10 Life (and Writing) Lessons I Learned From My Dog

In honor of National Puppy Day, I’m sharing my favorite post about Hoshi with y’all. There’s just nothing like an awesome pet and my first baby girl was the best.

Hoshi was everything a dog should be: loyal, loving, sweet-tempered, funny.

She got my jokes (I swear to God that dog laughed) and she was around for all my big milestones – when I turned the big 3-0, the death of my parents, YEARS of dating, my engagement, my wedding, turning the big 4-0, baby-making attempts/successes/failures and the birth of my daughter, who is now a first grader.

There are so many up sides to pet ownership – companionship, exercise, preventative healthcare – but the biggest downside in my opinion is their short life span.

They will always go before we do – there’s just no way to get around it. Hoshi lived a stupendously long life for a 90 pound dog; she was fourteen-and-a-half years old when she left to frolic in that Puppy Lake in the Sky.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a loved one, animal or human. I really think the memories and the lessons you learned from them are what help you get through it. Before we all start crying on our keyboards, I’ll move on to the Top 10 lessons my Hoshi-Moshi taught me, many of which relate to writing.

1)      50 New Smells A Day

It’s said that dogs need to get fifty new smells a day to stay psychologically alert and happy.  Those daily walks are your dog’s version of reading the paper. I KNOW they’re sniffing every bush, light pole and dog bootie on the block but in reality what they’re doing is “filling the well.” Writers must do the same thing (though I’d recommend keeping your nose to yourself). Stimulate your mind daily with whatever helps you be creative.

2)      Pay Attention

Take notice of the people, places and things in your life that fill your writing well. With the plethora of daily tasks on all our to-do lists, especially this time of year, it’s easy to let the small simple gifts in our world pass through unnoticed.

3)      Treats Help Everything

One of my dearest friends has seven pets and, according to her, “any one of her dogs would step over her bloody carcass for one bite of kibble.” (If you have dogs like hers, you might want to skip to #4.)

I’m not suggesting that you allow either you or your pet to get too fluffy in the backside but the world is better with steady rewards of coffee, chocolate, wine, cake or whatever treat that says, “Well done!” to you.

Positive reinforcement works on us writers too – you can bet I’ll keep my butt in the chair until this blog’s finished tonight. My husband is holding the nookie hostage in the other room until I do.

4)      Smile and Wag

What happens when your dog bounds across the room with a smile and a wag of his or her tail and slides under your hand? You pet them, and coo over them, AND YOU SMILE. It’s hard to resist your pet when they’re sweet.

Try to remember this concept when you’re buried up to your eyebrows in that pitiful sagging middle of your first draft. Your family (and your editor) will give you much more leeway if you smile and wag rather than bark and growl. I’m just sayin…

5)      Find the best professionals (and trust them)

When Hoshi turned eight, she began to get creaky with arthritis. Akita lifespans average about 10 years so I started getting mentally prepared (though, let’s face it, you never are).

My girlfriend, Mary, who’s a dog trainer, heard my concerns and sent me to Dr. Voll. A few visits with this wonderful vet and Hoshi was a whole new girl. Certainly, we did our part, but Dr. Voll took care of Hoshi for almost seven years and went well above the call of duty. Whenever the inevitable ups and downs of a senior dog would occur, I’d worry that it might be time to let my sweet baby dog go.  On one of those bad days, Dr. Voll looked me in the eye and said, “Stop crying! I’ll tell you when it’s time.”

And she did.

6)      Love Without Conditions

I don’t have to explain this one to any pet owners. Dogs don’t see disabilities, disfigurement, neuroses or any of the other things that tend to squeeze the human brain down the narrow path of judgment. Animals manage to see inside your heart and make their decisions from there.  Try to do this with yourself – this self-love will only make you a better writer.

You’ve heard the saying, “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am,” right? Enough said.

7)      Bring Your “A” Game

It’s not in a dog’s nature to give 50%, at least it wasn’t in Hoshi’s. She traveled the entire West Coast, San Diego to Seattle, and explored every dog beach and mountain range with the same focused zeal.

I’m a software trainer by day and, after September 11th the training projects in Southern California dried up. In 2002, if I wanted work, the dog and I had to hit the road.  We traveled throughout the state, stopping at every available doggie day care along the way. Whether it was Elaine’s Pet Resorts in Fresno or Fog City Doggie Day Care in San Francisco, that dog brought her A-Game. In turn, these places delighted in her visits and always made room for her even when they were full.

