Monday, February 06, 2023


Well. Well, well, well.  If it isn't another post from jen.  I've come here to make a few announcements and extend an invitation.

1. I'm writing a lot this year. I made it a goal and I'm doing it. It feels amazing and terrifying and somehow calming.  As some guy on Instagram said, 

"A decision aligned with your soul brings you closer to stillness." 
-cory muscara.   

(I decided I should actually cite the source here. I think he's great.)

I think terror + calm might actually = thrill.  And thrill sounds so much better, right?  I'm thrilled to be having these projects.  And they feel very much aligned with my soul which makes me feel like I'm swimming in a pool of all my favorite things.  Which is weird because most people just like to swim in pools of water. But swimming is the accurate word here. I am swimming. My head is swimming. My heart is swimming. And I have to work and constantly move to keep swimming. It is fun and tiring. And I get to decide which favorite thing I will swim to every day. I'm happy when I get there. And it is work. I hope I can keep going. 

2. One specific project is I've started a substack newsletter.  So that people can subscribe and get my words right into their inboxes.  Which means I will probably blog here less.  Which may be sad. For me, at least.  

I am not sure what to think.  Blogger has been my home for almost 20 years. Isn't that insane? How can I leave it? I don't think I can. But it may look different. It may be a place for photo dumps and family tales, a place to put down memories so I can print them into books later.  But it feels good to evolve.  I feel ready.  I started a writing class a few weeks ago and the teacher was very careful to be sensitive to people's self-consciousness as writers or non-writers, as the case may be. To reassure there was zero pressure to feel like they had to be at a certain level and that all kinds were welcome.  She said "you don't have to publish, just write for you!"  And I thought, I've been writing for me my whole life, I'm ready to publish.  So that is my plan. 

As I've made these small decisions, crumbs to follow have been placed before me, a single one at a time. I accidentally happened on that class (which happened to take place 10 minutes away) when I was looking for an art class in Salt Lake. I am learning a lot and utilizing the group for feedback I am desperate for in terms of my projects.  I know the importance of a group.  I've received good ideas and as I've put myself further out there, I've received even more bread crumbs and help with my questions and writing frustrations. A small light is shed on each new step to take. And I am taking them.  I'm evolving. I'm migrating. Like a goose in winter. Honking at you to join me. 

I hope you'll subscribe, whoever you are, however long you've been visiting )en's log.  I also hope to keep posting here. I plan on it. I can't quit you, Jenslog!  To the readers this reaches, I sincerely thank you for being here. This blog has been my heart and my heart is expanding.  Thank you, my friends. Here's the link to my first newsletter:

Jen's substack.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas 2022

 Merry Christmas to you! We've made it.  And today's post means it's Christmas card time.  This year's was a veritable HOOT.  This project was very Sean-led and I couldn't be more tickled about it all. He is amazing.  He organized the photoshoot, costumes, designed the card, did all the photoshop, of course. I contributed the text with others' input and I laugh every single time I look at it. 

In addition to the cards, we have a tradition every year of seeing A Christmas Carol at the nearby community theater.  Pretty much ever since we moved here. I went several times as a child to this same theater too, so, but for some gap decades, it's a long-standing tradition.  This is the first year that Julian has cared about traditions.  Like, if we mentioned not doing something, he would revolt, "Noooo! We have to do that!"  when he's barely shown any interest in years past. It's very surprising. But awesome. Especially because this is one he cares about. This is one Sean deeply cares about, and it's one I care about more and more the older I get.  This story is a treasure and I feel it more acutely with each viewing.  

It's been a strange theme of Christmas this year that happened organically.  From the photoshoot to seeing the play we've also seen several depictions including the new Spirited musical with Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, which is bizarre because I am not a huge fan of musicals. But I kinda loved it. Like, I watched it and then watched it again just a couple of days later.  So funny, so catchy dare I say, and also... touching. Pretty powerful. Go see it today. And then, one day we were sitting in the living room talking about it. Julian had been reading the play in his English class and he performed the role of Scrooge (excellent). We talked about how we should read the actual novella one day. And then I randomly looked to the small end table and lo, there it was. A forgotten gift from Julian's 6th grade teacher a year ago, so it had been sitting there all year, untouched. Waiting for this moment.  I grabbed it and began and it has been a weird kind of delight. The old language, references we don't understand, the bits left out of the films and plays, some truly bizarre. But others important to the depiction of Ebeneezer's change of heart.  He often seems to immediately jump on board from soon after Marley's visit, in my opinion. But not in the book. There are odd moments and patient spirits and really painful and powerful discoveries pivotal to his transformation that you really feel. Of course, this is why we're a George C. Scott family. He does a tremendous job. 

So, without further ado, Sean's brilliant creation. The three of us in our chosen characters that we felt suited us best, and perhaps the closest I'll ever get to achieving my actor dreams: 

inside bios:

just when you think it's over, the back cover:

Dyyyiiinngguhhh. Sean! So freaking funny.  One day a neighbor stopped by to drop off some goodies. She commented on the card and mentioned something about congratulating him for being involved. She wondered whose idea it was and Sean said, "It was mine!" and she said, "Oh it was yours! Well, you're a good sport."  Perhaps a bit disbelieving. Like she couldn't process that he'd actually voluntarily, happily head this up, let alone participate.  Which, again, is why Sean is the best. 


