About Jenster

I was diagnosed with Stage II Invasive Ductal Carcinoma which had spread to my lymph nodes when I was 39. My daughter was 10 and my son turn 13 three days after my diagnosis. Less than two weeks after a left mastectomy my husband had to move to another state for a new job making my kids the primary care givers throughout my treatment. To say it was a difficult year would be an understatement, but my children grew in ways they never would have otherwise. I'm happy to call myself a three year survivor and it's my wish to give hope to any newly diagnosed moms out there who may have older dependent children.

Parking Lot Heroics

I went to the grocery store today for what seemed like the first time in about a year. I couldn’t even get mad at people who said, “There’s nothing to eat,” because, well, there was nothing to eat. Last week was rough around here. For me, anyway. It was full of painting and then some more painting. That’s pretty much all I did last week. Which is why there was no food in the house.

The most strenuous thing I did yesterday was going to church so I didn’t bother with a shower this morning. (Worship was on point, but I’m not Pentecostal so I didn’t work up a sweat.) I did wash my face and brush my teeth, but I didn’t put on any make-up. The hair was looking decent, though, if I do say so myself. That would be thanks to a much-needed haircut last week so I don’t look like Hey Arnold anymore.

Then there were the clothes. A while ago I lost the drawstring to the capris I threw on, but I keep forgetting. And I cinched up the straps of my sports bra before getting dressed. Turns out I cinched a little too much so I walked around the grocery store pulling up my pants and trying to covertly yank down the bra band. If one thing wasn’t sliding down, the other thing was creeping up. (Is this too much information? I don’t even know anymore.)

Shopping itself went pretty well. There were the usual rude people made bearable by the usual polite people. Shelves weren’t stocked as well as I’d have liked, but I found nearly everything I needed. All in all, it was a decent experience.

After paying for my goods I pushed my cart outside and stopped under the shady overhang to put my sunglasses on. And that’s when I saw The Van.

It was a Channel 6 news van. Camera people need groceries, too, so I didn’t think too much about it. Until She got out. She was a young and pretty brunette wearing a nice dress and perfect make-up. The exact opposite of me except for the brunette part, though my brunette is sprinkled with glittery, silver strands. (Everyone likes glitter, right?) She held a microphone while chasing down people and asking if she could talk to them for a minute. The van swung into a parking spot and a cameraman jumped out to follow, but nobody wanted to talk to her.

“OH NO!” I screamed in my head as I scanned the parking lot for the aisle my car was parked in. Thankfully it was two aisles over from the news crew and there were other people coming and going that were able to block for me. But still, no one wanted to stop and be on camera.

The correspondent (or whatever she is) and the cameraman made it over to the next aisle, just one over from me. I was surreptitiously keeping an eye on them while practically running to my car. The adrenaline kicked in and there was this whole special ops-like scenario playing through my head.

Surveying the lay of the land, I note my car is parked directly across from the cart return, which faces the aisle the crew is now in. I open the hatchback remotely as I run full speed for the car. I abruptly stop the cart  and tip it so all the groceries land in the car at one time. Then I whip the cart around and send it careening to the return where it comes to a complete stop by nestling into the row of carts already there while shutting the hatchback at the same time. In a matter of seconds I am in my car and I drive away.

It’s a particularly cool scene in slow motion with a hard-driving, metal soundtrack.

There was a moment when I actually made eye contact with her. I quickly looked away and cursed my lack of remote-opening hatchback and general ninja skills. Thankfully, some poor shmoe agreed to talk to her. Still, I didn’t want to take any chances. I pretty much threw my groceries in the back – except for the bag with the eggs – and tossed the cart into the return.

I’m not going to say my tires squealed as I drove out of the lot, but I’m not going to say they didn’t, either.



Epic Fail ~ September 2017 edition

You know how I’m always saying I need to get my act together? No? Well, I do. I say it all the time. And do you know why I say it all the time? Because my act is so far from together it’s absurd. Let me give you this ridiculous example.

I was enjoying some quiet time in the living room like I do most mornings when Todd came in and sat on the ottoman next to my feet. On the floor between the side table and ottoman was an unopened USPS priority box addressed to me.  After we’d chatted for a bit, he noticed the box.

Todd: What’s in the box?

