Teeth, swine, 29.

"I'm getting a wisdom tooth."

"What, are you 17? Did you lie on your resume to get a job here?"

"Shut up, it's supposed to be impacted."

Turns out it's just impactFUL. Years ago, my dentist took out two wisdom teeth and told me the other two were hidden deep in the recesses of Never Appearing. Some part of me is convinced that riding this pain out will result in a new, friendly tooth that fits nicely in my mouth. The other part of me is about to pull a fast one and revive the teenage years of laughing gas and gauze chez la dentiste.

Le sigh. I really don't feel like dealing with this.


Tomorrow I am supposed to get a Swine Flu shot. Having been forewarned by many a friend that India is bursting at the seams with H1N1-ness, I called the local Duane Reade. "Come between 11 and 3," the woman said. How simple is that?

Then I mentioned it to a co-worker who looked at me kind of oddly. "I don't think they can give you that... it's only for children or women who are..."

STOP. Nope. Not preggers. Please. Just hypochondriatic (not a word, but should be) about all of the possible diseases that I could contract during Tejal's nuptials. Will report back about the ease with which one can obtain Swine antibodies.


This morning I was thinking about turning thirty. It's not for another year plus, but still. Thinking about the number. What's supposed to happen when you turn 30? All of your underwear turns frumpy and gray. That's what.

I kept rolling this number around on my tongue. "THIRTY YEARS of living," I thought. "THIRTY YEARS and no book to show for it. THIRTY YEARS of someone existing with my name."

That's a long friggin' time!

So I think I have to do something significant in my 29th year. I don't know what yet, but come on. THIRTY YEARS? I gotta accomplish something by then. Right now I feel like a recent grad who somehow stumbled into an apartment and a cat and an unlimited metro card. How did this time pass?

So, you know. Twenty-ninth year. Eyes peeled.


Freak show, midtown

So... wow. Looks like the UN was a freak show yesterday, no? I spent my workout last night at the gym listening to the speeches of Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi and... what the what. Not quite sure who Gaddafi paid off to get NINETY-SIX minutes of rambling in front of an international stage.

Obama's speech was, I thought, forceful and thoughtful. What an unfamiliar pleasure to be impressed by one's leader.


I was a senior in college when the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Immediately upon the declaration, Muhlenberg announced a "teach-in." Classes were canceled for the day and the departments organized discussion groups and learning sessions about various relevant subjects. The language department spoke about how the declaration was seen by other countries around the world. The religion department taught on the different religions of the people who live there. The history department shared a history of the region and background on Saddam. The philosophy department taught on the philosophy of war. It was one of my favorite experiences of college... perhaps why I love the New Yorker festival is that it presents another opportunity for a short-term, yet intense, period of learning.

In any event, inspired by all of the discussion and debate, I headed off in a bus to protest the war in D.C. a few weeks later. There is something incredible about a protest: the energy, the immediate kinship, the mental exercise of deciding where you fall on the spectrum of whatever you're protesting against or for. How refreshing it was to actually DO something about my feelings against the war... it felt like a mix of history and America and freedom of speech and revolution. It felt like believing in something.

I worry that my generation doesn't have as many of these moments as other generations did. I worry that people defer to leaving sarcastic comments on blogs and news articles, from the comfort of their lifestyles.


I work around the corner from the U.N. and we've been seeing a bunch of protests and rallys. Many were immigration related, but on a quick jaunt to the library, I passed through the parade of people protesting Ahmadinejad's presidency. The stream of people extended down 3rd Avenue, all holding Iranian flags or posters, all chanting about needing the truth of the presidency and mourning the loss of the innocent people who have been killed or tortured by this government. "Rock on," I thought to myself as I passed by them.

I doubt I have any Iranian or Libyan readers, but in case I do, chin up. Your leaders demonstrated irresponsible leadership yesterday in the best case, and extremely dangerous leadership in the worst. But we don't assume that the entire country believes what these two men assert. There's the reality that a people is represented by one figure and the simultaneous given that one person can never represent the truth of all his or her constituents.

We spent 8 years coming to terms with that.


