Throwback Thursday – That One Time I Was a Diva Model

I was not cool in high school. I know a lot of people say but I think it’s a relatable experience most of us share and bond over.  (Well, maybe not if you are my brother Patrick, who has always been popular.  He sucks.*)

Though I enjoyed my high school experience, I still was uncool.  I wasn’t allowed to go to any parties or date, for one.  I remember my dad having a Serious Talk with me right before I started high school. “I know what happens at high school parties,” he said. “You will not be going to any of those.” (Presumably, my father had a different high school experience).  But I’m not blaming my parents for my uncoolness. I would have been uncool regardless of whether or not I had been allowed to go to parties or date.  I wasn’t popular, and boys hardly looked in my direction.  Thankfully, I had an inner circle of friends who were late bloomers like I was, so I really didn’t miss out on anything.

More proof of my uncoolness? I was in orchestra. At one point during sophomore year, for some unexplainable reason, I carried two backpacks.  I had no fashion sense whatsoever, and I once sat next to a girl who trashed my fashion sense with one of her friends right while I was sitting behind her.

I’m not bemoaning my high school experience; I have to say I’m fairly proud of my dorkiness, in retrospect.  And my blatant nerdiness did not stop me from getting an inflated sense of self-worth by my senior year. I think all teenagers go through a stage where they think they are awesome and then are total shitheads about it.  Senior year was that year for me.  Academically, I was doing very well, which gave me pride.  I was in Academic Decathlon and I got like a 102 in calculus for my period grade (it’s not like I was some calculus whiz – this grade only came after a massive extra credit project. That fact did not stop me from gloating about it).  These accomplishments gave me an inflated ego.  I had started listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin (yes, I was one of those teenagers who thought she was so special for listening to classic rock). I started driving.  I had also stopped looking like an Oompa Loompa and while my fashion sense still wasn’t quite developed (this is the girl who spent her last day of classes dressed in jorts, after all), I didn’t dress as badly as I had my freshman year.

So at seventeen, I thought I was hot shit.

Which I guess is why I decided to enter a fashion show for prom.

It’s really funny, when I think back on that now.  Why on earth did I decide to enter a fashion show? My general rule of thumb now, at 29, is staying away from events that would call attention to myself.  The only logical explanation is BOYS.  There were boys who were going to be in that audience.  This was before I experienced any kind of soul-crushing rejection that would later haunt my later teens and early 20s. Also, like I said above – inflated sense of self-worth. OF COURSE THESE BOYS WANTED TO SEE ME.  BECAUSE I WAS AWESOME.

And I was a horrible model.  Here is a photo from the fashion show.  POSTURE.  I DID NOT HAVE IT.

I had kyphosis as a teenager, so let's blame it on that.

I had kyphosis as a teenager, so let’s blame it on that.

I modeled several dresses that evening, but I was most excited to model the Red Dress.  I had tried on the Red Dress several weeks before at a local boutique who was sponsoring this show.  What I did not realize at the time is that they were giving all the models the same dresses to try on.  This was so dumb, especially when you throw a bunch of teenagers in the mix.

So I was about to put on the Red Dress when my biology teacher, who was in charge of the show, came up to me.  “Jenny, can you let one of our other models wear that dress?” she asked, pointing to the model.  The model was beautiful and petite, and due to her size, she had a hard time finding dresses that fit her.  “The red dress is one of the only ones that can fit her.”

If this had happened now, I’d be like, “Yeah, I’ve already modeled three or four dresses.  Have fun.”  But this was my FAVORITE DRESS. Also, I was seventeen and a jerk.  “I really want to wear this dress,” I protested.  “It’s my favorite.”  “Jenny!” my teacher said, disappointed.

But I won. I wore the Red Dress.

Red Dress of SHAME

Red Dress of SHAME

For years, I was so proud of that story. I put my foot down! I was a Strong Woman! I got what I wanted! GO ME!

But now I think, I was such a selfish bitch.

I know you’re not reading this but I’m sorry, Christina.  You should have been able to wear the dress.  If it makes you feel any better, college was miserable and my inflated self-esteem took a giant nosedive.  Yay?

*Patrick actually does not suck LOVE YOU PATRICK


French Knots are Hard

I’m just about completed with my tropical bird project.



