Chai and Cow

A little of this and a little of that

15 Year Later

I wasn’t in New York that day and I didn’t lose a loved one, thank God. I wasn’t part of the recovery efforts at Ground Zero. I will not know how it feels to have been in the city that day 15 year ago. But I have a memory from that day that I will never forget.

The story starts the week before. I was working for a software company in Portsmouth, NH. We offered payment solutions to companies large and small for both payroll and accounts payable. This was back when electronic payments and remittance was still new technology.

I was on the phone with one of my clients, Keenan. He worked for Fiduciary Trust and his office was in the south tower at the World Trade Center. We were in the process of updating their software to the latest and greatest. As part of the upgrade process I needed the files on the computer that ran our software. He told me he would load the files on CD (remember, this was 2001) and Fed Ex it to me.

That week I was also making plans for one of my co-workers to handle a training for me at a client location near Washington, DC. I wasn’t able to make the trip so he was going to do it for me. We bundled up everything he needed and made plans to do a debrief after the training was over.

On the morning of the 11th I had a meeting with my manager. I went into her office, which she shared, and the two of them were listening intently to something coming over the radio. There had been an accident at the World Trade Center. A plane had “accidentally” flown into one of the towers. I left their office and went to tell a co-worker what was happening. I can clearly remember thinking something was wrong. How could that have happened? We learned shortly thereafter that it was no accident.

We immediately put a call into our travel desk. Which employees were in New York, who was in Washington? My heart sank as I realized Tim was near Washington, covering one of my accounts. The reality started to set in with how many clients we had in those towers: Cantor Fitzgerald, Marsh & McLellan…Fiduciary Trust.

We got in touch with Tim and he was safe. He arranged to keep his rental car and drove home from Washington. Thank goodness.

We were sent home for the day since no one knew if this was all over or there was more to come. Loved ones knew I traveled often for work and I reassured them all I was safe and sound.

I got to work the next morning and received a call from someone in one of the Florida offices of Fiduciary Trust. They needed our help to get their system up and running so they could begin cutting checks for families. We started going through files to figure out what we had that could be used to piece together a replica of their actual system.

As I was going through files, a Fed Ex package was dropped at my desk. I looked at the return address and it was from Fiduciary Trust, in the south tower of the World Trade Center. I opened it and there was the CD containing every file I needed to rebuild their system and a note from Keenan. Keenan had mailed it to me on the 10th. I was shaking as I walked it into my manager’s office. We called the contact in Florida and let them know what we had in our hands. It was everything we needed to replicate their system. It was almost too much to process.

The next day, I was trying to go about my day when the phone rang. The number was a New York number. I answered and all I heard was “Jen, it’s Keenan. I missed my bus.” He missed his bus that Tuesday morning. He missed his bus and was late to work. We both started to cry. He asked if I got the CD and I told him yes. We didn’t say much more than that, he told me he would be in touch and we hung up the phone.

I finally got a chance to meet Keenan in person two months later when I visited their temporary office in New York. We didn’t say much about what had happened just weeks earlier. We just went about our business, trying to make the interaction as normal as possible.

Every September 11th I think about Keenan (and Tim) and that phone conversation we had on September 13th. I will never forget.





The joy of housework and errands

Today I did something that I haven’t done, by myself, in months. I picked up the dry cleaning, did the grocery shopping, put away the groceries and did the laundry. Most people would not find joy in these tasks but today I did. You see, I haven’t been able to do these things since last fall. I haven’t talked about it openly but I have felt terrible, really terrible, since November. I had widespread pain in all my muscles and joints. I was tired all of the time but couldn’t sleep. Foods I loved all of my life tasted funny to me. I was gaining weight for no apparent reason. I felt foggy all of the time. I couldn’t remember details of conversations or recall memories. It was a nightmare.

There were many, many doctors appointments and many, many tests (CT-scans, ultrasounds and MRIs). We kept being told that there was nothing specific in my blood work that indicated what was wrong. My doctors said time and time again we had to be patient and see if something showed up in the blood work so they could figure out how to treat whatever it was I was experiencing. We did know I had inflammation due to my elevated SED rate and a non-specific auto-immune issue but that was it.

Over the last 6 months I ended up in the emergency room twice. One time for extreme pain in my lower abdomen. The other because I was unable to get out of bed one Sunday morning because the pain in my lower back was so intense. Each time I was prescribed anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers but no real answers. To top it all off, in the middle of all of this an old injury in my shoulder flared up and I had extremely limited range of motion in my right arm. I started physical therapy twice a week for my back and for my shoulder.

