Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can I Get a V-C-F-A?

It's that time of year again -- time for me to trek over to Montpelier for my MFA residency at VCFA. (That's Vermont College of Fine Arts -- or, as I discovered to my great glee last winter when I sent a box that way and ran out of room on the mailing label: Vermont College of F.Arts. I'm still laughing about that.)

I have one last semester left of my program and it's going to be a doozie. Over the course of the next six months, I'll write a lecture AND finish my creative thesis. This residency is kind of the gateway to all that, though, and a chance to spend nearly two weeks with a bunch of great people. Also, I get three squares a day without having to wash a single dish.

I don't know how much time I'll have to blog while I'm away at school -- but I'll try to stop in more than a few times. See you then!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Flashback Friday: On the road again...

It seems I spend most of my summer behind the wheel.

Today we leave Thief River and head to Maple Lake, where we'll hold an early family birthday party for my almost-11-year-old at my grandma's cabin. The weather looks fan-tas-tic for nine cousins to play in the water, so we've lucked out there. (It's so much a better scenario than nine cousins chasing each other around the cabin...)

Then tomorrow it's the long drive back to Rochester. I'll sit pretty for just over 24 hours, then it's off to Vermont for my MFA residency. Good times.

In honor of this flurry of travel, Flashback Friday features a roadtrip story from last summer:

* * *

‘Tis the season for hitting the road. For throwing the luggage in the back of the car and heading out — to the beach, the reunion, the woods, the wedding.

Both my and my husband’s families live “up north,” so we spend more than our fair share of summer weekends on the road. I’d like to say we’re seasoned pros, but to be honest, there’s room for improvement.

On our last trip, we took my husband’s Kia Sportage. With no a/c. And with so many bags, backpacks, and portable DVD accessories that the stack o’ stuff on the floor in front of me was level with my seat. I had two available positions: legs folded “criss-cross applesauce” or feet on the dash.

And did I mention there was no a/c?

The space issue was my fault. I’m a chronic over-packer. I fill the vehicle like I do the dishwasher — wedging pieces into every last nook and cranny. I think it’s because I throw my stuff together fifteen minutes before we leave — frantically running around the house with an open backpack.

“Will we need the bug spray?”

“We’re going to an indoor waterpark.”

“Yah, well, I’ll throw it in just in case. How about the karaoke machine?”


“OK, just the portable CD player with a couple of the disks.”

Even as I’m making my final walk out the door, I’m grabbing random supplies. Anything in my path makes it on our trip — a box of Legos, a couple of couch pillows, the kids’ baby books.

By the time I’ve gathered the necessities, everyone’s waiting in the car — juice boxes loaded, earphones plugged in.

“Are you ready, yet?” my husband pleads.

“Almost, I just need to get my knitting.”

“You knit?”

“I did. Once. I thought I’d start again.”

“During the drive?”


“I thought you were going to update the baby books.”

“I am.”

“And finish your article.”

“I am.”

“And build a city made of Legos.”

“…I am.”

“You do know it’s only a five-hour drive?”

Truth be told, those are the things I’d like to do… if I didn’t spend most of the ride sleeping.

It turns out that spending any more than 20 minutes in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle is my equivalent of taking a handful of Nytol. By the time we hit Pine Island, I’m usually out cold.

Which is unfortunate, because there’s no pretty way to sleep in the car. And I know this because I’ve seen others sleep in cars as they drive alongside me. Their heads pressed against the glass, mouths gaping open, the imprint of the door lock on their foreheads.

And I think, That’s Love. If they get where they’re going, and their significant other — the person who watched them drool on themselves for 150 miles — still wants to be seen with their door lock-lined face at the family reunion, that’s love. And if my husband, who has put up with me packing three suitcases for a two-day trip up north for 10 years, still wants to travel with me, then that’s love, too. Roadtrip love. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Time Travel

After traversing the state from corner to corner yesterday -- a trip that took more than seven hours and two stops at fast-restaurants -- the boys and I are in Thief River Falls. Thief River (also affectionately called TRF, TR, or my personal favorite, Tough Rubber Balls by the locals), is my hometown, and the place where my parents, sisters, nieces and nephews still live.

