Sunday, October 21, 2012

This, ladies and gentlemen, is all that remains after my family scarfed down 60-freaking-ounces of child-labor chocolate I brought home from Costco a mere seven days ago.

Seven. Days. Ago.

All I can say is that (shockingly enough) I suspect a mere 4-5 ounces made it into my own maw. Even my kids weren't all that bad when it came to putting away the goods. For some strange reason, they remain relatively obedient and generally ask me for permission before indulging in the forbidden pleasure of sugar. 

My husband, on the other hand, has no such qualms. I shouldn't judge. I just finished 1/3 of a bottle of much-too-sweet white wine which required a crapload of Hershey's kisses and Rolos to mask the cheap taste. But I will say that when I went for my first handful I was shocked at how light this bag was after only SEVEN DAYS in our pantry. 

Did my kids sneak candy without my permission? (Duh.) Did I eat more than I'm estimating? (Um.)

Needless to say...I'll need to buy additional candy before Halloween. The replacement candy will remain sealed and in a secret hiding place (my closet...don't tell anyone) until October 31st. My theory is that if I can just avoid opening the cellophane, I'll make it through the season unscathed. Of course, I also believe Republicans and Democrats will eventually stop lobbing hateful slurs at each other, hold hands, and agree to be Americans together - working for a better world. So...I suppose that tells you how dependable my "theories" are.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Costco Candy (Or Why My Husband Shouldn't Travel to San Francisco)

I just bought two big bags/boxes of candy at Costco because my kids wanted them and my husband is on a flight to San Francisco so he wasn't around to say "No way." I reasoned we'd use most of the candy for Halloween, but to be honest, it's still insane I agreed to buy it. I usually keep sugar far from our house. Now we own 100 Tootsie Pops and 60 ounces of Hershey's.

I can't decide whether it was an act of rebellion against his aversion to impulse Costco purchases or whether I was just so shell-shocked about being husband-less for a few days that I didn't care what my kids bought. Either way, it doesn't say much about my ability to handle the tough decisions on my own. Halloween is two weeks away and I swear that bag of chocolate is already whispering my name.

I hate being alone. (Kids don't keep me company. Neither does the dog.) If I had to put up with a traveling husband like some of you, we'd be eating Costco free samples for dinner at least twice a week. And, you know, those brownie bites don't last very long.

Dang, I wish he'd hurry home but he hasn't even landed yet. Maybe next time he should hide the Costco card before he goes.

Friday, September 14, 2012


spider web

I'm tackling Friday Fiction again. It's stunning how much of an effort it is for me to just WRITE. The negative voices have been on a rampage inside my head lately. I wrote something in my novel every day last week, then this week - ZIPPO. It's as if the inner critic decided I was getting too full of myself and needed to be taken down a peg. novel writing this week but at least I tackled Madison Wood's fabulous project. To see some awesome 100 word interpretations on the picture above, check out this site. Oh - to my fellow writers - I welcome constructive criticism. (Hmmm. Perhaps I should define "constructive criticism" for my inner critic. All of you seem to get it...)


Sara's entire career centered around the craft of finding perfect words for difficult situations. But as she sat on the bed with Alan, her words sounded trite and stilted. Pointless. She was essentially monosyllabic and completely unconvincing. She failed to communicate with her husband just as completely as she'd failed to hide her duplicity.

Alan's jaw twitched. "I'm finished," he whispered "with this mess."

" don't understand..."

"Oh  yes I do, Sara. Your web unraveled, didn't it?"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Biggest Failure

I do a lot of things right as a mom. I'm usually quite patient, I read aloud to my family, and - yes - I make tiny little homemade apple pies for my children. 

Here's how I fail miserably: I don't expose my kids to the political process. You see, I'm so busy running away from all the animosity in our country and I feel so hopeless about the future, that I never turned on either one of the national conventions. That's not how I was raised. Politics were part and parcel of my life growing up. My mother yelled at the opposing party's convention just as loudly as she yelled at her alma mater's football team every fall weekend. I remember appreciating the inspirational speeches and having long discussions at the family table about social issues. 

My mom, however, is made of stouter stuff than I when it comes to handling the judgment and ridicule of others. In our culture today, if you speak your mind politically - you will be ridiculed and possibly condemned. 

I hate fighting. I mean...I really, really hate fighting. I care about a lot of people in this world. Some of them think the way I think and some of them don't. 

Running away from it all doesn't help me and it certainly doesn't prepare my children to be useful citizens in the world. Don't get me kids know where I stand. More or less...

But I can't get away from the nagging feeling that what they're really learning from me is to run away when it gets uncomfortable and avoid all confrontation. That's not the legacy I want to leave in their lives. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Tonight I baked little miniature apple pies for my kids' lunches. This sounds impressive (and they tasted yummy - we had four after dinner) but I really only did it because I'm a cheapskate. You see, I bought a new kind of organic apple because I couldn't find the Pink Ladies. This new kind of apple had a nasty, mealy texture.


