Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

Letting Go


Like everyone else with Netflix and a pulse, Vin and I have been rooting through all the crap in our house trying to figure out what sparks joy and what fuels frustration. We spent one rainy afternoon ransacking our basement, which resulted in piling a few errant things in the corner but mostly created a bigger mess than we started with. Parting with small housewares and crap they throw into the bleachers at hockey games has proven no major feat, but from this day forward we both request that any flattery, sentiment or attestations of our friendship MUST BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY. Any hand-written greeting that enters this household will find a permanent station here until the day one or the both of us is crushed beneath an avalanche of Hallmark cards. Thank God I no longer attend summer camp cause if you think I’m getting rid of mom’s letters or dad’s annual birthday poems YOU CRAZY.

spring clean

Anyway, so far in the January clean-out I have parted with the following:

-a fat pile of flat sandals, still cute and in decent condition but perilous to my ongoing plantar fascitis old lady flat foot problem

-an entire cardboard box of documents from our house-hunting days (5 banks in consideration= 5 huge binders of useless paper)

-25 copies of Walter Hartye’s “Book of Love” CD. This guy is a dead ringer for my old landlord.


-an aisle’s worth of unused, unwrapped paper and plastic party decorations. If you’re planning to host cinco de mayo this year, go hit up the Steinway Street Salvation Army this month. I’ve got you.

-an old DVD player (a major victory on my part convincing Vin to toss anything with a plug– please submit congratulations ELECTRONICALLY)


That stuff was easy to part with.

But there’s one thing I’ve decided to say goodbye to that required a lot of soul-searching. It’s been with me a long time, and letting it go has proven very bittersweet.

My job.

As my private therapy practice continues to grow (surprisingly, faster than I could have anticipated), it’s become more and more clear that balancing the two worlds of private practice and community mental health isn’t what I wanto do. I opened my first private day in late October, and just added my second day this month. On those two days, my life feels different. The pace is slower, the work is less demanding and more fun, time is abundant.  On those two days, everything feels lighter, easier. I never knew that going into private practice and running my own show could improve my quality of life so much. I didn’t realize how much stress I was carrying until I experienced an available alternative.

I’ve worked in community mental health clinics since I graduated ten years ago. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, but the longer I stay, the more I have to admit that it’s really draining me. The real “social-worky” part of me threatens to call myself a sell-out for liking private practice so much, but when you realize you have the power to reduce your stress level by approximately 90%, you’d be a fool or a martyr not to take that shot.

So I resigned last week. Based on the nature of my work, I offered two months’ notice. I feel very much like a high school senior who’s already received her college acceptance letter; mentally ready to move on, but still knee-deep in work left to do. Now that the relief of getting the news out in the open with management is behind me, I find myself anxious and filled with dread as I prepare to tell my clients that they’re all being transferred. I have to break up with 50 people next week, and it’s going to SUCK.

Still, you can’t exactly model good self-care when you’re not taking care of yourself.

And you can’t ignore some pretty obvious signs either… on the morning I resigned, I walked into my office of seven years and the place looked like it’d survived an earthquake. A heating pipe had sprung a leak, the ceiling was dripping, books were scattered on the floor and pictures hung sideways on the wall. (The same weird shit happened in our old apartment when we were in contract for our house). Within 12 hours of handing in my resignation, I booked three new private clients. I feel like the universe has my back, and I’m ready to move forward.

New year, new me. Already feeling so much lighter!

Now, if I can only convince Vin to get rid of those receipts from 2004- 2010…




read more

The Life of a Writer

I have been a writer for a very, very long time. I uncovered my talent early, scribbling furiously in little pink notebooks while splayed on my Laura Ashley bedspread. My childhood bedroom was furnished with alluringly feminine pieces–a Victorian style makeup table where I learned to smear glitter all over my face, a canopy bed of wrought iron from which I strung dead dried roses. Vines from our home’s exterior crept inside my front window. I enjoyed clipping them with nail scissors and pretending I was trapped in the tower of an air-conditioned suburban castle. My early setting was very dramatic and inspired my craft.

Recently, I came across a diary I kept throughout my eighth year as a preternaturally evolved person. Please enjoy the early works of a burgeoning artist.

“I’ll always keep this book close to my heart. Through all the years of my life, I will keep this. My favorite page is page 8 about my best friend and me being separated forever.”
Signed, Jennifer (age 8)

Page 4: A Poem
Up in the Sky
“The sky is blue
and the clouds a new
When I sit by the window sill,
Way up in the sky
so high, so high,
up to the brightest star, and I sit and I
sit, And wonder where you are.”
BY: Jennifer P.
March 5, 1986
third grade
age eight 8

Page 8:
“I’ll never forget the day my best friend Magic moved to New Jersey. Yes, it was sad to see my best friend moving, but, it was needed. For her grandmother was dying. It was a tragedy and I cried for her. But I’ll never forget Magic’s smile. And I garentee you she won’t forget mine. And here’s a song I wrote:

Why do we have to be separated like this. We were meant to be together forever forever friends we will be oh, friends together just you and me.

“These words mean a lot to me. Magic was a dear friend to me. And I bet your buckles Erika isn’t even writing in her journal about her moving even though she clams that Magic and her were best friends.

