Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jam Pack It All In

Wow what a whirlwind of busyness since I last updated everyone! How about a recounting of the adventures shall we?

I had lunch with a friend who informed me she got her Christmas present early from her boyfriend -- two front row tickets to see the NKOTBSB (for those not in the know that’s New Kids on the Block with the Backstreet Boys on one stage at the same time because clearly one boy band is never enough) show at the Garden next June. At this point in my life I’m still a semi fan of NKOTB, not enough to want to spend hours on Ticketmaster to see them live anymore, but I still turn up their oldies when they come over the iPod airwaves its true. But my friends…well as she explained it’s the only time she gets to be fifteen again so she’s ready to go all out. I couldn’t be more excited for them to have this experience of the front row at the scream fest!

Yes this is at my wedding, don't judge me it was a gift (instrument of torture?) from my DJ, my first ever roomie.  The friends who plan to go to the show are to the right of me.

The next day I enjoyed another lunch with my mom but only after we disassembled some super heavy metal shelves on her first floor then reassembled them on her second floor. Much laughter ensued and although we rocked at it -- not a single thing broken and nary a floor scratch -- I don’t think either of us are going to be signing up for a job as a furniture assembler anytime soon. The help with the shelves was my payment for a quickie haircut. As a kid my mom used to cut my hair all the time and I totally trust her to get a nice and even straight line. Not too shabby eh?

I chatted with my Academic Advisor before he took off for vacation, reorganized my sewing stuff so I could actually get into the closet, had a drum lesson, paid my rent and donated to a whole bunch of charities for the bulk of our family for Christmas.

Then we went to my dad’s on Christmas Eve and had a fantastic evening chock full of laughter and conversation! My WSM’s son is here with his new wife and baby and it was fantastic to meet both of them too. My almost step brother is an adopted child and originally from Columbia. A few years ago he decided he wanted to discover the place he originally came from and took a trip down there to explore. Within what seemed like minutes he had met a wonderful girl, fell in love, got married and had a baby. Whirlwind romance! She and the baby (my almost nephew!) are total dolls and it was really cool to see my dad with the adorable toddler no matter how ragged he ran all of us.

The one thing I didn’t do this Christmas was get some of the presents out on time. Matt’s family lives scattered across the country so every single year I say that I’ll get things shipped in time and every single year, though it comes right down to the wire, I tend to live up to my promise. This year though was the perfect storm of overload. One gift was ordered on the 10th with expedited shipping and didn’t arrive here until the 23rd. Another was handmade and after I completed it I searched everywhere (and I freaking mean it!) for a box that would fit it to ship in but no one sells a 23” wide box that’s only 3” high. Even the large size at FedEx is too short. So the Post Office dude told me about the box guy up the street, who makes boxes to fit any package, and Matt and I went on Christmas Eve. The place was closed. Of course it was. So we said screw it, at least we can get the other items out. Late but mailed (including a sale I made on Etsy, thanks Ginger ♥ and a clutch I was shipping out for a fundraiser not to mention an aunt & uncle’s gift). Yeah well the Post Office was closed too because noon was the cut off on Christmas Eve. Then there was Christmas, Sunday and yesterday’s blizzard…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Christmas Day I managed to just let go of all the stress from the week prior for a couple reasons. First, there was really nothing I could do about making it all okay at that point anyway. Second, wine helped. Wine helped a lot. All joking aside we had a great day at my mom’s (sadly my SIL & family were sick and we had to cancel Christmas morning brunch with them but we’re already rescheduled so barring more sickness or weather we’ll see them in January!). She made all kinds of yummy veggie dishes, had hummus and salsa with chips and then for dessert she made a pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate cake, my aunt & uncle brought an apple pie & carrot cake and I’m pretty sure my brain exploded at that point because I forgot everything else. Lots of laughs and hugs and warm conversation was had and then we came home to gear up for the next day’s journey in the snow.

