I didn't know. (Note to self: I probably would not be very successful as a military strategist. So I'll take that career option off of my list.)

Right now, what I'm most thankful for is that I can laugh with my children and that this morning I was able to just hang out with my boy. I hope that all of you have a Thanksgiving Day which is full of smiles, laughter, and even some good-natured teasing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chocolate and stress....

Ok...most of you know that I gave up sugar years ago. And I eventually got to the point where I didn't even want it anymore (I know that sounds bizarre, but it's true). About 7 or 8 months ago (I lose track of time easily) I started a new job and a new phase of life. Although it's been good for me professionally and even personally - it has NOT been good for me in terms of sugar intake. Tonight I am baking my Thanksgiving pies (2 pumpkin, 1 chocolate pecan, and 1 raspberry cream) and I have succumbed to the lure of the semi-sweet chocolate morsels.(Mmm...isn't the word "morsel" delicious? I bet I gained 2 pounds just thinking of that word...)

Now - one night off of the bandwagon wouldn't be the end of the world, but I hereby confess to my blog-o-sphere that I have fallen off the wagon OFTEN in the last few months. I assume that it's related to stress and, to be perfectly honest, it generally happens after I've had a drink or two and my inhibitions are down.

So here's the question...is this sudden lack of willpower related to the new professional stress in my life OR is that just a convenient excuse for falling off of the wagon because (maybe, just maybe...) I wasn't enjoying the ride anyway. The truth is, when I allow myself to eat chocolate - even just a little bit of it - I am so happy and at peace. (For about 30 minutes, then I'm wracked with guilt and, often, a stomach ache.)

One of my dearest friends used to roll her eyes at me and tell me that I wasn't happy unless I was finding something to give up - something to sacrifice in my life. I'd like to scoff at that analysis but she pretty much hit the nail on the head. Even if I do have a moderate tendency towards asceticism, however, isn't it a valuable thing for me to give up sugar? Isn't it healthy?

I sort of hate the fact that I can't wear a few of my jeans anymore - that's way sucky. So...I suppose I need to recommit to this no-sugar decision. Ugh. Kind of like those church camps where on Thursday evenings you were pressured to "re-dedicate your life to the Lord." Man...I hated those Thursday night services. (Note: if you aren't a recovering Southern Baptist, you might not know what I'm talking about.)

Hmmm.......well - I don't feel like re-committing to anything right now. And it has nothing to do with the bag of semi-sweet morsels (oooo....morsels....) that is calling to me from across the kitchen...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Art Therapy


This afternoon, at our new church, we went to a family craft thing where the kids got to make ornaments and the grownups made an Advent wreath. I have some pretty awesome memories about the Advent season from my childhood, including lighting the Advent wreath every evening at dinner. I'm excited about the idea of sharing that with my kids this year.

Now, since I was the primary architect of our Advent wreath, it's important to note that it's a bit wobbly. (And, yes - I know the white Christ candle is missing from the middle of it - the church forgot the white candles so I'll have to add that later.)

We had a funny marriage moment during the creation process that I simply must share. A couple of my purple candles just refused to stand up straight so I decided that the solution would be for someone (enter husband, stage right...) to jam metal spikes up through the base and into my candles so they would stop wiggling. As I explained how I needed him to skewer the candles as I held the wreath up high, I saw a look of confusion cross his face and he said: "We're supposed to push these posts up through the bottom? Where's our model so I can see?" At that point, it was my turn to look confused and I replied: "Model? What model? This is art!"

We both smiled as we realized it was classic us - me trying to figure it out as I go (by the skin of my teeth, if necessary) and him expecting to follow an engineering diagram. As it turned out, he wondered if it might be more effective to "spike" the candles from the top (at which point I agreed that might be a good idea and noted that other folks were stabbing from the top - not the bottom). So he did that and so far, so good. It even survived the car ride home.

Nothing like starting the holidays with a little family teamwork. Not to mention tons and tons of glue and glitter.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Babies and Beaujolais Nouveau

This posting is an ode to my friend who came over to our house tonight with her 10 month old baby boy (she knows who she is!). The kids had mac and cheese and the grownups had saffron pasta with marinara sauce (sounds fancy but it was all store-bought). We watched Little Mr. Man pull on my schnauzer's eyes and beard (my dog was so patient - almost co-dependent the way he kept going back for more abuse!) while we drank the Beaujolais Nouveau she brought with her.

It's great when she comes over and the funny thing is that because she is such a popular figure in our household, it's always so noisy as both of my children compete with me to tell her the latest stories from our lives.

The reason I love hanging with her is that she is my role model for life - she waited to become a mom, and because she did, she seems to appreciate it so much more than I ever have. When I watch her little one do his funny little baby things, and then I consider the fact that I am reading "Are You There God?" with my eldest, and getting ready to send her to middle school in a mere year and a half, I remember all over again that my kids are what it's all about (as opposed to, you know - organization, career, going out to movies....or other stuff like that).

You'd think that would not be a difficult concept for me to remember...but sometimes it really is.

So thanks Mom-of-Little-Mr.-Man, for reminding me what life is really all about.

Friday, November 21, 2008

This is a test posting....

What you are about to experience is a test posting of the emergency blogging network. If this was an actual posting, you would be instructed how to respond and make fun of the blogger...

