Welcome to my other blog. I started this one shortly after graduating from the C.I.A, to differentiate between my food and my other thoughts. It's a cozy little place with frequent weird but real, honest thoughts.

There's really not much more to say here, as anything mildly interesting is either down below or written in my Armadillo section above.
Hope you can relate to some of my thoughts and situations, even if they tend to be strange sometimes

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wat Opot Community

I'm going a little off the beaten path this month for my Pre-New Year's Resolution. Over the past few months I've typically donated and shared with you places that help a large amount of people. This month, I'm very glad to be able to share with you a small place in Cambodia.

I hope in sharing this with you I am not giving any misinformation. If I am mistaken in any of this, I am very sorry and will correct it accordingly.

I recently finished a book, In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt

Briefly, it is about the time Gail spent in an Orphanage in Cambodia. But what made this Orphanage different was that children with HIV/AIDS lived there. They could live and receive an education, treatment and a loving atmosphere in a world that rejected them.

To borrow from the website, "What is special about Wat Opot?  It is rare, and perhaps unique in Cambodia, for HIV-infected and non-infected children to live together as family, sharing homes and meals and playing together.  This sets an example for the community, and its effect on increasing tolerance and diminishing fear cannot be overstated.  Many orphanages are simply holding tanks, where fortunate children are either adopted out, or warehoused til they come of age.  Wayne sees Wat Opot as a loving extended family, a place where children will want to return to visit after they have left to live in the larger community.  It is open to everyone, the poorest of the poor, the most rejected and abandoned, regardless of religion or past experience, and to young and old.   Money is tight, but Wat Opot Project runs on the less quantifiable energies of love and kindness, service,  faith, and commitment" 

What really drew me to this community was one of its founders, Wayne. A Vietnam vet and the only survivor of an attack, Wayne wanted to be of service to others. He teamed up with a Buddhist, Vandine Sann, and created this community that would eventually be the Way Opot.

What I really love about Wayne is his love and compassion. He gives himself fully into what he does every day.  I love his integrity and his deep faith. He is doing God's work. He is helping others and giving all the has to better the lives of others. He is truly a good man. I have so much respect and love for his work.  The people who volunteer with him are good people.

It got me really thinking about volunteering abroad. Living in Cambodia for a few months and doing what I could to help.
But I'd be lousy at it. I can easily follow the majority of the rules. I always dress modestly. I don't smoke/drink/do drugs.I would respect the culture and conduct myself in a way befitting of the community.I would throw myself into the community with love, enthusiasm, and respect.

The thing I would struggle with, is coddling the children. I would love and dote. I wouldn't be able to resit a sweet smile or a cute face. I would  be the one to buy 50 or more small pieces of candy for all the children. I wouldn't be able to restrain myself. I would become attached. Which would just be difficult for all of us once I left. I love kids. I tend to dote on the Regular's kids at work. I can't imagine how attached I could become to these children.

But Wat Opot really touched me. As amazing and life changing it would be to join a foundation that traveled to volunteer and help others; I don't think I'm ready for that in my life. Change like that is scary and wonderful. To quote a loved book, The Bean Trees "Some folks are heroes and take the risks, and other folks do what they can from behind the scenes." Until I get to that point of service in my life, I want to work behind the scenes.

 I encourage you to read the book. It is heartfelt and full of life. Getting to know Wayne, the volunteers and the children of the Wat Opot Community only furthers my resolve that one person can absolutely make a difference.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Monks

On Sunday, my parents were having a dinner with a few family friends before a story telling event in town. My mom and her friend were in general discussing how at some point, we need to just let go of people. The friend then told a story about letting go. Here it is in full form.
Two monks were making a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of a great Saint. During the course of their journey, they came to a river where they met a beautiful young woman -- an apparently worldly creature, dressed in expensive finery and with her hair done up in the latest fashion. She was afraid of the current and afraid of ruining her lovely clothing, so asked the brothers if they might carry her across the river.

The younger and more exacting of the brothers was offended at the very idea and turned away with an attitude of disgust. The older brother didn't hesitate, and quickly picked the woman up on his shoulders, carried her across the river, and set her down on the other side. She thanked him and went on her way, and the brother waded back through the waters.

