Author: Jenna Briand

In 1978, My Local Drive-in Was Mecca

The Hillcrest Drive-In in my hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, was exactly 2.6 miles from the house I grew up in. But to me, a small child in the late 70s, it might as well have felt as far away as the moon. My life, then, was so different from what my seven-year-old’s is today. It was a time of less immediacy and certainly less solvency, especially for our little family of two: me and my mom. Special occasions were special; they were cherished, infrequent events that, in hindsight, are the numbered pinpoints in the happy, pastoral, connect-the-dots of my childhood. My mom was a kid back then herself, having had me at just 18. She worked full time and put herself through college while I was in grade school. We lived in a tiny little house where our “home entertainment center” consisted of a 12” black and white TV (complete with foiled rabbit ear antennae and a clunking, hard-to-turn dial), and a turntable upon which The Beatle’s Abbey Road and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon were the weathered, scratchy …

5 Things I Learned By Going Pants-Free For 30 Days

Wardrobe-wise, I was ready. My family bought me a handful of great new skirts, knowing 30 days without pants was going to be tough. I dug up a snug pencil skirt from the back of the closet. Pulled out a dress or two to dress down for everyday use. And shut the drawer on my jeans with a tiny whimper and a pathetic wave. “See ya next month, old friends.” Who knew that so trivial a resolution would take me to the heights of polished sophisticate and to the lows of mid-life neurotic with such deft ease? Who knew that an A-line skirt could make me beeline so quickly to either fabulous or fussy? Insight #1: If giving up an article of clothing can make such waves in my life, fear for me, friends, should I ever try to give up anything more serious. As I sit writing this today, cross-legged, in sweats (a position I sorely missed!), these are my top revelations from a January without jeans. The good, the bad and the superficial. …

I’m Going Pants-Free For a Month

For the month of January I have resolved to give up… pants. No, I’m not becoming a nudist. I am committing, for 30 days, to trade in my jeans, leggings, sweats, cords and trousers for bottoms of a prettier variety: namely, dresses and skirts. “It’ll be fun,” I tell myself. “Different! Like, a whole new me!” I have since come to realize that it will be hard. Maybe not as much fun as I’d first thought. Actually, it’s going to suck. There are surely more important things I could have chosen to give up — things that would make me healthier and less anxious. Like afternoon Nespressos, late-night shoe shopping, 2am email-answering, wine. But, as frequently as I partake in all of those activities, there is just one thing my husband and daughter jointly agreed I could never, ever, in a million years give up for a month straight, and it was pants. The gauntlet was thrown. “Ha! I’ll show you guys!” I said. (That was back when I thought it would be fun.) I …

7 Tips for the Perfect Trip to Kauai

Our summer home is on the north shore of Kauai. Ok, that’s not true. My husband and I don’t own a beach house. We don’t have plans to buy a beach house, Mega Millions windfall notwithstanding. We’ve never even stayed in Kauai for more than two consecutive weeks. But, through 5 visits in 10 years, Kauai has become our favorite place. Travel nirvana. We have mastered the art of “power decompressing” on this lush little dot in the Pacific and, truly, sometimes achingly, feel it’s a home away from home. If you’ve been to Kauai (probably on your honeymoon) you very likely: Stayed at the St. Regis Princeville resort, drank Green Flash cocktails on the Makana Terrace, got a couples massage. Spent at least one full day driving all over the island ticking off the requisite Must Do’s, including standing in the hour-long Ono-Char Burger line and sampling each of the island’s 15 most pristine beaches for approximately 10 minutes apiece. Went to a luau. Took lots of pictures with pretty scenery in the background. …

Why I’m in Love with a Luddite

The night I met my husband in the bar on 15th street, back in 2001, I was ready and eager to punch his phone number into whatever Palm Pilot-like object was trendy and in my bag. He wouldn’t give it to me. Instead, he wrote my first name on a napkin, slipped it in his pocket, and asked me to meet him, same time, same place, four days later. I did. He did. No texts, alerts or mobile carriers required. At the end of our first date I asked for his email address. Again, he declined. He said he didn’t want to get to know me on the computer, through grammatically sub-par notes sent during office breaks or business meetings. He wanted to get to know me, in real-time and in real life. This all seemed highly suspect. Who was this guy? Was he on the lam? Married? Why so cagey? I couldn’t get it into my head that his avoidance of technology might have motives based in anything but malice. But he was charming, …