My mom has said she reads my blog. My dad has said that he and my mom DON'T read my blog but that if I ever want them to read a post, I should let them know....

Hmmmm......what is one to think of that? I know! Let's test it out and see if Mom is reading my blog!

Here's the topic du jour...my fur coat.

"What????" you say "Jenn the vegetarian has a fur coat?????"

Yes, dear readers. I do. I have a fur coat. It belonged to my grandmother and she wasn't wearing it anymore, so when I graduated from law school, she passed it on to me for my fashion enjoyment. (Thinking, presumably, that I would be attending fancy soirees as a high-powered lawyer...I know....I only wish...) It is hanging in the back of my closet (I presume it's still there) and I have been informed by Mom that it would be unacceptable for me to go another winter without wearing it out and about. (She has a point...it's a gorgeous coat and feels fabulous.)

So the fur gantlent has been thrown to the ground and I have picked it up. I flat out refuse to wear it to work (even if it would be a "power statement" as Mom suggested) BUT I will have at least one very nice holiday party to which I will wear an exquisite blue silk cocktail dress I recently purchased (for an obscene amount of money) and I have committed that I will wear the fur coat to that event.

Is it not just classic Jenn for someone to have to twist my arm before I'm willing to wear a fur coat? I've been trying to figure out the basis for my resistance. It can't be animal rights because I wear leather and that would be hypocritical for me to be anti-fur but not anti-leather. (Let the record show, however, that I do feel guilty for wearing leather...but I'm not yet feeling guilty enough to dump my boyfriend Cole Haan.) So what is it that just makes me push back against the fur? I think it's because it seems so....socialite-ish. And, as most of my dear readers know very well, I am pretty much the exact opposite of a socialite.

Having said that, however, I must admit that I'm starting to get a wee bit excited about putting on my silk dress, my blingy-gold heels I just bought today, and my fur coat and walking into the party...looking like all that. So...Mom, if you're reading this, you were right! And I'll be sure to send you a picture of your fashionista girl when I go out on the town.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Single Girls.

So here's something I didn't expect when I switched jobs 7 months ago...I went from working at a place where almost everyone is married (with kids) to a place where almost everyone (almost everyone I work with anyway) is single - with no kids. I'm also one of the "old people" at this new job, and - well - I don't think I was at my old job. I like to believe that my "coolness" factor is still there, however....

Anyway....speaking of the "coolness factor...."

One of my new work buddies turned 30 today and was given the new Beyonce album, which inspired her (and some of my other cool 20-something single friends) to show me "Single Man Dances to Single Girls." Have you seen this? I only ask because I get the impression that I might be the only person on the planet who hasn't seen this video. But this could be a scientific study - my hypothesis is that the closer you get to 40, the less likely you are to have seen this video.

For those of you who might be reading this around kids...well - it's a great video but not one you'd want to play for your kids. Let's just say that when I watch this guy (who is presumably from Greenwich Village, and I say that out of pure jealousy for the hip life I assume he must live, not as a criticism of his lifestyle...which of course I shouldn't presume...and as Seinfeld would say..."Not that there's anything wrong with that...") I feel two things: (1) really, really fat (he even makes Beyonce look chunky) and (2) like the world's worst dancer.

I mean, really - this guy rocks!

Anyway - as a tribute to all my new single girlfriends - I give you "Single Man Dances to Single Girls" ... and thank goodness I'm going out with a bunch of them tomorrow to see Twilight!

http://www.blackbottom.com/watch.php?v=QSonBANahFN

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big Girls...

One of the songs on my "regular rotation" right now is Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry (Personal)." Good song and man, sometimes I just need to hear it.

It's been (to put it very mildly) a rather stressful week at work. And of course, I always manage to throw a few personal stressors into my life on any given week - just for the heck of it. (I could never be accused of making my life too easy...)

So the concept that "big girls don't cry" had me asking myself: "Really???? Are we sure about that??" The truth is that I hardly ever cry anymore -- but I'm not sure that's a good thing. Granted, it's undoubtedly best that I don't burst into tears at work or at my children's elementary school - but it seems to me that if I allowed myself to have good cry every now and then, it might be quite healthy.

I'm not even sure I know how to really let go and cry anymore. Do you remember those really heart-wrenching cries you had as a kid or even as a teenager? (Maybe guys didn't cry like that as teenagers...I wouldn't know...but girls often do.) During those cries, you feel like your whole world is falling apart, but after it's over you have a really good perspective on life. And the solutions just seemed to emerge after that cathartic release.

I guess where I'm going with all of this is that if it's true that big girls don't cry...I'm not sure I want to be a big girl.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mom of Rambo

Tonight, as I was wrapping gifts for my kids, I started to count how many toy guns and gun-related/army-related STUFF my son will be receiving from me and/or Santa Claus (that troublesome old geezer...). It is really rather shocking.

I can just hear the "tsk, tsk-ing" of the non-parents, or the parents of daughters, or the parents of boys who have not yet developed a fascination with the American Military-Industrial Complex. Trust me, throughout the entire course of my life I'm sure I would have been voted "Most Likely to Give Peace A Chance" so the fact that I'm outfitting my son like a miniature Rambo is irony at its highest level.

[Interesting artistic side note: I learned the song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" when I was about 6 or 7 and instantly fell in love with it. I thought it was the most beautiful and meaningful song in the entire world and I've been singing it ever since. As a matter of fact, it was a regular staple of my lullabye repetoire for both my children - including my own little General Patton.]