The monks resumed their walk, the older one in perfect equanimity and enjoying the beautiful countryside, while the younger one grew more and more brooding and distracted, so much so that he could keep his silence no longer and suddenly burst out, "Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women, and there you were, not just touching a woman, but carrying her on your shoulders!"

The older monk looked at the younger with a loving, pitiful smile and said, "Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are still carrying her." 


I'm not always "great" at releasing a grudge. There's a lingering bitterness over The Pie Shop Of Horrors that I hope will one day go away permanently.  But that probably wont happen until their inevitable demise of their business. Opps. There I go again. 

When do we get to let go of our past? When do we get to put down our past regrets, mistakes, downfalls and bitterness? 

No long post here. Just an opened ended question to reflect upon. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November Charity: Operation Christmas Child

Continuing on with my Early New Year's Resolution. I know it's November and my charity for this month is Christmas related, but I know these boxes are on a dead line.Operation Christmas Child is a charity through the Samaritans Purse. For $25, you can put together a box for a child of varying ages and it gets sent anywhere around the world with God's love. For my box, I chose a box for a Girl between 10-14, as I assumed that age group probably doesn't get much attention.

I heard a lot about it in the South. My sister-in-law's Church were assembling many, many boxes in South Carolina and in Virginia my Uncle and Aunt's Church were doing the same thing.  I had known about it before the trip, but hearing about it twice in two different states sealed the deal for me.

I try to stay out of religion topics. It's a touchy subject for most people. But to get a little Religious without getting too deep into it, I believe in God and that Jesus loves us. I believe in Jesus' work in helping others. We need to do our part to be more "Christ Like" Whether that be just being kinder and more patient, or donating time, things or money. There's always something we can do to be better people.  I know religion is much more complicated than that. But faith, love and compassion are essential to living a good life. 

If you don't want to dabble in religious organizations, there are plenty of other options for Christmas giving. The Red Kettles for the Salvation Army is my husband's and I most favored and most frequented Holiday time charity. Toys for Tots is also excellent. Of course, there are always food banks to donate to and warm clothes to give anywhere in your town.

Holidays really are a time of giving. Please consider donating this year in lieu of buying someone a gift. Because that $20 you spend on a sweater can go and change someone's life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Month 2- Cranio Care Bears

I plan on taking this monthly resolution very seriously.

Here are a few rules.

1. I will donate to a different charity every month
2. The only exception to this is food donations, which I tend to do bi-monthly, or the Salvation Army during the holiday season, where change is given to the red kettles at every opportunity.
3. It has to be something I am particularly passionate or compassionate about.

Just wanted to clear that up. I'll probably say it again throughout the experience.

I think "Awareness" is great. But only if it's something we were previous unaware or under educated about. Breast Cancer Awareness is UBIQUITOUS. ALL YEAR. But the very worst part is very little of the pink clothes, keychains, jewelry, pens, paper, shoes, dolls, hats, shoelaces, ETC, very rarely goes to anything. It's to "raise awareness" which means "You just paid 30.99 for a t-shirt. The profits will go to the manufacturer" It's a ruse. A clever game to guilt and bully you into buying crap.

Awareness is great but talk is cheap. Donate actual money to actual cancer that will help research, or take care of those in chemo, or support families of those who are affected. There is so much more you can do than buy a keyring or wear a hat.

 As I said before, "Awareness" is wonderful when you learn something new. I didn't know a lot about quite a lot of things before Awareness Days and Months came about.

I know there are endless amounts of things that can impact someone's life. Such as Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria, autism, cancers, Downs syndrome, NF,  Multiple sclerosis, countless birth defects, developmental and physical disabilities/limitations. All of them are equally deserving of help and awareness and attention.

This month, I'm going to be helping Cranio Bears.  
My cousin-in-law had a baby girl the summer of 2012. It was discovered she had craniosynostosis. Because I am completely uneducated and unfit to write a blurb about it, here is a quick overview from the Cranio Bear site.

I've seen and heard a lot about it since her daughter was born and I really want to help raise awareness. I feel like we need to stick together and support each other in our quest to be heard and understood.
The site I am donating to this month offers support and care packages for the (often very young) children undergoing the surgery. They are simple packages designed to give a little love and comfort throughout the process. Which I think is really nifty. And since my family in Ohio received such love through this foundation, I want to support it too.

