Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Bottle of Hope

I absolutely love creating my resolutions for the new year.

I feel like a big bottle of hope and optimism on January 1st.

Absolutely anything and everything feels possible, and there's something so exciting about a clean slate.

I wrote all of my goals down in the front of my 2017 planner. I wanted them in an easily accessible place that I could reference whenever I needed a little reminder.

Speaking of planners, I take my annual agenda seriously. This year, I decided upon one from Rifle Paper Co. Isn't it lovely?

Without further adieu, I present to you, Jenna's 2017 New Year's Resolutions!

1. Spend way less time on social media. Blog instead. I can't believe how instinctively my fingertips navigate to the Facebook and Instagram apps on my phone. I know I post way too often, and I can't help but wonder, "Why?" I want my sharing to be more meaningful in the new year.

2. Be more thoughtful. Send birthday cards. Bring in treats more regularly for my coworkers. Be a better listener. Those sorts of things.

3. Be less gossipy. I'm such a nosy Nellie, and I need to mind my own business.

4. Focus on myself. Stop comparing my life to others'. This one connects with the first point (and let's be real, the third) on this list. Everyone is different and approaches life's milestones at various times. I need to remind myself of that and just concentrate on my own life.

5. Learn to French braid. Random, I know, but this is something I've been wanting to learn for quite some time!

6. Attend weekly mass.

7. Slow down. Impatient, painfully punctual, driven. These qualities of mine all make me rush through my days. I need to realize that it's okay if I arrive to my desk at 7:10 instead of 7am sharp, and that I can take life a little more slowly.

Happy 2017, one and all! I hope your year ahead is just fantastic!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Loss of Innocence

Donald Trump has been named the 45th President of the United States.

This is a post about how that makes me feel.

I know political posts can be annoying at best, hurtful and divisive at worst, so I understand if you don't wish to read any further.

I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. And it wasn't because the autumn air was crisp and my bed was so perfectly warm, with our two dogs snuggled beneath. And it wasn't a result of staying up until half past one, a glass of forgotten Merlot on the coffee table and a racing heart in my chest.

It was because I've never been so overwhelmingly sad.

I cried this morning as I read the official news of Donald Trump's victory. I cried harder when I thought about how his presidency could affect my friends, my family, and my country's future. Would gay couples now be denied the right to marry? What about refugees fleeing for their lives? Would they be sent away? Was rape culture not only going to continue but thrive in a country where the leader thinks it's perfectly acceptable to grab women by their pussies?

It's sickening.

For the record, I don't see Hillary Clinton with rose-colored glasses.

Deep down, I can't shake my moderate core. And I still identify as a practicing Catholic. I voted for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. And while my political beliefs have admittedly started to lean left over the past four years, I know I would have considered voting Republican this election had the candidate been someone else.

But Hillary Clinton grew on me. Not just because she was "not as bad" as Donald Trump but because she's intelligent, brave, and tenacious. She somehow kept calm during those terrible debates. She showed grace and patience during this election. She inspired me.

This morning, I mourned something bigger than a Clinton defeat. I mourned the loss of America as I believed it to be.

As the electoral college results began to roll in, I watched in horror and disbelief.

And today, I had to face the heartbreaking realization that Americans are much more racist, sexist, selfish, and hateful than I could have ever imagined. Apparently "making America great again" was worth the price of so many minorities' rights and dignity. It was apparently worth blindly following a leader with no experience and no plans.

I'm an optimistic person who likes to believe the best of people, and today, I just couldn't. It felt like part of my being had been broken.

Tomorrow, Thursday, I hope to feel more like myself again and to have the energy to figure out an action plan for how I can help spread positivity and progress. I saw that a coworker of mine decided to donate to a bunch of charities that will benefit the groups threatened by Donald Trump. How awesome is that?

I know our country will continue marching forward. We won't be ruined by this tyrannical man.

But this evening, I need to do some grieving for my own loss of innocence.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Worst Fear (Well, One of Them)

On Saturday morning, I usually drive downtown to work out at my company's gym.

This past weekend was no exception, as I cheerfully whipped my car into the garage and up to the second level. There weren't many spots left, so I pulled into one of our "Fuel Efficient Vehicles Only" spaces.

When we first moved into our new building, I wouldn't dare park in any of these spots. I am a rule follower to the extreme, and I figured you needed to drive a Prius or something to park there.

Of course, it didn't take long for me to notice that I was the only person in the universe following this rule, and considering gas-guzzling SUVs and giant trucks were among the crew parking in these spaces, my little Corolla seemed to meet these low standards.

Anyways! So back to yesterday morning.

I got out of my car and was walking toward the stairs when a guy called out, "Hey! I didn't know they made a hybrid Corolla."

Oh. My. God.

I was totally being called out! This was my worst fear!
My face grew red and I stammered, "Uh, they don't? At least I don't think so. I mean, my car has good gas mileage. It's pretty efficient."