Here's the big picture, as I see it, however. The key characteristics of my little boy are as follows:
- Yes, he wants to be in the Army when he grows up. But he wants to be a doctor in the army so he won't get shot and so he can help people. (Really - I think he just sees camo as pretty cool - and who can blame him?)
- He is actually quite tenderhearted. During the soccer season, anytime someone would fall down (regardless of what team they were on), he would run over to them (ignoring the coaching and the soccer ball) to make sure they were ok and help them up, if needed.
- He still cuddles with me.

So he might love his guns (and man, if you want to see a happy 5 year old boy, just hang out with us on Christmas Day when he opens his Clone Trooper Blaster) and I know he spends hours setting up his model military planes and toy soldiers just so - but when it comes right down to it, I want him to be true to himself and I don't think there's anything I could do to change his feelings about guns and the army (exept for maybe add a healthy dose of guilt - we moms are pretty good at that, you know). So my philosophy is that we keep emphasizing that real guns are dangerous (and we keep them out of the house, thank you very much) and we don't permit toy guns to be pointed at people, but within those limits - we let him be a boy. Because, after all, he'll have to be a man much too soon.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Good Karma

I honestly should appreciate my karma more often than I do. All things considered, my karma should be - well....crap. (Sorry for the semi-potty language in my blog but "crap karma" was such great alliteration that I couldn't pass it up.) But for some bizarre reason, I've got good karma. Go figure.

Today I called the WDW Advance Dining Reservation line and, by some wild miracle, was able to get ALL of the dining and entertainment reservations I wanted. Now...I'll qualify that by pointing out that I did not try for a "princess breakfast" (darn it all....maybe I could just go by myself) but I was able to get a pretty late seating at the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary so we could watch the fireworks one night. And that's not half bad.

Anyway - back to my karma.

As mentioned above, the WDW stuff fell into place. It is also worth noting that all my Christmas presents are simply happening with very little effort on my part and the weather FINALLY turned cold. The Irish girl in me is cynically waiting for the other shoe to drop. ('Ok, I know the redcoats are just around the corner...stop teasing me with all this good luck....")

The Buddhist philosophy (in my very limited understanding of it) is to just accept good or bad as it comes and not allow outside events to control how you feel. (A HECK of a lot easier said than done, I'd like to point out.) In other words, even if all sorts of great stuff is happening, one should not allow one's happiness to be dependent upon those things because everything in life is transitory. (That sounds depressing but it goes the other way too - you shouldn't get bummed when bad stuff happens because things always change.)

The funny thing is, I'm honestly not sure what to feel about all my blessings. And I'm not just talking about the current, "light" blessings like Disney World reservations - I'm also a bit perplexed about my "deep" blessings - like my family, my education, and my career. Although some work on my part was required, for the most part, I am blessed because I was born into a family that gave me everything and more than I could ever need. This completely throws me. I feel like I'm holding a priceless crystal vase and I have no idea what to do with it. I don't want to leave it on a shelf to get dusty but I'm scared to death of shattering it because of my careless way of handling things.

So the question remains...what am I supposed to do with these beautiful blessings? And is it really ok for me enjoy them when deep down - I don't believe I deserve them? I know the philosophically-correct answers to these questions but knowing something and incorporating it into my life are two totally different things.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Countdown to Mickey....

...or, more accurately in my case - Belle.


We are going to DisneyWorld! (Whoopeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!)


I probably went to WDW at least 4 times as I was growing up - the best one was when I was in High School and a cute French guy flirted with me. (ooo-la-la...) As an adult, I had an opportunity to go for a few days when my eldest was in preschool and my youngest was a little baby. Normally we wouldn't have gone with a baby but we joined my parents there for a convention and it was fun. Ever since then, however, I've been anxious to go back there when my youngest was old enough to remember it. So...we took the plunge this week and made a downpayment on a Spring Break vacation.


I know - Spring Break will be busy. But a couple of my friends from my last job recommended TourGuideMike.com and I think that website will really help us plan out the best use of our time. Here's the good news/bad news of this trip as I see it:


1. Princesses - This is a rather interesting situation. You see, my eldest (my daughter) was only barely into princesses as a preschooler. Five years ago, I used the excuse of going to WDW with a 4-year-old girl as my own personal excuse for hunting down all the princesses with ruthless abandon. We even scored a seat at Cinderella's Castle for the Princess Breakfast. (OMG...it was so, so, so fabulous...) My eldest thought it was fine at the time, I suppose, but now that she is 9 and has completely rejected all things girly, there shall be no princess breakfasts or other princess hunts. Now, most normal parents would think...score! We don't have to be in the "Princess Hordes!" I, however, am not a normal parent and I am a moderately devastated that I won't get to be 2 feet away from Cinderella, Jasmine, and (my personal favorite) Belle.

2. Spring Break - The good news is that we're about to go to WDW!! The bad news is that Spring Break is one of the busiest times to go. Hmmm....But I have great faith in Tour Guide Mike and my very obsessive-compulsive tendencies to plan our vacations out the wazoo. Tonight I'm trying to figure out exactly where I need to make dinner reservations - so wish me luck in actually getting those reservations. We considered going when the kids were still in school but I couldn't stand the idea of getting those nasty letters from the school district for unexcused absences. Yikes. Those letters always give me the impression that they're about to come in and take my kids away from me. And I've only gotten them before because I've forgotten to get Dr notes when they've been tardy. I can't even begin to imagine what they'd say if I took them to WDW for a week.