If they look creepy and a little soulless, it’s because they are missing their eyes, which will require a French knot.  A French knot looks like this:


This French knot courtesy of

This French knot courtesy of

French knots are hard.  And I’ve found that I have a difficult time interpreting directions for more complicated stitches, perhaps because I am dense. The instructions are like this:


So I’m taking a break on the French knots right now because I really need to finish my Thanksgiving projects.


One will be for Mom, one will be for Boyfriend’s mom, and one will be for my best friend’s mom, who always makes us Thanksgiving dinner every year the day after Thanksgiving. It is amazing and this year will be the fifth annual dinner.

So that’s keeping my busy.

Also keeping me busy is my little bug, who’s back home with me this week.  The apartment was so empty without him so I’m glad to have the little pup back.  He is a LOT more chill than he used to be, so I can’t complain too much…but he still enjoys stealing my stuff every now and then.  Like yesterday, he ran off with my sewing packet and nearly swallowed all this thread:


I can’t believe next week will be Thanksgiving! Now off to do actual work…

It’s Almost Thanksgiving and I’m Going to Freak Out

I was looking at my planner on Friday and realized that I have three weeks to finish a big report before my Christmas vacation.

I’m so glad I started on this report early or else I would be in huge trouble now.  I had a question about data that took awhile to track down; it’s finally been resolved, so I can continue with the bulk of the work this week.  One of my coworkers who will be instrumental in the document review will be taking Thanksgiving week off, so I have less than a week to pull together the most important section for her review to stay on track.


In other words, I have too many personal projects to finish up before Christmas.  The first is Collab Challenge. Collab is a Facebook group that my brother, several close friends, and I are a part of.  We used to be really good at setting and completing music challenges, but we’ve all gotten pretty busy the last year or two. Anyway, I challenged everyone to complete a major project by Christmas. I was pretty ambitious for mine and I HAVE NOT EVEN STARTED IT YET, OH GOD.

Then I have several crafty projects that I want to finish for friends and family by Christmas.  They are small little projects from Cross Stitcher magazine, so it won’t be impossible.


This weekend was pretty good, and provided a nice respite to prepare me for the inevitable busyness of the upcoming week. I did not run at all, which is not good. But we took a small road trip for Boyfriend to present his research at a conference (he did very well). Afterward we went to a really neat shop, and I was able to pick up some goodies – a pretty scarf, a journal with a bird on it (I’m a sucker for journals and birds), an owl necklace (I also love owls), fudge, and a ginormous sugar plum candy cane.

I’m also about done with my tropical bird project. The fabric got smudged, which is frustrating; I’ll need to figure out how to clean it.  I also read the new Hyperbole and a Half book, and it is fantastic.

I hope everyone has also had a great weekend.


The Field Job Where Everything Went Wrong

I don’t know why, but as I worked outside on Thursday, I had a sudden urge to listen to Phil Collins.

It was my second day in the field, and I still had three wells to sample.  Three wells out of FIVE.  I should have finished on Wednesday, but I’d encountered a slight problem when I’d arrived to the site on Wednesday morning.

I’d had an ominous feeling driving to the site that morning.  Something was going to go wrong, I knew it.  I’d frantically checked in my backseat at red lights to make sure I didn’t forget the pump or bottles for the metals samples, and DID I REMEMBER THE WATER LEVEL METER?  The equipment was all there, safely ensconced in the backseat, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this field job was not going to be as easy as it appeared on paper – sampling just a handful of wells with a peristaltic pump.  In the groundwater sampling world, this pump is super easy to operate – you don’t have to ease it down any wells, which can get heavy; there’s no equipment decontamination, which gets annoying, AND it’s battery operated.  I had been expecting to finish that afternoon and then spend a comfortable evening reclining at a restaurant, eating seafood to reward myself for my hard work.

As I drove up to the site that morning, I got out of my car and then stopped at the gate.  “Uh oh.” I said. And I stared.  The grass onsite had grown up to the height of my knees, even up to my waist in some areas.


