Is That All There Is

I am trying to fight it, this feeling of obligation to get dressed up real pretty and eat bloody prime rib and sip bitter champagne and kiss strangers on the lips. I am weary from the holidays, belly bloated from cookies and cabernet, brain overwhelmed by too much familial stimulation. A hot shower, frozen pizza, and pajamas sound ever so inviting. But it is New Year’s Eve, and that just isn’t done.
Still, my friends and I are staging a boycott of sorts, and avoiding the crowded bars and overpriced restaurants for the relative comfort of my apartment. I may still get dressed up real pretty and sip bitter champagne, but there will be no bloody prime rib here, no strange lips to kiss. And that’s all for the better, I suppose, because I have always found New Year’s Eve to be a bit of a letdown.
Like many people, I am currently suffering from holidus interruptus deprimus, or what is commonly referred to as the post-holiday blues. The Christmas season now officially begins on or about October 15th, when red and green ornaments start to commingle with the Halloween decorations at Walgreens. For two months we anticipate this one day with shopping and travel plans, cooking and tree-trimming. Chipper coworkers organize holiday potluck lunches, their jingle bell festooned sweaters dusted off from dark closets.
For the love of god, I made cocktail meatballs three times in two weeks.
This being my 34th Christmas, one would think that I would know what to expect, but the depression always catches me a bit by surprise. And it’s no one’s fault – nothing could live up to the expectations that build up over these eight weeks.
Maybe it’s because I watch too many movies that these events play out like film shorts in my head. I’ll say this, then she’ll do that, and he’ll think this, and we’ll go there. It so rarely happens that way, but that never seems to stop me from my mental screenwriting. It just gets a bit frustrating when all the best scenes keep winding up on the editing room floor.
In a way, maybe it’s a good thing that each year ends with more of a whimper than a bang. How sad it would be to start off each new year feeling like it couldn’t possibly top the last. Instead, I am typically left with a sense of hopefulness that next year will be better.
I will remember not to drink so much. My family and I will finally make good on our promise of less holiday excess. I will learn a new recipe for cocktail meatballs. And I will wear more lipstick, in case I should run across some strange lips after all.

TequilaCon UPDATE!

***Your Attention Please***

The TequilaCon ’06 official date is in a bit of a holding pattern right now due to unforeseen circumstances. As soon as a new date has been selected, I’ll post it here.

Until then, please remain seated with your seatbelts fastened low and tight across your waist.
[I knew I shouldn’t have had those invitations engraved…]

Little Blogger Girl

Come, they told me
A new blog entry, please
My old one’s boring now
Alone at work somehow
Little bloggers
I am a lazy girl
No Christmas tales to share
That are fit for public air
On my blog.
That song always chokes me up. ‘Specially when he’s all, “I’ll play my best for him.” And when the ox and lamb keep time. I like that part the most of all.
Anyway, I really don’t have anything for you. Except Greedo and mini Lincoln logs. I’ll post some pics for you, pa rum pa pum pum. The best that I can do, pa rum… you know the rest. Happy holidays, folks!

These Vagabond Shoes

The date has been set. Location selected. Invitations engraved.

What: TequilaCon ‘06*
When: May 5-7, 2006 April 21-23, 2006
Where: New York City, NY**
Who: Everyone. I’m talking all y’all
Why: Geez, if you really have to ask…

So to give a brief background, TequilaCon ’05 happened when I tricked Jill and Brandon into coming to visit me in Chicago this fall. I told them that there was a big blogger convention here, and that they were up for some awards for outstanding writing.

“No, no. There’s gonna be lots of people, honestly. Um… I’m not sure, there’s an intern handling the RSVP’s. But it’s like the most popular blogging event, like, anywhere. My site? It’s run jen run. No, run jen run dot com. J as in jellybean. Yes, that’s it. No, my legs don’t really look like that. Mmm hmm. Okay, cool.”

When they arrived at my apartment and found me sitting in a dark corner, flicking the light on and off while listening to Madame Butterfly, things got a little awkward. Until I gave them their laser-printed certificates of achievement and pointed them in the direction of the tequila. Then we became fast friends.