If we bring our A-Game to the page as writers, people (read: publishers) will make time for our work, even when they’re busy. It might just be critique partners or published authors in your writing chapter giving you time at first but, at some point, your writing will be recommended and you will sell.

8)      Invest In Training

One of my ex-boyfriends owned Hoshi’s parents – she and her four litter mates were literally born into my hands.

Unfortunately, this guy went to the “Well, they mind ME” school of training. This wasn’t so bad with Hoshi’s sire, who had an even temperament, but her mother was a really bad dog and it became a dicey business to have anyone in our house. I began training all five puppies, almost before their eyes opened, in an attempt to counteract the unruly bitchiness of their mother. This kind of rigorous training opened a lot of doors for Hoshi.

A well-trained dog is a well-received dog and the same goes for writers. The money and time you put into learning your craft will always be worth it.

9)      Service Makes You Feel Good

One of the happiest dogs I know is a Corgi named Boris. His owner, Monique is extremely disabled and gets around mostly by scooter. Mary (the dog trainer from #5 above) has taught Boris to fetch Monique’s keys, her shoes, the paper, and a myriad of other items. Like every pet, Boris thinks his owner is a rock star – he lives to serve Monique and nothing makes him happier than making her happy.

I’m not suggesting that you throw yourself on the altar of someone else’s happiness but I am recommending that you give back.

If you are unpublished that might mean guest blogs or judging in a contest. For published authors, it might mean the same or perhaps giving away a chapter critique. You’ll know your service opportunity when you see it if you’re on the lookout.

10)   Leave People Smiling

I realized during my second week home after having my daughter that it was Hoshi’s time to go. She’d limped along health-wise through my high-risk pregnancy. I really thought she’d miss the birth but she rallied.

Dr. Voll came when I called her and agreed that it was “time,” though she said I could take a few days.

I contacted all of Hoshi’s friends and opened the house for anyone who wanted to visit. We gave her every treat we had, plus people brought her scads of contraband food. Things like McDonald’s cheeseburgers that give a dog pancreatitis were on the menu that week and she was delighted (though I definitely got the “where has this been all my life” look).

On the big day, Dr. Voll came to the door and we sent our daughter out with a friend for a long walk so we could focus on Hoshi. She polished off the rest of a cheeseburger and moved on to the Honeybaked ham, smiling and wagging all the way.

When the medicine was administered, she never knew it.  I’ve repeatedly thought ‘we should all be so lucky.’

Hoshi was my first “baby girl” and I feel blessed to have learned from her.

Do you have pets? What lessons have they taught you? Enquiring minds LOVE to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

Posted in Holidays, Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Inspiration and Cuteness from Giant Pandas

Today is International Panda Day, which celebrates the Giant Panda. I just smiled through ten minutes of Panda Cam (so I had to share!). Did you know there are less than 2,000 of these cuties left in the wild? Here’s a Top 10 Fact sheet about pandas with tons of videos!

If you want to see live cams of MANY different kinds of animals (including the baby animals), go here and scroll to the bottom of the page. Our own Smithsonian National Zoo has two cams set up so you can get a few angles of these gorgeous endangered animals.

International Panda Day

Photo from http://www.stunningmotivation.com (click to visit post)

I have a first grader at home, so I can highly recommend the Kung Fu Panda series. So much wisdom disguised as a kid movie! And the third movie addressed the endangered species aspect. Perhaps you’ll watch it tonight to celebrate Panda Day!

“Your story may not have such a happy beginning but that does not make you who you are, it is the rest of it – who you choose to be”

― Soothsayer, Kung Fu Panda 3

I sincerely hope you get as much happy out of these pandas as I did!

Are you a sucker for panda cams? Do you celebrate International Panda Day? This overworked mom loves to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Inspiration, More Cowbell | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

20 Qualities That Are More Imporant Than “Pretty” – #BOAW17

“The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes…the place where love resides.” — Sam Levenson

A while back, I did a post on 30 Things I’d Rather Be Called than Pretty, based on a post by Oddysey Magazine on this topic. I’ve pondered it ever since. Why is pretty so important in our society? I’ve watched friends age, lose breasts, gain breasts, lose weight, gain weight…and none of it affected their beauty.

It’s changed the questions I ask about perception. How do I want to be perceived? How do I want my daughter to perceive herself?