No they weren’t. “


(Can you believe I had a friend named Magic? Actually, her full name was Magic Rain And Moon Nelson D’Arienzo. This is what happens when you’re born in the ’70s.)… And yes, the “And” was capitalized.


So, now do you get the idea? Do you see why I keep crackin’ away at this? You can’t ignore raw talent. You’ve either got it, or you don’t. Same goes for that latent bitchiness in my last entry. If it’s there, you just have to own it. I’m ready to step into my power guys.

So anyway, after a few years (I think it was 3.5, but possibly four!) I *finished* writing my memoir. I put the word finished in little brackets because it will never feel truly finished, I will never get it just right and if by some miracle I am able to get it published in the traditional sense, it’s most certainly not in final form. I’m pretty sure I overuse semi-colons to an almost criminal extent.

Part of me is reluctant to announce “I finished my book!” because now I’m on the hook for whatever comes next. And the truth is, I want something to come out of this. I spent a lot of time on this. I woke up at six–sometimes five– for years to get the writing in before work, when the house was quiet and my brain felt most alert. I wrote this entire thing while Vinny was sleeping; the dude never even saw me at my computer! I spent all spring and summer typing away on my little back patio and I wouldn’t be surprised if my next door neighbors think I have a gaming addiction with the amount of time they’ve seen me glued to my laptop.

I’ve read and fine-tuned each chapter a dozen times, and I can’t look at them anymore. I’ve clipped and rearranged and scrapped big chunks altogether. I’ve given it to a few people (the industry calls them beta-readers) and their feedback was encouraging. But still, when I look over it, I’m constantly asking myself, “Is this a book? Does it read like an actual book?” There are parts I know are good, and there are parts where I think it could be a lot better. It is nearly impossible to objectively read something you’ve written and get a grasp of whether it’s any good or not. Sometimes I read stuff I’ve written and get a kick out of it. Sometimes I read it back and think “Oh wow- this is trash.”

I have no delusions of grandeur here; I didn’t write the next great American novel and I am no Joan Didion. My book falls under the category of “lighthearted”, “easy to read” and “something you might throw in your beach bag”. I’m cool with it. I know what kind of writer I am. I’m hopeful that there are literary agents interested in publishing something like this, but really– I just have no idea what will happen next.

I will say that I am proud of myself for setting a goal and finishing it. Even if nothing happens next (which could very well be the case), I will always be able to say that I got this thing out of my head and onto paper, and I feel true relief in having done that. But if it doesn’t get published in the traditional sense, I will likely self-publish and advertise it here.

That’s where the next phase comes in — marketing myself. Sending queries to agents, proving to them I have a big enough platform to sell copies. Ugh, I’m so loathe to do this, but I’m pretty sure I have to. I’ll ask you this one time and then I’ll shut up about it, but if you like something you read here, please share it–either on social media or the old-fashioned way (with your mouth).

If you’re reading this, I appreciate you. I’ve taken some really long breaks and you stuck around! I’ve always had a really small readership, but it’s always struck me as a smart, encouraging, supportive and savvy one. Now that the book is done, I need to go out and find more people like you to join us here.

If you have any ideas on how to do that, I’m totally open to them. In the meantime, I guess I’ll be in the corner of everyone’s favorite restaurant, hashtagging my poached eggs so that shit can spread like Instagram wildfire.

read more

What To Do When You FINALLY Finish Writing Your Book (!)


Email Subject: Query: XXX (memoir/humor)

Dear kind, savvy and attractive literary agents (all 50++ of you),

I’m seeking representation for my memoir XXX. (My book is not titled XXX; I’m withholding here to add an element of surprise. On second thought though, that’s a pretty intriguing title, isn’t it?).

XXX is about a 22-year-old Gen-X Texas virgin who moves to New York City at the dawn of the millennium, marries a man named Vinny from Queens and fumbles through early adulthood while adjusting to significant cultural differences and a burgeoning digital age.

The story begins in puberty and ends on my 40th birthday, each essay chronicling an experience women of all ages can relate to or find humor in: growing up with quirky mixed-faith parents, a long season of sexual ungainliness, interviewing B-list celebrities as a hair magazine writer, competing on a TV dating show, awkward talks at the gynecologist’s office, urban house hunting adventures and basic reproductive turmoil. It also features practical advice on what to do if your boob explodes in a mental health clinic, you discover your landlord is a XXX (let’s keep that another surprise) and your husband grows a foot-long beard that makes him look like the caveman in a Geico commercial.

The 19 essays bounce between New York City and all across Texas, as my life has, for the last 18 years. Most of them are filled with loving and vivid descriptions of place, local characters, family and food—much of it deep-fried or slathered in bubbling cheese.

I’m a New York City psychotherapist who has been blogging about my personal life for the past few years. I intend to boost interest for this project by reigniting my lifestyle/writing blog Much to My Delight, while I continue developing stories for my next book.

Please let me know if you’d like to look over the completed 49,000 – word manuscript.


Thank you for your consideration.


Jennifer P.

IMG_4598 *Hi everybody. It’s nice to be back. You’ll be seeing a   lot more of me. Unless you’re Tina Fey you need to   have an “established platform” to have a memoir   published these days. Stay tuned. Tweet at me, bro!