But that was 2005. 2006 is all about more love now than last year. And I have so much love to give, people. So much. And so many laser-printed certificates. You don’t even know.

Which is why the TequilaCon committee decided to open up this event to the whole world. And where better to host a blogger convention than in the city that never sleeps? So start saving your money, my friends. I mean, would it kill you to drink Folgers for a couple months? Do you really need to get your hair cut at that fancy schmancy MasterCuts place, Mr. JP Gotrocks? So now we’re too good to eat generic cottage cheese, are we?

So mull it over, check the seat cushions for change, detox your liver, and leave a comment or send me an email at if you’re interested in joining us in the 3-D world of flesh, blood, sweat, and tears. As the self-appointed keeper of all things list-like, I am working on an elaborate Excel spreadsheet.

There are already some really famous bloggers signed up for this. Who? Um… I’m not sure, there’s an intern helping out with the RSVP’s. But honest, it’s like the most popular blogging event, like, anywhere…

*Don’t let the name fool you – non-drinkers are welcome and encouraged. Someone’s got to be clearheaded enough to delete all the pictures…

**There is a crack team of field researchers scouting out watering holes as we speak, so once we get closer in, we’ll announce the exact location.


I believe it is a sign that I have chosen my friends well in life when I invite Natasha over for pre-Christmas snacks and we drink wine, toast the holidays, exchange gifts, then simultaneously open nearly identical origami how-to kits.
One thing the kits did not explicitly state, however, is that 1) you should not attempt origami after polishing off a bottle of Pinot Noir and 2) you must never begin with a Level 4 Tyrannosaurus Rex. The results could be disastrous.
Looks simple enough.
Cool! A T-Rex!
For almost five minutes straight, Natasha mumbled to herself, “Fold the tip of the top section up. The tip of the top. Okay, tip of the top. Wait… so, which part is the tip? The tip of what? Fold the tip to the top. To the top. Am I folding the tip to the top… oh, the tip OF the top.”
“Hey Nat, why don’t you just fold the tip to the top?”
“Screw you.”

Headless T-Rexes tell no tales.
“Let’s try something easier. Hey! Here’s a Level 1 Swan!”
Tricks with dollar bills.
I cannot tell a lie. Natasha did this one.
Who’s the cutest little sailor boy? Who’s my little sailor? Yes you are!
My 2005 Christmas card:

Food Court

She asked if I minded if she sat at my table, since the mall was so crowded. I said not at all, be my guest. She thanked me and told me that she was starving. We sat across from each other at the tiny table, eating silently and staring off at random points in the distance for ten minutes or so, when she asked me how my Christmas shopping was going.

Actually it’s going fairly well, I said. I have a few things to pick up for my mother and sister-in-law, but other than that I’m in pretty good shape.

She said that was good to hear. I asked her if she was finished herself, or still had a lot of shopping to do. As she responded, I watched her eyes. They were small and perfectly round, pale blue with pink-rimmed lids. I would estimate that she was in her early-seventies, though she wore her blondish tinted hair in a style that was much younger.

She didn’t smile often, but when she did, her face completely transformed.

In a voice so soft that I often had to lean in to hear her, she told me about her Christmas plans. She was going to her nephew’s house, at least I think that’s what she said. Whoever it was, he is very well-off, according to the woman, and lives out in Lake Barrington. I raised my eyebrows and said, well now!

He never lets me bring anything, but this year he agreed to let me bring a dessert, the woman told me. One dessert, he told me, and he’s having 22 people over, can you imagine that, she asked? Serving prime rib for all those people, if you can believe it. Plus he has shrimp cocktail and other hors-d’oeuvres beforehand, so many that the woman is barely hungry for dinner. I asked what time I should come over, and we laughed.

And this year he bought one of those things, a chocolate machine. I asked her if she was talking about those chocolate fountains I keep hearing about. She said that yes, it was a chocolate fountain. I told her that I had never been to a party with one of those, but frankly they seemed a bit messy. She nodded and agreed with me, adding that while she likes chocolate, a fountain of it just seemed like too much.

He asked me to make mincemeat pie, but I want to bring pumpkin, she continued. I think mincemeat is too rich, and I just adore a good spicy pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Real whipped cream, I asked? Oh yes, of course, she smiled.