 I think helping families and the people going through can be as important as researching cures and treatments. Providing care and support and comfort can change a child's or families' outlook and give them the extra love they need to walk through the difficult journey and recovery process.

I know not many people read this, but I am sending this out into the internet world. Trendy marketing campaigns and pink and ribbons and such can be nice. But without the proper research and educated donating, you really wont be helping those who need it most. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County

I decided to start local, and with a cause I find very important. Food banks! I like to give actual food to the donation bin at my grocery store each month, but I know dollars can help do more.

Food was -always- around at my house. I ate meals in-between my meals as a kid. Then ate dinner. Then dessert. Then possibly a bowl of cereal or toast before bed. I never had to worry about being hungry.

But as I grew more aware of my peers and as I grew up, I realized not everyone is that lucky. I love food so much, and it's heartbreaking to think someone doesn't have the access to food most people in the country do. Most of us are lucky; we don't give a second thought to what or where or when we'll eat. This country in general is lucky like that. What's that term? Hunger Anxiety? It's a thing where there isn't enough to eat and you don't know when you'll get food again. I know I'll think of it at 2 am and then wake up with no memory of it.

So after doing some research on Charity Navigator  I wanted to find a local food bank with a high rating. I'm still trying to understand the percentages and such. But the pie charts break down everything into a language I can understand. You want a charity that allocates A LOT of their donations to their cause.

You also want to be careful to donate directly to the intended site. When I clicked "Donate now" it lead me to a third party site. While the fee is 3%-5% to process the donation, it's still better to go directly to the source.

So, here we are at The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.    .$0.97 out of every dollar is used to benefit the program. Which is actually quite a lot. It has a four star rating on charity navigator and since it is in my state, I'm starting here.

Holidays are approaching, but food is needed year round. Please consider donating food or funds to your own local food banks. It's one of those places were a little goes a very long way.

Monday, September 15, 2014

New Year's Resolution in September Inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge

I know it's only October  September, but I'm thinking about New Year's Resolutions. I'm re listening to "The Year of Living Biblically" by AJ Jacobs  and it touches upon many things that I want to improve in my life.  It's actually a pretty good book. Well researched and very committed, AJ takes a journey into Spirituality that I envy a little.

But it got me thinking. I've already lost 90% of the weight I'd like to loose. I'd like to control my temper more and swear less. Cut back on sugar and other "Bad" things.

But what good is that doing anyone but myself?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a brilliant campaign. Really, brilliant. I'm a little jealous. Any foundation wanting to raise awareness to anything would be jealous to even get a fraction of that sort of views and massive coverage. It did a lot of good and I only hope we can continue this kind of mass awareness/donating to more worthwhile things.

Thus enter my Resolution: I will donate to a different charity every month. I will do my best to keep to this. I will do my best  to write a little blurb here or on Facebook talking about the Charity/Foundation/Good Things Doing to let you know what this is and why it deserves help.

Now, it wont be a crazy dollar amount. But it will be something. Some charities, like Cup of Joe for a Joe  is a worthwhile charity that only takes a few dollars.

I wont be spending the money I'd like to spend. But there are so many times when we make plans for "The Future" as in "When we have a little more money, I'd like to donate more" Well, you can't change the world, but you can make a dent. 

Why am I waiting? Matt and I aren't "rich" but we have enough. Enough for me to give a little every month. It will keep me from buying more Doctor Who T-shirts.

If I post it here, it's official. I will stick to it.This isn't "Stop biting my nails" or "loose five pounds". It's going to be a real thing. I'm really looking forward to starting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Good Enough Life

Remember when you were a kid and you dreamed of being a rock star, an astronaut or a doctor? Or all of them? Did life turn out the way you planned? Or do you think life turned out the way you planned because you are content?

I don't remember if I did.  I knew what I wanted. I wanted to go to the Culinary Institute of America the instant I learned it existed. I didn't know it then (or maybe I did), but my life changed at that moment.

