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Contrary Ways

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Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

“With silver bells and cockle shells

And pretty maids all in a row.”

When I was two, my mom picked out nursery rhyme wallpaper for my new bedroom.

My room was awesome! Besides the super-cool nursery rhyme wallpaper that my mom would read to me as she tucked me in at night, I also had a fancy walk-in closet that later served me as a clubhouse, my Morse code practice room, and a secret hiding space for the treasure box where I stored that one neon friendship bracelet Aaron S. gave me on a whim in 9th grade.

When I was little, I had absolutely no idea what it meant to be contrary. I just liked the way the words sounded when they came out of my mom’s mouth. I was also in the dark about what the heck a cockle shell was, but I still liked the “Mary, Mary” rhyme the best. There was also one on my wall about Little Boy Blue, but he seemed like such a slacker at his job, it was hard for me to root for him.

As I grew up, there were always popular bands, TV characters, even flavors that everyone around me seemed to gravitate to. I don’t know why, but I often tried to pick the opposite of what everyone else liked, just so I could feel original or special.

When everyone liked Dylan on 90210, I chose the Jason Priestly poster for my wall.

When blue Squeeze-Its came out, I tried to stay faithful to orange, even though I knew blue was way cooler looking.

Odie was my favorite character on Garfield and Eeyore was the best of the Winnie the Pooh gang.

The first anti-pop culture stand I took was when I was about 10, when the band The New Kids on the Block emerged on the scene.

I decided that they were totally lame-balls, and I made it my full-time job to make fun of them whenever I could. Shaming people because of their music choice became my ticket to cool-town and I proudly made jokes at everyone’s’ expense and sassily plugged my ears in defiance as I skated to their song at the local skating rink.

I was such a big meanie-face! But then again, they were boys, and at that time, famous boys were still incredibly icky (and unreachable) to me, so they were easy targets. Plus, I was still into the Debbie Gibson tapes I’d been rocking in my walkman for the past two years so really, one could easily question my musical tastes.

Recently I’ve seen my nine-year old follow in my young protestation footsteps as he decided to take a stand against hot lunch. I have no idea where he got the idea to protest so actively against his school’s nutritious and honestly, pretty damn healthy, lunch choices but he is 100% committed to his cause.

I even got a call from his teacher during this past school year where she told me that my son had been so successful in making fun of hot lunch, that some girls refused to eat their food anymore because they were so worried he’d end up making fun of them.

::face palm::

Shaming kids so bad they refuse to eat? UGH. This is not the type of “leadership” his dad and I have been trying to encourage in the boy.

We had a talk about his campaigning but my mini-activist refused to change his position on hot lunch. I finally got him to understand that he needed to stop making kids feel like doofus’ if they had to eat hot lunch and he agreed to reign in his demonstrations and jokes.

Now we’re in the midst of summer camp and guess what? They serve the EXACT. SAME. FOOD. as the school’s hot lunch! Ha! He still chooses not to eat the lunch but decides to fill up on snacks he brings from home or the camp snacks that are somehow “acceptable” to his activist palette.

My son also has been known to choose things in purple or pink, just because he knows people expect that to be a “girl color”. He loves to be contrary and today, I’m going to love to be contrary too.

It really does amaze me sometimes to see people get so INTO causes. My Facebook feed is a Petri dish of people who are speaking out about organic food, local farming politics, parenting preferences, natural childbirth and of course, the damn San Francisco Giants. (Blech)

But one trend I’ve seen so much of lately is a curious hatred of something I hold quite near and dear. So it’s time that someone stood up to the bullying and took a stand.

Greetings from...my face!

Greetings from…my face!

Here’s my truth, people: I have zero problems with posting pictures of myself on my own or with my kids or friends on random channels of social media. Commonly referred to (with disgust, might I add) as a “Selfie” the self-collected photo method isn’t really new to the photo taking world, but for some reason, it’s gained a whole new anti-following of people.

One of my favorite pictures I had of my best friend and I in high school was a selfie we took with my mom’s Canon Joy automatic camera. Our faces were kinda washed out from the giant flash that was mere centimeters from our face, but it was still a great shot! It lived on the sun visor in my car, firmly attached with Garfield stickers.

Most of my selfies these days stem from the sheer lack of humans around me. #SingleMom

 

My kids are used to the “Hey, guys - smile!” thing by now. Oh, and hey! Look who's being contrary?

My kids are used to the “Hey, guys – smile!” thing by now. Oh, and hey! Look who’s being contrary? Turkey…

But I love capturing photos of random daily events or when my I feel like I need to grab a picture of my kids because they seem to grow bigger every day. Sometimes I want a picture of myself because I managed to have a great hair day. You know. The important stuff.

I hate that people automatically think you’re incredibly vain whenever you post selfies of yourself. Is it true for my case, absolutely. 100%. If there is a camera around, I want my face all up in that business!

But you know, I love seeing your face too! So if you want to post pictures of yourself with the whole awkward arm thing and your friends cheek to cheek, go right on ahead! The duck face is kinda weird, so if you’re going to join my selfie-love train, I’d rather see you smile, but you know what, I’m not in charge here so you do whatever floats your boat.