**I can’t believe I just told you guys I was a virgin at   22. I must really trust you. Although, if my Grandma is   reading this, I bet she’s feeling pretty smug.

read more

What It’s Like to Be a Therapist

These days i seem to blog only when something significant–good or bad– has happened in my life. A trip, a special moment, a funny or sweet observation. I basically write when I’m moved to do so. I write only when I think I might have something interesting to say. But sometimes I write because I literally don’t know what else to do with my thoughts.

One of my clients died. I found out Friday afternoon, in between appointments. I’d mailed an outreach letter to her home after several missed sessions and the envelope was returned back to me– the word “Deceased” scribbled quickly on the front. I found myself wondering who wrote it. Was it the post office? Her mother? Her super?

what it's like to be a therapist

This isn’t the first of my clients to die. It’s my fourth, that I know of. In nine years, I’ve seen literally hundreds of people. It’s a safe assumption that several have died and word never got back to me. The first three died in their 50s and 60s, from medical reasons. I see several clients in pretty poor health right now, and I worry about them all the time.

This one is weighing on me heavier because she was young. She was only 36. I don’t know how she died but there are possibilities looping through my brain. What I do know is that three kids lost their mom, and every time I think about that, I get a little teary.

My job is so strange. People come to us at their most fragile, and sometimes they stay with us for a very long time. I’d been seeing this client for three years, but a lot of my clients have been seeing me over 5 or 6. Some came with me when I changed agencies. I’ve been seeing one of my clients since I was an intern, when his son was 9. He just graduated high school.

We spend more time with our clients than we do the majority of our friends. How many friends do I see once a week? None! I see my clients more frequently than I see my parents or talk to my brother. We root for them to succeed and we support them if they stumble. We’re genuinely concerned for their health and well-being, and we grieve them when they’re gone. I didn’t know about my client’s funeral. If I had, I would have gone. I’m writing this blog post to process my feelings. I don’t know where else to put my grief, so I’m putting it here.


I’m a pretty fortunate person in that my brain is wired for gratitude. I look for it everyday, but if I’m being honest, I actually don’t have to look very hard. I’m literally overwhelmed by it sometimes. Sometimes it makes me cry a little. Vin makes fun of me, but I think he actually likes that about me.

My job reminds me that this beautiful world is punctuated with tremendous sadness. It reminds me that life is short and fragile, and sometimes cruel. Even so, my work doesn’t diminish my optimism or gratitude. It reinforces it. The happy moments shine a little brighter and I have greater appreciation for them.

I love my job so much. It humbles me every single day. But sometimes, I wonder if it isn’t pressing a little too hard on my heart.


read more

Almost, Not Quite, Just About 40

I’m going to need to update my sidebar soon. It describes me as a 30-something, and that won’t be true much longer.

The race to 40 is not a race at all, but a slow and steady march toward the other side of youth into a land of eye lift serums, fortified yogurt and yearly mammograms. I finally upgraded my skin care routine, which until recently included drugstore cleanser and a drop of coconut oil. I discovered my upper eyelids were starting to droop at the same time I realized it’s time for nose hair clippers. I walked into Kiehls’ flagship store on 2nd avenue and announced to the first guy I saw, “Help me. I’m turning 40″. His name was Bobby, and his eyes danced as he dreamed of commissions while playing dress up with my face. When the bill came I looked Bobby in the eye and said, “Listen, if in two weeks I don’t look like an eighth grader, I’m coming here and demanding my money back.” He laughed and said, “You’re not turning 40. You’re going to be young forever! You have a young spirit.”

I thought about what Bobby said, about having a young spirit and all, and I decided that he’s wrong.

I don’t have a young spirit. My spirit has no interest in staying up late and playing beer pong. My spirit craves 9pm bedtimes and takes probiotics after every meal. My spirit gets overwhelmed in crowds and shoves two fingers in her ears at rock concerts. I actually have a very old spirit with a good sense of humor and a slight curiosity about the whole thing. The whole thing being…what happens next anyway?

I have a profile on the social networking site Facebook (you too?!) and have been following along as all my friends from high school and college turn “THE BIG 4-0” this year. Some of them threw ’70s or ’80s-themed birthday parties. Two had enormous displays in their front yards, the letters 4 and 0 constructed entirely out of balloons. Most booked sitters and took nice vacations someplace tropical; Hawaii, Jamaica, Miami, Puerto Rico. That’s the route I’m going as well. The tickets are booked and I’m already stocking up on big straw hats, which I plan to wear faithfully in this next chapter of my story.



It’s been kind of a trip watching my oldest friends hit this age, the one that used to be associated with mid-life crises and tipping  ”over the hill”. I don’t live close to these friends or see them often, so all I get are little snapshots every few months. What I see are tasteful, grown-up houses and kids dressed for the first day of kindergarten or fifth grade, and sometimes even high school. My old friends are running businesses and church fundraisers. They’re PTA moms and soccer dads. A couple have health problems, the kind you only start to develop “after a certain age”. A few are switching gears or completely starting over.

None of this matters because I see them now as I did then.  The people I grew up with will be 16 or 18 or 22 forever, at least to me. True, most of them don’t look too different physically, but more than that–and as corny as it sounds–their spirits really have remained the same.  Situations and lifestyles and faces change, but at the end of the day or the start of a decade, I’m starting to believe youthfulness has a shot at everlasting.

