This is a repost of a post I did years ago, but it’s a story I think of every Ash Wednesday. And who doesn’t love a good Ash Wednesday story?


There is a low-point in everyone’s High School career and mine was Algebra 2 with Sister Evangeline. I went to High School at a convent despite being a life-long Mormon and about half of our teachers were nuns (who, I was disappointed to find out, did not wear habits–only skirts and very frumpy shoes.) Sister Evangeline was one of those people who had a perfectly mathematical mind and simply couldn’t understand that not everybody else had the same. She would explain a new mathematical concept the same way over and over again. If you didn’t get it, she would just give you the exact same explanation but in a meaner tone of voice.

Every day a few unlucky girls were chosen to put their homework problems up on the board. Not being the kind of person who believes in homework, I never did mine. Ever. Instead I would copy the homework of Carla who sat behind me. She was too sweet and softspoken to ever refuse, even though I could tell she hated to do it. But I figured that if Carla didn’t have the gumption to say no, then I would continue to copy. It never struck me that this was cheating (it’s only cheating if it’s a test, you know. And I never cheated on tests. I failed miserably every time and couldn’t have cared less); copying Carla’s work was merely a more expeditious way of getting things done.

Algebra was my first period class and one particular morning Sister Vange came in with a giant blob of dirt on her forehead. Nobody took any notice. Nobody said a word. I looked around the room; the other girls looked bored as ever. No one was snickering or pointing. What in the world was going on? How did Sister Vange get a huge smudge on her forehead at 8:00 in the morning and how could she not have noticed? Well, if nobody was paying it any attention, then I supposed I wouldn’t either.

On the way to my next class I noticed a classmate with a smudge of dirt on her forehead. Only it wasn’t just a blob, it was in the shape of a plus sign. Hmmmm. The plot continued to thicken. I finally pulled one of my Catholic friends aside. “What is going on?” I demanded. She gave me a bored look, “it’s Ash Wedensday, Dummy.”

Aha! That holiday I’d seen every year in my little square Hallmark datebook! That wasn’t mud on their foreheads, it was ashes! And it wasn’t a plus sign, it was a cross! I’m sure we had a special liturgy at school for Ash Wednesday, but like most everything about Catholicism, I never quite figured out the idea behind it.

We Mormons don’t observe the little religious holidays. Things like Epiphany and Palm Sunday just pass us right by. I guess they’re too “Catholic” or something. Or maybe the idea is that it shouldn’t take a special day to make us think of the Lord. I don’t know. But I had never come across someone observing Ash Wednesday before that day at school.

Every year on Ash Wednesday I think about Sister Evangeline, my inability to do math, and how much I enjoyed going to school at a convent despite the fact that I have never been, and have no desire to ever be, a Catholic.

So Happy Ash Wednesday, everyone, even though I still don’t know what it’s about!

Last Friday I went to work out with my friend, Anna. We’ve been going to Crossfit for about four months and we totally love it. Friday’s workout included box jumps which consist of–get ready for this–jumping onto a wooden box. With both feet at the same time. The boxes look like this:

wooden box

Mine wasn’t very tall but on the very last jump I managed to get my food caught in the handle and I came crashing down onto my left elbow. To say it hurt may have been the biggest understatement of my life. I immediately demanded that Anna take me to the hospital. Turns out my elbow hadn’t broken (yay!). It was just dislocated about three inches out of place. No wonder the dang thing hurt so badly!!!

The only amusing part of my little foray to the hospital was when the doctor came in and sat down beside me. She looked right at my chest and said, “two big breasts!” All I could think was, “well, I guess so but what does that have to do with my elbow?”  And then I noticed she was holding a stethoscope. Ooooh, two big breaths. That makes a lot more sense.

The doctor, who did not seem obsessed with my boobies after all, completely knocked me out when it was time to pop my elbow back into place, and I woke up with a partial cast from my knuckles to my armpit.

 photo 4d7341d9-1914-4d0d-8e2c-d133009ad3b8_zps1dd4a6ce.jpg


It’s mostly just sore and achy now. I’m going to the orthopedist tomorrow to see what my long term verdict will be. I can hardly wait to see under all these bandages; I’ll bet I’ve got a horrifying bruise. But in the mean time I’m a little peeved at all of the things I can’t do one-handed such as drive (York has his permit, though, so that makes us a good team), blow my nose (think about it. Blowing your nose with one hand is just all wrong), and licking yummy food off of my left fingers. Can’t get them near my mouth, darn it! Also, it took a while to type this post. If I angle my arm just right I can reach the shift key, and letters a, s & w with my left pointy finger. You won’t be getting any detailed blog posts for a while. But I will be sure to include all disgusting photos.