Throughout her short life, I’ve worked to find other qualities to compliment my child about, rather than her looks. What qualities combine to make a soul shine from a person’s face? What strengths hold them up when the world beats them down?

20 qualities more important than beauty:

1.  Badassery

Badassery is a highly underrated quality, in my opinion. It encompasses many other qualities. I read a rockstar book on the topic: You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

2.  Bravery

The dictionary says this means: “ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.” To me, bravery means doing things that scare you.

Bravery

3.  Competence

Think about how annoying incompetence is…at work, at home, or out in the world. Now think of the glow that comes with competence. Those are the people you want to hitch wagons with, whether it’s a scavenger hunt or something much much bigger.

4.  Confidence

Who doesn’t want to be confident? To feel good about their decisions. This is a quality that will elevate you to greatness if you back it up with competence.

5. Cowbell

Yup, you heard me. Full of cowbell. A person who really uses their studio space.

6.  Creativity

Creative is fun. Creative ROCKS. Creativity is what most of us strive for. Why just settle for “thinking outside the box,” when you can walk all the way around the box and draw cool pictures?

7.  Discipline

I dream of being an organized person and organization takes discipline. Discipline and hard work will take you further than talent every time.

8. Dreaminess

Daydreams are vital for creatives, as studies have proven our life satisfaction increases when we dream about those we know. For authors, that’s our characters. I get a lot of creative work done when I take time to dream.

dreams_langstonhughes

9.  Empathy

Everybody has a path of fire they must walk. You might not see it, you might not hear about it, but they have it. People who understand other peoples’ point of view and have empathy for their feelings are beautiful.

10.  Flexibility

If Plan A doesn’t work, it’s nice to be flexible enough to go with Plan B. It makes life simpler when you can just go with the flowThis doesn’t mean being a pushover, it means being able to adjust. People who can adjust are more peaceful, and peace shines like a beacon out of your eyes.

Ultimately spiritual awareness unfolds when you’re flexible, when you’re spontaneous, when you’re detached, when you’re easy on yourself and easy on others. ~ Deepak Chopra

11. Friendly

Lots of words go with this – affable, warm, affectionate, outgoing, accessible. Friendly is a beautiful badass word. And who doesn’t want to live a life filled with badassery? (see #1)

12. Hardworking

See #7!

13. Inventive

In the same ballpark as “creative” or “flexible,” inventive takes things a few steps further. Instead of thinking outside the box, you have the ability to think of a new way to use the box. Perhaps an entirely new box might come into being. I love people like this, and they’re the ones you want to be around.

14. Kindness

Every year I try to celebrate World Kindness Day. After the last few months this country just had, I don’t think kindness can be over-emphasized. Be kind, y’all. Be kind whenever and wherever you can. Kindness is beautiful.

kindness_is_free

15. Loving

As Maya Angelou says, “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Just love them. We all have enough rain clouds in our lives.

16.  Nice

I think people underestimate the beauty and the power of niceness. It’s different from kindness, which often requires more thought and effort. In business, nice will win every time. There’s great books written about the Power of Nice.

17. Nurturing

To nurture is to cherish, help or encourage. Do this with your family and your friends. Believe me, they will pass it on. Do this for yourself . Nurturing will add to the beauty of your soul. That’s the logical place to start, and where most of us fail.

18. Sexy

Some days you’ve just got to wear your hottie pants. Celebrate yourself, and share your sexy with the world. Sexy is beautiful.

19. Smart

Intelligence is grand, but the common sense to go with it is what brings people up to the level of  “smart.” I like smart, and smart is way better than pretty.

20. Tough

Some people might call this fortitude. “Mental toughness” is what helps people cope with difficult situations. I don’t mean hard or jaded, but rather having healthy personal boundaries. That makes “tough” the highest of compliments.

“Being physically tough is measured by how many fights you win, but mental toughness is measured by how you react when all the chips are stacked against you, how fast you get back on track when life kicks you in the nuts. Any fool can win a fight, but it takes a person with true grit to never give up when all seems lost.” Benjamin Bayani, The Nation

Beauty is kindness. Beauty is courage. Beauty is love.

What says “beauty” to you? Share it in the comments, and please visit the Beauty of a Woman blogfest today at August McLaughlin’s place. She has an “original” BOAW category and a GirlBoner version. This post is a tiny little part of the original category, but I encourage you to visit them all this week.

