Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Mother Nature Deserves a Beer

Our winter was brutal...insanely low temperatures, piles upon piles of snow, and unending gusts of high-velocity winds that would sent good ol' Mary Poppins straight to heck in her handbag.

I'm a winter person. I didn't mind the snow. I like the cold, quiet peace that accompanies winter. It's one of my favorite things....snow. So pretty!

But even I was getting sick of the cold. I panicked about my pipes. I freaked out about losing power and forced my husband to buy a generator. I wigged out about the money spent on said generator. I dreaded my commute and cold car every. Single. Morning. The dark - dear gosh - the dark in the mornings. When daylight savings kicked in you woulda thought I got punched right in the face by Captain Depression. As time passed by with no thaw in sight, I grew more and more....well....negative.

Now don't get me wrong. I've never really thought of myself as an uber-positive person. I get amped up about stuff and get excited about a vast number of things, like horses when they run, or sparkly rocks, or those perfect white clouds you see a few times in the spring and summer. I get happy. But I wasn't the inspiration for the Pharrell song. I'm a bit more sarcastic. A bit more reactive. And lately, a bit more negative.

I'm not talking about the regular negativity I normally have when it comes to things like bad parenting, ignorant food consumption, or poor driving choices. No - I've been taking it to a whole new level these days. Like Grumpy Cat level.....

"Oh, you're having a good day? DON'T CARE."

"Oh, random 70 degree day? HATE IT."

"Oh, you thought of me and invited me to do stuff? NOT GOING."

It's been really over the top. Insane, even. And this is coming from someone who is normally pretty sarcastic and loves dry, sometimes dark humor.

Some people say the weather has a direct connection to your mood. Not sold. You see, we had a beautiful Easter day. It was glorious. Sun. Comfortable temperatures. Birds chirping and all that crap.

I couldn't force myself to get happy....really, truly happy. I was funkified. A couple tough things happened Easter day and I fixated on them. I remember returning to work on Monday and one of my particularly cheerful and lovely coworkers asked me how my Easter was. I totally Grumpy Catted her. "Eh, another day, another dollar....or something."

Really Jen?

For crying out loud it was a beautiful day! I've got a beautiful life! Blessed in so many ways! What the heck is my problem?

I can sit here and list all the things that are stressing me right now but the bottom line is these things aren't to blame. There are people all over the world who have my problems, only amplified by 400% and slapped against their starving faces every second of every day....and they can still smile.

If they can do it, I gotta be able to do it. Happiness is something we create.

So I set out today on a mission. I was going to find my happy again.

The morning started off rough (running late, no gas, mini-tiff with the husband)....but once I got to work, things seemed to just...get better.

Yea, crazy things happened. I was running around like a nutcase most of the day. Some dude decided to deliver 41 huge boxes to my attention but wouldn't bring them from the loading dock to my 3rd floor office. I spilled thousand island dressing on my "business" clothes. I fell horribly behind schedule and had to play Mean Rushed Jen to catch up. But you know what else happened?

Two people, one a dear, gorgeous friend, and the other a complete stranger, told me they read this blog, this one, here, and enjoy it. No, no the words they used were "love it." They love my blog. I should keep doing it, they said. I am really great.

Cue the "radiant beams of glory" sound.

A writer can receive no greater compliment than the thirsty eyes of a pleased, engrossed reader.

It kinda felt like I was waking up for the first time in days. I felt refreshed, determined, and excited. I got my happy back. And it didn't stop there.

When I went home, I had a grumpy Aaron to deal with. Like I mentioned earlier, we had a mini-fight this morning. I was rushing and got pissed because he didn't put gas in the car. If I'm truly honest with myself here, all my negativity lately has kinda carried over into every aspect of my life. This afternoon when I came home, he looked tired and irritated. The moment I walked in, I knew my happy was just a step away from deflating again. I tried to bring him over to my side of the happy field. He wasn't having it. He was in the Jen Funk. I told myself I had two choices:

1. Get pissed. Lose my happy. Join Mr. Misery.

2. Do my thing, try to be there for him (like he was for me all week), and hope he comes around.

Normally, I wouldn't have the energy to stay positive and wait him out. I am an impatient person who is exhausted by the time I get home.