I only buy organic apples. These cost real money. Plus I'm cheap. (Did I already mention that fact?) At any rate...I couldn't let the apples go to waste. They had a nice TASTE, just a bad I figured what the heck - maybe they'd be ok if they got all baked with cinnamon, cloves, butter, and maple syrup. Guess what?


I don't make homemade pie crust. So it took me all of 10 minutes to unroll the pre-made pie crust, cut up the apples, and toss the ingredients in the cupcake pan. The longest part of the entire process (other than the actual baking) was defrosting the pie crust in the microwave. I was determined to do it right this more cooking the pie crust in the microwave before I unroll it in the pie pan because I'm overeager to get going with my bakeshop. I've learned that lesson the hard way. (Three different times.)

Oh. I almost forgot.

I also wrote in my novel.

For two nights in a row.

The only thing better than smelling cinnamon and butter baking in your kitchen is writing your 33,883rd word after four months of writing nothing.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reliving the Potato Famine Via Geek Games

My husband and son just wiped me out in Settlers of Catan. A....gain. Oddly, I keep coming back for more. My personal theory is that I'm psychologically re-living my Irish ancestors' oppression by the English. How else would you explain the fact that my son is flush with sheep, bricks and ore while I'm barely scraping by with one measly resource card? It couldn't possibly be a discrepancy in our skill levels. That would just be crazy, right? (Ha.)

In all honesty, I'm not doing the women's movement any favors by continuing to lose with spectacular gusto on a repeated basis to the men in my life. Both of them are quite open-minded but they might begin to believe in male superiority if I keep wandering aimlessly around the game board, barely able to scrape 5 victory points. Pitiful.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you are seriously missing out. Settlers of Catan rocks. I suspect it's even more fun if you occasionally win a game, but of course I have no way of verifying that theory.

It's possible, of course, that you have a much more interesting life than I do. Perhaps the highlight of your life isn't a medieval board game. Maybe you go out, see movies, go to bars, and even date. In that case I don't really want to hear about it because I'm way too busy plotting how I might conquer my nine-year-old son the next time we sit down at the kitchen table.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Puppy Love

This is Lily.
We're fostering a little puppy again and I'm completely in love with her. Whenever one of these tiny creatures comes into my home, I understand the term "puppy love" in a whole new way. What I really love about Lily is that she's very bright, she loves to nestle in your arms, and she seems to be thriving in our family. Watson, our "real" dog, is patiently tolerating her existence although no one would think that he was a huge fan.
I'm trying to be a grown up with my "this-is-such-a-sweet-puppy-we-must-keep-her" emotions. I do need to see it from my husband's point of view (who is the obvious grown up in our house) and remember that taking another dog into our home would truly add complications. Of course, we're not sure how Watson would take to her if she were allowed free rein and she might end up getting pretty big. wouldn't really be a logical choice to adopt this little girl.
I am, unfortunately, a puppy love poster child. I get exceedingly excited about new ideas and new projects. Hand me a new relationship and I'm over the moon.
Yeah. It's sort of an issue for the mature people who have to live with me. One never knows what the next Jenn-obsession will entail. Honestly, though...look at that sweet face. Wouldn't you be obsessed also?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Here's my second attempt at Friday Fictioneering...thanks once again to Madison Woods for this brilliant exercise! (I forgot to mention this last time, but comments and criticism are welcome.)

Emilie settled herself on the hill, pulled out a notebook, and peered through the foliage.

There was nothing to see, but Emilie didn’t doubt the report. This spy was never wrong. As she sharpened her pencil, she could almost hear André's criticism. "You are putting all of us at risk by using pen and paper!" Emilie shrugged defiantly. Before la résistance, she was a bookkeeper. Recording details on paper was as natural to her as breathing. What was the harm? She planned to burn her notes in André's kitchen later that evening.

The soldiers entered the valley at precisely three o'clock. Emilie began to count grey uniforms.

The ninth soldier in line jerked an old man forward, forcing him to kneel. As the other soldiers raised their rifles, Emilie forgot la résistance and even forgot André. Her scream reverberated across the valley. "Grand-père!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


My life is just a bit hectic. It's not nearly as bad as some other lives out there (thank goodness I'm not ambitious or it would be horrendous)...but I still have quite a few balls in the air most days. And I remember little things I need to do at the oddest hours. Typically it's when I'm at home and I really don't want to go out again - possibly (okay...probably) because I've already had one glass of wine. Which is too much for me to safely drive. just is. But I digress.

I try to survive life by making lists. Tons of them. I've attempted mental lists but I barely remember my co-workers' names so it's laughable to think that I'd remember the fact that I need to pick up dog food unless I write it down. I've attempted to keep my list on a website like Dropbox but then I forget to go to the website to check my list. As a result, I always end up resorting to messy lists on scraps of paper. Here's today's list:

When I say "today's list," what I really mean is that it's the list I've carried around with me for almost three days. First it was stuck to my cell phone, then it fell off into my purse (which is a nightmare and probably a breeding ground for Ebola). Sometimes I end up taping a 3-day old list to my cell phone because the magic sticky note stickiness no longer works. This time I decided to stick it onto my work desk, which is beyond ridiculous, considering the mess covering it. On Monday I scratched "shoe holder" off the list. Yesterday I scratched off "allergy meds." Today I really need to scratch off "call Humane Society" and "article" - but I have my doubts.