Go spread some love today, and wallow in your own beauty.

Hugs!
~ Jenny

Here are some BOAW entries from previous years:

Posted in Health, Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments

10 Unusual Things I Know About Bookworms

Photo credit: Hunter Emkay ~ WANA Commons

It’s National Reading Month, which is my favorite time of year, since I am a bookworm. We’re a club with specific characteristics and one thing is certain: bookworms find other bookworms. They simply must, so they can find out about more cool books.

Bookworms have been devouring books for as long as they can remember – for story, for new worlds and new ideas. Their To Be Read piles are taller than a small child. Their favorite authors and characters become friends.

If you are a bookworm, there are things that I know about you that I don’t know about the other readers I meet:

1. I know you read odd things in odd places.
If you are stuck somewhere without a book, you will begin reading any words available – shampoo bottles, food labels, billboard signs. Whatever. Books and magazines are preferred, but in a pinch, any words will smooth your soul.

2. You read by flashlight in bed at night when you were a child.
When your person-in-charge confiscated it, you waited 5 minutes before pulling the back-up light from its crafty hidey-hole. If they were on to you and confiscated the back-up, you tilted the pages to try to read by the light from the hall.

3. When a book touches you, it is a safe bet that you will not only remember the details of that story, characters, etc…you will also remember where you were the first time you read it and what you were doing that day.

4. I am certain that if you named 10 best friends from the various periods of your life (and were being honest), at least half of them would be book characters or the authors who wrote them.

5. You have different books for different moods.
These are your go-to books when you’re in the grip of overwhelming emotion. You keep reading through that stash of books until the feeling gets a little more manageable.

6. Piles of free books by your most cherished authors gives you that same zing of attraction that you felt the first time you saw your true love.

7. When you meet your favorite author(s), your tongue gets tied in knots and the idea of speaking to them gives you an extreme physical reaction. (I blush, nearly every time.)

8. You have rituals associated with your books.
Whether it’s the way you clean them, sort them, store them or lend them, there is something particular you do with your books. And it makes you feel happy and peaceful when you look at your books after you’ve done it.

(For me, it’s the way I order them and which shelf or room they’re in. My husband knows: don’t be moving my books without telling me. It morphs me into the Devil Wife.)

9. On the touchy subject of lending…bookworms are quite particular about loaning their books.
I know that when someone borrows a treasured book from you and doesn’t return it – or worse, passes it on to someone else without asking you first – your friendship with them changes.

You’re probably still their friend, but you’ll either “forget” to loan them books in the future or you buy a copy from the used bookstore as a back-up and loan them that. There is an A-List of book-borrowers in your life and you love to have coffee with these people.

10. When a book touches your spirit and transports you to a place you’ve never been, it’s not uncommon for you to read the last page, turn the book over and start at Page 1 because you can’t bear to say goodbye to the characters yet.

There are more things that I know about bookworms and their reading habits but I’d love to hear from all of you. What are your favorite books? Do you have book rituals? (If so, what are they?) Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

 

Photo credit: Hunter Emkay ~ WANA Commons
Posted in Miscellaneous, More Cowbell | Tagged , , , , | 27 Comments

Sometimes You Just Need a Hug

Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

These days, most of my pals need extra hugs. The world is kinda splody right now, and lots of people are living at the corner of Freaked Out and Pissed Off. And right now they need lots of hugs.

I’m not here to judge…if a pal has that “Please Hug Me” look, I’m going to reach out and get all squeezy on them. That’s just my way. But it made me more curious about the nature of hugs.

Early in my blog research, I came across a place called the Huggery. I’ve always thought about this place, which no longer exists. You could pay a flat rate for hugs and cuddling. You could choose horizontal or vertical and choose the amount of time.

Genius, right?

When I looked up the Huggery on Google, a few people stood out in the results.

Samantha Hess started CuddleUpToMe.com in 2012 and now runs a business with other certified cuddlers, platonically hugging people. They charge $1 per minute for sessions that last from 15 minutes to 5 hours.

Here’s more about Samantha.

Los Angeles therapist, Steve Maher, charges people $120 for one hour of platonic hugging and cuddling.

There is also a “free hugger” named Amma who pops up all over the internet. Amma is short for Mata Amritanandamayi, and throughout her life she has hugged and comforted tens of millions of people. She takes only donations (although she also sells merchandise) and people wait in line for hours to hug her.