Saturday, December 24, 2022


You know what's weird? When you make a new discovery and it completely changes the way you view yourself, your life, your history, events that happened, jokes made, judgments, misunderstandings, confusions, heartbreak.  When those things that were interpreted as one thing and basically one thing only and sat that way on the shelf of your memory. (Autocorrect wanted that to be "shed" and I like that too. On the shelf in your memory shed, collecting dust.)  But only to have new light "shed" (it was meant to be) on all of those things. And you take them off, one by one, every single day since discovering that new light, and examine them, your view of them completely different. One by one. Again and again. Hundreds of things. Thousands of things. Things you forgot were there. Things you carried with you. With new understanding, new pain, new heartbreak, and a chance for reconciliation, growth, the shedding (I'm really getting my money's worth out of this word today) of old things. A chance for rebirth this new look brings.   It is... so weird. 

Julian and I have always had so many things in common. From the early bizarre days of same-smelling poop (you're welcome) to how we experience emotions, our shared senses of humor which I've been inclined to attribute more to nurture rather than nature but now I'm not sure, and generally how our brains work. Subtle things. Things hard to explain, that jog up forgotten or even subconscious things.  But just things I've understood on a very deep, visceral level. Felt, rather than explained or fully described.  

When he was 8 years old, he was diagnosed with ADHD. This was five years ago.  And just before my 42nd birthday, so was I.  It took me until he was almost 12 to have the thought finally occur to me, given all our similarities, understanding him on a subconscious level, that maybe this thing was my thing too. For a full year I studied and researched and made new discoveries, learned words for things, connected them to many many dots in my past, and illuminated myself to this new explanation. Every single day, just swimming exhaustive laps in this new immersion, slammed with influxes of revealing information. I cried a lot. I grieved a lot. I exclaimed joyfully like an illuminated and determined scientist or detective. Tacking up new evidences on the pin board of my brain and tying dozens of strings to and from and around them all. Feeling insane, questioning everything, refuting my own propulsion, my own interpretation, which felt almost like gaslighting myself. I begged for Sean to understand and, ever on my side, thoughtful and observant, he blessedly did. He listened to me and he believed me.  He supported me and he saw it too--backed me up and said yes, you are not crazy. Yes, this makes sense. Yes, it's a big deal. Yes, it doesn't change how I feel.  He'd been there for the Julian ride. He saw the both of us and saw the weird connection and similarities.  It wasn't surprising.  A lot of it was really funny, actually. Very laughable discoveries.  A lot of them feeling like, no, doi.  (trying to bring back "doi") 

Since then I've done so many webinars, participated in virtual summits, listened to so many podcasts, read so many articles. I've joined Facebook groups and virtual book clubs, online communities.  I've been working my guts out with this kid so I intimately know how it works in him. And though we are similar, we are not identical. He has his journey and I have mine and they are ongoing, with potential discoveries still yet to be made.   Parsing out our differences and knowing how to attribute the complexities of our natures is not an easy task.  Or even possible, probably.  Not everything is to be explained.  But once you find yourself going down a road filled with new answers to a billion new heretofore unrealized questions, answers that have names, medical terms, official reasons why, it is hard to stop.  

I have filled my brain with an astounding amount of new information.  I had been on this path already for him. But now that I was a participant, a specimen to examine with decades of history to make sense of, it all has been completely overwhelming, realizing that the 5000- piece puzzle I had been assiduously working on is actually just a small corner of an even larger puzzle of what feels like infinity pieces. 

They say there's a weird cycle to receiving this diagnosis as an adult.  There's shock, relief, grief, understanding, hopefully acceptance, and then it all kind of starts up again, jumping around from each thing at random, but often between grief & relief, or both, together. I received so many explanations that much of it was, indeed, a laughable relief.  I could link to probably fifty blog posts of my own making that would make a lot of sense in this new regard.  If someone reading this has been here for my blog life, they might be nodding themselves right now thinking, oh good, she finally got there.  How many times have I referenced my weird brain? My brain that I've loved my whole life but that has also frustrated me for reasons unknown.  My brain that struggled in ways that seemed unusual, bizarre, left unnamed. 

Grief comes into play when I think back on my life and how I creatively and painfully navigated it.  Making up for things that were challenging because my brain "worked differently" and I didn't know it. Or at least, that there was an explanation for it.   Processing past moments within relationships where I came away feeling misunderstood or judged due to this lack of information on both of our parts.  Frustrated because a message was received I did not intend to send and I can't explain why. Ultimately not feeling accepted because I was not understood. By others but also, on a deep level, by myself. The ramifications are astronomical. 

But somehow, for some reason, I developed confidence early on. I attribute it to my journal and deciding to decide that, at age 13, I was awesome.  I embraced being different. I eschewed conformity, the expected, the standard. Typical. I decided to see my unique brain as marvelous vs. defective. And to laugh instead of worry. To decide I was good without external validation or mainstream systems to tell me so. It does not go this way for many people in the world.  

I may share more details of myself, my process and discoveries because I think it's important for others to know, but because I need it too.  It took me a while to want to share it with people, and I still am unsure if I want to, particularly with some. I weigh it out. Publishing it here is a risky move but I bank on the story I tell myself that fewer than five people read my blog. But I can't know that for sure.  It's scary to share things, to show ourselves, but also suffocating not to. I have tried to be more open about it to prove to myself how fine it really is, and it's opened doors with others and deepened connections and relationships. New friends who confided they experienced the same. Friends with children who were newly on this path and were at a complete loss as parents, filled with fear and anxiety as to how to go about it.  I could explain to them there was nothing wrong with their kids, to help normalize and understand it doesn't change anything about them, but gives new information which, though intense at times, is always a good thing.  To build a mini community and awareness around the subject and the people who find themselves new entrants. Life is lonely for everyone, and perhaps especially those who feel low-grade (or high-grade) "different" at every moment of their lives, constantly having to carve out a place for themselves. 

I'm half-tempted to go through my blog and add a retroactive label to each post that screams "ADHD."  I know I'd find many.  But for now, I will end this here and call it a grand reveal, hoping to connect or do some kind of good, but at the very least, carve out a bigger space, be a little more honest. 