Oh, the snow…

So the thing about New Englanders is that talk of a couple inches of snow doesn’t exactly scare us. We have the manpower and equipment to handle the stuff and generally the city is opened for business no matter what. So on Christmas night when we heard that the weather dudes in town were predicting upwards of two feet in some areas we knew the 26th was going to be a day of action. Up at 7:30 AM we tossed on some sweats, brushed our teeth and took our coffee on the road.

First order of business was filling the gas tank where I cashed in my winning $3 scratch ticket from Christmas woo hoo. Next we swung by Matt’s office so he could turn on his computer and pick up a bunch of stuff because there was no way he was going to try to go into the office on Monday, working from home was just a safer idea. We headed south to feed a friend’s cat & give him some love. While we were hanging out and playing with this little love whore of an animal, the snow started to really intensify and we decided we better get ahead of the storm so we filled food & water to the brim, gave a little more love, and hit the very slick road (slowly).

Because we were ahead of the storm bands, and also because we had no food in the house, we headed to tax free NH (only about a 30 minute ride from our house, don’t worry!) to do some quick in and out shopping. With plenty of toilet paper and snacks we headed back south, nervous of what the roads might look like. But to our surprise not much had fallen yet. It was only noon. They were predicting over 50mph gusts so we gathered candles and charged up our phones and laptops in case of a power outage.

At about 3:00 the snow started to fall. And at first it was even kinda pretty…

But by the time the storm had dumped its 18” on our front doorstep and rolled on out of town just 24 hours later, it really wasn’t all that pretty anymore. Truly we were just trying to come up with ideas for where to put the stuff! And we made a new best friend when our SUPER KIND neighbor came right down the street with his snow blower at 8:00 in the morning. Holla for the random kindness of others!!! He did four houses worth and even hit our driveway. There is no way to tell him just how grateful we are for such selfless help in such a tough situation. Thanks neighbor!!

Technically speaking we didn’t get a blizzard in Boston. To be classified as such you need: 3+ hours of falling snow, less than a quarter mile visibility and sustained winds at 35mph. We got the first two handled but only managed to hit 33mph on the winds. Sorry, I’m calling this sucker a blizzard anyway.

I have to go out today to finally see the box guy and get all of this stuff in the mail but before I go I think I’ll spend the $65 Gift Certificate to the CSN Stores website that I won over at Karen’s place! YEA thanks Karen, it’s quite awesome to win and have a chance to shop! I’m thinking of looking for stuff like foot warmers, slippers, fleece blankets…

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Class Is In Session

A while back I indicated that one of my goals was to reenroll in school and that I had started doing some research on colleges that offered degree programs in English that I could complete online. There were a handful of schools here in the Boston area I started with but many of them were a split of campus and online classes and that wasn’t going to work for me.

Its not that I’m lazy or don’t want to meet other people. The real reasons I like studying online truly fall into just two categories -- 1. class starts & ends whenever I want it to and 2. I don’t have to drive anywhere in the snow. Yes, I mean that second reason whole heartedly.

I really considered Salem State because they have an excellent English Lit BA with a track for an MA but I knew on snowy days (okay, this is Boston so probably even some not so snowy days) it would take me upwards of an hour each way to get to and from campus. Then add in the hours spent in class. Okay, but that’s just what happens when you go to college right? Wrong.

In the time it would take me to commute to and from, I could have completely finished another class if I was studying at home.

With that in mind I knew online was the way to go. Again. This foray into continuing my education would be the third try. But this time I’m doing what I truthfully should have done at age eighteen; I’m finishing a program that speaks to me and one I am passionate about. Unlike my last college experience.

I had started a program online with The Art Institute a whole bunch of years ago and to be fair the only reason I left the program is that I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing for a living. Interior Design, I quickly found, was loads more about politics and number than actual design.

Plus the hours I spent on school (up to and sometimes beyond forty a week and that was per class) made me question if that’s the kind of time I would have to spend per client because it wasn’t my first love and I had to really work for it to get it a lot of the time. Two clients a week and I would have been a puddle of goo.

Now I suppose it’s probably fair to point out that I am what most would call an uber overachiever. I have an innate fear of failure which keeps me motivated to forge on and throw myself one hundred and seventy percent into whatever it is I am doing. School was no exception and I was a 4.0 student because of it.

