Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No Place Like Home

There are three things in life I know for sure-- Death, taxes and I can always go home to my Mother's house-- No matter what, no questions asked-- Mom will welcome her children with open arms and we will always have a place to stay for as long as we want or need to. (That's Mom with her oldest grand daughter on the left.)

She started teaching us-- her five children, this important lesson at a very early age. Perhaps it was because, at times, a place to call home wasn't always as secure as she would have liked it to be as a child. Her mother died when she was young and being bounced around a bit too much made making a home for her own family supremely important.

Don't get me wrong, we were absolutely taught to grow up to be self-supporting, independent adults with our own homes but Mom made sure that if life ever threw us a curve ball and we needed a little tender loving care, her light was always on-- literally.

Home is where Mom is and the door is always open. Period.

My siblings and I are remarkably lucky and blessed to have been raised with this knowledge tucked away in our hearts. Some of us have taken Mom up on the offer in our adult lives too, staying a few days or a few years as the case may be.

Her home for the past nearly 20 years has been with her beloved Dave, our step-father, who has the very same attitude and open door policy with his five children. Sometimes their house is a little crowded but none of their children have ever been turned away and there is always enough love and support to go around.

I've told you about their house HERE and the meaningful 40+ year history it has in our family--

The outside is neat and tidy with the pink dogwood tree in glorious bloom every Spring for as long as I can remember.

But the inside-- Let's just say the inside had a protective layer of dust holding it together and my folks had absolutely no problem with that whatsoever. They knew where everything was and eventually all the clutter, nic-nacks and stuff got moved and dusted, just not necessarily on a regular basis.

As signs of the aging process took hold of our folks a few years back, we arranged for a weekly housekeeper to help with the cleaning and surprisingly, Mom didn't argue about it one bit.

This past winter was the first year in dear Dave's life that someone else shoveled his driveway and sidewalks. And this summer is the first year his lawn mover was retired to a landscaping service to handle the weekly chore. He, on the other hand, is not happy about it but, at age 86, we think the guy deserves a break and his doctors do as well to insure he doesn't break anything if you catch my drift.

It's been a rough couple of months for them. In April both my folks were in the hospital-- First Mom, then Dave, and that's when things really took an unexpected turn. Mom came home from the hospital to their big rambling house. Dave went to a rehabilitation facility.

And Dave LOVED it there! In rehab! Swear to gawd!

The rehab center is nestled on a beautiful lake with many of the prescribed activities to strengthen his legs and arms taking place outside in the fresh air. It was like a Senior Citizens Camp with fishing and woodworking and gardening! After a week I actually think Dave was sorry to say good-bye because there were so many fun things for him to do and so much social interaction that, despite his health issues and the need for a cane, he had a spring in his step again.

For at last four years I've been discussing the monumental problem of no downstairs bathroom in their 100+ year old house. The bathroom is 19 very steep stairs away and would be impossible if anything caused them to be immobile, even briefly. None of my siblings, all of whom live within six blocks, have a downstairs shower or tub either. Ahh the joys of owning century old homes and the underlining problems they cause.

Before "downsizing" was part of our vocabulary, Mom and Dave already downsized to this house and had no intention of ever moving again. Then the stairs became a concern but, thanks to mastering denial over the years, our folks turned a blind eye to the potential problem.

The necessity for rehab and physical therapy brought the problem front and center with nowhere to hide.

Thanks to the wildly positive experience Dave had at rehab the often difficult "assisted living" conversation was actually started by none other than Dave himself-- And the even bigger shock was that Mom jumped on it! There was no drama, tears, hard feelings, begging, pleading-- Nothing.

Our folks were ready to move N.O.W.

Oh yes, we are a very happy group of children thanking our lucky stars that this often difficult parental transition is so welcomed by our folks. They'll be moving in late September to a beautiful one story, two bathroom home in an assisted living community that has a continuum of care (translation-- they can't get kicked out if their health turns south) and that will be the very last time they'll ever need to move.

