Friday, July 27, 2012

The Jenna Feast

It's been a while since I've posted. There have been some family things that have scattered my thoughts a bit (I will be writing about them in my next post) and on a more positive note, I finally have a job! It's childcare - which is totally easy for me - and pays well, which is exactly what I need right now. Unfortunately, the job takes a lot out of me and writing each blog post can be a bit of an endeavor for me. It's made me realize that I really need to just take a day every week, get up early, and just type. So that's what I'm doing!

This post has been one of my favorites! Thank you so much to everyone who participated. It made such wonderful use of our Facebook Page! Click the link and like us if you haven't already so you can stay in touch!

SO... Everyone who knew Jenna knew that she LOVED food. I'm quite sure this attribute was genetic. The only person who loves food more than Jenna is my dad.  They would both get visibly excited and/or cranky when it came to meal time.  Food was serious business.

So I've arranged a list of all the foods she loved and some great stories about her eating habits.  As you can see, I've scattered quotes throughout this list.  If you have something to add about a specific food, go ahead and message me and I'll put it in right away!

My plan is to eventually use this list to plan a REAL feast and document the experience. Maybe even take some of the things she loved and find recipes that give them a bit of a twist.  I encourage you all to do the same.  She had excellent taste.

So here's the most important element in your Jenna Feast... The list:

The Foods Jenna Loved

Eating Out
  • SUBWAY - Turkey on wheat with lettuce, mayo, American cheese, and jalapenos ("Specifically requesting you make sure they put more than like 5 on it if you were picking it up for her" - Lauren Krauth)

"She ate foot-long subs (breakfast/lunch) for a week straight this year because she didn't want to go grocery shopping."
- Heidi Anderson

  • CHILI'S - Molten Chocolate Cake 
  • DAIRY QUEEN – Blizzards, Ice Cream Cake 
  • TACO BELL – Cheesy gordita crunch, cheese roll-up, soft shell taco, add sour cream 

"First week of college, Jenna and I went to taco bell. After we ordered Jenna told me to get out of the car and hide behind the corner. She said 'when the lady hands my food out, run by and steal the food and keep running' I was like, Jen wtf?? And she said 'no trust me, we'll get a whole nother order for free and I'll pick you up down the street' Sure enough... It worked." - Paige Mosier

"T-Bell at all hours of the day" 
- Mark Wickstrom

  • BURGER KING – Chicken fries 
  • SUSHI MURAMOTO – Asparagus rolls and edamame - Always a go-to choice with the family or with Samantha Bakke and Laura Phelan
  • NOODLES AND CO. – Pad Thai no sprouts or carrot), Pot Stickers 
  • MCDONALD'S - McChicken with cheese, Hash Browns, Egg McMuffin 

We once decided to take a detour one morning and make ourselves late for school because Jenna had a SERIOUS craving for hash browns and I had a homework assignment I didn't want to turn in anyway.  We forged a note and made it to second mod.  And by forged I mean we got lucky and found out that our first mod classes were cancelled anyway so no harm done!  Because we can't break rules even when we try! 0:D

  • BUFFALO WILD WINGS – 6 Asian Zing, 6 Mango Habanero with 3 Ranch Cups 
  • CHEDD'S – Grilled cheese with cheddar cheese, pepperoni, and ranch
"She would stuff it in her face and it would end up all her over!!" - Carrie Dercks
(Side Note: For those of you who do not get the joke in this picture, CLICK HERE)
  • SMOTHERELLA STICKS – Pasta with Garlic Butter and lots of Parmesan
  • WENDY'S - Chocolate Frosties
"I was in the car though when Dirk, Jenna, and I first started hanging out and after a movie one night we went to Wendy's by West Town and all got chocolate frosties. I was sitting shot gun and Dirk was in the back. Jenna made us promise that we weren't going to spill in her car because it was her classic jeep and she had just cleaned it out. Naturally, Dirk spilled his frosty all over the middle console and it leaked down under the seats...sticky!" - Jack Cullen

"In middle school we'd be starving and Jenna always wanted to order glass nickel pizza but we didn't have money, so we'd spend an hour scouring the house and coat pockets and couches scrapping up change to order a pizza. We always succeeded." - Kayla (Eichorst) Shrago

"The funniest part of us ordering glass nickel at every sleepover at your pebble beach house was that she would make me go around the house with her and look for miscellaneous money - including in coat pockets in every coat in your house, the laundry dryer, etc." - Sarah Keller


  • OMELETS – Cheese, Ham, Green Peppers, Onions (A post-ROTC PT favorite)

At one point in time, when Jenna was younger, she lived off of cereal. Perhaps that's why she missed her growth spurt. Who knows. But she went through a Pebbles phase and a Waffle Crisp phase. That is all I remember her eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


  • EASY MAC - This was a STAPLE of Jenna's dieat.

