My Bloviation Celebration!

"One woman's life journey of love, laughter, and lipgloss..."

samedi, octobre 07, 2006

A Celebration Of Life

Hi everyone. Hope you've had a good week.

All week long, I've been consumed with sadness. Undoubtedly, you're aware of the horrible Pennsylvania Amish school shootings this week. Even though hundreds of miles separate my family and I from that place, I've just ached all week. I am the parent of a small child, and not a day goes by when I don't pray for her safety and fear for it in turn. Our schools have lock-down plans and practice drills for how to respond in this very sort of thing. But the Amish are the purest of people. Kind. Open. Trusting. That something like this could happen to their the sickest kind of heartbreak. The grace and the dignity that the surviving community has shown in these past few days has taught me an invaluable lesson about forgiveness and grace. Their beauty and their unselfish love is just overpowering to me. As those of you who read my blog regularly know, I'm not very good at forgiveness. I am not Amish, I am not part of that community, and I do not know the young victims or their families. So from afar, I look for a way to try and make things less awful. Maybe the best thing I can do, in addition to praying for the surviving relatives and community, is to celebrate the lives of those lost beautiful children by becoming more forgiving myself. What better way to honor lives led in kindness and selflessness than to live kindly and selflessly?

This morning, we learned as well that Buck O'Neil died overnight. I've not lived in Kansas City for very long, but I've come to love Buck as one of my own in these last few years. Every appearance, every charity event, every time his presence could do good, he was there. Always smiling, always encouraging, always happy. What a beautiful man, and what a loss for the Kansas City community. Rest well, dear friend. Thank you for the joy.

Today, I'm also celebrating two living souls as well. We're having a party tomorrow to celebrate Curt's father's birthday, and my beautiful Taylor Hicks turns 30 today. There's really no better way to honor those we lose than to celebrate the lives of those still with us.

dimanche, septembre 24, 2006

No Catchy Title Here!

Hi everyone. Hope you're all doing well. It's been nuts lately! Hope things have been somewhat more calm and less insane for you.

When I first came down to our little DEU, we were swamped and backlogged and it looked like we'd never find the end of the tunnel. We did. And now, we're right back there again. It's a terrible feeling to feel powerless and unable to do your job. I can do it...that's not the issue. It's watching that "to do list" getting bigger and bigger that scares me. I work like a dog all day and yet, the stupid thing gets no smaller. I need to NOT let this stress me out (because it DOES stress me out...something fierce). All I can do is all I can do, right? Remind me of this little simple mantra in the coming days when I am over-the-top stressed again and need a battery re-charge.

We had a wonderful time with my parents when they came to visit last week for Erin's birthday. I still can't believe she is five years old. I got to thinking about something while they were here. (And yes, I know it's common-sensical...whatever!)...I love our history. Our stories. The memories we have and the funny stories that we tell about our lives and the things we've done and been through together. I know every family is probably like this...full of hilarious tales and special moments of yesterday that they smile when they share with new friends or when they recall them together. I guess I am just happy. Happy to be my parents' daughter and my husband's wife and my daughter's mother. They are fantastic people...true blessings from God. Sometimes I still don't feel completely worthy, but obviously God does, and that's all that matters. Mom and Dad are home in Indy now, safe and tired from the trip. It was so wonderful to see them again.

On the topic of Erin's birthday, I've got some photos to share with all of you! (Remember to click on each photo to get a larger view!)

You're Invited - Erin's Fifth Birthday

Here's the invitiation I made for Erin's birthday party, which we celebrated at the Olathe Chuck E. Cheese on September the 16th. Stampin' Up products used include stamp sets ("Love Without End" and the now-retired "Dot Invitation"), inks (Certainly Celery, Handsome Hunter, and Pink Passion), cardstock (Certainly Celery and Pretty In Pink), one of the SU bookmarks, pink gingham ribbon, Stampin' Dimensionals, and The Tearing Edge. The mini-glue dots aren't from SU.

Chuck E. loves Erin!

Chucky Says

Because Erin's a little princess (she'll tell you as much!), she loves purses and little frilly girly things. I saw this adorable pattern (called "AJ's Wrist Bag") over at Crochetville and I had to make it for her!

Gift For Erin - AJ's Wrist Bag Pattern

I used two full balls of the Sugar 'N Cream cotton yarn in "Playtime" and, I believe, an "H" hook. It worked up wonderfully and it was fun to make! It was also a quick-make, so keep this pattern in mind if you're ever in need of a last-second gift!

A dear friend I met several years ago while interning for the Department of Defense never forgets Erin's birthday. Even though she's far away in miles, she's always in my heart. She sent Erin a darling card and a gift of money for her birthday, and here's the thank-you card I made for her:

Card For Bevver

I used the following Stampin' Up products to make this card: cardstock (Almost Amethyst), inks (Almost Amethyst, Perfect Plum, and Rose Red), stamp sets ("Mini Messages," "Little Layers Plus," and "Quotes To Live By"), an eyelet (in Perfect Plum) and the eyelet setting kit, a bookmark, white organdy ribbon, and The Tearing Edge. The mini glue dots aren't from SU.

Not much else really to share with you. There's been a lot going on up at the sorority house (and not all of it has been good), and it's been hard. I wish I could talk to all of you about it, but (as you understand, I'm sure), there are confidentiality issues preventing me from doing so. I guess it just suffices to say that this is much harder than I thought it would be. More rewarding too, don't get me wrong (I've already had several tearful heart-to-hearts with some of the girls). I am honored and thrilled to get this opportunity to work with them. And I guess it's not always supposed to be easy. (But is it always supposed to be this hard?) The girls are fantastic and they make me proud to be a part of this sisterhood. I know the challenges will come and go and that they will make the girls stronger and me stronger, too. Just pray for us. And pray for me. I want to do everything right and want to be for them everything they need for me to be.

Speaking of sorority life, yesterday was our alumnae chapter's kick-off event for the 2006-2007 year. This is the first chapter event since I relinquished my presidency (after three years of leadership!). It was a lot of fun. Nothing fancy...just a barbecue at Cedar Lake Park in Olathe. Yowza, it was chilly out there yesterday! And with Curtis and I both recovering from sinus infections, we probably should have brought blankets! Oh well...

I'm off for a bagel and a ride on my exercise bike. Have a wonderful day, friends.

samedi, septembre 16, 2006

Erin's Big Birthday Weekend

Greetings from BirthdayVille(tm)! This weekend, we're having a weekend-long celebration for Erin's fifth birthday, which is officially this Monday (09/18). My parents are here from Indianapolis, and it's wonderful having them here. Yesterday, we low-keyed it and just enjoyed time together and took Erin out for dinner at her faaaavorite place. Today, she had a big shin-dig at Chuck E. Cheese, and dinner with the whole "unit family" (us, my parents, and Curt's parents), complete with more presents than she can fit in her room. We're overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for the five (!!!) years that we've had our little angel with us. We've gotten lots of photos, and I will try to get those posted soon.

lundi, septembre 11, 2006

"And he would say, 'I close my eyes and look inside my heart.'"

Children of 9/11 old enough to ask about Daddy
POSTED: 8:32 a.m. EDT, September 11, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- Four-year-old Gabriel Jacobs inherited his dad's sandy hair, long nose and blue eyes. The day they buried what was left of his father -- a piece of rib, part of a thigh bone, a bit of one arm -- the boy released a balloon into the air, then turned that familiar face skyward to make sure his daddy caught it.

This is how a son reaches out to the father he never met. Ariel Jacobs died in the World Trade Center attack six days before his only child was born.

"When he sends a balloon up to the sky and he finally sees the tiny dot of the balloon go through the clouds, he says, 'OK, the balloon found the doorway to heaven, I think he has it now," says Gabi's mother, Jenna Jacobs-Dick.

Just now understanding
There are dozens of children like Gabi Jacobs, born to September 11 widows in the months after the attacks. Five years later, as they approach kindergarten, they are just beginning to grasp the stories of their fathers and of the day that changed their lives forever.

The first baby arrived just hours after the disaster, and the last nine months later. Some mothers discovered they were pregnant only after the dads were gone -- including Rudolph Giuliani's longtime aide, who was married to fire Capt. Terence Hatton. The firefighter's daughter was born the next spring, and her mother named her Terri.

Their fathers were rescue workers, cops, restaurant waiters and stockbrokers. Their mothers, pregnant and alone when the dust of the towers settled, worried about the stress on their unborn children from the agony and shock. Some miscarried. One went into labor during her husband's memorial service.

Many moms broke down in the delivery room, where they tried to fill that empty space with photos, a police badge, a piece of clothing. Friends, sisters and in-laws with cameras and brave faces stood in for all those lost dads.

Each delivery was, all at once, wonderful and awful.

Living Legacies
Julie McMahon remembers her son's birth in early 2002 as a day of jangled nerves. "It wasn't supposed to be this way," she thought.

She delivered baby Patrick while her husband, Bobby, a firefighter and high school baseball star, looked on from a photograph on the bedside table. The picture captured a moment of pure happiness -- Bobby, wearing a cap and a giant grin, leans over their first son Matthew, clutching a massive tuft of cotton candy.