3. My Obssessive-Compulsive Tendencies - The good news is that we will have a plan, the bad news is that we might have TOO MUCH of a plan. I'll need to watch myself and make sure that I remember the chill factor when it comes to a vacation plan.

Oh...and it just occurred to me...I bet the little shampoos from the Disney resorts will be AWESOME!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

'Tis the Season


You think I'm a Christmas freak for putting this picture on my blog before Thanksgiving, right? Come on - admit it....

The truth is, I had a rough day and I came home pretty much emotionally drained. But when I finally made it upstairs, I found out that my husband had set up this little Christmas tree for me in our bedroom and I just about cried because it made me so happy.

You see, I've always wanted a Christmas tree in my bedroom so that I could fall asleep with it glowing away. So, on Tuesday (a day we took off work to go shopping for the kids while they were in school), I grabbed this tree at Target so that I could set it up in my bedroom. It's great to have it up now and it's interesting because as I type this post, I'm sitting on my bed and I can see the picture of the tree on my laptop screen and the real tree is in my periperal vision.

I'm in such a searching mode right now in my life. Tonight it really has me pondering what I need from Christmas this year. I've done Christmas so many ways throughout the years. Some years I've had the energy and stamina to be focused on making the perfect recipes and crafts. Some years I've been more focused on religious meditations. Some years the gifts have fallen into place and I've found the right thing for everyone on my list, but sometimes the gifts (or lack thereof) become the bane of my existence.

Tonight - as I look at this bedroom tree I've wanted from the time I was a child (when the dark first began to frighten me) - I realize that what I need this year is light.

I don't want glaring light that will make me squint or shade my eyes. That would be too much for me right now. I only need a few tiny pinpricks of light to soften the dark. The dark will never be extinguished, and maybe it shouldn't be, but a few tiny light-diamonds will keep it at bay. So this Christmas, I want soft light - on the inside and all around.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Dog Blog Post
















We have a dog.

Our dog is bald.

Our dog is odd.

He smells our breath.

He hides from rain.

He barks at squirrels.

He barks at bikes.

He licks too much.

He snores all night.

My kids love him.

He loves my kids.

And I am glad

He doesn't bite.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Elves Nearly Find Peace....

What elves...and how did they find it?????
[Note to reader: if you don't have any idea what the Myers-Briggs personality test is - this will probably mean nothing to you...not that any of my other postings necessarily make tons of sense, but this one may seem particularly ODD.]

Well...I got my latest Myers-Briggs results this evening and I thought it would be kind of funny to come up with a phrase using my MB letters for the title of the posting. (Ok, ok - maybe it was just funny for me. But it's my blog and I'll make up strange mnemonics if I want to.)

I got a handy, dandy little explanation of myself (a single-sided 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper) and it is possibly my most treasured possession right now because, when I read it I feel very validated and affirmed. (This is a good thing. Affirmation is mentioned about 3 times on this guide-to-Jenn-and-her-oddness because ENFPs "need affirmation from others and need to affirm others.")

Oh, yeah - another fun little quirk about ENFPs is that we "experience a great depth of emotion and diverse feeling." No way, you say....you're kidding me, Jenn!!! Really, guys, I'm serious! (Now please affirm me already, ok????)

I've always assumed that I'm not "normal" because I've defined normal as a person who sees the world factually - not emotionally. (You know, someone who's the exact opposite of me - think of the phrase "Icicles Shred Through Jelly.")

But it turns out that I'm a perfectly normal Extroverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving person (thought I'd throw out the real words that go with the letters just for the heck of it).

I'm normal! (Ok - I admit that might be a bit of an overstatement.)

Let's go with...I'm definable! Woo-hoo!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Please attach your own oxygen mask first...

This analogy is not mine, but it is really hitting home for me tonight...

In the event of an emergency, please put the oxygen on yourself before assisting your child.

We went to a parenting support group thing-y at church tonight. The facilitator really knew her stuff and knew how to boil it down to the core essentials. I chose tonight as the night we HAD to go because the topic of discussion was: "Eating Issues." (Ok - I hear the laughing out there in the audience and I know exactly who is laughing at this point. So you can stop now.)

About halfway through the group it hit me like a ton of bricks that I have given food all kinds of power in my life, so really it's not surprising that my kids (especially my daughter) have glommed onto the idea of daily food battles with me. (Kids are able to push our buttons with amazing, almost surgical, precision.) A number of other, rather obvious but nonetheless PROFOUND insights washed over me for the remainder of the evening.

I'm desperate not to lose the insights I gained, and I supppose that's why I'm blogging about it. The key point for me, however, is that until I can be ok with me (I mean, really ok with me) and until I can give up the idea that my happiness depends upon what other people (including my family) think of me...then I won't be giving my kids what they need.

Because what they really need is a mom who is taking care of herself. At that point, they can hopefully say to themselves: "Oh, that's how you live life. You take care of yourself, you love people, you enjoy life. I can do that." Instead of saying: "What do I need to do to make sure everything works out? Is that person happy with me?"