I could watch her hug people for hours – she rocks at it.

What happens in a hug that makes us all feel better?

TONS of physiological benefits. Hugs literally balance our nervous system and lower our stress levels (and our heart rates). They make you release Oxytocin and Seratonin. They enhance our immune system. You can read all about the physical effects here.

Apparently most hugs follow a set pattern (there’s steps to this, people!) so if you’re not an adept hugger, here are the four steps:

The Approach – One or both people indicate the impending hug, typically with one or two arms thrown wide. Eye contact is established and the face will show smiling and pleasure.

The Embrace – The main part of the hug, may be one-or two-armed. It may be from the front, the side or at a slight angle.

The Interaction – Within and around the embrace there may be a variety of other actions and interactions, such as back-slapping, back-rubbing, arm-squeezing, hand-holding, cheek-touching, cheek-kissing, head-holding, spoken words and so on.

Disengaging – A point comes when the huggers have to let go and back off.

Easy-peasy, right? Wrong!

There are dozens of types of hugs. I knew about the bear hug, the group hug and the man hug. But I didn’t know about the Bomb, the A-frame, the Head Envelope, or the Dancefloor Hold. I didn’t know how much hugs could say.

p.s. If you need a hug and can’t find one, here’s the site for Certified Cuddlers.

So, are you in need of extra hugs these days? Are you typically a hugger or a non-hugger? Would you wait in line to hug someone like Amma? Pay for a professional cuddle from a pro like Samantha? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Happy Monday…I’m sending you a virtual hug!
~ Jenny

Posted in Health, Inspiration | Tagged , , , , | 34 Comments

Undie Chronicles, Vol 34: Covert Adjustment Undies

Those of you who are new to More Cowbell might have missed The Undie Chronicles. The regular posse here knows: When the Undie-verse speaks, we will always listen. I had no idea when this began that there were so many hilarious undie-based topics to discuss. Plus it’s Monday, and I like a good Monday belly laugh.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and it just so happens, I have found an enticing gift for you to spoil yourself or the man in your life. They’re branded as Eletrunks, but I call them “Covert Adjustment Undies.”

eletrunks-lifter-underwear-25035

[OMG, I about died over that Safety Tunnel. *wheezes* Okay, I’ve got this.]

Imagine being able to adjust the manly junk, without having to riffle around down there. Professional sports would be revolutionized!

And the marketing team for these things is fabulous. Maybe they’re not quite up at the high bar set by PooPourri’s marketing geniuses, but they’re pretty great. Their video, which went viral, has sage advice:

“Stop playing pocket pool.”
“Stop manhandling your manhood.”
“Elevate your lifestyle.”

All good things…all good things.

And they do all the great website stuff – explain their product, blog, capture leads, and seduce you to the Covert Adjustment Side of our great nation. [Plus, they’re made of natural fiber. In Brooklyn.]

eletrunks-marketing-statement

Everyone, meet Michael, the inventor of Eletrunks…and the gal I call the Sock Lady.

(Watch the video. You’ll see what mean. Eletrunks are an option for every gender.)

Thanks to articles in HuffPost, Mashable and DudeIWantThat.com, Eletrunks sold out over the holidays. BUT, anyone who pre-orders now will have their Pocketpool Cure the first week of February 6th for $28.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, people.

My favorite part of the DudeIWantThat article:

Though the above video [showing the Safety Tunnel in action] is slightly NSFW, Eletrunks are not a dirty or obscene pair of underwear. At all. The company’s demo of their functional, comfort-enhancing, package-adjusting Lifter cord just makes it look like some dude is puppeteering his balls into answering “Yes” to the question, “Should we find someone to get naked with later?” on a constant 3-second loop. Which may not be the most appropriate thing to watch on your 27″ monitor at work.

OMG… *runs to subscribe to DudeIWantThat*

I do have to offer one word of caution: Be sure your Eletrunks have an “S.” I went to Amazon to see if there were any deals to be had and lo and behold

eletrunk-the-elephant

Apparently Eletrunk the Elephant can hang out with your child’s Teacup Family. This adorable pachyderm is available for $24.95, and you don’t want to mix these orders up. I’m just sayin…

The Eletrunks Facebook page, in case you’d like to be part of Eletrunks Nation. There are photos, videos, etc. there for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Why or why not? Who do you think is the best market for these Covert Adjustment Undies? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Humor, Undie Chronicles | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

The Maya Angelou Guide to a Great Life

We’ve been inspiring the heck out of ourselves over at Writers In The Storm today with some great quotes from the incomparable Maya Angelou. Who doesn’t want some inspiration on this wintry Wednesday?