P.S. Kudos to Anna, who not only took me to the hospital but also accompanied me to my colonoscopy a couple of months ago. True friendship, right there. And I didn’t even take her to get her mole removed last month! Shame on me!

I have always been a deep, sound sleeper. It’s pretty much one of my talents, to be able to fall asleep anytime I’m horizontal. And I don’t wake up until the next morning. Normally.

Once when I was a teenager I fell fast asleep as usual. I woke up in the middle of the night, though, when I rolled over and felt someone’s arm under my pillow. I gingerly touched the arm; yes, there were fingers and everything.  There is no scenario in which anyone I knew would have gotten in bed with me. Why would a stranger be in my bed??? I had no idea but it certainly was not good. Not good at all. My heart started to beat faster and I tried to think of various ways of escape without completely panicking. Due to the fact that I have enormous teeth, I have always resorted to biting as a means of self defense. This would be my tactic: bite the person’s arm and run like crazy.

I calmed myself down enough to chomp on the arm as hard as I could. Only the person didn’t flinch. He didn’t even stir. He certainly should have at least shouted out with that big of a bite. What was going on?

I threw back the pillow only to find that there certainly was an arm there. Only . . . . it was my arm. Completely fallen asleep. I stood up and my limp arm came along, pins and needles shooting through it. I shook my arm until I got the blood flowing again, the bite mark turning bright red.

I don’t know whether it was the adrenaline or humiliation that kept me awake for the rest of the night. But here are some lessons that you should learn from my experience:

1. Things always seem very alarming in the middle of the night. Never trust any judgement made at 3 am.

2. Never bite an intruder without seeing the whites of his eyes.

3. Don’t ever sneak into my bed. You will most certainly regret it.


Back in the early 80’s when I was an awkward pre-teen I fell in love with some animals. They weren’t real animals, they were much better than that; they were Critter Sitters. These were soft, adorable illustrations of animals dressed up all cutesy doing things that animals clearly aren’t meant to do: why would a koala rake leaves or talk on the phone? I never asked myself that question once. (Who decided there was anything cute about raking leaves anyway?) None of that mattered. I was madly in love with Critter Sitters.

I managed to get a few critter sitter folders since they were cheap and easy to find.

I also got a nightshirt that I wore to all slumber parties and sleepovers. I felt so attractive in it; like I was actually as adorable as the animals printed on the front. The holy grail of Critter Sitter items was, in my mind, panties. I saw a pack of panties with Critter Sitter characters on them and my heart nearly stopped. Now this was back in the day when everything came plain and you had to pay extra for cartoon characters. Nowadays it’s the opposite and I have to search high and low for plain, non-character clothing. Most of the underwear my mom bought for me was waist-high briefs printed with tiny rose buds. There was a pair with pink roses, a pair with blue roses and the most disdained: the pair with yellow roses.  I don’t know why I didn’t just spend my allowance and buy some critter sitter underwear, but that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility in my feeble 10-year-old brain. So I decided the next best option would be to paint Critter Sitters onto my own underwear. I was born uttering the phrase, “I’m sure I could do that. How hard can it be?” Now that I’m an adult, that viewpoint has really come in handy. But preteens are not so good at doing stuff.

I got out a pair of silky white granny panties and the only paints I owned–watercolors–and set to work. Within a couple of minutes it became clear that, as brilliant an artist as I was, I would not be able to recreate the Critter Sitter artwork in any way. Instead of shrugging my shoulders and tossing the panties in the sink to rinse them out, I had that furtive sense of guilt that kids always seem to have. My only option seemed to be to throw the underwear into the woods behind my house.

It was a wet, muddy morning but I slipped out the siding door in my socks and flung the underpants into the trees as far as I could. (Knowing me, that was about three feet.) I thought I was home free until I noticed my little brother Ben watching me. He was old enough to know something odd was going on but young enough to not be able to speak intelligently. That kid sat next to the sliding door pointing and making babbly toddler noises until finally my dad decided to go check out what was out there in the woods that Ben was so fascinated with.

My father came back inside a few minutes later holding a dripping pair of panties. “I don’t know what Ben was so interested in, but here’s some underwear I found outside,” he said, tossing them to me.  I froze and looked down. Instead of wondering why my underwear had painted stick figures all over them, my dad had only seen a pair of panties that had been rinsed out in the rain. I nearly fainted with relief. The idea that someone might find out that I had tried to paint my own underwear seemed beyond foolish and absurd; buying them at the store suddenly made perfect sense.

Now to come up with a plan to ride my bike on the freeway to the mall . . . . (oh yeah. It happened.)