Love and cheese-balls,

Jenny

Badminton

PS: This is the level of photograph I get when I ask others around me to take a picture. This one was by my seven year old daughter. Note the finger in the upper corner? The awkward and unflattering posture I have? At least I managed to hit the shuttlecock. Boom. Not everyday you get to include that word into a blog post, eh?

Mama Pajama

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Mother’s Day is quickly approaching.

Let me rephrase that.

Mother’s Day is THIS FREAKING SUNDAY and not next Sunday like I had thought all along.

Frick.

The sheer speediness of this holiday is kind of catching me off-guard but this could be a good thing. You know, like when the nurse turns around and – BAM! – there she goes with the shot in the arm. No gentle countdown or rubbery-knot-around-the-arm thing, just a shot out of nowhere! Ouch!

Yep. Let’s get this over with. That’s kind of where I’m at this year.

I’m all for celebrating my mom, she’s awesome! But once again, I’m the kid who gets mixed up on her dates and sends her card late. BOO!

They need to make belated Mother’s Day (and let’s face it, Father’s Day) cards for kids like me.

Here in Chico, my kids are hanging in there like champs with the whole one-week-at-mom’s and one-week-at-dad’s place thing. They will be hanging out with me most of the day on Sunday, which was simply the luck of previous scheduling and, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with the momly-occassion on the calendar.

But at 7 and days-away-from 9, my kids are still pretty little when it comes to spearheading holiday celebrations. Sure, my seven year-old has given me an early Mother’s Day present that involved a hot glue gun, sea shells and orange craft foam this week, but that will most likely be the extent of the “Thanks for being our mom” stuff this year.

That’s OK, though.

I think my wariness of the holiday this year is tightly wrapped in the whole “You suck as a mom because you chose to divorce your spouse” message that exists in my life at the moment.

If you’re new to my blog, here are some quick facts to get you up to date:

  • I think Jesus is pretty cool and I’m glad He thinks I’m pretty neat too.
  • I was married for 13 years until I decided not to do that anymore.
  • Many of my friends and members of my church family are really disappointed in me and have done their best to distance themselves from my messy, mean choices.

Ok, you all caught up now? Cool. Back to where I was going with that previous thought.

So many people out there from the church-club insist if you choose to get a divorce that you are anti-family. The general feeling is that if you choose divorce, you are a selfish person who is choosing themselves over the greater good of everyone around you. You are grieving the Holy Spirit and sucking as a Christian. You need to get your crap together and just stick with it. If you only had tried harder, had more date nights, held hands while arguing, etc., then God could have been glorified in your life. Now look what you’ve done! No friendship for you! If I’m supporting you, I’m supporting your choices and I just can’t do that since I’m into Jesus and I can’t be seen as someone who loves people who screw up big-time like yourself.

On the other side of things, there have also been lots of support and encouragement from some old friends and many new ones that have kind of stumbled into my life. The message from them is: No one knows the whole story. Our friendship is not conditionally based on the choices you make. Your other friends are complete assholes. It’s OK – you’re still a good mom.

And here I am in the middle of the two trying to sort things out for myself. It’s been an interesting 10 months, let me tell you!

Honestly, this Mother’s Day, my goal is to just try and enjoy myself and be thankful.

I’m reminding myself that worked my ass off to become a mother in the first place. I have two kids who can take me out with one smile across the room. I am so lucky to have them in my life.

If they decide to surprise me with my favorite breakfast in bed or roses on the table, that’ll be awesome, but I’m just going to settle for warm cuddles and (hopefully) a lack of smelly feet odors and sibling bickering. Fingers crossed!

Have a fun Mother’s Day, everyone! I think you’re all pretty fantastic.

 

Jeez, Thursday! Back Off…

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You know when you have a million things to do and you suddenly realize (with great panic) that you’ve been sitting still and staring into space for the last five minutes, doing nothing at all?

Or maybe you’ve found yourself responding to emails and chats one minute, then the next, you’re standing over your radiant space heater, leaning your head on the cubicle wall for just one moment of frickin’ peace?

That’s kind of been my day, so needless to say, the conditions weren’t exactly primed for an easy evening with my kids.

Because I had a moment of insanity, I decided to drag my children to Target tonight after work. This timeframe is also dangerously close to dinner time. (Super-moms may be rolling their eyes at that last line and feeling pretty superior right now because they would NEVER drag their tired and hungry kids to the store at the end of the day. Luckily, I have never had any claim on the title of ‘Super Mom’ so feel free to enjoy your moment of superiority, ladies.)

You can guess the joyful time the three of us had in the cereal aisle. Hashtag – meltdown city.

In the checkout line, I caught a dad staring at me. His kid was little, so maybe he was thinking, “Oh crap…they aren’t done with the fits by that age? Frick.” I felt bad for depressing the guy.

It’s a miracle I did not attempt to leave my kids in the parking lot. If you would have happened to pop on by, they would have been the creatures saying rude things to each other and putting on a great show of pure shit-storm chaos.

Violet would’ve been the crying, floppy, shrieky one, screaming at her brother and Jackson would have been the boy laughing, poking and mimicking her, causing her fury to boil over into further unladylike fits.