Eh, we’re not really turning 40. We have young spirits. We’re going to be young forever.

read more

How personal do you get on your blog?


I just discovered this new writer who is making me lose my shit on the subway. Her stories are so outrageous and searingly funny that I can’t stop grinning from ear to ear, shaking my head, and laughing out loud. I clutch my stomach and wipe the happy tears from my eyes. And then, I try to tame myself down. Because that’s what I do.

One of the reasons her writing is so strong is because it’s uninhibited, honest and raw. This chick really puts it all out there. Admittedly, not all of her stuff is up my alley (there’s an entire essay dedicated to the rankness of her farts), but many of her stories had me doubled over in pain from laughing so hard because nothing was off limits–ridiculous sex stories, truly mortifying moments, hysterical family memories.  She’s almost painfully self-aware, and ballsy enough to call attention to her baser qualities. She allowed herself to be very vulnerable and writes in a way that shows she’s clearly not afraid of embarrassing herself. But she also seems afraid to write things that have the potential to truly embarrass others, and that’s where I struggle most as someone who writes in the first-person as opposed to fiction.

how personal should i get on my blog?

The best writing, in my opinion, is just like this. You have to pretend there is no one reading your stuff in order to give yourself permission to really let go. You can’t look over your shoulder worrying “Who’s going to read this?”. You can’t pause and say, “But how will this make me look?” or “What will my mother think?”. Writing without those types of restrictions is refreshing and real, and reminds the reader that at the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of fools fumbling around trying to figure ourselves out.

I really wish I could let myself write this way, but I can’t. Turns out, I am an inhibited person in life and on paper. I have my reasons, and if you’re a blogger who finds herself holding back from writing the whole dirty truth, I bet you do too. My reasons are this: I have a husband, a family, a personal life and a full-time job to consider, and if something I write compromises any of those things, I’d have a really difficult time recovering from that. To me, that risk will never be worth any potential rewards.

So, back to this writer. Her name is Sara Barron, and if you like to laugh you should read her two books because she is truly funny in a way that I will never be. First of all, she ain’t afraid to let her freak flag fly, and will entertain you with many tales of sexual hilarity, including the time she got carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive masturbation and discovered her grandmother’s vibrator in a bedside table drawer. This is a classic distinction of what will always make someone like her funnier than someone like me– had this stuff happened to me, I would carry those tales with me until the day I died. Maybe I would share them at an intimate gathering of my very closest friends, but that’s it. They’d go no further. Two hilarious stories up in smoke, because I couldn’t handle embarrassing myself that way, and my family would (rightly) spear me with a long, pointy dagger if I publicly upset my grandmother. I would never want to bring negative attention to someone I love so much. Plus, I’m still counting on her to direct traffic to my blog.

The truth is, I’m not really at risk for that to happen anyway. I don’t have a ton of wild stories to tell because I’ve never been an incredibly wild person. I have been cautious and relatively conservative my whole life. At slumber parties, the other girls would sneak out the front door and have boys meet them down the street. I’d stay in the house, read magazines in the corner, then put myself to bed at a reasonable hour so I’d wake feeling refreshed in the morning. I usually shared my first few pancakes with the host’s mother; we’d clink juice glasses and swap sections of the newspaper.

I also have a hard time writing openly about my personal feelings. My observations– no problem. But my feelings? That’s very difficult. I’ve got the hang of “show, don’t tell”, particularly when it comes to describing a scene or a setting, but when it comes down to really shooting from the hip and writing from the heart, I struggle. I’m like the Georgia O’Keefe of blogging– all landscapes, no self-portraits.

I am a psychotherapist, and all day long I work within boundaries. Boundaries are huge with dorks like us. I have a job in which I purposely shroud my own background, personal feelings, values, and biases so that I can actively listen, accept and learn about everyone else’s. I have done such a good job at this that it’s now difficult to swing the other way– to let my guard down, to let someone in, to reveal too much. And yes, the idea that my clients would find this blog is something I worry about and tailor my writing around all the time. That’s why I have a different name at work than I do on here, and my Facebook page is named after a movie character. I’m wearing dark sunglasses and a big floppy hat in my Instagram photo. At my day job, my identity is not a secret, but my personal details are to always be sort of vague. This runs exactly counter to the kind of first-person writing I do, and I’m having so much trouble navigating that divide.

Like I said, I’m just another fool fumbling around, trying to figure it all out. With this blog, and the little book of essays I’m stringing together, I continue my quest to determine which stories to tell and how. I’m still trying to get a handle of knowing how far to push and when to pull back. The shape of things is still rather nebulous, with loose shapeless edges that stretch far from center. Nothing is tight; nothing is concrete or secure. It’s a bit of a freefall, frankly.

But there is one thing I do know for sure. My grandmother’s secrets will always be safe with me.



read more

38 Special


At the end of the week, I’ll turn 38. I remember when my parents were 38. I was in junior high. They were in the suburbs.

I’ve been on a quest lately to not think too hard or long about what it means to quickly approach an age that ends in zero and rhymes with Lordy. I’ve forbidden myself from trying to tailor my life’s choices to some kind of pre-ordained timeline because literally nothing I’ve ever pictured myself doing has been completed by the age I expected to, and it’s all worked out just fine. I have no intentions of reading or writing a blog post titled “The 38 things you need to get done by age 38″. I’ll do things on my own watch, thank-you-very-much, and I’m guessing you will too.