There's a comfort in being here. Even though it's been 20 years since I left, the landscapes of Thief River are as familiar as if I'd never gone. (Even after Wal-Mart bullied its way into town and left several downtown storefronts empty, and the 7-11 turned into a meat market.) When pumping gas at Pennington Main or stopping at Lori's Hallmark for a birthday card, I'm likely to run into an old neighbor or one of my cousins. And at the Rusty Nail, I'm almost guaranteed to see one of my old high school teachers hanging out at the bar.

That's, actually, a little strange.

But with the exception of seeing Mr. H with a beer, time has stopped for me here.

When I go to the Hugo’s parking lot to pick up milk for my mom, I’m still looking for Tom Pittman’s white ’68 Mustang in the parking lot and his toothpaste smile and dark brown eyes at the checkout lanes.

When I come in on Hwy 59 at the double lanes and cross the intersection at the Holiday gas station, I see the charred remains of the stoplight after a high-speed chase killed an older couple and landed a teenager in jail.

Oakland Park Road leads to the park, not where my family reunion was held last summer, but where my high school boyfriend and I used to make out in the tall grass at the base of the old sanitarium. Tindolph is where my high school best friend Nenna lives, regardless that she’s in New Mexico now. And the light at the end of that long driveway we pass on the way to my parents is my grandfather’s reading light over his recliner… even though the chair is gone now and my grandparents sold the house to my little sister years ago.

When I come home, I drive by these landmarks and others -- my other grandparents’ little white house with the “214” still peeling on the garage, the beach where Nenna and I drank from two-liter bottles of wine coolers, the dock off 8th street where I wished on pennies with a boy I hoped was wishing for me -- jostling time and place and confusing facts until I leave and life is as it should be again.

This Week in Jen's World...

What are you reading this summer? Here are my picks -- straight from this week's Jen's World.

* * *

When I was in grade school, my friend Kelly and I regularly sang the entire Grease album at sleepovers. We belted out “You’re the One That I Want” with diva-tude and layered on the drama for “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” But “Summer Nights” was our piece de resistance. Somehow, Kelly always landed the Sandy part while I was stuck with Danny.

While reminiscing and humming “Summer Nights” the other day (and taking both parts, thank you very much), I realized something: Instead of singing, “Summer lovin’…” I was saying, “Summer… reading.” As in, “Summer reading, had me a blast…”
What is up with that? Am I so boring now that summer reading trumps summer lovin’?

Geez, I hope not.

At any rate, it got me thinking about the book I just finished, which, seeing as it’s June, is officially summer reading. Now, I’ve got a personal problem and it’s called whenever-I-read-a-good-book, I-want-everyone-else-to-read-it,-too. I’ve told dozens of people—from my mom to my writing students to that guy at Kwik Trip who made the mistake of saying, “How are ya?”—about the book I just read. But apparently that’s not enough, because I thought, “Hey! Why not spread the word to all my reader-friends, too?”

So excuse me while I turn all Oprah on you and list my summer must-reads. Consider it the Jen’s World Book Club.

I get a little nervous about this, because the books I love you could think are absolute drivel. In fact, I once recommended a book I thought was pure genius (it's actually titled A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) to a friend who couldn't get through the first chapter. I later redeemed myself, though, when I recommended it to another friend who loved it so much that she claimed to want to “lick the author's feet.” So, you know, I'm going to take a chance:

1. Right now I’m reading Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. You may be familiar with Bryson as a travel writer. In Thunderbolt Kid, though, Bryson writes about growing up in Iowa in the 50s. A gifted and entertaining storyteller, Bryson’s anecdotes are heavy on the wit and laced with humor. On a recent road trip, I read excerpts to my husband and kids, and had them laughing out loud.

2. Considerably less funny is Abigail Thomas’ A Three Dog Life. In this memoir, Thomas’—an author and teacher living in New York—writes about her life and marriage after a traumatic brain injury irretrievably changes her husband. Thomas writes sparsely, and the book isn’t heavy with emotion or sentimentality as you might expect. It had such an impact on me that I read it twice, back to back.

3. Population: 485 is written by Wisconsin’s own Michael Perry, who also happens to front Michael Perry and the Long Beds, a band that played in Winona recently. Population: 485 recounts the people Perry meets when he returns to his hometown as volunteer firefighter/writer. And really. Who doesn’t like a book that features an entire chapter on a cross-eyed butcher called Bob the One-Eyed Beagle?