Friday, December 23, 2022


 A few weeks ago, Julian came to me and said he'd like to get a present for the family on Amazon but wasn't sure how to do it because we would see.  I held very still so as not to give away the fact that my heart was doing somersaults. Playing it very cool, very chill, we discussed whether or not to have him use his own bank account or just to use my Amazon account and I'd try really hard not to look. We continued on with the day and before we landed on anything, he just went ahead and used his own account and I was like, what? but wait.. meh.. ok.  Because that's the kind of parent I am.  But anyway. It was so precious to me, this moment, because a) he wanted to get a gift for someone else. He had a thought and it was for others [many exclamation points]. And b) he said to me, 

"Ahh now it's hard because I want to tell you but I can't. Is this how it is for you?"  

Heeheeheehahaha.  I laughed and nodded, very assuredly and very pleased, 

"Yes. It is very fun." 

 Discovering for the first time in his life the feeling of anticipating someone else's pleasure or joy.  "This is... new. It's... different?"   We often refer to him as the humanoid-- ok, not really. It's a term he's lately used to refer to himself and I told him I am totally using that.  So yeah. Watching him is sometimes like watching the excellent episodes of Star Trek NG when Data is trying to be more human or has a strange opportunity to experience it. We delight in it-- things trying to be more human. Or at least I do. (Data episodes were always the best ones) Why?  I don't know. But this moment was magic.  

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Giver & The Receiver

 I've been thinking a lot lately about how to both give and receive gifts.  I find that it can be tricky and one must work to do it well.  Instead of blathering on, I'm just going to make a list of what I think is required for each as well as lists of qualities that contribute to being a poor giver/receiver. 


1. A good giver pays attention. They notice when you say you like something or need something or wish for something. They file it away in their minds (or their special literal filing cabinet at home, what do I know) and bust it out on your birthday or occasion of gifts and it feels so good because they remembered. They listened when you spoke. You feel known. 

2. A good giver gives freely, with no strings attached. They give never hoping you'll give in return. They give knowing the person might not receive well. They persist in it because they wanted to give something and that's the end of it.  They also never ask about the thing they gave.  "Did you ever use that ___?"  "Are you going to hang up the ____ I got you?" They don't come visit, looking for it, asking about it. Or, when you do use/wear it, they never acknowledge it as a thing connecting to themselves. "Oh look! You're wearing the ___ I gave you!"  It may make them happy, but then the real gift is the person wearing the gift, and the giver becomes the recipient and there's this added pressure element and nobody wants that. This can be ok, if the original recipient chooses it.  "I know it makes them happy so I will wear the ____."  I don't think this is a totally negative thing.  It just changes it. So, be aware.   I am conscious of gifts I've been given that come with terms and conditions and it's stressful and weird. 

3. A good giver gives when they want to, not because they're obligated to. This means they may give you something one year for Christmas, and maybe not the next.  Actually I think I'm just saying this to absolve myself.  But honestly, I hate giving just to give a thing. I want it to be meaningful, and if I truly can't think of something, I think a card is ok.  A card is great.  Cards have words in them and words are important.  Words are meaningful. Words I can do. Sometimes I get great gift ideas, and sometimes not. I take great care in this, and hate feeling pressured to give just to give. So if I think of something, great. If not, better luck next year? Still care about you.


1. A bad giver is someone who does all the opposite of what I said, ha ha.  It's hard to say "your gift sucks" if someone tried and it wasn't awesome or if they even gave you anything at all because they at least gave you something.  But, well, a bad giver does attach strings. They have follow-up gift expectations. They demand you prove you liked their gift. 

2. A bad giver gives you something without much thought. Maybe just a lazy giver.  And "give" doesn't even seem like the right word here. Maybe "produce".  I "produced" a present for you.  A bad giver makes it about themselves. "tell me my gift is good."  I sometimes make fun of this, like if someone likes my gift I'll said, "like, how much did you like it." So maybe this is actually me. But 99% as a joke.

3. A bad giver makes it difficult. They set it up as a gift but it requires more work for you thereby, again, turning it into a gift for the giver.  "I will help you give this to me and it will be very difficult and inconvenient so that you're happy with what you have done/given."  The gift gets lost in this gift. 


1. A good receiver is very gracious no matter the gift. They make an effort to examine the gift, remark on it, notice it, compliment what can be complimented.  They recognize the effort. They make the giver feel very special. This is the reciprocal gift. It's an important aspect of the giving/receiving dynamic.  A good, thoughtful gift can turn into a bit of a bomb if not received. Can turn up empty.   When Julian was having a birthday party for the first time, I would drill him on how to accept gifts.  "Ok, it's a lego set, one you've wanted. How do you say thank you?"  "Thank you so much! I love it!"  Ok, now it's a pair of socks.  SAME ANSWER."  

2. A good receiver does not feel stressed about the gift.  If they don't end up using it, that's ok. They're not obligated.  They know that once given, the gifting is done and they aren't responsible for making the giver feel like it was the most amazing gift in the world. 


1. A bad receiver does not really acknowledge the gift. They may be too anxious about reciprocating, feeling so pressured to return the gesture that they cannot express thanks or graciousness. They may explain or defend why they do not have a gift to give at that moment. They completely overlook the gift  because they truly cannot receive it in their heart, because their heart is too preoccupied with insecurity and hidden meanings and an inability to just accept something given.  Everything may have a contract attached for this bad receiver.  They may feel caught in a trap.  Gifts stress them out. It's very unpleasant for them. It's unfortunate. 

