guzzling herbal tea: embracing the hell out of simplicity

oh hi.

I have an ongoing list of things I love and things I don’t like, and one of the things I’ve claimed to have hated since I was very young was being told to calm down.  The way I used to justify it was, if I’m on fire or something very big and catastrophic is happening, and I’m flipping out, sure, tell me to calm down.  But don’t do it for anything. Just don’t.  You don’t need a degree to look five minutes into my life and childhood to see why this kind of expression became a “thing” for me.  However, there IS, for those of you who’ve been following me around videotaping my life lately (you know you’re out there), as previously mentioned earlier this week and earlier in the year, a time and a place for most things.  Solomon was onto something.

Sometimes my coworkers and I are able to ride on the coattails of a “Special Lunch” being delivered for some meeting for Important Folks, and I was pleased to remember recently one night that I did not have to prepare a lunch for the following day, that one was coming to me– being brought my way without an ounce of effort of a dime paid.  But alas, there is a price, albeit small perhaps, for everything: On this recent day I learned  and this lunch’s price was that it was not coming until 12:30. Using the fact that I work at a school as an excuse, I tend to eat a late breakfast and an early lunch. Yes, which makes no sense.   So I began to worry, as we do, when we have nothing really else to worry about– we find something about which to fret.  Man, was I hungry.  How was I going to make it until 12:30 when it was only 10:50 when I had this realization?!  Furthermore, I had done enough coffee for the (that part of the) day.  I needed something.  I know–an herbal tea.  Stat. Code lavender!

I pawed around my desk, looking for my tea stash. Found it. I chose “Calm” one of the Yogi teas. Then I dropped the thing dry, on the floor.  Dammit.  Five second rule. I like to think that I sort of become “one” with the places I inhabit. I spend enough time here that I should be able to eat off the floor and be fine, right? Maybe. Not…   I did decide though, since I enjoy making fun of things pretty much constantly, or making parodies of situations, that I’d like to name a nice herbal tea “Calm the #$&*%@ Down.”

And…then I do what I often do at work. I worked. I got into my conversations with students. I made notes. I talked. I wrote things down. I made jokes. I encouraged and explained. I recorded my work. Then I looked at my tea: lukewarm and cooling faster than hot chocolate in a dixie cup at a football game.  I found myself downing the stuff.  Guzzling herbal tea?  Like it’s Gatorade after a big game?  Could anything be more inappropriate? (Yes! Many things, it turns out!)

Certain things are like this.  We have the right idea, or good intentions, but we sort of mess things up.  Some herbal teas are good, purposely iced, but lukewarm really doesn’t bring out the best of anything (or in anyone, for that matter).

Here’s what I’m saying: I may have replaced certain things in my life with better things, such as herbal tea and running, but if I’m guzzling the shit out of my herbal tea, I’ve missed the whole point.  What to do?  Being mindful and purposeful. Setting aside time for certain things, and not letting other tasks invade that space.  I’ve gotten better about doing this with sleep and relaxing at night.  But I still have that “doing something to please others even when it could harm my plan for the next several hours” thing that lingers.  Ugh.  Oh wait, it’s because I’m human. I forget sometimes.

Posted in tea, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Contagion heuristic

Contagion heuristic, a.k.a., Banana Wuz Here

blurry beauty in odd spots
blurry beauty in odd spots

In third grade, I read a list of Old Wives Tales in my family’s copy of the current Farmer’s Almanac that resided in our downstairs bathroom.  The almanac fed my desire for short bursts of useless information, and, unfortunately, the old wives tales fed my growing concern of Things to Worry About, that was not without the tinge of superstition.  One of the legends read that if you watch a person leave, as in walk completely out of sight, disappearing into the distance, you will never see that person again.  I imagined this to have first taken place in some 19th century countryside, some place with rolling hills or moors or some shit. But if it was still true, then, in 1987, I’d need to be very careful watching my loved ones disappear down Williams Road.

Well.  I did not take kindly to that portent at all. Being the youngest by many years of four kids, I had plenty of occasions to witness people leaving. And as I tearfully watched my sister or brothers leave the driveway from my bedroom window, (which I dramatically and often did) I began to make damn sure I never actually SAW THEM AS THEY DISAPPEARED FROM SIGHT. What if my watching them made them disappear? Could I hold that power?  I was afraid to test it, so I just went with it.* For a kid who already had to wear glasses, had been to one funeral, and had seen Poltergeist the year prior, I had enough on my plate.