Patrick arrived with Bobby's curly hair and lanky body, and has sprouted into a miniature version of his daredevil dad. The child took his mother's breath away recently when he bounded by, swinging his arms and moving his head just so -- it was Bobby's carefree strut.

When James Patrick's son was born, everyone agreed it was like looking at his father -- the same fair skin, blue eyes and brown hair, that certain way he moved his mouth. The Cantor Fitzgerald bond broker, ecstatic about starting a family, died seven weeks before Jack entered the world.

The boy is also playful and silly like his dad. His mother, Terilyn Esse, like many of the other 9/11 moms, cannot explain how the children acquired their fathers' personalities -- the social grace, the twinkling eyes, a love of words or music.

But there is a word they all use to describe it.
"It's bittersweet," says Jacobs-Dick, whose husband was attending a conference at the World Trade Center. "He's a reminder of Ari, not just the fact that he existed, but of who he was because they're so similar, and I can appreciate Ari in the present through him."

Not a replacement
She is careful, though, that Gabi doesn't grow up with the sense that he is here to take the place of his father, who wept at the doctor's office when he learned that the blur on the ultrasound was a boy.

It is an unfair burden for any child who has lost a parent, says Marylene Cloitre, director of the Institute for Trauma and Stress at the New York University Child Study Center. And because of the public tragedy, children of 9/11 victims might always feel pressure to represent something even larger.

"Which is very hard to do when you're 17 and you hardly know what you feel and think yourself," Cloitre said. "Like 'Oh, my father's a hero so I have to carry the heroic memory,' when they don't even know what that is or how to do that."

Cloitre is tracking 700 children who lost parents in the 2001 attack, each a study in grief and hardship.
But the 4-year-olds are unique: They are building images of their fathers from the wisps of other people's memories and photographs, without even the subconscious sense of long ago cuddles or kisses on the forehead.

Full Of Questions
As each child discovers a lost father's life, along come questions: How did Daddy die? Who are the bad guys? Where did the buildings go? When they cleaned up the buildings, did they clean up Daddy, too?

Cloitre says the conversation will change as they grow up. In a few years they will probably want to know whether their fathers would have loved them. As teens, they may wonder about identity -- how am I like him?

"It sort of exhausts people -- they wish it could be over, that they could just say one thing, but really, what to say today pales in the face of the real challenge, which is a lifelong dialogue with their child about who this person was," she said.

Already, some of these children can tell you Daddy died when bad guys took control of some airplanes, and then flew them into the towers. Others haven't even heard the word "terrorist" and don't know there was anything more than a big fire.

"There are always questions and things that come up, and sometimes I'm thinking, 'oh my gosh' -- you try to buy time so you can come up with an answer and do the best you can," says Kimberly Statkevicus, whose second son was born four months after husband Derek died.

Their child, named after his father, turns 5 in January. He knows that a piece of bone was recovered from his father's right hand, and is matter-of-fact about what happened. "My daddy went to work one day and some bad guys came and knocked the buildings down and crushed him like a pancake," he explains.

He wonders why there are no photographs of him and his father, like his brother has. Sometimes, it upsets him.

Finding Answers
Some of the questions of these fatherless children are easy: Did Daddy like mayonnaise or mustard? When he played baseball, did he strike people out?

Other times, they're more spiritual: Does he see me when I ride my bike?
For those answers, Terilyn Esse has taught Jack Patrick there is a special thing he can do.
"When he started to talk, I would ask him, 'Where does Daddy live?' And he would say 'In heaven,' and I would say, 'Who does he live with?"' she said. "And he would say 'With God and the angels,' and I would say 'If you want to talk to Daddy what do you do?'

"And he would say 'I close my eyes and look inside my heart."'

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

God bless America. Today and always.

dimanche, septembre 10, 2006

It Counts, Right?

Hi everyone.

You've seen me post before about "Secret Pal" and "Random Act Of Kindness" (or "RAOK") groups that I've been in. Their basic premise is that you seek someone new, find out their interests, and send them a little gift or two to make them smile. It's wonderful, and it's been the source of a lot of joy and new friendships for me. I decided this week to try a new twist on this old favorite. I made a not-so Random-Act-Of-Kindness (or, in JenSpeak(tm), an NS-RAOK), for someone very special to me. Andrea and I met in Indianapolis and were very close friends. We've had our bumps and bruises (mostly because of me...another story for another day), but she's always been right there to support me, love me, listen to me, make me laugh, and to basically just, well, be there. She and her husband moved back to Anderson (which is not far from Indy) a few years ago, and now we're re-connected online. I dedicate my first NS-RAOK to my Adia. The one person who really gets my humor ("drop trou" and "blow ass" and "what the HEAEH-ll?") and the best person to karaoke at Parrotheads with and my favorite fellow "American Idol" fan (other than Erin, of course!).

Here are photos of the card I made for her (remember, please click the photos for larger images):

Not-So-RAOK - Card For Andrea (Outside)

Not-So-RAOK - Card For Andrea (Inside)

And here's a photo of her gift:


I was in a hurry to get this RAOK out to her, so it's not much. I crocheted her a washcloth using some Sugar 'n Cream yarn in Playtime" and threw in a bar of Indigo Wild ZUM soap in "Mint" and some peppermint foot lotion for her to pamper herself in minty style. I also included a Vera Bradley photo keychain in "Mesa Red" and a Longaberger coin purse.

For her card, I used the following Stampin' Up products: cardstock (Mellow Moss, Real Red, and Whisper White), inks (Chocolate Chip, Mellow Moss, Real Red, and Ruby Red), stamp sets (the ADORABLE, now-retired "Country Apple," "Love Without End," and "Sincere Salutations"), The Tearing Edge, and buttons in "Handsome Hunter." The glue dots aren't from SU.

So even though I know Andrea and she knew this was coming, it counts as a Random Act Of Kindness, right?

samedi, septembre 09, 2006

So, So Grateful...

Hi everyone.

I had planned to post here about some general JenInfo(tm)...inane details to anyone other than me about those things that interest me more than anyone else (and yet somehow, you guys still read this blog...go figure). I had it all planned out. I've been cleaning and anxiously anticipating the arrival of my parents this week for Erin's fifth birthday. I've got the makings of a sinus infection. I splurged on new Vera Bradley and some expensive yarns for myself. I've also put together (and photographed) a not-so-random-act-of-kindness for someone dear to my heart, and I'd planned to tell you all about it (and show the photos). And then my mother called me.

She and Daddy were involved in a hit-and-run car accident today. While they are both fine physically, they're both shaken and disheartened by what happened. Somehow, the shock of what could have been (God, I don't even want to THINK about it) and the grateful joy I feel at their safe return home just makes invalid and unimportant anything else I wanted to share with you. I can't even fathom my life without them in it. Even thought 500 miles separate us, we're so, so close. We talk and EMAIL every day. They are my parents. The first loves of my life. The people I most want proud of me (even above my own husband, shame on me for saying so). They have been so good to me, and I am so not ready to face the world without them in it. I am so, so grateful to God for sparing their lives. And I pray for the people who hit them that the experience frightened them in to becoming better, safer drivers (hey, a girl can always hope, right?). If you love someone, please go give that person a big hug and kiss right now. Life is fleeting. And you never know when your loved one will take his or her last breath.

God bless you guys. Thanks for being my friends.


mardi, septembre 05, 2006

More Prayers Needed

Hello friends. I need to ask for your prayers again. A very old and very dear friend of our family just lost her husband after, oh goodness, 60+ years of marriage. This woman was the mother of a dear, lifetime friend (Vic) of my mother. Vic died when they were young adults, and Mom and Jean remained friends all these years. Even though Jean and Max were very advanced in age, they still made it a point to come all the way from Des Moines to Indianapolis for our wedding in 2001...something that meant the world to my mother, our family, and me. Jean and Max and their family have meant so much to my mother and her family for so many years, and this loss just breaks my heart. How wonderful for them that they had so, so many years together. Please pray for Jean that her heart and spirit find peace in these last years that she is with us here on Earth.

Here's the card I made for her (as always, please click for a larger image):

Card For Jean - Dear Family Friend

(Stampin' Up products used include cardstock in Blush Blossom and Mellow Moss; the "Brighter Tomorrow" and now-retired "Quotes To Live By" stamp sets; inks in Lovely Lilac, Not Quote Navy, and Sahara Sand; white organdy ribbon; and The Tearing Edge. The mini glue-dots aren't from SU.)

Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts.

Much love to you all,

lundi, septembre 04, 2006

Farewell, Mate

"Crococile Hunter" Steve Irwin killed.

Although I'm not surprised, I'm certainly saddened. Steve was a familiar character of discussion in our household. We loved his frisky persona and his unabashed way with animals. What a sad loss. I hope his suffering was brief, and wish his family, friends, and many fans blessings of love and comfort and peace.

samedi, septembre 02, 2006

Ooh la la!!!