If CPS had been called, I think they would have waited in the car before approaching them so they wouldn’t have to deal with their antics. I imagine that the CPS workers would have done rock-paper-scissors to decide who had to approach the wildlings who had, by now, taken over the Target cart corral and made it their own personal jungle gym slash perch of terror.

Beware, cart boy! These kids are insane and they would like nothing more than to attack from above and steal your robotic cart-pushy-thing. You and your skinny khaki pants are no match for their sheer cunning and maniacal determination to get you riled up and push all of your ‘angry-face’ buttons. May God have mercy on your soul.

But I managed to stifle the urge to abandon my children to their own fate and drove them home instead. TV was taken away for the evening. Further drama ensued. Is it 8:00 yet?

I found my wine glass and decided to make dinner while the two crazy-pants’ were doomed to read by themselves on their beds. Taco mountain was served. Dinner time!

Did you know that I love peach-flavored Jolly Ranchers (which I haven’t seen since high school) yet the thought of peach-flavored yogurt makes me want to hurl? It’s true. And tonight at dinner, between the sloppy table manners of my offspring and rancid smell of my eight year old’s toes, this very thought sprang to the front of my mind and I thought, “I have to blog about that!”

So now you know. I have specific preferences when it comes to the artificial flavor of peach.

::sigh:: That feels better.

I really should be tackling a pile of work, yet here I am, writing innocuous things and Googling the word “innocuous” to make sure I used it correctly.

Hmm. Apparently it means that I would be writing harmless things that would not offend anyone. We’ll see about that. Who knows if the Target cart-boy is a Blogorama reader. He may not have appreciated my jab at his stupid pants.

Here’s to you, oh curious reader. I hope your evening is full of peace and a lack of shrieking children. It’s been nice to have you here again and I’ll see what I can do about coming to visit you more often.

 

Love,

Jenny

 

Cozy Thoughts and Confessions of a Thumb Sucker

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I’ve got this thing with sock monkeys.

Not quite to the level where my affinity would ever, EVER, justify the wearing of this little number.

In fact, if something is made from fleece and has attached feet, I can guarantee you that I’m OUT.

But nonetheless, I do own at least three sock monkey themed Christmas ornaments, a fleece blanket, (wait – TWO fleece blankets) and my preferred slipper choice for the last four winters have all been sock-monkey themed.

To me, a sock monkey is the perfect symbol for silly-coziness, which is something that is unbelievably comforting to me.

When I was little, I had a sock monkey named George.

For some reason, my brain tells me that he was handmade by my great grandma Harriet. I have no idea if that fact is true or not, but I have believed it for so long, it might as well be. (Hey, dad! Now I see how you do that! Awesome!)

George was a sock monkey that had button eyes, a little cap and a nice, skinny tail. I was in the throes of my thumb sucking phase. (Right-hand only, conducted when resting or watching TV, everyday until I was eight, people. EIGHT! Thank God for braces…)

George was my go-to thumb sucking counterpart of the moment. Before him was Kermie the Frog — not to be confused with the actual “Kermit the Frog”. To me, Kermie was just as good, even if he was not quite authentic.

Then came and Potbelly the Koala. I think I even incorporated one of my mother’s throw pillows for a short time. Most likely, the lace-trimmed, beige, couch-pillow became part of the routine after one of my animal accessories had been confiscated with the false hope that it would persuade me from inhaling my own body part in a disappointing, drooly fashion that could only be considered as awkward and parentally-embarrassing in Dr. Spock’s opinion.

My childhood vice was all about combining texture with the sweet spot that existed right above my upper lip. There was nothing that could compete with the sheer, peaceful bliss that accompanied my thumb sucking sessions. Not the American cheese slice that I had folded into as many tiny squares as I possibly could (to make the before-dinner snack last longer) or the amazing burst you could get from a Gobble Stick (R.I.P. you delicious, cheese-filled wonder-snack).

With Kermie, I managed to rub the fur tight off his right arm, leaving behind this strange mesh fabric that felt amazing to three-year-old-me.

Potbelly the Koala was only as important as his rough tag. Unfortunately, his tag was sewn into the seam that ran along the bottom of his body, so I’d have to turn him ass-up, legs out, to properly access the taggy goods. It’s one thing to see a child sucking their thumb while cuddling their stuffed animal. It’s another thing entirely to see them taking advantage of a poor stuffed marsupial in that fashion.

George was similarly taken advantage of. With George the sock monkey, it was all about the junction where the tail had been sewn onto his slender, stuffed body. In fact, I ended up rubbing his tail right off. Through the threads and through the fabric – POOF! No more tail. My mother attached a bumpy piece of dark, brown, calico fabric to George’s back. Not just where his tail had been. Nope.The patch covered up nearly his entire back.

And yet, it didn’t stop me and my quest.

I began to utilize the top corner of the fabric and was desperate to keep George in my life.

Then one day, my mother made Georgette.

Georgette was a brand new sock monkey that my mom had surprised me with after a nap. Or at least, I think I had been sleeping before she walked into my room on Dallin Street with a new, plump and clean sock monkey in her hands.