2. A bad receiver expresses disappointment.  This is a skill to develop. As children we are especially prone to show our disappointment. But we can mature out of this.  If we haven't done it in adulthood, we have completely neglected honing this skill and it makes for a terrible gifting experience.   Perhaps there is a deeper meaning there. Perhaps the gift reflects deeper issues, dredging up painful things.  Perhaps there was some insensitivity.  Like I said, gifting is tricky. But we can manage ourselves in these moments and be ok in spite of it.  

Gifts should be entirely free. Freely given, freely received. 

But Marcel Mauss, French sociologist and author of The Gift, might disagree. I recently bought this book and am trying to make my way through it but it's a bit rough.  But the concepts behind his ideas are fascinating. According to this essay (go read it, it's not long), he believes gifts are contractual.  An excerpt:

Mauss had very interesting views about gifts and gift-giving that really makes you re-evaluate the whole custom of giving gifts. His main argument is that gifts are never free. History shows that gifts almost without exception give rise to reciprocal exchange, or at least the expectation thereof. So his basic research question became “What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?”.

This is a complex question with an equally complex answer, and according to Mauss it has to do with the fact that a gift engages the honour of both the giver and receiver. It becomes an almost spiritual artefact. The gift is irreversibly tied to the giver – in Mauss’ words, “the objects are never completely separated from the men who exchange them.”

What is particularly fascinating in Mauss’ theories is the idea that, unlike something that changes ownership by getting bought and sold, a gift is forever bound to the giver. It never fully changes ownership – it is almost as though it is only given on loan, hence the difficulty of selling, or even giving away, something that was gifted. This also affects the need to reciprocate – by gifting something in return effectively repays the ‘gift-debt’. Now of course the returned gift is again irrevocably tied to the giver, and so a surprisingly strong social tie is created between two people who have exchanged gifts – they effectively own a piece of each other.

That's beautiful and I'm going to have to give this some more thought instead of almost gut reactions like most everything I present.  I also appreciate the cultural aspect/differences, which Mauss goes into as well.  If I ever get through this book, I'll let you know what I find. As always, I'd love others' thoughts on this. But let me close this faux-essay with a quote I recently came across and loved.  Just hits right with me.  

John Steinbeck, on his friend and colleague, Ed Ricketts:

“the great talent that was in Ed Ricketts, that made him so loved and needed and makes him so missed now that he is dead...[was] the ability to receive, to receive anything from anyone, to receive gratefully and thankfully and make the gift seem very fine. Because of this everyone felt good in giving to Ed—a present, a thought, anything. 

Perhaps the most overrated virtue on our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver. Nearly always, giving is a selfish pleasure, and in many cases it is downright destructive and evil thing. can bring the same sense of superiority as getting does, and philanthropy may be another kind of spiritual avarice. It is so easy to give, so exquisitely rewarding. 

Receiving, on the other hand, if it be well done, requires a fine balance of self-knowledge and kindness. It requires humility and tact and great understanding of relationships. In receiving you cannot appear, even to yourself, better or stronger or wiser than the giver, although you must be wiser to do it well."


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

So This is Solstice

"You know how in language classes, they'll celebrate Christmas according to the country you're learning about. 'In Germany, they celebrate like this.' 'In France, Christmas is celebrated like this.'  But in my Latin class it was like, 'There was no Christmas. But we did burn Christians at the very end!'"  

Sometimes Sean's random tidbits of knowledge kill me. If I'm at my computer (which I was/am), I'll just start typing when he's talking because it's bound to be something good.  And it was. It was.  

It's the solstice today and I really ought to learn more about it because I could see myself really getting into this pagan holiday.  I did learn this morning that it's a day for contemplation which, *cracking knuckles* is kiiiind of in my wheelhouse. 

I spent the day contemplating while I got up and, deciding to opt out of exercising, got ready for the day. I put on my non-sleeping pajamas which are black and red plaid and found a fuzzy black pullover I'd forgotten about and got a little too excited about. 

I contemplated while I brushed my teeth because I hate it and it bores me, but then also I do it for a really long time because I get lost in whatever it is I'm thinking about or looking at because I like to find entertainment for myself while I brush.  

I contemplated while I made some oatmeal with chia for breakfast for a very sick or has-been-very-sick Sean... Sean-who-doth-hath-been-gravely-ill(?) and speaks with gravel in his voice. I contemplated while making some cookie dough for a self-inflicted cookie day because I needed to try out some cutters I recently acquired and felt the mood strike which is the only way it can be done.  I'm not feeling great today so it's all been a bit laborious.  But it's ok. 

As usual, I bailed on my project right when I was going to die from it which is when Sean finished working and eagerly jumped in happy to finish because all the annoying stuff was done and he gets to use the cutters and make it look nice and pretty.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: We're a good team. 

I'm tired and I have a headache. But this day feels right for the solstice.  I've given in to the shortness of days. I surrender. You win. Darkness reign supreme!!  And let the hibernation commence.  Incidentally I learned that the solstice is also known as the Hibernal Solstice.  So there you go.   Let's go eat some cookies because the half-pound of dough I've already consumed is not enough. 

my beloved Christmas cactus my mom gifted me last year. Sits dormant for months until magic happens and it starts spontaneously growing buds. It's the most amazing thing. Like it knows before we do when the season has begun. Like the white tree of Gondor, we await the return of the King and let the season officially commence. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Gem of a Day

This morning I got Julian up and asked if he wanted to go exercise with me. He said "yes" so we busted out of there in ten seconds, motivated by the coming of the pest control guy coming soon. I always forget when they're coming and then they text me like 30 minutes before being like, "WE'RE COMING."  I never fly out of bed so fast.  