Hi everyone. I am f-l-o-a-t-i-n-g! Just got in from a long afternoon of pampering at Mario Tricoci. You may remember me mentioning that Curtis had bought me a facial/pedicure/manicure gift certificate from Tricoci's for a Mother's Day gift. I'd initially planned to use it last weekend (it was the week after recruitment, Erin was going to be up visiting her grandparents, we had a date night planned, etc. etc.), but my car situation put the ka-bosh on that. So I re-booked for today. Oh my, oh my, oh my. It was just wonderful. I had a 90-minute facial/massage, a manicure, a makeover, and my first-ever pedicure. Oh wowsa. I sure feel pretty! And reeeeeeeeelaaaaxed. I was worried there for a while that I might not be able to make the drive home (I'm in a rental...more on that momentarily). It was a devine experience, and I plan to make it a monthly habit to go back for pedicures. Maybe even the facials as well. We'll see. To Wynn, Holly, and Ashley - thank you for making me feel heavenly and beautiful. You ladies rock!

My car is STILL in the shop. Here we are SIX DAYS LATER and our fine friends at Pontiac have no idea what's wrong with my car. Given that (a) the car is a Pontiac and (b) I took it to a Pontiac service center, you'd think that (c) I'd have my car back by now...or at least a solid diagnostic regarding the problem(s) at hand. No such luck. Apparently WonderMechanic(tm) seemed to think that additional eyes were needed to figure out what in tarnation was wrong with my baby Vibe, so he called in a mechanic pal from GM (you're thinking, "this can't be good, Jen"...and I bet you're right). Still no closer to a decision. But I finally broke down and just rented a car today. Poor Curtis...he smiled and patiently took on the role of "Jen's Personal Chauffeur" (to include the l-o-n-g trek from Gardner-to-KCMO-back-to-Gardner twice a day to work), but I felt tremendously guilty, and just broke down and rented a car. Depending on what they find wrong with it (assuming they ever do), I may be finding myself shopping for a new vehicle soon. It's a shame - I loved that little Vibe.

Not much else really new to report on our end. Party plans are in place for Erin's fifth (!!!!) birthday party on the 16th, and my parents are coming out from Indy to celebrate with us. I've missed them something fierce.

Hope that you are all having a wonderful Labor Day weekend, friends. Be safe and enjoy this time off with your loved ones!

vendredi, septembre 01, 2006

Highly Addictive (You've Been Warned!)

Check out this new JenAddiction(tm):

Practice random acts of literacy (and have a good time doing so!) Check out this highly addictive website and learn more!

Be forewarned, however. It's addictive!

(Now if I could just figure out why no one can find any of my books!)

A quick "happy birthday" to someone special from my yesterday. He celebrates birthday #35 today. May every blessing and joy be with him today and forever.

jeudi, août 31, 2006

Happy Birthday Mom!!!!!

Sixty-one years ago today, the amazing woman I call "Mom" was born. How I wish there were the words to describe to you the joy and the light that she has been to my life. She was my first (and best) "best friend." She has been my champion, my advocate, my strength, my voice, and my courage every day of my life. She's faced some exceptionally intolerable pain and never ceased to put me first. Although 500 miles separate us in body, she is always, always with my in spirit and I love her more now today than ever.

Here are the gifts and card we sent to her. I hope they made her smile and feel loved and missed and adored (because she is!)

First, the card (you know me, don't I always make a homemade card?). Remember that you can click on the photo for a larger image:

Card For Mom - Birthday, 2006

Stampin' Up products used cardstock (Almost Amethyst, Blush Blossom, Certaily Celery, and Elegant Eggplant), stamp set ("Sincere Salutations"), ink (Almost Amethyst), the square punch, white organdy ribbon, buttons (in Pale Plum and Mellow Moss), and Stampin' Dimensionals. The mini glue dots aren't from SU, and I used the Sizzix machine to cut out the flowers.

And here are her gifts (again, please click for a larger photo):

Happy Birthday, Mom!

She likes Vera Bradley (and I am getting "in" to those bags as well), so we got her the "Small Cosmetic" in "New Hope" (love, love, LOVE that fabric) and the "Zip Wallet" in "Petal Pink." We also made her a mix-CD of songs to listen to at the office, in the car, or whenever she needs a musical uplift and wants to feel close to us. I threw in some classics I knew she'd love (a little Taylor Hicks with a dash of some Ella Fitzgerald and a splash of Dolly Parton) and some new stuff I think she will really like (Amos Lee, Chieli Minucci, and a host of others). I hope that she enjoys her gifts and knows how much we truly love and miss her. Happy Birthday, Mom. Can't wait to see you in a few weeks for Erin's birthday!!!

And on the thread of appreciations and photos, another huge THANK YOU SO MUCH to Chrissy for being a wonderful Secret Pal. Here's a photo of the final gift I received from her the day before yesterday:

SP8 - Final Gift

I love the wool yarns! The Gems Sapphire is SO SOFT. And the Lorna's Laces is just gorgeous. This will make a VERY warm hat! And check out the home-made, sunshine-y washcloth! This will be a perfect addition to my next soak-in-the-tub-and-relax session! Thank you again, Chrissy. You rock my socks off!

Have a great night and a wonderful Friday, friends!

mardi, août 29, 2006

It's Much Harder Than I Thought It'd Be...

OK, so it’s not a secret that it’s been a while since I’ve posted. A long, long, long while. I’ve also been somewhat rotten in the "return-my-EMAIL-please-Jen" department. The last few weeks have been very topsy-turvy and busy and active and exhausting and wonderful…all rolled up in one. I apologize for being gone. Believe it or not, I’ve really missed you guys. And I’ve missed typing out and sharing my experiences with all of you. Have you ever noticed that by manually plunking out your thoughts and feelings (and sharing them with the world proper here on the Internet), that your perspective sometimes changes? That which seems monumental later feels not-so-much-so. And some things hurt much more deeply than you realized? Interesting, isn’t it?

Those of you who are faithful readers know that I was asked last spring to consider taking on the role of chapter adviser at a local collegiate chapter of my sorority. I’d just come off four years of leadership in the local alumnae chapter (one year as secretary and three as president), and in all honesty, I was truthfully looking forward to merely coming to meetings, paying dues, helping raise money for our philanthropies, and enjoying the company and friendship my sisters had to offer (versus trying to do all of this AND lead the chapter simultaneously). I figured I’d make cookies for events, serve as a pen-pal to one of the local collegians, and just, well, be a sister. When the call came in (well, actually, it was an EMAIL, but I digress…) to serve as the local collegiate chapter’s adviser, I was torn. I wanted to do it so badly. SO badly. And I was above honored to even be considered. But did I have what it took to do the job (and the girls) justice? What kind of time commitment were we talking about here? What about my family? I had truly wanted to relax somewhat sorority-wise and focus more on my husband and daughter (and killer Boston Terrier) and also on the hunt for my next job (you know, since the BRAC has come and obliterated my professional existence). But I’ve always wanted to be actively involved in my organization. When I was a collegian, I so admired the alumnae who served on advisory councils or who were chapter advisers or Area or National officers. I wanted that for myself, too. And this opportunity to serve my organization and help lead its younger members was one step closer to becoming one of those alumnae myself, and so I said yes. If you had told me then what I know now, I think I would have been somewhat astonished. Simply put, I had no idea how much energy and time it would cost me…and how much I would love it. I just had no idea.

There has been an ongoing issue with our chapter that I can’t discuss, but it’s safe to say that it has usurped much of my energy and time since agreeing to do this. That’s fine…it’s part of the job…but I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. The situation is emotional, and it’s been hard on my girls. Seeing them struggle was a hurt for which I was not prepared. It’s getting better, and I am thrilled to be in there knee-deep and involved and actively in touch with and working with the girls. They’ve needed that kind of connection and assistance for so long now, and I am glad to be the one who is there for them.

Last week was formal recruitment (in my day, we called it “rush”). The week prior was their work week (you know the drill…move back in before school starts, clean and clean and clean some more, rehearse recruitment skits, etc. etc.) I spent every evening there during recruitment, came to visit several times during work week, and stayed some nights past 12:30 in the morning. Was I glad to do it? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Without question. But in all honesty, it was more grueling and energy-consuming than I imagined it would be. I got little sleep, I ate very poorly, and I was drained. Add to that the ongoing issues with the chapter and I was just exhausted. Next year, I will do things much differently…take the time off work, better prepare myself (having food and comfy clothes on hand), get more rest, etc. etc.

I am so, so proud of these women. Even in the short time that I’ve been working with them, they are teaching me so much. Sometimes it’s funny how things work out. I came in to this experience thinking that I wasn’t the right girl for it…and thrust out into a house of 20-something 20-somethings who needed my insight and help. I had no idea that they’d be the ones to teach me. We didn’t do as well at recruitment as I’d hoped. (Let me rephrase that. We did BEAUTIFULLY, and the girls were absolutely fantastic. We didn’t get the number of new pledges that I’d hoped.) Hearing the lower number just HURT. I mean, it PHYSICALLY hurt. I felt as if I’d been kicked in the stomach. After everything that had happened and all of their hard work, I felt that they deserved to take the maximum number of available pledges. When that didn’t come to pass, my heart simply broke. That was a pain I couldn't have expected or anticipated...and which, I fear, I did not hide very well! Not one hour later, however, the tide turned. When the girls learned how many new members they were receiving (and their names), they were absolutely thrilled. THRILLED. When I left at 12:30 the next morning, their laughter and V-E-R-Y loud music could be heard outside the house. They were dancing and laughing and getting to know their new sisters and pigging out and basically just having fun being young. The lesson I learned? That being a sorority adviser is like being a parent in a sense. You want the world for them….you want everything good and wonderful and “the best” for them…but you have to learn as well to relax your hopes and expectations when you see their joy in what they have. And believe me, it was joy. I couldn’t hold back the tears for long…tears that began in sadness and heartbreak turned in to tears of pride for my girls and joy in their new sisters. I am sure many more lessons await me in my dealings with these (now 30-something in count) young women.

