You Can’t Go Home Again

Thomas Wolfe was severely mistaken.

Of course you can go home. You just can’t expect it to be the way you remembered it. For better or for worse, you can go home with managed expectations.

A bit ago, I trekked home to Rhode Island for a parental Christmas gift. Of course, being the wonderful humans that they are, my parents wanted this homecoming to be a Jenna Trip, instead of an “Our Christmas Gift.” While I don’t go back to New England often (because of COVID and then the sheer bliss of waking up in your own bed at 11am on Christmas Day), this was a trip that I will not soon forget.

In no particular order:

  • My mom and I got to use my CVS Employee Discount. It’s the first time I’ve used it and I helped her choose an absolutely perfect lip stain;
  • My mom and I went to an antique jewelry shop and we got to try on jewelry and it was SPECTACULAR;
  • I got to see my “Dad’s side” cousins and aunt/uncle, which I am so thankful for. We always just pick up right where we left off. I really love them;
  • I got to see my Mom’s sisters and my Uncle, with whom we bonded over books and intellectual pursuits;
  • the freaking food: Real Am/Chinese, Northeast Italian, and home cooking;
  • I got to meet some of my parents’ new friends, and see some family friends that have really taken a good part in our lives;
  • Being able to meet a direct report and a mentee;
  • Seeing the people in CT that have been essential in my life since….2008?

In case you’ve not read prior to this, PIZZA is an art form in the Northeast. Which is to say that it’s freaking terrible where I live. I was blessed enough to meet five friends in New Haven, CT for a delicious lunch. Even better is that we got the best ones on the menu. Anywhere else, take note. See that char? THAT IS HOW PIZZA SHOULD BE COOKED!!!!!!!!!

I’ve worked remotely for the last 7 years, have been on multiple teams in various divisions, and switched companies. That means I’ve never met my coworkers in person. Now that I have direct reports, I figured it was kind of important to take the time to meet one of them. Big D is one of my favorite people ever, and he lives in the PVD. He introduced me to JT and she is my new mentee. We all met for lunch, and it was joyous and delicious. There is so much to be gained from breaking bread in person.

I’m used to exercising every day, so I felt the need to go for a little walk. There’s a wildlife refuge area near my parents’ house, and I decided to explore. Yes, it was getting dark. Yes, it was cold. Yes, I was alone. Yes, I was listening to a true crime podcast. Yes, I have listened to enough of them to scare me. It was totally fine until I got to the “oh this happened in a peaceful little town where it could NEVER happen, and since no one knew where she went walking, her body wasn’t found for weeks.” All that being said, I’m far more concerned about Native American hauntings in this area than a mass murderer. I couldn’t get close enough, but there is a big rock commemorating a massacre in the 1700s, and then I started to see faces in trees. Watching me. I figured enough is enough, and I hightailed it home. (Plus, my fingers were numb.)

If you can’t see the face, you’re lucky. You probably won’t be haunted.

If it weren’t for the pesky traveling part, I’d go home a lot more often. Flying is quite possibly one of the worst tortures known to man, especially if by “man” you mean a tiny Asian girl for whom personal space becomes an option on a crowded plane. Just because I don’t take up the whole seat doesn’t mean you get the leftover space! Otherwise, you totally CAN go home again, and you should.

I Wanna Be Sedated

My first post back in over a year isn’t super happy, though it is kind of funny.

One thing about getting old is that there’s always something new to hurt. Whether it’s pulling your back while getting up off the couch, or taking seventeen days to recover from a night out, it’s never a dull moment.

Image courtesy of

Recently, my doctor thinks I have something called trigeminal neuralgia. The TLDR is that it’s a nerve condition that hurts like a mofo, and is always a roulette wheel of when it will strike. It feels like an electric shock from my teeth through my eyeball. It lasts anywhere from a second or two to over a minute. It’s debilitating and sucks. Otherwise, it feels like you had a cavity filled and the lidocaine has worn off.

I have a neurology appointment in a few weeks, but in the meantime, I have a prescription for pregabalin, or as it’s more commonly known, Lyrica. It’s generally used for people with seizures, all sorts of nerve pain, and is an anticonvulsant. The thing about meds that try to deaden nerves is that they have some nasty side effects – my favorites are below:

  • seizures
  • blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • joint or muscle pain
  • accidental injury
  • false beliefs that cannot be changed by facts
  • stabbing pain
  • trouble recognizing objects
  • trouble thinking and planning
  • excess air or gas in the stomach or bowels
  • false or unusual sense of well-being
  • increased hunger
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of bladder control
  • nightmares
  • pain
  • passing gas
  • Breast enlargement
  • swelling of the breasts or breast soreness in both females and males

So….I’m sure YOU have a fantastic visual from those symptoms, because I certainly do.