I have more recommendations—ranging from Dr. Suess to Anne Lamott. (And if you’ve never read Joan Didion, find her essay, “On Going Home,” and just try not to shake your head and mutter, “wow” when you’re done.)

But I’ll hold those for another time. Until then, this has been the first edition of the Jen’s World Book Club. There’ll be no quiz later. But if you decide to pick up one of these reads, I’ll be interested to know what you think.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Dangit! I missed a day. It happens.

Even though I haven't been doing Writing Jenny for long, I already have this kind of internal alarm clock reminding me to post daily. (It's a recording that pops up when I'm pouring milk into my son's Honeycomb or stepping painfully on the seventh Lego of the day: "Blog! Blog!")

But the truth is, I didn't think about this blog even once yesterday. Didn't cross my mind.

I've spent a good chunk of time at Mayo lately -- a habit I'm none too keen on continuing. Yesterday, I had my fifth appointment in as many days, three of which found me with my feet in stirrups while I made small talk over my knees.

So it hasn't been my favorite week in the world... but it could've been much worse.

Last week, the doctor holding my test results told me he was going to "ruin my day." Not exactly the intro I was looking for. He told me that I have a mass on my ovary... and that we better screen for cancer.

He talked about surgical options and risk factors, too, but they came after "cancer," so they're pretty much a blur. I took a blood test, and then spent the weekend prepping for the triathlon, staring at my kids, and whispering "benign" to myself, as if repeating it would make it true.

And then yesterday, the doctor who ruined my day told me that my blood test -- which screens for ovarian cancer -- came back negative. Is it 100% accurate? Nope. But it's promising, and I'll take it.

I have some more not-so-fun appointments ahead of me, including surgery later this summer. But I can't help but feeling incredibly lucky.

I feel lucky to not only have access to healthcare -- but to have access to some of the best healthcare in the world. I feel lucky to live in a country where health information is accessible, so that I have long been educated about warning signs and when to get help. I feel lucky that medical research has developed screening tests -- and that mine came back negative. I feel lucky that I have a support system of friends and family at times like these.

So I didn't blog yesterday. I didn't blog because I spent the first half of the day making that above-the-knee small talk, and the second half hugging my kids while thinking about how lucky I am to be me, here, now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flashback Friday

In honor of my parents' road trip to Washington this week, I'm pulling this old column from the vaults. It first appeared in the Post-Bulletin in May 2006.

* * *

Back in March, the P-B ran a story about a retiree who left his wife at a Wal-Mart when he drove away in the couple’s motorhome. Hours later, he realized she wasn’t sleeping in the back, after all. Outrageous, right?

Not exactly.

It was 1996, and my parents were driving across Minnesota in their Pace Arrow RV. A couple hours into their trip, my dad pulls over to check on his Harley, which is strapped on the back. My mom decides she could use some fresh air, too — so, unbeknownst to my dad, she hops out her side of the rig. She reaches the back of the motorhome just in time to see her husband jog up the other side — and pull away.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” she thinks as she watches the RV fade on the horizon. “He’s got to realize I’m gone; I was sitting right next to him when we stopped!’”

But, of course, he doesn’t. My father, the career cop, assumes my mother has headed to the bedroom for a nap.

Back on the road, my mom’s assessing the situation. It’s about 9 p.m. on a moonless September night. Best as she can tell, she’s somewhere between Perham and New York Mills on Highway 10. This is, by the way, the definition of the middle of nowhere. She has no cell phone. No purse. No one to turn to to say, “What just happened?!”

So she starts walking. Certain my father’s returning for her any minute, she keeps potential rescuers (and “crazy people”) at bay by pretending to be out for a power walk — swinging her arms wildly whenever cars pass by.

About two hours into her hike, she’s passed a potato plant (no phone), a farmhouse (big dog), and spent a good hour walking the median (skunks in the ditch). At long last, she takes a ride with a truck driver who drops her at the first open gas station, about 20 miles down the road.

“You won’t believe my story,” she says to the clerk as she walks in.

Meanwhile, just north of St. Cloud, my dad and his brother, who he’s been following, pull their RVs off to the side of road. My dad decides it’s time to wake his wife.