Here's the truth about my lists. As a general rule, something needs to be on my list about three times before I'll finally do it. The uncrossed items on this list are first-iteration items. They've only existed on ONE sticky note. They haven't really paid their dues. The next step is for them to be transferred onto a much bigger piece of notebook paper (where they will be joined by a much longer list of things I must do) and then transferred back onto another sticky note (possibly a pink one) before I cross them off. By that time, they will be mixed in with other (as yet unknown) chores I'm ignoring.

Here's the other thing about my lists. I don't list the things that ACTUALLY MATTER to me. I don't, for example, write: "Spend 15 minutes working on novel." Or...."audition for a play." Both of those are huge priorities for me. I know that if I do those things, I'll be much happier than if I call a jeweler to find out how much it will cost me to fix the gold necklace I broke when I was brushing my hair last week. (Said necklace is traveling around in a ziplock bag in my purse, and most likely will stay there until we get our first Blue Norther in November.)

In short, lists are the only way I can make sure I accomplish anything during my waking hours. However, I still fight them tooth and nail and I don't even put my priorities on them. If any of you have a better idea, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Other Writers

I've recently finished reading two great books. One of them, Perfect Madness, is a non-fiction book with the subtitle "Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety." The subtitle sums it up pretty well. If you are a mom, or even if you're not a mom but you're trying to make your way in our way-too-competitive and un-supportive world, I highly recommend the read. I finished the book somewhat discouraged about our society but recommitted that what I want for my family (in case you're curious what I want, it's essentially to love and be loved; to support and be supported; and to instill a sense of respect for all other humans).

The next book is a new fiction book which is honestly one of the best books I've ever read. Wool, by Hugh Howey, is stunning. Mr. Howey is an Indie author whose self-published book is now (quite deservedly) a sensation. One of the first things that stood out to me is how very, very well it's written. Let me just say that I notice every little grammatical or typographical mistake when I read books - I find them distracting and they are everywhere (even my own writing, I'm sure). The mistakes jump out at me in traditionally published books (some are actually pretty bad, I'm not sure where some of these publishing houses get their proofreaders) and I certainly notice mistakes in self-published works. But I didn't notice ANY mistakes in Wool. Wow.

Now, before you begin to think that I'm picky on purpose or that I have fun picking apart other people's work - you should know that I'd prefer not to notice those details. I can't seem to help it. And I'm under no delusion that my self-published book would be much better than anyone else's book. I'm just saying that's the way it is.

Of course, no story is worth reading ONLY because of flawless grammar and structure. Wool is golden because the story is incredible. Within a few pages, you are completely attached to the characters and the story comes alive. For me, it's just plain inspiring to see someone who worked hard, created an incredible story, and is now successful enough to support himself as a writer. Wow!

I used to read good books and get jealous, or think about what those people have that I don't have. Maybe I'm finally more mature, but for the first time I'm really celebrating the fact that there are other writers who live the dream. Someday that will be me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Friday Fictioneer - Pecos

This is my first attempt to be a Friday Fictioneer (writing 100 words inspired by a new photograph each week), as promulgated by Madison Woods. (My fellow blogging friend told me about this awesome be sure to read hers also since she has the system down already.) Without further ado...

The mouse entered the abandoned casita with trepidation befitting her short and rather pitiful existence. She used her single ear to listen for the slightest movement. After two full minutes, she skirted the edge of the wall as fast as her pregnant body could move and darted into the one room that still had part of a ceiling.
Countless desert animals found their way to the casita to give birth each year. But no humans came this way anymore. In the bedroom, not far from where the one-eared mouse settled in to give birth, a silver teething ring on a lilac ribbon lay crumpled in a dusty corner.

There you go! That was surprisingly satisfying. Thank you, Madison Woods!

To see the submissions from other writers around the world go to this site.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Travelin' Blog

Today's post can be found on another blog because a new soul-sister invited me to prepare a guest post. How cool is that, people? It almost sounds like something a real writer might do. Nothing says friendship like sharing your blog-space with a fellow writer and I am very grateful! Click on over to her blog, Not For All Markets to see my post. I recommend that you read some of her Friday Fiction while you're visiting because this lady knows how to tell a story!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Book

I've probably never mentioned this, but husband is quite brilliant when it comes to creating plots. He gets a bunch of great ideas from dreams, but sometimes they just come to him out of the clear blue. During church on Sunday he grabbed one of the prayer cards, jotted down some notes and put it in his shirt pocket.

I was, as you might imagine, somewhat intrigued since I don't normally see him taking notes during the service. He told me during lunch that he'd come up with a great story idea that he thought I should turn into a novel. He's said this before, and I've never done it - but this time I've decided to accept his gift and write the book.