  • SPAGHETTI-O'S AND GRILLED CHEESE - Courtesy of my Dad:)
"I always got a kick out of her telling us she was going grocery shopping and would come home with 2 bags of frozen food from the gas station." - Lauren Batcher

Grandma had a special recipe for her corn that she only brought out on holidays.  Jenna would always try to smuggle some home with her.
  • PASTA – Spaghetti and Fettuccine Alfredo 

Fettuccine Alfredo was always Jenna's go-to dish if she wasn't sure what she liked in a restaurant.  When she was relatively young and we went on our Disney Cruise, she would special order it from the kitchen almost every night because she never wanted any of the evening's specials.

"Of course I fixed spaghetti whenever Jenna wanted a special meal. I never followed a recipe but basically it was a jar of spaghetti sauce, can of tomato sauce, small can of tomato paste, hamburger, throw in some oregano, chili powder, sugar, bay leaf, basil, garlic. She had to have Kraft powdered parmesan, not the grated that I liked. Served with cheese bread and a glass of milk." - Mom



When we were little, Jenna and I used to melt our mint chocolate chip ice cream then stir it into soup.  We would then pretend it was "our medicine" that we had to take before bed.  At first we would pretend that we didn't want it and then we'd take it with a look on our face suggesting that we were prepared for something gross.  When we "realized" our medicine tasted like ice cream however, we would look at each other with wide eyes, lift up our hair on either side like we had pigtails that were flying up or something, and squeak "MMMMMMMMMMMmmmmmm!!!"

Posted to Jenna's wall by Brynn Caslavka

  • GRANDMA'S MINI SANDWICH CREMES  - These and the nachos were her library food of choice.


"Whenever I'd come to Wisconsin, Jenna would begrudgingly take me to Starbucks to get a chai. She loved Victor Allen's and would insist that their chais were way better. She'd always take me though" - Amanda Sorensen

  • CHAI 
  • VODKA CRANBERRY- The only hard alcoholic drink her acid reflux could handle...
  • MILLER LITE - Keeping it classy

(Clearly Inferior)

"She drank A TON of water each day. Always out of her pink water bottle. And her pink water bottle had a blue mouth piece while a lot of the other pink water bottles like her had a clearish/grayish one. So, whenever she saw someone with that same pink water bottle as her, she would laugh and say, 'My water bottle is cooler than that one because mine has a blue mouth piece' lol."
- Dirk Van Rybroek


PLEASE add to these stories!  They are fantastic:)

"I was riding back to EC from Madison with Jenna and when we stopped for food she asked me where I wanted to go. I said I didn't care, whatever would he easiest for her to eat while driving and she informed me with such pride that she is a pro at eating literally any food while driving and it seriously didnt matter where we went. That girls talents are limitless.- Lauren Krauth

"When we were on spring break, we ate at Spinnakers (a bar/restaurant/club) one night and she was the only one who was still pretty trashed from the festivities earlier that day. She ordered a pulled pork sandwich. The waiter finally came with all of our food and set it down infront of everyone. Once he walked away, we looked around the table to make sure everyone was good to go, and I was sitting next to Jenna. As I looked to her, I realized she had already eaten the entire sandwich before any of us had even taken more than two bites. I caught her licking all of her fingers as they were covered in bbq sauce and the best part was that she sat for a few minutes seriously considering ordering another sandwich but the waiter didn't come back soon enough." - Melanie Laursen

"She loved Luden's cough drops (at least when she was little) cause they tasted like candy. She told me she would always ask your mom for some and then she would run away to her room and eat them right away then run back to your mom and say, "Mom can I have some more?" until the box was gone Then your mom would say they're all out.  I would always ask her, "What did you say to that?" and Jenna would respond in this whiny/baby voice "Moooooooom." For some reason I loved when she did that when she told me that story. I asked her to tell it all the time." - Dirk Van Rybroek

"There was that awful, horrendous looking fruitcake that Perry brought to Christmas one year... but we both ate some anyway. It was terrible." - Emily Bisbach

"One night after we were out Jenna and I got Buzzy's (a pizza place on water street) and took it to go but I couldn't really finish mine so I just threw the half-eaten slice away. The next morning after seeing it in the trash she yelled at me for throwing it away because she would have eaten it, then decided that it wasn't too contaminated and pulled it out of the trash can and ate it anyway." - Lauren Krauth  
(This is probably one of my favorite stories... Especially since I could imagine doing the same thing...)