Georgette was fatter than George. She had a sweet, little apron attached to her clean, socky body and a hat that matched George’s in style, yet not drooly grime.

She was beautiful and my mother had made her just for me.

I took her in my hands and promptly threw her across the room and screamed, “I HATE HER!”

This is the part of the story where my mother’s heart either broke into a thousand pieces or hardened into a Fortress of Solitude. I really don’t know what she did or how she handled my lack of appreciation. I was much too busy burying my face into my pillow and screaming because I would no longer get to have George.

George was disgustingly crusty, and his sock-body was too weak to handle the washing machine without dissolving completely. It was time to add him to the burn pile and pray that he became a real monkey and scamper away with all his monkey friends. (Yes, I absolutely LOVE the story of “The Velveteen Rabbit”, by the way. And no – we did not have a burn pile. I grew up in the desert suburbs. Those were not normally allowed.)

I’m not sure when I warmed up to the idea of Georgette the Sock Monkey, but I have seen photographic proof that I, indeed, stopped hating her. In old, out of focus pictures that I took myself with my mom’s fancy automatic camera (a Canon Joy) you can see Georgette posing in with a rose in a vase, or you can see her just hanging out on my bed with my throw pillows. Sometimes I’d dress her up in my Cabbage Patch clothes to keep her from getting bored with her apron.

Georgette was the last animal that I remember being bonded with as a kid. Soon my baby sister was born, my thumb sucking stopped, and Georgette got added to the top of the hutch of my dresser with all the other stuffed animals I collected, yet was never interested in enough to actually play with*

Sock monkeys are now still a soothing sight and I don’t think I’ll grow out of them soon. Do I need another sock monkey magnet/t-shirt/pair of pajama bottoms? No. I think I’m good. Ok, well, maybe the pajama bottoms but only for when it’s SUPER cold or I have the flu.

*One time I decided to decorate my hutch with Christmas lights. You know, the giant C9 bulbs that were meant for outdoor use only? I laid them across the laps of my stuffed animals and came back from an evening errand with my parents to a strange burning smell. I’ll always be sorry about that, random teddy bear wearing a hand-knit sweater. Sorry about branding you with a giant red Christmas light. My bad.

My Evil Twin Takes Over and Goes a Little Crazy

I have started this blog post to you, oh, curious reader, for weeks.

It usually goes something like this:

Version 1:

Hey guys! What’s up! Have you heard the news? This loser’s getting divorced!

Inner thoughts to myself: Um. No. You can’t just drop a bomb on people like that. Try and make it more of a gentle update.

Version 2:
Hi everyone.

I know I haven’t updated the blog in a while but life’s been a bit of a clusterf**k.

Have you heard about my midlife crisis? You know, the one where I lose my mind and decide to leave my husband after 13 years? Yeah. I haven’t been too keen on writing anything about that lately. In other news, have you heard about twerking? What’s that all about?

So…yeah. I’ve got that going for me.

As soon as I get the nerve to look you in the virtual eye admit to you all that, yes, I have chosen to divorce my spouse of 13 years, I chicken out. I realize there’s no way in the world that I can explain my situation to you, no matter how many stories or explanations I attempt to tell you.

Even away from my church/God-centered circle of friends and acquaintances, quitting a marriage is seen as one of life’s biggest fuck ups.

Quitter. Failure. The one who gave up. That girl who didn’t fight for her family.

The new identity that comes with this choice is a heavy one, albeit, accurate.

This blog has always been a place where I could go and be 100% me.

I could tell you all about my opinions on raising suburban chickens (over it) and my thoughts on one piece bathing suits (gah). Even if I was polarizing or making fun of something you love (TOMS shoes) you’d still love me, and read my posts, and sometimes, even sometimes, I could get you to share a post or leave a comment.

But I get it.

Showing someone love and support when they’ve stepped into some serious shit is a really tricky thing.

Especially when they didn’t just step in a little bit of shit. This gal took off her shoes and rolled around in the stuff!

I know it’s hard to be around someone who stinks so bad. (Look out! It could be contagious!)

At first there was a small army who came out in mass to see what could be done. There was a day I had six different phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook messages from family and friends who were trying to find out just what had I let happen to my life.

Now it’s pretty quiet.

I don’t mind the silence all the time, honestly. Talking about how much you suck and looking into the faces of people you love and care for while you systematically watch them lose respect for you is a pretty lame thing.

People keep telling me that I’m not the same person I was a few months ago and that’s absolutely true. I have made decisions that will resonate with me, my family and people I haven’t even met, until I leave this earth. There’s nothing I can do that can rewind the clock and change things, despite what I sometimes tell myself.

I’d really like to get back to this blog space, even though it is such a blatant picture of what my life once was and now what it isn’t.

But this is Jenny’s Blog-o-rama, and I’m still Jenny. I may not be the Jenny you know and love anymore but I still exist. And I still love to write.

Human. Hurting. Sorry. Embarrassed. Angry. Fed up. These are also parts of my new identity.