We continued talking, bouncing from subject to subject. Marzipan to Medicare. Spritz cookies to sprawling condos. She said that she had a husband, being clear to say had, and I noticed that she wore no rings on her delicate hands. She commented that she didn’t have children, then said that she would have… and her voice trailed off too softly for me to hear the rest.

She told me she was going to get a makeover at Nordstrom’s. They never do my hair right at the place I’ve been going to, she said, as she gently touched her hair. Most of their clients are old people. She paused, then said, like me, but I don’t want my hair to look that way.

I smiled at her, and she asked me, is your hair naturally curly? I nodded yes. She said that it was just lovely and that I was very lucky. I smiled again and could feel my cheeks warming. Thank you, you’re very sweet to say that, I told her.

I looked down at my watch and realized that we had been talking for over half an hour. The table next to us turned over twice in the time we had been sitting there, with people rushing to eat and get back to their holiday shopping. As I started to gather my things to continue with my own shopping, the woman dug around in her purse looking for a coupon she had mentioned earlier. Did you see it in today’s paper, she asked? It was for another 25% off at Marshall Field’s. Oh, I must have left it at home. Too bad.

She thanked me again for letting her join me at my table, and I said it was truly my pleasure. I had such a lovely time talking with you, I said, and she agreed. As I stepped away from the table, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, Merry Christmas, and I still think you should just bring that pumpkin pie anyway.

Lazy McCopycat

I’ve got to tell you, all this thinking about exercising has really worn me out, physically and emotionally. And with xmas shopping stress looming overhead, I find myself a few quarts low on creative juices. Thusly, I decided to perform mouth-to-mouth on this meme from Brando that he tried to kill on his site. Frankly, the main reason I was compelled to steal this idea is because it requires absolutely no thought on my part, just lots of hyperlinking. Which, sadly, probably took me as long as it would have to craft an entirely new post.
Here’s how it works: take the first line from the first post of each month this year, and compile them all into one neat little entry. Simple, no?
I enjoyed this so much, in fact, that I might just devote all of 2006 to further rehashings of my 2005 entries. Today I’ll take the first line of each of the past twelve months, then next week I’ll take the second, then the third, and so on. Suddenly, it will be 2007 and I’ll be bursting with fresh ideas.
So there you have it: Run Jen Run 2005 – Cliffs Notes Edition. Now go try it yourself, why don’t you? You know you want to!

Hey mom, it’s me. Whenever I read a news story about a child who saved his sibling by performing CPR (which he learned on Baywatch), or about a teenager who rushed into the neighbor’s burning house to get them out of the fire, it reminds me of my own childhood. As the years click by, even if I don’t psychologically feel older, my body takes great pleasure in reminding me of my age every now and then. Scene: Chicago O’Hare, Winter 2005. After encountering three children in the elevator, and one pre-teen eyeing up the coffee machine at work, I eventually deduced that last Wednesday was “Take Your Child to Work Day.” I spent Memorial Day weekend at my brother’s house in Wisconsin, working desperately on my never-ending quest to achieve Favorite Aunt status with my two nephews. It’s funny, but no matter how hard we try to outgrow the awkwardness that marked our teen years, occasionally we let slip some vital clue that speaks to a less than popular past. “Hey Jen, it’s Viv.” Stretched out on my love seat and lazily flipping through a copy of Chicago Magazine, I propped the phone under my chin as I talked with my friend Vivian. I’m not sure if I forgot to set the alarm, or if I just didn’t hear it go off, but when I finally woke up on the morning of my flight to LA, I was feeling completely disoriented. Heavy duty box cutter: $9.99. It had all the makings of an historic occasion.