Now...the only tricky part will be breaking about three and a half decades of habitual self-talk to the contrary. But the good news is that at least now I can see the oxygen mask dangling in front of my face. It's right there. And I'm about to grab it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Nature Speaks

I've been writing poetry. I don't think I've mentioned that on my blog. The interesting thing I've noticed is that when I can't figure out how to explain someting, I end up using a nature analogy to do it. I know, of course, that it is very common to do so (i.e. Robert Frost). Somehow it is so satisfying to me when my feelings are all in a mush and they finally start to make sense as something in nature clarifies the truth for me - so to speak.

Today we went to the Zilker Botanical Gardens. It was CRAZY busy there so it was less peaceful than one might want if one was searching only for solitude or a place to meditate. But we had a great time. There is one part of the gardens that's called "Lauren's Trail" and when I saw the memorial stone it stopped me cold. Lauren was born in 1971 - the year of my birth. She died 5 years ago, and she was apparently a poet and an environmentalist. The memorial had a piece of her poetry on it.

As we left, on our long trek back to our car (we had to park way far away...), my eye caught a pretty piece of yellow in the dirt by the road. It was a dead butterfly in pristine shape. In the picture of the butterfly, you can see my son's hand under my hand as I held it out so my children could admire it's beauty. I knew instantly that this butterfly was special to me - I could tell that my soul was whispering a secret so I didn't want to let go of it and I brought it home with me. However, it wasn't until I saw the butterfly picture that the message came through loud and clear.

I credit Lauren and the butterfly for offering me this message:

Even after the end arrives - the end of a dream or the end of a love - the beauty it offers remains, if we choose to carry it with us.



Friday, November 7, 2008

Free Samples!!!!

I realized I had to supplement my "shoe therapy" post...I missed one of the most obvious and fabulous things in the whole world....free samples, baby. (Oooooo....I just get all tingly thinking about them.)


As a matter of fact, this is what a big sucker I am for free samples:

Sephora (a fancy-smancy makeup store), as many of you who read this are aware, is all about giving away free samples with their orders. And once you spend $100 bucks there, you get to choose from a really special (i.e. bigger) free sample. Oooooo. How cool is that, right?


Bear in mind, gentle readers, that although I think makeup is a lot of fun in theory - I rarely spend more than 4 minutes throwing it on my face and use the same 3 products every single day of my life.


However, for someone whose idea of adventurous makeup application is putting on eyeshadow, I have spent an UNGODLY amount of money at Sephora.com - primarily in my neverending quest to get more "free" samples. (Yes, I'm quite aware of the irony - they aren't free at all when I'm finding excuses to spend hundreds of dollars in my quest to get them.)


[Observant readers of this blog will note that this free-sample fetish is very similar to my obsession with hotel swag. One might ponder what it is about teeny-tiny things that makes my heart go all a-flutter. Of course, if one wondered about it for too long - one would probably come up with unflattering ideas about my sanity. So please don't ponder - ok?]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shoe Therapy



Ever since I was a teenager, I've wanted a pair of Converse high tops. Over the last year and a half I've even played around on their website, designing various shoes but never ordering them. Their spam-mail finally worked on me the other day when they told me I should check out their online outlet. I saw this pair and thought: "Oh, yeah. I need those." I mean, honestly, what IS the point of being a self-sufficient adult if you can't buy yourself the pair of tennis shoes you always wanted?

The really cool thing about these shoes is that they are RED product - where part of the money goes to fight AIDS in Africa. You can't really tell from the picture, but the soles are red (as are the shoelaces). Anyway, the point of this post is not so much my shoes as it is the quirky little things that have a tendency to lift me out of my patented Jenn-angst. When I put them in writing, I realize how bizarre my psyche is.

Things that make me feel better when I am blue:

1. Shopping bags with handles. The paper ones are only peripherally satisfying now. The really great ones are the ones with extra bling. (Such as Juicy Couture bags.)

2. New shoes (I know this is normal for most women but I was about 33 or 34 before I cared about shoes IN THE LEAST. It took decades for me to give in to the footwear proselytizing of my mother and my brother's wife...)

3. Really, really loud music while I'm driving in my convertible with the top open. (Today it was the Twilight soundtrack.)

4. Dilbert cartoons.

5. Exercising while listening to loud music. (Hey, I'm noticing a "loud music" theme here...)

6. Hotel swag. (See previous postings...)

7. Did I mention new shoes? The best therapy is a combination of these elements, such as: going to The Domain and sauntering over to Cole Haan while listening to loud music on my iPod, then buying some AWESOME shoes because their shopping bags are really great. When you think about it, even if you spend a couple of hundred dollars on a good pair of shoes - that's only one or two therapy sessions (and psychologists never really understand me the way Cole Haan does).

When did I get this shallow? Is it a middle-age thing?

Well...maybe I should try to focus more on yoga and meditation. I hate to admit it but those forms of therapy would probably be much longer-lasting than new shoes. The problem is that you just don't get cool shopping bags when you meditate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Go Vote, Guys!!!!

Actually, I'm hoping everyone made it to early voting because of the long lines...but if you haven't voted yet then WHAT ARE YOU DOING READING THIS BLOG?????? GO VOTE ALREADY!!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Are You There God? It's Me....

Want to have some fun? Here's an idea...buy your 9-year-old daughter "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" (by Judy Blume of course, for those of you who are not 30-something women) and start to read it out loud to her. You will REALLY love it when you get to the first mention of Playboy and then you surrepticiously look up to see what her reaction is and you can tell that she knew exactly what it was and took it all in stride.