I am and will continue to be amazed by the people who choose to avoid eye contact with me at church or in the store, and those who reach out to me to say “You’re an idiot, but I still love you. Cheers to your crazy-assed life.”

Who knows where you fall into the spectrum.

Maybe you’re reading this for more gossip-worthy tidbits to share at the next girl’s night?

Maybe you’re just an old friend who likes to stalk my blog every now and then to see if I mention anything about you or our old life together? (Hey there!)

Perhaps you’ve never even met me, yet you stumbled here to my blog post by mistake and are super-glad to read about someone else out there that sucks even worse than you do. It’s pretty thrilling to realize that you are not the worst person in a room, am I right?

But there’s a lot about me that’s stayed the same through all this.

Here’s a small list, in case you were wondering:

I still am into the whole ‘God-thing’, despite my life choices that appear to not jive too well with that statement.

I still adore my children, despite the fact that I only have them under my roof every other week now.

There is no one else I’d want to parent my kids with and no one else who could love them like their dad. I am happy that they have him in their lives and that I never have to worry about them when they are away from me. He’s a kick-ass dad and together, we made two of the most incredible, little humans this planet has ever seen. They will grow strong and be covered in love, and they will go on to do amazing things for the world and the people around them, despite the failing of their parent’s marriage.

(Seriously, if you come at me with the whole “you’ve ruined your kids’ life” thing, I will punch you in the vag. Back off, bitches.)

I still hate sushi, coffee, and most vegetables.

I still think the whole organic food craze is annoying and, in most cases, irrelevant to my daily life.

I have no idea how you’re supposed to act around a person like me, but I can tell you that I still like laughing, going to movies and hanging out with people. Don Draper is still the sexiest guy on TV and if you just want to talk about Mad Men with me, and avoid all deeper life questions, I’m totally cool with that.

If anything, I just wanted you all to know that I’m going to be writing here again, and if you hear me mention “my new place” or the fact that my kids are “with their dad this week”, you’ll know why.

I won’t be writing about the gory details behind things. I know this touches so many other people, and it’s not my place to tell their story or shine the light on them when they just want to lay low, heal and move on with their lives.

So, yeah. I guess that’s about it. I hope you are all doing well and that life has been full of rainbows and sunshine for you. Despite the shit storm that my life has been under, there have been some really great moments of love and laughter.

I hope those continue to grow and I can’t wait to share more of them with you here.

Splash! Some Dumb Things I’ve Done To Impress Boys

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I was having a conversation with one of our delightful new interns this morning about the dumbest things I have ever done to impress a boy.

“I’m very competitive. I can out-dumb ANYONE when it comes to boys!” I challenged.

If you’ve read any of these old blog posts, you know that I am 100% right.

I honestly didn’t know that adjusting your likes and dislikes to impress a boy was a “thing” until I saw the movie “Runaway Bride”.

I was 19 years old, engaged to be married, and surprisingly, my ridiculously young headed-for-marriage age was not my only issue. I distinctly remember the scene where they realize that Julia Roberts’ character, Maggie, always changed the way she ordered her eggs, based on who she was engaged to.

My eyes flew open at the screen as I remembered that I too, had converted to the “I’ll have my eggs like his, please” way of dating. For the record, I ate my fair share of eggs over-hard with the yolks broken for YEARS! That is not how I like my eggs, but I was so desperate to show this boy just how similar we were (we weren’t) so that maybe he’d try dating me again. This tactic had a fail rate of 100%.

For the record, I like my eggs fried (over medium) or like this amazing egg beauty above. Hard boiled with a soft yolk - thank you, Pinterest for changing my breakfast world.

For the record, I like my eggs fried (over medium) or like this amazing egg beauty above. Hard boiled with a soft yolk – thank you, Pinterest for changing my breakfast world.

I was always the ‘chaser’ when it came to early adolescent dating, so presenting yourself as an ideal, date-worthy candidate was something I could have majored in because I had done it so many times. Here are a few of my cringe-worthy attempts to win the heart of that special guy.

Summer 1992 – It’s just like swimming, but for Jesus.

I alluded to an old example of my boy-impressions-gone-bad a while back, and I think I’m finally ready to bring you all (hey, mom) up to speed.

The main man of my awkward Jr. High/early high school time (3 years, folks…that’s like a million years in teenage time!) was Aaron S. We cleverly referred to him as “N” (the last letter in his first name) so we could write “J + N” on everything from our hands, binders, homework and Kleenex boxes without being too obvious.

Ha! I actually kept a straight face when I wrote the ‘without being too obvious’ part of that last sentence. No, no, no, dear reader. I was the QUEEN of obvious. Everybody, at all times, was able to tell who I was into at any given moment.

I met Aaron at youth group on St. Patrick’s Day when I was in 7th grade. We were on the same team and had to form a leprechaun out of chewing gum that had been thoroughly processed by the team members’ mouths. It was gross. It was also an idea I think I stole when I worked in Jr. High ministry later in life.

From that moment on, I was smitten. He didn’t go to my school, which was a minor setback when you are 12 and you can’t exactly go drive and see your friends whenever you wanted. School was pretty much the only pool of candidates that I had for my crush-dom.