With activities galore, local transportation, extensive health and wellness facilities and skilled nursing all on the rolling hills of its campus, it's really paradise for them. Throw in the fact that several of their friends live there already and it's a whopping half mile from their current home, and well, life is good for one and all.

When my folks and I first toured the facilities in April the same two questions were repeatedly asked and of great concern to them-- 1) "Does the house have extra bedrooms because we have a lot of kids." and 2) "Can bring our dog?".

The answer to both questions was a resounding YES!

So now, when I make my regular trips back home to see family, "home" will be at a new address-- One that still offers all the comfort only a mother can offer. But more importantly, it's a home that ensures comfort and security for our folks as they transition to a place where they will be safe and well cared for-- but still with enough independence to keep them-- and their dog, happy.

Of course I'm a little worried that I'm nearly old enough to be a resident in this Senior's community-- I'll be sure to carry my driver's license with me to prove I'm not quite old enough to move in and just a guest. It kind of gives a whole new meaning to "getting carded". Who knew I'd ever be happy to be "only" 53.

Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Winner Winner!

Question: What's better than having a Giveaway package for a $25 Fandango Gift Card plus a Larry Crowne movie tee shirt and notepad???

Answer: TWO movie giveaway prize packages!

A big congratulations to my Julia Roberts BFF Giveaway winners....


Thanks to everyone who entered. And don't forget Larry Crowne, starring Tom Hanks and my BFF Julia Roberts, is in theaters everywhere July 1st-- That's THIS WEEKEND!

Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins

Friday, June 24, 2011


Don't forget to enter my BFF Julia Roberts GIVEAWAY to win a $25 Fandango Movie Ticket Gift Certificate and a Larry Crowne Prize Package-- Two sets of prizes are up for grabs. Giveaway ends Monday, June 27th at midnight PT. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!


We're on "baby watch" in our family-- My oldest nephew's wife is very pregnant and their first little one is taking his or her time making an entrance into the world. Already measuring in at 7 pounds 5 ounces according to the doc, and a few days late, we all jump every time the phone rings in hopes of their trip to the delivery room.

My nephew was a very cute kid as you can see from his kindergarten graduation photo taken about 25 years ago....

He grew to be a very handsome guy with a "quieter" fashion sense.

The expectant parents want to be surprised about their baby's sex and don't know what the Stork is planning for them. As a result, since their first ultrasound they've referred to their future child as "Spud" because it reminded Nephew of a little potato. The name's stuck with our family and I'm pretty sure, regardless of the sex or actual name, this kiddo will be "Spud" forevermore.

That's a lot like what happen to my brother. When he was born he was named after our father but Mom and our grandparents always referred to him as "A Chip Off The Old Block" and to this day we all still call him "Chip" or, on rare (teenage) occasions "Blockhead".

I never had a nickname growing up. Did you?
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Good News + GIVEAWAY

Remember my niece and her boyfriend who were going wilderness hiking in Yosemite? If you do, then you can only imagine the huge sigh of relief I felt when they pulled back into my driveway yesterday safe and sound.

The trip was amazing and fun for them but I'm pretty sure this will be the last wilderness anything this couple does together. My niece said it was a once in a lifetime experience but "OMGosh hiking nearly straight up the side of a mountain is way harder than it looks".

I think it cured them, or at least her, of attempting this type of extreme adventure ever again-- "Extreme" being defined as anything that does not have a wood floor, a roof over her head, running water, and preferably an elevator.

But, they lived to tell the story, didn't see one bear along the way, and saw some spectacular sights. Speaking of sights, this is the sight I saw as they unloaded their gear from the rental car.....

Is this all the gear they took? Oh no, no, no. They were loaded with stuff. THIS is the gear that smelled too bad to bring into our house!