I’m not going to take cheap shots at my new age with self-deprecation and tired rants about ticking clocks. I’m not going to congratulate myself for how much I’ve figured out (girl, please) or chide myself for not having everything my childhood self would have anticipated my 38-year-old self to have by now. I’m not going to hyperbolize by spending too much time addressing the subtle lines framing my mouth, the extra fold of skin above my eyes or the elegant bunions on my feet. I’m not going to insult 38 by making it sound old when it simply isn’t. I’m also not going to lie and say that my brain functions much differently than it did when I was 22, because unfortunately (fortunately?) it doesn’t.

me in centrla park

I’m not going to generalize too much because 38 probably looks different on me than it does (or will, or did…) on you. I don’t know what 38 looks like to you. But this is what it looks and feels like for me.

Thirty eight is 25 years of wearing makeup and still not understanding how to apply eye liner so it doesn’t smudge all over my face. It’s searching high and low for the magical concealer that will erase the purple beneath my eyes without creasing at the corners of them. It’s wearing clothes that fit the season and my body type, and almost never the latest trend. It’s being in good physical health, and never taking that fact for granted. It’s putting on a wide-brimmed hat and looking exactly like my mother.

Thirty-eight is not fully understanding why, but finding a small, peculiar thrill in menial tasks like refilling soap dispensers and throwing out an old sponge in exchange for a new one. It’s opening the fridge and feeling gratitude for its fullness. It’s appreciating that I’m not living paycheck to paycheck anymore, that we’re actually doing all right, that we’ve hit a smooth spot in the road where we can just cruise for a while. It’s feeling like we’re not just two kids trying to figure it out anymore, but two smart, capable grown-ups who are making plans and getting things done.

Thirty-eight is right in the thick of it, job-wise. It’s working hard and taking pride in getting up each morning knowing I have somewhere to be, and something to do. It’s living within our means and saving for our future; skipping the labels and status symbols because no one really cares what we can and can’t afford, anyway. It’s tightening the belt in a million ways while saving room in the budget for good bread from the bakery and Sunday brunch with fancy lattes, because life’s too short to be joyless, and weekends are too precious to waste on sad oatmeal and drip coffee.

good coffee

Thirty-eight is having more friends who are parents than friends who are not. It’s loving their childrens’ laughter and big hugs and silly songs, but also feeling excited to go home to my quiet apartment, just my husband and me. It’s seeing friends far less often, but treasuring time with them even more. It’s sifting out who and what’s important, and adjusting plans accordingly. It’s fewer acquaintances, deeper connections, richer conversations. It’s being more comfortable saying no. It’s giving up on the idea of pleasing everybody and making good on the promise to always be true to myself.

Thirty-eight is fewer people calling me kiddo, and more and more addressing me as ma’am. It’s being practically invisible to 20-something boys and a sweet juicy peach to divorced 53-year-old men. It’s identifying with the parents in sitcoms instead of the kids. It’s getting excited over things like fancy vegetable peelers and front-loading washers and dryers. It’s passing groups of teenagers on the street and thinking, “Was I ever that loud?”. It’s spending Friday nights at home and feeling completely satisfied.

Thirty-eight is one month away from my 20th high school reunion in Texas. It’s not dieting or working out like crazy to prepare for it, but shopping for a nice dress that fits me well and is impervious to pit stains. It’s hoping they have fried shrimp and name tags because fried shrimp are delicious and I’ve forgotten a whole lot of names. It’s getting excited to reconnect with my first girlfriends, the ones I met in pre-school who’ve grown up to live with their families in beautiful houses but who live on in my mind as pretty 16-year-olds leaning against their first car on 103rd Street. It’s thinking about how simple things were then, but also reflecting on how pretty great things are now.

Thirty-eight isn’t the beginning, and it hopefully isn’t anywhere near the end, and there’s no way to measure if it’s hovering around the middle. It’s having some things set in stone and others completely up in the air. It’s lingering a little too long in the station between comfortable security and total freedom, and being caught in a weird head space of wanting to tuck roots underground while still fantasizing about running away to a muggy tropical island or a village in the south of France.

Thirty-eight is being curious about my future but constantly homesick for my past, being ready to peek behind the curtain to reveal what comes next while wishing I could yank back the trembling hands of that eternally ticking clock, so I could start at the very beginning and do it all over again.

cute me and vinny




read more

What Happens Next… After Five Years of Blogging.


My grandparents often send me clippings from their local newspaper.  Usually, it’s recipes from the HEB store or articles mentioning Croatia, where my husband’s family is from. Years ago, my grandmother sent me a big feature article from Austin Monthly, with a tiny note attached.

“Dear Jennifer”, wrote my grandmother. She has always been the official correspondent from Grandparent HQ. “This gal was featured in the Austin newspaper in a big article about how she got a book deal from starting this thing called a web-log. Maybe you should do one. Maybe you could get a book deal too.”

My grandparents have always been some of my biggest fans, and have even created a binder where they keep things I’ve written through the years. I’ve leafed through the binder to find articles I wrote as a journalism student, stories from a now defunct website I used to write for, and papers I drafted in high school. They’ve even kept emails they thought I composed particularly well.