Here is where proximity and this fear meet:  what killed me was– take saying goodbyes, for example. The moment you said goodbye to a person, then turned and walked away, you would also be walking away from that moment. And right then–when?-THEN–Right then, you’d never be as close to that moment ever again.  And from then on, it would disappear.

And I’ve returned to this subject of proximity lately. What we learn from being around other people, and levels of closeness.  I find it interesting how close and how far we can be from each other at the same time.  When I was little, I never wanted anyone I loved to leave.  That’s an easy one, who couldn’t identify with that?  But sometime around third grade, I began to worry.  A number of things happened the year I read The Farmer’s Almanac: I discovered music on the radio, my neighbor’s house caught on fire, I stopped sleeping well, and I began to realize what I could have one moment could be gone the next.

My struggle with an appropriate segue will probably mirror my readers’ struggle with this post. It might even seem like I’m trying to synthesize things that should be left alone.  Think of it as discussion topics, or writing prompts.  If I did cute things, I’d insert smiley face here.

1) the hand touching hand phenomenon.  No, not Neil Diamond’s hands…touching hands… version.**  This concept, also known as “the boy / girl / individual who I am in love with just touched my hand / cheek / other body part and I will never wash this spot again!” OK, it did not sound that gross in my mind, I swear. But seriously.  Who doesn’t remember being in school, maybe standing in line, and you get to stand next to the person you like? And maybe he bumps into you and you’re all ooooh. Or you stole the pencil from the boy you liked, and his notebook when he wasn’t looking, so you could do a 6th grade handwriting analysis to find out if he liked you back…oh, you didn’t do that?

When I saw Archie Bunker’s chair– Archie Bunker sat in THIS CHAIR?  It actually meant very little to me, because i was six years old and did not really know who “archie bunker” was, but I was at the Smithsonian and was surrounded, as usual, by adults, who I emulated, so I responded with appropriate awe and laud.  In the years that followed, I saw more of these situations that meant more to me, moved me more.  Like the first time you see a celebrity in person.  I actually have a knack for missing famous people, like being the one person in my group who doesn’t see [insert famous person here] who JUST PASSED BY in a crowd.  Most recently, I apparently missed a Hulk Hogan sighting in 2009*** in Miami.  Damn.  But I did go to many concerts from high school on, and I basked in the glory that was sharing the same breathing space three feet away from Ani DiFranco or years later, marveling that my naked eyeballs looked right into Trey Anastasio’s eyeballs, that all the distance, time, and social barriers that separate Talent from Fan were removed– for those brief moments.

2) “the moon above me this morning on the way to work is the same moon that was above…” Julius Caesar, Laura Ingalls Wilder, me when I was 15… famous people, not famous people–that thing.  The same moon??!!  The moon from the book YOU WILL GO  TO THE MOON copyright 1959**** and the one that’s in all those old science fiction movies?  Knowing not much about the moon, other than what it’s made of, this always made me feel closer to people. If we’re many miles or decades or even lifetimes apart, but we both looked at the same thing, it sort of connects us, doesn’t it?

3) the “you kiss your mother with that mouth?” phenomenon. I actually looked this phrase up for a couple reasons.  First of all, I wondered how “official” it was.  You know, like it was originally coined in a TV show or maybe an old radio show or something. (No, it’s just an idiom.) The idea being, of course, that the words coming from a person’s mouth are so vulgar, the listener is horrified and can’t possibly believe something so bad could come out of something that’s also been involved in such innocent or good things.  OK this one’s a land mine; moving on.

4) the “while I was gazing into your eyes, you were actually plotting a bank robbery?” / aka 500 Days of Summer effect. I didn’t love that movie but it was important enough for me to reference it here. Two people gazing at the same thing, even, each other, thinking drastically different thoughts.  We all know there’s a world full of people pleasers out there. But sometimes you really think you “got” what was being communicated to you, and boy were you wrong. Always much more entertaining when it happens to someone else!

It all comes down to the contagion heuristic.

which is what? a psychological heuristic (rule people use to make judgements) leading people to avoid contact with people or objects viewed as “contaminated” by previous contact with someone or something viewed as bad—or, less often, to seek contact with objects that have been in contact with people or things considered good. (wikipedia, yes.)