We were now at a point that I was not able to do anything by myself. I had difficulty going up and down the stairs in our house, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t cook or do anything around the house, and going to the office was just too much for me.

On March 17th we finally got an answer. It was the day of my physical and my regular doctor was on leave so another doctor was covering for her. I sat down to talk with the doctor about everything that was going on. She began looking through my records and test results. As she went through the records she suddenly stopped and asked me “Has anyone talked to you about your abnormal thyroid results?” I let her know I had my thyroid tested early on and had one abnormal test but when I was retested I was told my results were now showing normal. It was said that there must have been an issue with the first test. She looked again at that “abnormal” result and the result of the three subsequent tests I was given. She looked at me and said “I am not sure why you were told your results are normal. They are not normal. We are going to retest you right now.” I went to the lab, a place I had been a dozen times before, and had my thyroid tested again. I got the call on Friday morning that I was still in the abnormal range and would be put on medication stating the next day to treat hypothyroidism.

Every symptom I had been complaining of since the fall was a symptom of hypothyroidism. We were hopeful this was the answer but knew that we would need to wait and see…something we had become very good at.

I didn’t feel any different the first couple weeks and then something changed. Three weeks after starting the medication the pain started to subside! I was sleeping through the night. I was able to work three days in the office, in a row! I was able to make the bed and cook dinner. That hadn’t happened since the fall.

This past week we took a family trip to Disney and I was able to walk around the park, stand in line and ride the rides. A month ago we didn’t think was going to be possible. We even looked into the possibility of renting a wheelchair since we didn’t think I would be able to walk long distances.

As frustrating (so, so frustrating) as it is that this should have been caught in November we are thankful we now have an answer and it can be treated with medication. I go back to the doctor in a week to be retested to make sure my TSH is where it is supposed to be and if it is still a little off we will get the dosage of medication adjusted.

Remember how I mentioned that my shoulder was really bothering me as well. We were finally able to get a MRI of my shoulder done and found out I had three small cysts that were causing all of the pain. I went in for an ultra-sound guided injection two weeks ago and the pain has subsided. I am still doing PT to regain the strength but the intense pain is gone. Thank goodness!

To say that my family, and especially my husband Mike, stepped up during this time is an understatement.

My dad and father-in-law played taxi driver for me. They drove me to physical therapy and work, on the days I felt up to it.

My mom took me to my doctor’s appointments. She asked all of the questions (lots and lots of questions!) and made sure we had the information we needed to figure out next steps.

My mother-in-law checked in daily and brought me special treats.

My boss was amazing during all of this and we came up with a schedule that would allow me to work at home and, if necessary, flex my hours so I could go to my doctor’s appointments and physical therapy.

And then there is my husband. Words cannot begin to express what he has done for me over these last 6 months. He is the most selfless, caring person I have ever known. He took care of every need I had, took care of the house, did all of the errands, cooked all the meals and made sure I was as comfortable as possible at all times. This is all while he was working full-time. I honestly had no idea how he did it all and I could never say thank you enough for what he did.

So, if you haven’t heard from me, or us, in awhile this is why. We didn’t make many plans as we never knew how I was going to feel from day to day. But we are excited for the summer, seeing friends and family and enjoying the sunshine.





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It’s been too long…

I realized I haven’t written on my blog in months and months. Here’s the thing, I love writing on my blog so I have no idea why I put it off for so long. Life just seemed to be going by too fast and so.many.plans. They were awesome plans, like weddings, dinners with friends, my *cough* 40th birthday and weekend getaways. And then there the not so awesome plans…like having to put the house back together after the ice dam damage. 

It is unreal how much those ice dams put our life into a tizzy. But after 18 days at the Hampton Inn we were able to move back in. It’s been a long road getting the house back together but I think we have done an awesome job. I need to take a series of after pictures and will be sure to share them soon. It is amazing what some paint and new flooring can do for a place. 

The next project is the kitchen. Oh, the kitchen. That was the original project we had in mind when we bought our place last year but Mother Nature had different ideas. So now that the house is (almost) back in order we are going to install a new kitchen. I can.not.wait for that to be done. My ideal is to have it done by Thanksgiving. Fingers crossed!

So, I plan to write more often and hope you enjoy reading!