Except, as you and I know, she’s not there.

This is where all hell breaks loose. When he doesn’t find her in the bedroom, my dad checks the bathroom. He looks under the table. He tries the bedroom again. As he tells it, “Honest to God, I was looking in cupboards.”

He calls 911. Admits he’s lost his wife. They’ve no one available to look for her, but they do have reports of a woman wandering the median on Hwy 10.

Commandeering his brother’s Ford Escort, my dad drives 90 miles per hour back up Highway 10 in search of his wife. (The poor car would rattle until the day they sold it.)

At about this time, my phone rang. “Have you heard from your dad?” my mom says. “I’m in Wadena and I can’t get his cell.”

"Aren't you with him?" I ask.

The story unfolds. I call an uncle, another cop, who promises to reach my father.

As it closes in on midnight and he speeds up Highway 10, my dad gets a call. “Is that motorhome so big you could lose your wife in it?” my uncle asks.

The rescue was swift. But the teasing and ribbing went on for years. In fact, it’s reached epic proportions. My parents were on vacation a few years back when a new acquaintance started telling a story. “Did you hear about that guy who left his wife on the side of the road in northern Minnesota…?”

Thursday, June 17, 2010

There's a New Cook in Town

Dinner tonight was courtesy of my eight-year-old.

A couple weeks ago while I napped ("Today we're going to work on telling time," I'd told him. "Wake me up at 3:45..."), Bergen honed his culinary skills. And by that, I mean that he not only watched the Food Network, but grabbed a notebook and jotted down the featured show's recipe.

He must've figured it was a winner.

To his great pride, Bergen prepared his main course for dinner tonight (with a bit of help from Mom). It was delish. In fact, the whole family raved and Bergen ate two servings.

I thought you might like the recipe... just as Bergen recorded it that afternoon:

Mini Meet Ball Samwiches
corn flacks
2 table spoon ketcup
2 table spoon oliv oil
half pond Beef
$375 for 15 minits
wroll up in hand tell meet Ball shape.
Serv on buns.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Ridiculous Is What It Is..

Today's Jen's World column....

* * *
Last year, I did my first triathlon. I spent the entire summer getting ready for the big event. I swam between the buoys at Foster Arends. I biked up and down the Douglas Trail. I ran loops around my neighborhood until I was practically dizzy. I went so far as to drive out to Waseca the week before the race to try the course. And when the starting gun went off that fine August morning of the race, I might not’ve been the fastest athlete out there—but dang it, I was ready.

This year, I’m doing the Rochesterfest Triathlon. It’s being held in four days. I can’t help writing that last line without breaking out laughing. It’s ridiculous is what it is.

I haven’t been anywhere near as dutiful in my training this time around and I’m trying to figure out why. Am I not scared enough? Am I in denial? Has my mind been preoccupied with other matters? (School + Work + Family + Volunteer + Facebook does make for a full schedule.)

Until a few weeks ago, I thought I was doing okay. I’d even been doing the “interval” course on the stationary bike for up to 10 miles—which is how far the bike portion of this tri is.

But then, last week, I did my first training ride on the actual Rochesterfest course on 18th Avenue. I’ll tell you what: I could’ve stepped off my bike, laid down on the shoulder of the road, tucked in my arms, and rolled up that hill faster than I was biking it. Holy hills.

I huffed and puffed up 18th, making contorted expressions with my face and desperately trying to come up with an excuse to get out of this triathlon. (Quick? Do I know anyone with strep?) But by the time I rolled back into my driveway an hour or so later, I thought, “Well, I guess it wasn’t all that bad.” (Kind of like childbirth, now that I think of it.)

And besides, I convinced myself, I already signed up for the fool thing and paid my money. So I’m doing it even if I come in crawling. Which is a very real possibility.
The swimming portion feels tougher this year, too. When I train in the pool, I rotate between multiple strokes—usually the breaststroke, followed by the side stroke (so I can see what’s going on), and then the backstroke (to rest up). You may’ve noticed that I didn’t mention the freestyle (“the front crawl”). Apparently it’s the fastest stroke, which is why everyone does it. But it kicks my butt, and my goal isn’t speed, anyway. It’s completion. I’ll doggie paddle if I have to.