For years I’ve been searching for this term. Turns out if I had not been so REPELLED by psychology 101 and sociology 101 (OK that wasn’t fair I should leave poor sociology out of it. But sociology majors know where they can shove it! Just kidding about that too. Not really.)  which I thought were sort of cute and useless in college, I might have actually learned about this sooner.   Think:  you are young. You brought your lunch to school.  oooh, lunchtime can’t wait for lunch. What’s in the bag?  Peek.  All I smell is banana!  DAMMIT! When the dreaded banana contaminates ALLLLLL the rest of the lunch food in your sack.  How sad.  Memories of eating a soggy PB&J for lunch, the grape jelly having soaked through the bread, parts of the sandwich flat and nearly smooth from riding up against the heavy weight of fruit or LaYogurt on the way to school on the bumpy bus ride.  And all of it–the sandwich, the pretzel twists, the Oreos, even the outside of the juice box–smelling like banana.  Ahhhhhhhh!  It’s like the banana has some sort of resentment over all your other food, and won’t stop until it graffities the shit outta of the place, olfactory-style.

Pause here. crickets?

Sometimes, I speak around a large group of people, or a small group of people. Depends. And sometimes, when I am trying to describe something, I “hit the nail on the head” they say!  My words are powerful, and they hear me, and I get nodding, and “man, she said it!” looks.  Other times, people look at me as though I’ve said: “ni-ki-nunua nyama ya ng’ombe soko-ni, ni-ta-pika leo”***** and I think, damn:  This is like the blog entry that made a lot of sense in my head, that I waited two months to write, and now I may as well be speaking Swahili at the wrong party.

Happens. But boy, is this a weight off my shoulders.  I’m going to invest in one of those plastic “banana suitcases” for my lunch bag. Because sometimes a little separation is a good thing.

For those who love following bread crumb trails:

*I have found there’s actually a name for this: magical thinking.

**Sorry if I just made that song go into your brain.   You might be singing it the rest of the day now.  I’m not even a Neil Diamond fan.  (Shoutout: Hi Beth!) Here are a couple other songs that could distract you from “Sweet Caroline”

You could go all “Mack the Knife”– because Yes, that line forms on the right, babe, Now that Macky’s back in town …

Or you could think Cosby family celebration, 1985, doing Ray Charles’ “Night Time is the Right Time.” Think Rudy: “BABY!”

Or,  you could go with something more modern, say Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” part II remixed by Eric Prydz.  Think: all the words you know, then set to a stronger backbone of a beat. Might be a little upsetting to some of you, but it’ll get rid of whatever’s previously stuck in your head.


****Yep. I said “most recently.” Nope, haven’t gotten out in a while.  Feel free to invite me on a trip. Feel free to also pay for my ticket. I am tremendous fun when traveling. I can provide references.

*****From a Swahili grammar lesson on the conditional: “If I buy cow meat at the market, I will cook it today.”  Right?

Posted in childhood, memory, ridiculous conversations, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

the meaning of morning

A few years ago* my best friend and I had some conversation about writing down our morning routines.  I think it was just for ourselves, something to write for each other.  Maybe I should have asked her before I post this entry, but I am pretty sure it was just an exercise in, “how our lives are sooo different” a subject that comes up…how to say this…a lot. And not just because I get up like, five hours before her each day.

what I see while this is happening

what I see while this is happening

The day begins with some alarms going off, some realizations, and idenifications (where I am, what just happened was a dream, and what day is it?) some running into the hallway and back, and two tails wagging, which on a bed, is this unique beating sound. Now here’s the part I don’t really want to write because yeah, I wake up to two Golden Retrievers, (heretofore referred to as “the Team”) both of whom would make the  most responsible person consider calling in sick. Inevitably some of you are thinking, ugh dogs on a bed, how unsanitary** / how strange / good for her but not for me / is that why she’s always covered in fur? But yeah.  It’s all true.

Yesterday morning was particularly disorganized for me and the team. This is despite my December 2012 Life Improvement of integrating the automatic coffee maker into my daily routine. Planning ahead? Never heard of it. When we clomp down the stairs together each morning, I announce that I made coffee in my sleep and we all get a good laugh.  Then I announce, much to Levi’s chagrin, that I still have not figured out how to prepare kibble breakfast in my sleep, but I’ll keep working on it.  It’s ok, he assures me, it’s about progress rather than perfection.  (Wise dog, huh? No, he just repeats things he hears.)

