Eight Years

Eight years ago, on May 7, 2005, I graduated from the University of Tennessee. I walked across the stage, had lunch with the family and hopped in my already packed car and drove to Nashville. I walked in my apartment that I’d picked out the month prior and started my journey into grown-up land. I was scared out of my gourd and so excited at the same time.

I knew about two people in Nashville and they were only here for the summer before going back to school. I had only been on Facebook for a couple of weeks (weeks!) so even these “friends” couldn’t help me get rooted. Gawd, how did we ever survive?

I moved Saturday and started my new job on Monday, May 9. What a moron! I had no idea to ask for a week or even a few days to get settled. Also, I was making a whopping $24,000 a year and couldn’t WAIT to bring home that first paycheck. SUCH.A.BALLER.

The first week I was in Nashville some belt in my car started making a funny noise. I called my Dad – naturally. I’ll never forget him reminding me that I was “off the teet” (one of his favorite sayings, to this day) and I better take it somewhere to get it looked at. WTF! You fix it! I already spent my money on booze, frozen chicken and crap at Hobby Lobby to hang on the walls. Ugh – being a grown-up is so hard.

Again – MORON. Little did I know – and I have it good, y’all, that the real fun stuff was yet to come. In retrospect and my old sage-like wisdom, I know I have it good. But I was still in no way prepared for the fun little curveballs life throws you when nobody is around to say “DON’T BE A MORON, moron.” I still have my health, my family and my fur baby – but the last eight years have been eventful, that’s for sure.

I thought about making this post some big “if I knew then what I know now” post, but everything I thought of just sounded dumb and petty. Because I’ve watched friends go through losses that would absolutely wreck me. I’ve watched friends my age lose children, parents, pets, jobs, family and even themselves over the past eight years. I have nothing to do but give thanks for my last eight years of grown-up-dom. I have approximately zero room to complain.

But it’s still fun to reflect and think about the steps that got me right here where I am today, which is a place I’m thankful and so pleased to be in. So I’ll just leave it at that.

Nashville, you keep getting better with age. You fine, country wine, you. Now I’m going to go hug on my family real tight for the next seven days.

XOXO,
Jenn

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Monday Morning Inspiration

This. So inspiring, sad, beautiful — so many things.

I met Kate O’Neill at a blogger event over a year ago. She was one of the speakers on a panel and I immediately thought she was a genius. She’s smart, savvy, a successful business owner and a really lovely person. I don’t even know if she would remember meeting me, but I’ve been following her blog and social media since we met.

She recently lost her “partner/husband/best friend/co-conspirator/co-writer/better half/true love of my life,” as she puts it, very suddenly — and I cannot imagine exemplifying the strength she does in the wake of it all.

Her recent blog post was really beautiful and I thought I’d share.

http://kateoneill.me/on-choosing-what-to-keep 

XOXO,
Jenn

I’m Still Breathing

Hey blogland. I am still alive and kicking. Lots of kicking, actually — which is why I haven’t had time to razzle dazzle you with exciting pictures of myself in sweaty workout clothes or photos of my fat Callie Cat. I don’t know how you’ve managed to get by, yet I commend you for hanging in there.

I am supposed to close on my townhouse next week. In a cruel twist of irony, the closing date is set EXACTLY three (yes three) years (not months) from the date that we (ugh, we) first listed it. Three years. June 27, 2009 – June 27, 2012.

Just until this week when I began to let myself think “wow — this sale may ACTUALLY happen,” I hadn’t realized the emotional weight I’d been dragging behind me for the past three years. Most of you know, it’s not just a house. It’s a 1,600 sq. ft. 3 bedroom/2.5 bath reminder of a place I wish I’d never gone. So the past two weeks and all that has come along with it to sell this home has put me in some sort of mental time warp. Days seem like years and my mind moves like my head is full of molasses.

I am a self-confessed, Type A planner and to-do list maniac, so I have the ability to distract myself with the details and with the process. “Ok — now, I need to reserve a UHaul. Need to schedule the cleaning company. Need to be sure I transfer the HOA account. Need to sell this furniture on Craigslist.” etc. Then the process slows for a minutes and I find a quiet moment to take a deep breath — and I collapse. Of exhaustion, mental and phsyical.

As I cleaned out the last closet in the townhouse Monday afternoon, there was almost nothing left in the entire place except for what’s on the walls and the furniture. (I hesitate to “un-stage” it in case something falls through with the sale). There was only one thing left in one closet. My wedding dress.