I bought a wetsuit this year. Not because I’m freaked out by the weeds or anything (actually, I kind of am)—but because a wetsuit adds some buoyancy. I’ll take any help I can get. Come to think of it, I haven’t even tried it on yet. I should probably get on that.

The last event of a triathlon is running. And, oddly enough, I’m not too worried about that. I figure the worst thing that could happen is that I’m so exhausted by that point that I end up walking those last three miles. Worse things have happened. As long as I make it to the run, I’m optimistic that I’ll finish, even if I do straggle in last.

I’d really prefer if that weren’t the case, however. I still have a few days left to build my endurance. And you can bet I’ll be using these days to their fullest. Watch for me: I’ll be the one biking up and down 18th Avenue in running shoes and a wetsuit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Video Tuesday

I was just in from swimming at Foster Arends when I remembered I had a video due today...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shhhh.... he's sleeping

I'm typing this as my 10-year-old sleeps next to me on the living room floor. To tell you the truth, I kind of wish I was him -- but my goal is to post to this blog every weekday... and seeing as it's now 11:11 p.m., I'm getting this one in just under the wire.

Christian had trouble falling asleep tonight. He had hockey camp this afternoon followed by an evening of pizza and kickball at a friends' house, so those endorphins were really pumping today. I've been there. So when he wandered out of his bedroom at 10:15, I told him to grab a pillow and blanket and settle in next to me so I could rub his back while I work. (Tonight, by the way, "work" equals considerable amounts of time surfing Facebook while printing a grant that's due tomorrow and putting off writing next week's column.)

So here Christian sleeps, on the floor next to where I sit. (My office is so yesterday.) He's in last year's Relay for Life T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and a mop of hair that I think is getting too long and he thinks isn't nearly long enough.

When he sleeps, Christian still looks like my little boy. His skin is creaseless and soft. His eyelashes curl above his pink cheeks. His nose is dotted with freckles. But sticking out from the blanket, his feet are as big as mine and his legs aren't far behind.

He has an e-mail account. Can edit his own videos. Knows yo-yo tricks. Yesterday, he had a personal best 5K at 25 minutes on the nose. I came in at 31 minutes, a minute from my personal best.

I remember when I was 10. I remember telling my Mom with a sigh, "I'm in the double-digits now," as if she and I were suddenly in the same club. I remember feeling somehow wiser. Like I'd left something behind.

I just reached out and pushed some of Christian's hair behind his ear. Instinctively, his hand raised in his sleep, but fell again before it reached mine. He fascinates me, this boy who taught me more than a decade ago how to be a mother.

"We're both learning how to do this," I tell him sometimes when we butt heads. "You're learning how to grow up and I'm learning how to mother you as you grow up. We have to help each other."

This summer, Christian will be 11. "A preteen," he tells me with a bit of a swagger. It's a time of contradiction. He doesn't want to go to sleep without a cuddle, but he also doesn't want me going in the locker room with him at hockey practice.

As he bridges this time -- this child whose leg is crossing mine as he sleeps -- I hope he stays safe, of course, and happy, and the good-natured boy I know. And I hope I don't screw it up... don't stand in the way of letting him become who he's supposed to be.

I think that's going to be my greatest challenge: Letting this peaceful little boy dreaming beside me grow up.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wednesday's Jen's World

Wednesday's column is up on the Post-Bulletin site. It's a bit dated now, but if you want to read about how I spent my Memorial Day, you can find that article here.

Happy weekend to all! I'm looking forward to the Farmer's Market in the morning and some hardcore triathlon training in the afternoon. (The tri is a week away and I'm justifiably freaking out!)

Then Sunday finds me and Christian at another 5K (the MacAttack down at Silver Lake), followed by a progressive deck party in our neighborhood.

What a fantastic weekend. Hope the same for you!

Flashback Friday

Traditionally, I've closed the school year with a Jen's World ode to my sons' teachers. But I'm not writing a sappy end-of-the-school-year column this year, and you can read into that any way you like.

Instead, Flashback Friday features the column I wrote last year -- about two fabulous teachers who taught my kids more than they know.

* * *

I always get sappy at the farmer's market. It just makes me so happy.