Usually when we go outside en masse, we have a sense of each other’s space and we stay together, moving somewhat fluidly and efficiently.  Other times, like yesterday, we bump into each other and the storm door, the leashes crisscross, one winding around my back while the other gets stuck under one of Grace’s or Levi’s legs in that awkward way.  I’m usually impressed by the dogs’ ability to stay with each other, but like people at an exhibit, they naturally wander to different attractions. This requires me to employ arm flexibility, poise, and balance, three things I don’t naturally have in the afternoons, let alone pre-dawn.

Outside, they both greet the cold air with enthusiasm. Then they each pause, typically, for their own set of reasons, such as (and get off my case as my tense shifts***):

Levi hears a noise in the distance and stops short just off the steps. He presses the side of his face against my sweatpanted thigh, assessing the possible danger.  He has no problem holding still with a full bladder, ears up in that funny dog-listenening way, willing to be still a few moments longer if it means his continued safety.  Grace is not interested in cuddling against my leg or philosophical musings: she is all about the business of taking care of business.  Her middle-aged dog lady attitude includes no shame or second thoughts about doing what needs to be done.

Yet while Grace has always been the more pragmatic of the two, mornings are still uncomfortable: for her to step off the dry path into cold wet grass is much like myself, moments earlier at 5:40AM, hesitating to embrace the inevitable move from horizontal to vertical.  More often than I’d like to admit, I indulge in the lazy torture that is the snooze button.  Grace’s reliance on patterns and instinct break her hesitation after only a couple seconds, and she is free (and relieved, thankyouverymuch).

I assure Levi that frightening sound is just a truck, far away, and encourage him to focus on the matter at hand.  Grace’s example of placing necessity above comfort does not convince Levi, so I gently push him  towards the grass, but as usual, my hands touching him are like a Velcro invitation for him to only continue contact with me. The three of us walk further onto the front yard, Levi concentrating on the nearby street.  Since our fence fell down in October, the dogs have been more easily agitated or excited by anything and everything that passes us by.  When people find out where I live these days they say “Oh yes, I know that house! I stare at it each day while I sit in traffic at the light.”  Yes, I know you do.  I wish you didn’t.

Sometimes we dawdle, but I mostly know better.  Finally back inside, Levi can barely wait for the release of the leash clasp to launch himself running in the direction of breakfast. Grace sits for me and waits to be released, more sensitive and fearful of such phenomenons as “leash whiplash” or “anything falling towards her head.” As I close the front door, Levi is stretching and flipping an empty bowl over, smiling. Grace tiptoes towards the kitchen, looking out for flying bowls.

I turn on the radio and pour myself of cup of preplanned coffee.  I’m careful not to get all self-congratulatory as I sort through my next half hour’s to-remember list. I feel two sets of eyes on me, and, turning my back to them, I hear a reminder bowl flip over, still empty. If I make them wait too long, Levi will become utterly dramatic and sad, and will place some body part of his in the bowl, to show me how empty it is (see extremely sad photo, below).

Food goes here.

Food goes here.

I try not to make them wait too long but man, he’s funny.

By the time I leave the house at 6:30, the whole team has moved into phase two of the day.  Since it’s still dark out, Miss Grace can’t see her squirrels out the corner windows, so she parks herself at the top of the stairs.  Levi finds a place on the couch and pouts at me for having the gall to leave for work yet again.  I remind him he’s damn lucky I work so hard so he can live this kibblegilded lifestyle of happiness and hugs.

I somewhat obsessively yell goodbyes to them, telling them (…they’re DOGS…) when I’ll be home, please keep four on the floor, don’t eat anything that isn’t food, and please don’t go in the cabinets LEVI. And they, being dogs, tolerate and kind of ignore me.  I bet they wonder what I’m saying each day, but they probably know, that whatever blabber I’m blabbering makes me happy, and they are glad for that.

I run to my car, grateful.

*Who am I kidding?  It’ll be four years ago this early spring.  I don’t forget dates, generally.  If I do, I think something is wrong.  I do find it harder to subtract numbers from odd numbers, so I’ll have a math challenge ahead of me all year, as I struggle with such puzzlers as 2013 minus 2007.  Anyway.  This writing topic first came up in 2009.  I began to write about it then, when I had only one dog, lived not alone, had the two houses, but only lived in two rooms of one of them.  Now I have two dogs, no partner in crime, still two houses, but I live in one entire house.  Almost.  And I am working more on things like finishing what I start.  More often than not.