“Oh, but you wrote it so nice it sounded like a real story!” Grandma would reply, when asked why she printed and saved an email I sent her in 2001. ”I showed it to some of my friends. They enjoyed it too.” My body of work is already quite well known by every golfer and Lutheran in Marble Falls, Texas.

So I checked out the blog. It was Stephanie Klein’s Greek Tragedy– the OG of the blog world, back when it was full of personal stories and free from copious advertising. She was a terrific writer– sharp and honest with a strong, original voice. Some of my initial thoughts were “Damn, this girl has amazing hair”, “This chick has quite the mouth on her”, and “Huh. Maybe I should start a blog. Maybe I could get a book deal too!”.

Now this would be an amazing place to say… and I did it! Dear Readers, after five years of your loyalty I am proud to say I have finally landed a real-live-book deal! Grandma’s plan worked!!”


Well that day ain’t here yet, but I will tell you that I’ve been working harder to hasten its arrival. I’ve been writing a book. Yes! A real, live book! Can I tell you what a pretentious A-hole I feel like writing that? Who isn’t writing a book? I’m sure half the Kardashians have written  a book. Snooki has a book. If they can do it, why can’t I?

If you’ve been reading for a while (and bless you for that, really) you’ll have noticed that this blog has gone through many iterations over the past five years of me tending it. It started as a fun way to document things I was doing around the city. I posted lots of pictures and recipes and scattered some stories in between. I spent a lot of time on here, and really enjoyed the creative outlet after work. But I could never keep up with 3 or 4 posts a week coupled with my job and personal life, and the only thing I’ve ever really been consistent with is my complete and utter inconsistency. I don’t make a lot of apologies for it because this blog is not my occupation, and I never want writing to feel like another obligation. I’ve taken long breaks and short breaks. Some months I posted every week, some months went by without posting at all.

I have done an absolutely terrible job at promoting this site, and the numbers show. I paid 50 bucks for a sponsorship ad once, gained about three followers, and never went down that road again. I feel like a jerk spreading my stuff on Facebook and twitter, which I’m not even convinced helps anyway. If I get one new bloglovin’ follower every other month, I’m thrilled. A lot of people say that content is king, but I respectfully disagree. It takes a lot more than original content to make yourself noticeable on the internet. I’m sure I could have paid a designer to make my site look more professional, paid more attention to learning about SEO, or spent more of my day commenting on other blogs in order to create a bigger community here, but with a (sometimes draining) full time job and a small budget, I just never took the time.

Time! There is never enough time!

I don’t know how other bloggers do it- I really don’t. I’ve done a lot of evaluating and rejiggering to find out where my time is best invested, and have made adjustments accordingly. I don’t post a lot of pictures anymore, because with my limited back-end knowledge and utter lack of technical prowess, uploading, editing and arranging pictures in a post added at least an hour to the process. There are pages on this site that have been “under construction” for two or three years, and the truth is, they will probably remain that way. I’ve chosen to concentrate my energy on my writing, and the other stuff is just not that important to me. I don’t really feel like spending time tweeting and retweeting either. I find social media a big enough time-suck as it is.

I kind of gave up on the idea of this becoming a popular blog long ago. My posts do not go viral, they are not the type that get “pinned”, and I will never be recognized on the street.  Isn’t that a trip? I have seen “famous” bloggers around the city, and completely recognize them. I’ve seen “Love, Taza” pushing her baby carriage through the Upper West Side; I’ve seen women I follow on Instagram hanging out on the Highline or Bryant Park. One time I even saw Stephanie Klein buying cheese at Central Market in Austin and had a completely embarrassing fan-girl moment. Anyway, I don’t think it’s in the cards for me to become one of those recognizable bloggers. Fine by me.

In many ways, I am glad to be an “under-the-radar” blog, because it’s allowed me to write without a lot of outside influence or pressure. I have not been subject to the criticism or scrutiny that bigger blogs have. To my knowledge, I don’t have many “haters”, but instead have a smart and thoughtful cheering section who encourages me to share my pieces more often. I haven’t had to adjust my content to fit some larger standard because I simply don’t care about fitting one. As a result, I’ve been able to write what I want to write without worrying too much if it will appeal to a mass circulation. Most importantly, checking in here on a semi-regular basis has really, really helped me establish my writing voice. I feel like I’ve developed a very specific writing style that sounds like “me” at this point, and if I’d been writing for a really large group of people, it’s possible I might have derailed from it.

A week or two ago, Vin was scrolling through my Instagram feed, and happened upon a really sweet comment from a reader, urging me to “Write a book already!”.

“Isn’t it weird?” he asked. “Complete strangers are able to follow you and read your posts?”

I was surprised by his reaction, because getting complete strangers to read my posts has been the whole point of having these social media accounts, and a blog. “Of course it’s not weird! When complete strangers tell me to write a book, it’s the most encouraging thing in the world!”.

Seriously, it is. Please never underestimate the impact of your kindness. When you say “You should write a book!” to someone who has always dreamed of writing a book, you are doing many things at once–you’re making her day, you’re quelling her insecurities, and you’re lighting a big bonfire under her butt.  At least that’s what many of you–family, friends, and far-flung readers alike–have done for me. Your notes of encouragement have meant more to me than I could begin to describe. They make me feel like my thoughts matter.