I stood there staring at him and could just feel my mind pushing, pushing for me to provoke an argument. I was battling with myself -

"Man, this jerk. He gets pissed when I'm happy and pissed when I'm mad. Can't win. I want to smash something!"

and then...

"Man, poor Aaron. You've been there, Jen, it sucks. Be nice."

I went back and forth while I did my 40 minute workout and by the time I was done, I knew anger wasn't the answer. I told him I was going for a walk, he was welcome to join, or he could have some pouty wah-wah time alone. He chose to stay home.

And people, this is where the magic happened. This is why I need to buy Mother Nature a beer.

Normally, I would feel a bit slighted by the hubbs deciding not to come out with us. I would wonder all kinds of things....from "maybe it's me?" to "he's still pissed." I'm a sensitive soul - I over analyze -especially when I'm already in a negative mood. Flaws, forgiven, people. Flaws, forgiven.

But this time, I didn't really get the chance to worry too much. I stepped outside and nature kinda rose up in front of me. The sounds, the smell, the light. It was nuts. I felt like an under-dressed Snow White.

It actually felt like spring. In my heart, in my world, in my soul...springtime, if only for a minute. If only to solidify my happy. 

Mother Nature gave me an awesome little glimpse of hope - hope that change is a'comin' and can't be stopped, no matter how hopeless we feel.

Life is fluid. It can change in an instant or leave you waiting for weeks, months...even seasons. Sometimes the weirdest things will snap you out of your cold spell and leave you in a warm, happy place. Thank heaven for great friends, great strangers, and a patient, beer-deserving Mother Nature.

How is Mother Nature shaping your mood, readers? Any of you been blown away by a compliment lately? I'd love to hear your story down in the comments below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)


Friday, April 18, 2014

My Easter Bunny is a Lazy Piece of Crap

I'd like to start by admitting I'm not sure what you'd call me...

....a Christian? Hmmm. Not sure about this one. I stand behind abortions in cases of rape and incest, I love gays, and I do not believe my God, a loving, almighty God, would send mentally ill suicide victims straight to hell. So not sure I fit here. Depends on the Christian judging me I guess! :) 

...a Lutheran? This is the religion I was raised on. I loved my childhood church. I loved the lessons I learned there. I also love yes. I suppose I could call myself a Lutheran....oh, except for one major thing. I haven't been to church in over five years. So I guess we can scratch that one, too.

...a woman doomed to spend eternity in hell? I certainly hope not! We'll find out some day, won't we?

For now, let me just lay it all out there:

Jen on God: I believe in a loving God. I am not what one would call a "God-fearing" woman. All that He does, He does with love. 

Jen on the Bible: I believe the Bible was intended to teach us about life and inspire us to draw meaning from the lessons of the past. Like all other things God created, I believe His lessons were intended to evolve. I do not take the text and apply it literally to my life....mainly because I really hate stoning people.

Jen on Jesus: I think Jesus rocks. He has an incredible story (shoutout to my homie the New Testament!) and has taught me and the world about some seriously important things. I think any day intended to honor him should be celebrated.

So there you have it. A brief little overview of Jen and religion. Not that complex, really. Fairly simple for Jen thoughts.

Now what does any of this have to do with the Easter Bunny? Some of you are undoubtedly thinking I used that catchy title to suck you in to a religious post. I can assure you this is not the case.

No - my objective is to express just how much I, the Queen of Not-So-Religious, have had it with the Easter Bunny. I had to explain all that religious stuff up there so you wouldn't go running for the hills, thinking I was going to go all Jesus Judgement on you. I am not a perfect Christian. I am not a perfect anything. But hear me out on the bunny thing.

Since when did Easter mean dropping a couple hundo on Easter candy, Easter eggs, Easter Barbies, and Easter dresses? Why do I feel the intense urge to buy, buy, buy for my kids like I'm stocking up for the Chocolate-No-More Apocalypse? 