In the midst of all the emotional sorority stuff, I’ve also been dealing with work hassles. We’re drowning…just drowning. More work than we have bodies (and time). I am catching up…SLOWLY…but I’ve still got a ways to go still. Oh yeah, and my car is dead, too. Don’t even get me started on that. I guess all the trips to the sorority house (in the 800 degree heat) didn’t agree with it. It’s a brand new damned car (as in a 2005 make!) It’s astonishing that something so expensive can be so poorly made. Let’s not start down this road.

I had much more that I wanted to share with all of you, but I can see that this post is already a zillion words long and I can only imagine what you must be thinking (“You can SHUT IT anytime, Jen!”) If you’ve read this far, may warm oatmeal scotchies fall from the sky directly to your waiting plate. And also, if you're one of my friends still awaiting an EMAIL reply (or who just received a long-awaited reply), please accept my apologies and forgive me.

(Oh, before I go...MANY THANKS to my amazing Secret Pal 8, Christine. Thank you for all the wonderful gifts. It was great getting spoiled by you!!! My last gift arrived today. I will get a photo of it tonight and get it uploaded!)

Be well and healthy and happy, dear friends.

dimanche, août 13, 2006

The More Things Change...

Ever notice how the more things change, the more they stay the same? Whoever coined that phrase is a genius.

Hello all. Been a really crazy last few weeks. Yes, I know I always say that when I've not been a faithful bloviator. It is, however, true. Here's a quick run-down of what's been going on in my life. Lots is happening, but it's all lots of the same, if that makes sense. Life stuff, work stuff, family stuff, sorority adviser stuff...stuff abounds.

Family first. All is well on the Smith homefront. Curtis and Erin are both now taking tae kwon do, and it's a RIOT to watch her! She did SO WELL during her first little trial class. I was afraid at first that maybe she was too young. Maybe it would intimidate her, or maybe she might not be able to understand enough to follow along. I was wrong! She was right out there with the bigger kids doing her exercises and running and kicking and punching and forcefully chanting "YES SIR!" when she was given a command! I was so proud. She was such a little ham. It's giving her a solid outlet for her energies while also teaching her a time-honored tradition with lifetimes of that will help her emotionally and physically. Curt took karate when he was younger, and I think he's really enjoying taking it again. I need to get my fat tookus motivated to try this, too. They have a ladies' class. Maybe. We'll see. In the meantime, school starts this Wednesday (where did the summer go?!?!) and "Meet The Teacher Night" is tomorrow. Even though Erin will be having the same teacher again this year, we thought it'd be fun to go and tour her classroom and have some ice cream with the other kids and families. Fall is right around the corner!

And on the topic of fall, classes are starting soon up at the university. The girls moved in to the sorority house this weekend, and I was there most of the day Friday and yesterday afternoon meeting with the officers and watching their recruitment skits. I'm going back later this afternoon for a formal Ritual service. These young women are all very dynamic, and it's wonderful to see a different side of sisterhood. It's been ages since I was a collegian. On my campus, we were a newer chapter (colonized in 1989, and I rushed in 1992). Our campus was a commuter campus in the middle of downtown Indianapolis. We had virtually no support from the university administration, and, by virtue of our young age, we also had very few alumnae to support us. By contrast, this chapter has been around since the 1910's, has a large house, and also has a very strong community of dedicated alumnae. I've been so fortunate to be a part of this amazing sisterhood, and I am so glad now to get the opportunity to work with these younger women and to help them have a more meaningful sorority experience. I'm slowly getting over the whole "are-we-sure-Jen's-the-best-girl-for-the-job?" worry, but I am still somewhat trepidatious. Someone wiser than me once told me that I'd never grow or learn or become a better person if I didn't step outside my comfort zone. Well, I'm out there now, that's for certain.

It's appearing now that the interagency detail that would assist me in being reassigned and spared from any additional BRAC-related trauma won't work out after all. It's a long story, but it basically equates to someone in a very senior position not being supportive of me or of my amazing boss who's trying so hard to help me. I wish I could tell you that I'm surprised, but I'm not. Supporting his people has traditionally not been this director's primary concern. My boss and I gave it a shot, and we'll see. The "no" isn't definitive yet, but it's darned close. In the meantime, there was a GS-0201-09/12 that closed last week (and it involved work in employee relations - woo hoo!), and I put in for it, so we'll see. I'd like to keep my 12, but I'm willing to go down to the GS-11 again. So we'll see. In the meantime, I'll still keep DEU'ing my way along. I've got about four SF-39s waiting for me tomorrow. Jolly.

In the last few months, I've been re-connecting with old friends on MySpace. In the past week, three women that I was very close to in school have found me. It's been really great talking with them and catching up on how life has treated us all and the directions that we've taken. You know, I've talked with you all before about how I've run from certain parts of my past. How I don't like to think about about even remotely reminded of them. And then there are a few years that were so joy-filled and happy. I suppose I wasn't any different than your average overweight teenager in that I didn't have the highest self-concept and that I just dreaded certain things (i.e., the long walk down the center hallway at my high school, which is where the self-proclaimed "beautiful people" hung out and took every opportunity they had to make fun of anyone who didn't have their good looks or their fathers' fortunes). But I have some absolutely wonderful times and those are forever emblazoned in my memory. Just seeing these old friends again brings back a lot of wonderful memories. It's hard to believe that so much time has passed since our days at Lawrence Central High School. One of my newly-found friends said to me, "Do you realize it's been 20 years since we started at LC?" 20 years. How is that possible? Class of 1990. Wow.

I'm off to find out when "Barnyard" is playing at the AMC Studio 30 in Olathe. Erin's been so excited to see it. Have a wonderful day, everyone.

dimanche, août 06, 2006

Baby, It's HOT Outside...

Hi everyone. Just a quick "catch up post" before heading off to bed. I hope that you've all had a good weekend and that the rains that are slowly cooling off our area will soon provide you a break in the heat as well.

My last bloviation here was somewhat heavy-hearted, I just wanted to say "thank you so much" to all of you who have EMAILed and sent me comments and posts (both here and at MySpace) of support. I am doubly blessed in my life to have wonderful friends and family offline, as well as a beautiful and amazing grouping of online sisters and brothers. Thank you so much, especially to Keri. Sure seems like everytime something reallyreallybad or reallyreallygreat happens and I bloviate about it, Keri's right there to share in the moment and to be a good friend from afar. Thank you, Keri (and everyone else). You simply rock. Period!

It's been a busy weekend. HOT and busy. SCORCHING and busy. SWELTERING and busy. I spent the morning yesterday at the sorority house for "work day" cleaning and generally preparing the house for move-in next week. Already, the challenges are beginning to pour in and I am worried and nervous and excited. The house has no air conditioning (we shut it off for the summer), so just imagine my not-so-skinny self cleaning dirty bedrooms (don't get me STARTED on the bathrooms) in scalding heat with no air. Fun morning! Curtis and I had a date afternoon after a long shower and bout of relaxation, and it was just a nice, albeit STEAMY, night. We kept busy today with a quick day jaunt up to St. Joseph for a family dinner with the parental-units-in-law, and spent the evening outside celebrating the second (!!!) birthday of the daughter of a family friend. We left the party just as the storms rolled in, and I am now typing to you after a VERY LENGTHY shower to wash off the grit and heat of the day. (A note to the folks at Perfect Scents and ZUM...thank you for your deliciously wonderful bath products! I am a clean-smellin' bloggin' babe because of you, and I feel WORLDS better now than I did when I walked through our front door!) Of course, no celebration would be complete without a homemade birthday card, and Miss Ashley's second birthday was no exception:

Card - Ashley's Second (!!!) Birthday

Stampin' Up products used include the following: stamp sets ("Birthday Best" and "Mini Messages" and the now-retired "Little Layers Plus"), inks (Almost Amethyst, Bordering Blue, Elegant Eggplant, Rose Red, and Summer Sun), cardstock (Almost Amethyst and Pixie Pink), and tags from the alumnimum square tag set. The purple flower brads (which I love), colored pencils, and the glue dots aren't from SU.

OK, off to bed. Early day tomorrow. Have a great night, friends.

jeudi, août 03, 2006

At Least You Can't Say I'm Boring...

Hi everyone. It's been a while and I've got lots to share with you. Hang on for the ride...