I will be a hungry (but not hungry?) delusional person with even bigger knockers that pees herself and farts uncontrollably. I will have nightmares, won’t be able to figure out what I’m looking at, and I will also have horrible skin that looks like it’s falling off me. I’ll also continue to be in pain. But hey, at least I’ll be happy go lucky?

Why Was The Mushroom a Hit at the Party?


Bwahahahaha, but no ok really.

One of my most favorite memories with my grandmother was taking a walk from my childhood home, and just about half a mile in, we came across what I now know was a massive hen-of-the-woods on the side of a tree. My grandmother ripped the mushroom off the tree and we turned around to go back home. She washed them and cooked the gigantic leafy fungus in a magical sauce, and we ate it on Italian bread.

She was a mushroom genius – this was a frequent occurrence, when walking with her. She knew the right ones to pick and eat, the ones to leave alone, and the ones that would be ok if we just cooked them long enough. She would sneak into people’s yards to take them out of the grass and off trees. And we’d always make them in the same secret sauce, and eat them on Italian bread.

I am truly adopted because I have literally 0 of this talent. But when my good friend, the Mermaid, asked me to go mushroom foraging in a local park near my house….sure! She is just getting really into mushrooming, and fall is the ideal time to go in the PNW. Despite the ominous weather forecast, we grabbed the pooch, what is considered the premier guidebook for mushroom hunting in Washington (below) and headed out into the woods.

I highly recommend this book just for the photos.
Photo courtesy of

Let me tell you some things about hunting for mushrooms.

  • First of all, you might have better luck getting the nuclear codes than finding hotspots for mushrooms, especially chanterelles. A few hours of searching online left me with little more than a lot of “f you find your own spot!” and “you might want to try somewhere along the 54 mile stretch from your town to the local ski resort.” The good thing is that there are hundreds of parks, trails, and wooded areas, so you can pretty much find them anywhere.
  • Second, there are about seventy bajillion types of mushrooms, including LBMs (little brown mushrooms) that are so infinite in number, you never know if you actually have the right one. Books and apps can only get you so far.
  • Mushrooms come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some even look like rocks, until you break them open.
  • You are not as good at color identification as you think you are. What you think is purple, someone else sees as grey, and what you see as tangerine might actually be more fire-orange to someone else. All of these make a difference in trying to identiify them.
  • You are not as good at shapes as you think you are. Sure, it might be sort of this way or that, but when you’re trying to pick between campanulate and ovate, but it also sort of looks like umbontae, and that will be the determining factor between edible and death, you wish you had paid more attention in kindergarten.
Photo courtesy of

Needless to say, while finding shrooms might be easy, identifying them is certainly not. Nonetheless, the Mermaid and I worked to pick a bunch, and it was quite the experience. It might be due to the rain in the fall in Washington, but these were SLIMY mothereffers. And yes, dirt gets everywhere. It didn’t help that it started to rain (a lot) and we got soaked and covered in mud, but it certainly made for an adventure.

There’s a lot of different fungi out there, and this was one of the cooler ones. In this photo, you can see what sort of looks like cake frosting and the Mermaid trying to scrape some off. There were just so many interesting things – we went about a mile it and took almost two hours, but it was fascinating to see the babies and the big ones, to see how they grow and live off the land, and how different animals use them as food.

Speaking of food, you probably shouldn’t eat them without being absolutely positively positive you can….and even then…

After several hours of traipsing in the rain, and after some very strong hard cider from a delicious local place, we went back to my house to sort, identify, and potentially eat our haul.

It didn’t take too long to discover that we had about 20 different types of mushrooms, and we were only able to identify a handful of them. Most were inedible, or we weren’t willing to take the chance.

Because we had found some edible ones (or so the guidebook and app said), we figured we would eat them. Yes, I can see you rolling your eyes and saying “No Jenna, noooooo” and like this was a bad idea. But what’s the worst that could happen? So the Mermaid washed them off while I heated the pan, and I suspect part of why it was so interesting is that we didn’t clean them as well as we should have. You never know what animal peed on your mushroom…

Dry fry with a little butter

One was ok. In fact, it’s the big parasol one that the Mermaid is licking in an above picture. The other two types were…..slimy? Spongy? I’ve never been a texture person but these were so bad that I spit them out. I can’t say they turned me off of mushrooms, but until I level up to Grandma, I’m not going to be eating things I find in the woods again any time soon. Both the Mermaid and I had the same reaction to them, both during consumption and after. While we didn’t get sick, things weren’t completely right for a bit, and I’m glad we scrapped all the other ones.