And the sad thing is, I saw this coming.  The last time I was out at the site, in September, I thought, “Hmm.  The grass is growing taller.” And then I promptly forgot about the grass until my project manager sent an email about mowing the site.  Grass is usually mowed during semiannual events in January and July.  I’d been out at the site last November 2012 for some unrelated work, and there had been no problem driving around it, four months post-mowing.  But we’d hardly received any rain last year.  This year, it rained much more frequently.

I frantically emailed my project manager and requested that the site be mowed next week, because, um, the grass may have grown a little tall.  She contacted the mower, who regretfully declined.  He would never turn us down, he explained, but he was in the middle of a big job and wouldn’t be finished by next week.  “Will you be okay?” she asked.  “I’ll be fine,” I said.  I had expected to drive at least halfway through the site, where there is a little staging area.  I’ve had to park there and carry my equipment to the wells before whenever the field was too muddy to drive on, and it didn’t set me behind schedule too much.  She gave me some knee-high steel-toed boots in case I’d have to walk through high grass.

But I’d had no idea the grass would be that overgrown.  I bit my lip.  The wells were located about a quarter mile away from the gate.  Carrying the equipment would require multiple trips, which would be time-consuming and be exhausting.  I needed to drive my truck as far as I could. My instinct told me this was a bad idea, and I envisioned my rental truck catching on fire.

I drove for about thirty seconds through the high grass before stopping. The grass was still high and it made me nervous.  I got out of the truck to check on the conditions.  There was a funny smell. I’m not saying it smelled like smoke.  But it didn’t smell right.

I knew then that I would have to carry everything.

I took my equipment out of the truck and then called my project manager.  These projects for this particular client typically have a fairly prescriptive budget – you have to stay within the hours you are budgeted unless you have a really good reason not to.  I knew I was going to blow the budget if I had to carry everything.  I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being overly cautious, somehow – she has tons of experience in the field, and though I’m not a relative novice anymore (at least with groundwater sampling), she has years of experience over mine

But my project manager agreed with me, and even consulted the health and safety officer just to make sure. I nervously mentioned I’d already driven through the high grass for a bit and still needed to back out.  There would be minimal chances of my truck catching on fire, since it wasn’t August and I wouldn’t be idling the vehicle. But driving it any further into the site wouldn’t be a good option.

I got the car and tried to turn the truck around, but the path was too narrow; grass was overgrown everywhere, making it impossible for me to reverse with ease.  Finally, I looked in the rear view mirror.  The best option was to drive my truck in reverse, through a gate with fairly narrow clearance.  I had a false start, then gave myself a pep talk.  “You just gotta do it, Jenny,” I said firmly.

I put the truck in reverse, put my foot on the gas, and then steered the truck back through the high grass and the gate without ever touching it.

I’m not gonna lie – I felt like a badass after that.

But then it was back to the real world – having to carry everything.  It took me an hour, but I finally hauled my equipment to the site.  I began my normal duties – calibrating equipment, measuring water levels.  I began setting up at a well before I noticed that one of my pieces of equipment was missing something.  It was such a small piece of  the equipment that it was not unreasonable for me to have not realized that the environmental suppliers had forgotten to send it to me. I’m not going to bore everyone with details, but essentially, the equipment was still operable, but I would have to improvise some things.

This is not a big deal now, but then I was tired and hungry and already frustrated by the day’s increasingly bleak work output.  “GODDAMN IT, I AM GOING TO LUNCH,” I announced with a huff.

That night, I rested my sore limbs at a restaurant. I usually do not eat out when I’m by myself; I get lazy. But I’d been looking forward to a good meal. I brought my book and relaxed as I ate.  It was an enjoyable meal and very soothing.

The next day, my muscles were sore in a way I hadn’t experienced since I’d trained for the marathon.

I’d started the day off cheerfully.  It was then that I’d had that impulse to listen to Phil Collins as I was lugging equipment back to the site. I felt silly but accomplished.  Field work is some of the most frustrating work I’ve had to do, but it’s also the most rewarding, if that makes sense.  I grew up not believing in myself or my capabilities.  I saw myself as weak, as flighty, as someone who couldn’t trust herself. It’s so much easier to trust other people than it is to trust myself.  When I first started field work, I would feel lost when these situations arose.