I actually think I can already tell what topic will receive the most attention from her - it will be the religion thing. For those of you who did NOT read this book 30 times in a row between the time you were 9 and 11, I shall elaborate. Margaret Simon is the child of a mixed marriage - Jewish father, Christian mother. So she was brought up with pretty much no religion. Her paternal grandmother is always pressuring her to date a nice Jewish boy. Well, that set my girl off. "Why does she care if she dates a Jewish boy? Wouldn't it be more interesting to date someone who's a different religion? That way if you get married, you'll have more holidays to celebrate. As a matter of fact, I'm going to marry a 'Hannakah Man' [her words, not mine] so that I can celebrate Hannakah!" (Oy, vey....my Southern Baptist grandparents are going to LOVE that one...)

It was interesting. You could tell that she was COMPLETELY baffled by the fact that "different religions" could possibly be an issue for anyone. When I read this book, I remember thinking that the grandparents should have been more supportive, but I think I was also surprised that people from different religions married each other and could empathize with their shock. I could be wrong, but it seems like that concept rocked my world - kind of like a cat marrying a dog or something. I probably thought Margaret's parents were cool for being rebels and getting married.

But I can tell my daughter doesn't see anything rebellious about Margaret's parents at all. You love someone, you get married - end of story. Religion be damned. (So to speak...)

So - it really makes me wonder about her future soulmate. I get rather excited when I think about it - and I eagerly anticipate what we have ahead of us for the next few years. (Although I know I'll be eating those words when some of you throw them back in my face once she hits 7th grade....I expect the "eager anticipation" shall be replaced by "who is this crazy half-woman in my house?????"....)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pink and Me



My morning centered around the Susan Komen Race for the Cure, followed by a VERY fattening TexMex lunch, complete with a (rather potent) frozen margarita. Now...that's my idea of supporting a cause. I am now inspired to write about pink. When I was a little girl, it was a point of pride for me to dislike pink. In my mind (and, to be fair, in reality) it was only the "girly girls" who liked pink during the 70's. Lots of my friends insisted that their favorite color was pink, but all of those girls were the same ones who acted all silly about boys...so - what EV er. That was SO not for me.....


Today, however, pink seems to mean something else. As a matter of fact, if you go shopping for boxing paraphernalia (as I did a few years ago when I was in karate) you will find plenty of pink boxing gloves, helmets, etc. Now - I could be wrong - but I'm pretty darn sure that you didn't find pink boxing stuff around when I was a kid.


This morning, there was (of course) tons of pink simply everywhere. As a matter of fact, I saw a very large dog that had been spray-painted hot pink. By a GUY, apparently. Speaking of guys, I saw a plethora of guys in pink shirts, walking and running for the cure. Gotta love those Austin men.


For me, pink now represents the idea that it's a lot of fun being a girl or a woman, that we don't have to match men exactly (in terms of work or life generally), but that you still better not screw around with us because we are a lot tougher than you might at first expect.


So, think pink. And while you're doing that, I'll be napping because I am feeling that margarita.

Friday, October 31, 2008

How to Become a Princess...

Tonight is Halloween and, as you might remember from my missive a few days ago, I am therefore in my element. I thought I had my costume all figured out for tonight but the dress I planned to wear is MIA.

What to do???

I know! I'll pull my wedding dress out of the closet and just wear that! The really cool thing is that whenever I put on my wedding dress (yes, this is not the only time I've done this...), my little boy thinks I look like a princess. So tonight he decides to make me a construction paper crown to wear with my wedding dress.

It's funny, guys. I have to admit that there have been times in my life when I've wondered how it would feel to be a princess - to be a woman who is adored. I guess I've always assumed that kind of adoration would involve trips to Paris, champagne, and beautiful ballgowns. But tonight, in my homemade crown (complete with heart stickers and happy faces), I felt more special than just about any other time I can remember.

So it turns out that all you need to become a princess is a fluffy 15-year-old wedding dress, a homemade paper crown, and of course a little boy who believes you are a princess.

Boomers

I just heard a presentation about the "generation gap" at my conference. I'm going to describe the elements of the presentation and let's see if the class can spot the flaws:

- The speakers on the panel (there were 3 of them) were ALL Baby Boomers.
- They only spoke about the qualities of the Millennial Generation (born 1979 or later)
- Pretty much the only mention of Gen-X was to have us raise our hands (we were at least 1/2 of the audience and the other 1/2 were Boomers, there were only 2 Millennials) at which point, the speaker informed us that Gen-X was the biggest group in legal departments but the group with the least power. We were the "silent majority." The speakers only seemed to care about how Boomers need to relate to Millennials.

Gee, thanks.

I actually find these generational speeches to be really interesting and I have to admit that on my way back up to my hotel room, I figured out that my own personal angst can probably be summed up pretty well by the fact that I might not fit into any generational group really well. Sometimes I think that although I'm technically Gen-X, I've tried to live the life of a Boomer and I have the multi-tasking (to the extreme) personality of a Millennial.

Ok, ok...I'm probably just overthinking this (no...not Jenn!) - my angst is probably just due to my lack of sleep.

