Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jenn's First Handwritten Post

This is, in a way, my first handwritten blog posting. Of course, it's not handwritten for you - but it was handwritten before it was typed. I've taken to carrying around a small notebook in my purse (two, actually - a practical one and an "artistic" one). It's been necessary for me to resort to such measures because I no longer have a phone with data access. There is, therefore, no checking my Yahoo or Facebook during my down time (which consists of 10 minutes at the doctor's office, if I'm LUCKY) and no checking work email (which was the original, intended result of no data access on my cell phone).

That actually makes me rather a freak-a-zoid in my current social circles. I'm actually ok with that fact, but sometimes (ok, almost ALWAYS) my ADHD kicks in and I get a little freaked out if I'm just sitting there with nothing to click or surf. I'm only halfway through the "India" part of Eat, Pray, Love - so you can hardly blame me that I'm only occasionally able to access my Perfect Inner Self who is at peace with the world.

At any rate - I decided that a small notebook could serve as a substitute Bberry, in a way. It's really a bit quaint and I like to imagine that I look rather Bronte-ish (don't know how to put the umlaut over an e in Blogger - sorry) when I pull out the ol' miniature notebook in public.

Oh - did I mention that none of the above constitutes my first handwritten blog posting? That was just the introduction - here's the real post (written as I sat idle - dead car - at an Exxon station not too far from my house after filling up the tank):

It WOULD happen that my car would start dying on me PRECISELY at the moment that I leave my $_____ a year job [you didn't think I'd really type exactly what I wrote in my Bronte journal, did you???] for a $____ a year job. Because, really, why die on me at a time when I have extra money? I have to admit, however, that it's great to have my husband right around the corner and able to rescue me. Whew. Knights on white horses ROCK.

Just checked the car again (because it's getting seriously muggy in here). Nope. Still quite dead.

Perhaps I should use this as inspiration to learn more about the workings of my car? Hmmm. Perhaps not. I'd rather just go with my current theory - BAD VIBES.

I have rather a lot of evidence to back up my theory that my vibes suck. You see -  yesterday was my first day back at my new/old (nold??) job and my computer disliked me so much that they had to take it away from me and re-install Windows.

Now my car keeps dying. (This is the second time in as many days.)

If that's not an indication of bad technology karma, I don't know what is.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Life is full of potential accomplishments. One person's accomplishments might be drudgery, or even failure, for another person. Even more notable, from my perspective, is that a personal accomplishment at one point in my life might not be the accomplishment I want at another point in my life.

Case in point: two years ago, the accomplishment I wanted and needed was to challenge myself with a new job. I tackled that and succeeded in proving that I can handle tough situations. I also proved to myself that gaining power in the business world and making six figures wasn't really going to cut it for me. I began to crave some accomplishments which used to seem like chores.

Today, I feel as if I've accomplished more than I have in a long time. I planned a museum morning for our family at the Bob Bullock Museum (where we watched a 3D movie about Arabia) and the Blanton Museum of Art (because Groupon just had a great deal on family memberships). At the Blanton, I was so happy to just sit back and quietly watch my kids take in art. My son spent a long time looking at every detail of some of the frontier/cowboy paintings and my daughter couldn't wait to get to the modern art gallery. It was a great morning because I refrained from rushing or insisting that we follow my own agenda. I let the kids lead. That was a huge accomplishment for me.

Once we got home, I did a grocery run where I saved buckets of money with coupons (always a fun accomplishment), then came home and cooked/prepared food for a freaky-long time. I considered the women in generations before me who had to cook for hours at a time and figured I wouldn't have loved it so much if it was expected of me or if I didn't have any other options. But I was really in kitchen heaven from about 2 - 7 p.m. this afternoon - because it was my choice.

It's a great life lesson. Accomplishments are only satisfying if they are the ones we choose for ourselves. Public acclaim is great - and Lord knows I'm a sucker for it - but if my heart is really into the idea of baking the perfect loaf of bread one Saturday, then I might as well focus on that because nothing else is going to make me as happy. Since accomplishments and life callings tend to morph, maybe a few months later I'll be called to lead a board meeting. If so, I'll just go at it with the same gusto and that accomplishment will as satisfying as today's cooking...

Although there's no way it will smell as delicious.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Anglification of Jenn

I have no idea if "anglification" is an actual word. Probably not, since Blogger adds red squiggly lines under the word. That is rarely a good sign, grammatically speaking. For the purposes of this posting, however, could we all agree to accept its existence?

Okay. Good. I will assume that you are in agreement if you've continued to read this far.

As background, you should understand that I was raised by a mother who was very proud of her Irish and Cherokee heritage. I knew about the Irish struggle for independence at a rather young age for a girl raised in the American South. As a matter of fact, I suspect that by the time I was 8 or 9, I could tell passersby about Bloody Sunday, the Great Hunger and the Trail of Tears. (After tonight, my son can now do the same in regards to the Irish pieces of our past...but more about that in just a bit.)

At any rate, my small forays into genealogy never revealed English blood in my heritage and I've stood by that claim, although it's notable to point out that I also never dug any deeper into my bloodlines. (Yes, I'm part Welsh on my father's side but I never considered that to be "English," especially after watching the movie The Englishman Who Walked Up a Hill and Came Down A Mountain. Grand piece of cinema, that.)