** Please let this be the first and last time I use any form of “sanitary” in this blog.  I get the heebie jeebies just hearing that word.  Writing it is as gross as hearing it.  Moving on…

***”Do as I say, not as I do,” kids.

Posted in dogs, Grace & Levi, gratitude | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

slight update

I wrote “Exposed” 10 days before Hurricane Sandy knocked the rest of my fence down in my front yard.  The irony was too easy, like a short bus joke, and so I did what I’ve so often done: nothing.  But here I am, posting photos.

artistic shot from a slightly different angle.

lack of falsely protective layer

If I just sat back, and watched, I’d witness entropy pull my entire house apart.  Much like my kitchen, where, without daily maintenance, it would overtake me in an effective wave of dishes, bills, dog fur, and empty seltzer bottles.  Sometimes, people offer to help me out in well-meaning but futile manner, attempting to ameliorate my disorganization by suggesting a method to manage the madness.  Or, someone will pick up, say, a shirt, from the granite countertop and say “what’s this?  clean? dirty? what’s the deal?”*  But, like an innocent soul, new on the scene who loans money to a drug addict, we see that does not work. Because some problems, like messes, can only be managed, rather than solved. Most people find, as with houses, the key lies in the maintenance.

The storm in October devastated many people’s lives.  Currently, they say damage is in the 60 billions in dollars. It isn’t lost on me that my life was barely touched in comparison, and that if anything, I lost a symbol of privacy, and added a spring project.  I’m keeping perspective here.

*Something I thought only my mother did, but I actually have seen two other people do it, one recently, so I know it’s a human thing, not just a mom thing.

Posted in fun with homeownership | 3 Comments


Where I used to live. Never thought much about that fence.

I was 28 when I bought the house I live in now.  Part of me feels it coming on: a self-deprecating litany about what would have done slightly differently, if I had a chance to do it all over.  Things flood my current mind about what I didn’t know enough about at the time (real estate, the economy, fiscal responsibility, myself) I’ll sum it up by saying: I simply had a lot of wrong ideas about a lot of things.  I think that’s fair.

The “what I know now that I wish I’d known then” list has the potential to be long, and I’m finding that method to be unproductive for current endeavors.  It also just stings, and is kind of mean to myself to think that way.  But, lots can change in six years.  Did I say lots? I meant Lots. Including my opinions on some house-related things.  For example, the color of my house and its perfunctory window shutters.  The house is red.  And, despite having gone 80-plus years shutterless, someone put blue shutters on it in the 1990s. My immediate thought was to paint those shutters white.  I did not appreciate my patriotically colored house. I thought a red house with white shutters was somehow classier.  I did not say this out loud, but just assumed it.

Something I did say out loud, however, was my feeling about the fence that surrounded some of the property.  That feeling was that it must go.  I even specified, when giving  directions to my house, that my friends would know it when they “saw the big ugly unwelcoming fence out front– then you’re there.”  I talked about how pretty a white picket fence would be– something that allowed all drivers-by to see my house without any obstructions to their view, something quaint that would encourage the clematis and the honeysuckle and the roses to climb– because I would have all of those things, you see. And I had, quite frankly, nothing to hide.  So why would I need a damn big ugly fence?  I couldn’t understand the thinking behind whichever previous owner had erected it.

If I’ve learned one thing about myself since I was about four years old, its that I was born with foot-in-mouth syndrome.  In keeping with this reoccurring theme, it wasn’t long before I began to realize what obvious, secondary, and tertiary purposes that damn big ugly fence served.  The only solution for chronic speak-too-sooners begins with a vague sense of self-awareness.  I soon realized that my house, three lots away from a traffic light on a busy street, enjoys a line of sitting traffic for about two hours each evening at quittin’ time. And drivers, who often suffer from the I-must-be-invisible-because-I’m-in-my-car condition, are not afraid to look directly into my living room at me when they have time to kill outside my home.  As time went on, I stopped squawking about the need for a white picket fence.

I don’t think I truly appreciated my property’s fence until the parts began to fall down and I started to see my neighbors more.  We all pretty much live on top of one another in my neighborhood. Not like in cities, but close enough for me to observe knowledge I don’t want, while I’m washing dishes and innocuously gazing out the window…wishing my monster truck friend next door would wear a belt…wishing he’d sell his monster truck that poofs smoke at my house…wishing for some distance, since no fence will ever be tall enough between us.

My life has become more public and more private all at once over the past year.  I thought about that statement a lot this evening before I typed it.  I wanted to make sure it was really correct, and I think it is. I think I’ll have the fence repaired around my house at some point. I don’t know when, because as any homeowner knows, there’s always something more pressing and more expensive vying for my attention to achieve that coveted place of next up. A broken furnace, a flooded basement, things that snap and break off that you never even thought of, like pulling a muscle you never thought you’d use.