In the past it always felt like I'd be cheating if it was his idea. Things are different now because I've realized a few things:
1. A plot is critical, so his gift is very important. But someone will have to eventually put pen to paper if anyone else is ever going to enjoy the story. He won't be doing that. Although I'm crummy at plots, I'm not too bad at the actual writing, so I suppose you could say that we are both bringing our skills to the table.
2. I'm terrible at endings. Or...that's what seems to be the case from my first attempt at a novel. I wrote two very nice sized drafts of novels. The first two books in a trilogy. Here's the problem...neither novel ENDS. This is a profoundly unsatisfactory situation. I still have hopes that I will eventually develop the skills necessary to bring closure to my stories so I'm not trashing those novels...yet...but they are on hiatus. My husband, on the other hand, gave me a story complete with a (somewhat depressing) ending (which will probably be tweaked just a bit).
3. I am not a failure for putting the sci-fi novel on hold. This whole "I'm not a failure" theme is a new idea for me and I'm trying it on for size, but I have to say that so far I like the way it feels.

So...I'm choosing to take this lesson from the last six months: Sometimes you throw yourself into a project (or a person....hmmm....) and it (or they) appear to be a ginormous waste of time. When it's time to move on to the next project (or person) you take what you learned from your apparent failure and kick ass in your new project (or relationship).

There you go. Writing advice and dating advice all wrapped up in one nugget of wisdom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hello Bert(s)

Speaking of friendship...

Just today, an acquaintance of mine posted a link to this article on her Facebook page. You need to read it. Really - go ahead.

Did you read it? It will come as no surprise to anyone that I am a Chaos Muppet. What might surprise all of you (since you don't know each other) is that if you are reading this post, you're an Order Muppet. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, that means you didn't do what I told you to do. Seriously. Go read the article. Now.

Great. Now we're all on the same page.

It seems to me that everyone who plays a significant role in my life (other than certain members of my genetic family) is very orderly. could be I'm so chaotic that everyone else seems orderly by comparison. But...I think I'm drawn to Order Muppets. Only a few of my dearest friends read this blog, which means that if you're reading it - you're a Bert to my Ernie. A Scooter to my Grover. A Kermit to my (ugh) Miss Piggy.

I have some casual friends who join me in the land of Fozzie Bear and Cookie Monster. Some of them are so chaotic they make me look structured. Although I like these people and enjoy their company, I'm just not bonded to them. I don't feel connected in the same way. They don't know my secrets.

I know why I want and need you guys in my life. That's pretty obvious, isn't it? But it cracks me up that it goes both ways and you guys hang with me and the cookie crumbs I leave everywhere I go. I'm a lucky girl.  

Friday, June 1, 2012


My daughter is now a teenager. Many people assume I'm dreading all the boyfriend issues that come with the territory. Those people are wrong. What I fear for her (really, the main thing that's always worried me her whole life) are the girlfriend issues.

Girlfriends, the wrong sort of girlfriends mind you, create more pain and devastation than a string of bad boyfriends. And this is coming from a woman who has had a couple of the worst boyfriends around. Think back on your school years. If you are anything like me, there were a couple of girls in your life who were just plain mean. In my case, I lacked what my late grandfather would have called "gumption." If someone pushed me, it rarely dawned on me to push back or walk away. So the girlfriend thing never came very easily to me. I preferred to hang out with the guys, until they got all weird on me - but that was a different kind of weird and an entirely different blog topic.

So for whatever reason, the girlfriend issue is an ISSUE for me. Well...let's be honest since it's just the three of us. I share a lot of the blame for my friendship issues because I'm a bit of a flake. Flakes lack essential friendship skills.Flakes forget birthdays, flakes don't call people on the phone, and flakes aren't really that great at keeping up with the details of their friends' lives. So I'm here to say right here and now that I am eternally grateful to the women who are willing to tolerate my flakiness and maintain a friendship with me. (Thank you. Really. I mean it.)

Here's the good news: my daughter has gumption. Buckets of it, from what I can tell. Elementary school girlfriend experiences were sometimes pretty rough, but she seems to have found girlfriend stability in middle school. (Which is a heck of a lot more than I can say for myself since my seventh grade girlfriend literally BROKE UP with me no fewer than three times that year. That was a bit tough considering our kid brothers, moms, and dads were all best friends. Awkward.)

I told my firstborn she seems to have picked a good group of friends since I don't pick up on any unnecessary drama in her life. She agreed and said she's glad they aren't like some of the groups she's observed on the periphery of her life, where girls are falling in and out of each other's favor all the time.

I'm not anti-girl. I did find some good friends in my life and I wouldn't trade them (i.e. - you guys) for anything. I'm also a proud feminist and believe in sisterhood. (Power up, sisters!) took me a long time to figure out that I needed to protect myself from mean girls just as much (if not more) than I needed to protect myself from those guys.

Thank goodness my daughter seems to have the girlfriend situation down.

Maybe I should be worried about the boyfriend issues after all. Or is that just me seeing the glass as half empty?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Never Hide

Yesterday I saw this Ray Ban Ad in Wired magazine and just loved it. I loved the fact that it took me a moment to notice that the gentlemen were holding hands, I loved the expression on their faces, and I loved showing it to my family and hearing their very positive reactions to it.