For starters, the number of people who come out to support local farmers blows me away. Last Saturday morning, as I joined the throngs crossing Fourth Street, I found myself immersed in an electric hum of music, conversation and laughter. From young families pushing strollers to old couples walking hand-in-hand, everyone just seemed so glad to be there.

And why not? They were carrying bags of hand-washed onions and artisan breads, tomato plants and jars of honey, baskets of flowers and bags of fresh salad greens — all bought directly from the people who produced them. How cool is that?

I wanted to hug everyone there — but especially the farmer who was so kind to the elderly customer in front of me that he put his arm around the man's stooped shoulders, leaned in close to hear his request, and carried his purchases to his truck. I bought my tomato plants from that vendor for that reason alone. It's also why I had to forcibly restrain myself from screaming, "I love this place!" on my way out.
But I'm always emotional this time of year. It's the end-of-the-school-year thing. It gets to me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm excited for summer vacation — for lazy mornings and long bike rides and afternoons at the pool. But, oh, the goodbyes.

My sons have had, once again, excellent teachers in the Rochester public school system. My nine-year-old's teacher, Mr. Heins — whom Christian calls "the best third-grade teacher ever" — impressed me from the start. Way back at "Meet the Teacher" night last August, Mr. Heins told a room full of eager-faced parents that we were welcome in his classroom any time, that he limits homework so that we can prioritize family time, and that he expects a lot from our children.

But it got better. Over the course of the year, I learned that in addition to reading, writing and math, Mr. Heins also stresses the importance of ecology and environmental responsibility. That he encourages storytelling by helping his students publish their own books. That he rewards hard work with extra (and much-needed) time on the playground. And (I'd be remiss if I didn't add Christian's highlight): That he makes balloon animals for birthdays.

No, it won't be fun saying goodbye to Mr. Heins… but I hope we'll meet again when my seven-year-old moves up the grade-school ladder.

For now, however, my seven-year-old's final schooldays mark an even more poignant ending. By an incredible stroke of luck, we've had Bergen's teacher, Mrs. Hansen, in our lives for three years. She was, after all, his big brother's kindergarten and first-grade teacher, as well.

Mrs. Hansen is patient and positive, has a terrific sense of humor, and treats her students like people — which, when you're in first grade, is a very big deal. But mostly she really cares. She doesn't want her students to "get by." She wants them to succeed — and she works her butt off to make sure they get the tools to do that, whether it's extra services or extra face time.

Saying goodbye to Mrs. Hansen reminds me of that part at the end of the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy tells the Tin Man that she'll miss him. She tells the Lion that she'll miss him. And then she tells the Scarecrow that she'll miss him "most of all." That's how I feel. I'm going to miss all of my children's educators — but Mrs. Hansen, I'm going to miss you most of all. (Warning: This is the part where I get weepy.)

Thank you, Mrs. Hansen, for being an advocate for my children. Thank you for encouraging my boys to work hard and to aim high. Thank you for convincing them that they are smart and interesting and capable people. You have given them a foundation that will inform the rest of their lives.

Maybe my children don't realize how fortunate they are to have had Mrs. Hansen and Mr. Heins teaching them this year. But I do — and I couldn't be happier. Or more sad.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Google Yourself

Okay, admit it. From time to time, you Google yourself.

I like to check in every once in awhile to see how close I'm encroaching on Jennifer Lynch Koski, the longtime holder of the No. 1 "Jennifer Koski" spot. (We kind of even look alike, though it seems we don't share similar interests. She's a professor at the Michael G. Foster School of Business.)

Jennifer Koski is also a preschool teacher in the Midwest. And a "new emerging" artist in Delaware. And a 21-year-old in Phoenix who claims rarely to use her MySpace anymore.

We're a varied, though clearly fun, bunch.

So this morning, as I decidedly put off working on a grant for the next school year, I thought I'd check in to see what we Jennifer Koskis are up to today. And that's when I saw the Google images link.

In addition to a terrible past Post-Bulletin head shot (in which I look both naked and like I have several chins), I see that some of my video screen captures are also up for the viewing.

Here's an especially lovely one:

Great expression, right? And what am I wearing? Is that a sundress over pajama bottoms and under a sweater?

Here's another great expression (though the kiddos look cute):

So tell me: What happens when you Google yourself?