"I mean the girl ate everything haha..." - Samantha Bakke

So there you have it.  The foods Jenna loved the most.  So now what do you do with it?  Like I said, my roommates and I plan to make our own feast.  We will be posting our experience in the near future.  I also  have a great idea that involves all of YOU! If anyone else out there decides to do a Jenna feast and sends me pictures of the experience (e-mail me at or post to the Facebook page), I will send you a prize.  I don't know what it will be yet, but I'll make sure it's moderately awesome and Jenna related.

It's so weird.  You know people so well but when it comes down to it, it's remarkable how much you missed out on.  Their statistics and everything.  I'm so grateful to all of the friends that helped me put this together.  That we have a community to piece together the things that made Jenna so special is really precious.  It means so much to me.  

Thank you again to everyone who participated.  I hope this made you smile.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Dirk

Today I want to talk about probably one of the most significant people in Jenna's life: Dirk Van Rybroek.  It's his birthday today.

I need to say something before I go into anything else: I know Jenna and Dirk's relationship was... drama-filled.  To say the least.  As her sister, I was privy to pretty much everything that went down.  They were on and off since their senior year of high school and most of their issues were completely unsurprising in a relationship that started so young.  Stupid stupid things were said and done.  Through it all though, the love they had was something that never really leaves the system.  Although they were off again right before we lost her, they still talked constantly.  A part of me has a feeling that if they had been given some REAL time apart to have a chance to grow and gain perspective, they would have found their way back to each other.  But I know that even if they never ended up together, they would always be a part of each other's lives.  They wouldn't be able to help it.

So despite all the drama and whatever opinions I had as a sister before this whole thing happened, it doesn't matter anymore.  To me, he will always be the love of my sister's life.  So I love him too.

It's hard for me to describe Dirk and Jenna's relationship here because I only saw the tiniest fraction.  When they were at their best, they were attached at the hip and had the kind of intimacy that only the most annoying best friends have.  Inside jokes and constant silent communication.  I'm hoping that eventually Dirk will write a piece for the blog himself.  He's already been such a wonderful help to me writing this (with his weird photographic memory) and simply recovering from the tragedy itself.

Dirk and I always got along pretty well.  I seemed to be the only one in Jenna's family who didn't terrify him.  He had this bizarre fear of my parents (which is silly since they are some of the least intimidating people I know) and he seemed unable to speak above a mumble around them for the longest time.  Though after a while, I'm quite sure he just did it to bug my sister.  That seemed to be the purpose behind a majority of his behaviors.  NOBODY trolled Jenna like Dirk did (though my dad was a close second).

Looking back, I think he and I had a connection and a comfort level when Jenna was alive for the same reason we've been drawn to each other now that she's gone: Even though our relationships with Jenna were completely different than each other's, nobody else had the same kind of relationship with her as we did.  And because of that, even though Dirk and I have lost completely different things, nobody else has lost the same thing that we have.  Does that make sense?  We both knew and loved Jenna in a way that was completely unique.  Maybe that's the reason why we feel like talking to each other is the closest we ever get to someone who really understands.

But the more I think about it, although this crucial understanding we share allows us to talk about our struggles and our pain, I think the thing that keeps drawing us back to each other is the conversations about Jenna when she was still with us.  A lot of conversations I have with other people are about the fact that she's not here anymore or what I'm going through right now.  And as I said, Dirk and I talk about that a lot too, but most of the time, we just reminisce.  We tell each other things we haven't heard, retell stories we already know (from different perspectives), reenact her facial expressions, and it feels really good.  Dirk and I started doing this early and often.  And now that I've realized it, I'm urging anyone reading this - whether you've lost someone close to you or are wondering how to comfort someone who has lost - to make this the habit.  Yeah, it's good to talk about the process and what you/someone else is going through, but get comfortable sharing positive stories from when you WERE fortunate enough to have them.  You'd be surprised how easy it is to forget to do that, especially during these depression phases.  You be surprised how, even when you don't forget, how hesitant some people feel to do so.  This idea might seem like you're reminding yourself what of you've lost.  It might seem like it would make it worse in theory, but I promise you, it doesn't.  In fact, I think I'm right in saying that often when Dirk and I are feeling our worst, remembering a specific story that makes us smile is the only thing that can pull us out of it.