It was in a box, preserved. My sweet Momma had done that for me years ago — (and Mom, this is the first time you’re reading this, so I hope it doesn’t upset you). I’d considered what to do with this thing. I didn’t want it staring at me any longer. I researched “Fairy Godmother” type organizations that give wedding dresses to people who cannot afford them, but it seemed all the local organizations were stocked full of wedding dresses and needed prom or formals instead.

I considered having my sister-in-law do a “trash the dress” photoshoot with me wearing it. You know, jump in the lake with it — roll around in the dirt — throw paint on it. (My Mom probably just died a little inside). But a.) could I even fit in the damn thing anymore? and b.) I didn’t want to put it back on, even to roll in cow poop.

So I put it in the trunk and took it to Goodwill. Someone else will love it. Someone else will NEED it. Someone else will maybe start their happily ever after in it and get to feel beautiful and special in this dress they maybe would not have been able to have otherwise.

When I stepped out of the car with it, the Goodwill man at the donation truck said “DAMN. He messed up bad.” The manager asked him to take it in the store right then, not to put it on the truck. “Someone will buy that today,” he said. “You just made somebody’s happily ever after.”

“Hey — that’s what I thought, too, mister. You give to Goodwill, you give me a wedding day.”

“Yeah girl,” he said, with a high five, appreciating my nod to their advertising campaign.

I watched him walk away and teared up a little bit, maybe. I loved that dress and how it made me feel that day. But not how it made me feel today. I couldn’t purge the house, the connection to him, the remaining few things we shared in that house together, but hold onto that dress for some reason. What would be the point?

Even though in many ways I’ve moved so far along the road of my next chapter, and know better about what love should feel like and how it should treat you in return for yours, next week I feel like I’ll take the final step to really shaking that weight off.

I.can.not.wait.

Now — does anyone need a lovely engagement ring and wedding band? I’ll make you a fair deal. 😉 THOSE will not be going to Goodwill.

XOXO,
Jenn

My Favorite Day of the Year

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via. In my case, it’s usually not so silently.

Exhibit A:

Grammarian Strikes Again

I can’t help it.

Today is one of the greatest days of the year – National Grammar Day! I love good grammar and loathe those who have no respect for it.

Now, I don’t claim to be perfect, and I enjoy learning new grammar tricks and rules all the time. I’m sure if you comb through the blog you’d find a whole mess of grammar snafus. I over use the dash and hyphen – and love a good ellipsis…but overall, I try to keep it between the grammar lines. My profession depends on it, after all.

In honor or National Grammar Day, here are a few funnies for you – but some are filled with important lessons, so pay attention.

(Note – to give credit where credit is due, the Somee cards are obviously from someecards.com and all the others are from facebook.com/grammarly).

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(Bonus points if you find the errors in this card).

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Keep your friends close and your doors closer.

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Texting totally perpetuates the butchering of grammar – love this one.

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I have this hanging in my office and it makes me laugh every day.

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My next what?

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Ross is one of my favorite grammarians ever.

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Guilty.

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Happy National Grammar Day! Use it wisely.

XOXO,
Jenn

Peaches and Pecans

Last weekend my family and I took a long weekend and headed south. Way south. My Mom’s family is in South Georgia – Fitzgerald to be exact. Never heard of it? Shocker.

It’s a small town and I sure love it. My brother and I have such fond memories of spending some summer weeks and every Thanksgiving there for as long as we can remember.

But when I got into college, started working holidays and we were all going a million different directions, the Thanksgiving visits unfortunately came to a halt. Long story short, it had been nearly 12 years since Josh and I visited Georgia. For shame – I know.

But as soon as we hit the farm, it all came screaming back. Josh grabbed his fishing pole and headed for the pond. I grabbed a stick and started poking at fire ant hills and promptly got stung/bit by one. Not much has changed.

It was a great trip with great family and we are all beyond blessed.

Here’s a photo recap of the sweet southern road trip for you. Click on any of these to make them bigger.

Ash and I in the car. Five of us in a Toyota Camry – it was cozy, but flew by. Fortunately we’re all hilarious…and we know it. The stories were abundant.

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The farm! And the farm house.

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This old cattle chute used to fascinate me when I was little.

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Poppa Joe and my Momma.

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Fire ant hills. And fishin’.

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Dirt roads everywhere. More guineas in the road than cars.

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Dad caught the biggest fish of the day!