This isn't the first time we've seen this, people. Look at Christmas for crying out loud. You want to know what Aaron and I did to Santa last year? We made him the chump of the season. You see, each Christmas prior, I found my oldest getting less and less grateful for the things she was receiving under the tree. She would open one present, say something about it being awesome, and then would jump to the next present. I got so fed up one year I actually cried about it (image that - Jen, crying? Can't be true!)....Aaron sat me down and said, "Hey, what if we just stop the Santa thing? I mean, what's the incentive behind being grateful when Santa's bringing all the presents? Santa isn't a person she can see or no wonder she isn't grateful. Even if she were to be grateful, it would be to this huge fake person that doesn't even exist."

*KER-PLOW* mind. blown.

So now Santa brings one thing, normally something kinda boring like paper (yes...I wrap paper and put it under the tree). We save the good stuff for "from Mommy and Daddy,"...because really, she needs to know these things came from us. She needs to appreciate our efforts, not the imaginary efforts of some weird old man.

And now our Santa trend, my dear readers, has stepped over into Easterland. 

That stupid bunny will be bringing one thing to my kids - hidden eggs. 

There will be no fake plastic grass that gets stuck hanging out of my cat's butt. No crazy bendy baskets that never look quite right. No "chocolate, chocolate everywhere, but Mommy's always eating our share!" Nope. No, instead my kids will wake up to some poorly-hidden eggs and an "Easter basket" with a few things from Mommy and Daddy - new bathing suits, matching inflatable $1 balls for the backyard, and brand new summertime nighties....2 out of 3 things I would've bought for them anyways later in the spring.

When you think about it, this entire holiday was built on the spiritual themes of renewal, life, and joy. What the heck are we doing giving our kids these huge sugar baskets from some crazy rabbit? 

Here Suzie, instead of renewal, life, and joy, I want you to remember Easter for its sugar, crappy toys, and creepy gift-bunny. Have a great life!

I get magic.....but isn't the magic of life enough? I love explaining how a chicken makes an egg. I love opening an egg and showing my kiddos where a baby chick would be had a rooster been around. I love picking flowers and checking the buds on the trees. I love talking about the story of Jesus and how his lessons can teach us the true meaning of life......which in my world, is love. Religious or not, anyone can appreciate the simple, easy joy accompanying these basic principles. It's just as magical as some dumb bunny - sans the horrifically inflated expectations.

So yes. This year, my Easter Bunny won't be decorating intense baskets overflowing with goodies and pastels. This year, my Easter Bunny is going to be a giant lazy piece of crap...and Mommy is going to do the job of teaching my kids some real Easter magic. 

I hope you each have a wonderful weekend and as always, thank you so much for reading!

Friday, April 11, 2014

We've Been Liebsted! The Liebster Award

I've won! Can you believe it? I won a major award! It's frah-gee-lay....that must be Italian!

No but really....I am so, so honored to announce Maurissa over at Maurissa Sees Beauty has nominated me to receive the Leibster Award, an award given among the blogging community as a sign of reader appreciation and blogging support.

Maurissa, this whole thing has absolutely made my week! !! I've been waiting for days to post about this and am so thankful and excited to pay it forward! :) Thank you so much for caring enough to read and nominate really means the world to me! :)

Now the rules for this award are pretty simple:

  • Thank the amazing blogger that nominated you
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominator provided
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers It's Jen Time (say it like "it's hammer time")
  • Post 11 different questions for your nominees to answer
  • Contact your nominees to let them know that you've nominated them

Here's my answers to Maurissa's 11 awesome questions for me:

1. Why did you start blogging?
I needed a creative outlet to accompany my freelance commercial writing business. I love helping others through my business but my true passion is to write from life. 

2. Favorite beauty product?
Honey. I smear it all over my face! Golden, sticky, 'Merican, bee-butt medicine of love.

3. Who was the last person you said I love you to?
Aaron - he made me dinner and cleaned up so I could start my blog early. 

4. Dogs or cats?
Eh. Different animals are good for different things. I tend to take a practical approach to animals. They protect, they mouse, they provide eggs...those kinds of things. I am not a "my animal is my child" person at all - although I love quite a few people who are :) Keep on keepin' on animal lovers! Power to the paw!