Status: pending

I haven't listened to my iPod while commuting in a long time. Nothing against it; I just simply have too much to read in this life. A subscription to the New Yorker is both a blessing and a curse. Fantastic, fun-fact-filled articles... and a time suck like no other, on a weekly basis at that. Last night, though, I slipped on the headphones from my gym bag and found myself swept up by the striking contrast of a silent New York City. Faces, buildings, all mute- as the soundtrack plays on.

At times like these, I am plunged headfirst into characters. I become one myself. If my life were a television series, this week would be the season premiere. The camera pans across the city, tracks down the central character as she walks towards the subway in Union Square. She always has a new haircut and clothes; it is, after all, a new season and there are future DVDs to come.

If my life were a television series, what would the narrator say behind the opening scenes of this season? How to fill in the blanks since we last left her in the spring? How to describe the summer? I wondered what images would sufficiently represent my summer, what the Yearbook would look like. The fact that it was almost indiscernible from my spring concerned me; time has made a milkshake of my memories and I am losing definition behind what was when and with who.

Camera pans to subway, where she stands, surrounded by L-train commuters. It is hard not to feel epic with a song blasting out the noise of the subway around you. I cannot hear these people complaining about their days. Instead, I am struck by how easily I can imagine what they looked like as children.

I am brought again to character. To emotion, to feeling, to moving, to crowds. My fingers itch to write as much of it as I can translate from the reality, but I am far from a keyboard. Instead I stuff my imagination with phrases and thoughts for a later time. This stuffing happens often. It's the de-stuffing that is consistently lost when I'm interrupted by a text message or I come home to a conversation. Need time to de-stuff, I think and my subconscious laughs. Right after this week's New Yorker is finished.


"So Jen, how's the book coming?" Numerous times in Europe. "Are you writing? How's your book?" From my brother. I flick away these questions. Irritated. My brother presses: "Jenny, you have to do it, ok?" "I know. I'm just... busy." "Ok, just make sure you make time for it."

If you all only knew. If you knew what a complicated relationship I have with the task of words, the joy of creating them and the heavy organizational job of finding the space to write them. A million plans per day about how I will now change my days to find time to write. But the gym! And other creative projects! And I don't want to lose my French! And maybe if I was supposed to write, I'd fight harder to find time. And maybe I'm supposed to contribute other types of creative projects to this world. And there are so many books to read at the library! For free!

Then, suddenly, I'm in the subway with a ballad blasting in the background of a million evening commuters and I know it's coming. Somehow it will happen. A little patience required.

Thanks for asking. Yes, there is a book in me. No, I haven't found it yet. Yes, I think about it most hours of most days. Sit tight. It's coming.


The loss of the losing

Last night during the Ingrid Michaelson concert (which, by the way, was one of the most fun I've ever been to), she played a mix of old songs and new. Several of her songs from the Boys and Girls album reminded me of the period after I'd moved home from France and would drive from work to Yoga before heading home to my parents'. Ingrid's album was the soundtrack of those few months and last night I found myself thinking about that wonderful moment with music- the one when you are so distraught or lost that you can only sing someone else's words over and over again. And it gives you strength.

This is the power of break-up songs, isn't it? The message that you're better off and your life will be ok and you are finally free. The freedom that I have felt in the past after break-ups has always been fueled by music, both Ingrid's and others.

Last night I thought about how my life has been pretty good lately and how the space within me to connect with some of those secretly-longing-to-be-freer lyrics seems to have shifted. I still hear the songs, I still understand where the lyrics come from, but they no longer resonate with me. I suppose that means I'm happy.

When you've spent 28 years grasping at the hints of love that find their way into your life (both Love and love), it is an odd feeling to have drained that pool. The 'what if' path is well-worn in my love life; I have, many times, left something with substance for the possibility of something more. I never left someone because there was nothing left. Rather, I left because I suspected there was nothing more to find.

The moments of rebound, of self-motivated bounce-back, that have defined who and how I am... they are part of my identity. For a split second during the concert, I mourned their loss. And then I imagined all of the other moments that I don't even know about yet- the moments AFTER the starting gate of a relationship, the time that doesn't involve finding someone but rather staying with and working on life together with someone. Those I know nothing about yet.