Maya Angelou, inspiration

Photo credit: Emily’s Quotes – http://bit.ly/2e6jcwF

My favorite video is her reading her own powerhouse poem, Still I Rise.

Her voice is so comforting, so playful, so moving. And her words…ohmygosh. Her words just shoot fire up my spine.

The most astonishing thing to me is her fortitude. This girl was shuttled across the nation by train at three years old, alone with her brother, with only the train staff to usher them from one leg of the journey to the other. She was raped as a child. She was battered by the chaos of a pre-Civil Rights South. Yet still, she rose.

After her rape at age seven, Angelou stopped speaking for five years. When she stopped speaking, she started reading and the stories kept her afloat. She finally spoke when a teacher challenged her with poetry.

She knew what most of us know: stories are important.

Stories are friends when we’re lonely, comfort when we’re scared, inspiration when we’re down. Stories are a gift and many of us write to pay that gift forward.

I’ve had a hard week, filled with pain from being glutened, so I’m rising through words today. If I happen to lift up some others at the same time…SCORE!

Here are some Maya quotes to lift you up:

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues – you can’t be kind or fair or humane or generous until you find your courage. Courage is required to defend all the other virtues, and to be a whole person.

Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. We may not speak the same language or dance the same dance, but be a blessing to someone.

You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.

Continue to shine today, my friends! Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle or your swagger. 🙂

~ Jenny

 

Posted in Inspiration, More Cowbell | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

Undie Chronicles, Vol. 33: An Undie Jedi Master

When an article begins with “What kind of underwear do y’all mess with?” it’s a sure bet that I’m going to tune in.

The original tease said: “Staffer wears undies for a month and reports back.” I clicked, assuming the report would center around the odd fungus that developed in said staffer’s nether regions. I mean really, what kind of yo-yo wears their pants for a month?

Thankfully, the actual article, from wordsmith Andrew Cross, is about a brand he tried out (MeUndies). It’s titled, “I Tested Out MeUndies For A Month – The Results Are In.”

When an article has this in the second paragraph, it must be shared:

I like that snugness. I like to feel supported, you feel me? But regular briefs make me feel like I’m either 9 or 90 years old.

Especially when it’s followed by an Undie Timeline.

I bow down to a good Undie Timeline.

The underwear coming-of-age story generally looks something like this:

Age 0-11: Briefs. Because you don’t know any better and they’re cheap and your mom buys them for you. You’re wearing Fruit of the Loom if you’re lucky.

Age 12-16: Boxers. You heard a rumor at school that tight underwear will f*ck with your sperm count or your ability to get it up or other foolishness. You beg your moms for some silk NHL team-print Joe Boxers, and she comes home with some floppy plaid Jockeys, but you wear them anyway because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Age 16-??: You realize that floppy boxers bunch up weirdly under your jeans, so you switch back to briefs. But now that you’ve grown and *filled out* a bit, they just feel weird. You feel disillusioned and lost. You’re not sure where to turn. You don’t know where to put your junk. Enter boxer briefs. Maybe you saw a homie in the changing room wearing them. Maybe you noticed them on a Calvin Klein ad in the subway. Either way, you have realized that boxer briefs are the only way to look like a grown-up while still keeping 90% of your clothes on the floor. You buy a few pairs of Calvins and feel great.

The boxer brief is surely the underwear choice of the distinguished man.

[I just want to bronze that last line in a Shrine of Awesome. Are you with me, friends?]

This article says it’s about MeUndies, but it’s really about great writing. I was ready to buy a case of these things after reading this line, and I don’t even have junk.

Honest to god, walking around the office with these things swishing delicately under my jeans is a borderline sick pleasure that everyone should experience at least once. It feels like I’m breaching some kind of weird societal taboo — but nobody knows.

Can I get an “amen?” Doesn’t everyone want to “swish delicately” at some point in their life?

This guy had me from  the first line, but he finishes strong with an Underwear Hierarchy. This was the part that convinced me we need to induct Andrew into the More Cowbell Posse. Posthaste.