Me:    (Not making eye contact) I don’t want to tell you.

Todd: (Giving me a funny look) What’s in the box?

Me:    (Gaze still averted) Please don’t make me tell you.

Todd: (Squeezing my ankle) Jennifer. Tell me what’s in the box.

Me:    (Barely meeting his stare) Katie’s college graduation announcements.

She graduated in May. The first Saturday in May. That’s over four months ago and I haven’t sent out her announcements. Which, on the one hand, is not a big deal because everybody already knows she graduated. On the other hand, however, I paid for those announcements so they’ve got to go. In the mail, not the trash.

Next week I’ll be writing a little excuse to include with the graduation announcements. Good thing I’m gifted in rationalization.

Boston and Baseball (and No Blood)

If you read THIS POST, then you know Todd and I went to Boston last week to meet up with a dear friend of ours from long ago and his family. Ed (he will always be Eddie to me, but I’ll tell my story with the grown up version of him) is probably the non-family member I’ve known the longest. We moved into the house across the street from him when I was about 18 months old.

Ed and I were very fortunate to grow up in a great neighborhood with a ton of kids around our age. There were five of us girls, all in the same grade, and even more boys either a grade above or below. Before we were old enough to our summer days at the beach, we busied ourselves riding bikes or skateboards or, my favorite, playing rowdy games of kick the can in the street in front of my house. We hung out on the corner (this is not a euphemism. We literally sat on the curb of the corner) until the streetlights came on – or even longer as we got older.

There are so many stories I could tell you, but I won’t. Partly because this is about our reunion in Boston and partly because I’d just rather not. Put it this way. When I’ve told my kids some of our shenanigans they both just shake their heads and say, “We are such better kids than you were.” *THANK YOU, JESUS!*

One more thing before I move on. Todd and Ed were high school friends. We all went to the same school, but I didn’t know Todd until we’d both graduated and, in fact, met him at Ed’s house. That friend of Eddie’s was super cute. I realize that statement isn’t relative to the story, but a fact is a fact and I findit worth mentioning.

Okay. Now back to Boston.

Todd and I set out from our hotel to meet up with Ed’s family at Boston Commons so we could start the Freedom Trail. We’d planned to take the subway, but couldn’t find it. The GPS in my phone kept messing up with the tall buildings and we ended up walking all the way. ALL.THE.WAY. I was so happy when we made it to the park. Except we were at the bottom of the park and the Freedom Trail is at the top of the park. So we kept walking. It’s a tall park, y’all. According to my maps app, we walked 1.6 miles just to get to the beginning of the Freedom Trail.

We had received messages from Ed saying he was wearing a yellow shirt. It’s been 30 years since we last saw Ed and Todd and I would get excited when we’d spot a man in a yellow shirt. Finally, we found him and his family!

Introductions were made to his wife, Andi, and their three kids, and we set out to get all historicized. (HA! I thought I was making up “historicized” but it turns out to be a real word.)

The Freedom Trail is really interesting and I hope to do it again someday, next time with Precious. I made the decision to leave her at home because I get so distracted with taking pictures and I didn’t want to miss out on catching up. Here are some pictures I got with my phone, though.

But better than the Freedom Trail was catching up with Ed and getting to know Andi and the kids. Their oldest daughter just transferred to Northeastern, which is why they were in Boston to begin with; their middle daughter is going to be a senior at the same high school we went to; and their son is starting middle school, also at the same one we went to. These kids were so pleasant to be with. They were very kind and what really impressed me was how well they got along. Ed and Andi should teach parenting classes or write a book!

We weren’t able to complete the trail because we had to get back to the hotels and then turn around for the Red Sox game, but we managed a good portion of it. Of course, we probably could have seen more had Todd and I found the blasted subway to begin with. *sigh*

Walking, walking, walking – so much walking. To Franklin Common, on the trail, to the subway, to our hotel, to their hotel, to the subway, to Fenway… You had best believe I didn’t feel one bit of hesitation to eat whatever I wanted that day. We had lunch at a pizza place and I had an entire pizza to myself. Full disclosure – it was a single serve pizza. But still. I also had a Samuel Adams because, when in Rome Boston…

The guys went to the ballpark early on and the rest of us caught up with them later.  The train to the park was so packed. I couldn’t get past the steps so I just stood there and hung on, which really we didn’t need to hold on to anything. We were packed like sardines so no one was going anywhere.