"Ooooohhhkay..." he said sarcastically, and even though I knew he was joking around, I was annoyed.

"Hold that elevator!" I replied, choosing to ride down to the ground level with him rather than taking the stairs as I normally do. "Listen, SUVs and huge cars like that usually park there. Everyone does what I just did. It's not a big deal."


He looked so smug! I hated this random man.

So, I stopped irrationally explaining myself and just lied.

"I work here, and they told us it's okay," I (sort of) bluffed. "Okay?"

"Ooohhhkaayy!" he winked, waving goodbye and strolling toward his group of friends. "See ya."

The nerve.

What a jerk.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Where did October go?

Hi there. It's me.

And it looks like I've made October a real kind of "bookends" month for my blog, popping in on the 1st and then disappearing until the very end of the month.

Here's a quick recap of all the fun.

We went apple picking! We ended up with 30 pounds of apples (insane), and thus had to cook up every apple recipe we could think of in the following weeks. We also each ate at least two apples a day for the entire month.

We went to the Renaissance Festival. This was only my second time going, and this year wasn't as much fun as last. Since the weather was just gorgeous, it felt like everyone had the same idea as us, and the crowds were pretty brutal. I also felt totally sick that night after eating Renaissance Festival food...eeeek!

We cooked our very own pho, and it was positively fantastic. It was also surprisingly easy to do, and pretty inexpensive.

I went camping for the very first time. And after posing for a photo in our tent and feeling like I was an L.L. Bean model, things quickly went downhill. The temperature dropped to 40°F that night, and I couldn't stop thinking about a serial killer entrenching upon our camp. Peeing in the woods was as dreadful as expected.

"Let's pack this tent up!" I exclaimed shortly before 8 o'clock that Sunday morning, shaking a poor Adam awake. "Let's GO HOME."

I will never forget how wonderful that hot shower and morning nap in our cozy bed felt. Sigh.

We hosted a costume bash this past Friday. Adam and I dressed up as Hopper and Barb from Stranger Things, Gus was a lion, and Clementine was a monkey. We had two fires going in the yard, chicken and beef chili, and lots of wonderful friends stop by. But man oh man was I ready to take off those reader glasses and itchy wig by the end of the evening.

What I remember most about this October though is the absolutely perfect weather, with so many days of sunny skies and gentle breezes. I remember the lazy weekend mornings, with hazelnut coffee and sleepy dogs, and chilly nights on the front porch sipping on red wine. I remember driving down our street after a night of rain and seeing the orange and yellow leaves floating through the air. I remember feeling cozy and content.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Time for All Things FALL

While I consider September 1st as my personal start to fall (it's when I allow myself to start burning pumpkin- and leaves-scented candles), I must admit that the true beginning to autumn definitely belongs to October.

Oh, October!

I am quite pleased with our little cottage—I believe it's been nicely fall-ified.

I set out a bunch of mums and a few pumpkins on the front porch, and I even found a charming scarecrow at Michael's a few weeks ago. He is standing proudly in the front landscape, where the only thing he's actually scared so far is our Golden Retriever.
Clem isn't afraid of the scarecrow. Probably because she is blind.
I've hung my seasonal dishtowels with care.

In our family room, I created a subtle ode to fall on the bottom shelf of the entertainment center. Aren't my Day of the Dead skeletons amazing? They're my favorites.

I've been wanting to stay in more often on the weekends, opting for evenings filled with hot tea and good books, beginning my annual need for coziness.

And we've certainly switched out our summer dinner go-tos with heartier entrées, like this roasted chicken! NOM!

Today, in celebration of the glorious month of October, I'm throwing on my overalls and we are heading to the apple orchard.

I mean, WHAT could be better? :D

Happy fall!!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

To knit or crochet: that is the question

As many of those close to me know, I am not a tough sell.

When a Sephora associate promises me the jar of beauty cream she's holding is the secret to blemish-free skin? I'm tossing that miracle moisturizer into my basket.

When a friend swears that a certain self-help book cured her anxiety? I'm requesting it from the library (or buying it from Amazon!) in a matter of moments.

When a coworker raves about a new television show on Netflix? You'd better believe I'm blocking out my evening to binge watch.

So while reading Jen Lancaster's Tao of Martha last night and coming across Jen's description of her loom and how calming she finds the process, I felt quite sure I also needed to buy myself a loom. Or take up some sort of textile hobby.

So my question is, do any of you knit or crochet? Which one should I choose?
I've heard varied opinions about which one I should pursue and figured additional feedback would be helpful.

I'd like to create cozy blankets and warm shawls.

I imagine myself knitting or crocheting these beautiful pieces while drinking a glass of red wine and watching my usual rotation of televisions shows (The Office, Parks and Recreation, The Mindy Project, and Sex and the City). Obviously both dogs will sit at my feet as Adam gazes lovingly at me from across the room.

All thoughts welcomed and appreciated!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pursuing a Big Dream

Ever since I can remember, I've loved to write and tell stories.