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Poppa Joe promptly went to clean it for dinner – and terrify Ashley by cleaning it for quite a while before finally cutting its head off and putting it out of its misery. Nothing like a fish having its scales scraped off while its gills flap up and down.

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Three generations of good genes, if you ask me.

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My grandma always has about 5 or 6 cats and dogs – plus the chickens, cows, guineas, etc. It was one of mine and Josh’s favorite things about visiting when we were little – seeing what new animals she’d taken in. She worked for the Humane Society, and oftentimes, WAS the Humane Society. She is an animal lover for sure.

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Ashley was quite the fisherwoman too!

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Japanese tourist or fisherman? You decide.

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On the left, the “town”house that Momma Too lived in for a while. Poppa Joe worked the farm, but Momma Too stayed at her “town”house to stay away from all the pesticides on the farm. They would have their date every night when Poppa Joe came into town for the dinner Momma Too had prepared. So sweet.

On the right is the church my parents were married in over 30 years ago.

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Lunch was at Harvey’s – the grocery store. WOW. Look at that buffet. I could eat that again right.this.second. And of course, sweet tea bigger than my head.

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Our resident photog. We’re lucky to have her!

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The pecan orchard. I have many bags of pecans in my freezer from this place!

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That little fella on the far right was so curious about us. It was baby cow season – there were so many of them.

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And lastly, this is what Momma Too looked like most of the day. Doing what she does best – snoozing and cuddling an animal or two. “Multi-tasking,” as she says.

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It was such a good trip. Let’s go back soon, familia!

XOXO,
Jenn

Shut Up and Run for Sherry

The blogging world is amazing. Heck, I’m always in awe when someone comments on my blog from another country — “how’d they get them internet lines all the way across the pond, ya think?” Yeah — it’s like that.

Just when you think the blogging community can’t be any more amazing to me, if goes and does something like this.

Sherry Arnold, 43, a teacher and beloved wife, left her house in small town Sidney, Montana at 6:30 in the morning on January 7 and never came home. Hours later, they found one of her Brooks running shoes. They still haven’t found her body, but seven days later two men did admit to killing her.

I read the hilarious and adorable Beth’s blog over at Shut Up and Run on a regular basis. Beth happens to be Sherry’s cousin. She has organized a virtual run in Sherry’s honor for Saturday, Feb. 11 at 9 a.m. MST. That’s 10 a.m. in my neck of the woods.

You can read all about the run and Sherry’s story over at Shut Up and Run — here.  And download and print a race bib. There’s a FB page on the run, too.

I think for women particularly, this is like our worst fear. It could have been me, could have been you, could have been her…could have been anyone in the path of two sociopaths at the right time. But in the morning and half a mile from her house — where she felt safest, no doubt? Stop the madness, world.

I’ll be running a 5K with my Sherry bib on next weekend, praying for 3.1 miles that her family can bring her home — and being thankful for all the mornings that I was blessed enough to get out of bed and use my God-given ability to run, then return home safely. Because life is short, and you just never know.

XOXO,
Jenn

Heavy Heart, Light Wallet

I know I run the risk of jinxing myself if I put it all out there, but I’m going to do it anyways. Yesterday I made what I hope will be my last mortgage payment on a townhouse that I’ve had on the market for 25 months. Actually, 24 months and 24 days, but who’s counting?

I guess the market had slowed, right about the time we (you can figure out for yourselves who the other half of that “we” is) put it on the market – but nobody suspected it would absolutely tank the way it did, shortly after.

I remember putting it on the market and immediately looking for rental properties that I could move into, when it sold real soon. Ha – oh you sweet naïve thing, you. I never dreamed it would take this long.

I have been eating this entire  monthly mortgage payment for over two years and cannot wait to unload this thing. But really, it’s more than that. I can’t wait for a little family to love this home like I did. I think about the very little I know about the family with a contract on my home, and I picture them there. How they will just love the house, love the neighborhood, love coming home to it every day, love making dinners together in that kitchen, love sitting on the deck and hearing the frogs and crickets sing – I want someone to love my little house like I did.

There’s still so much that could fall through – loans, contingencies, etc. but I am so hopeful that God has found the perfect little family for the perfect little townhouse. And that I can finally cut the ties and move on. I didn’t realize until I heard the words “they accepted our offer – congratulations” from my realtor, and it felt like a 100 pound weight lifted off my chest, just how much it was tying me down. This thing — this mortgage payment and the baggage tied to me because of it — has been so, so heavy on my head and my heart.