But the other thing about me is I also have instinctual intuition and I know when the exact second hits that I’ve stayed too long at the party. When I stopped caring if I got my work done, started completely fucking off and decided I would rather play and play all day instead of complete my class work, it was that moment to thank the hostess and bow out gracefully.

So I did and ever since I’ve been itching to go back.

In my sophomore year of high school I knew what I wanted to do. I was good at it (like I mentioned in the post about editing my friend’s paper; more on that in a minute) and really loved it but at age fifteen I had little, if any, self direction or discipline and without being the top of the pack or the bottom of the pack in school I kind of just faded into the very gray middle somewhere, unrecognized but also un-guided in my life path.

At some point in my life, and I really truly have no idea when it happened, I did a complete 180 from total slack-ass procrastinator to seriously over the top OCD overachiever perfectionist. So now that’s where I am today -- the land of striving for perfection, happy to be a geek, doing it all at once without the assistance of any good drugs (well, except caffeine in the mornings of course).

I found a school that really resonated with me and started researching them right away. Based in Iowa but offering a BA with a track to the MA online, fully accredited and well received from all I found when I Googled them, Ashford University is my new school.

And I already love them! My Academic Advisor is based out of San Diego and not only is he the most easy going guy, he’s really knowledgeable and helpful and he insists on being in touch a couple times a week during the first couple classes just to make sure I’m getting the hang of it all. The entire Administrative staff has been great so far and the application process as well as all that financial aid mumbo jumbo was super streamlined on their website. Unlike some of the other schools I looked into where the admission process seemed like it would be more difficult to figure out than the classes!

So starting on January 4, 2011 I’ll officially be a Bachelor of Arts, English major! (But we all know I’m going on for the Masters, I mean seriously…)

In the long run the degree will open up so many more worlds of opportunities to career paths I can pursue if I so choose (like teaching at the college level in many places, being an editor, etc) but the most important thing is that I will feel the sense of accomplishment that I’ve been longing for the past twenty five or so years. And it will ultimately help me when writing novels of course so that’s always a super bonus.

Oh yeah, and that paper of my friend’s that I helped her edit? Yeah, she got a 93 out of 100 so I guess I’m choosing my path well since clearly it was something I already excelled at. (High five for my friend getting an A!! Holla!!) The difference now is that I’ll just have a better handle on all those pronouns and will be able to prove it with that little piece of paper that reads ‘Graduated’.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Measuring a Summer’s Day

Tangerine, my favorite Led Zeppelin song of all time, comes to mind at this very moment because it just so happens I’m eating a fruit of the same name. At this time of year they’re everywhere in mesh shaped nylon baggies so no matter what store I find myself in, if I’m perusing the produce department, a bag of these juicy little balls of happiness are definitely coming home with me.

Some folks could probably have named this post Oh My Darlin’ but to me tangerines just make the world a little juicier than a Clementine. Maybe it’s because of Page’s stunningly simple lyrics full of complex visuals (if you know the song this should make perfect sense), or the delivery of those words through Plant’s haunting reflective tone, or maybe its that Jones & Bonham come in at the exact right moment to bring stability to the growing legs of the well timed guitar solo. Maybe the reason I love it is because it isn’t perfect but it’s out there to be loved anyway.

Or maybe I love the song so much because it reminds me of a nostalgic love so strong it could never be forgotten, and the person it holds in the palm of its hand was that very thing to me.

Innocent and stupid and new, ready to grab the world by the scruff of the collar and drag it along behind us as we blazed a trail. But at some point I realized he wasn’t with me anymore so I looked back to try to find him but he had mysteriously disappeared. Then I spent so long watching behind me for where he had gone that I missed the fact that life fell out of my hands and passed me ages ago.

If only things could stay so simple as Bonham’s back beat. But they rarely do, if ever. So at this time of year I find myself reflecting voraciously, as if it was an activity I’d never done before and may never get to do again.