And then we were there. The Green Monstah Monster. I loved just about everything about it. The atmosphere, the food, the people (except for one obnoxious drunk who, thankfully, left our vicinity and ended up practically on the field). AND Ed bought our tickets as a gift for Todd’s birthday. I mean, what’s not to love?

Since you know how I am about food and I enjoy the memory, I’ll tell you what I had at the game. I had an Italian sausage with onions and peppers on a brioche bun and it was sublime. I also had a cherry coke and a package of cracker jacks because, hello. Ball game. But I felt totally gypped because there were like five peanuts at the bottom of the bag and that was all. And I forgot to see what my prize was.

*note to self. See if you can find the prize.

The Sox played the Toronto Blue Jays and it really is true that Canadians are very polite. There were four Jays fans sitting several rows ahead of us and they would stand up, chanting, “Let’s go, Blue Jays!” and try to bolster the crowd to chant the same. They never lost their temper and were always in good humor even as the Sox fans were yelling funny (yet friendly) insults. I even saw them hugging the older women (all Sox fans) that had been sitting behind them when they left.

My favorite part of the game, though, was during the 8th inning when we sang Sweet Caroline. SO.MUCH.FUN! As of this very moment, Fenway is my favorite ballpark ever. EVER!

The end of the game meant more walking around, searching for the train to take us back to the general vicinity of the hotels and we walked by a Wahlburgers. I have made a mental note for the next time we find ourselves in Boston.

We finally made it back to our part of town, said our goodbyes and walked to our respective hotels. It was truly one of the best Labor Days I can remember. Even Todd’s throbbing finger couldn’t ruin the day. Spending it in Boston was great, but hanging out with Ed and his family put it right over the top.

Blood, Boston and Baseball

Yesterday as I was picking up the living room (which is code for I was sitting in the comfy chair, playing a game on my phone and strategizing the pick up in my head), Todd came in from the garage, holding a ginormous wad of paper towels around his hand and said, “I may need you to take me to Urgent Care.” I gave him that look – the one exasperated mothers give their children – and asked what he had done. He pulled the paper towel back and all I could see was a pool of blood. I heard words like “table saw” and “sorry” and “not my fault this time” as I hopped up to grab my purse.

I’m not squeamish when it comes to blood, but puking is another story altogether. He was in a lot of pain and I kept asking if he was going to throw up so I could start psyching myself up to fight the urge to join him. Thankfully he was NOT nauseous.

The nurse at Urgent care asked to see the wound so Todd pulled the paper towels back for her. This time instead of a pool of blood it was a stream of blood. I just watched Julie & Julia the other day and all I could think of was Dan Aykroyd’s Julia Child skit.

Shortly after that the PA came in the exam room, looked at his finger and quickly assessed the damage. No stitches were necessary because there was nothing to stitch. He sheared the side of the tip of his left pointer finger right off. Thankfully it didn’t hit bone so as bad as it was, it could have been much worse.

What she did do was apply foam gel. This stuff is amazing! It has enzymes that cauterize the wound and then seals it, acting like a scab since there was no skin to do that. After that the nurse came back in, cleaned the blood off his hand and arm, and wrapped up the finger.

When we got home, Todd wanted to make sure he didn’t get blood on his beloved table saw. Coming through the garage, we stepped over to the shop side and didn’t see any blood. What we did see, though, was the tip of his finger. I would have rather seen blood. He made me take a picture of it. I also have pictures of the injury. Wanna see them? They’re super gross. And the blob of skin looks just like the blobs of skin seen in slasher movies. All pale and waxy looking. Yuck.

Let’s take the focus off Todd and bring it back to me because it’s how I do. Due to the pain, he didn’t sleep well last night and he took pain meds this morning so I had to drive to Boston today in the rain. (Truth is I don’t mind driving and do often, but this makes me sound more long-suffering.)

Why are we in Boston? Because our good friend, Ed, and his family are here from California. We haven’t seen Eddie since our wedding over 29-years-ago and have never met his family. So when we found out they were going to be a mere six hours away, we jumped at the chance to meet up.