One of the reasons I so love Ingrid is because she's about the same age as I am. As she discovers life, so do I. And I'm so excited for the day when she puts out an album about this next step in Love; to see how she interprets it, to sing along and consider how I connect with it... that's going to be great.


An A through Z list of everything we encountered in France (and Finland!)

Alien bites?
I mean, a week is not complete if I don't get attacked by some insect, right? (For more on attacks, see H). On our fourth day, I noticed that I had giant bites all over my arms and back. Not mosquito. Chris had none. They itched like hell until the end of the trip until they faded to the freaky shadows they are today. French spiders? Fleas? Now considering buying mosquito netting and wearing it daily.

The incredibly lovely Maddy and Katie came to Paris to visit with us during the weekend, and I dare say that Chris was so influenced by them that he spent the rest of the trip speaking about how many pounds something cost. "Whoah, that coke is 9 pounds in this cafe." "...." "I mean Euros!!"

Celine and I worked at the same high school in Clermont in 2003-04. Since then, I've visited her a bunch of times in France and she's come over to New York. She is always an incredible host and we have the best conversations about France and America and the world.

Dramatic Vistas
View from Pompidou? From Montmartre? From the Eiffel Tower? Most of our time spent in Paris was based on trying to get as high above the city as possible, only to look back down at it.

Erica and Damien
You know you have good friends when they loan you a cell phone for your trip. Also when they let you taste their pistachio pie during a picnic in the park. Erica, you will never know how much I dreamed of that pie for the rest of the trip and sought it out in every patisserie we passed...

Awesome realization: lots of people complimented my French, even after being away for a year. Sad realization: I never use it in New York.

Les Granges
I found this B&B online and instantly the second half of our trip was planned. We decided to rent a car to get there and explore Normandy a bit, while relaxing after a hectic few days in Paris. I cannot recommend Madame's cooking enough; if you go, you should definitely eat in one night!

Homeless Man Beatings
Although we can all laugh about it now, our scariest moment of the trip was when a random homeless man ruined our party on the Pont des Arts by trying to get our wine and then kicking me across the picnic blanket. What!? Yes. When Chris tried to get up to defend my honor, he got his face pushed... thus ensued a stand-off with said homeless man who had since grabbed a bottle. The cops came, I was shaken and a little bruised, but we carried on with our party down the Seine. Nothing stops Middlebury alumni from partying. Not even homeless violence.

Hey! Look down there! It's Iceland!

The closest I came to being annoyed at Chris this whole vacation was how quickly the damn guy fell asleep. "Gee, I'm a little sleepy," I'd say. "Not me," he'd reply. Five seconds later: "zzzzzzzzz." Jetlag is irritating when you have to do it alone.

King Louis
I've been to Versailles about 10 times now (ok, probably more like 5), but I never tire of the gardens. The Hamlet where Marie Antoinette used to play house is adorable and it's always fun to get ice cream along the side of the canal.

The Louvre is impressive. The Louvre is also a stressful pain in the ass. Obviously I was not going to deprive Chris of his chance to see the Mona Lisa in person, though, so we joined the crowds and made awkward Mona Lisa smiles.

Moutons and Moutard
Ahh mustard. Even though I hate it, I always end up at the Maille store in Paris, chosing exotic flavors of mustard and vinegar and oil as gifts. And we did see some sheep while we were at Versailles... prompting the obvious new insult for sheep: YOU MOUTARD.

Monet's water-lilies and the gardens around his house were just... crazy beautiful. I wanted to live in that house in Giverny and become a painter. Badly.

I do not care what the food is. I will always love Orangina as my accompanying drink.

Have I mentioned that I love sitting in parks? That sometimes the mere fact that the parks in New York are cold and uninviting ruin my day? I got my annual fill of flower beds and fountains, pony rides and picnics this year as we hit up the Tuileries, Jardins de Luxembourg and Parc Monceau, among others in Versailles and Honfleur.