Let’s Get Physical

Well, it’s almost the end of the year, which means it’s almost time for me to make a lot of empty promises to myself about being a better person, doing things differently, making changes. This year is a big one for me, though. I’m turning 35 in a few months, and I have to face the sad realization that I have the muscle tone of a newborn and the lung capacity of a three-pack a day coal miner.
This cannot continue. So this past weekend, I decided to take charge of my life and do the unthinkable – I joined a gym. As a permanent member. With a laminated card and everything.
Part of what has kept me out of gyms all these years, aside from inertia and reality television, is that they intimidate the crap out of me. Everyone is so focused in the gym – they have coordinated outfits, vitamin water, things that measure heart rate, and oh god, shower shoes!
I had been talking about joining the gym down the street from me for the past year, but always found some reason not to take the plunge. I would walk by at night and look up at all the muscular silhouettes running on the treadmills that faced out onto the street, iPods firmly secured, water bottles perfectly poised, and I’d think, “My god those people are sweaty. They’re totally fogging up the windows!”
But then a bit later, after I had time to reflect, I would think, “I wonder if those sweaty people wiped off all their sweat after they left?”
Then finally, I would be left with a sense of envy. Not of their sweat, nor of the person who had to wipe up their sweat, but of their commitment to becoming healthier.
So on Saturday, after much deliberation and a few failed walk-bys, I pulled open the giant doors to the gym, walked up to the front desk and said, “I’d like to speak to someone about a membership.”
A lovely and high-spirited young woman named Maya beamed me a smile, and then handed me a form to fill out that essentially said a) if I was somehow dismembered during my tour of the facilities, I would not sue and b) that I promised not to steal all their ideas and open an identical gym of my own. I told her she should put her money on dismemberment.
After I had signed all the appropriate forms, Maya began by telling me what their hours of operation were, but I was completely distracted by some heavenly and altogether unexpected smell coming from somewhere on the first floor.
I stopped her in mid-sentence, “I’m sorry, but, what is that delicious odor?”
She sniffed the air, smiled and said, “Oh, you must mean our deli. We have a smoothie bar and health food counter over to the left.”
I looked in the direction she pointed and saw the source of this delectable scent: row upon row of perfectly golden rotisserie chicken, slowly turning on a spit and basting in their own juices.
“Wait… you have rotisserie chicken here? And smoothies?”
“Yes, we have a full delicatessen. It’s really quite good. Why don’t I start by showing you the locker room, and then we can go through all the equipment on the first and second floors.”
She took me downstairs to the locker room, and before I could tell her that the odds of me actually taking a shower here were even more remote than me starting a competing gym, she had already led me straight into a gaggle of half naked women who seemed oblivious to my presence. I’m not sure if it was some repressed traumatic high school P.E. class experience, or perhaps just my 1% Amish heritage showing through, but I’ve never been a fan of public showering.
After leaving the locker room, Maya brought me over to what she called the meditation area, just outside what she called the stretching mat area. “Here’s our meditation area where you can come to relax. As you can see, we have a koi pond, miniature waterfall, and lemon water for you to enjoy.”
“Wow – this is so nice! Hey, um… can we eat chicken down here?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Chicken. Can we eat the rotisserie chicken down here by the koi pond? I’ll bet it would taste nice washed down with some of that lemon water.”
“Uh, no. No, we don’t allow food in the meditation area.”
“Oh, okay. I was just wondering.”
Our next stop was the first floor of equipment. This would be my proving ground since I had already exposed the fact that I didn’t know the meditation area protocol. I couldn’t let on that I was such a complete gym newbie.
“Now here is where all of our classes are held. We offer three different types of yoga, cardio kick-boxing, Pilates, and Spin. Outside this room we have some of our treadmills and stair climbers. What type of a workout are you used to doing?”
Oh god.
I frantically looked around the room, trying to remember what she had just told me, “Uh… I mostly like to work out on the treadmills and stair climbers. Mostly. Oh, and I really like the ellipses machines.”
“You mean the elliptical trainers?”
“Oh… yeah. Elliptical. Those are good.”
I thought I saw Maya glance down at my thighs, but her eyes were very shifty, so I couldn’t be sure. “Mmkay, well I should tell you that we’re getting another six new treadmills over here, and as you can see, all of our machines are equipped with flat screen TV’s. You just plug your headphones in, and you’re ready to go.”
My ears perked up at this, “Flat screen TV’s? On all the machines? That’s so great!”
“Yeah, people really like that. So any questions about the equipment down here?”
“No, I think you’ve answered every-… well, actually one question. Can we eat chicken on the treadmills while we’re watching TV if we’re really careful?”
She stared at me in silence for a few seconds longer than I appreciated, then replied, “No. No chicken in the meditation room, no chicken on the treadmills. No chicken anywhere in the gym, really.”
“Except where you sell it over there.”
“Follow me upstairs.”
Maya led me past at least thirty machines I was certain I would never use because they involved steel cables and an elaborate system of levers and pulleys. All I could see was the image of my hair getting tangled up in the wires, and having to scream for help while my head was pinned against the seat of a rowing machine. It’s hard to recover after such a faux-pas.
We circled the second floor and ended up in front of the windows I had looked up at so many times over the past few years. And now, there I was, standing up high and looking down at all the out-of-shape schlubs walking down the street. So this is what it feels like to be healthy, I thought. It feels… superior.
We ended our tour right where we started, bathed in the salty scent of grilled meat. The man behind the deli counter tipped his fingers to his hat, as if to welcome me into his secret society.
“Well then, if you don’t have any more questions… about the equipment… you can just have a seat here at our internet café and fill out the application form.”
Internet café?
I looked around me and saw six flat screen monitors, each with high speed internet, just waiting to be surfed. As I handed Maya my credit card, I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply, and felt healed. I just feel so silly now for being so intimidated by gyms all these years. If I had known that working out involved WiFi, flat screen TV’s, and golden crisped rotisserie chicken, I would have joined years ago.

