My Best Muse Yet

Uncle Jeremy had the fantastic idea to give Holly a fingerpainting set for Easter. She’s still too young to thoroughly indulge in these messy activities, but we helped her have a good time. As she painted I grabbed Jeremy’s camera to capture my favorite muse of all time.

She seemed more interested in the containers than the paint inside them.

When she was younger she made cooing noises and her mommy and daddy (Kasey & Chris) would pat their fingertips over her mouth to help her make funny sounds. I guess she loved it so much that now she does it herself.

She was pretty worn out after an hour or so of painting (and tasting).

Grandma decided it was time for a bath to wash off all the evidence of Holly’s big day with Uncle Jeremy and her fingerpaints. She has loved the outdoors from the very beginning, and even during her bath in the kitchen sink she just wanted to see outside.

Grandma came up with a great idea to frame Holly’s artwork for Kasey for her first Mother’s Day gift. She also made Kasey a really nice picture book of all the photos we took of Holly throughout her painting extravanganza.

This was one of my favorite days in a very long time…

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The last 30 days, in a nutshell

April really flew by and spring is officially in full swing in Atlanta. Even though the pollen is an inch thick on my car, I haven’t had so much as a sniffle. High-five immune system! So with a little spring in my step, check out everything I’ve been up to this past month.

I’m four weeks into becoming a kick-butt Toastmaster, for which I received the “Fish Out of Water” award the first week for my spastic attempt at a “table topics” response… yikes.

And just this week I gave an impromptu speech on my April Fool’s Day prank, which won me the Best Speech award! What a difference four weeks has made already! I’m still a spaz, just a little less with each attempt.

Jeremy and I went to a Hawk’s game. Watching basketball reminded me of how much I love baseball.

My friend Luanne came to visit. She’s just so darn cool! Not only is she an amazing photographer, but she’s also extremely knowledgeable about the industry. We met at the High Museum for the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit and she educated me on the genius behind these incredible photos.

I believe this is his most famous photograph, and I’m pretty sure I could be arrested for taking this picture. Or maybe they would just kick me out of the museum. I think I’m safe now.

As we left the museum I challenged Luanne to a photo-off to see who could take the best picture outside. Even with her camera phone I’m pretty sure she won, but this was my attempt with a point-n-shoot.

My grandparents came to visit!

 And the Atlanta Braves season has officially kicked off! Of course the game we went to got rained out, but I still got my Dippin Dots and we walked the entire stadium at least twice sporting our matching raincoats.

My beautiful Gator-blue car took a hit in the Target parking lot. I sucked back tears and apologized to the chick in the red Civic. She apologized back. Neither one of us saw the other, so it was neither of our faults. Or both of our faults. However you want to look at it.

I learned a valuable lesson, though. I often rush when people are waiting on me, like the truck that I thought was waiting for me to back out (and she thought they were waiting for her). I rush a lot in an effort to deliver the least amount of inconvenience to people waiting on me. No more! I was here first, so Mister, you can either wait for me to go in my own time or you can run me over. I never lolly-gag, I don’t have a cool gangsta walk with a limp. I walk on a mission, but I will never again rush… at least, not in a parking lot. Good lesson and it’ll probably cost me about $250.

So that’s my month in review. The next month looks like this:
April 22-24 – Tampa with Jeremy’s family
April 27-May 1 – The Florida Keys for Laura’s bachelorette party
May 12-15 – Back home to Daytona for Laura’s wedding
May 17-31 – Spain & Italy!

See you in June! And don’t forget to check out my travel blog!

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The April Fool’s Day prank that keeps pranking

On April Fool’s Day I was sitting at my desk wishing I was good at pranks. I never do anything good! I decided to play with Jeremy by changing my Facebook status to “engaged.” Within five seconds my phone rang because ‘the book’ sent him an email basically saying, “hey, don’t ya need to update your status too?!”  Then one of us (pointing at Jeremy) decided we should leave it up to see who would believe us. Little did we know, getting engaged is apparently way bigger of a deal than having a birthday because our Facebook walls were blowing UP.

When I tell you I was completely nauseus, believe me. My stomach was turning and I was going to up-chuck my Fruit Loops.  I couldn’t believe the number of responses we were getting. And I felt terrible for this fake engagement! My mom helped calm my nerves by getting in on our prank. She said, “Okay, here’s what you gotta do next.” My dear, sweet mom was conspiring! She sent me this photo she found online. Believable, eh?