I had a great time doing it and definitely would go again, but the eating would take a lot of convincing. Like a seasoned forager will say, “Every mushroom is edible….once.”

Goodbye, 2020

How do you measure, measure a year?

This was a weird year. Not even kidding, probably the weirdest year I’ve ever had. I am not measuring in daylights or sunsets, but by my own numbers:

  • Books read: 208 (see my reading page!)
  • Pounds gained/lost since July: +1 (don’t ask how I made this happen because it was +11 at one point)
  • Miles run/hiked/walked: 1590 (tracked)
  • Bravo reality shows watched: 4
  • Vacations canceled: 4 (Italy with Anna, Southern California UW MBA ’19 Reunion, CT wedding, Anna visiting me)
  • Vacations taken: 1 (Wyoming)
  • Dogs adopted: 1 – a 5 year old labradoodle named Rue
  • Work changes: 4 (two managers, two teams, raise, promotion)
  • Hours meditated: 41
  • Injuries: 1 (sprained ankle)
  • Bottles of wine:….probably somewhere around 75. I’m keeping track for 2021.

When I look back, it seems like 2020 went from March to December. COVID was certainly a wrench in the gears of life, and I am lucky that it was only minor for me. I have learned to value of people, friendships, positivity, and kindness more than I ever thought I would, and this year has taught me to appreciate the little blessings that I do have. I am going into next year to build my relationships, but especially with myself. I also promise I will write more, because I have so many lovely travel stories to tell. ONP from 2019 (I know, I know), Wyoming from this year, the new pup, traveling back to CT for a wedding, the most life-changing books I read this year…so many things to write about. So many little things, little blessings in my life, and I am grateful.

Maybe next year will be better than the last. But 2020 wasn’t all that bad, when I think about it. Just weird and different.

A Month of Meditation

In July, or March 4.0, my friend Rah Rah and I decided that meditation would help our daily lives, and we would do it every day in the month of August. We’d been dabbling in it for a while, but Calm was offering a free year to Amex holders, and Rah Rah’s company was giving all employees a free Headspace account. We really had no excuse not to dedicate 10 minutes per day to better mental health, and we vowed to send each other the daily reflection to hold ourselves accountable.

Today marks the completion of the one month of daily meditation. I feel better: I’m calmer and have less anxiety, and am able to give myself the seconds I need to think before acting. I’ve been able to not feel guilty for feeling certain ways, and it’s easier to let things go.

I’ve included some of my favorite lasting meditations from the month. Enjoy!

This meditation was about measuring things in terms of not only what we gain, but what we lose. Maybe we didn’t get that extra focus in our breath, but perhaps we lost some anxiety. It’s about quantifying in a different way so that we’re always focusing on positive things.

I really liked this one, because it is about appreciating things in the moment. It also reminds us not to be afraid of letting them go.

The narrator told a story about researchers trying to study gorillas in the jungle. Each time they tried to observe, they went in a big group with armored cars, guns, and tranquilizers. They would always get aggressive and run away. Then, one scientist approached them alone, with no weapons and a calm demeanor. They welcomed her in and allowed them to mingle among them. It is important to remember that your approach to people and situations can have an effect on the outcome.

I loved this one best – the closing thoughts were to learn to love your people, things, and ideas with room for both you and them to grow. You have a plant in a pot, and you love it, and it is beautiful and brings you happiness. But if cared for, the plant will want to grow, and if the pot has no room, the plant with wither and die. We need to be sure to keep our plants in pots that have room to grow when they are ready.

Rah Rah and I are going to do another Meditation a Day in September (along with Sober/Self-Care/Save-Up, but that’s another story). I am hoping that we’ll come out of it really understanding how to be mindful. And if not, at least I’m getting use out of my free year of Calm.

Guest Blog: Afterthoughts

Louboutini, fresh off his K-beauty torture, was kind enough to answer some questions:  These are unedited and he is totally sucking up to me.  Not because he loves me, because he’s stuck with me at home indefinitely, and doesn’t want me to murder him in his sleep for existing too much.  But I’d never do that because I love him a lot, I swear!

Guest post by Louboutini, who is handsome without K-beauty and cooler than cool, even on a hot summer day. 

Why did you say yes to this experiment?

Because my loving girlfriend Jenna asked me to, and she insisted it would help my skin, so I thought it would be worth giving it a try.

Do you think it made any difference?  Does your skin feel any different?