For example.
Am I right, Dirk?  Alright so it's your birthday...

A Birthday Letter to Dirk

Dear Dirka,

I would like to tell you that I am glad. I'm glad that you've found that you can really talk to me. It's incredibly gratifying that I've been able to offer you some comfort. You meant so much to Jenna and the idea that I can help you through this feels like one of the biggest services I could do her. Letting me be there for you has helped me so much too. Also, thank you for being brave enough to tell me about how you found Jenna. I'm so glad you found the strength to share. It couldn't have been easy, but it gave me the last pieces I needed to figure out what actually happened. That peace of mind is invaluable. I'm also glad for all the time you spent with Jenna and your crazy detail-oriented steel trap of a memory. I enjoy the brief exchanges of nostalgia, the long conversations we have in person, and the random thoughts we wish we could share with her. Finally, thank you for coming down to visit me. Both times. I get so much out of it.  I hope you do too.  Please come down again soon.

So for those of you who are NOT Dirk and reading along, I have a story I know you'll enjoy as much as we did.  After Wednesday karaoke the first night Dirk came down to visit (I managed to convince Dirk to sing a stirring rendition of Tupac's "California Love"), we were sitting in Steak n Shake reminiscing.  When our order came, Dirk opened his burger, picked off the pickles and chuckled.  It reminded him that whenever he and Jenna went to McDonald's, she would always order a McChicken with cheese, and he would always order a Big Mac and take off the pickles.  Now Jenna, being the attentive and observant girlfriend she was, noticed this habit and began asking for Dirk's Big Mac with no pickles when she ordered.  Thoughtful, right?  Well apparently Dirk preferred chaos (some men just want to watch the world burn, etc).  Every time Jenna would ask for no pickles, Dirk would yell over her out the window "NO I WANT PICKLES!!!"  Jenna would tell the cashier to ignore him, but Dirk would continue protesting.  This doubtlessly left a very confused cashier.  It became a running joke to bet on whether or not they would end up giving him pickles.  If there were no pickles, great!  Dirk didn't want them in the first place.  If there were pickles on the burger, great!  That gave him the chance to pick them off and throw them at Jenna.  It was really a win win. 
 (Dirk and Jenna, respectively) 
This story cracked me up.  I immediately got a clear visual of her frustrated tone, so similar to my own, rolling her eyes and calling Dirk an asshole.  That's when I got the idea to take the pickles outside after we were finished, and throw them into the night.  So we did. 
Certain things and people make me feel closer to my sister than others. You are one of them. In fact, being around you is the closest I get to the same kind of vibe I got from my sister. It's probably because you're so similar, but I also think it's because you hold so much of her. We both do. And I think having such easy access to parts of her we aren't totally familiar with or used to, even after she's gone, is a very comforting thing. It's the biggest reason why I've been so adamant about getting as many of Jenna's friends involved in this blog as possible. Thank you for being so involved and so accessible. I look forward to put our fantastic plans for future posts into action:)

I know that the idea of falling in love and living happily ever after with anyone else is completely unimaginable right now, and I know we've already talked about this, but I also know just how much she wants you to be happy and live your life. And this topic is a crucial part of it. So here some of the things we discussed in a place you can always look at them: 1) Let your love for Jenna be your rock, not your anchor. Rocks are something you can pick up and carry with you, remember? It should be something that you can always rely on to hold you steady, but never something that holds you back. 2) When you are ready to love again, don't feel guilty. We keep saying it over and over, but you have to remind yourself that she wants you to be happy. Listen to her and let her help you find someone she would approve of. Speaking from experience, using whether or not Jenna would approve as a determining factor in a relationship ended up serving me very well. You may also let her help you come up with creative nicknames for those who end up not being worth your time like she did for me. You know what I'm talking about.  3) Never expect anyone to compete with her. This will always be something completely different. It should never be compared to whatever happiness you find in the future. 4) Let the successes and even more importantly, the mistakes you made with Jenna make you the best and most loving man a woman could ever hope for. If it gets hard, remember to ask yourself: What kind of legacy do you want her to leave behind?

Okay. Enough lectures. Happy birthday Dirk. Really. Mine was difficult and yours will be too, but keep finding reasons to be happy. And keep pushing forward.  I'll be right there with you.

I'll see you soon.
Lots of love,
- Amanda
Don't Stop Believin'
(Jenna would have been proud)