It always starts out with the year that has just flown by in the blink of an eye and all the things I remember about it, and then it spirals into a trip down the cobble stones of memory lane.

Of course this year was struck with tragedies of massive proportions that would be hard to ignore, like earthquakes and oil spills. But it was also filled with amazing things of beauty like a close friend having a healthy baby girl or seeing a double rainbow in upstate New York.

In the past year:
♥ a good friend moved back to the area
♥ I completed the edits on my first novel and started shopping it
♥ continued to play drums every week
♥ went to countless shows (including finally seeing Bushwalla live on his own, Seth Glier, DMB, BNL and Jason [of course])
♥ one of my favorite actors died (Haim)
♥ saw my sister on her coast
♥ spent time with friends and family (on the other coast and mine)
♥ finished helping to clean out my grandparent’s place
♥ watched the final season of a long favorite television show (Lost)
♥ took on a few paint jobs
♥ walked to support Alzheimer's research
♥ spent tons of time laughing & joking with Matt (in the car and at home)
♥ went fishing (and actually caught some!) with old friends
♥ witnessed the kids in my life get even smarter as they became another year older
♥ saw a couple Sox games live at Fenway & a few Bruins games live at the Garden
♥ dealt with a flood in our basement
♥ experienced a summer full of hot sunshine (bliss!)
♥ started an extreme exercise program (P90x - bring it!)
♥ joined a Book Club
♥ signed a lease for a second year in the same place (call Ripley’s!)
♥ drank with the local townies at the Jersey shore
♥ sold a few things at a craft fair
♥ wrote most of my second novel
♥ kicked Matt’s butt repeatedly in Scrabble
♥ and so many other awesome things I couldn’t begin to list more

Well I could but would any of you read a day by day accounting of my lame-ass life? Probably not.

As I spent the last year getting healthy in mind, body and soul it started becoming more clear that my life is longing for another grab it by the balls and have at it adventure. I know there’s still a couple weeks left this year so I don’t completely rule it out for happening in 2010 but it just feels like 2011 is calling to me from the future. That next year is where the great escapade will be found.

Become a published novelist? Celebrate ten years married? Get my body back in shape? Quit smoking? Something else? The world is open, and so am I, to the possibilities that exist. Bring on the adventure 2011, even if that adventure is wrapped in a moving truck traveling 3500 miles across this great country to the Valley of the Sun!

Someday I will no doubt look back on that journey and think about me and Matt taking it together.

“Does [s]he still remember times like these?...And I do.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Remembering the Past, Tense

Sometimes I wish I could remember why I remember certain things. A couple days ago my very brilliant, yet grammatically challenged friend, sent me her most recent school paper and asked if I would take a look at, and edit it. I asked, in a manner of speaking, if she was ready for the onslaught to come in asking for this favor and she responded, in a manner of speaking, to bring it on.

So bring it on I did.

Structure of a sentence, grammar, punctuation, it all just flowed out of me in editing her document so effortlessly that I almost gave myself a high five in my own honor when I was done. But I decided to wait and see what her grade was before giving myself too many props, and I just smiled then sent it off with a note apologizing for the hemorrhaging pages she would be opening within.

Later, when I was sitting and reading this month’s Book Club selection I received a text from her: “How do you know when to use these versus this?” Without hesitation I typed away two responses and sent them back -- these is for multiples (these books), this is for singular (this sunset), and, these precedes ‘are’ (these are the best books), this precedes ‘is’ (this is the best sunset).

Ever since I responded to her I’ve been going over and over in my head just what type of word ‘this’ and ‘these’ signify and for the life of me I can not come up with it. For example, I know that glorious is an adjective, cat is a noun, and is a conjunction, but what is ‘these’?

While editing her paper I started to have visions of how I could make money in my sorely lacking spare time by charging students ten bucks a page to edit their papers. I’d be a 100-aire in no time! But as quickly as the thought presented itself it was gone with a puff of what’s ‘this’ smoke.