Let’s review: 

  • Briefs are for small children and old men.
  • Boxers are for insecure teenagers.
  • Boxer briefs are God-tier underwear worn by the true players of the world.
  • MeUndies makes the best god-damned boxer briefs to ever grace the temple that is my body. 

Trust me, daddy: You want these on your junk.

You can get yourself a pair starting from $20.00 at MeUndies.com.

That’s salemanship, y’all. Stellar salesmanship. Andew is an Undie Jedi Master. Ole, dude. Ole!

I’m wishing you guys a wonderful holiday season, filled with the people and activities you love. I hope it’s filled with much cowbell and plenty of love.

What’s the best ad you’ve heard or seen this holiday season? Feel free to post the link in the comments section. Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Humor, Undie Chronicles | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Cool Weather Recipe That’s Great with Food Allergies

When you have food allergies, you spend a significant amount of time and energy altering recipes. Many of you know that I am crazy-intolerant of gluten. Cutting it out of my life changed everything for me health-wise.

There are some unexpected things you must substitute for when you have a gluten allergy. Here are five of the most common.

  1. Spices! I need to find spices that aren’t cut on equipment shared with wheat (McCormick is pretty reliable).
  2. Beer. GF people need alternatives for beer (I cook with cider quite often). The cooking beer I use is plain old Redbridge, because it’s the cheapest. When I drink beer, it’s usually Daura, Green’s or New Grist.
  3. Soy sauce. I use tamari sauce to replace soy sauce.
  4. Soups. Pacific Foods has the best creamy soups around because sometimes you just need Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken Soup.
  5. Bread crumbs. I use a lot of gluten free flour and breadcrumbs for chicken, and the best fried chicken I’ve made is from Corn Flakes crumbs, which are now totally gluten free. This is a recent change in the last year, so be sure your Corn Flake boxes say gluten free. Ditto for Cheerios. There are still some non-GF boxes running around.

Sometimes I run across other wonderful souls who do most of my work for me. Those are beautiful moments. That was the case when this chili recipe gave me back one of my favorite dishes. (I can’t use our family recipe because a lot of the ingredients, like Campbell’s tomato soup, contain wheat.)

Fox In the Kitchen blog has this recipe for a kickass Gluten Free Chili Seasoning Mix:

  • 2 tsp cornstarch or other gluten free starch of choice
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp herbamare or seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

I also add Italian Seasoning to my chili spice mix. And I make such big batches that I always double the above so my chili still has a huge flavor kick.

Time saving tip: Make a bunch of individual batches and save them. They’ll keep in sealed bags or containers for a while.

spice-list

Instructions

  1. Place all seasoning mix ingredients in a bowl and throughly mix until very well combined. If preferred, you can use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind and mix the spices.
  2. Each single batch makes about 2 tablespoons of Chili Seasoning Mix. Use one batch of seasoning per pound of ground meat. We prefer ground beef but ground turkey, or ground chicken also make really good Chili.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

spices-mixed

A double batch of spice.

This recipe is Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free and Egg Free. It can also be Vegetarian if you use extra beans to replace the meat.

What I do for meat

I adore meat in my chili so I usually take a pork shoulder roast or pork ribs, trim off any fat, and throw them into my pressure cooker with a bottle of cider, 3-4 chopped cloves of garlic and a sprig of rosemary. I cook it for 55 minutes on High Pressure.

roasted-pork

Here’s what pork shoulder looks like before shredding. Usually I use 1 pound per batch.

Making the Chili

  1. After shredding the cooked pork and removing the rosemary stem (leaving the spice), I pour the whole shebang into the chili pot.
  2. In a saucepan, sautee your onions and any other types of veggies you want to add. When in doubt, ALWAYS add more garlic. 🙂
  3. I brown some sausage and drain it while I’m on my meat craze, but you can leave this step out if you don’t want the extra calories. Add it to the “big pot.”
  4. In the chili pot, add one batch of Gluten Free Chili Seasoning Mix per one pound of cooked meat and as many beans as you want. I usually toss in 4-6 cans of various kinds.
  5. If you like chopped tomatoes, throw in a few cans of those.
  6. The recipe calls for one can of tomato sauce (14 oz) for each pound of meat. One day I didn’t have any and used spaghetti sauce and it was so much better. Now I just open the Prego, or some other gluten free marinara, and pour in a few cups. The amount comes down to a personal choice about how much you wish to sauce up your beans and meat. Some people use two cups, some people use four.
  7. Simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, or until mixture has thickened. Stir occasionally.
before-sauce

Before the sauce.