This week started out on a topsy-turvy note. Last Sunday as we were starting the week and getting ready for the days ahead, Erin said something completely uncharacteristic and out-of-sorts. She said that she didn't want to go to her daycare. We have had an in-home daycare with a family friend ever since Erin was six weeks old, and this woman and her family (and the children who have gone there with her) are close and are special parts of our extended family. Erin has grown up with these children. She is a very social, very kind, and very loving little girl, and she rarely meets a stranger. Almost instantly when she meets a new little (or not-so-little) person, she struts right up, introduces herself, and starts playing and making a new friend. And she's very close to her daycare provider, so imagine our shock to hear her say that she no longer wanted to go there. Upon pressing her for more information, a story emerged that I was not prepared for. A new little boy (who is eight years old...TWICE ERIN'S AGE) has been "mean" to her. "Mean," as she defines it, includes him telling her to sit in time-out and him saying rude things to her and him "tapping" her tummy (not "hitting" her, but touching her in a manner she does not like). When this news broke, I went off the deep end. And yes, before I continue, I realize that "going off the deep end" is not the proper means by which to handle situations like this. My "deep end"-ery was always kept from Erin, and she saw me simply behave in a loving but direct fashion. We had a talk with her and explained to her that she is a wonderful and lovely child, and that no one has the right to be mean or to touch her in any way that she does not want. And we also told her how to deal with this certain child should he ever again wish to express his pseudo, only-because-he's-older authority. And then I called her daycare provider. I put it to her simply. This is a three-step process. I talk to you, I talk to the child's father, and then I go to the local police department. Boom, boom, and boom, in that order. Her caregiver did explain that the little boy is "just odd" and that he demonstrates strange, attention-seeking behaviors. And she promised to talk to both this child and Erin and to ensure that the situation corrects itself. So far, so good. No more complaints of him being rude or touching her in any manner. And it's a good damned thing, too. I won't hesitate to take any steps necessary to protect my child from being bullied. While I realize that children need to learn how to stand up for themselves and how to reconcile their own proper behaviors against those of a bully, I also realize that my child is only four years old. At this age, she lacks the capacity and the faculties to adequately defend herself from being bullied, especially by a child twice her age. I am not without compassion. Please don't misunderstand. As more details about this child are made clear to me, it's becoming more obvious to me that something's inadequate about his life. He's crying out for attention and is seeking recognition. That breaks my heart, and my prayers are with him. But I will not tolerate another child's poor behavior adversely impacting the health and physical/emotional well-being of my daughter. She will not be forced to suffer because another child has personal issues. Period. I don't think I'm feeling anywhere near "out of sorts" here. It's a natural reaction for a parent to want to protect her child. This little boy is probably not a serious threat. Kids will be kids, and the situation was expediently addressed and rectified. However, I see in myself the capacity to absolutely breathe fire for my little girl. I am not a violent or mean person. I abhor violence. I can't hear about it, I can't watch it on television....I can't surround myself with it in any fashion. But mark my words. If I ever, EVER got wind of anyone laying a finger on her to harm her, so help me God, I'd end that person's life with my own bare hands. Again, I realize that this is normal...every decent parent feels this way about his or her own child. And I realize that the time will come (sooner than I want it to) where I will have to leave Erin to her own devices. She will never learn how to deal with problematic, harmful people if she is not properly exposed to difficult situations and shown the proper manner in which to handle them. However, at the age of four, the "proper manner in which to handle" this situation is for Curtis and I to remove her from its path. And that's what we've done.

All of this hulla-baloo affected me doubly. Not only did I have the fierce, "Mama Bear" reaction, I also had a personal reaction. At the age of 34, I am still unable to get past years of horrible, emotionally violent bullying that I experienced when I was younger. It's a long story and I'll not go in to it here (trust don't want to hear it and I don't want to deal with an evening of torrential tears, and that's exactly what will happen if I walk down that road with you). During a relatively short (but very painful) time in my life, I was subjected to extreme bullying at the hands of children of privilege. I was the only middle-class student at a private, Catholic school. I was also the only fat one...the only not-so-pretty one...and thus, I was an easy mark. My family had some significant personal trauma during one particular year, and that was also the year that the bullying was the worst. And on Monday, as I was dealing with this situation with Erin, I completely collapsed emotionally. The entire trauma of that horrible time came flooding back to me. Years later, I still suffer. I never developed self-esteem, thanks in part to not only the children who harmed me but the adults cognizant of it who stood idly by and let it happen. I am 34, for fuck's sake. The emotional issues I continue to face should be a part of my long-ago. They aren't. I thought and worried about Erin becoming like me, and I actually raised my voice to Curtis (which I never do - we almost never get in heated talks or arguments) and I said, "LOOK AT ME. Is THIS what you want your daughter to become? Overweight, eating disorder, no sense of self-esteem." It was horrible. Not one of my better days. Not by a longshot. As the days have passed, I've come down from that horrible heightened sadness and I am OK again. But it's continued proof of that which I hide and try to bury beneath deadlines and work and schedules and friends and life in general...I still hurt. As long as I don't think about that time or I don't see any of those people, I am just fine. But the second I encounter a memory or a person from that time, oh God, it all just breaks down around me. And that's exactly what happened to me on Monday.

I have issues, but at least you can't say I'm boring.

Today, our team leader retired. In a relatively short time, I've come to know and really, really care for her. It's hard to say farewell, but I am so thrilled for her as she starts this brand new chapter of her life. I used to think that in my field (human resources), hiring new people was the "coolest part." Not any longer. The most wonderful thing we see is people leaving and starting brand new chapters of their lives in retirement. Those we hear from always laugh and say, "I am so busy now! How did I ever find time to work?" And that's a wonderful thing. We had a little luncheon for her yesterday, and our former HR Director came back for it. He's someone EXCEPTIONALLY dear to my heart, and it was beyond wonderful to see him again. He gave me a long and very tight hug, and it felt so good to just see him and laugh with him and be around his energy again. He was definitely a one-of-a-kind. Life is a wonderful thing. God sends people down our pathways that affect and influence us, and whose effects remain part of our spirits years after the woods "good bye" have been uttered.

I may be a little sappy and emotional, but at least you can't say I'm boring.

It's been hotter than Satan's kitchen on fire this week, and wouldn't you know it, the air conditioning in MY BRAND NEW CAR decided that this week would be a fun and exciting time to die. Conk out. Expire. Die. And "die" was what I wanted to do yesterday as I drove all the way from Kansas City to Gardner IN MY HOT AND STUFFY CAR. I had a dinner meeting with another sorority adviser and during dinner, a huge storm blew in. As I walked in the pouring rain and pitch black dark to my car, I got soaked. To the bone. I couldn't see my very black car in the very black darkness, and add my visual inabilities to my haste to get in my car and dry off, and then envision me SMACKING MY FOREHEAD WITH MY CAR DOOR. Yes, I've got a shiner on my noggin above my left eye, boys and girls. Oh, and did I mention that my fucking air conditioner KICKED BACK ON AS I DROVE HOME FROM DINNER?!? Yep, I'm wet and soaked to the bone and it's cold outside and my head hurts like fuck and the air decides to resume functioning. What could possibly BE more delightful?

You could say that my luck sucks ass this week, but at least you can't say I'm boring.

I found something very cool today. I'm practically all caught up at the office (which is NO SMALL FEAT given the fact that I was on leave, got hammered with work, and lost all access to decent and functioning technology, all within two weeks' time), and I got to browsing sites online. I found one that I just absolutely love. It's called BookCrossing (, and it's basically a worldwide group of people leaving old, already-read books behind for others to discover and read. I've already "set a book free" (to quote my new friends at BookCrossing), and I am really interested in seeing who finds it and how far out into the world it will go.

You can call me a geek, but at least you can't say I'm boring.

And you can also call me "gone." Dinner time. Be well, everyone.

mardi, juillet 25, 2006

Snarky, Sleepy Jennifer

Hi guys. Just popping in for a quick second. Hi. How are you? End of pleasantries. :)

Quick JenUpdates(tm) before heading off to LullabyLand(tm). I am a tiiiiired girly. Long day. Here we go:

1. Yesterday's work-evacuation-hullaballoo was thanks in large part to a suspicious package located inside our facility. We in HR knew the skinny early this a.m. because we called and asked. Pathetic, isn't it? Wouldn't one think that the building proper'd have a right to know what in the hell happened yesterday? It wasn't until 1:40-something this afternoon that someone somewhere thought the site worthy of knowing what had actually happened:

-----Original Message-----
From: UsernameDeleted@SuffixDeleted [mailto:NameDeleted@SuffixDeleted]
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2006 1:42 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Yesterday's Early Dismissal

SUBJECT FOR E-MAIL: Yesterday's Early Dismissal

Most employees at the NameOfOurBuildingDeleted were sent home early yesterday following a Department of NameDeleted evacuation on the east side of the complex. GSA received notification from the Federal Protective Service at about 3:30 p.m. that NameOfAgencyDeleted was evacuating their Kansas City Plant after a suspicious package was discovered in the office areas of the NameDeleted-operated site. As a precautionary action, GSA and other agencies dismissed their employees for the afternoon.

Kansas City Police, Fire HazMat, the FBI, the ATF and the Bomb Squad all responded to the call. The package was determined to be not dangerous after it was investigated and removed from the premises. The NameOfOurBuilding site resumed normal operations about 5:30 p.m.