I don't "do politics" in public. (Or, sadly, even in private. Politicians and people with virulent opinions of any stripe give me hives.) My Facebook page is full of food, family and odd quirky things that caught my attention. Hypothetically speaking, even if a loud public figure with an obvious mental disorder were to say horrible things about my gender, the most I'm likely to do is to "like" someone else's comment criticizing his crazy-talk. I'm not proud of this fact. I think I probably need to put myself out there a bit more, but it's not in my nature. 

So, you might think that my post about this ad is out of character for me since the media portrays gay rights as a political issue. (Hint: everything's a political issue to the media because that's how they get more fodder for 24 hours of news coverage.) But it's not out of character. Not really. I've decided to reject the idea that gay rights is a political issue. Or a spiritual issue (I accept that some religions might choose to make it into a religious issue, but religion and spirituality are not necessarily synonyms.)

Gay rights is a mom issue.

Hear me out on this one. I came into this world with my own unique Jenn-ness. Some of it makes me smile (my curly hair, my ability to write, the high I get from pumping iron, and my determination to make sure my whole family sits down to dinner at least 5 nights out of the week). Some of it makes me cringe (my neediness, my childish-sounding voice, my inability to stop eating whatever's in the house after I've had two glasses of wine, and my tendency to share way too much with untrustworthy people). Smile-worthy or cringe-worthy, it's all me. I've tried to change many things about my personality over the years and I have to tell you... it ain't changing. My challenge is to accept myself, not to alter my nature.

If a mom is on the right track, she starts to accept herself during her late 30's and early 40's. (If she's really precocious and fabulous, it might be in her 20's...but that wasn't me.) That's about the time you look at your kids and smile because all of their quirks have been with them since birth (more or less) and they aren't changing either. What's more, you realize you don't really want them to change. All you want, as a mom, is for your child to live a life of joy, love themselves, and (hopefully, hopefully) find someone who will love them in return.

Moms want their children to love and be loved. That's the whole point of life. It's all you'll think about in your final moments and it's the only thing that will ever bring you pure joy. As moms, we know our kids will go down some wrong paths and the people they love might hurt them horribly. We dread this. But we also know the only cure is to find a real love so we keep hoping for our kids to reject relationships that drain them and move towards ones that nourish them.

When I see those two gentlemen in the Ray Ban ad, the mom in me smiles because I imagine that they've found their "real love." Every mom deserves the chance to see her children nourished and loved. Every human being deserves that love. You see? It's a mom issue. A parent issue. A love issue.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Job Requirements

No job is perfect, right? You always have to work with, you know...those people. The ones who either: (a) don't do their jobs, (b) treat you like dirt, (c) lie to the people in power so it seems like they actually accomplish great things, or worse (d) all of the above.

After all these years, I've finally realized that there's stuff everywhere and your goal should be to find the place with the least stuff - or at least the place with the stuff that you can handle. Luckily I've found a pretty good place. You might think that I'm happy with my job because I'm given challenging work and have a boss who truly appreciates me. Well, that's actually true...but I have to admit that's not the reason I'm happy at my workplace.

I'm happy because each April I get to dress up as the SPRING FAIRY...
and last December I got to be MRS. CLAUS...

It might surprise you to learn that most Assistant General Counsel job descriptions do NOT include the following responsibility: Dress up as characters that will make children smile.

I'm just lucky enough to be at a job where I get to do that. And...I must say that I think I'll be a charming little old grey-haired lady someday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Insight Meditation

I recently re-read a book that seemed very true to me when I was a mother of two little-bitty kids. Buddhism for Mothers seems even more true now that I'm the mother of a nine-year-old and an almost-teenager.

I was profoundly un-Buddhist, un-calm, and insane this afternoon so I can't claim that I've successfully incorporated all of the concepts in the tome, but I am aware of my situation.

That's gotta be worth something.

Check it of the types of meditation that Sarah Napthali describes is Insight Meditation. Her explanation is superior to mine, but the concept that captured me is the idea of labeling our thoughts as they enter our head - with no judgment. The benefit seems to be that acknowledging our thoughts (instead of running away from them or trying to cover them up with distractions) releases us from their tyranny. It sounds weird but it's been very true for me.

Here's what she says about it:
"As we perceive our attention wander from our breath we make a mental acknowledgement: if we feel an ache we note, 'hurting, hurting, hurting' until the ache subsides; if we start reliving an argument we label our memroies, 'remembering, remembering, remembering' before returning to our breath. If we hear a distracting noise we note, 'hearing, hearing, hearing' and if we start wondering what we'll make for dinner we label, 'planning, planning, planning.' "(Napthali, p. 174)

Although I have not taken the time to do true meditation in silence this week, I've found myself labeling my thoughts during the day. As a result, I notice how often my thoughts are "worrying, worrying, worrying" or "judging, judging, judging." Another rather frequent visitor is "angry, angry, angry." The really wild thing is that I only need to repeat the word a few times (usually) before the feeling moves away and doesn't bother me anymore.