Don't forget to enter my BFF Julia Roberts GIVEAWAY to win a $25 Fandango Movie Ticket Gift Certificate and a Larry Crowne Prize Package-- Two sets of prizes are up for grabs. Giveaway ends Monday, June 27th at midnight PT. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins

Monday, June 20, 2011

My BFF Julia Roberts GIVEAWAY

Did I ever tell you about the time I met Julia Roberts? Not to brag-- but she and I go way back-- Ever since she got her first real big screen break in the fab film Mystic Pizza in 1988.

I was in Milan, Italy, which is not where we met, but is where I first screened that film which helped launch her Hollywood A-List career. I was jet-lagged out of my mind at a film festival business thing and desperately in need of a nap. So I did what any respectable, hardworking advertising execs would do during a conference and slipped into a movie screening to catch a few Zzzzs in the dark.

Wowza! It was a fantastic little film with an unknown actress you couldn't take your eyes off. I didn't get that nap but I knew Julia and I would have a long relationship together-- Not in a stalking kind of way, but I knew I'd be seeing her way more on the big screen.

Turns out, I dated someone involved with Mystic Pizza so I got to do a "meet and greet" with Julia at a press conference for the film and well... "meet" is a loose term, but I'm pretty sure we made eye contact for like 3 seconds at the catering table and our friendship was launched.

Since 1988, Julia and I have crossed paths so many times we're on a first name basis, *ahem*at*least*I*am*cough* and have so much in common. She starred in Steel Magnolia-- I worked on the advertising campaign. Same goes for her smash hit Pretty Woman-- I did an ounce of work on that campaign too and although we didn't run into each other during the marketing process, I did give her a big wave and thumbs up at the Oscars that year. She was about 85 rows in front of me but I'm certain we connected across the auditorium like two long lost friends.

As her career skyrocketed, I kept an eye on Julia and, like any well-meaning friend, would definitely have advised her to wear a wig and not cut or dye her hair blond for Hook but who am I to butt in.

That was the same year she wore a long black gown with a pesky long train to the Oscars. We sat much closer together this time and I gave her a shout out to be careful cuz Keifer Sutherland was about to step on the dress and that would have spelled disaster. That's what friends are for, right? She appreciated it immensely and gave me a shy smile of thanks.

We hung out again, her photos and movie likenesses that is, on My Best Friend's Wedding and of course, Erin Brockovich-- Wow, she rocked that role and I cheered loudly when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Yes, we've been friends for more than 20 years. Gosh time flies.

My BFF Julia has a new film coming out, Larry Crowne, with Tom Hanks. I haven't seen it yet, but the trailers made me laugh and it's PG-13 with no bombs exploding and zero body count-- That's a plus in my movie-going book these days.

I'm out of the ad biz now but Hollywood is a small town so you never know, our paths might cross again and another meaningful connection is always possible. After all, we started out in the biz at the same time and have so much in common. *wink*wink*

I literally see more than a hundred movies a year-- not counting the ones I sleep through. I'm going to see Larry Crowne and support my old friend. It's in theaters July 1st. You can see it too-- for free!


Just leave a comment below telling me your favorite Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks or NiaVardalos movie to win a $25 Fandango Gift Card!

By the way, I've had a few Tom Hanks sightings over the years too (Gosh he's a nice guy.) and I really have met Nia Vardalos who co-wrote this movie. She's the writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but that's a whole other story.

So come on-- Enter to Win $25 towards movie tickets of your choice. Two gift cards are up for grabs along with Larry Crowne tee shirts and notepads. (One for each winner.)

EXTRA Entries:
1) Leave TWO MORE COMMENTS if you're a Follower.
2) Blog about this giveaway and link to this post. Then COME BACK and LEAVE THREE MORE COMMENTS with your giveaway link for your extra entries to be counted. Feel free to grab any of the creative here in this post for your post.

Giveaway ends June 27, 2011 at midnight PT. Sorry US and Canada only. Gift cards will be mailed directly to you by Universal Picture's peeps. Be sure to include your email so winners can be contacted. You must have a blog to enter. Random drawing, results are final.