So, that night I agreed to come back to youth group with my friend who had invited me for many months to come. She was stoked to have scored a ‘new-to-church’ friend — I was stoked to see Aaron’s glorious face every Wednesday night, so it was kind of an even trade.

I later learned that Aaron didn’t just go to youth group on Wednesday night. OH NO! His papa, a giant guy that had once had his jaw wired shut, was the head pastor. WHAT?!

I learned early on as I leaked / shouted my hormonal interest in the boy that A’s parents had put up a protective wall of ‘you can’t date until you are 16’ around him. They were good. But I was ready to wait for guy, and to show it, I would begin working on my extra shiny Jesus-loving exterior.

Jesus and I were hommes, sure, and I learned about him every day at my teeny Christian school from six to seventeen. But I had never gone to church regularly or did things like listen to Christian music. I had a Bible, but I usually only cracked it for doing my Bible class homework. Which, for the record, may sound like it’s easy (Just write “Jesus” and it should work) but it was not! Our weekly Bible quizzes in high school were enough to stress you out faster than you could say ‘ex nihilio’. (Shout out to our amazing Bible teacher, Mr. Wright! You’re awesome!)

Anyway, the first step in Operation Spiritual Awesomeness was raising my hand when the youth pastor, Sean, asked if anyone would be interested in getting baptized that summer. At that church, there was a built in pool that got covered up with gymnasium/stage flooring when it wasn’t being used for the holy purpose of spiritually bathing your sins away. It was super cool, in a Transformers, sort of way.

Another highlight was that usually, the head pastor, A’s super-dad, would come over to the youth building and do the devoted dunkings himself. PERFECT! This would make an amazing impression on the family and we’d be picking out fonts for wedding invitations in no time!

But before you got baptized, you had to go to a class and be put through the wringer to see if you really knew what you were doing. We don’t want any fake baptisms going on here now, do we? Cowardly, I grabbed my best friend, Jaime and dragged her to class with me. She wasn’t so sure about the whole thing, but since teenage girls rarely do anything by themselves, she humored me and went along with the whole thing.

Our Bible class knowledge scored us a gleaming “You’re Ready for Baptism” stamp of approval, and the date was set.

Normally, a child’s baptism would be a big deal for a religious family. Alas, my parents tolerated my spiritual whims but never were on the sidelines with a big pair of foam prayer hands shouting “Hallelujah!” at me as I waltzed by in all my holier-than-thou glory. They agreed to go to the baptism, though, and I thought it would be a wonderful time for the future in laws to get to know each other.

In the meantime,  I blissfully went forward with the planning of how exactly I would hold my nose as I went underwater and what I would wear that would allow me to get wet yet still maintain my strict codes of morality. One false move in the garment department and things could be over before they even waited four years to get started! (I had an ongoing internal countdown that would remind me how long it was until his 16th birthday.)

When the day finally came, and all the grown ups piled into the youth room to witness the spiritual milestones about to take place, I scanned to room and realized that not only wasn’t’ my main wannabe-squeeze there, his entire family was nowhere to be seen either. What the…? Sadly, I learned that A and his family were all gone on summer vacation that Wednesday. None of them would witness my moving outward pledge to the Lord. What a jip!

I went forward with the dunking anyway because I never could let down a crowd. I got a cheesy certificate to remind me of my grown up decision and hung it on my wall next to all my Jonathan Brandis  posters.

Lesson learned. Baptisms: 1. Jenny impressing a boy: 0.

Totally Tuned In

Music and movies were a quick go-to area of flexibility in my ‘to impress a boy’ quiver. I listened and spent more money on tapes and CDs that he liked than I did on my own music, and was sure to play his favorites whenever he was in the car.

One of my proudest moments was when I finally admitted, on a long car trip up to Washington state, that no, in fact, I did NOT like Pink Floyd. I actually rather despised them. Their music made me want to shove pencils in my ears and cry a thousand tears. Maybe I had come to the point that this guy would never, ever date me again, so I could finally admit such an unheard of truth, but it was a major milestone in my relationship life.

Even now, in my early, blooming thirties, I really enjoy changing the station and making a mature “BLECH” sound whenever I hear Pink Floyd, just to continue to reinforce my point.

Adidas = Love

I came across some old photos of me wearing anything and everything that had to do with soccer, even though I had never played. Getting kicked in the butt by Jennie M. in elementary school after she told me to squat down and hold the ball (a la Charlie Brown) had quickly reinforced that the sport was not for me. But I was sure my sporty gear would show this soccer-star that I was prime date-meat. It didn’t work. Even after I drove 7+ hours to watch one of his college soccer games.

I’m not sure if I’d classify painful heels, murderously uncomfortable undergarments or hold-your-breath dresses to the list, but they were definitely worn with the sole purpose of looking as hot as possible, and therefore, to impress a guy, so perhaps I should add them to the list.

Have you ever compromised some of your likes and dislikes to impress a romantic interest? Please tell me I’m not the only one to get baptized for a boy…Does that baptism even count? Meh. I think I’ll call it good, but let me know if we need to plan another event or something. You know how I love me some spotlight : )

Drive

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Hey. It’s been a while, but I’ve managed to conjure up a long one for you. You may want to save it for some relaxing vacation reading by a nice cool pool, lake or whatever…enjoy! – Jenny

I was 17 years old when I was ordered to see a judge.