Today really was a rough day and I didn't handle myself very well. As a result, I've been in a "regretting, regretting, regretting" mode for a couple of hours. The feeling isn't going away.

But you know what? I'm not going to run away from it.
...and I did manage to write five sentences today.

That, my friends, makes me "grateful, grateful, grateful."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lucky Clovers

Austin is exceptionally green and lovely this week. As a drought-stricken Texan, my eyes aren't used to all the color so I keep stopping mid-walk just to stare at the green. A few days ago, I noticed that the ground is simply covered in clover...especially under the trees.

I took the picture on the left Wednesday morning before work as I searched and searched for a four-leaf clover because I wanted some luck.

Boy, how I wanted a lucky clover. But it wasn't meant to be.

Today I needed a break from the office, so I walked around the parking lot, thinking it was going to be a pretty poor Lenten walk. As it turned out, it was one of the best ever. I came across a small patch of clover in the shade way out in the far reaches of the lot. I sat down, listened to the birds, and searched diligently for a four-leaf clover. I was so drained emotionally that I wasn't thinking very clearly and for a few minutes, my search became almost desparate...I was pinning all my hopes on the elusive clover.

I know what you're thinking. The clover in the picture on the right is NOT a four-leaf clover. That's because I never found one, but I found something even better. An insight into the Truth.

As I sat on the ground, staring intently into a clover cluster (and studiously ignoring the few co-workers who parked in BFE and wondered what I was doing) I swear I heard a voice in my mind say: "There are tons of three-leaf clovers right in front of you. Scads of them, AND they're quite pretty. Why don't you make your own luck with what you have instead of waiting around for one magic clover or wasting your time looking for it?"

Wow. It was one of those moments in your life when you really need a great soundtrack playing in the background. Freaking profound.

I know. You think I sat around and tried to think of a pithy story to convey a point with this posting. Think that if you must, but I promise that one minute I was anxiously looking for a four-leaf clover and the next minute, I was walking away with a three-leaf clover in my hand, counting off all the amazing things I have in my life right now that will enable me to complete my novel successfully. It's an impressive list: Great husband, kids who believe in me, a steady part-time job, a good headshot, and crazy-wild-looking arugula plants growing in my backyard. (I'm not sure why, but the arugula seems yeah, I have issues.)

Maybe it was my guardian angel, or the goddess of writers, or just my long-neglected subconscious...but someone reminded me today that I have everything I need right in front of me and there's no reason to search for anything else.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Update on the Lenten Walks

I'm almost a week into Lent and the daily walks are just what the doctor (or priest, as the case may be) ordered. On two different days, my outside walks were mere walks around the block but they weren't any less helpful than the two days I took a legitimate hike in the woods. (Well, I was as close as a girl can get to the "woods" in North Austin.)

I find myself craving the walks and looking at my calendar for an extra 15 minutes so that I can escape into nature (even if nature inlcudes a sidewalk and construction noise). Some days, like today, it's exceptionally difficult to find that time before the sun sets... but so far I've kept my commitment.

Yesterday, I suddenly found myself very blue for no reason at all. It washed over me and tried to drag me down. All of a sudden I proclaimed: "I'm going out for a walk." I walked a different path than the one I usually take in my neighborhood and could actually hear inner-Jenn coaching me and asking me what I wanted from life. By the time I arrived home, I'd found peace and even a little clarity about my goals.

None of this can be solved overnight. I've spent years overburdening myself with activities and adventures meant to serve as distractions to my true purpose. Now that I have very little time to pursue my true purpose, I'm frustrated and drained of energy.

And yet, I am certain that by placing one foot in front of the other, I will arrive at my goal. My job during these walks is to breathe, listen, and "be still" as the Psalmist advised - so that I will know the Truth.

Psalm 46:10

Monday, February 20, 2012

Deep Dark Funk and the Lenten Cure

I've been teetering on the edge of a deep, dark funk for a few weeks now. I'm discouraged about my novel, I'm bummed about my "career," and when I looked for a date evening with my husband I had to put it on the calendar two weeks in the future because of our insane schedule. These DDFs do arise, of course, and they are (mercifully) transitory phenomenon. I remind myself of this very Buddhist fact every day (all is transitory), but it's not helping me much.

I feel very called to observe Lent this season, and I want to feel better. I started wondering what I should do. Write everyday? Hmmm. No - hopefully I'll do that anyway but that's not supposed to be my Lenten observance.

Give up meat? No - I'll avoid it as much as I can but I don't think that's supposed to be my observance either.

My boss forbade me from ever trying to give up caffeine again after I did it years ago and was walking into walls and going home early with a migraine every day. She has a point. Caffeine stays in my life during Lent.

As I was driving home for lunch it dawned on me that this year for Lent, I'm called to walk outside every single day. (This could be tricky if the rain keeps coming, but I'm not made of sugar. I won't melt.) I need to clear my mind, reconnect with God, and listen to guidance about my career and my novel.

And who says this has to start on Ash Wednesday? I'll start this afternoon. No time like the present to pull myself out of a DDF.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coolest Daughter

Yesterday was a very long day. As luck would have it, I chose to wear heels and didn't even make it home for more than a few minutes until 8 p.m. As I was standing in my kitchen, I looked down at the counter and saw this pin.