Maybe that was when my real life began. It lead me down a path. But it saved me. Middle school was so horrific. But I kept thinking if I just held on for a few years, I'd be at the C.I.A, learning all the things I'd always wanted to learn. If I were to speak to Middle School Jenn,  I'd tell her to keep holding on, because a life you always wanted was going to happen.  Or maybe I wouldn't. Timey-Wimey. I might rip a hole in the time vortex or something.

Everyone's Free to Wear Sunscreen came out in about Spring of 1999. I was 13 finishing 7th grade. I was very young and very impressionable. This "song" spoke to me. If you haven't seen this in awhile or never have, take the time to listen to it. It is the best advice in a 5 minute time span.

I learned to be okay with myself. I was still miserable, but encouraged. It does give you excellent advice.  I stopped reading beauty magazines because they did make me feel ugly (I think it is the best advice I have received in my teendom. I have not read a beauty magazine in 15 years, and yes, I think I look fabulous).
I allowed myself to be weird. I took heart that even though life was miserable then, as I grew older and worked at it, life would be better and happier. What I got out of it and still do is live the best life you can. Be happy. Don't worry so much. You don't know what's going to happen in the future. Be strong and confident. I hope Matt and I are dancing the Funky Chicken at our 75th wedding anniversary. "Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The Race is long, and in the end it's only with yourself."  So who am I to compare my life with someone else's?

My dreams were always dull and vague. I wanted to go to college and get a baking and pastry degree. I wanted to meet the man I'd marry in college. I wanted to get a job I liked 75% of the time and have kids eventually.  I wanted to be happy and healthy. I planned on a simple life. Preferably with a college degree, husband, a kid or two and a dog. And a job. Perfectly mediocre. Not quite the "American Dream" because it doesn't involve massive success. But it's probably a bit 1950's.

That was basically it. I didn't want my own store. Decorating cakes was something I wasn't ever and still am not good at. I didn't want a TV show, or a book deal or fame. I didn't even want to be rich. Just happy. Many years, several jobs and Prozac later, I have it. The life I wanted. My quiet, dull life with my husband. I took the long way round, but here we are.
Where helping my cousin move is my idea of a "big, exciting weekend". But I like that life. The "good enough" life.
And what's wrong with that? I have family I love, a husband who is my best friend and partner in life, and a job. It's a "Good enough life" but it's actually a good life. It took a long time to get to this point of happiness. Not comparing my life to everyone Else's. Because to be honest I do not care about going out late. I do not care about traveling. It's one of those "Sure, eventually" things. But not now. I'd rather see family than go to London.

I don't have a need to go to Comic-Con to geek out with my fellow Whovians. Crowds make me nervous. Even if they are as socially awkward and introverted as I am. I'm not adventurous or spontaneous. I am a hobbit. "We hobbits are plain, quiet creatures. Adventures make one late for dinner."

I feel so settled into my life with my husband. We're talking about kids. Seriously talking about them. In the next three years. That's terrifying.  Don't get me wrong. I want kids. Despite the terror and fear of the hundred thousand things that can go from from the Womb to death. I still want them. When I get to see my cousins' kids, or see photos of them growing up, I want that so badly. They are all such good kids.
I know having a kid will be more terrifying, heart-breaking, difficult, frustrating, trying, exhausting, disgusting, agonizing than I could ever imagine. But I also know that the love and joy it will bring me will be unimaginable.

It will be a dull, normal life.  Will I have a mid-life crisis and lament my boring life? Maybe. But probably not. Will I go back to working those 4am shifts? I don't know. What I do know is the minute I know I'm pregnant my life will be about my family. All the time. Which I know will be frustrating and exhausting. Moms seem to get the short end of the stick sometimes. But I get the feeling it will be okay.

I feel like in this day and age, in this generation, it's not okay to want a quiet, settled life. No, our lives need to be full of road trips! Restaurants! Adventures! Late Nights! Selfies! A life full of life! Roller Coasters! Travel! All-Nighters! Foodies! Yoga!  Freak Flag Flying! Okay, maybe not the last one.

 I hate to be a traitor to my gender and feminism, but I want that family life. Not because society told me so. Or because as a WASP I am obligated to want kids and tennis and wine spritzers. I hate tennis.  I want it because I want it.  So does that not make me a traitor to feminism? Because I actually want it?

 "Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much. Or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody elses"