What's your favorite Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks or Nia Vardalos movie?
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins
Note: I was not compensated for this post. The giveaway was offered and accepted as an opportunity for my readers.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Boots-- His and Hers

When my just college graduated niece and her boyfriend arrived here from Ohio earlier this week, I thought their plans to wilderness hike in Yosemite National Park was a fun and amazing opportunity.

But as I watched them pack their gear, including a humongous knife they laughingly referred to as "the bear knife", I realized they weren't kidding about driving north into the "wilderness"-- As in they are not staying in campsites-- with other people-- and Forest Rangers-- and lights or running water! Instead they'll hike the trails and "find a nice spot in the middle of nowhere to pitch a tent".

This caused my eyes to nearly pop out of my head, my heart to skip about a thousand beats and a deep concern that my niece had not shared this bit information with her mother, my baby sister-- Because I'm sure if she had, Baby Sister would have never, ever, driven her cherished daughter to the airport to visit me.

I immediately started asking questions about cell phone reception (probably none), "wilderness" experience (to which the boyfriend responded "seven times" meaning seven nights TOTAL in his entire 22 year lifetime, not seven trips) and if they'd like me to gift them a hotel room instead (no thank you).

Upon learning this news, my response was to write my niece's name and emergency phone numbers in permanent marker on her back and stomach before they pulled out of my driveway on their adventure. And I'm not kidding about that either.

So for the past three nights I've laid awake, secure in my warm bed, praying and wondering how that "wilderness" thing was working out for them.... And counting the minutes until they call and check back in with civilization again.

Tick, tick, tick.....

I have a GIVEAWAY coming next week so stay tuned!!

Happy weekend everybody.
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins

Monday, June 13, 2011

There's One In Every Crowd

It's graduation season again, have you had the pleasure of attending one? I have-- Actually I should say, one down, two to go.

The first had my beautiful brainiac niece all decked out in her blue and gold robe with ropes and tassels and metals and sashes galore for high school graduation. She rocked it and sat proudly in the very front row in the "Top 12" section of the class. She's a valedictorian (yes, I'm bragging) but it didn't go to her head one bit-- Her three other smart sisters saw to that.

This was the first graduation I'd ever been to where not only the school's Principal but also the Superintendent of the district lectured the audience of about a thousand people on "proper graduation etiquette". They made it crystal clear that the ceremony would stop dead in its tracks if there was any hooting, hollering, cheering, whistling or clapping at the announcement of a student's name-- "Not one peep" were the exact words the Principal bellowed into the microphone.

I immediately reverted to my teenage years and felt scolded. I sheepishly sat straight up in my chair so as not to look like the kind of person who would "irreparably damage the solemnness of the occasion". Gawd forbid.

As I started biting my nails, something I had not done since I was 12 years old, I wondered in my very quiet mind, afraid to move a muscle for fear of making noise and being called out-- sure an intense spotlight would shine brightly in my deer in the headlights eyes, but soon felt a bit peeved for being talked down to.

I assumed the audience, full of proud loved ones of soon to be high school graduates, wouldn't in any way try to disrupt the ceremony. This was a big deal! And of course we'd all act like respectable adults. Right?

Apparently not so much because as they saying goes-- "There's one in very crowd." only in this case there were about 14.

In fairness, it takes a long time for 357 names to be announced, diplomas handed out, and the obligatory posed photo shaking hands with the Principal, so folks got a little restless. But about half way through, the rowdiness started.

First it was the single, very loud, hand clapping after a student's name. The poor kid stopped frozen as if his idiot parent would get him bounced into detention one last time. It caused the ceremony to stop for a full 15 seconds before the diploma was handed over. The announcer calling names over the loud speaker let us know he meant business.

Then a dad, after his beautiful blond baby girl's name was announced, stood in the center of the auditorium and did a wild silent dance that closely resembled the funky chicken. The audience roared, the blond was visibly not happy, and the announcer deadpanned "Was that really necessary?"

Three more students in a row received standing ovations from their large, happy families, all sitting together on the right side of the auditorium, each one trying to out noise the other and cause a bigger scene than the last.