Hang on, I am dying over here.  I just asked Sean what the word for "pest killer" was because I am brain dead and couldn't think of it.  I then remembered the term "exterminator" and was like, do we even use that anymore? Sounds weird and dated. And then I remembered "pest control" and went with that. Well, while I continued typing, Sean continued coming up with words and I heard him quietly say, 

"bug killer...pesticide...[he didn't realized I meant the person]..."  

Then, even quieter,  "...rat man."   

And I lost it. It was so funny to me, how he continued to quietly whisper terms for this when I had long forgotten I even asked.  Busting a gut. He then said, 

"I'm trying to imagine what they called them during the plague. 'Better call the rat man.'"  

Which kills me even more.  Rat man.  

Anyway... so the boy and I left and it was one of those days where someone waved a magic wand over it, like the Ghost of Christmas Present, if you read the book (which we are, and which is weird. So much stuff in there I had no idea about. He apparently walks about the town as he's showing things to Ebenezer and waves his wand around sprinkling happy Christmas dust on everyone). We had a lively chat in the car about this and that, exercised, and then I told him I wanted to take him to IKEA.  Now, this kid has hated outings for a very long time. I basically stopped trying to take him to do fun things because he never wanted to. So for me to spring an "errand" on him like this, I knew I was playing with fire.  But I did it. And he was shockingly chill about it.  Happy day!

We made our way there and it had been a while since we'd been.  We used to have a good ol' time at IKEA. While Sean did the boring things like shop and made the hard/annoying decisions, Julian and I played games-- pretending we lived there, sitting on sofas, playing with the display stuff, opening cupboards, drawers, turning on/off lamps.  One time when he was small, we pretended like we were detectives or something and made up a lost key to something.  We talked about the key the whole time.  The case of the lost key. Some things were locked, some were open. We needed the magic key!  And then at the end we opened a wardrobe and saw a key dangling right there in the center and we just about lost it.  "GASP! IT'S THE KEY!"  We still remember that day. 

So being back after many years made me realize it was kind of special.  I told him that I knew his tiny desk chair was ridiculously small and he needed a new one, so I would like to give him a new desk chair he could pick out as a present from me. He lit up, something I try desperately to make happen when I can, something for which I really have to work.  We ran through the showroom, this time pretending he lived there.   He examined the tiny-sized apartments saying he could imagine living there, expressed how he couldn't wait to live on his own, which I actually love. I know he'll be outta here before I know it. I'd rather he be ready/excited.  Our vocabulary changed. I'd say, "You could store your tech stuff here... hang your pots there."

We found the desk chairs, we examined them all, he tried them all out, sat at a desk and pretended to be at a computer.  He made a decision, we paused for a meatball lunch and had the best chat, found the chair, wheeled it wildly on the cart. I told him [again, no doubt] how I always desperately wish I had my [fictional] roller skates in places like this. (My skates I had when I was nine? I currently own no skates.) We took it home, and then spent the afternoon putting it together, just the two of us.  Happily, with coordination and team work. Jokes. Laughter. Gifts, all of it.  All of it.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Meriadoc Christmas

 My friend just sent me this and I loved it: 

Every year we watch the extended editions of the trilogy. It is a Christmas tradition we began before the days of the Julian and it has been very much a part of his young life.  Last year we gifted him an encyclopedia on LOTR. While he has not yet read Silmarillion (who knew about that first "l"? ) he has read online extensively and shares his wealth of knowledge throughout the entirety of the 10-hr viewing experience.  While it can be... a bit much at times (zip it and let me focus/cry in peace!) I love how much he knows and will rely on him to explain backgrounds and histories and ages and connections for years to come.  

We reminisce about when the movies came out, how they were released at the same time as the Harry Potter movies and how I was an idiot and thought Harry Potter would be more epic.  Could not be more wrong. These movies are so near and dear to my heart. They changed me forever. The messages and themes and hero stories and religious parallels are constantly running through my mind, woven into my being.  Phrases and quotes are constantly being pulled and connected to moments and experiences and conversations with people, with other things I'm reading, with any contemplation about life and the human experience whatsoever.  Guaranteed I can connect any discussion at church regarding spiritual matters to a moment or character in the LOTR story. It is gospel to me and canon. Undeniably.  I plan to write the most epic essay about it and when I do it will be perfect and exact. 

The films were released at Christmas, if you old people will recall. Every two years. Two years! I was in college and I remember seeing one of them with my family as part of a double feature and we just about died.  But when I saw them, something stirred in my soul and awakened.  I cherish the stories, the characters, their flaws and arcs, the friendships, fellowships, the ways they're different and similar. The wisdom given and the heartbreak. My very spirit groaneth at the resonance they induce, the feeling of being seen and known, which is possibly the best feeling there can ever be.  

So yes. Elves and gifts and kookie bearded people, adorable inns, secrets and surprises and songs, magic and sanctity. "Ranger from the North." Feelings of insignificance, fear of the future, fear of the self, alone in the wilderness, nakedness in darkness, battles with demons, death and rebirth, restoration, reconciliation, redemption.  Gold rings and sacrifice, fighting for world peace against all odds, giving hope while struggling to keep it ourselves.  Yes. Lord of the Rings is indeed the best Christmas movie of all time. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

True Gift

 I often am pretty expressive in my feelings.  Could you guess? I can be reactive but I'm working on that. Still, I emote.  Lately (I guess) I've been emoting using the barf sound to depict my feelings.  Sometimes it really is the best, most effective way to do it.  The example I can think of is when we were watching a Hallmark-y Christmas movie and, of course, making good fun of it.  Julian had some thoughts and feelings of his own. I shared that I love the overabundance of Christmas decorations in every single room and every space on set.  I love when we're inside the struggling inn that still has funds for fifty Christmas trees, garlands everywhere, candles on every surface, wreaths on every door, just the most ornate decor that is just VOMITED all over the place.  Christmas vomit.  And of course, I do a vomit sound. I love it because it appeases the goblin inside that may want to do the same but knows it's pure insanity. BLEHHH!  