I do think it made my skin softer and better moisturized than my normal face wash.  At the same time, the steps leave your face feeling somewhat tacky afterwards for awhile.

Do you think it has made any difference in Jenna’s skin?

I don’t notice a huge difference in Jenna’s skin, but Jenna has beautiful skin to start.  How do you improve upon that?

What were your favorite and least favorite steps and why?

My favorite is the exfoliating scrub.  I liked that it made my skin feel fresh afterwards.  On the other hand, the mask was my least favorite part.  I didn’t like that it felt drippy and cold, and left my face feeling like it had a film on it afterwards (Jenna insists its part of the process, and absorbs in, but I always wanted to wash my face afterwards, likely undoing any benefits).  The other issue is in order to properly do this, I have to shave, and I prefer to have some facial hair.  It makes some of the steps hard, and the mask is less effective since it would only touch about half of my face.

Would you keep doing any of the steps on your own?

I would continue to use the face wash and exfoliating scrub (first 2 steps plus scrub) but the other steps seemed excessive.  I am not sure my skin requires such fancy things like toner and serum.  The masks would only work if I shaved and I don’t like that.

Are you happy you tried it?

I am happy I tried it.  It gave me a chance to try to understand what Jenna was doing.  Plus I do think my skin is a bit better for it.

***After writing this guest post, he went to work on the car.  He got a bunch of dirt and grime on his face.  Louboutini did use steps 1 and 2 to get the grime off his face.  He enjoyed it. 

I Feel Pretty

If you want someone to do something he or she does not want to do, there are a few prerequisites in coercing a commitment to the action in question:

  • Subject should love you;
  • Subject should want you to be happy;
  • Subject should be curious;
  • Subject should be able and willing;
  • Subject should be bored out of his or her mind due to COVID-19 quarantine.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is how I took a page from Jen Lancaster and Jenny Lawson (they are fucking brilliant women, for many reasons other than this one), in getting their significant others to participate and/or support their crazy trials.

I’m pretty sure it’s mostly the last bullet point that got Louboutini to commit to one week of the 10-step K-beauty routine.  I’m still doing it and will have my one-month results next week-ish, but I couldn’t convince him to do much more than a week, and that was with promising only 3 sheet masks and that I’d apply steps 4-10 for him.

Now, Louboutini has become something of a rugged mountain man since our move to WA 3.5 years ago.  This means he wears a lot of flannel and eschews a razor, leaving the clean-shaven days of his past in the dust.  I quite like it, but we ran into an issue with the sheet masks when I made him try a tiger on for size. (No, not like Joe Exotic.)


He was adamant that if he was going to participate, he would do it right.  And thus, he shaved his face.  I don’t really love how he looks without facial hair since I think I’ve gotten used to it, though it made him look about 15 years younger when it was gone.  And then I felt sad because there is no way a little hair removal would do that for me.


While I did not take notes of what he said every morning and night, these were some of the excerpts:

“I have to wash my face TWICE?  WHY DO WOMEN DO THIS?!”
“No, that’s just steps 1-2.  Then we’ll do toner, essence, serum, moi-”
“Fuck meeeee, I just splash some water on my face and it’s FINE!”

“……what IS this, it doesn’t really wash off!!!”
“It’s oil cleanser.”
“Love, that was just step 1.”

“This stuff is goopy – what is it?”
“It’s snail jizz.”
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?  Jenna, this is disgusting.  It’s sticky.”
“Well, now you know how it feels.”

“How many more steps?” (at night, non-mask day)
“Toner, essence, serum, eye cream, moisturizer.” (I begin patting them into his face.)
“You know, I think you wanted me to do this just so you could slap my cheeks.”
“This is how the Koreans do it.”

At every serum and moisturizer application:
“I don’t like it.  I don’t wanna.”

By the second sheet mask day (we did them on days 1, 4, and 7), he was over the shaving thing. He shaved for Day 4, but let it grow out because, “It’s going to take forever to grow back and I’m going to look stupid.”  Well, Love, we’re quarantined and I’m the only one that has to look at you, so…that argument is pretty weak.  Also, three-day stubble wasn’t that bad with the sheet mask, in case you were wondering.  (I know you weren’t, but figured I would just throw that in there.)

By the time the trial came to an end, he was beyond happy. As I applied the moisturizer on his face for the 14th and last time, he said, “No more sticky.”  When we woke up in the morning, he gazed longingly at the oil and water cleaners, splashed water on his face, and went downstairs to work.


While we apparently suck at lighting control and “same smile intensity,”  his face looks a little more hydrated to me.  His cheeks, especially.  The undereye skin in the after picture (right) is more crinkly due to a bigger smile, but in person it’s definitely less lined.  He also looks better with facial hair.