Calling All Carnies!

Ladies and Gentlemen! Children of all ages!
Please direct your attention to the blogger in the top hat, Dean from Inspired by a True Story. Dean is doing his part to foster a stronger community of bloggers who write about daily life, so he has raised the big top, tightened the high wire, and packed up the clown car in honor of his new blog carnival, Carnival of the Mundane.
What’s a blog carnival, you ask? An excellent question, since that’s exactly what I asked. I thought my countless hours of internet surfing had taught me a thing or two, but I was unfamiliar with the concept, so here’s Dean’s explanation:

A blog carnival is a post published by a single blogger (whoever is hosting that edition) and consists of a collection of links to other posts that have been emailed to the host. The host then tries to present the links to those posts in single post of his or her own with a little context, maybe even some clever commentary.
I’m thinking of a carnival for those of us whose material is everyday stuff, a showcase for those dedicated to drawing out the humor or insight from the humdrum.
I’m calling it the “Carnival of the Mundane.”

Dean will be looking for folks to submit entries to be included in his first carnival, so get your tickets, grab some cotton candy, and head on over to Dean’s place to learn more. He’s the second booth past the Bearded Lady.

What Happens in Comment Orgy Stays in Comment Orgy, and a Mystery Solved

All good things must come to an end, and this orgy is no different. It was a wild ride, filled with togas and tomatoes, light bulbs and lamp oil, and the honest love between a man and a cat, but now we must move on.
I learned so much about all of you during this last day and a half that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look you in the eyes again. But in the uncomfortable silences and tentative conversations that will surely follow, I will always hold on to the fact that we threw one hell of a party. And for that, I can never thank you enough. Please be advised that a new host has been selected for the next comment orgy, and s/he will kick off the new year with a bang, so to speak. This should give you ample time to rest up.
So now, getting back to our regularly scheduled programming, I give you the results of the most boring and apparently insultingly easy photo quiz ever:
1. Stupid jingle bell
2. Dumb fake little Xmas tree
3. Crappy gift bow
4. Broken yellow Xmas bulb
5. Gross fat free Marshmallow lovers brand hot cocoa
6. Disgust- oh, I can’t even pretend to hate you, sweet delicious little Snowman marshmallow Peeps! C’mere, you!
The two bonus photos were clearly a bit more difficult, so fortunately I didn’t have to give up my blog (Although Nicole frightened me with her ability to guess the first bonus question. Is she psychic, or just a tap dancer?).
Bonus Photo:
Super Secret Double Bonus Photo:
Oh, and the secret theme? Things my cats have tried to eat.
Okay, fine, so they didn’t really try to eat the robot, but if it hadn’t been behind glass, they surely would have.

Thanks for playing along everyone! See you next time!