Julian delights in this vomit sound and said once, "I love your puke sounds..."   He said it so happily and so sincerely that it gave me pause.  I said, "I think that's the first genuine Julian compliment I've ever received."  It felt so good. I was just warm inside from head to toe.  T'was a true gift. And I'll keep vomit-expressing until the day I die. 

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Go Tell it On the Mountain

 Jesus Christ is born!

This is what I wrote on big 8x8 envelopes containing our neighbor gift this year:  A collage of mountain photos I have taken this year from the middle of the street near my house.  People around these parts, we love our mountains.  I grew up looking at this particular mountain. It's strangely familiar, an old friend, constant and unchanged.   I told Sean I made it this size because the bigger it is, the more likely people will feel pressured to frame it and hang it in their house and this thought pleases me.  But really, Utah skies kill me.  Come sunset time, you best be sure I'm looking east and not west* because the mountains capture it in insane ways. I think I tried to write a poem about this once but it fizzled and I gave up. Maybe I'll get re-inspired. 

*Also looking at mountains and talking about them is making me talk like some kind of mountain woman.  

Friday, December 16, 2022

Solo Sushi

Sometimes solo sushi is good for the soul. They offered for me to sit at the bar which I declined because, well, I was going to need the space.  

"Yes, you heard me right. Two orders of pork buns, please."

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Musical Plague

Every Christmas I try to play some music of some kind in some capacity.  I arrange my own stuff and it's selfishly the only stuff I want to do because I generally don't like other arrangements because I am a snooty jerk and also this way, I don't have to practice as much, ha ha. I'm not the best technical player. 

But it is work. I work for hours. It's grueling and painful because I must split my brain in two-sometimes three if I add on another part- and exhausting and exhilarating.  Musical creativity is a mixed bag for me. I love it and I hate it. It haunts and torments me and it excites and fulfills me. Rewarding. Frustrating. It keeps me up at night and it satisfies a need deep inside to root out the harmonies, discovery the hidden alternative lines. It can feel like an exorcism of demons, or the birth of something new and potentially grand.  Or both, more accurately. Always both. 

This is going to sound like a backdoor brag and I wish I had my friend here who I used to joke with about backdoor brags back when that was sort of an internet styling people had on the social media (probably adding on an LOL).  But whatever, I'm going to share it anyway (even though it totally is NOT the point of this post and not even true at all! LOL!).

A violinist and I were practicing.  I brought some scribbled parts for her to read but nothing super legit (it never is). No accompaniment, no dynamics. I figure we can add some things later.  Just the essentials. I acknowledge that I am asking big favors, requesting that people read my mind a little, due to my lack of skill in notating and also because I just need to purge the music. I am somewhat apologetic and very grateful, thanking her many times throughout. So as we were working I helped her with the parts, saw some errors or realized some changes needed to be made, and laughed and said, 

"This is embarrassing."

"Why?" was her reply.

"Because I feel like my mental illness is written out on the page here."
"I think you mean genius."

"Hm.. I am plagued, though."

And, I would have added, 

"What it feels like is just creative energy that builds and builds and needs an outlet and if it doesn't get one, it explodes and dies inside of me, like a ruptured organ. And then I will die too, so... again, thanks." 

That feels accurate. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Group Date

Every once in a while I have a date with my thoughts. We meet up and quickly embrace, then settle in for some together time. It's a potentially fraught relationship, deep and complex, requiring constant reconciliation. But then, perhaps the best ones are.  Some of the thoughts I simply let be.  Others I mine for potential. Eventually I transfigure some into actual words and production.  We invite creativity, never the third wheel, who joins us and spreads her influence where she can. Our interaction is very fluid and we often jump around from topic to topic and then back again, seeing where the day takes us.  I give it my full attention, total dedication, and shut out everything else for as long as I can.  

It can feel indulgent and reckless, going out like this, with no clear plan. We have no agenda other than what feels most pressing or desirable in the moment, and we opt for the done list, discarding the to do.  Soul-sharing is inevitable, together revisiting common ground and interests, then, holding hands, probing the untapped and unexplored. Some avenues are frustrated, or straight up dead ends, but we don't care. We don't linger long. We might see what there is to see and then turn around. There may be disputes. We may eventually agree to disagree and shake hands on the matter, hoping for some progress on a revisit down the road. 

When we feel we've explored all that can be for now, we let the night draw to a close.  Sentiments of "how long it's been" and "we really should do this more often" are shared, astounded yet again by how necessary it was stacked against how many times it's been put off. Pins of potential are pushed, gentle reminders are set, and earnest promises are made. We always depart as friends, with the comforting knowledge of knowing and being known a little bit more, deciding that it is, indeed, good to indulge. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Maison du Pain d'Epice

 House of spice bread! Ha.  

We decorated gingerbread houses this year. We got two kits of row houses to bring in some city vibes. Julian had a friend over. It's very funny to me because often, this friend is more interested in the activities we're doing than Julian is so he often ends up sort of splitting his time between us and Julian who may get bored at some point and run off to do something else.

I found some interesting decorating ideas in a magazine I wanted to try so we got a heap o' stuff, Sean and I worked together, as usual I became frustrated and angry-jealous of Sean's skills, artistry, and ability to guide the frosting into doing whatever the hey he wanted it to, something i will never ever master, and ultimately had a great time. I'd waffle between making frustrated exclamations and cries of  admiration of Sean's fun little touches.  "ARGGH why won't this just go on?? Oh that's so CUTE, Sean!"  So I'm jealous and delighted. Delightfully jealous.