I wouldn’t have believed the character-building cliff of madness I’d fall off after buying this house if you tried to tell me before it happened.  Either that or I would have said, no thanks, I’ll stay on the carousel and get off at the next stop, the next stop called gottabeeasier.  Might be hard to believe that I have only gratitude for all that I’ve been through. But you don’t need to believe it; I only need to know it. The chain of events that unfolded since 2006 are still being cataloged and analyzed in my mind, but I have figured out some of it. What to fight for, what to let go of, what to keep to myself, and what to share.

Posted in fun with homeownership, I willingly got myself into this | 3 Comments

Cape Cod 2012

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Original Peeps

In a 1993 episode of Seinfeld, Elaine briefly dates a man who unfortunately shares a first and last name with a serial killer, and part of the plot entails Elaine trying to convince him to change his first name.  When my sister was in high school, she attended a dance with a boy who, on paper, could have been mixed up with a teenager-murdering sanitarium-escaping embodiment of evil. I’m sure he was a nice boy, but his name is the only thing that stands out in my memory.  Names, like plot lines, get reused. What can you do?  Not much.  According to Wikipedia, my name is the single most popular name in the US from 1970-1984.  Hells bell’s, there I was, born EXACTLY in the middle of that popularity!  And if I EVER doubted for a moment that my parents weren’t totally hip, boy was I ever wrong.

If you’re over 25 years old, you’ve probably guessed that my first name is Jennifer.  Names are funny things; we don’t have any say in the matter, at least at first.  Being the fourth and final kid born to my parents, they opened up my name for discussion with my siblings.  I was told that “Molly” was a strong contender, until my sister weighed in and put Molly in its place along with things like duck meat, walnuts and the Yankees*.  So Jennifer it was, and it quickly became Jenny, partly as easy nickname; partly to differentiate me from the other Jennifers in my class as I entered school.

I’ve had nicknames over the years; most were fleeting and only made sense to a small group of friends for some short period of time…J-Roc (dubbed to me by my friend Erin, aka Easy E** freshmen year of college), Jen-nay (irritating Forrest Gump reference, really clever, circa 1995), Jennie (with a heart over the “i”; not what you think), and various plays on my last name, which would distract from the tight focus of this post.*** Also in high school, a boy who was marginally funny but hung out with boys who were actually funny, once tried to stick a new joke on me.  “Jen,” he declared before class one day, “I tellya. Jen! Aye Tail-ya! JEN! AYE TAIL YA!” For me, he always missed the mark, his timing was off, and his repetitious effort, however valiant, didn’t catch the attention of anyone listening. (Although I can still picture his bobbing head with each repeat. Sorry VJ.)

I’ve also tried, at times while I was a kid, to give myself a nickname.  I’ve seen this happen in books, on TV and in real life.  It never works.  And it usually backfires.  Which is why I’m not called Dita today.

My name has come up a lot lately. I’ve heard “You’re the third Jen I’ve met today!” more than a couple of times recently, to which I perfunctorily respond that I’m not a Jen, but the type of person who says that will have moved on by then, so it’s really only for my scorecard. I hate the name Jen.  Only thing that makes it worse is Jenn.  I have liked and held dear to me people who go by that derivative, and I’m happy that’s working for them, but it just doesn’t work for me.  SO I find it interesting when I introduce myself as Jenny, many people immediately change me to Jen.  Why?  That’s actually a different word, and it’s not what I said you should call me.

But my dad was the first to call me Peeps.  Peeps, sometimes Peepers. I’m not sure why he started calling me this, but I always figured it was because I was the youngest, and it just came out one day.  When it got to school, my friends probably assumed it was some sort of derivation of my last name and continued its use.  Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I’m the only kid who has a real nickname in my family. (And now this post will undoubtedly release some hidden resentments that go along with my “youngest sibling” advantages, like drinking orange juice at dinner time, or countless other things that would never have been allowed with The First Three.

I’m not clear on when the term peeps (as in my people, friends, gang, family, even parents) began being used in popular culture. Some sources say the mid-90s, and I won’t go in to who used it first, but it definitely became more popular among poseurs in the early 2000s, having crossed some line of common people acceptability.  And when I heard it, I cringed like hearing Mr. Rogers recite gangster rap.  Not only did it sound wrong, but it was me, my name, being all messed up and misused. But, like I learned from waitressing, it’s just something I have to let go of. Along with dumb comments and entitled fools who think they know what’s what. I shrug at these, and go back to my own business.  It’s Father’s Day weekend, and I’ll always be the original Peeps to my dad.  Love you Dad!