According to security personnel, the package met at least three criteria of a potentially dangerous package: it was wrapped in plastic, it included a handwritten address, and it had an oily appearance.

If you find a suspicious package while at work, please do not handle it. Leave the area immediately and contact security. You may also contact the property management office by calling 1-877-RestOfNumberDeleted.

Delicious. At least no one was hurt, thank goodness.

2. I saw a very rough draft today of the inter-agency agreement drafted to swap me from my current agency to the agency I've been telling you about (the we-really-want-Jen-but-can't-afford-her crew). This may just work out after all!

3. Technology did not fail me today at the office and I actually got some work done! Haaaa-lay-LOO-yuh!

4. Erin's swimming lessons went well. I am so proud of my little water blossom! :) She went off the diving board (one teacher was on the board with her, and another was waiting right below to catch her). She also floated on her back and did some lunges and kicks. Yay! I was distracted, however, by a poor, sweet little boy who was terrified and cold and couldn't find his parents. Sometimes, I find myself being VERY opinionated about how other people raise their children and how they allow them to behave. Tonight was absolutely no exception. This little guy was 4, if that. He was in Erin's class (which has 3 teachers), and his parents LEFT HIM. Turned their backs and walked clear to the other side of the pool and JUST LEFT HIM THERE. Well, God love him, the poor little guy was spooked and got out of the water. And they let him stand there screaming for his Mommy and wandering all over the pool area. I was NOT pleased. Whenever I see little ones unattended or who appear to be hurting/scared/sad/in trouble, my "Mommy Gene" immediately kicks in. I looked all around expecting some kind woman to come up and claim her son, but alas, that was not to be. Curtis and I were commenting aloud about this horrible situation, and another Mommy looked at us and said, "I think his Mom went away to see if he'd stay in the water." Well, quite frankly, that's completely unacceptable in my opinion. He was left unsupervised (although there were a TON of parents all watching him in complete shock/horror) and he was SCARED...first of the water and then of being alone and unable to find his parents. While I realize that it's truthfully none of my business how other people raise their children, I just couldn't help but feel badly for the little guy...and like I wanted to choke his parents. Is it me, or was that wrong of them to do that? Your opinions greatly appreciated.

That's it, I think. I am off to bed. Night night folks. :)

lundi, juillet 24, 2006

In Suspended Animation....

Hi everyone. What a day it has been.

This afternoon, there was a full-scale, immediate evacuation of our facility. No reasons were given. No explanations. Just "get out...NOW!" It was about 4:00 this afternoon...after many of our folks have headed home for the day. Still, though, we're in a very large Federal building with numerous agencies contained therein. Many people work past 5:00 (some even past 6:00). It was scary and it happened so fast. One of my dear colleagues and I were the only ones left in the office, and she (God love her) is so strong and so solid and stable. Me, on the other hand...what a joke. No courage. No ability to self-reason and believe that, in the absence of any information, that the news wasn't catastrophic. All I could think of was the morning of September 11, 2001. It all came flooding back to me. And so my amazing colleague/friend/sister (who I truly love) kept me calm and got me out of the building. Immediately when we walked out the door, we noticed the helicopter flying over our building and police everywhere. One Federal Police Services officer was on his walkie-talkie discussing the immediate evacuation of the Federal day care center on our little plot of land. That's when my friend looked at me and said, "Something's wrong." My heart was in my throat for what seemed like an eternity as I battled traffic to get back home to Gardner. I thought to myself that surely the radio would let us know of any problems or dangers...any, God forbid, terrorist attacks or violent incidents that may have taken place. No such luck. It was normal Kansas City radio-ish stuff for a 4:00 afternoon....a commercial for Olathe Ford and ZZ Top's "Legs" and a whole lot of verbal bloviations about absolutely nothing. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. The same thing happened on 09/11 as I drove home from work shortly before our site was evacuated and closed (I was pregnant and scared and left before they forced me out). The entire drive, no one said anything on the radio. They played music and commercials like it was nothing. Nothing. Once I got home, CNN and the local news channels had no information for me, either. All of this means, I'm guessing, that everything is OK. Something happened and they needed to get everyone out and so they did. My boss and I were on the phone when the first news of the evacuation came in, and she raised her voice to me and said "GO JEN!" She never raises her voice to me. I knew something was wrong. It's been a few hours now and the freak-out in my spirit is slowly being replaced with calm curiousity, but lemme tellya, I was really freaked out this afternoon. Really. Tonight, I am waiting by the phone for my amazing boss to call with the word on what happened and the decision of the General Services Administration and/or the Kansas City Federal Executive Board regarding working tomorrow. I just hope that everyone is OK and that whatever happened today is minor.

I've not had a technologically happy last several days at work, and during one of my numerous down-times today at the office, I plunked out the below blog post with the thought in mind that I'd upload it tonight and catch all of you up on my life. So here you's in italics below. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

What’s new and exciting? Hope that the last week has been kinder to all of you than it has been to me. It’s good to actually take a second and b-r-e-a-t-h-e and relax and post. You know, I bet I’d feel a lot better if I’d actually blog out all of my work and other frustrations. I mean, I talk about them with my family and friends, but it always seems to feel so much better when I type the words out. Somehow, things that look so monumentally huge really don’t have that same awful luster when reading about them in the printed word.

The major “bad” thing that has occupied me emotionally and physically in the last seven days is work. Now, when most people complain about work, it’s because they hate what they do, their bosses, their colleagues, their pay, their benefits, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Not me. I love what I do, adore the people I work with, and am better compensated for what I do than I probably deserve to be. No, this week your favorite minty momma was professionally frustrated because of technology. In every conceivable way that technology could have failed me last week, it did. I was already behind after having been gone to Nashville, and there I sat, ready and willing to catch up on old SF-39s and requisitions, yet completely powerless to DO anything. Our amazing systems person was in Indianapolis briefing and assisting the folks there (who actually took over our little DEU while I was in Nashville...long story), and so I had no expert guidance. Try as they may, my local and Indianapolis colleagues tried to help me, but it was for naught. It is exceptionally frustrating to be rendered unable to perform the essential tasks of your position when you are dependent upon an unstable technological resource to accomplish your mission. Technology is supposed to HELP us. You know, to make our lives EASIER and our jobs more EFFICIENT. That was not the case this past week, at least not at the office. The story gets better. Today, our systems person was back with us and she actually had me up and rockin’ and rollin’.......and the entire network shut down. No Resumix. No Oracle. No Internet. No EMAIL. No nothin’. So just as my momentum kicked riiiigght back up, it walked riiiight out the door. Delicious. I guess the good news is that, with the network down, no new SF-39s can come to me! The bad news, however, is that once that network is up, so too will my inbox fill with MORE SF-39s. Work, work go away...come again another day...

Not long ago, I blogged about the former friend from my past who broke my heart and betrayed me by seeing my then-boyfriend behind my back. You won’t believe how this circle has turned. In the last few weeks, she and I have been exchanging EMAILs and talking (against my better judgment and that of several of my dear online friends who have advised me on this matter). What I am finding out about myself here is really interesting. I’m finding that I am better able to let go than I gave myself credit for. For years, I’ve held on to so much anger and hurt and bitterness. I blamed her so much for so many things, and I allowed myself to be resentful and cruel and closed my heart to her. I’ve heard her side of the story in these last several EMAIL exchanges, and I believe her when she apologizes to me for having hurt me. From what she has told me, there were numerous things that neither she nor I knew. Things happened that we weren’t aware of. Life has also dealt her some harsh blows in the years since that cold, horrible Christmas Eve I’ve spoken with you about. Perhaps if I’d actually listened to her all those years ago when she tried to talk to me (versus writing her off as a “bitch and a whore”), the feelings that I carried for her all these years might have been less sharp and poisonous. It’s funny how things affect you...and you’re not even aware of it. Had you asked me then (or hell, even one month ago) what I thought of and how I felt for this woman, the venomous vitriol that I’d have uttered would have surprised you. I didn’t realize that, all those years, some of the personal insecurities that I carried inside my spirit were directly attributed to what she had done to me. Hearing her talk now, I see the beauty of the past...the things that I couldn’t possibly have seen then. The life I have no pales in comparison to the life she has. She’s not happy. She’s lonely. She has no money. Her parents are deceased and her biological sister has nothing to do with her. She loves her family, but she isn’t the same happy, sweet person I remember her being all those years. In all honesty, I feel sorry for her. She made a horrible choice and lost the one person she was closest to in this world (me). I, on the other hand, have this amazing life that I’m still not truly certain I deserve. I have come so far from that horrible time in my life, and I see now that God deliberately assembled the parts and players so that the past could happen exactly as it did. (Anyone else hearing strains of “God blessed the broken road, that led me straaaaight to you....” playing?). It’s amazing how time and experience shape you. I had no idea that it would be this easy to let go. And forgive. Not forget, mind you, but to let go and to not hold tightly to feelings of extreme anger and cruel bitterness. Every negative, horrible feeling that you carry so weighs down your spirit and your soul, even if you don’t realize it. And the freedom that you feel when you let go...that sweet, sweet release, is so amazing. Does all of this mean that I see a place for her in my life? No. Not really. But it’s wonderful to reclaim all of the energy spent hating her and wishing for her to be miserable...and to USE that energy for the wonderful and good things and people in my life. I didn’t know I had it in me to actually forgive. For so many years, I grappled with what the entire concept of “forgiveness” truly meant. I’ve still got lots of learning and growing to do, but I think I’m on my way. I’m going to be just fine.