It was Thanksgiving break and I had woken up early (at least to a college freshman) and driven down to some courthouse in LA by my dad.

I had received yet another speeding ticket and this time there was a judge who wanted to scare me straight, although I think the drive to the courthouse with my father was even more frightening than the meeting with the judge.

We had directions from MapQuest, a relatively new gimmick at the time, that my mother faithfully researched and printed out for us. They were wrong, and we got lost. Or they were right and I failed to read them correctly from my lofty (yet unwanted) post of ‘navigator’. Who knows.

Being my dad’s navigator was (and still is) the least desirable place to sit in any vehicle for any human being. I would sooner be on a dirty train to Darjeeling than in the plush, air conditioned comfort of “Navigatordom”.

Fortunately, the world has blessed me, my mother and any other poor soul who must guide my dad from point A to point B with satellite navigation. That inventor has my deepest gratitude. Unlike me, the little voice inside the GPS-wonder won’t start crying when it gets asked, “RIGHT OR LEFT? RIGHT OR LEFT, GOD DAMMIT?” Although I admit that I would enjoy hearing the computer-voice snark back to him, “Simmer down, sir! All I said was to merge with traffic in two point five miles! I’ll let you know what to do as we get closer! Do you need me to drive?”

Back in the judge’s office (is it OK to call them ‘chambers’?) I was nervous, yet cocky at the same time. When the judge asked me, “Do you realize that I can take away your license?” I remember thinking “Yeah right! I’m only 17. In a couple days I will be 18 and many of this drops off my record!” (Which the judge had previously mentioned).

I apologized to the judge (somewhat half-heartedly) and endured a cold-yet-fuming father all the way home. (And yes, I think we managed to get lost on the way home, too.) I don’t remember because I was completely obsessed with just getting home to hang out with all my other friends  who were also home for break. Yay, friendship!

Later on I received a letter in the mail from the then-Governor, Pete Wilson, because I had received three speeding tickets within a year. Or was it 6 months? Not sure. I still have the letter somewhere, but it was just full of ‘shame on you’ text that his secretary had written and contained no real penalties. Of course I wasn’t paying for my own auto insurance at the time, so I’m sure my poor mother would have much to say about how much my speedy road trips were really costing.

Driving is one of my absolute favorite pastimes.

Driving always symbolized that I was getting to escape one place and trade it for another.

All my family was out of state, so every vacation was to either Las Vegas or Phoenix. The roads were straight and the speed limit was lax, and when we all figured out that a child (me) with extreme motion sickness should not be allowed to read in the back seat, these drives became relatively uneventful.

Normally, I’d hurl on any road trip that was over 30 minutes long (or past the bustling metropolis of Acton on Hwy 14) but soon we curbed this annoying habit and we were good to go.

Check out this handy visual I made for you! Home = no problem. Acton = time to start puking. And yes, I miss Hwy 14 every time I have to drive Chico’s janky Hwy 99.

A typical family road trip followed these basic steps:

  • Drive through the Air Force Base to shave off 30 minutes? Check.
  • Stop for food around the halfway point? (A McDonalds that resembled a train car)? Double check.
  • Only pee at the restaurant? Absolutely. Rest stops were gross.
  • Beg my parents to go visit the giant Cabazon Dinosaurs from Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure movie? Every time.

We actually did stop and visit them once when we were driving with my friend Monica. They were really cool, albeit, blazing hot inside. No A/C inside those dino-babies.

As I got older, driving became my thing.

My car, an unassuming silver 1992 Hyundai Sonata with a sneaky V6, was surprisingly, the most reliable vehicle out of all of the clunkers my friends owned (or didn’t own). This meant I was often the one elected to drive on our many outings. (Oh, and the free gas credit card from my parents also helped.)

Growing up in Lancaster, CA  these outings were usually all about escape! We’d venture 30 minutes to Santa Clarita to visit our teacher for a card game or old VHS movie night (Oh yeah – party on, kids!) or 45 minutes to Magic Mountain. Sometimes we’d push the curfews and scream our way to Beverly Hills so we could try and eat at our favorite fifties diner, Ed Debevic’s (Now closed for 10 years – boo!).

When I started college 7.5 hours away from home in balmy Chico, California, my driving was, once again, a huge part of my life. Even if you didn’t count all the I-5 trips home (any 3-day weekend I could muster) I was one of the rare students in the dorms that had a car, so late night trips to Winco for ice cream and candy to console a friend’s broken heart became my duty.

Vent-Driving 101 – An Introduction and Case Study

If you know anything about me from this blog, you know that there were a few boys who played a big role in my girl-chases-boy phase. This phase was probably about 14 years long and often ended up with me finally getting the picture: No — That boy does not want me to chase him any longer!