Every time my phone buzzes I hesitate to pick it up, in case it’s my realtor saying something fell through. “If I don’t look at the text…it’s not real!”

I know that if something falls through with this buyer, that all will be fine and we’ll just be one step closer to the right buyer. But I sure hope this is it – for everyone’s health and sanity. I want so badly to move on. Physically and mentally.

We Will Beat This

Remember that episode of The Office where Kevin is waiting to hear back on whether he has skin cancer or not? It’s Michael’s birthday, and he’s peeved because everyone is stealing his thunder – especially Kevin who may have skin cancer. How dare he.

Later at the ice-skating rink (obviously), Kevin gets the call from his doctor. Michael (who’s come to his senses and is worried about Kevin, by now) rushes over to hear the news. Kevin says “It’s negative.” Everyone is relieved, except Michael, who angrily throws his hockey stick down in a fit of frustration and tells Kevin that “we will beat this,” as he hugs him. Kevin is confused.

Then, in his interview with the camera, Michael explains that “negative” in the medical community is apparently actually a good thing…which makes absolutely no sense.

I agree, Michael Scott.

Today, the doc’s office called and said “Hi Jenn – this blah blah blah from Nashville Skin and Cancer with your results.” My ears went numb, and when I heard “benign…totally negative…” I had to think extra hard about whether or not that was a good thing, since I was holding my breath and having heart palpitations from her solemn introduction. I mean, if you’re calling to give good news, you could sound a little more chipper, nurse.

But the positive news is, it’s NEGATIVE! Woo hoo!

Moral of the story – go get your moleys looked at. Better safe than sorry. And wear that SPF. Every day.

XOXO,
Jenn

Moley Moley Moley

Recently, one of my sweet blog friends, Once Upon a Lime, found out some crappy news. She went for a skin/mole check-up and left with a diagnosis of the C-word. Cancer. It’s not life threatening, not too serious – and she’ll tell you all will be just fine after her surgery. But holy wake up call – that is yuck.

She put the call out for everyone to learn from her experience and go get an annual check-up. So, I scheduled that very thing. Thanks sweet Sarah – am thinking about you with your upcoming surgery – and appreciate you getting the rest of us off our butts and to the doc.

I was a lifeguard for six years and a total sun baby for most of my life. I changed ethnicity during the summer. My parents always made us wear sunscreen, and we are naturally tan and don’t burn much – but we were in the sun a lot.

So, I went to Nashville Skin and Cancer (love them) this week. They were so great – got me right in and made me feel totally comfortable. Except for the fact that I was near naked wearing a lovely paper dress.

After a thorough once over, down to the bottoms of my feet and the top of my head, there was one mole on my right arm that exhibited some of the abnormalities they look for. Shape, color, texture, etc. (There is some clever ABCDE list, but I don’t remember it).

Better safe than sorry, let’s take a sample and check it out. It’s probably nothing, though.

Cool – that’s why I’m here – “better safe than sorry.”

Then the doc says, “yeah – no big deal. You’ll just have a couple stitches.”

I’m sorry. Stitches? STOP. Hold the phone.

You don’t just scrape it with a dull butter knife and send those microscopic cells off to your fancy lab? Call CSI – they can figure out a better way to do this.

“Um, no. We have to remove it – and send it off to the lab.”

I have to lie down. I’m sweating profusely. I can’t feel my face. I’m.going.to.DIE.

You see, I’m kind of a pansy. I passed out once when I got a vaccination.

They numbed it (needles! Ahhhhh!) cut the little sucker out and sewed me up. I never looked at it. I stared at a photo of Brooke Shields on a Latisse ad and tried not to throw up on the pretty nurse.

By the end of it, I had sweated through my gown AND the sheet on the table. And they were putting wet paper towels on my face.

What is wrong with ME!? Huge baby. Two stitches had me in a fit.

We’ll know the results in a week or so, but again, I’m being so light about it because they felt pretty good that it will come back totally normal.

Just like a physical every year – go get your moleys checked! Because you just never know.

I have to wear a band-aid for 10 days. Lame. So, I stocked up on “Disney Princess” band-aids. At least I can be fashionable.

Shown below – lame doctor’s office band-aid.

Now who’s tough?

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My humongous injury. You’re welcome for the close-up.

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I’ll be at the pool this weekend, never fear – but with my SPF on.

XOXO,
Jenn