5. What is the color you wear most often?
Black and blue. Cuz Ima baller.

6. The last book you read. Was it any good?
Honestly, I cannot tell you the last time I actually sat down with a good, smelly book and read it. It's not for lack of's lack of time. I am kinda pulled in four different ways 24/7. Reading is awesome and I hope to someday find the opportunity to do it again! :)

7. Tastiest vegetable?
Uhhh..........cucumbers? Do they count? I'm not a huge veggie person, no matter how hard I try. Matter of fact, I have to blend my veggies up into a cup so I eat enough of them to stay healthy. I like fruit and dairy. Cheese, mostly. And wine. Ok so mostly just wine. 

8. What is the TV show you watch most often?
I love The Middle and Modern Family. I don't have TV service so I use this antenna thing to try and catch channels from the sky. On the left side of the living room is ABC and on the right side of the living room is UPN :) HA

9. Favorite summer activity?
I really like planting and watering things. There's a sense of accomplishment when you water a freshly-planted flower or vegetable. Is that a summer activity? I think it should count. It counts.

10. The name of your first pet?
Missy, my mama's mutt. She always growled at me when I went near her food bowl - a real bitch!

11. What inspires you?
Life. I love watching people freak out, then fix it, then freak out again, then fix it's always this fluid, cyclic roller coaster ride. I write from my heart and from a place of pure transparency....the more messed up life gets, the easier it is for me to generate material. So please! Ruin my day! It might become a blog post. 

Here's a list of 11 bloggers I enjoy visiting regularly....I love reading their stuff and I think you will too! I broke the rules with this one a little because who really knows how many followers each person has?? Facebook followers? Google+ followers? What are the benchmarks here, people? I say f-that noise, I'm just going to showcase some kickass bloggers. Rebel!

Here they are...and because they are all #1 in my book.....well....they're all #1 in my list too....

My 11 questions to the lovely, lucky bloggers above:

1. How do you develop blog content?

2. What's your favorite picture-taking device?

3. Drink of choice?

4. Do you blog for business or pleasure?

5. Would you rather be without eyelashes or eyebrows?

6. Least favorite thing about being in a public place?

7. Would you rather write or read?

8. Favorite place to blog?

9. Most insane thing you've ever eaten?...(keep it classy, San Diego)

10. Do you want to build a snowman?

11. Most influential mentor/writer/stranger?

So excited to add this badd boy Leibster image to my blog and hope you guys get the chance to stop by and visit a few of my favorite fellow bloggers. It's worth it, I promise!

Have a wonderful night, dear readers, and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Women and Their Friends: This Chick's Territorial Behavior, Explained

My very best girlfriend recently celebrated a milestone know, one of the big ones, where the first number changes and the second number starts over at zero ***staying cryptic because I love her***...

As expected, this event inspired a slew of celebrations, plans, and well-wishes. Everyone wanted to see the birthday girl and shower her with some well-deserved love. The clamoring for her attention was wonderful and sweet, a true representation of the celebration of life and friendship....

...unless you're that chick's best friend .... and you've been left off of the planning committee.

Yep. Not one, not two, but three separate celebratory plans were made by other girlfriends for my best good friend - all pre-planned without me - all before I could even begin to share my ideas for her big #-0 birthday.

Raging Jen - engage!

Now I've gotten over myself calmed down patched things up with the planners for the most part...and I was luckily invited to two of the three events, so I'll get to participate.....but that swift, fierce anger I felt when I first realized these plans were made? What was that all about?

Why am I so territorial?

Some people immediately conclude I am just being a dramatic, immature ass. I'd be the first to agree with those statements in many cases......but not this one. This runs much deeper than simple childish thoughts or catty attitudes. And contrary to popular belief, I actually don't enjoy drama. It's true.

So hang on, readers. I'm going to attempt to determine the source of this territorial behavior.

Back in the day, women bonded with each other for a slew of reasons. They kept each other company. They depended on each other for things like clothing, food, and childcare. They shared skills and traditions. Some would even argue women actually dominated men by quietly pushing their combined views and agendas behind closed doors every night...tricky, tricky li'l ladies. 

They were like little herds.

Today, women continue to band together during times of heartache and tribulation. We talk. And talk. And talk. We shop for clothes together, eat together (wine parties count), and help each other with childcare (ok not all my girlfriends do this but every one of them would be there for me if I really needed it). And of course, we influence the men in our lives....we run this shizza...with our little herds.