I Can't Quit Writing About that Last 5K

I know, I know. I've gone on and on about this. But I saw the Post-Bulletin article on the Chester Woods Trail Run 5K today, and was blown away by the rankings.

I came in 51st. Christian came in... well, look here to find out: Post-Bulletin article.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"I'm Bored"

One hour and eighteen minutes into summer vacation, my son just walked in the house and said, "I'm bored."

(Should I even mention that 22 of those minutes were spent downing celebratory end-of-school Blizzards at Dairy Queen?)

So, of course, I gave him "the stare" and pretty much recited what I wrote in the first line of this blog post. In the past, I've been the mom who says, "Really? Well, I'm sure I can find you some chores to do..."

Which is fine. But I'd like to get a little more creative this year. Ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Toys!

Last weekend was a busy one for us. I ran a 5K trail run with Christian and my friend -- and fellow Post-Bulletin columnist -- Tracy McCray. Tracy wore a shirt that said, “Chatty Chicas” and she wasn’t kidding. It was fun to talk away the race (and solve the world’s problems in the process) with her. And, really -- what else was I supposed to do? Christian stuck by my side for exactly 75 feet, until I said, “You can go ahead of me if you want.” Off he flew.

Other weekend activities included gardening, going to a soccer game to watch Christian’s friends, hanging out at the Freetly's campsite at Chester Woods. We took in a movie. I finished the paperwork that marks the end of my third semester. I managed a hilly 10-mile bike ride to prep for the impending (and WAY too close) triathlon.

So with that much weekend action, is it weird that the highlight might've been getting a rain barrel and compost bin?

On Saturday morning, still in my running clothes and bed-hair, Jay and I hit the parking lot at the Apache Mall, where there was a truckload sale of -- you guessed it -- rain barrels and compost bins.

When we arrived, I saw my friend Katie right away. "How do we know which line to get in?" I asked, since she was standing in one of three lines that ran the expanse of the parking lot.

"It's all one line," she said.

I laughed. "Seriously -- what line do we go in?"

"It's all one line," she repeated.

I stepped back and took a look. It was all one line, snaking back and forth across the parking lot.

Who knew rain barrels and compost bins were such hot items?

The process actually went fairly quickly. We were home with the goods in an hour. This morning, I set the compost up in our garden and started filling it with the potato peels and eggshells I'd saved from last night's dinner and dessert. (I'd made my first lemon meringue pie -- a success even if I never did get that *#&@$%#&% meringue to peak.)

The rain barrel--which, claims Rochester Public Utilities, can cut our water bill by up to 40% by collecting rain water for use in watering our lawn, gardens, plants--is going up this week. According to the EPA, a rain barrel saves most homeowners "about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months." Amazing.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This Week in Jen's World...

Here's this week's column... about an experience I'm repeating tomorrow! Christian and I will be up bright and early for the Chester Wood's Trail Run in the morning.

T minus 10 hours

I'm running my second 5K of the season tomorrow at 8 a.m.
The last time I ran was two weeks ago, at my first 5K of the season.

And swimming and biking? It's been nearly as long.

Do I need to tell any of you that this doesn't bode well for the Rochesterfest Triathlon? That's 16 days away?

16 days.

ha ha ha ha hahahahahahhahahahha....

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Writing Workshop. Check.

Last night marked the final session of spring's small-group writing workshop. I am so proud of my students, who created honest, compelling work and who thoughtfully contributed to discussion. It was fun to watch these writers grow over the last four weeks as they shared their stories and found common ground.

And really? Where else does a person get to read nail-biting running stories, long-held family secrets, and how a complete set of Hot Wheels tires came to be found in a rather unexpected place. (Hint: It rhymes with piper.)

I'll be launching another workshop later in the summer. Watch this blog for details and registration information.

Why I Love June

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Memorial Weekend in 20 Words

Tomato Juice
Anti-itch cream

Today in Jen's World...

Little known fact about this week's Jen's World promo video: My son, Christian, is holding his head so (unnaturally) still because it's covering up a picture in the background that I didn't want in the video. Though, now that I type that, it seems to me that it would've been easier to just take the thing down...

Hmmm... for a reason I don't understand, Christian is cut off when I embed the video. To see the video in its entirety (and Christian's amazing head control!), click here.