Friday, March 30, 2012

Willy Wonka and the Mega Millions Jackpot

I'll admit it.  I jumped on the bandwagon and bought a Mega Millions ticket.  At the psychic party I attended several weeks ago, I was given lottery numbers.  I have been saving those numbers for a day when it felt right.  That day is today.

Here's my ticket.  I marked out all of the numbers so
that you can't steal them.  I don't want to share.
You might be saying to yourself, "you aren't going to win, and neither am I."  What if Charlie Bucket had that defeatist attitude?  He might never have taken Grandpa Joe on that whimsical factory tour that delighted all of our hearts.  Worse yet, he might have continued eating cabbage water for every meal until he, too, was forced to share a bed with the old and infirm.

Not even the muscle atrophy that accompanies being
bedridden for 20 years could keep Grandpa Joe away!
Which leads me to my next point: if I win the jackpot, I am going to buy the 1971 film "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."  I might even splurge and get it on Blu-ray.  I just can't get enough of that Gene Wilder.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Draw Something. Anything. C'mon Guys.

I need to rant about the craze that has taken smartphone users by storm:  Draw Something.  The iTunes website states that Draw Something is currently “The #1 Free App, #1 Paid App and #1 Word Game in over 80 countries!”  iTunes adds that Brian R. (whoever that is) gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it the “BEST GAME IN IPHONE HISTORY.”  Jspronk (???) agreed, saying “keeps me entertained for hours.”  If Brian R. and Jspronk are fans, I’m sure to love it!

I love a good game of Pictionary amongst friends, so I hopped on the Draw Something bandwagon.  I started small, playing against my friends.  Then I discovered the “random” option that arbitrarily connects you with a stranger.  The “random” option really opened my eyes.  Like Forrest’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get, but rest assured it is rarely an accurate drawing.  I have decided that Draw Something users can be broken into 4 basic categories:

1.  The Wordsmiths – Wordsmiths write out the word they are supposed to be drawing.  This might make sense if the drawers got paid for correct answers, but it is just a game for fun.  If you’re lucky, a Wordsmith might try to draw a picture before writing the word across the screen.  Some Wordsmiths even provide lists of written clues.  The game is called Draw Something, not Read a Word and Write It.  What the hell, guys?

When people use words instead of pictures,
I refuse to guess correctly.

I'm glad she gave me a heads up with the label.
I wouldn't have even known where to begin.

2.  The Chatroulettes—This is the group of Draw Something artists that limit themselves to one drawing:  the male anatomy.  At least draw the picture first and then add a penis to it.  That way you can get a kick out of shocking me with your clever artwork, and I can play the game I signed up for.  It’s a win/win.

See? I can work with this.

3.  The Rorschachs—These artists draw pictures that are open to interpretation.  This is my nice way of saying that what they draw looks nothing like the intended object.  When you aren’t able to guess the word, as the picture clearly could mean something different to everyone, the artist often becomes offended and quits the game.
I borrowed this one from because I love it.
The word was "moo."
4.  The Traditionalists—Traditionalists are a rare breed.  These are the people who actually put forth a modicum of effort in drawing the correct picture.  They at least have some respect for the game of Pictionary, and for their opponent’s time.  Hats off to you, Traditionalists.  I hope to see you on the drawing field soon.

This is my Ewok.  He lives on the forest moon of Endor.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

4 Chords and Hunger Games

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid.  Afraid that the world will run out of combinations for musical notes and chords.  Afraid that the last song will be written, and we will be forced to listen to the same music over and over for all eternity (much in the same way that Hollywood is already re-making Spider Man, even though they just finished the trilogy five years ago).  I started to recognize my na├»vety while listening to the album "In Time: The Best of REM."   I love playing "It's the End of the World as We Know It" and singing the lyrics to "Bad Day," and vice versa.  They are two hits set to almost identical music, by the same band.  The reality is that we have been using the same music for decades, just with different twists and tempos.  The same chords, in the same order, can produce an almost infinite number of songs.

The Axis of Awesome demonstrates this beautifully with their compilation "4 Chords."

I'm sharing this in hopes that you, too, will take comfort in the knowledge that we are not nearing a song shortage.  We will not have to invade other countries to acquire foreign sources of music, and music will not jump to 3.95 a song.  We won't be forced to seek alternative and greener methods for song-writing.  The music industry is already re-using and recycling every day.