Let’s are several random bits of JenNews(tm) to entice you:

1. Erin started swimming lessons tonight, and she goes back to school on August 16th. I cannot believe that the summer is almost over. It has really flown by.

2. Speaking of the fall rapidly approaching, life up at the sorority house is about to get crazy-busy as well. I’ve already faced some interesting challenges in this advisory position, and I am still nervous that I’ll be able to handle this and give it and the girls the support they deserve. Am I the right choice for this position? (Fuck, this is very “Broken Record” of many times have I bloviated about this? Can I get a shot of self-esteem and another of courage in my Caramel Macchiato, please?)

3. Certain individuals with whom I have recently reconnected are really, really pissing me off. Truthfully, people. Is it really that fucking hard to click the “REPLY” button and send me a response when I’ve taken time out of my (exceptionally) busy schedule to send you an EMAIL? Don’t want to reconnect with old friends? Stay the hell off Classmates and don’t key in your high school information on your MySpace page. Got it? It’s hurtful! (Christ, that makes me sound exceptionally immature. Oh fucking well.)

4. Remember the interview I had for the position I reallyreallyreally wanted? The one where they didn’t hire me, but said that it was because of budgetary constraints? Guess what? They’re trying like the dickens to get me. Apparently, they’ve tried to scrape the budget barrels of their other departments to no avail, and now they may try to inter-agency detail me so that I could come and work for them until they got final funding and could reassign me. Wow. It sure felt good to know that they really, really wanted me...and that they’d go to so many lengths to make me one of their own. I may just beat this BRAC after all...

5. I’m really looking forward to the August 9th release of “World Trade Center.” The trailer makes me cry every time I see it.

6. I’m absolutely LOVING “Home” by Marc Broussard. Wow, that guy can SING. I can't believe he's only 24. The only way that you could possibly improve on that song (which would be tough) would be for my beautiful Taylor Hicks to sing it.

lundi, juillet 17, 2006

Grand Ole Jennifer

Howdy! As promised, here is my bloviated recap of my week in Nashville at our sorority's 49th National Convention. Yee-haw!

This is the second time I've been to Convention, and I am so glad that I went. The last time I went (check out my posts from July of 2004), I was going in a completely different alumnae chapter president. They offered good training and networking opportunities with the other alumnae women (some of whom were presidents of their respective chapters and some held other offices). I was really hoping that the same kinds of opportunities would be provided for collegiate chapter advisers. Unfortunately, that did not come to be. I spent the majority of my time along with the other women (collegiate and alumnae alike) in business sessions, learning more about upcoming programming and changes to our Constitution & Bylaws, and I also attended three workshops designed for collegians (one on discipline, one on financial matters, and one on House Corporations). All were interesting and I feel like I've learned more and am smarter than I was a week ago today, but still...I feel horribly unprepared for this whole chapter adviser thing. With recruitment (we called it "sorority rush" in my day) right around the bend, I don't really have much time to wallow in worry. Anyway...where was I...oh yes, Nashville. I met some wonderful new women and got hugs and hellos from sisters I've not seen in two years, which is nice. Our meetings and lodging were in what I'd consider to be "the most spectacular hotel ever constructed" - the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The facility was HUGE. Gorgeous and HUGE. The internal workings made it look and feel like Europe. The balconies overhung (is that a word?) cafe-style restaurants and the whole hotel centered around a very large, lush, gorgeous garden (and numerous waterfalls!) Unfortunately, the photos I took just don't do the facility justice. Their website has photos, but here's one I took on my own:

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Gorgeous, isn't it? There were numerous other conferences going on at the same time in the hotel, and the place was just packed. It was nice, though (well, all except for the rotten food and the L-O-N-N-N-N-G walks from my room to the training rooms, but I digress...)

In the evenings, we generally had social time with one another (and let me stress how big "one another" is...there were over 600 sisters there!). On one evening, most of us left the hotel and headed over to the Grand Ole Opry for an evening of music and entertainment. I like country music, I guess, but I had no idea how much I'd enjoy the show. The facility itself is much smaller than I'd imagined, and the grounds were beautiful and the people were very kind. Unfortunately, most of the photos I took didn't come out (please, Santa, bring me a new camera this Christmas!), but here are a few that actually don't look so bad:

Grand Ole Opry - Acuff Theater

When you first step onto the Opry complex, you see the BellSouth Roy Acuff Theater. This is where they broadcast the show "Nashville Star" on the USA cable network.

Not too long thereafter, you'll pass an informational sign about the property:

Grand Ole Opry - Info Sign

(An informational THAT'S a "wow" shot if ever a "wow shot" existed. Simply thrilling!)

And here's the best shot I took the entire time I was in Nashville:

Grand Ole Opry

(God, I need a new camera.)

On another evening, we ventured out to the Two Rivers Mansion for a tour and dinner. The home is just gorgeous, and it's easy to see our founders living in a home like that. Our organization was founded in the middle-1850s in Georgia, and it's so easy to see how the three upper-class young ladies that started our sorority could have come from homes like that. At the various meal times, we had a variety of speakers who came to share their inspirational stories with us. Three of whom are sisters as well (Sarah Stone, Mercedes Ramirez-Johnson, and Rikki Ragland). We also met a family whose lives were directly impacted by the philanthropy that we support. It was wonderful to feel like, in some small way, my involvement in this organization impacted this wonderful family. And, too, it was fantastic meeting new sisters and learning more about our organization and one another. It was a good experience. I'm glad to be home, but it was a good experience.

While I was gone, a package from my wonderful Secret Pal came in the mail:

New Gift From My SP8!

I love my SP8! She sent me lots of yummy yarn (Crystal Palace Deco-Ribbon in "Chocolate Almonds" and the very soft Crystal Palace Musique in "Monet" and some pretty Noro and, my absolute favorite, a YUMMY thuck skein of Billy The Kid in "Petroglyphs"). She also sent me a WONDERFULLY yummy mint foot lotion and a bamboo crochet hook (niiiiice!) and two cute tags ("I Am A Crochet Goddess" and "Got Yarn?") and a Starbucks card (mmmmmmm.....caramel macchiato.....) and two beautiful Austrian crystal charms and some cute Sheep-Fetti! Thank you, SP! You rock! :)

Ohohohoh! I almost forgot! Shelby has asked that all of us in the SP8 game answer a few additional questions to give our Pals more info on what makes us tick. Here we go:

What is your favorite season of the year?
Fall. I love everything about fall...the way the air smells and the colors of the season and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season...I just love it. Oh, and I adore sweatshirt-and-shorts weather, and fall's the perfect time to pull that off.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Well, I'd love to go back to San Diego with my hubby in tow for a romantic getaway. I love San Diego. Love La Jolla. Love it, love it, love it. Until recently, I might have said that an Alaskan cruise would be the perfect vay-cay for us, but given the recent tragedies at sea (illnesses and murders), ummm, no thanks. It'd be fun to take a European trek, too. Paris, London, Someday, I'll be independently wealthy and I'll be off...

If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be?
Well, I've always wanted to go to Manhattan (New York, not Kansas). I want so badly to go to Ground Zero and pay my respects and see the site. I'm also dying to SHOP IN NEW YORK!!! And take in all of the hot spots. I'd also love to go back to Kaiserslautern and see how much it has changed since I left there to return to Indiana in 1978. I'd also love to visit Australia.

If you could pick any job (and be well-paid), what would it be?
If I could have my own little store (maybe a yarn store or a Greek merchandise store) and be as well-paid as I am in my Federal position, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Or if I could make GS-12 pay selling Southern Living At Home or Stampin' Up products, I'd be all over the idea. I've always wanted to work in a voluntary capacity at a hospital (patient advocate) or teaching adults how to read. Wow, if I could make GS-12 level pay doing that, BAH BYE DoD! (Wait, I thought Jennifer worked here...)

If you were going on vacation for one week, and had to take ONLY ONE project with you, what would it be?
Well, I'm not currently crocheting anything, so you'd think this'd be an easy question to answer. I dunno...maybe I'd start on some Christmas gifts (scarves, mittens, hats, etc.)

If you won a shopping spree to your favorite yarn shop, what would you get?
Well, I'd definitely stock up on Lorna's Laces Shepherd Bulky and Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande and a complete line of bamboo crochet hooks made by Crystal Palace.

OK - I am off to bed. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!

I'm Home

Hi everyone. I made it! We got in waaaaay late last night, and I am still recovering as I drag myself in to the office this morning. No sleep for the weary. I will post later (probably tonight) with the full scoop about our Convention. I hope that everyone had a great week.

mercredi, juillet 12, 2006


Howdy folks. I am heading to Nashville today for our sorority convention. I'll be back Sunday night. Hope that you have a great rest-of-the-week!

dimanche, juillet 09, 2006

Sunday Night

Hi everyone. I am just passing through for a quick second. Wanted to pop in and say hello and see how you all were doing. It's hard to believe that the weekend is almost over. Monday already. Lovely.