I maintain, however, that they should NOT have ONLY had Boomers up there and I also think that Gen-X deserved a bit more respect. After all, guys, one of us might be President after next Tuesday. And it'll be a Boomer in the second-hand chair if that's the case. So watch out, you Boomers, we're coming into our own.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hotel Swag



I can't really explain this, but for some reason I am a SUCKER for hotel swag (i.e. - the little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion that you get at hotels). I REALLY like it when I'm at a nice hotel and get the fancy stuff, but I also keep the stuff from Holiday Inn if given the opportunity to do so.

Back at home (in case you haven't figured it out, I'm at a hotel right now) I have a basket which is simply overflowing with little bottles of stuff. In theory, these little bottles of hotel swag are meant for our overnight guests. We honestly don't have too many of those (can you blame them???) and even when they do come over (it's usually a set of grandparents who've been roped into it so we can go out on a date), there's only a 50/50 chance that I'll remember to set out a set of swag for them to use.

But something about these teeny little bottles makes me SO EXCITED (you may have noticed that about certain things, I am easily thrilled...oh- and in case you ever stay at the Hyatt Dulles, it's the most awesome hotel of all because they give you free travel toothpastes without you even having to ask for them...oooo!!!!). I must say, however, that the recent FAA paranoia about liquid explosives has really put a crimp in my style. You see, my handy dandy little ziplock-o-mini-bottles is often pretty full on my way to a destination. What, I ask you, am I supposed to do when I have an additional 3-9 bottles of hotel swag (depending upon the length of my trip) which must make it back to Austin? What am I supposed to do if I can't stuff those into my ziplock bag? The idea of leaving them behind is simply anathema to me (again...don't try to find logic in this obsession...there is none). I have honestly considered only traveling in clothes with pockets on the way back so that I can stuff little bottles of shampoos in my pockets in order to make it through security and, thus, "game" the system. When one considers the amount of intellectual energy I expend on figuring out how to get this crap home, one realizes that there is probably a clinical condition to describe someone who is willing to risk being labeled a shampoo-terrorist and sent to Guantanamo Bay so that she is able to bring a few extra bottles of shampoo home from a business trip. (Note: this crazy woman will most likely NEVER USE the shampoo that she is sneaking through airport security.)

On the off chance that this psychological condition has not yet been classified, I'm opening the floor to suggestions. The person who comes up with the best name for my neuroses is entitled to a month's supply of hotel swag.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Boo!

In my (arguably irrational and almost certainly heretical) opinion, Halloween is one of the most fabulous holidays of the entire year. For those of you in need of factual support of this opinion, I offer the following points:

1. You get to dress up as anyone you want, even at work (unless you work at a stodgy place, in which case you should immediately quit your job and go work at a cool place).
2. You get tons and tons of free candy. (Ok, technically it's only free if you're a kid. Adults have to pay for it. And...also...I don't actually eat candy anymore but I still think that the idea of gorging myself on chocolate is fabulous - even if it no longer happens.)
3. You get to see the dark and creative sides of those around you. This really isn't a bad thing. It adds depth and perspective to your world. Trust me on this one.
4. There are hordes of deliriously happy children roaming the streets. (How can you not love hordes of deliriously happy children?)
5. Did I mention that you get to be ANYONE you want? Really - this is the best thing in the world. I've always said that in my perfect world, there would be a "dress up" day once a month. There just aren't enough Halloweens in my lifetime for me to be everyone I want to be. Granted, this might have something to do with the fact that if I had my way, I'd quit my job and be a full time actor in community theater productions. But you have to admit - it's totally fun.
6. Finally, it is TECHNICALLY a religious holiday - or at least it originated as such. All Saint's Eve, you know (or Hallowed Eve). [Ok, ok - I admit it - I just threw this one in as a last ditch effort to convince you. I don't really care whether it used to be religious.]

This Halloween is kind of a bummer for me because it's the first Halloween in simply AGES when I haven't spent hours and hours planning my costume. I didn't even get a new one. I'll be coming back into town from a business trip barely in time to help my kids get ready for trick-or-treating, then we'll rush off to a party. It's in a neighborhood where I don't know anyone. My friend who invited me told me that no other adult will be in costume and that if I show up in costume, she will pretend like she doesn't know who I am. Will that stop me from putting on my Korean Hanbok (a traditional dress I purchased years ago in Korea)? Heck no!! It just makes me want to put it on even more!

Oh, yes, that reminds me of the final reason that Halloween is the most awesome day of the year:
It's the only day of the year when you have permission to totally and completely humiliate your family by dressing up in costume and acting goofy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

1, 2, 3, 4...I declare a thumb war!!




Do you remember doing this? I'm curious how long kids have played this game. (Heck, my husband and I have been known to do this at the dinner table...obviously it's not JUST a kids thing...and I'd like the record to reflect that it is the ONLY thing at which I can consistently kick his butt.) There are so many things that I always assumed were "70's" things - that my generation invented - which I've found out were around long before I was. Each generation is convinced that they have an exclusive experience...but the perspective of age teaches me that it just ain't so.