*Things my sister does not like.  I had to explain.

**Neither my doing or by my encouragement.

***That was funny!

Obvious omission corner:

Yes, I haven’t mentioned Marshmallow Peeps.  That’s because I don’t like them, and don’t really care about them.  We’ve never really crossed paths. They have their following, and I have mine.  HA!

Posted in childhood, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Why people don’t necessarily mean it when they ask “What’s new?”

Sometimes I wonder how I got myself into a certain mess*.  I’ll look around at the circumstances: at people with whom I never thought I’d be associated, in a place, real or figurative, that I would not like to be, or, like a couple nights ago, surrounded by the darkness of my powerless home.  And I’ll go all David Byrne for an eye-blinking, head-scratching, stock-taking** moment of: How did I get here?

Yes, I paid my power bill. But you were wondering.  The thing is, I’m pretty good when it comes to owning up to my mistakes.  I’ve lost bills, paid things twice, forgot to tell a company I moved, overused, overspent, underestimated, and I thought “budget” was something that other people did until my 30s.  I’m not beating myself up by any means; it’s just the truth, and that truth is generally surprising and often mildly to moderately funny (much like the side effects of many TV-recommended solutions to life’s problems).

So when it comes to certain situations, I may not see clearly, or right away, who’s responsible. And duh, it’s because, like life, not everything is black or white.  Anyone who’s been following my life might agree that keeping the facts straight was easy at first: like catching one tennis ball at a time.  Cause and effect. Action and result.  Simple. But when the tennis balls began to come faster, it became harder to keep up.  Since I’m what you’d call a “math person***,” I’ll use a line graph to illustrate my point.  You’ll see that the tennis balls became somewhat overwhelming and uncatchable sometime in 2009.

just off the top of my head

But we haven’t got all day here, so back to Monday night. Some of you may know that I’ve been in the process of converting my single-family home into a two-family for quite some time.  That is only one layer in the proverbial onion of complication coinciding with the above deluge of tennis balls in my life, but an important layer at that. I’ll explain more on why some other time, but for now, what you need to know is****:

1. Part of the process includes adding a second utility meter to separate service between the old part of the home and what will be the new apartment.  It requires a big new double meter electrical panel to replace the single meter. In the world of electrical work, it’s more on the dangerous side of things, involving the utility company shutting off power from the pole, and lugging big heavy pieces of equipment and other Things Electricians Do.

2. I thought this had happened three Thursdays ago. Why?  Because Electrician Dude told me he was doing it then.  What he did not follow up with was the actual truth.

3. I’m often the last to know what’s actually going on in the construction progress at my house.  My landscaper who lives nearby and has nothing to do with electrical work but has a penchant for showing up at odd times to weigh in on things unrelated to landscaping probably knew what was happening before I did.

4. Electrician Dude gets a low D for his Time Estimation grade. (Yeah I’ve started grading people, watch out.) Not only did he say to me at 6:45 pm, “Hi! [surprised to see me] I thought I’d have this done before you got home!” [Because he knows where I’ll be when?]

5. To T make O a O long L story A short, T my E my electricity was off until almost 11pm that night. Because Electrician Dude was about seven hours off in how long the process would take him, and apparently doing major electrical jobs in the dark is less than ideal. Despite the two helpers holding flashlights, and the headlights from his truck shining on the front of my house.

Yeah it wasn’t the end of the world.  I became a little “righteous consumer” around 9:45, asking if I could have a “realistic timeline for when the power would be back on since [they] said 15 min more three hours ago” because I had some amazing zucchini pasta leftover concoction in the fridge and dinnertime was beginning to overlap with bedtime (two things I’ve made great strides in separating).  But the hunger wasn’t squelching my fears that electrical work completed in the dark of 10pm was akin to performing surgery in the back of a school bus, running late.

What’s even more entertaining is that the work is still not finished, although Electrician Dude tends to take a long hiatus after every obvious appearance, and I’ve already had two people tell me the work appears to have been done incorrectly.  Not to mention my poor house is now certainly the laughing stock of the neighborhood, having been defaced by a 90 degree PVC conduit stapled smack across the front of its facade.

I paid extra for the "did it myself with my eyes closed" look

Can a house look embarrassed? Yes, yes it can.