I guess I shouldn't complain. I'm only in the office two days this week. Our sorority's national convention is this week, and I'll be going with two of the collegians at the chapter I'm now advising. I am excited...I love our conventions and it's wonderful to be around all of these sisters from all walks of life and from all parts of the world. And I am really, really hoping that they will be providing the advisers with some in-depth training. So much has changed since I was a collegian. I graduated from college in 1995, for crying out loud. Sometimes I'm still not certain if I can truly handle this! Time will tell.

Before I head out on Wednesday, I'll pop by the Post Office and send off my latest gift for my Secret Pal. Here's a photo:

Gift For SP!

She likes country music, so I made her a little mix-CD of "Country Classics To Knit By" and I also threw in a little hand-made gift card. I hope she likes her little surprise! (Stampin' Up products used for the gift card include the "Flower Filled" stamp set, Pretty In Pink cardstock, and inks in Ballet Blue, Handsome Hunter, and Rose Red. Oh yeah, I also used the double-circle hole punch and some white organdy ribbon.)

Hey, have you heard the song "Landing In London" by 3 Doors Down? It has absolutely blown me away. I guess it's a year or so old (yeah, Jen's a little slow on the musical uptake), but wowzers, I love it. And it's got Bob Seger...yowza. Bob was on The Bob And Tom Show last week, and he was discussing a new album that he's working on. Can't wait for that. Good stuff, I'm certain.

Off to finish laundry. Night, all.

samedi, juillet 08, 2006

A JenUpdate(tm)

Hi everyone. Just have a quick second to post. I am headed off today for an afternoon of shopping and showering! One of my sorority sisters from the alumnae chapter is having a baby shower, and I wanted to post my photos of her card and blanket:

This is the second time I've made "Beth's Little Star Afghan" and it worked out very well. I love this's easy, it's pretty, and it's unique. I used a "J" hook and three skeins of TLC Essentials yarn in "Bambi."

And here is her card. Please click on it to see the detail!

Card For Rita

Stampin' Up products include cardstock (Almost Amethyst, Pink Passion, and Pretty In Pink), inks (Pale Plum, Pink Passion, and Pretty In Pink), stamp set ("Baby Talk"), buttons (Pale Plum and Pretty In Pink), The Tearing Edge, the double-circle punch, pink gingham ribbon, and Stampin' Dimensionals. The white cardstock and glue dots aren't from SU.

Not much else to share with you. I'm in the final stages of planning and shopping before our sorority convention next week in Nashville and I can't stop listening to Gnarls Barkley's song "Crazy." Damn, that's addictive.

Have a great day, everyone!

mercredi, juillet 05, 2006

Hi everyone. Just wanted to come by and ask you again if you'd keep my beautiful friend Donna in your prayers. She just recently lost her father, as you know from my previous blog posts, and her family is also facing two additional crises on top of this recent loss. She is very dear to my heart and your prayers and well wishes mean the world to me. Thank you so much.

I made a card for her, of course. You know me. What occasion in my life passes without a homemade card? Here it is. What do you think?

Card For Donna

Stampin' Up products used include cardstock (Mellow Moss, Pretty In Pink, and Sahara Sand) and stamp sets ("Friend To Friend" and "Mini Messages") and ink (the now retired Forest Foliage) and accessories (pink gingham ribbon, Mellow Moss eyelets, the 1 1/4" square punch, The Tearing Edge, and Stampin' Dimensionals). The pink ink, "With Love" metal tag, and curvy scissors aren't from SU.

Hope everyone is doing well. We're about two days closer to Friday, and that's a good thing!

mardi, juillet 04, 2006

God Bless America

Myspace Layouts
Myspace Layouts

Happy Independence Day, friends. Please remember to keep our country and our servicemen and women in your thoughts and prayers today. How blessed we are to live where we live and to have the amazing freedoms and securities that we do.

vendredi, juin 30, 2006

Return Of The Big-Fat-Fucking-Favor

(I'll tellya straight up, folks - this is gonna be a LONG post. Please grab a chair and a cold drink because you'll be here a while.)

Happy Friday, people! I can't believe that it's almost the 4th of July already. It's seems like more and more, I find myself saying "I can't believe it's already XYZ" and feeling like time is just flying by me. Is this a sign of age? Am I getting old? I feel old. So, so old. Just last night, I re-connected with yet another dear old friend from high school, who has three (!!!) daughters, the oldest of which is 13! THIRTEEN! How is it humanly possible that we are old enough to have THIRTEEN YEAR OLD CHILDREN?! Where did the years go? I swear, it feels just like yesterday that I was staying late for drama rehearsals with Dave and Sean (who, I hope, read this entry) and tooling around in my yellow Chevette (remember that, Dave?) and hanging out at "Rocky" on the weekends (someone pass me the toilet paper, please!!!)

OK...on to a more serious topic. I need your help with something. One of my not-so-fond memories of yesteryear has come back to bite me square in the ass, and now the ball is in my court regarding what to do next. For many years in grade school and throughout all of high school, I was very close to a girl one year younger than me. We went to the same elementary school, and although we went to separate high schools, we were together all the time and were always on the phone when we weren't physically together. She never missed a play that I was in. She came to visit me when I had surgery, and I remember her washing my hair for me after I got home. My surgery was ovarian and I couldn't bend and I had a hard time moving. She was always a part of whatever and wherever I was throughout high school. And then college happened...

...I'll skip the gory details and cut straight to the chase. I didn't have a lot of luck with the fellas in high school, and so my first college boyfriend, well, he was just everything to me. He had his share (and then some) of problems, and the relationship was unhealthy, at best. The emotional abuse I suffered at his hands was terrible, and I fed all of that to my trusty companion upon whom I depended and who knew all of my secrets. The boyfriend and I were having yet another shaky period, and I found out via mutual friends that he and my friend were spending a lot of time together...a LOT of time in overnights and very physical time (i.e., always seeming to hug or touch somehow). I was blessed to have such amazing friends who wanted me to know the truth...who wanted me to be shielded from the pain of deception, but who also wanted me to know the truth. I confronted them both around the Thanksgiving time period, and they both looked me in the eye and denied any wrongdoing. Flash forward one month to Christmas Eve and envision she and I alone in a rusty spoon restaurant. And me crying and in sheer amazement as she confides in me that she and he are "in love" and that they are now starting a life together. That was Christmas Eve, 1991.

In the years that followed, she made numerous attempts to contact me. She'd EMAIL me directly. She'd send letters to my parents. You name it. And then she fell off the face of the planet. I've blogged about her before (she's on my "100 Things About Jen" post), but I never really sought her out to put to rest all of the sadness and heartbreak. Well, she sought me out last night, and in my ongoing quest to become a sane adult, I actually responded to her EMAIL. Here's the basic premise of the EMAIL traffic so far:

HER:'s been a sorry that I hurt you...I hope you will respond to me but I understand if you don't...I pray for you and think of you often...I have lots to say to you...etc. etc.

ME: Yep, it's been a spell...I am just fine and happy...thanks for the well wishes...say whatever it is that you feel needs to be said...etc. etc.

HER: I am so sorry...but you hurt me too...I didn't sleep with him while you two were together...we are married and have two kids...are you happy and healthy....hope so...I can understand if you don't apologize, but I wanted you to know that you hurt me, too...etc. ad nauseum.

And herein lies my dilemma. I don't really feel I owe her an apology. OK, I will admit that I was a complete bitch to and about her after all of this broke. I referred to her in some very unsavory terms (you can figure those out for yourselves, I'm certain). Did I tell people that she slept with my boyfriend? You betcha. Did I probably embellish a little more than necessary when re-canting this story to friends and passers-by? Probably. But I did truly feel that she betrayed me. The guy, well, he was no big hoo-ra. And, in truth, she did me a big, fat, fucking favor by removing me from his path. I can't even imagine how horrible my life with him would be today. But still...the fact remains that someone I shared my heart and life with...someone who saw me at my most vulnerable on NUMEROUS occasions...someone who had complete and total access to me would do what she did. If you've seen the horrible movie "Closer," you may remember a scene between the amazing Natalie Portman and Jude Law. He tells her that he loves someone else, and she says something to the effect of, "There is always a point. Yes, you can't control who you fall in love with. But there is always a point...a point where you see yourself heading in a certain direction and you choose whether or not the path continues." And I felt then and truly feel today that that is true. In hindsight, she did me a favor. I have an amazing I sometimes still wonder if I truly deserve, but for which I am grateful with every beat of my heart. Forgiveness for me is a difficult concept to embrace. As a 34-year-old Catholic, you'd think I'd have this one down pat. Not even close. Is it possible to wish no ill will and to want no harm to come to the other individual...but to also view the person as nonexistent? I can't ever be her friend again. How could I ever trust her to be an intimate part of my life again? But is it truly possible to part with the hurt and the anger and to just view someone as blank? As clear? As transparent? As invisible? Or is that true forgiveness?

(Oh yeah, and I'm not sorry I said what I said to and about her...not sure how to deal with that one, either.)