I'm contemplating generational issues because I am hanging in Frisco, Texas with my daughter, my niece, my sister-in-law (a.k.a. the woman who introduced me to the Twilight Addiction - er....I mean the Twilight Series), and my mom. We spent most of the day teasing mom about her joke-threats that she used as my brother and I found ever more creative ways to try her patience. I told her that I felt a blog post coming on about those threats....(this isn't quite it, in case you're wondering - you'll have to wait for some other evening's post to hear about how she regularly told us she'd "Yank us bald-headed" and "Knock us into next week")...and in the meantime, I'm getting less and less patient with my own daughter as her hyperactivity level increases (yes, E, I know very well that she gets it from me...) and she keeps talking about the injustice of the fact that she hasn't saved as much money as her cousin for when we go to the American Girl Doll store. Argh!!! I suddenly had a lot more respect for my mom and her joke-threats because I must say that mine today probably sounded A LOT more serious at certain times.




Sorry - I got all distracted with judgmental mother-angst there - what was I talking about? Oh, yeah...the wisdom that comes with age. So much for that one.


Anyway - the picture above is of my eldest and her cousin as they "thumb-warred" away during lunch. As I watched them, I had vague visions of a very meaningful post about intergenerational issues and decided to take this picture for illustrative purposes. Well....at least you got the picture, even if I was a bit too tired and Gen-X-ish tonight to be comtemplative. Somehow, all I can think about right now is the long drive back home on I-35 tomorrow.




Friday, October 24, 2008

Cat....?

My current read really is a good one (thanks, J, for the recommendation!) but I'm reading it slowly because it's darn deep. It's one of those books where I'll read a few sentences, then I'll actually stop and ponder...then I'll re-read them.

That's very anti-Jenn in many ways. As a general rule, I'm a speed demon with books. The Clancy novels used to drive me nuts because I would read them at my normal hyperspeed but I'd end up all confused about the characters because he'd throw new ones in every few pages. Whew. It was a bit much for me although I still loved the spy-who-saves-the-world plotlines.

ANYWAY...back to the book at hand...it's really got me thinking and I'm still in Chapter One. What's kind of funny is that it's got me thinking a lot about Breakfast at Tiffany's. I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect that no one else on the planet would connect this very well-written, Jungian psychology-themed, spiritual-quest-type-book with Audrey's Greatest Role (my personal opinion). I, however, tend to notice (or invent, depending on your point of view) connections that are not traditionally obvious.

As I was taking my exercise walk tonight (and listening over and over to the SATC soundtrack), I kept flashing on the last scene in Breakfast at Tiffany's. For those of you who don't have visions of Holly Golightly dance through your head on a regular basis, I'll enlighten you about the classic final scene from that movie....

Holly has a cat. But she won't name the cat. Artistically, it's because the cat represents her inner self, and she can't accept herself - she has a lot of self-hatred that she tries to cover up with her various issues. So at the end of the movie, it's raining and she finally realizes that she DOES care about the cat (i.e. - she cares about being true to herself, and taking care of herself, and letting herself be loved by a man who really cares about who she is on the inside) and she's wandering through the alley, dripping wet, saying "Cat...? Cat...?" [In case you're curious, she finds the cat and finds her guy, and the three of them presumably live happily ever after - yea, Hollywood!]

So back to my walk....I'm walking along and I have this image of Holly, soaking wet, and calling for Cat. How is this related to my book you might (reasonably) ask? The book is all about giving up on your previous ideas of what you are supposed to be (ideas your parents or teachers probably gave you) and trying to figure out who you truly are so that you can really accept and love yourself.

Even as I re-read this post, however, I can tell that I'm missing the point here. It's not about the connection to the book per se (I was getting way too academic and literary - a rather common phenomenon one will see on this blog)....what it really comes down to is that I'm hunting for Cat. That's it.

Cat...?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Black Belt

I'm blogging as I watch my children at karate and at the front of the gym is a sign with the Five Black Belt Values.

These values are:
1. Modesty
2. Courtesy
3. Integrity
4. Self-Control
5. Perseverence

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to consider how well I incorporate these values into my own life.

Modesty - I don't believe I'm very strong in this area. I am very dependent on the views of others - what they think of me truly matters. Because of that, it's important to me that I find ways to show others that I am smart or hard-working. It's difficult to be truly modest when one is constantly worried about what others think. Ironically, I suppose one must have strong self-confidence before one can be truly modest.

Courtesy - Of all of these, perhaps this is the value which comes easiest to me. I am very empathetic (to a fault, often) and therefore bend over backwards to make sure that I am polite. I'm weakest in this area when I am dealing with my own children - they see me at my worst (the mornings, when we are rushing to school) and I often find myself apologizing to them for letting my frustrations show in my tone of voice.

Integrity - I'm really not sure what this is supposed to mean. I know what the word means to me, but I'm not sure if it's the common definition. In my opinion, if someone has integrity, he is a man of his word and takes responsibility for his own actions. As I type this, the black belt instructor is teaching the children about this value. According to her, integrity means not lying. For me, the hardest part of honesty is being honest with myself.

Self-Control - Goodness. Isn't this about the hardest thing for almost all Americans? Many of my friends claim that I have strong self-control for giving up sugar from my diet. The truth, however, is that I gave up sugar because I have no self-control at all. If I ate one cookie, I would eat the entire box. I could either go crazy with eating sugar or I could go cold turkey.

Perseverence - I have to laugh because as soon as I read this word, my first thought was "Well, that comes and goes for me." Hmmm.... I could be wrong but I'd have to say that if it "comes and goes" then I do not have perseverence. And - of all the values listed - for some reason, this is the one I least WANT to have. I think there's a part of me that wants to be a little bit flakey about things that require discipline.