Also, I went to see "The Hunger Games" today and thought it was an excellent adaptation of the book.  While I understand the premise, (think "Battle Royale" meets "The Truman Show"), I felt like several pretty important questions went unanswered.  Most notably, the film left the audience wondering if the tributes had to use the bathroom in front of all of Panem, or if the directors of the games had the decency to avoid shooting such intimate moments.  It is hard enough to go in a public restroom.  Imagine if the whole country was watching.  I know, I know.  I'm sure this question will be answered in the next movie in the trilogy.  I will try to be patient.

If you want to read a great review of the movie, check out my friend Jason's blog: 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Caulking on Sunshine

I have been tackling small projects around the house, trying to work my way up to replacing the sink and counter in the downstairs bathroom.  I recently decided to re-caulk one of the bathtubs, but couldn’t find the caulking tool I bought from Home Depot several weeks ago.  Instead of driving back out to the store, I searched my house for objects that looked like they could be useful.  This is what I came up with:

The most difficult part of the whole operation was opening the bottle of caulk.  I tried to "simply cut the tip" off the bottle with some heavy duty scissors, but only succeeded in hacking off small shavings of plastic.

 A job for hedge clippers.
When I finally finished sawing through, I realized I made the opening too large.  At this point, I was too frustrated to care.  I smoothed the caulk out using a paint can opener, my fingers, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease, and eventually had the bathtub looking semi-presentable.  You may be thinking, "Jenna, it isn't that hard to caulk a bathtub."  To which I would argue, "Shut-up."  Here is my before and after.  I took the pictures from a distance to prevent everyone from seeing the imperfections in my work.

In other news, I invited my friend, Amber, who is thirty-four weeks pregnant, over for dinner.  I promised her and her unborn son homemade cheeseburgers of the finest quality, but once she was here, I couldn't get the grill to start.  It sounded like the tank was out of  gas, so I ran to Walmart to get a new one.  I hooked the new tank up, but then the ignitor wouldn't work.  At this point, Amber looked up and said, "It's okay guys! Let's just go get some Burger King.  I'll drive."  A+ to Amber for being completely cool and accommodating.  So I treated Amber to Burger King, not quite the homemade burgers I had  advertised, but delicious nonetheless.  

Burger King for whoppers with cheese.
Before you label me a poor hostess, let me add that we ate our Burger King outside on the moonlit deck with plasticware and a veggie tray.  If that doesn't ooze class, I don't know what does.

Don't judge me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Billy Monkey

It is absolutely beautiful outside today.  Sunny and 82 degrees.  The only downside to this early warm weather, besides the looming concern of global warming, is that it is once again time to bring out the mower.  My mower is electric.  I plug it in like a vacuum cleaner, tune in to the 90s summer Pandora station, and move around the yard in a predetermined pattern to avoid running over the cord.  No gasoline, no oil, and no real upkeep.  I love my mower, despite the fact that it draws skeptical glances  from the neighbors, and occasionally trips me or gets tangled around the basketball hoop.

On another note, the Hunger Games movie comes out this week, so naturally the books have been a hot topic of conversation.  One thing I've heard a lot of, and I happen to agree, is that the ending of the third book was rushed and inconclusive (don't worry, I won't give any spoilers).  Anyway, I want to give a shout-out to Suzanne Collins.  I understand that sometimes it is hard to come up with an ending to such a compelling story that will satisfy all of your readers.  This morning I continued going through boxes in the garage, and found another treasure from my childhood.  It is a tale I wrote in the second grade called "Billy Monkey," and it, too, suffers from an ending that leaves much to be desired.

The true tragedy is that there is no sequel.  Billy Monkey's lethargy doomed us all to a lifetime of wondering "what if."  What if we had learned how riddles work?  What if Billy had shared his knowledge of the cow/ghost combination?

Billy Monkey, you dropped the ball on this one.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Brunch, Dodgeball, and Model Airplanes