I was always a good English student in school; I could pluck emotion right off a page of a book and write a review so eloquent my teacher would never be the wiser that I hadn’t really bothered to read the text in question. And I just got it. It came naturally and easily to me. Kind of the way I know all of those teachers who taught me so well would cringe that I just used ‘and’ to start a sentence. But this is my blog and I do what I want. Like start other sentences with the word but. Or end the very next one with the exact same word.

Which is where the problem lies nowadays, as a blogger I have a pretty well defined voice and write it how I feel it. That’s all well and good but then when I go and write something like, say, a novel, other brilliant friends edit it and notate themselves blue in the face saying things to me like ‘don’t end in a preposition’ and I panic then look up what the definition of a preposition even is.

It makes me want to get that college degree that I never did get. It makes me want to go back to school and be the one to write the paper instead of being the one who edits someone else’s like a big fat faker. And not just a faker. An Editor with no idea why I’m even suggesting that she make certain changes, other than I know it’s the way it should read. I know I’m good at it and that’s why she asked if I’d do it but I really don’t know why I’m good at it and that’s more than a little disheartening. Call me crazy but it’s the researcher in me that is dying to uncover just what the deal is with all those dangling participles.

Someone remind me again, what’s a dangling participle?

I of course looked it up to remind myself and here’s what I found:
“The example: Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls would, by such guidelines, be recast as We saw Yosemite Falls plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge.”

Um, okay that seems easy enough but I sat there staring at what I knew to be bad form (the first Yosemite sentence) for like five minutes and couldn’t figure out how to write anything that resembled it. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a dangler after all? Perhaps I keep my feet and arms inside the carpet as the Genie suggested. If that’s true then I wish I could figure out the reason why the ever present nagging of the two word question ‘but why?’ keeps buzzing in my head.

It might be time to take a few grammar workbooks out of the library and give myself the old refresher course. Maybe then I can finally put to rest the desire to find the reasons behind ‘this’ and ‘these’.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Easy Way to Avoid Excessive Amounts of Stuff

I know many of you got this in email this morning so you’ll be seeing it twice (three times if we’re FB friends so yeah, it should sink in lol) but I thought it was worth sharing here too for those less inclined to access those other places or who’s email I don’t have. This is the word for word message I sent out. Please consider this as a festive alternative to buying ‘stuff’ for the people you care about and we’ll all get the chance to help each other. It’s all about pay it forward!

Good morning family and friends!

That time of year again -- the ho, ho, holidays! As we've done most years now Matt and I STRONGLY encourage all of you not to buy us stuff (please!). This year is even more important than ever as we're planning to move all the way across the country next summer, carrying as little as possible. In lieu of gifts please consider making donations!

By the way...I'm not being presumptuous with some of you I promise! I sent this to a lot of you simply because I know we all struggle with what to do for one or two people every year and these are two charities that I really hope you'll consider making a contribution to instead of buying that individual something you're not sure they'll even enjoy :-)

As you all know I've done the National Novel Writers Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge for 2 years now and won both times (hooray!). Those folks run a great program for young writer's to explore and embrace their creativity, and to nurture positivity instead of violence & other bad behaviors, but they only survive through donations. So this year I'd love if everyone could donate to The Office of Letters and Light! To make the donation on my behalf (if you like) my NaNo/ScriptFrenzy username is: jennshon

Matt also has a charity that is very near and dear to him. Last December he started working in downtown Boston and came to befriend a man named Carl. An out of work construction worker, Carl is homeless and lives in the alley right behind Matt's building. The two have built a really special relationship over the course of this year so Matt would like donations made to assist the Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter right here in Boston that actively provides help to 1200 people just like Carl. 

Thanks so much everyone and I hope you'll consider making donations to these two very deserving charities instead of buying us a traditional gift this year. We would also like to do the same for you so please let us know where we can donate in your name and we'll make this a super great season of paying it forward! Have safe and happy holidays and hopefully we'll all have a chance to spend time together sometime in 2011!

♥ love ♥
Jenn & Matt

P.S. As with every year I gotta give snaps to my mom for kicking off our charitable donation holidays a few years back! Best gift idea ever! Go mum! *snap, snap, snap*