My daughter (my red-haired, freckled, passionate daughter) spent the last week at soccer camp where she was assigned to the "English" team. Because of that, she now wants an English soccer jersey and wants to cheer for England all the time. As we sat in a pub tonight (well, the American version of a pub - the Lion and Rose), eating English food for the first time ever - she went on about how much she loved England and I tried to shut it down before coming to my senses and remembering that we are, in fact, living in 2010. And the English government just this week apologized for Bloody Sunday.

Between the scrumptious fish and chips my daughter ordered, the rather tasty pastie I simply had to try after reading so much about them in Harry Potter, and - OF COURSE - the apology, I decided that the time has come for me to bury the hatchet...so to speak. I suppose our children really do teach us how to let go. If my daughter is in love with England for the time being, who am I to disagree with her? So, I found a way to embrace my new acceptance of the English as I scarfed down half a pastie and half a bubble & squeak (sort of a latke made of mashed potatoes).

That didn't stop me from giving my son a succinct history lesson about the Great Hunger during our drive home. It is, after all, the reason the McCourts (my maternal line) came to America and I think he should know of it.

Knowing my daughter and her ability to introduce the unexpected into my life, she'll probably end up marrying an Englishman. With my luck, it will be a member of the aristocracy. Yikes. I suppose that will be fine as long as he brings a wicked bread pudding recipe to the family.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

David's Photography

I just uploaded some great photographs (taken by my husband) on a new page. Look on the left-hand side of this page and you'll see a link to a page entitled "David's Photography." Check it out. One of the red-tailed hawk photographs was taken by a 40-year-old Nikon zoom lens attached to his D300. Kudos to anyone who can guess which picture it is!

Red Shoes

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I spent my first day of freedom cleaning/organizing my closet. I even posted "before" pictures, which elicited some pretty hilarious comments. ("For the love of all that is holy, we must SAVE THE SHOES!!")

As you know, the shoes have been rescued from the horrifying mess that was the floor of my closet (but is now perfectly clean) and are neatly set upon shelves. My favorite shelf is my shelf-o-red-shoes. As a matter of fact, I love this particular shelf SO MUCH that I simply had to request that my personal photographer take a snapshot of it so I could blog about it.

These wonderful red shoes sit at about eye level - and when I walk into my newly organized closet, they are sitting there, smiling at me (so to speak). Every single time - I smile right back at 'em. The red flats are a wee bit big and tend to fall off my feet, the bright red heels on the right hurt (sometimes awfully) after a few hours, but the ones in the middle are my Goldilocks shoes. They feel just right. I love all these shoes - even if they hurt my feet or stay behind when I take a step.

Now...if you'll excuse me, I'm supposed to go Fandango some Toy Story 3 tickets and then I'll go up and smile at my shoes for a little bit longer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I'm just breathing this evening. Or...I would be if my asthma/vocal cord dysfunction (pick a condition, any condition...) wasn't screwing with me this afternoon.

I'm just breathing because I'm done with my job. There's no worry that I'm missing an email and there's no worry about what to expect tomorrow morning (I know what to expect - a Tae Kwan Do exercise class, then a massive closet clean-out.)

I'm so glad to have experienced these last two years because I really have grown up and proven what I can do. I've also made wonderful friends and gained 20 pounds.

Ok. So those 20 added pounds are not necessarily a good thing but 10 of them arguably are. Does that mean I've gained 10 pounds if you count what I should have weighed when I started this job? Hmmm. Discuss and offer your insights on that one, please.

I'm already running through my list of chores I "should" tackle at home over the next few days but I plan to resist the urge to start tonight because tonight is made for sparkling white (a.k.a. American "champagne") and Mangia's stuffed spinach pizza.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life Lessons from Baking Bread

I'm not sure how long I've been baking my weekly loaf of bread but it might be over a year now. I don't bake each week, but the vast majority of weeks - I do.

The thing is, once I settled on a recipe that worked I just stuck with it. Why mess with something if it ain't broken, right?

Wrong. If you're Jenn - you mess with it. (Thus the new coral background - you're right, Megan - it is coral, not pink.)

So yesterday I tried a new recipe with a slow-rising dough. It rose for almost 24 hours. Trouble is, once I tried to work with it this morning, it was like yeast soup. I wish I'd taken a picture to share with you but didn't think about it until it was already in the trashcan. Needless to say - that was three cups of flour down the drain. (Not technically, it probably would have clogged the drains permanently. No reason to make a bad situation even worse.)

By that time, it was time for church (which was to be closely followed by The Karate Kid) so I decided to "cheat" and use my bread machine, thus avoiding any worry about being home in time to monitor rising and molding before baking. I couldn't find my bread machine book but an internet search for a recipe brought up this one. As I was loading in the ingredients (minus the rye flour - I increased the amount of whole wheat), I noticed that my bread machine was getting really full and wondered if that might be a problem.

Well, it was.
I know, I know - what the....?????