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Paper and Pens and Stickers, oh my!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE paper and pens and stickers and pretty much any office supply.  I love finding a new pen, or pretty paper, or a pattern of washi tape that I have never seen.  My desk at work is chock full of pens, markers, washi tape, post-it notes and my beloved Levenger notebook.

So, when I heard about the Erin Condren life planner I knew I had to have one (and fact I just got a Visa gift card at work definitely helped!). They are just so pretty not to mention practical.  I am a list maker and this was a place I could keep track of everything going on in our lives both at work and at home (where a HUGE remodel is about to start – more to come on that soon).

I did some research by reading some blogs and of course searching Pinterest to see how others used their planner. Without much hesitation I ordered one.  You have the option to order the as-is version, that does not include a personalized cover, which ships almost immediately or you can choose to have it personalized but it will take more time.  Now once I get my mind set on something I want it to arrive ASAP.  So, I chose the as-is version knowing that it came with a coupon code so I can order a personalized version at a later time.  Perfect!

When I placed the order (on the 29th of April) they said that they anticipated that it would ship on the 1st.  I thought that was reasonable enough and just for the heck of it I went with the 2-day shipping.  Imagine my surprise when I got an email later that day telling me that my order already shipped and it would ARRIVE on the 1st.  Oh happy day!

When I got home from work on Friday, the pretty package was waiting for me.  I love when companies go the extra mile to make the packaging pretty as well. This is how my planner was packaged.


And here is a picture of the inside of the planner.  I already started adding information to it and decorated the pages with some washi tape.  I love it so far!


Now, I knew that I couldn’t just use any old pen with this planner (well…I mean, technically, I could use any pen but who wants to do that?).  I did some more searching on Pinterest and found some pens that I just had to try. Almost all of them were from Japan but available in the US through certain retailers.  Some of them were available on Amazon (Prime eligible…sweet!) and the rest I was able to find on JetPens.  Oh, I could spend a lot of money at JetPens.  This is what has arrived over the last couple days. The markers on the top right and the pens on the bottom left are erasable! So cool!


The last of my purchases will be arriving this week. Stickers created specifically for the Erin Condron planner. Thank you Etsy!

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Curling the bird

Today was an interesting day.  It started with a call from the gas company (after 4 calls made to them) to tell us that they can’t fix the heat until Thursday…three days from now.  Definitely a less than ideal situation.  The temperature has been in the 50s for the last two days so it has been manageable but tomorrow it will be in the 30s.  Yikes.  Looks like I will need to pull more blankets out of the closet.

When I got home from work, I opened the garage door like I do every night.  But tonight was different.  There was a bird flying around.  He (I am just assuming it is a boy bird…I named him Joe) scared the crap out of me.  Mike opened the door into the house and I screamed to close it as fast as he could.  All we needed was a bird flying around the house.  The bird then decided to perch on the top of the new fridge in the garage and refused to move.  Awesome.  At this point we were at a complete and total loss for what to do…so I called my dad.  He offered some good advice, and used it as another opportunity to remind me about the time I was less than zero help when a chipmunk was loose in their house. That is a classic Holt family story that we still talk about regularly.

We tried a couple different approaches but finally decided to help guide him out of the garage was the best bet.  This is when a broom with a very long handle came into play.  Mike gently touched the bird and he decided to fly to the ground and start walking, not flying, towards the outside.  I almost peed my pants watching Mike gently push the bird with a broom towards the outside.  It was like he was curling (the ridiculous Olympic sport I can never get enough of) the bird out the garage.  He was finally successful and I shut the door before he could come back in.

With that nonsense over with, I finally made it into the house and went through the mail.  That’s when I opened the package that had arrived from Amazon.  I was expecting a couple gifts that we ordered for my nephew and instead found an ankle support with a cobra-snake on it.  I kid you not.  To say that is not even close to a Knock Knock joke book is an understatement.  Fortunately, Amazon has great Customer Service and a quick chat with Vicky solved the issue and our correct package is on the way.

What a Monday.

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Well…at least it didn’t happen on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner was a success!  Sure, I forgot to cook the turnip and put out the olives but other than that dinner went off without a hitch.  Everyone had a great time and the new appliances served me well.