Unlike the cultures of the past, however, we don't interact with each other each day. A majority of today's Americans live in segregated families. The herd only gets back together on occasion. It's part of growing up, moving out, getting married, starting careers, buying houses, having kids...the chance (and frankly, the desire) to hang out and relive the days of old are fewer and farther between.

It's a hard obstacle to beat - maintaining your herd when life's choices and paths are taking you in different directions. But it can be done. 

My longest-standing "herd member" is the person who, almost twenty years ago, decided to be nice to me when everyone else chose to tease. She's the one who held my hand when I cried about my first broken heart...and then my second broken heart....and then my third. She's the person who stood by my side, jaw rigid, when I made a major life decision she didn't agree with. She's the one who to this day braids my hair simply because I love how it feels. She yells at me. She cries with me. She makes me laugh again and again. She knows my answer before even asking the question...

...and vise-versa. I can zero in on the exact moment she gets irritated in a conversation. I can tell, just by watching her body language, if she feels happy with the way she looks today. I know precisely how anxious and nervous she is, regardless of how put together everyone else thinks she is. I know just what to say to piss her off. I know her insecurities, her joys, her passions. I know her, through and through.

You see, we were the original herd. When I had nobody else, she was my herd. It was just the two of us. We spent every waking minute together, day after day, for years. People have come, people have gone...some became incredible, insanely-loved long term herd members. These later additions to the group also fall under my territorial umbrella of love...but in the beginning, it was just the two of us.

We didn't just fall into this friendship. It has required lots of communicating, not giving up on each other, and learning to compromise. We've earned the fruits of our labor - unbreakable, almost unconditional acceptance is not easy to find.

This is special. This is a blessing. This is something that deserves respect.

And that's where the territorial thunder comes in.

In the animal world, those who've been in the herd the longest have seniority...not by default, or because they have a Macho-Woman ego, but because they've proven to be well-versed in the ways of the group. They know each other well enough to execute decisions on one another's behalf and they can predict the outcome of certain social situations before they actually happen. They can do all these things because they've been around each other long enough to learn how. Sure, these skills can be learned by new members of the herd, but never at the same intensity. You cannot turn back time, Cher.

Experiences happen once - that's it - especially the unique, special ones that dot your memory with seemingly-insignificant importance. the first time she slammed a door in my face and made me realize I could not be an asshole just because I was mad. Or when we got trapped in the middle of the street, a crazed dog barking circles around us, clutching each other for dear life and thinking we were gonna die. Or when I twisted my ankle on a rock and she didn't call me a sissy for crying my eyes out. Or when she slept next to me the night my baby was born. Or when she dragged her tired butt up and down countless flights of stairs to help me move my things.....over and over again.

You cannot possibly develop the same understanding and lessons learned as someone who's actually experienced these moments firsthand.

And that's it, people. That is the reason why I am so territorial about my longest, closest friends.

I am trying to protect and preserve bonds I've earned through years and years of experience. It's nice being around people who know you to your core and don't piss you off. Plain and simple. Why wouldn't you want to hold fast to such bonds?

Now let's add another layer of comprehension to the bean dip.

Not only am I trying to protect a relationship I hold very dear to my heart, but I'm attempting to solidify future experiences with someone who happens to be on a very different life path from me at the moment. Her path has more in common with the paths of others....others who are not like me. I am on another road - watching from the distance - loving where I am, but missing the days when we skipped merrily along together.

We've been here before. We've gotten through it. We always get through it. This will be no different.

But it isn't easy. How many people can say they have ten or fifteen friends they've known their entire life, are still ridiculously close to, and expect to love until the day they die? The reality is some friendships don't make it. Different paths often mean goodbye. Some friends don't stick around. It's ok, there's nothing wrong with it. Some things weren't meant to last forever. It happens.

But the ones that were meant to last forever only do so because you give them the power to. 

And so I fight. I fight to be included. I fight to be respected. I fight for recognition - recognition of her role in my life and mine in hers. I can't always hang with the herd and that's ok. She meets me on my path all the time...cuz she loves me. I will continue to fight....tooth and nail....because she is worth it.

Do any of you have a herd like the one I described above? Do you find yourself getting territorial, or am I the only crazy, flawed person in this bunch? I'd love to hear from you in the comments down below!

...and as always, thank you for reading :)