It turned into some bizarre layered concoction with a cornmeal section, a white section, and a wheat section. As my husband put it - the flours failed to integrate.

Great. Now I have a racist bread machine. That's all I need.

The working theory is that, perhaps, the recipe was meant for a bigger bread machine, thus my wimpy little one couldn't properly mix the ingredients (although mine is so freakin' big that I never know where to store it). So my husband asked if I'd be willing to try ONE MORE TIME with half the ingredients. (You see, he'd noticed the 1/2 cup of honey I put in there and figured it was going to be tasty.)

"All right," I thought, "at least this weekend's bread making escapade is turning into a blog-worthy story."

So far my attitude has remained surprisingly upbeat. If I end up with three strikes, it might be a bit of a challenge for me to stay positive but I'll do my darndest to laugh it off. (I'll post a comment and update you guys on the status of the final product and my attitude after the fat lady sings. So to speak.)

In a nutshell, I've learned that I might use up a bunch of ingredients and time as I try (and fail) to create something new - but it's still a heck of a lot more satisfying to keep baking than it would be to head to HEB and buy a loaf off the shelf. I guess I'd just rather do it myself than let someone else do it for me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Always up for something new...

Yes. I changed the color and template of my blog - at least temporarily. As I told my daughter when I finally relented and allowed her to have a Facebook page, "I reserve the right to change my mind about this at any point in the future. Just because I'm saying yes now, that does NOT mean the answer is yes for all eternity."

Or something like that. Aren't you glad you didn't have me as a mom when you were a kid?

I already miss the green of my original blog. Green is sort of my theme color, except I don't really have "themes" because that would necessitate a certain consistency on my part - which continues to elude me. You might notice, as you scroll down the page (which seems longer than the previous format - another drawback), the pink gets stronger and more pink-ish. I'm not  liking that very much.

How many bloggers angst about their template changes online and point out what they don't like about the alterations? Perhaps I should go ahead and prepare written statements for my employer, pastor and husband about how I'm not living up to my full potential?

Nah. I'm sure it's quite obvious even without a narrative.

I suppose my point, if I were to try to find one in these ramblings, is that if you don't like the new template - feel free to comment honestly because you won't hurt my feelings.

And of course, if you DO like it - or if you at least like the little bird on the right hand side of the page (she's the real reason I chose this style) - feel free to let me know about that as well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gulf Spill Redux

I'm still not over the BP abomination. I suppose that's appropriate, since the abomination isn't finished fouling my gulf, and I'm finding it more and more difficult to maintain my normal level of denial about the stupid oil.

When the world gets too stressful or ignorant, I have a tendency to pretend it doesn't exist. For example...I'm just barely maintaining my denial about the North Korea situation...it's hanging by a thread.

Maybe this cynicism is why The Daily Show appeals to me. It's an excellent buffer between me and the rest of the world. Perhaps its not something to boast about, but survival mechanisms rarely are.

Somehow Jon Stewart dishes the issues out at just the level I can handle. I hate 24-hour news channels, but for some reason I obsessively read the CNN website. So it's not as if I don't follow the news. Here's one theory: I don't want to listen to people unless they amuse me or I agree with them (this can create serious issues for me in life, by the way, especially at work...) but I don't mind reading what anybody has to say.

Except for the BP executives. And Kim Jong Il. I don't even want to READ what those guys have to say.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Defying Gravity

Tomorrow I get to hear one of my all-time favorite songs live and in person. I'll be in Dallas with my daughter, eagerly taking in the brilliance of Wicked. This is her birthday present (although she turned 11 back at the end of April), which I'd been planning since before Christmas - quite a long time!

The more I think about it, Wicked really is a pretty good show for a pre-teen girl to watch since it's all about a couple of girls who are struggling with their own versions of insecurity. The musical isn't nearly as dark as the novel - which is probably good because if it was the street vendors in NYC would have to sell anti-depressants on the corner outside the Gershwin theater. That might diminish the glitter of Broadway. Not that I'd know since I've never actually BEEN there.

But...I digress.

If you've never heard the song "Defying Gravity," then you really are missing out on one of the more inspirational anthems from Broadway musicals. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with "Do You Hear the People Sing?" (Les Miserables) in terms of inspiring an idealistic young woman to action.

Granted, they inspire slightly different activities. I'm not offered very many opportunities to join a plebian revolution against the bourgeoisie (although I adore baguettes and still think building a barricade in the middle of the street would totally rock) so "Defying Gravity" is rather more relevant to my current life.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game.

Too late for second guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes...and leap!

It's time to try defying gravity
I think I'll try defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

I'm through accepting limits
'Cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But 'til I try I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love, I guess I've lost.

Well if that's love - it comes at much too high a cost!

....and on it goes. Although this song is the perfect segue into my new life, I'll be doing my best not to sing along at the top of my lungs. I can only assume such a display would embarrass my daughter (well, maybe not - she might understand but I'd better not risk embarrassing my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and niece).

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately...
Everyone deserves a chance to fly!

And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free!
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me....

Tell them how I'm defying gravity
I'm flying high, defying gravity!
And soon I'll match them in renown.

And nobody in all of Oz
No wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!