First, our house(s):

Sean's neat house on the left. My sloppy darling on the right. Mostly Sean on the center.
 Please notice planters by the door made out of mini kitkats. 


Quick Tips: 
-Melt mini starbursts and push together to make a cool brick path. 
-Roll out gumdrops with a rolling pin to make doors and whatnot.
-Those wafer cookies are really good for sculpting.  Sean made a bathtub out of them reminiscent of bathroom fixtures as planters in Bklyn. 


Here are the boys'.  Ha ha ha.  The friend saw what Sean had done with the bathtub and wanted to try carving for himself. He made this cute little nightmare. 

The third house kept collapsing. Calling it a bust, he made a new narrative that the voldemort snake (I think the village was originally going to be Hogsmeade?) destroyed it. Pretty good. This thing is still sitting on our dining room table.  Because I have impulsivity issues regarding carrying out every idea that enters my brain, I made some photos with a festive border in case he wanted to send them out to loved ones as a Christmas card [of doom]. 

Warm holiday greetings to you and yours.

We also recently saw some entrants in a gingerbread house contest. They were pretty unbelievable. Here are some photos I felt compelled to take: 

always impressed by sugar work.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Silly Snaps

 The title makes this sound like the name of a fun cookie. Sadly, it's not, but happily, what it IS is a group of funny pictures I've been collecting. I enjoy them. I hope you will too.

1. First up is a flier a friend sent by the sister of a friend of mine. One thing you should know is people in my church are pretty out of control when it comes to themes.  Planning an activity? What's the theme? Now that you have a theme, everything planned or created or devised thereafter MUST RELATE TO THAT THEME.  The religious pun reigns supreme in this culture I am a part of.  And it could be more of a personality trait and should probably be on assessments. "How big are you into themes at parties/events?"
This one just about put me over the edge.  First, they were giving gifts to a large group of people.  This is a tradition and of zero doctrinal import.  But for some the line is fuzzy, and for some, immense pressure is felt. It's a super stressful, silly thing, which is a fun combo. Silly stress. And often by the end, one completely loses sight of the original intent and all sense and meaning is completely gone.  Alright, enough explaining. Here is an example of a silly idea getting away from a person, completely derailing, and results in something weird and awesome.

The gift?

Alright. Tiny tongs with mittens.  That's nice.  Now, what's the heartfelt religious pun-message going to be?  Get ready...

GRAB ONTO CHRIST.  I told this to Sean and he stared at me with a look of such confusion mixed with some horror. He was pretty disturbed.  It is hilarious.  "Grab onto Jesus, but very gingerly because he's scalding hot and can also BURN YOU."    I just like to take the pun that generally goes from object to message-- but then turn it back to the literal object.  It's kind of a hobby.

2. Speaking of recipes, I'm seeing a lot these days. Making a few.  Printing every single one I make because #old.  Printing some I don't make.   This picture is not so much about a recipe but an article with the funniest/scariest headline I didn't even bother clicking on because you'll see. Here it is:


 FOURTEEN?? I'm making FOURTEEN mistakes every time I make coleslaw?? WTF?! Why do I even try then?? Apparently I suck at this! I am a freaking coleslaw moron.  Let's break this down: 

1. The maximum mistakes I make that I'll allow you to point out at any given times is probably, like, THREE. Give me more than that and I'll just feel so defeated and succumb to my own inadequacy.  Like I can handle only so much ok?! So telling me fourteen is just abusive.  

2. It's coleslaw. I have never made a list of things I care the least about but I'm fairly confident coleslaw could rank in the top 10.  Whoever wrote this article cares deeply about coleslaw, knows everything about it, and seized their moment.  It's fine to care about coleslaw. I think Sean, for example, cares marginally more about coleslaw than I do. But even he would be open to learning, say, five mistakes he makes when attempting it.  Love stumbling upon the absurd. It makes my world go 'round. 

I just asked Sean his opinion. Here it is:



This next picture I snapped at the gym.  I love when things start out with an idea and then take a funny turn. The first few sound good to me. Take deep breaths? yes. Drink glass of water? Definitely, so important.  Stretches to feel good? Absolutely. Believe in that. Take a walk, great. Write down things you're grateful for, sure.  


And then the last is like, really important--exercise? Absolutely. But looks like they almost forgot. Like they were like, "oh shoot, shoulda put that one at the top of the list"  And then since they were out of space, gave an additional desperate tip because honestly, we care about each other and this is good advice.  It's just funny with the backslash for some reason.  Also, I am picturing doing both things simultaneously and laughing but also noticing how that sounds like pretty good advice and actually I'm pretty sure I've done those things together multiple times.  So maybe this chart was created 100% intentional as is. I take it back. Great chart. Very thoughtful.  

This next pic is not so much funny but rather just kinda gross, but in a festive way? Spotted this hideous little thing whilst on a walk and had to pause.  Vile, yet vibrant. 


The next pic is from when my friend stopped by to see if I wanted to go get a hot chocolate. Always up for random outings, I obliged. Then, in the van, we got to talking (as we do) about how we used to play the flute in jr. high and then proceeded to practice our flute faces. Thinking this would be a perfect expression to capture in a photo, we took one. 

I was right. 
I'm hoping this takes off and becomes the new "duck face" in photos. 

Lastly, i love kitty time and kitty photoshoots. But also kitty makes me sneeze something fierce, especially when she's up in my grill, her favorite place. And again-- perfect moment I thought for a lovely portrait of the pair of us.  This is a good depiction of our relationship.