Yes, I’m taking all the necessary steps to do all of what a responsible person would do in this situation. And I think, as the purple shading in my graph clearly shows, I handle these life farts***** better now than I used to.  So the Team and I lit some candles, made a couple phone calls, and thought about how different things were since the last time the power was out.  Well, I did most of the thinking.  Grace worried about the noises outside, and possible fire hazards, while Levi carried around his baby lamb, smiling incessantly and stretching often.

*Mess: probably not the best word; too broad.  Overused. A fine mess–the best kind)

**I wasn’t sure before I wrote this if I had ever taken stock. While I’ve undoubtedly spent time reflecting on my life for both constructive and stupid reasons, the parody part of my brain can’t help but think of ransacking the store room, stealing provisions from Olsen’s Mercantile, plundering and pillaging in the face of fear, stockpiling comfort food the way Connecticutians (A Word) do before a snowstorm, while shouting things like “Batten down the Hatches!” and “Hunker Down!” because we think we should.  That and stealing soup.  Who took my stock?!

***Complete lie.

****It’s at this point in writing that I’m already fearing the breakdown of my original point.  I can see this entry has become reminiscent of me attempting to tell a joke at the dinner table when I was little.  At this point I’ve lost some or all of my audience but my mother is still listening and patiently waiting for me to get to some point.  Thanks, Mom.

*****I just Googled this phrase, and I don’t see it.  Saw a lot of other scary things I don’t click on, so I don’t suggest it.  But I think it’s pretty accurate.  Life farts are little things that stink to varying degrees, and sometimes the best thing to do is wait them out. Because I don’t need to say it, but they too shall pass.

Posted in ADDJennystyle, fun with homeownership, I willingly got myself into this | 3 Comments

Meet the Team

Alright. When I decided I wanted to begin writing in a somewhat public way, and put effort into a blog, I talked with some close friends about what I would write. Throughout all the changes and struggles I’ve been through in the past few years, one positive constant has been my dogs.

At times, it’s bothered me that, when so many other obvious things were wrong in my life, it seemed that asking about the dogs was the only point of conversation those around me could come up with, without, I don’t know upsetting me (or so my crazy head concluded). When bloggish talk came up, more than one well-meaning person said, why don’t you blog about your dogs?  And I replied with some litany of wishy washy reasons why it was too obvious, would be boring to others, commonplace in my existence, not interesting enough… But one of the few things I do know about writing that I keep coming back to is, you write what you know.  And as evidenced by my to-date track record of inconsistent entries and notalltointerestinganyway topics, I realized, why the hell aren’t I writing about Grace and Levi?!  Despite the fact that blogging is arguably one of the most self-indulgent activities one can do, Grace and Levi are amazing creatures who should be shared with others. 

So, without further ado, meet the team!

the fact that he's stepping on her ear is telling in and of itself.

Posted in dogs, Grace & Levi, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

back to that place, on padded paper

Mr. Baldwin would stand on his head while we wrote, or use the two tables at the front of the room as props for yoga poses.  It was 1993, and I was a sophomore in high school.  I felt something different, looking back I can say it was a shy confidence: new haircut, new boyfriend, new class, new outlook on high school…all around being lowest on one less totem pole.

No one said much while Mr. Baldwin did his yoga moves.  I’m sure there were some snickers at first, but I remembered thinking how unremarkable we made it. He told us to write about something, and to keep going until he told us to stop. We followed directions, and he stood on his head and waited.

I was organized that fall with a new black binder full of loose leaf paper especially for English class. Freshman year of high school was an obvious clean slate, but sophomore English began my writing life. I can’t honestly say I have that much to show for it, I mean seriously, for someone who thinks and talks about writing this much, you’d be left wondering what does she actually do with all my free time?  (Besides incorrectly shifting grammatical positions. And leaving sentence fragments here and there.)

Despite my years of being interested in writing that followed sophomore English, I’ve been inconsistent at best, at doing it, at least for an audience, which is the type of writing that matters most to me, because most of the rest is brain matter that is good to get out and leave behind. (Preferably where others can’t see it.) But before Peter Elbow or Ann Lamott, or Natalie Goldberg, Mr. Baldwin taught me about free writing, which became the basis for so much of my creative energy.

so this weekend, I’m going back to that black binder, to remember what I first felt and saw there before my eyes, that was me.

who knew what would come out?

Posted in memory | Tagged , , | 1 Comment