By noon we had close to 100 responses: friends so happy for us, people asking for the date, what a beautiful bride I will make, etc. I told Jeremy he should just go ahead and propose so we wouldn’t have to let down our friends and family, but later that afternoon I finally caved. I posted a new status apologizing for our prank and wishing everyone a happy April Fool’s Day. No one noticed. The congratulations kept rolling in by the dozens. So I reposted a few hours later “It was a joke! Stop the congratulations! We’re not engaged!” Apparently, even Sister Marion received a phone call about “little Jeremy” halfway around the world. The damage was gaining land mass.

I am still receiving Facebook congratulations messages and texts from friends. It’s been two weeks and they just keep coming. I figure that whenever we actually do end up getting engaged no one will even care. We cried wolf!

But for everyone who did send congratulations and showed their support, we couldn’t be more appreciative. It was great to see how many people love “us.” Next time our Facebook status changes (either to “single” or “engaged”) it won’t be a prank! Just kidding, babe!

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My New Travel Blog

I just can’t wait any longer!

For the past month, Jeremy and I have been working nearly every day building a travel blog to document our adventures. I still love my crisis, but I really wanted another blog I could pour my writing into that has more of a niche. My crisis will still be updated often, since I have a feeling baseboards will continue to snap and prayers will continue to be answered.

Okay, so about the travel blog. When I was still contemplating what direction to go, I thought about the things I love doing most: traveling & being with Jeremy. One morning I woke up and Traveling Kisses flew off my tongue. So that’s it!

It will basically be a collection of trips Jeremy and I have taken and plan to take in the near future. We sneak away on the weekends and we take several big trips a year too, so there is plenty to write about and pictures to share. I should let you know that Jeremy designed the whole site, top to bottom. Isn’t he awesome!? And be sure to play with the Tag Cloud! Right now I only have a few posts on the site, but I encourage you to subscribe and/or get the RSS feed so you can read the newest posts as soon as they’re up.

I hope you love it as much as I do!

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I prayed for a surprise

I’m anticipating a major lifestyle change soon (go ahead mom, you can cringe) and to make it happen I need extra financial stability. In addition to my normal prayers, I decided to pray every single day for one month, as often as I could throughout the day, for money. Not tax return money. Not rebate gift cards. Cold, hard, cash from nowhere. I wanted a check in the mail. I wanted a miracle.

So on January 22, 2010, I started praying. I’ve had prayers answered before and I know God wants to give us the things we desire, but it was still hard to ask for money. Especially (and thankfully) because I’m not in a desperate need. Nonetheless, I prayed.

The following Sunday I tithed at church. It was more than I had ever given, mostly because I never have a lot of cash and that seems like a good excuse. I purposely brought my checkbook and gave $50, which isn’t chump change to me but it didn’t kill me either. I folded the check and prayed as I put it in the offering plate.

I prayed every day. I prayed first thing in the morning and gave thanks, then I discussed with Him why I need the financial cushion. I looked at my bank account throughout the day and visualized it showing more. I prayed when I heard someone talking about money; I prayed when certain songs reminded me to.

My one-month quickly dwindled without any major changes. Even worse, I received much less in this tax return than in past years. With only days left I reminded myself that praying this steadily wasn’t testing God, I was testing myself. I was glad that although I hadn’t received anything tangible, I followed through hardcore on a commitment. And even if no changes occurred, I hadn’t lost anything. In fact, I now understood how to pray relentlessly.

On Tuesday evening I walked in the house and saw the stack of mail Roommate John brought in. I shuffled through the envelopes while contemplating the dinner I was about to make.

It finally arrived with five hours to spare.

A surprise reimbursement check from escrow (still don’t know what that is) on my house! The amount was nearly 10 times the amount I gave at church. I just sat there, staring at the check, when I realized the date: February 22. I knew it!

I’m sure some people could discredit my surprise blessing. They could say reimbursements happen during this time every year, but I didn’t know that. I simply asked. If we knew for a fact that our prayers would be answered, how much more diligently and seriously would we pray? And if we’re constantly looking for blessings, how many more would we see?