Merry Christmastime of silly snaps. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Merry Idiots

This one is funny because I loved it so much I had hoped to write it down even though, at the time, I was sure I would remember it. And then weeks down the road I couldn't and I looked, and I couldn't find it written anywhere. So i tried desperately to recall it and piece it together into something using the meager scraps of my memory, knowing it was not going to get very close to re-creating the actual picture. Frustrating!  I kept bringing it up, asking those involved what they remembered, not getting much, wondering if all hope was, indeed, lost.

Until I DID find it, on my phone, two days ago. With glee I declared my retrieval. The problem was I now had the punchline but could not remember the setup, a detail I would have thought (and apparently did think) not super necessary.  Being all of this as it may, I am now going to attempt to reconstruct this gem of a moment I had with Julian in the kitchen coming up on one month ago.  It's one of those moments where I feel a combination of emotions: frustration, defensiveness, and then pride, amusement, and ultimately, love. 

I was standing in front of the refrigerator trying to figure something out. Some solution to some problem. Julian was to my right at the sink.  I believe I asked him to help me and explained details of the situation or my thought process on figuring this thing out.  OMG I think I remember!!! I had one of those bamboo reusable Swedish towels. They're awesome, by the way. And I keep ours hanging on the side of the island. He had spilled some water from the fridge. I tried to get him to use the Swedish towel and he resisted for some reason, (do you like how I'm still trying to recall the details. This is how I always tell stories or recount dreams) thinking it had to be wet first? I am not sure. I think I explained that it'll absorb it all and it's fine. 

He responded, "You don't have to talk to me like I'm an idiot. But that's not gonna work. You have to get it wet first."    Which... is untrue. (??) But the tone was maximum condescension. 

Immediately all of the moments flashed into my head where he has responded to my sincere inquiries with extreme impatience and "DUH" attitude.  Defending myself, I explained how the Swedish towel works, since he seemed to be unfamiliar.  And then I said, 

"And that's funny, because you're talking to me like I'M an idiot. And if anyone's an idiot, it's YOU--for thinking this wouldn't work."  

And he swiftly returned, "Well then YOU'RE the idiot for thinking an idiot could do it."   

And I laughed and laughed because he was so quick, because that's how we talk to each other, logic perhaps mixed with insults and humor and I definitely stand by what I said even though yeah, I guess called my son an idiot, and was just so pleased with that whole interaction.  

Epilogue: Feeling some fondness for the time that he, as a 6yo, was reading Calvin & Hobbes and asked me what "i-d-o-t" spelled" (hee hee hee) and I said "It spells i-dot. But don't say it, it's a bad word" and then, knowing he would file it away, waited patiently and gleefully until that fateful day when he'd pull it out and, thinking it a real zinger, use it on someone. Which happened, and my cup overflowedeth.  "What an i-dot!"  God bless us, everyone.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Overheard at Walgreens

 I recently visited the same Walgreens twice in just a couple of days for some photo printing. And this post is a dedication to the photo desk clerk there. I confess, most of this post will be about something I "overheard" myself say to this clerk. But then I got to witness someone else be a part of the magic which pleased me greatly. I shall begin.

The first time, I walked straight to the desk and let her know I needed to pick up some photo prints.  She said,


And, as my brain often does, it froze for a split second, not entirely understanding the obvious intention behind such a question. This happens all the time. Like I pause and think, what does she mean? Does she want to know the purpose of my photos? Like what I plan to do with them?  And then i tell myself, no Jen, that's stupid. Why would she give a flip.  Every once in a while I can pause long enough to recognize the absurd from reality and give the correct response. But sometimes I don't and it's truly embarrassing.  

Quick example: I was recently in a long stretch of hallway in the upper floors of a hotel waiting for the elevator.  A cleaning person was around the corner and called out, 

"are you there?" 

or something like it.  Well, thinking she might be talking to me (why? why would she say this to me, speak so familiarly to me. Whyyyy), I called out,  

"Yes? You want me to hold it for you?"  

Ha ha ha.  So idiotic.  No, turns out she was talking to her colleague, also cleaning rooms. Because that actually makes sense. And I quickly dove into the eventual elevator and got the hey out of there. Ohh anyway. It makes me laugh but yeah, i do it a lot.

Fortunately, this time I was able to keep my wits about me but only just. I replied/half blurted,

"Morello, Jennifer. You want my name, right?"   Yes, Jen, idiot.  Also, giving the last name first is also funny to me.  

She was this tall, quiet woman with gray hair, and who gave the air of giving no effs.  And I somehow felt like I needed to step in line (figuratively) and soldier up to receive her service, which explained my desire to anticipate her need and offer my last name first. But yeah- don't chit chat- get in, get out. Like the soup nazi, but the photo desk at Walgreens.  The kind of person whose quiet manner turns you into a bumbling idiot but you still want them to like you, to deem worthy to help. She never was angry or short. Just did not bother with pleasantries, and I really respect that.  I got my photos and got out without further incident.

I went back a few days later for another print job.  This time, a customer was in front of me, a young woman.  And I heard her fall prey to the piercing stare/don't-make-small-talk/makes you feel like an idiot desk clerk and I relished it. The woman conversationally said,

"This will be the least expensive thing I buy today!"   

"Ok," was the reply.  

And that was all. It was awkward, and I felt so happy. 

When it was my turn I knew just what to say, but then because I was feeling so cheery and also bold, I said to this woman who I was now trying to be friends with for some reason, 

"Would it be annoying if i rang that bell to see what it sounds like?"  
For on the counter was a tiny red cowbell with a "ring for service" sign.  She said, "no."  I rang it, and she said in her special, straight forward, straight faced, almost "you're dumb" but not quite- way, 
"It sounds like a cowbell."  Because that's what it is, simpleton. What did you expect?

I said, "Yes it does. A cowbell."  What did I expect? I am a simpleton.

And I left and now we are best friends.