The rain we drove through today was Harvey’s last stand on U.S. soil and I’m happy to say tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful up here. Perfect for catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. And taking in a Sox game.

I just hope Todd doesn’t try to catch any foul balls with his left hand.

Where I Find God

This morning was cool and crisp and sunny and beautifully unusual for August. I enjoyed two cups of coffee, Facebook, Instagram, Bible study, a crossword puzzle, reading and a little writing outside. I think I could have stayed in the hammock all day, but alas, responsibilities awaited me inside.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to leave the deck was that it felt almost holy to me. I’ve been very contemplative lately and my thoughts have gravitated more towards discontentment than gratitude. This seems particularly unsettling to me because there is nothing in my life that warrants such negativity. My guess is that it has more to do with this stage of life and coming to terms with the fact that our family dynamics have changed. With all the first day of school pictures posted today, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. This is the first time in 22 years I haven’t had a child starting school somewhere.

Suffice it to say I was feeling the teensiest bit tender as I settled in for some quiet time. But in true God fashion, he reminded me of all I have to be grateful for and filled me with such peaceful contentment. He awakened each of my senses, revealing himself to me as I sat on the deck:


The beautiful blue sky dotted with wispy white clouds glimpsed behind the trees.


The cool breeze brushing over me and the soft warmth of Sookie’s fur as I give in to her wet-nosed nudge.


The faint hint of far away ocean carried on the wind, along with a mixture of fresh earth and fragrant flowers mingled with the aroma of a steaming cup of strong, black coffee.


The sound of birds at the feeders, of children laughing at the bus stop, of singing cicadas and the muted voice of Todd as he talks on a conference call in his office.


The delicious burst of flavor as I sip my morning beverage.

I will always remember the various stages of raising kids with fondness and there will forever be a part of me that yearns for those days again. I’m grateful for those memories, but those joys have passed and I find myself discovering new ones.

I want to enjoy this stage of life, too. Even in all of its weirdness, because that’s how it feels to me. Weird. And when I start to feel melancholy over days gone by, I’m going to find my joy in the presence of God, thankful that he shows up in every beautiful sight, every comforting feel, every delightful sound, every refreshing smell and every exquisite taste that points me to him.

And next fall I’m probably going to go through all of this again.



Working on the Job

I am currently in somewhat of a work lull and I think I like it! I haven’t been pursuing new customers because I’m in the tweaking stages of a few current clients and this allows me to spend more time on Grace & Such.

Web Hosting

That said, if you are contemplating starting a website or blog, or if you already have one and are thinking about taking it to the next level, let’s chat. This is a really good time to either purchase hosting from or switch over to SiteGround* (my web host of choice) because they’re having a 4th of July sale. The sale runs from July 1st through July 5th so you have to be quick to benefit from the promotion.

Check out my Web Design page for more information and to see examples of some of the websites I’ve either designed or revamped.

*I am an affiliate of SiteGround which means if you purchase hosting through my links I will receive a small percentage. This doesn’t change your cost at all.


Way Back Wednesday – About A Water Heater

We are currently in Bar Harbor, no doubt enjoying all the blueberry things. Todd and I came here about a year and a half ago, but it was a much different trip. First of all, it was just the two of us and now we have Katie with us. Secondly, Todd didn’t get a concussion and/or whiplash right before we left this time (our WBW post today). And third, everybody has all their medications. (That’s a story for another day).

At least I’m assuming all this is true. Since this post was scheduled before we actually left, the reality could be vastly different. Gosh, I hope not.


Way Back Wednesday – About A Fiddle

I thought this would be an appropriate post for WBW this week. Last week I came across what is now my favorite quote by Martin Luther. Possibly my favorite quote, period. It inspired this picture of my family bible and my grandfather’s fiddle.

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

~ Martin Luther



Way Back Wednesday ~ Feeling Gypped

While the snake post had the most comments, this post actually had the most hits. I was going to ignore that fact and not post it because it’s depressing. I was remarkably whiny the day I wrote it, but with good reason. And while I joke that my whining skills are exceptional – it truly is a gift – I’m not proud of the fact. Still, I do think it’s good to revisit the dark days sometimes if for no other reason than to make you appreciate the light that much more.