The writing conference was amazing!  Over 150 people attended, and I met a lot of interesting and talented writers.  Two of the women I met already have books out, and if you’re interested you should check them out:  Judith Dickerman-Nelson’s book “Believe in Me: A Teen Mom’s Story” (available on Amazon) and A.M. Boyle’s sci-fi thriller “Sentry’s Past:  Veil of Darkness” (  I am so excited to read them both, and will post reviews when I finish.
I won two prizes while I was at the conference:  one was this airplane for having traveled over 400 miles to get the conference, and the other was a book on handicapped animals with a picture on the front of a doggie on wheels. 
I hope this thing flies as good as it looks.
I also met with an agent to pitch my book.  I was absolutely terrified, but she was really nice and I calmed down pretty quickly.  There are definitely things I would change about my pitch if I could do it again, but it went well.  The agent said she is interested in seeing my complete manuscript and asked me to send it to her.  That was the best I could have hoped for, and I am excited for someone in the business to read my work.
After the conference was over, I drove to Philadelphia to meet up with Sara, my suitemate from college.  I love that moment when I first see the skyline of a new city, maybe because I am so used to seeing hills instead.  Sara and I went to Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace for dinner and it was AMAZING.  Seriously, the best burger I have ever eaten.  (I swear these places aren’t paying me for advertising and product placement).  This morning, Sara and her friend, Claire, whipped up an amazing brunch of french toast and butternut squash home fries.  
Before brunch, Sara and I went to pick up some milk (for breakfast) and eardrops (for me) from a nearby CVS.  A seemingly well-put together man approached us, apparently to attempt at flirting, and immediately made a deadly mistake.  “Your teeth are too pretty for you to be from West Virginia,” he said with a laugh.  Maybe he thought this was some sort of funny and charming compliment, but the worst thing you can do to a girl from West Virginia is insult her home state.  He saw that we were not at all amused and left.
It has been great catching up with Sara.  She is a genetic counselor at a children’s hospital, and is one of the best people I know.  I asked her what she does in Philly outside of work, since she moved here fairly recently without knowing anyone.  Sara informed me that she joined a local running club and…….. wait for it…….. plays for an adult dodge ball league.  Sara was kind enough to let me post several pictures depicting her dodge ball experience.  Enjoy!

Smiling because she is the last warrior from her team on the battlefield.

Then she realized what this meant.

And shit got real.

Once more for emphasis.
Finally, I want to point out how much targeted advertising amuses me.  I allow Google to post one ad on the right-hand side of my blog, and it chooses what ads to place based on what I write about.  Here is the ad from yesterday:

See how Softcup fits into your... life.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jolly Pirates and NaturalMammas

              Today I drove to Allentown, Pennsylvania to attend my first writing conference, cleverly titled "The Write Stuff."  It was an 8 hour drive, so I set out with the essentials:  2 Jolly Pirate Donuts and a cup of coffee.  For those of you not from the Huntington area, Jolly Pirate Donuts is an amazing local donut shop that uses boxes that look like treasure chests for their large orders.  This makes sense to me because I've always thought that if I ever own a real treasure chest, I will fill it up with donuts.  And Cadbury Creme Eggs.
              I recently lost most of the music on my iPhone, so I had to make my own fun along the way.  I played some "getting to know you" games to break the ice with myself.  For example, I asked myself, “what are your top 5 favorite smells?”  I came up with the following:
     1.     New tennis balls
     2.     Tire stores
     3.     Puppy breath
     4.     How it smells outside after it rains on a hot day
     5.     Freshly cooked brownies
Feel free to disagree with my list.  Except for tennis balls.  That one is not debatable.
I stopped in Hagerstown, Maryland for lunch at Chick-fil-A.   I disagree with Chick-fil-A’s politics, but I love their chicken sandwich and the way their staff talk like airline attendants.  “Your total comes to $5.85.  It will be my pleasure serving you at the window.”
            The highlight of my drive was when I received a rogue text from an unknown number informing me that some girl was “talking about her periods and naturally her menstrual cup again.”  I wrote back for clarification, and it turns out that the text was, in fact, not intended for me.  I did some serious Googling after I got to my hotel room, and discovered that the menstrual cup is the “award-winning revolutionary alternative to tampons and pads.”  They have fun brand names like “DivaCup," “NaturalMamma,” “MoonCup,” and “The Keeper.”  I am all about caring for Mother Earth, and my apologies to the cup divas reading my blog, but carrying Aunt Flo around in an internal chalice just isn’t for me.
            After arriving in Allentown, I put on my business casual attire and headed to the lobby to register for my conference and attend the first lecture.  The speaker, Marie Lamba, did an amazing job talking about the recent changes to the writing and publishing world due to e-readers and an increase in independent publishing.  After Marie’s talk, there was a reception for all of the conference participants.  I met several very interesting writers, several of whom are already published.  The conference continues tomorrow from 8-5, and after it’s over I am driving to Philly to spend a couple of days with my good friend from college, Sara.  At 3:00 p.m. tomorrow I am scheduled to pitch my book to an agent.  I am nervous and excited.  I will write about how it goes, even if it ends up being a disaster.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Road Toy

While stopped at a traffic light earlier today, I noticed that the red Toyota Camry in front of me had a license plate that said "Road Toy."  I chuckled to myself and thought, "just because your car is red, that doesn't make it a sports car."  Then I realized I wasn't being fair.  I imagined the Camry's owner walking into the DMV to get a license plate for their new car.
The DMV employee hands over the license plate, which by pure chance spells out "Road Toy."
"But, I don't want my license plate to say 'Road Toy,'" complains the Camry owner.
"Then you will just have to pay extra for a vanity plate," says the employee.