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My First Photo Shoot

I am usually the person behind the camera, so I was really excited when Jeremy offered to take some pictures of yours truly this past weekend. I did my hair, slapped on a little extra makeup and was feelin’ pretty confident about myself. That is, until I got “on location.”

It’s nerve wracking because you don’t really know which facial expressions are “translating” well on camera (as Jeremy delicately puts it) and which ones aren’t. I was actually surprised by the outcome… and I really like my hair! Ps, they’re all raw photos.

All of the pictures were taken at the university campus where I work. What a beautiful backdrop!

If you know me at all, you know how uncomfortable I am in 99 percent of these pictures. It’s just not me to be very… posed. I often wish I took more time to do my nails and actually use hairspray, so my afternoon in front of the camera did a lot for my self-esteem.

So, if you’re feeling in a bit of a rut, struggling with winter weight (ahem) or if everything at work seems monotonous and soul-less (ahem), change things up. Hand the camera to your boyfriend, best friend or kid and have them take some photos of you outside. It was a little bit stressful at the time, but the untouched-up, un-photoshopped outcome really gave me a boost.

Nobody else looks like me (except for the Katherine Heigl comparisons that I graciously accept), so I might as well live it up. Plus, now I get to show off my pretty pictures and Jeremy’s great photography skills. He rocks!

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Ten ways I have changed since age 20

I turned 25 in September and for some reason when people ask how old I am I always reply, “I just turned 25.” Now, ‘just turned’ is a relative term, right? As with most of us, there is a part of me that is holding on dearly to my early twenties. For some reason 23 is always the number that comes to mind when someone asks my age, but alas, I am officially mid-twenties.

Time to reflect.

10 Ways I have changed since age 20.

1. I have learned how to color my eyebrows so that people can actually tell there is something between my eyeballs and my forehead.

2. I no longer jump on Turbo Tax the minute I get my tax return. Since buying the house, I’m scared to death I will skip over some huge section or forget to include information from one of the 1,000 letters I’ve received in the mail in the past 6 months that says “Important Tax Information” on the front. I have a crippling fear of being audited.

3. I can’t imagine anything worse than working at a corporate high rise in downtown Atlanta, which is the entire reason I moved here in the first place. I wanted to run Coca-Cola right after I turned the Braves & Hawks marketing departments on their heads.

4. Every circumstance in my life mirrors a Seinfeld episode. I don’t think I saw one full episode until after I graduated college. Now I’ve seen them all 100 times.

5. I have reconnected with almost all of my elementary school friends, thanks to Facebook.

6. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about running away with Jeremy and traveling the world. I’ve always wanted to travel, but now it’s an obsession that keeps me awake at night.

7. I miss Florida. I miss the water. I miss having classes from 9-12 followed by afternoons at the beach.

8. I can truly appreciate good shampoo.

9. My wardrobe no longer consists of clothes smashed from wall to wall (even though Jeremy might disagree). I have a few good items that I love and wear all the time, so I just change them up with accessories. I’m much happier this way.

10. I want to be MORE LIKE MY MOM: more thoughtful, more considerate, more attentive, more assertive, more creative, more devoted, more appreciative and more forgiving. I never didn’t want to be like her, but I am able to appreciate her more after seeing all that she does (with a smile) for my family.

I figure I have 15 more of these recaps to do in my lifetime. That’s another 75 years. I hear when you get to be (really) old, you count up in your years, as in “I’m almost 90.” I’m almost 26. No. Doesn’t work for me yet 😉

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‘Minute To Win It’ has changed my daily life

My name is Jenni and I’m addicted to competition. There, I said it.

Never ask me to be on your team if you don’t want to win. I’ve been known to make my teammates cry while playing board games. Jeremy accuses me of racing him to the car when we leave the mall… and I usually win. There’s a trophy in my house that bounces from bedroom to bedroom depending on who won the most recent challenge (bowling, shuffle board, tennis, anything).

I was recently introduced to Minute To Win It and my competitive nerve has nearly tripled in size. Thank God my boyfriend and my roommate feel the same way. This is how we (plus three friends) spent our Friday night:

This is Josh. He’s “Noodling Around.” How to: Six penne pasta pieces spread around an end table. Pick up each penne using a single uncooked piece of spaghetti and no hands.