Louboutini did not achieve the white-girl results I was hoping, but seeing as he is the patriarchy, maybe the skincare was revolting in feminist protest.

A Walk in the Woods

Being on mandatory stay-at-home isn’t really too different from my every day life.

I work from home so I wear pajamas almost all day.  I am kind of a homebody, so I don’t go out all that much.  I also have taken to reading a lot and going to bed at 9:30, so I’m pretty socially distant as it is.  Do I miss drinking a beer on an outdoor patio with friends?  Sure, but I also have my lovely deck and a view of the bay, so it isn’t all that bad.

That being said, I do love to get outside for a hike when the weather permits (which, as we know, is hit or miss), and for the first nice day in a while, I got off my butt and drove to the local lake.  There’s a 6-mile trail that’s pretty flat and along the shore, and although it was muddy, it was a gorgeous day to get lost in the woods.


Even though it’s not the lovely warm weather of summer, Washington is pretty killer in the spring.  Because of all the rain, yes things are muddy and slippery, but it also means things are unbelievably green.  For funzies, I took some pictures and none of these have been color enhanced.  It really is that green out here in March.


About 2.5 miles in, I came to an obstacle.  I knew it had been windy and rainy for the last few days, but I suppose I wasn’t really aware of just how bad the weather had been.  There were three trees and several vines down (blackberry bushes are NO JOKE) and I considered turning around.  But with less than a mile to go, I figured the worst that could happen is that I fall in the mud whilst climbing over the trees.


I made it over and to the end, which means I had a 3.1 mile hike back to my car.  I can’t complain though, because I am constantly reminded of what a truly beautiful place I live in.  I know not everyone is as lucky as I am, but there is always something nice to look at when you look out the window – be it a landscape, garden, or even a skyline, should you live in a concrete jungle.


If you can, shake off those quarantine cobwebs and get outside.  We all could use the extra vitamin D, and nature has a great way of refreshing the soul.


The KBR Experiment: Final Thoughts

After one week of 10 steps twice per day, I am realizing that whatever miracle I was expecting is not going to happen.

Before :: After

As much as I dislike posting unedited non-glamour shots of myself, here you go.  The 7-day results, and mind you today is overcast so for some reason that’s making my skin look a LOT lighter.  Somehow, it also looks like my face has gained 3 lbs.  The COVID 15 (like the Freshman 15 or the Grad School 20) is upon us.

My friend Macaron said the skin under my eyes looks lighter, and this might be a little true, or it might be due to lighting?  Macaron is also incredibly generous with (both her baking and) her compliments, so it could be that too. I’m certainly not getting the drastic results white girls get when they do this routine, and I’m also not improving my skin to be like the dewy, porcelain glass k-beauties in k-drama or k-cinema or k-pop.  So….was it worth it?

Yes.  I think it was.

  • It feels like my face is always under a mask of hydration.  It sounds bizarre, but you can feel that your skin is hydrated, and when your skin stretches to smile, frown, or eat a gigantic tortilla chip whole, you can feel it stretching.  Not in a dry way, but in a hydrated way.
  • Sweating is hard.  I have gone for a few runs and hikes this week, and I normally sweat a LOT on my face – especially my nose and chin.  It feels like my sweat can’t escape the hydration mask.  But not in a “you’re going to have a breakout after this workout” way.
  • I will probably wear sunscreen every day for the rest of my life. Even if I do nothing else, this is the big one.
  • I actually like taking the 10-or-35 minutes (if I do a sheet mask) twice a day.  It’s only a little time to myself, but it makes me feel fancy and pampered.
  • For the 1 time a week I actually DO wear makeup (eyeliner), the oil cleanser is ACE.  
  • Sheet Masks are super fun. And they are for boys, too.


Because I have so much product, and because I want to see if it actually works and just needs more than a week, I am going to continue this experiment for another 3 weeks.  In the name of science, of course.

Surviving COVID-19 PSA

Folks, reporting on my skin can take a break.

Yesterday, I did my part in supporting local business and got takeout from a Thai place.  Louboutini affectionately calls it the Trash Restaurant, as it’s called Busara, and for some reason he always reads it as “basura,” which, as everyone that took high school Spanish knows, means “trash.”  He’s not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, sometimes.

There are a lot of lists of advice out there, and I’m not going to retype them here.  The one thing that is glaringly missing from all the lists is this:

The virus affects your body.  Not the speed limit.    DRIVE AT NORMAL SPEEDS, PEOPLE!