What a gyp.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

If I Were President...

While sifting through a box of my childhood keepsakes, I found several elementary school assignments that my mom had kept.  I decided to share one that is particularly relevant in light of the current election hype.  At seven years old, I was asked to write my own presidential platform and to draw a picture to accompany it.  Here was the result:

Who needs the White House when you can live in a farm?

I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to slaving people.

Elect me, and I will tap-dance on tables in front of aliens while wearing bear feet.

Pat Bunnytar

Last night’s benefit for Tommy went really well:  Good music, great friends, and tiny plastic bottles of wine.

Huntington, WV band AC30
Me, Anna, and Lindsey
Anna looking classy with her travel-size Chardonnay
I spent most of today writing at my local haunt, the world-renowned Panera Bread, and at the store where I picked up two of these little gems:
It is a little known fact that the ambrosia referred to in Ancient Greek mythology was actually what we know today as the Cadbury Creme Egg.  Their seasonal availability makes them that much more desirable. I like candies that play hard to get.  To top it off, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" was playing in Walgreens and I got to watch Scott put on bunny ears and pretend to be "Pat Bunnytar."  If that's not clever and embarrassing, I don't know what is.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

The first half my day today was dedicated to cleaning, paying bills, doing laundry, taking the recycling in, and taking out the trash.  Evidence shows that I respond well to food bribes, so I told myself “Jenna, if you clean today, I will get you Burger King for lunch.”  And that’s exactly what I did. 
I have a bit of a ritual when I go to Burger King.  On the way there, I often sing a little song I created to the tune of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” that goes “Burger King, Whopper with cheese.  Burger King, for a Whopper with cheese.”  If I’m lucky, my favorite employee is working the drive-thru.  We play this little game where she tries to ask me questions about my order that I am already trying to tell her.  Our interactions go something like this:
“Welcome to Burger King, would you like to try a value meal?”
“Yes, I want a number 1 with chee…”
“Would you like cheese on that?”
“Yes… and I don’t want onio…”
“What do you want on your burger?”
“Everything but onion and tomato.  And can I get fri…”
“Do you want fries or onion rings as a side?”
“Fries.  And a Dr. Pepp…”
“What do you want to drink?”
 Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly competitive, I just plow ahead and say my order without pausing when she tries to interrupt.  Today, however, I played along with the 30 questions.  My meal was delicious, with the exception of flat Dr. Pepper that couldn’t take my taste buds on a journey any more than flat tires could move my car.
I am posting today's entry early because tonight I am going to a benefit for my friend Tommy.  His house recently burned down and he lost all of his belongings and his adorable dog.  For those of you in the Huntington area, the benefit is at the V-Club at 8:00.  Several bands will be playing, including Deadbeats & Barkers, AC30, and Sasha Colette & The Magnolias.  I hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Stay Away from Bears