Questionable Highway Signs
We had a laugh with our dinner companions at the B&B as we asked a bunch of questions about the road signs we'd encountered. "What the heck is a blue circle with a red slash through it?" "Oh, that means no parking." Oh. Duh.

From down the terminal, we could smell it. "MMM what is that??" Chris asked. It was, of course, Reindeer Jerky. On our trip back, we planned to stop and buy some for the office, however found ourselves on the wrong side of Passport Control. Long story short, we now each have four stamps from Helsinki in our passports... nothing could stop us from buying that jerky. Not even border security.

One day we walked about 68 miles. We were supposed to do a fancy dinner that night. Instead, we opted for giant bowls of delicious French Onion Soup at a nearby Brasserie. We do not regret this choice.

Halfway through the trip, I thought: "Shit. I have not had conversations like this since last year." Friendships based on scarce meetings are like that, aren't they? You know you don't have a lot of time together, so you jump in the deep end. My foreign buddies are nothing if not curious and talkative, inquisitive and open-minded.

Unexpected Pepper
You know what sucks about Finnish pastries that are labeled "Buttercream"? They don't mention that they are TEEMING with chunks of black pepper. Blech. Thanks for nothing, Finland.

Vivienne, Hotel
Guys, this hotel was killer. Free Internet, clean rooms, showers that hang up on the wall. Real pillows. French TV. A cat named Romero in the lobby. And wait, 90 euros per night. IN CENTRAL PARIS. Honestly, I don't know why you're not staying there right now.

I had a lovely Brouilly during our extravagant dinner near Evreux, followed by a glass of Sancerre. Before which was a Champagne. Drinking wine often during meals is one of my favorite things about France.

Xcellent food
I know, this is cheating. But the food was crazy good, especially Madame's veal at the B&B. Ham and cheese crepes, Raclette, gelato. These are the good foods. Non-good? Maybe the baby cow brain I ate without realizing it. Gahh.

Yep, frog legs too
Frog legs taste like a mixture of chicken and fish. It was an odd tasting experience; on the one hand, butter and garlic. On the other... frog. Ribbit.

Ze French
"What did you think of French people, anyway?" "You know, everyone was super-nice!" Nice job, France. Le boyfriend approves.


What's that, French Eagle? We're back from France?

Well, yes we are. A bit jet-lagged and crazy with the laundry and the unpacking and the getting back to work, but we had a great time. Definitely will update soon with full details, but for now, the photos are here.


AND a stopover in Finland... nice.

I hit the snooze button, but there was no way this day was being slept through.


Why, thank you, loud internal alarm voice! Bleary-eyed, I am now awake.

Off to a lovely week of sipping champagne and driving through the French countryside. Hilarity and hi jinx to come, as usual. A tout!


Once again, the complex issue of being stuck.

This morning on my walk to the subway I started imagining all the things I wanted to talk about with Erica and Maddy and Katie and others in Paris. For about two blocks I was grinning, piling up the topics for discussion and catch-up and then suddenly I was blindsided by this incredible gaping hole of missing them.

It is much easier to pretend you do not miss something if you do not think about it.

This bombshell to the heart made me realize how I don't have anything like those friendships here. I have others. But I do not have the kind of depth and bonding that comes over living in a strange place with foreign people. It makes me sad to know that this entire area of myself remains tucked deep away, hidden from everyone I see here in New York on a daily basis. I can't tell if that presents a deep barrier that prevents them from really knowing me or what.

Anyways, tough stuff over here as I prepare to make the jump once again (how many times have I been? Sometime soon I will have to count that...). It's interesting to me that the original aim of this blog was to keep in touch while living abroad and dealing with the issues that arise from navigating the in-between spaces. Obviously that's still hanging around a few years in.



Growing up, my siblings and I had a million acronyms and code names and funny nicknames for things. One of my favorites is CCA (Cute Cat Alert), which we would violently whisper from the other room when one of our cats were doing something adorable.

"CCA! Come quick! JENNY!" It makes me smile just thinking about it.

Now that I have Oscar, I find myself thinking "CCA!" and yet have no one to call from the other room. Here you go, Blog people... CCA. Big time.