It took my breath away. I could tell my daughter was the one who wrote my name. As it turns out, she found the button on the school bus and filled in my name.


As I told her, this is absolutely the best thing anyone has ever done for me in my entire life.

My husband smiled and teased her: "Thanks for setting the bar so high for the rest of us!"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love Is... A Great Beta Reader

Before you read the hilarious poem below, you should know that I'm not the author. Kristen Lamb is and you can find her blog here.  I've haunted her blog for a while now because I'm about halfway through her book. Fair warning to my six faithful readers: once I'm finished with Kristen's book, I'm quite sure I'll be revamping my blog. In the meantime, however, enjoy her poem. I'll add my own Valentine's Day thoughts at the end of this post. As with everything else in my life right now, they orbit around my novel.

Twas the Night Before Valentines…by Kristen Lamb
Twas the night before Valentines, and all through the land
The poor single people were wringing their hands
Handcuffs were hung by the nighties with care
Near the lotions and chocolates and mint underwear.
A day made by Hallmark to sell lots of stuff
Pushing candies and kittens and kisses and fluff
A day that makes “Single” a social disease
Like bubonic or typhoid or chiggers or fleas
And that fat baby Cupid must be on the take
Paid in buckets of cash and red velvet cake.
Love songs are played on every damn station
As “mush” takes over our entire nation.
Now not that we’re jaded, us single-type folk
We’ve tried Facebook and Match, and Equally-Yoked
We’ve tried parks and clubs and churches and bars
And a handful resorted to wishing on stars.
Like most other people, we want company
Without drama or fighting or disharmony.
No Jerry Springer or Kardashian drama
We have no time for all of that trauma.
Maybe we’re picky, world-weary, or fussy
Because we won’t date any Joe Schmo or hussy.
We want someone good-looking, gentle and sweet.
Hey, just cuz we’re single doesn’t make us minced meat.
We don’t begrudge the romance of others
The passion of courtship, the heat between lovers.
Before you judge my singular state
Think back to the days when YOU had to date.
Tomorrow we’ll stand in the grocery store line
Behind the husband with a bottle of wine
And a “Get-Well” bouquet cuz he waited too late
To find the red roses to give to his mate.
Hallmark has trained you to scurry and dash
Into its stores with fistfuls of cash.
For stuffed little critters with a lap full of love
And boxes of chocolate morsels from Dove.
Singles won’t stand hours waiting to dine
On elf food with garnish and overpriced wine.
No chocolates with abnormal tropical middles
Or angst about thighs that may wiggle and jiggle.
No staying in bars desperately late
Trying to connect with a last-minute date.
So embrace your status and shout it out loud.
Yes, I am single! Single and Proud!

This poem cracked me up. I related to it, even though I barely remember being single. (You see, V-Day is a notorious disappointment, regardless of your relationship status.) The great thing about my small cadre of blog-readers is that most of you know the "real Jenn." You know I've been with the same guy since I was 18 years old (and I'm no spring chicken). You know I have a busy life, two kids, and if you know me VERY well, you know that by the time my husband I finally have five consecutive minutes together at the end of the day, we are so brain-dead that we can't remember what we wanted to tell each other earlier in the day. In other words, we are a very normal 40-ish married couple.

David, like most other American men, is not overly emotive (think Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy). He's surprisingly good at crafting touching handwritten additions to Hallmark cards, he remembers Valentine's Day and he sometimes even brings me flowers. It is only in the last month, however, that my husband has stolen my heart in a whole new way.

David is my beta reader. As any author knows, that is an incredible gift. I'm only on the first edit of my NaNoWriMo novel, so there are plenty of holes and rabbit trails that require attention. Once I realized I needed some serious plot advice, I asked for his help. (He seemed surprised and honored by my request.) The truly amazing thing is that he really likes the book. He's into the story, attached to the characters (I heard him gasp when one died), and completely believes in my ability to go far as an author.

Don't get me wrong...I love flowers and romance as much as the next girl, but the best gift I've ever received is summed up in the acknowledgment of my fledgling novel: "To David: who believed in me for decades before I finally believed in myself."

Monday, February 6, 2012

How I Organized My Writing

When I wrote about my need for order ,which exists in a miserably unhappy marriage with my complete aversion to order, I ended that post with a declaration that I must organize my writing. At the time I posted said declaration, I believed my real problem stemmed from the fact that I lacked a physical space, organized "just so."

I've come to realize that isn't really the issue and I believe I've found the solution. Having a good space for writing is a lovely idea. The sad truth, however, is that I could have a fabulous space full of sunlight, flowers and inspiring music but it would last me two weeks at most. Boredom with physical space sets upon me quickly - it's always lurking in the background, ready to ruin a perfectly nice room.

At the end of January, someone in my local NaNoWriMo group asked if anyone would like to do a mini-WriMo. She indicated she wanted to continue working on her novel and a lightbulb went off in my mind. I committed to writing/editing every single day during February. So far, so good. Some days I'm only editing a few pages, but until I sit down and get to work for the day it's nagging at the back of my mind. I breathe easier and smile more now that I'm working with my words again.