Winter on the West Coast: A Postcard

Dear Midwestern and Eastern America, I’ve seen the pictures, watched the football games, and, boy, it looks cold out there. You, brave people, are experiencing WINTER — the real, soulful kind of winter, the way hearty-stocked Americans should. I mean, the snow… it’s magical how it makes everything look so pretty on TV! But, as a former Iowan and New Yorker myself, I know that you can only fully appreciate the gravity of seasonal change when your left pinky toe has almost frozen off because you miscalculated a giant puddle of slush for solid ground. It’s grit, it’s mettle. Magical, indeed. And you already know this, of course: the majority of us Southern Californians are made of considerably less hearty stock than you are. We can talk of nothing else when the temps dip below 50°, like during our “Epic Cold Front” three weeks ago (aptly covered by Jimmy Kimmel). While it was unthinkable that we were forced to use central heating and wear undershirts during that trying time, we bravely triple-layered our flimsy wardrobes …

What I Thought My Gift Said… And What My Husband Really Thought

We all aim to get this gift-giving thing right, right? Every year, I think I’ve finally mastered it for my husband, only to realize, through a combination of his luke-warm reactions and, more definitively, the gift remaining unopened months later, that I have once again failed. I figure it’s one of two things: Either my husband is the hardest person on the planet to shop for (it’s probably this), or my gifts give off a vibe of an assignment. I should mention that my husband has never actually complained about these gifts out loud (ok, once, because I gave him the same shirt two years in a row). But the evidence is strong, and I know what he’s thinking. In fact, here’s how the inner dialogue has gone down for the last 3 years. 2010: The Yoga Mat 
Manduka Big, $76, zappos.com What I thought this gift said: Yoga! It’s so good for you! And, I know you didn’t notice, but I actually heard you talking to John, the neighbor, about how he’s been doing Iyengar. And I …

My Shed: 120 Square Feet of Happiness

They say if the universe shows you a door, walk through it. Well, the universe showed me a shed. Specifically, a 10’x12′ “modern shed,” like one you might see in Dwell magazine. One I discovered online and bookmarked during an absent-minded Google search, on a particularly rough day at the office. I then wistfully stared at it on my computer for about six months, during conference calls, morning edit meetings and lunch breaks. It was the image of this small, fantastical oasis that calmed my racing pulse when my inbox topped 100, cut through the din of office drama and temporarily un-furrowed the brow that had, over time, become so… scrunched. I’d spent more than 15 years in digital media, climbing the ladder, watching my physical surroundings improve and grow with each new gig — from well-appointed cubicle to panoramically viewed Midtown Manhattan office to the most immaculate, modern space in all of Beverly Hills. Each upgrade seemed to be a sign that, clearly, I was making it. Each Herman Miller chair was evidence that …

Mom, The Costume: When My Daughter Wants to Dress Like Me

Dressing up is one of my daughter’s favorite pastimes. In her seven years, she’s logged a lot of sartorial hours. It started with Princess gowns, because when isn’t it a good day to be royal? Then came Halloween – kangaroo, fairy and vampire are her faves. And of course there’s The Dressup Bag.  A jam-packed pink canvas number that holds the aforementioned Halloween costumes, plus boas, scrubs, leotards, pearls and at least four tiaras. It’s a winner for almost any playdate. But it’s the Mommy Costume that always gets me. When out of nowhere trots in my little 4-footer donning one of my dresses or sweaters or nighties, invariably with a pair of very high heels. Sometimes there is also a hat. Occasionally, lipstick. It’s really, really cute. And, in my wistfully analytical moments, it’s a good reminder, too. For her, “being me” is fun. It’s still something to aspire to, up there with princesses and gold medal gymnasts. In those moments my heart aches just a little, because I really hope she always thinks …