Once I had my driver’s license, my go-to venting/crying/radio-blasting/purging myself of all things “HIM” was done behind the wheel. Is it smart to drive when you’re freaking out and blubbering about that one time he smiled at you over bumper pool? Is it the safest idea to go racing down a highway while simultaneously gazing at the yellow sticker he gave you from McDonald’s that said “SPECIAL”? No. Absolutely not. Get yourself together, woman!

But vent-drive I did, and damn, I was good at it, too. The first time, I vent-drove, I had recently received my license and was on my way “to the sunset” (Dramatic much?) and I got pulled over for speeding. As the CHP approached me, he got a front row seat to my ugly cry-face behind my gas station sunglasses and my passenger seat full of used tissues. Plus, I had never been pulled over before, so I was majorly scared about getting in trouble. And wasn’t this just PERFECT? What a crappy day…getting pulled over made things even more dramatic! I felt like I was in a movie :)

The CHP could see I was upset and told me that it wasn’t a good idea to go around driving in that condition. Then he told me to scamper along home with just a warning. He had a teenage daughter too and hated to think of her vent-driving and heart-broken like I was. Mwuh ha ha! I mean, “Thank you, Officer.” {Sniff-sniff}

I think I turned around and went to the beach instead, which was probably about two hours from that pull-over point. (I know. I know.  I was a big-time brat. I can still be really bratty when the occasion calls for it now, too. Look out.)

But again, I love me some dramatic moments and shaking things off via vehicle is still my number one choice. Getting out of Chico and cruising up to Lake Almanor (Curvy roads have nothin’ on me if I’m behind the wheel – Puke problem, be gone!) or driving over to to see family in Reno. Both journeys have been very therapeutic for me.

When I used to commute to work, that drive home was just the antidote I needed to belt-sing away my stress from a crummy work day, which were the majority of my casino-worker days.

These days, it’s trickier to just hop in the car and drive.

We have a family vacation that will involve a good 10+ hours of driving (yay!), but belting out your troubles to your favorite Civil Wars/Alison Krauss/Phantom of the Opera soundtrack (Don’t judge me) is a bit harder to do with an audience of children in the car. Or a husband who’s head may explode if he ever witnessed the hot-mess that is, me BELTING “The Music of the Night” or one of my many “My Fair Lady” movie soundtrack ditties. I know we’re supposed to be ‘ONE’ and all, but there are just some things I will forever draw the line on. Scream-singing in the car is just one of those things best left to some alone time.

What do you like to do to shake off stress?

Does driving soothe you or add to your problems?

PS: Curious about the three dumbest things that ever happened while driving?

Mom, you can stop reading this now. Kids, you may read this only to know that there is nothing you can do that will surprise me. But don’t even think of trying to top me. To the rest of you, I implore you not to hold these driving-sins against me. I am much less reckless now that I am a mom with two kids in the car at almost all times :)

1) Attempting to remove the glass insert to my custom installed sunroof. While driving.

Just picture a giant glass window the size of a cafeteria lunch tray, flying backwards through the air, then — a huge glass-explosion, as it disintegrates into the road. Two seconds later, a motorcyclist came up behind us. It still makes me shiver to think how close we were to killing someone that day. The rest of the damp Seattle-outskirts summer (an El Nino summer, by the way) seemed like a small price to pay for the stupidity. Did I mention I was trying to impress a boy?

2) Driving my sedan (same car as above) over a rusty, springy bed-frame in the desert while the entire car-load of sleepover girls were only wearing their bras for tops.

I can’t even begin to explain this one, but I managed to get my car caught up in the springs, despite climbing under the car to jiggle it free by hand, and yes, I am completely aware how inappropriate that outfit-choice was at that time. When I eventually gassed the car free, I managed to damage something that covered up some other part underneath my car so every time I pulled into a driveway or parking lot, my car scraped unceremoniously loud and caused everyone to look and say, “What an idiot. Look at that big plastic thing hanging down under her car.” I think I told my parents I broke it on the washboard dirt road of my friend Rob’s house. This was not true. I apologize for the mistruth although that horrible road probably could have damaged my car on it’s own too.

3) Four-wheeling at night, in the rain in my ‘86 Bronco II over a giant boulder.

Once again, I was trying to impress a boy (make that three) with my fearless girl-power skills.

Had I ever been 4-wheeling before? Sure.

Had I ever been the driver on these 4-wheeling expeditions? Nope.

Did I try to get one of the boys to drive instead and get denied by all of them? Absolutely. Those chickens!

So, after a few donuts around some power line guide wires, I was feeling pretty confident. Eat my dust (mud) cute boys! Then – BUMP! – my Eddie Bauer-edition beauty was off the ground and rolling on a huge boulder that had been lurking in the grass. Good bye, drive shaft. Hello, broken car. Hello, humiliation and the beginning of weeks and weeks without a vehicle which at that time was torture.

But the next thing I knew, I was riding in the passenger side of my broken beat-up car while a pair of blue eyes smiled at me from the driver’s seat. This boy, who I had just met that night, said he would drive my Bronco II out of the mud, back up the ravine and to the main road so we could get it towed to town. (AAA has a thing about rescuing dumb girls who break their car in a mud pit.)

Even though it was a dumb choice and I had made a mess of things, I had him. And it would be OK in the end.

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