Those students were embarrassed and clearly mortified. Each were dressed in suits and ties grinning from ear to ear-- until their family turned the occasion into a free-for-all. Those three names took a full 10 minutes to get past.

I wondered (silently of course) if this sort of thing happened at really important ceremonies-- Like the swearing in of a President or Supreme Court Justice. Does some one lecture the crowd like they are first graders only to have some idiot make the event all about them rather then the person (s) being honored?

It all seemed pretty ridiculous to me, the rowdie parents, I mean. Weren't they the ones that raised their children to be respectful? Their kids were some of the best dressed of the day and seemed to take it all very seriously. Perhaps if the bull horn was sounded by the parents of the student wearing ratty flip flops or even the three kids who chose to go barefoot to their graduation, I'd understand the carefree attitude.

Oh well, to each his own. I'm sure the students will look back and remember dad-- with his beer belly hanging below his "Help, I've dropped the tv remote and can't reach it" tee shirt and recall what a gigantic fool he made of himself bellowing "That's my boy, now go get a job!".

Two more ceremonies are coming up. The next is my niece's graduation from college and on her way to Veterinarian School and Godson who (and I use this term loosely) "graduates" from eight grade to move on to high school. Eighth grade "graduation" make no sense to me, but that's another post.

The one thing I know for sure-- I guarantee you I will be too busy sobbing with pride to shout anything idiotic to embarrass our graduates.

Have you been to a graduation lately?
Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bittersweet Birthday

With great anticipation, I traveled back home to Ohio last week to visit my family. My agenda was full and a variety of important events were scheduled making this an especially jammed packed trip.

Five months ago I made my plane reservations so I could attend my great niece's first birthday party on Saturday. As I've said here before, she's the first of a new generation in our family and the joy she has brought us all has been endless since the day she arrived....

It's been nearly six months since I saw our now still tiny 16 pound sweetie-- all 27 inches of her in person, but her mom, my oldest niece, sends me daily "pictures of the day" to keep me in the loop with her progress through the first year of life. Those photos fill my heart with love and have me checking my iPhone each morning the moment I open my eyes.

Our birthday girl 1 year old!

The birthday bash was filled with friends and our great big, loud family. Held in a beautiful park with old fashioned games for the older kids to play and plenty of food to keep everyone well fed. Our party girl did a great job of smearing cake all over her face and never fussed once at the sweltering hot temps or being passed around to all 45 guests to receive kisses and hugs.

It was a glorious day but one wonderful person tugged at my heart strings as we celebrated-- Did you know blogger Kathy from Four Dog Day? She last posted gorgeous photos of her first grandson, four week old Graham on October 22nd. The week prior to that, Kathy posted about her struggle to keep up with blogging, working full time and the tug of war of activities that come with life in general. And we hadn't heard from her since.

Kathy and I wrote numerous baby related comments and emails as we anticipated our bundles of joy. She could not wait to be a grandmother and share her love with the next generation which is why I thought she had been too busy to blog for the past six months.

Sadly, that was not the case.

Recently Kathy's children posted her farewell. As Kathy questioned the time to blog in October, she also sensed something wasn't quite right and scheduled a doctor appointment.

In a heart-felt message from her family, we learned that appointment lead to not great medical news and of Kathy's brave but short battle with cancer. After four surgeries, 2 trips to rehabilitation plus radiation and chemo, Kathy lost her battle.

My eyes stung as I read the post and the sadness between the lines as her family told her brave story. Kathy was a wonderful, creative, positive person who I miss deeply even though we never met in person.

As I watched my great-niece celebrate with her first birthday cake, I know how thrilled Kathy would have been to participate in baby Graham's first birthday this coming September 24th.

Although I have no doubt Kathy is looking down on her family with pride, I so wish she could be here in person for her grandson to know and love.

If you have a moment, please stop by Kathy's blog and show her family some love. I'm sure it will mean the world to them.

Welcome to - Joanna Jenkins