This is where I park my minivan, Betsy, every day. Right here in the driveway. Yesterday afternoon I walked out to get in my car to pick up my kids from Middle School. Only, this is what greeted me. No car. Before you ask if it was stolen let me assure you that it wasn’t.

I met my friend, Anna, at the Middle School in the morning after we dropped off our kids. Anna and I go to an exercise class together most mornings and it’s better to take one car instead of two, right? After the class we played hookey from our motherly cares and saw Ironman 3 in all our sweaty, stinky glory. We were so busy talking afterwards that she drove me home and I completely forgot about my car.

Until the afternoon when I went outside and there it wasn’t. Mister’s old truck was in the driveway so I jumped in with the babies and made it over to pick up the middles in time. I drove up and found them milling around Betsy peering in the windows and trying to open the doors. They were thoroughly perplexed. “What happened? Where were you? Is the car broken?” Finn asked.

No, Finn, the only thing broken around here is my brain.

For Fess-Up Friday I want to tell you about something that is kind of embarrassing and makes me completely not cool:  going someplace new and different always makes me feel anxious and slightly worried. It doesn’t matter what it is: a restaurant, a museum, a flea market. If I don’t know what to expect I kind of wig out. Not on the outside; on the outside I’m perfectly calm and self-assured. On the inside I’m a ball of worries: How do I get there? Where will I park? Do I need to pay? Where is the entrance? Will I know what to do?   I can get pretty worked up.

The internet is absolutely the best thing that could happen to someone like me. Before I go anywhere I can get directions, see pictures, find out prices and hours, read menus and generally avoid all unpleasant surprises. This might sound lame to you but to me it calms me and helps to make sure I have a good time.

Every summer we do Texas Tuesday. I take the kids on an outing or a day trip someplace around our fair state. We started doing this because in every state we’ve lived in we have seen almost none of the local sights. Mostly because the idea of going to new places or having new experiences is super freaky to me. Theoretically I want to go to new places, but it’s intimidating and sometimes I’m not very courageous. I felt sad about missing out on so many wonderful opportunities so I finally decided to be a big girl and change my behavior. I don’t want to set the example for my kids of being a chicken.

Now that I know that every Tuesday during the summer we will be going someplace different, I can plan ahead and do my research. Websites, Blogs and Yelp help me feel confident and prepared. Knowing what to expect helps me relax and enjoy the experience knowing that there won’t be any weird surprises along the way (What do you mean it’s cash only? You have to arrive by 10 am to get a place in line? We’re supposed to wear water shoes?)

When Mister and I had been married for two years we decided to go to Europe for a couple of months. This was back in the early 90’s when there was no internet, no cell phones and no GPS. If you wanted information about a destination or a hotel, your only option was a guidebook. You know how erratic things in Europe can be: hotels close down, museums change their hours, roads are unmarked. Every day featured at least one internal mini panic-attack. Mister would tell me to close my eyes, recline my car seat, and breathe deeply for ten minutes. Although we had loads of fun on the trip and had so many cool experiences, I was worn out by the end. All those new experiences that I couldn’t plan for very well exhausted me emotionally. I feel like the most lame and boring person by admitting that, but it’s the truth. I only like an adventure when I know what to expect. Which makes it not an adventure at all.  I guess that means I like the opposite of adventure.

But the funny thing is that I really like trying different restaurants or visiting a new city. I just have to be prepared and do my research first. If I feel like I know what’s going on, I have all the confidence in the world.

If you are a man or a crazy person you should probably skip this post. I’m not trying to be shocking or graphic; it’s just that most of my readers wear bras and probably yours is the wrong size. This is really a public service announcement.

I love Jen from Cake Wrecks. Last week on her other blog, Epbot, she wrote all about how she got sucked into the crazy world of bra-sizing and how she figured out she had been wearing the wrong size of bra. As I was reading this I thought, “well, I always check my measurements so surely I’m not one of the 80% of American women who wear the wrong size of bra.”  No, that could never be!  But then my complacent life in bra-world was turned upside-down by finding out the proper way to measure yourself for a bra: Bending over.   Say what???

Here’s something else you probably didn’t know: the band of your bra (the part under your boobs that wraps around your chest/back) is supposed to do 90% of the lifting. The straps are responsible for only 10%.  Shocking, I know! Which means that the band is supposed to be snug. Really snug.

There is a whole giant forum on Reddit that will blow your mind. You need to go read the bra fitting guide  here.  Really. Go read it. I’ll wait. According to the bra fitting guide, the bras I had been wearing were a size too big in the band and three cup sizes too small. I shan’t get into numbers, but I was extremely stunned.