It turns out that what I really needed was the HABIT of working on my novel each day, not a particular physical setting. When it gets right down to it, that's better in the long run because I crave this work all the time, even if I'm not near one of my two or three typical writing spaces. It's a form of organization, but it's loose. I'm following a simple rule: open my novel and work each day. By refusing to set other limits on myself (insisting on a certain number of pages or minutes each day), I have absolutely no excuse for failing to follow this system. If I have 10 minutes, I can work. So that's exactly what I do.

Well, that and tell my friends about it on my blog so you guys will hold me accountable.

So I do exactly that.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I am, traditionally speaking, one of the most disorderly women who ever lived. Megan can attest to this personally, as she was my roommate one semester at college. My co-workers can attest to this because it is not uncommon for my office to have stacks of boxes piled in a corner at any given time. My husband can certainly attest to this for more reasons than I care to confess right now.

Ironically, I crave order. I am most peaceful when things are in their proper places and my space is clean and orderly. I know this about myself, but I've never lived that way. To be fair, I am much better than I used to be. For example, during my sophomore year of college, I ended up cutting myself painfully because I crawled into my dorm bed one night and sliced my leg on a razor that was under the covers. (Why was a razor in the bed, you ask? Well, I'd just dumped all my shower stuff onto the bed because there was no room for it anywhere else in the room. Because, you know, the rest of the room was quite cluttered.) Since I no longer store dangerous implements under the covers, that indicates significant progress on my part.

I've had quite a few decades to analyze my aversion to order and theorize why I am, as my mom used to say, "a walking disaster area."
1. I am a very visual person. During tests, I used to close my eyes and picture exactly where in the textbook an answer was. I could always visualize it perfectly, down to its precise location on the page. Handy for test-taking but it's a problem when I feel like I have to be able to see something for it to exist. My house is covered in piles of projects that I can't put away because if I do, I fear I'll never pull them out again.
2. I am an obsessive multi-tasker. This is exceptionally convenient for PTA and Scouts because I enjoy taking on multiple volunteer activities at once. It's not great for my countertops. I take up a lot of space with all my projects and never put anything away because (as indicated in #1, above) I might forget to finish it and because "I'm just running over here really fast to finish something else first, then I'll be right back..."
3. I like to be reminded of who I am, again from a visual perspective. My piles of books, papers, and art supplies are very unique to me. No one else has these exact piles. If I made my rooms look like Pottery Barn ads, I'd just be matching some other house and there would be nothing special about my space. (I know this last reason is lame. Even I roll my eyes when I read it, but I think it's true for me.)
4. I get bored very easily. Honestly, I think this is the biggest problem I have with systems and order. I buy into a new system for a while, it works great, and then I get bored and want to change things up. The easiest way to change things up, of course, is just to go back to being sloppy for a while.

Last month, I seemed to overcome my aversion to order in one area - my bathroom. For years, my half of the bathroom counter was covered in stuff but for at least four weeks now, I've kept it straight and organized. The picture at the top of this posting is a bit dark, but you can see that I have a few "identity items" in a corner but the rest of the countertop is clear. Makeup is in the drawer, not on the countertop. Even more amazingly, when I need a hairclip or bubble bath, I know just where to find it and I'm not looking through drawers and drawers of junk in a fruitless search.

I like this new bathroom order. I suspect my husband is thrilled but afraid to get his hopes up that it will last. I understand this, but it will. Oddly enough, something in me has shifted in terms of how I deal with that particular space.

My inner writer is whispering to me that I need an equivalent drastic organization for my writing habits. I need a system and an order for writing to fit into my day to day life. It needs a place in my day and probably a place in my heart as well. Right now I'm treating my writing like I used to treat my ponytail holders - I toss it in a corner and hope that I'll find it again when I have some spare time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Now That I've Solved Everything Else....

I don't do resolutions. I sort of snarf at resolution talk, to tell you the truth.

Having said that, I do have a tendency to go through manic periods of actual (not just theoretical) self-improvement. Did you know that you will accomplish all sorts of great things when you are subconsciously looking for ways to avoid your true calling in life?

Over the last two weeks I have:
- read two books about financial planning and made detailed written plans about the steps I will be taking to implement a new financial way of life for our family
- Amazingly, I've actually TAKEN some of those steps. I've started a budgeting/expense tracking online program, planned meals more extensively, and actually looked at every last account. (I know that last one doesn't sound very impressive, but trust me - in my case it is.)
- I've seen a personal trainer once a week for a month.
- I've been to yoga once a week for the last three weeks.
- I've lost 8 pounds since the end of November (ok, that's not in the last two weeks but I've made great strides each week.)
- Read (and discussed at length with my husband) a great book about the best ways to parent a young adolescent.
- Began learning how to program in C# (because I want to do it, that's why...)

All of this needed to be done, I told myself, before I could dig back into my novel and finish editing it. If nothing else, I will be a true Renaissance woman by the time my novel is finally complete.