Kristen’s attempt at “Ping Pong Plop.” How to: Three dinner plates set on three different surfaces (chairs, end tables, etc.) in a row. Bounce the ball on each plate and into the basket at the end of the lane.

Our game started out like this, but it was so easy even Roommate John could do it. So we took it to the next level and incorporated all three plates. Click Here to see Jeremy dominate Ping Pong Plop.

“Baby Rattle in Action” took some planning on my part. I raced into Walmart on the hunt for small bubble gum balls and the cheapest 2-liter colas I could find (Diet 7-Up). I poured out the soda (I don’t think that drain will ever clog again), and let all four 2-liter bottles dry upside down for a few hours. I filled two of the bottles halfway with bubble gum and Gorilla-taped the other two bottles on top.

The competition is bad enough at home, but of course I bring it to work too. This was my first attempt (at work, of course) before I brought my hard work home for everyone else to enjoy.

Roommate John had the record for the night.

I’m writing this while watching Minute To Win It and if you missed Wednesday’s episode shame on you! You gotta catch the Minute To Win It Fever!

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Picture Perfect Sunday!

I woke up to a beautiful day Sunday! It was absolutely gorgeous – finally weather above 30 degrees! After I picked up my room and did some laundry, I grabbed Jeremy’s camera and made my way into the sunshine in search of a muse. Luckily, my neighbor Jason and his adorable dog Cash were hanging in the field out back. Cash is just four months old.

And here are the animals in my house…

And just so you can see the color I painted the accent wall in the living room:

The wall is a tad more ‘mint’ in person than this picture leads on.

I’d like to believe that my photos get prettier every time I pick up Jeremy’s camera. And there seems to be a never-ending supply of cute and photogenic animals nearby!

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How to Manage Emotions in a Heated Situation

Monday Motivation

On a trip home to Florida a few months back, I was forced to come face-to-face with a very bad flaw I’ve maintained my entire life: I have no ability to wait… on anything.

I left work that afternoon a total wreck. I was irate. My integrity had been challenged at the office and someone was going to pay. I wanted to call that person immediately and flip out on him (not Jeremy, promise)! I wanted to write the nastiest response e-mail and cc half the universe! I wanted to instantly mend my broken feelings while verbally (and physically) destroying the opposition. Instantly is the operative word. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do while sitting in the passenger seat just one hour into a seven-hour trip.

Then something happened: I fell asleep.

I woke up nearly two hours later and felt… different. Still hurt. Still angry. But not irate. I was finally able to use actual words to convey my feelings to Jeremy and rationally discuss the options for how to handle the situation. Then it happened again: another hour, two hours, three hours went by and I was still unable to do anything to immediately resolve the circumstances.

Would you believe that being strapped inside a car going 75 mph for seven hours was the best possible solution for me? And that my immediate, knee-jerk, emotionally charged response would have only escalated the situation into something worse?! (Go figure.) In the end, a ‘higher-up’ who was cc’d on the original e-mail handled the situation for me by the following Monday. I never had to respond or let anyone know how the accusations made me feel. I simply had to wait, which was harder to do than any of my other options.

Being forced to wait in that situation helped me re-evaluate the way I handle many day-to-day interactions. In the past few months I’ve been able to recognize the truly majestic outcomes of ‘just waiting.’ In fact, I recently created a six-month plan for re-directing my career goals. Although I have many action steps in place, a lot of waiting will be necessary for my plans to come to fruition. Before my “waiting epiphany” I wanted everything to change immediately. I wanted to buy today. I wanted to quit tomorrow. But it turns out that more often than not, outcomes are so much sweeter when they’re waited on. Waiting allows for the right people and events to take place in the meantime so you can get the best possible result.

In closing, I’m not suggesting a nap for the next time you’re in an excitable situation. Sometimes you won’t be able to leave the room, the office, the car, etc. But you will be able to control your emotions and wait. Wait for your heart to stop racing. Wait for the perspiration on your brow to dry. Imagine me going ballistic on my colleague and know that you don’t want to be seen like that.

Wait long enough to:
1. consider your options
2. be able to effectively communicate your response plan to someone else first (ie: mom or boyfriend, not another colleague)
3. remember that punching someone is assault and you can be arrested, then the other person wins and you don’t want that

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