I spent the next hour or so perusing online bra choices in my splashy new size. After being completely overwhelmed I decided to find a really good bra store and see what reality had to say. It’s one thing for a computer to tell me what my bra size is, but another one to actually try one on. (And by the way, Victoria’s Secret is a joke. They have no idea how to find your correct size. They give their employees a brochure on how to measure people. That’s it. Nordstrom is a step up but their bra selection is pretty limited.)

Luckily for me there is a store in Austin called Petticoat Fair and it is the most phenomenal shop. They carry every brand of bra from around the world and help you find exactly the right ones. I showed up first thing in the morning and was met by Lea who was super sweet and helpful. I came wearing my current (non-fitting) bra and a thin t-shirt. Lea measured me (fully clothed) several different ways and brought me a bunch of bras to try on. She stepped out of the changing room every time I tried on a new bra. The whole thing was very discreet and there was no staring at my boobs. If you’ve never wanted to be fit for bras because you’re modest and shy, you have nothing to worry about.

Here’s how bra fitting has always gone for me in the past: I choose some bras that look cute/ won’t be too obnoxious under a t-shirt. I go into the dressing room and try them on. I stare at myself and think, “well, I guess that fits” and then buy whatever is cheapest. Some bras fit better than others but mostly I have never thought that much about it.

So here I was with Lea. She handed me the first bra (which was actually the same size the aforementioned bra guide said I would be) and it seemed to fit pretty well. Lea came into my dressing room and adjusted the straps and had me lean over and shimmy the girls into place. And then she announced that the band size was too big. So she came back with more bras for me to try on. We repeated the try-on drill about 15 times. After I put on each bra Lea would come in and give me her verdict. You guys, this was amazing! Finally I was able to try something on and know for sure if it fit properly! No more guessing at sizes. Lea also was great because she knew which bras ran big or small and exactly which ones fit my needs as far as styles and colors I was looking for.

By the end of an hour I had eight bras that I absolutely loved that made my chest look fantastic. I’m not exactly a small-busted girl and I never would have been able to find the right sizes at Kohl’s, where I usually shop for bras. (Here’s something interesting that Leah told me: D cups are a pretty average size. We tend to imagine a D-sized bra as being huge, with a DD being stripper-sized. But they aren’t that big.) After all was said and done, I ended up in a bra that was two band sizes smaller and four cups sizes bigger than the bra I had been wearing. Isn’t that crazy???

Here’s the sad thing: good bras are expensive. I honestly have never paid more than $25 for a bra ever. I checked out the bras on the Petticoat Fair website before I went in so I wasn’t dying of sticker shock. Each of the bras I liked was over $60. That seems kind of appalling, since it’s not a whole lot of fabric. But you aren’t paying for fabric; you’re paying for something that is going to keep your breasts perky and feeling good. A good bra will make your chest look fantastic and you will feel amazing.

In the end I wanted to hug Leah. But I didn’t because she had just seen a lot of me that most people don’t see and I thought that would be awkward. But I did buy two everyday bras and a sports bra. And now I feel like a Bravangelist that needs to spread the word that, yes, you too are probably wearing a bra that’s the wrong size.


P.S. I wish like anything I had known about a place like this when I’d been nursing. I got mastitis a total of nine times and I’m convinced it was because of poorly-fitting bras.

I went to see that new Jackie Robinson movie yesterday. I snuck out in the middle of the day and went to the fancy theatre that has super cushy recliners. It was all fine and dandy until I spilled an entire Coke Zero on my pants. But I’m a tough broad so I just ignored the soaking wet denim. I was actually wearing a raincoat but do you think I spilled the Coke on that? Of course not.

The movie was good, if formulaic. It’s always so crazy to see how racist people used to be. (I’m sure there are still incredibly racist normal people–normal, as in “not skinheads”–but it’s got to be pretty underground.)  When I see movies like 42 or The Help it’s very hard to understand that’s how things were for black people not that long ago. Part of me wonders if was really that bad because how could people have been so hateful because of someone’s skin color?

I grew up in a different environment than most white people, I guess.  Detroit, where I was born and raised, is mostly black. I lived in the first suburb north of the city. It was lower- to middle-class and was probably the first stop when people wanted to move on up from Detroit proper. I would say that the schools I went to were pretty evenly split between black and white, especially as I entered my teen years. Unlike the South, though, there really was no sort of “us vs. them” mentality. The most popular boys in my fifth grade class were Jahmod (A black kid) and Jason (a Jewish kid). (Oh yeah, there was a huge Jewish population in our town too. Which meant white Christians were totally the minority. We loved Jewish kids because that meant we got a whole bunch of Jewish holidays off of school too; not just the regular Christian ones.) Being Mormon and white? Super minority. I was pretty much the only one in middle and high school.