My parents would give me giant stacks of computer paper when I was little, and I'd pen (technically pencil) the romantic and harrowing tales of Princess Lisa and Prince Jimmy.

Lisa was my babysitter's name. Jimmy was the cute, shy boy who hung out in the art corner of my kindergarten classroom. He looked like a young Josh Hartnett and was my first crush following a summer spent swooning over Ben the Lifeguard at Shady Lane Swim Club.
This is me, right around age five, looking a little crazed.

I wrote my first full-length novel in high school. My heroine was the president's daughter (Remember when that was a big thing? I mean, there were two movies in the late 1990s and early 2000s with this very same heroine!) who fell in love with a boy "from the wrong side of the tracks."

As if I had any idea of what that meant.

"I noticed you had several sentences where you ended with a preposition. I'm not sure if that is an error or whether you did that on purpose to show that Maverick did not always use good grammar. I'm looking forward to the next book. You are very good at developing a story line."
—Email from my grandma, 08/22/06

"It really felt like it was coming from the point of view of a teenager (which it is) and in a novel such as this, one with a teenage main character, it is essential that the portrayal of the teenage experience is believable and realistic and I think you did a great job of this because, well, you are a teenager."
—Email from my friend Brandon, 11/11/06

As you can see, it received RAVE reviews!

Anyways. I circulated that book around friends and family and had a really fun time receiving feedback. I wish I could provide you with a few excerpts, but the novel was lost in its entirety the day my laptop was stolen from my Chicago dorm room.

So if you ever see any books out there about the president's daughter spending her summer in Cincinnati, Ohio? CALL ME!

The second novel I wrote took me the longest.

When I started it, I was one sad gal. My high school sweetheart had broken up with me for...wait for it...his fraternity brother.

He was gay. I was confused and devastated.

I turned to writing for comfort, beginning a chick lit book starring a heroine dealing with a very similar heartbreak to my own.

During the course of writing this novel, though, I changed quite a bit. My ex-boyfriend became my best friend. I met and dated new people. I didn't work on the novel very consistently, and thus, the writing process ended up dragging out over nearly five years!

Wowza! Five years!

By the time I wrapped it all up, I was a completely different person.

I self-published the book on Amazon (You can buy it here!) in December 2014. I'm proud of how it turned out, and I think it's a very fun read with a lot of heart, but I also learned a lot of writing lessons along the way.

Most important, I learned that while writing will always be therapeutic for me, I don't want to create another heroine that's so similar to myself. It's limiting for your writing process and really confuses things when you the writer are changing as you're penning the book. I mean, if you follow all of your own exact feelings and moods, your protagonist might look a bit schizophrenic.

Second, I learned that it's basically impossible to find an agent or publisher for a book you've already put out there on Amazon.

Amateur mistakes, but very valuable lessons learned.

All of this brings me to today, the present.

I finished my second novel at the end of July. This one only took me about seven months to write, and I am really, really proud of how it turned out.
Adam and I celebrated the night I finished with pink champagne and Moscow Mules
Many mornings, I would wake up at 5am and write for a few hours before work. I stayed in weekend nights and stayed awake much later than I should on work nights.

I feel like this latest novel is finally the point where talent and dedication came together, which is one spectacular combination.

My novel has...
  • quirky pop culture references
  • a great love story
  • wonderful friendships and family relationships
  • witty dialogue
  • A whole lot of heart
Can you tell I think it's totally lovely?

I am about six weeks into the querying process (the tip of the iceberg, really), and it's an experience that can be discouraging for the most optimistic and determined of writers. I have been reading other authors' publishing stories, and while each is different, I have a good perspective of how grueling this process can be.
I split my querying time between this book and the Literary Market Place
Everyone's taste is different; just because an agent passes on your book doesn't mean it isn't up to snuff.

Finding an agent can take years and years.

After you do find an agent, it can take a long time to find a publisher.

And then! Even if the stars align and all of this does happen...maybe your book won't sell well. 

I try to be realistic about what it takes to become a published author. But sometimes, I feel a little overwhelmed by the whole ordeal rather than staying positive and thinking of this all as a fun adventure.

I mean, I'm chasing my biggest dream! How awesome is that?

And I have enjoyed reaching out to agents. Even when passing on my work, many agents have sent along an encouraging note and positive feedback. And I'm definitely learning new things about the querying process and the publishing industry daily.

So today, I needed to write this all down and put it out there, out into the universe. I needed to remind myself of how far I've come and how determined I am to become a published author.

I love telling stories. I love making people laugh. I love the overly dramatic.

Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, and Emily Giffin (among many, many other authors) have been sources of happiness, comfort, humor, and calm for me over the years. I want to publish these same sort of tales that help people escape the anxieties of everyday life for a bit.

If you've made it to the end of this post, you are #suchagoodblogfriend, and thank you for following along.

Any positive thoughts or vibes you'd like to send my way are much appreciated!