As such, I have been writing here less, and trying to write this beast of a book more. If it shapes up the way it looks in my head, it will be a collection of short personal essays, filled with stories I’ve never shared on the blog before. Right now all the essays are still in the phase Anne Lamont refers to as “the shitty first draft”, but I plan to go back and gussy them up later. I hope they will strike a balance between funny and sweet, and remain consistent with the voice I think I have begun to develop here, on this little web-log that came about after my grandmother sent me a clipping from the newspaper.

If you know any literary agents who are partial to non-fiction and personal essays, feel free to slip them my number. There’s a $20 bill with your name on it if you do. I figure that’s a better investment at this point than a sponsorship ad.

And if (I mean whenwhen!) I ever do finish this next writing project, I already know when and where I’d like to schedule my first stop on the book tour. Pencil me in for springtime in Marble Falls, just after the bluebonnets have made their brilliant debut. I’ll be parked at a skirted table in front of the Lutheran church, where I’ve already established a loyal and supportive fan base.


read more

On Being an Introvert


I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs tests at least 10 times over the past 10 years, always thinking I can somehow outsmart the test and end up with a different result. Nope. Every time, same one.

INFJ. Introversion. Intuition. Feeling. Judging. Apparently it’s the most rare of all personality types, with only 1% of the population testing this particular combination. It’s the one area in my life where I actually feel exotic.

The first times I took the test, I was sure I must have done something wrong. The introverted part of the equation really threw me off because I always considered myself a pretty outgoing person. I was confused. But I can be so chatty! I love throwing parties! I’m not meek or shy! But the more I really learned about what it means to be an introvert, the more I understood that the test was bang on.

Introversion is not about being shy, and extraversion is not about being gregarious. It’s about energy, and where you draw it from. Extroverts gain the most energy from being with others; introverts from within. If you haven’t read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I definitely recommend it, especially if you other introverted types want to feel very understood.

The following is a passage from the book, but if someone ever asked me for a soundbite on how to best describe myself, this would basically be it:

Introverts may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.

This is me to the letter. In addition, there are other qualities inhabited by INFJs that really describe me as well– perfectionism, overly sensitive to criticism, prone to burnout. I also carry a lot of guilt with me for not keeping up with old friends as well as I should. Talking on the phone has never been one of my favored activities.

When I was a kid, I attended a lot of slumber parties. I would have a great time at them, doing the typical girl things–braiding hair, making Rice Krispies treats, prank-calling boys–but there would always come a point in the evening when I would retreat in a corner and start reading magazines (as an adult, it’s cookbooks:). In college, I loved hanging out with my roommates and going to parties but I also spent a whole lot of time driving through town alone to clear my thoughts. Sometimes I would park my car and sit on the side of a hill for hours to write or think. Being alone wasn’t something that bothered me or made me feel lonely; it was something that nourished and refreshed me, as long as it was in the right doses.


(Vin caught me taking a break from the party at a friend’s cabin)

My social engine is in very good working condition, but it peters out after four to six hours of activity. I’m not someone who needs or wants constant social plans. I’ve never partied till I dropped. I party till about 11 or 12 (max), so I can make sure and get enough rest so I can wake up early and have my precious alone time. I realize this makes me sound about as fun as a night of staying in and doing taxes. And yes–for the curious– the idea of having someone around ALL THE TIME (ahem, like a baby) is very frightening for someone who cherishes solitary time the way that I do.

I’ve learned to accept that I may never be considered the life of the party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like going to them!  In fact, Friday night I was so desperate to be sociable that I practically begged my coworker and her boyfriend to go out with me after work.  We had drinks and dinner and dessert and talked to junkies in Tomkins Square Park. I got the social interaction that I craved and then I was ready to go home and hang out with myself. At 8:45.

Like many introverts, I spend a lot of time in my own head and tend to consider my thoughts one of my better companions. It is no coincidence that my personality type and a lifelong love for writing go hand in hand. My career choice as a therapist makes a whole lot of sense in that context too.  One-on-one interactions tend to be my favorite, and if a group is any larger than six, my voice may be the one you hear the least often. I’m not always a quiet or reserved person, but I sure can be. I absolutely hate to yell over other people. I hate to yell, period. If a situation requires yelling in order to be heard, I’d rather sit and listen. Or leave the room.

When I was 25, I made an attempt to teach 3rd grade in the South Bronx. It was a very unfortunate circumstance that the particular school where I taught was incredibly poorly run, with very little support from the administration, veteran teachers, and parents. A disproportionate amount of the students had significant behavioral issues, and I spent more time each day breaking up fights than I did teaching anything. After so many times sending kids to his office, the principal finally suggested I begin shutting my door and yelling at the students to improve classroom management.

You can imagine how well that went.