The mall closest to our house was called Northland and was the first modern shopping mall in America.  I remember going there and being the only white person I’d see. It didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or weird; it just was the way it was. I took Mister to that same mall when we went back to visit Detroit for my dad’s funeral back in the early 90’s. Man, did he almost have a heart attack! Being from Portland, OR, he was never exposed to many black people. He thought for sure someone was going to attack us. I just laughed and told him how I’d been shopping there dozens of times by myself at night. I can only blame the media for giving him the idea that young black men are all thugs; how else would he have developed that opinion?

We had lots of black people at church. Our bishop was eventually a black man, as were some of my primary teachers and Young Women Leaders. Our ward spread deep into Detroit and we had a real variety of members.Not just blacks but some members of Arabic descent too. It all seemed completely normal. I don’t recall the race card ever being mentioned.

When I look back on the relations between blacks and whites growing up, I wonder if maybe I was just clueless. But I remember blacks and whites sitting at the same tables at lunch; blacks and whites going to dances together and hanging out. Maybe our town was unique or maybe I just remember things differently, being a white girl.


*Yep, that’s me, Jennie Hildegard Davis, in the third row of the school picture; rocking the braces and feathered bangs. Viva Eighth Grade!


Mister owns a truck. It’s not the hugest truck but it’s big. Big trucks are fine for the country or even the suburbs but notsogreat in downtown areas. He’s cursed it when he’s worked downtown because it’s rather like being an elephant in a movie theatre. It’s simply too big. Parking is a nightmare and driving on skinny one-way streets is almost as bad.

Mister found out that his company will be relocating from just-outside-downtown Austin (where parking and traffic are reasonable) to downtown Austin in the next couple of months. The time has come, we have decided, to move away from a truck and onto something more manageable.

While he doesn’t want something small (he carries equipment pretty often due to his job as a video producer), he does want something with good gas mileage. And it has to be reliable.

Mister has been wanting a Prius since they first came out and has taken me to test drive them probably a dozen times (all I really care about are cupholders and how easy it is to listen to my songs). But last week we went to test drive a Prius–again–and I told him I wanted to drive it. While Mister and the lady selling the car were talking, I took the key and tried to start the car; “tried” to start the car. These newfangled cars!  They’ve changed a lot! (Obviously we haven’t bought a new car in ages).

Now you don’t even need a key for the ignition. You just press a button. That seems utterly crazy to me but I guess that’s how it’s done these days. I tried and tried to start the stupid Prius. I could not get it to drive. I could start it but not get it to go into “D”. After then tenth time of turning it off and then on again, I got out of the car in a huff. As usual, it turns out I am just dense when it comes to all things technical. Nobody mentioned you have to press the brake before you even start the car! Picky, picky!

Here’s a weird thing about driving a hybrid car: every time you come to a stoplight or slow down to make a turn, the car engine turns off and the battery turns on. Meaning the car goes from sounding like a normal car to sounding like nothing. In other words, I kept thinking that the car had just died. I grew up driving absolute crap cars that regularly died at intersections. I suppose I have some sort of residual Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder regarding this. After the fourth time the Prius went quiet at an intersection I gave up. I was sweating and panicky and I made Mister drive the rest of the time. I like my cars quiet all the time or noisy all the time. None of this half and half business.

The lady showing us the car mentioned that Prius drivers are 35% more likely to get tickets and break the speed limits than other drivers. She wasn’t sure why. I think it’s because there are too many air bags and seat belts. I think if there were a giant dagger in the middle of everyone’s steering wheels that we’d all be much more cautious drivers. Instead we have these airbags and sensors that make us feel all cuddly and safe inside our cars. We need something to make us feel edgy and unsafe all the time. That’s how to improve people’s driving.

Perhaps I’ll jot a note:

Dear Toyota,

Please make your cars noisier, more unsafe and more understandable for technologically idiotic people.

Thanks in advance,

J. Hildegard

stretch prius

We haven’t had Fess-Up Friday in quite a while. Have y’all missed seeing the shady underbelly of my life? Well, it doesn’t get much shadier than this: my sofa, under the cushion. I was looking for stray kids’ socks (where have they all gone????). You know that the sofa is the Bermuda Triangle of the house, right? I only found one sock but I did find two pencils and 51¢. Which makes all the crap that I found almost worth it! (A golf ball? Really? How did we never feel that? A surgical glove. No idea where that came from. And of course Legos. Always legos. They’re like the weevils of the toy world.)

under sofa cushions