I still get frustrated, especially if it’s not something I’ve dealt with before, but I’ve come to find that there’s always a solution.  The job may be a lot messier, and it may not be by the book, but you can get it done.  As for me? I’m okay.  I’m not saying I know how to handle every situation that comes my way.  But I’ve found that I’m a lot tougher than I initially gave myself credit for.  I can lug my equipment through tall grass in steel-toed boots, even though it’s exhausting.  I can open a 55-gallon drum with a crowbar.  I’m not an expert in groundwater sampling but I know enough about it to troubleshoot if something’s going on.

I do okay.

These kinds of field jobs – the ones where something go impossibly wrong, no matter how much you prepare – are going to happen.  What matters is your attitude.  If you bitch and complain about it incessantly, then you’re going to have an even shittier day.  But if you view it as an adventure, a good workout, and an excuse to listen to cheesy music as you work, then you’re much better off.  You may just get a funny story out of it.



Throwback Thursday – Geeky Six-Year-Old Jenny

Today, my brother posted a rather charming set of old family photos for Throwback Thursday.  My mother told me that they had spent several hours poring over old albums.

There was this charmer.  I was six years old and had just lost my front tooth – I think I am learning how to smile again.  I completely forgot that this picture existed until my brother posted it.  Thanks, Patrick?

I now understand why my dad used to call me "toothless witch."

I now understand why my dad used to call me “toothless witch.”

Then he posted a serene photo of himself, my mother, and I, Christmas 1990.  We all had happy, content smiles on our faces. I had forgotten about this picture too, because I only remember one picture being taken from that day, and I was scowling angrily in that one.

Before I show you the pictures as a side-by-side comparison, a quick set-up: so, I have a pretty big sweet tooth as an adult.  But as a child?  I was ridiculous.  I used to eat candy until I threw it up.  I only remember this happening a couple of times, like Halloween 1989, when I threw up all over my Super Mario face mask (I wanted to be something like a princess but told my dad I needed a costume at the last minute, and Mario was all he could find. Looking back, I’m so glad he got me Mario and not a princess costume).  DIGRESSION.

TL;DR according to my mom, I got sick frequently from consuming too much candy.

The pictures I am about to post are from Christmas 1990. I was six.  It was a good Christmas – I got Little Miss Magic Hair and lots of candy.  We took the standard family photos that day.  Then at some point, Mom took the candy away from me, because of the aforementioned gluttony. I remember being furious about this.

So behold.  A study on the effects of sugar consumption in a young child.  On the left? I’m allowed to have my treats. I’m happy.  But the picture on the right?  Taken post-candy revocation.

"It's the most wonderful time of the - GIVE ME MY CANDY, WOMAN."

“It’s the most wonderful time of the – GIVE ME MY CANDY, WOMAN.”

And may I add, not much has changed since then. I don’t eat candy until I throw up anymore, but I definitely eat too much and then feel gross afterwards.  This was made apparent just recently, as many coworkers left Halloween candy outside of their cubes and I made a secret, concerted effort to sneak candy away without their knowledge.  And this past weekend, when Boyfriend and I went to Target, I think I spent $10 on Christmas candy alone. I AM A MONSTER THAT CANNOT BE STOPPED.

It’s Too Quiet In Here

“Send me a good song,” my friend asked during a Google chat conversation.

I sent him this song:

I can’t get this song out of my head!  It’s so lovely and sad.  I don’t think he liked it very much. But don’t take his word for it! (Take mine!)

After work, I went to make-up drum lessons, then Half Price Books. I was looking forward to selling back a heap of books, over a reusable bag’s worth. I received $10.75 for the books.  Yep.  Half of my money went to this:


I figured it’s time I learn how to knit.  Also? Knitting is really hard.

I fiddled with learning how to cast a stitch, feeling very stupid in the process.  Then I finished the last of the zombie trifecta:


I am SO GLAD to be done with zombie-related stitching. I’m glad I finally finished the kit, but I got bored doing the same theme and there were definite issues with the kit.

As you can see, I have been very productive without the dog. I miss him, though. It’s so weird not having him around.  How did I live by myself for so long without one?  Boyfriend sent me a picture of our pup this evening and my heart melted.


I’ll keep busy this week, so that on Friday, seeing this little guy will be my reward.