I couldn’t sleep. I barely ate. I cried every Sunday night. I dropped 15 pounds in less than three months. I was miserable, a nervous wreck. I was working against my natural disposition, my temperament, and my core self. I quit the day before Thanksgiving break. (that’s where the N for Intuition part comes in–when you know something is off, you just know). Still, that job taught me a lot. Working with large groups and being the focus of attention in a room? No thanks. Not for me. Pulling someone aside and talking to them one on one? Much better. My failure as a teacher was my inspiration to become a therapist, and even though there are stressful days in my current occupation, there has never been a day– not one– that stressed me out like teaching did. Play to your strengths! (PS: There might not be another group of people in the world I respect more than teachers.)

get ur freak on

(See? Introverts can have fun too! Here I am…puttin’ my back into it.)

Anyway, enough talking about myself.

I’m starting to feel uncomfortable.


Have you taken the Myers-Briggs Test? Are you an introvert or an extrovert, or a little bit of both? I’m very curious…please share!





read more

Tonight You Will Be Visited by the Ghost of Office Christmas Parties Past


The first time I went to a real company Christmas party I was 22 and brand new in the city. I had just started working for a publishing company as a writer and editor for a series of hairstyling magazines and used my journalism degree to write captions like “Pump up the Volume!”, “Color to Dye For”, and my personal favorite: “What About Bob?”. The company had a lot of titles and were each represented by people who seemed to look like they were perfectly matched to the magazine’s content. The whole staff of Guitar World looked vaguely like rockers, and played guitar at their desks between assignments. The folks at Dog News had pics of their pets on their cubicle walls, and the women who worked for Romantic Country were soft spoken and surrounded by bowls of potpourri. I hoped I was representing my team well by having a decent head of hair. Free highlights and endless beauty swag definitely helped.

The staff Christmas party was held at the Bryant Park Bar & Grill, a classic NYC spot right in front of Bryant Park and behind the public library. It was a seated meal with filet mignon, and I remember feeling pretty proud to work in a place that served us expensive steak for the holidays. They also gave us champagne flutes from Tiffany’s as party favors. I couldn’t wait to tell the folks back home about that.

I ate dinner at an assigned table with the rest of my staff, but I was itching to introduce myself to others in the company since I was still an import looking to make friends. Across the room was a group of people around my age, mostly guys, so I tentatively approached them. I was immediately drawn to the only guy in the entire place wearing a suit. Everyone else had come straight from work in their blue jeans, but he changed into something special for the occasion. I thought that was sweet.

We talked and joked for most of the night and decided to become friends. The next morning I came to work to find him sitting in my office chair, hands folded over his chest and feet propped up on my desk.

And that’s the story of how I met my husband.

me and v

Left: Me and Vin as babies at the office  Right: Back in the years of fancy work parties (Sushi and cocktails…those were the days)


14 years later…

Last Friday was apparently the official office Christmas party night in the city. We both had ours to attend, and were excited to compare notes at the end of the evening.

I work in a non-profit, so expectations for retirement and holiday parties are kept extremely low. The idea to even have a holiday party was only bounced around a week prior to the event, and my curiosity was piqued as to what they could throw together in such a short amount of time. My office is not in a traditional building–it’s in a converted brownstone, so it’s a series of long hallways with tiny, dark bedrooms used as therapy offices. My room also has a sink in the corner, which I have found to be surprisingly useful over the past few years.

There is really only one place in the building that can contain our staff for parties–and that’s the group therapy room. During the day, it’s all AA meetings and DUI classes, but at night, the room transforms into the staff social area. It feels very naughty to drink Barolo from plastic cups in that room. With the lights on, the thrift store artwork– which can only be described as “bric-a-brac” is on full display, but with the overheads turned off and twinkly strands of colored lights draped from the ceiling, I have to admit that our funky group room was able to acquire a pretty sexy holiday glow. We had a few nice little snacks and some pastries from down the street, and then one of our more outgoing admin staff members used the drafty room’s acoustics to belt a karaoke version of “Oh Holy Night”, quickly followed by some Donna Summer and I Will Survive. Therapists tend to be a pretty demure bunch, so we were all grateful for the entertainment. I didn’t take any pictures because A) it was really freaking dark in there and B) Seems uncouth to post pictures of a mental health clinic online.

A few blocks away, Vin was attending his company party, for which he’d received an embossed invitation over a month ago. It was a roaring 20s- themed bash complete with live band and hired swing dancers held in an opulent ballroom that used to be an old bank. Staff dressed in flapper dresses and feather headbands or suspenders and bowties. There was a costume contest. They had fancy finger foods and rivers of free booze. Halfway through the night, Vin texted me this picture along with two videos of professional swing dancing that I have no idea how to upload:


To which I replied: I can’t believe this shit.

Over the years together, we’ve each changed jobs a handful of times, and at this point in our respective careers, our workplaces could not be more opposite. When I visit him at his job, I tend to spend a lot of time in the restroom because compared to ours, it feels like the lobby of the Plaza. It’s especially nice because it’s not shared by male co-workers, like mine is. As a side note, for the love of all that is good and holy, WIPE THE SEAT DOWN.

But I digress.

I am probably past the days of bonuses and goodie bags. There is no swag in social work. There aren’t a ton of benefits or added perks in the non-profit life, except for the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something good for others (which is perhaps, the biggest perk of all). And at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade the work I do all year for a fancier party at the end of it. I wouldn’t even trade it for a subscription to the jelly-of-the-month club, and that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.

I still have those champagne flutes from Tiffany’s.  I’ll drink to that.




read more

The sidebar you added has no widgets. Please add some from the Widgets Page