After the Prego.

After the Prego.

Serve warm, topped with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and extra crushed red chili pepper flakes, if desired.

Personally, I love to add sour cream or a slice of American cheese. It’s great over fries or chips too, for those times you need some crunch.

Enjoy!

What is your favorite cold weather dish? Let’s trade some recipes in the comments section. We all have enquiring minds that want to know!

~ Jenny

Posted in Holidays, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

5 Lessons I Learned From Winning NaNoWriMo

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner_fb

After eight years of trying, I finally won NaNoWriMo this year. It was glorious, affirming, life-changing. I proved to myself that I could write at a professional pace, banging out 2K a day with amazing regularity.

So, what was different this time?

I plotted a bit more than I usually do before writing, but that wasn’t what helped me win this one. I’ve put these lessons below, in order of importance. Some of them completely changed the way I write.

Note: For any of you who haven’t heard of NaNoWriMo, it’s a writing challenge that happens every November where people from around the globe try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

#5 – Writing every day is about momentum.

I’m not a person who generally writes every day. I have a kid and a job and a social life and it just doesn’t always happen. I have friends who swear by it, but it just isn’t something I can keep up 365 days of the year.

However…

Writing every day kept me immersed in the story in a really creative way. Writing every day kept said story at the top of my mind in a way that taking lots of days off just didn’t match.

#4 – Writing everyday increases my output. A LOT.

Seriously, look at this graph. Look at what happens when I’m really in that story, multiple times a day, every day.

NaNoWriMo

At the beginning of the month, I was hitting between 1800-2400 each day. My birthday is November 10 and I took a break with my honey for a few days. When I started back with NaNo, I just inched ahead on that story.

I’d lost my flow.

I got the flu the week before Thanksgiving, and then prepared a magolicious gluten free Thanksgiving feast. And I didn’t think I’d win NaNoWriMo.

That’s okay, I reasoned. I never win NaNo. I have 24,000 words I didn’t have. That’s close to what I usually do.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

#3 – Enlist the support of friends and family.

Several friends told me they were going for it and I was too. That’s right, they informed me that I was capable.

Jamie Raintree, Julie Glover, my WANA pals and all my fabulous writing friends at OCC/RWA were like, “You can easily do 26,000 words in a week. You write fast. You’ve got this. Plus, we want to be accountable to you and have you be accountable back.”

And my family picked up the slack for that last week of November, which was pivotal.

#2 – Accountability and group sprints are like rocket fuel.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I freaking love group sprints. I’ve been doing them for some time online in Facebook groups or at Twitter hashtags, or over in Kristen Lamb’s WANATribe. They’re lovely and I set a timer. And that ringing buzzer often jars me out of the story.

The NaNoWriMo site has a group sprint tool (under Word Sprints) that’s rocking my world. I’m still using it, even though the challenge is over, and I hope they keep it on the site FOREVER.

nano-word-sprints

The NaNo timers have a cute little “time’s up” voice that isn’t jarring at all. Plus, you are prompted for word count at the end of the sprint so you can visually analyze later if there was a time of day or part of the story where you wrote faster. And you see how everyone fared. If you’re competitive, that part is groovy too.

nano-group-sprints

Being accountable about reporting numbers and meeting up online for sprints is just a little extra oomph to get me back to the page. Love. It.

#1 – I can do way more than I think I can.

I’m not calling myself a lazy-ass. It’s more that I get in my own way. My “you can’t do that” voice seems to be much louder than my “you can totally do that” voice, and that’s a damn shame.

This was my biggest lesson this last November: Get. Out. Of. Your. Own. Way.

When I sat down and played with my story every day (being accountable to my friend, Julie Glover) we moved mountains.

I busted out 3-4-5,000 words in a day. Easily. One crazy day, I wrote almost 7,500 words. I’d never done that before because my silly brain didn’t know it was possible. What a huge eye opener that was!

Get immersed in the story and sit down and write until you can’t any more. Take a break. Repeat. That was the “magic formula” for 2016. It worked and I had so much fun because I got out the way of my inner happy storyteller.

What is the last goal you worked for that you met? Is your “no you can’t” voice louder than your “sure you can” voice? Have you every participated in NaNoWriMo? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

Posted in Inspiration, NaNoWriMo | Tagged , , , , , | 48 Comments