My friend Sarah as Rapunzel.  The top of the wig was large and fluffy,
like a blonde version of a British Palace Guard hat.
            This morning my friend Sarah and I volunteered at a local children’s character breakfast.  It’s an event where children are served eggs, bacon, and biscuits, as they watch their favorite TV and movie characters parade out to music.  After the breakfast, the kids get the chance to meet all of the characters.  Sarah dressed up like Rapunzel, and due to technical difficulties I went from playing the part of Sleeping Beauty to being Minnie Mouse’s handler.  As handler, my job was to parade Minnie around in front of the children, while making sure she didn’t run into anything.  I felt like an owner in a dog show, leading my canine around in a circle for everyone to see, except my canine was actually an adult woman who was visually handicapped by a gigantic Minnie head.
My sixteen-month-old niece, Lola, came to join the festivities.  She enjoyed seeing the characters, as long as they kept their distance.  She also carried around a banana for the majority of the morning, which I found adorable and endearing.
Lola and her banana friend
After the breakfast, Sarah asked me to go with her to a friend’s “psychic party.”  I have never had a psychic reading before, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I really hoped my reading would be both accurate and illuminating.  It wasn’t.  At least not as far as I can tell.  I tape-recorded my session so I could review it and share the highlights.  On an aside, the psychic sounded exactly like Cleveland from Family Guy.
            First, he told me that I might be pregnant with a baby boy.  My immediate thought was that maybe I shouldn’t have just had that glass of wine.  As if he read my mind (zing), the psychic reassured me that my baby will be healthy.  (For the record, because I know it will be asked, I am not pregnant).
            Second, he excitedly told me I am going to go to Dollywood this summer.  “It sure feels like it’s gonna be fun,” he said.
            Third, he informed me that I should have gone to school to be a lawyer.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’ve already done that.
            Fourth, he told me that my best friend is going to marry a guy with amazing abs.  My psychic stressed the word “amazing.”
            Most importantly, he told me to stay away from bears.  I think this is a good rule of thumb for everyone.  We could all benefit from this sage advice.
            The only other highlight of my day was quitting a game with a stranger on the iPhone app “Draw Something” because of their inexcusably bad drawings and guesses.  This person drew what appeared to be a red piece of bacon and somehow expected me to guess “trophy.”  This is only the second person I have quit playing against.  The first time was several days ago when I drew a gloriously artistic lavalamp, only to have the person guess “lampalav” before giving up.  My suspicion is that they did this just to irritate me.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Getting Introductions Out of the Way...

 I have wanted to be a writer ever since I wrote my own "Star Trek Next Generation" episode in the second grade.  Once in college, however, I decided that my passion for writing should be assigned to the "hobby" category.  My practical side was afraid that aspiring to be a professional writer was like hoping to become a professional athlete or a famous musician — overzealous and improbable.  Instead, I did what many college students do:  I graduated with a liberal arts degree and headed to law school.
I have a certain fondness for the law.  I still have visions of myself as an advocate for justice.  My idealism has yet to be beaten out of me.  But, even after passing the bar exam and entering society as a legitimate, employed attorney, I still felt something was missing.  I was settling.  How could I fully embrace life as a lawyer without first pursuing my true love, writing?
 At the end of August 2011, I left my job as a circuit court law clerk because, well, I finally decided to write a book.  I signed up for a weekly writing class in the fall, and officially started writing my book on September 17, 2011.
It was disorienting going from working full-time and studying for the bar exam, to having zero responsibility other than doing laundry and keeping the dog alive.  The first few months I stayed pretty busy.  I cleaned out the garage, organized our closets, fixed the broken odds and ends that had accumulated around the house, caught up on neglected friendships, and worked diligently on my book every single day.  Such self-motivation can only last so long, however, and soon I found myself waking up a little later, eating a little worse, and accepting very small amounts of activity as sufficient progress for the day.
The once polite question “what are you doing today?” suddenly seemed like a personal attack.  Showering marked the highlight of my day, and instilled me with a great sense of pride.  There were days where I was genuinely excited to try a new bath product.  I found myself telling my husband, a medical resident, “Oh, today you saved lives?  Ha! I found a new micro-scrubbing face wash that doesn’t dry out my skin.”  It wasn’t long before I started looking for new law jobs just to keep my feelings of worthlessness at bay.
I was recently inspired to get my life back on track while going through a box containing forgotten mementos from my childhood.  I found a journal entry I wrote in the ninth grade that reads: "I will never be entirely satisfied with my life unless I touch someone else's life with my writing.  I want to have the power to make others see things in a different light, to comfort someone in their time of need, or even to rid someone of their boredom.  I don't want to be a writer for wealth or fame, but for the happiness and knowledge I could bring to others.  I want to make a difference in the world, and I feel, and hope, that God gave me a talent in writing to accomplish this goal."
This was a much-needed reminder that what I’m working on is more than just a fleeting interest or a wavering passion.  It’s a lifelong goal that I am finally in a position to complete.
I am working hard to stay on track.  I am learning to cook (I just discovered the magic of the crockpot), studying Spanish every day, and keeping up with household chores.  And every day I work on my book.  As of today I have written 35,000 words or 154 pages.  Next week, I am attending my first writing conference, in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  Finally, I’m starting this blog.  My hope is that it will inspire me to continue progress on my book and give me the chance to reach out to potential readers who might garner some enjoyment from my writing.  Ninth-grade Jenna would be proud.