We spent Black Friday with my mom and dad at a few of my favorite places: Target and Bed Bath and Beyond.  I was very proud of myself and only bought one thing at BBB, despite the offer of 20% off my entire purchase.  It really took all my willpower…and a husband convincing me that I really did not need more plates 🙂

On Thanksgiving morning I posted on Facebook about how thankful I was for a warm home.  Unfortunately, we woke up today to a very chilly 59 degree house today.  The thermostat does not want to go above 60 degrees so that has made for an interesting day. Thank goodness for some very warm blankets and the service guy that was finally able to get to us at 5:30 pm.  Looks like the part we need won’t be available until Monday…awesome.  And like the post title says…at least we didn’t lose the heat on Thanksgiving!

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Bean Bag Pillow 1, Jen 0; Grocery Store 1, Jen 0

So, today started with this discovery…


What is that you ask? Well, I have a bean bag pillow that I sometimes sleep with to help with back pain. Apparently, at some point last night, a little hole opened up and the result was the bed being filled with these itsy-bitsy beads. Awesome. I had to actually vacuum the sheets to pick them all up, which is not something I ever thought I would do.

After that nonsense was over I started on the Thanksgiving prep. I checked the grocery list and made sure I had everything I needed and took out all of the serving dishes so I am ready for the food prep tomorrow. Mid-morning the rest of the appliances arrived (yay!). Today was the fridge and microwave. Nothing like coming down to the Thanksgiving wire with the delivery.

My mom and nephew stopped by to keep me company while I worked in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about moving back home (we used to live on the North Shore of Boston) is that I get to see family at random times on random days. It is the best.

After they left I decided to head to the grocery store (and Home Goods…I mean, it is in the same plaza so why not).  I picked up a couple of things “I needed” at Homegoods. I have a weakness for Le Creuset and I am able to get amazing deals at our Homegoods.  Today I picked up a new utensil crock to hold the plethora of spatulas and spoons I keep close to the stove.

I wish I had gone home after Home Goods because my next stop was a nightmare.  Grocery shopping a couple days before Thanksgiving is bad enough but grocery shopping two days before Thanksgiving when there is snow in the forecast for the day before Thanksgiving and you have a disaster.  There were people everywhere.  Carts bumping into each other, people who possibly had never been grocery shopping…ever.  I almost cried in frustration in the middle of the baking goods aisle but I persevered and made it through.  Yikes.

But when I got home, there was something in the mailbox that made everything better.


Not only did the new Levenger catalog arrive but Food Network Magazine was in there as well.  Yay!  If my HGTV magazine had arrived it would have been the ultimate trifecta but I will take 2 out of 3.

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It’s starting to look a bit like Thanksgiving

This year we are hosting our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and in our new home. We are hosting family members from both sides of the family. It will be a tight squeeze but it should be a great time.

Phase 1 of the Thanksgiving grocery shop.

Phase 1 of the Thanksgiving grocery shop.

I did the initial grocery shop this weekend and was a bit disturbed by how much butter I needed to buy! Yikes. Dinner will be delicious but far from a healthy meal. It’s very important to me to satisfy all of the Thanksgiving cravings of our guests. Besides the star of the show there will be three types of potatoes, three different types of stuffings, two gravies (homemade and store bought) and pie, pie and more pie. Oh, and a couple vegetables, of course. And for my nephew, who I adore, there will be plain pasta and dino nuggets. What my little guy wants, my little guy gets! To make sure I can make all of this wonderful food we decided now was the time to update the appliances (yay!). My new double-oven and dishwasher will be well loved by the end of this week! To say I am excited about hosting this year is an understatement. As much as I am loving watching my Pats on this lazy Sunday afternoon I so wish I could be in the kitchen starting to prepare the food.

One thing you have to know about me is I am a planner. I have list upon list outlined in my beloved Levenger notebook. There are lists for the grocery store, lists for Target (swoon…Target) and lists of to-dos around the house. There is even a list of which serving piece is for which delectable side dish. See…a planner. I am taking Tuesday and Wednesday off to putter around the house and start making whatever I can ahead of time.  I.cannot.wait.


Welcome to my blog!

So, you might be wondering why the name of this blog is called Chai and Cow. A couple months ago, when I married my love, I also inherited quite the last name. It has lots of consonants and not many vowels. There is a z, a j and a k…and the j and k are right next to one another. I answer the question “how do you spell that?” at least once a day and listening to people try to pronounce it is even more amusing. My easy way to explain how to pronounce it goes something like this: take “chai”, add “cow” and then stick “ski” at the end. And from there…the name of this blog was born. I hope you enjoy reading about my thoughts on crafts, entertaining and our life as much as I look forward to telling the stories.

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